The Presentation of Yin/Yang and the Five Elements
The ideas of yin/yang and the five elements are center themes of Chinese medicine. In this paper I will attempt to compare and contrast the ways that Giovanni's The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists and Ikeda's The Practice of Japanese Acupuncture and Moxibustion present ideas of yin/yang and the five elements. I will note their similarities and differences in style, content and structure. I hope to gain a better understanding of these two authors' approach to Chinese medicine and their methods of transferring knowledge yin/yang and the five elements through their texts.
In both Giovanni and Ikeda's books the concept of yin/yang is presented as the structural basis for explaining acupuncture and how it works within the body. They both refer to patterns in the body that correlate with the excess/deficiency of Yin and Yang. Both texts bring up the application of Yin and Yang very early on as a grounds to explaining further ideas. Giovanni's Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Part 1 begins with discussing the history of yin/yang and how the idea developed throughout history. He then goes on to explain yin/yang in great detail. Similarly, Ikeda's book starts off with ideas of yin/yang saying things like "Yang qi has the basic properties of warmth and movement and thus constantly diffuses and circulates" (Ikeda, 4). I noticed that Giovani relates yang energy to 'Activity' on page 5 of his book. Another parallel between the two books is the use of tables and diagrams when explaining ideas. Both books are also outlined systematically in that a knowledge gradually builds off of previously stated ideas. They are, in this sense, geared toward a western audience. Chapter 1 of Giovanni's book starts off with basic principles but gets progressively more detailed with concepts of Yin/Yang and the five elements. Similarly, Ikeda's book gives a concise background of the topic is presented, before further details about the subject. Chapter 11, for instance is titled "Liver Deficiency/Yin Deficiency/Heat Pattern" starts off by giving background notes about yin qi, "The Yin Qi and fluids have several basic characteristics, including stillness, cold, contraction and lubrication. When the yin qi becomes deficient, the result is the production of heat" (Ikeda, 53). He then goes into further detail about the liver and how yin qi effects it.
Between the two books, the ideas about yin and yang and how they function in the body are similar, but the differences in depth and coverage of yin/yang and the five elements is perhaps more notable. Giovannis book goes much further in depth about Yin and Yang than Ikeda's book. There is a greater emphasis on describing details of the yin/yang relationship. On page 8, for instance, Giovanni writes, "It is important to see the difference between Preponderance of Yin and Weakness of Yang these may appear the same, but they are not" (Giovanni, 8). He goes on to talk about a lot of specifics of yin/yang throughout chapter 1. Ikeda, on the other hand starts of chapters of his book with a short paragraph about qi and how it relates to the topic/organ at hand, then dive straight into details of organ function and how to apply the stated knowledge to the disorder he is covering. Ikeda's book would be better received by someone who has a basic understanding of Chinese medicine. Giovannis book on the other hand starts slow and simple enough for a beginner to comfortably grasp. Another major difference between Giovanni and Ikeda's texts is that of the use of the five elements and its application to Chinese medicine. Giovanni introduces the Five Elements in the beginning of Chapter 2 in the same methodical and gradual fashion that he broke down yin/yang. He references other authors and ideas to make the reader understand a greater worldview of the five elements. Giovanni's text then gradually becomes...
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