Change and Transformation

Bian hua 變 化

Bian hua is a phrase commonly found in the medical texts for all kinds of change and transformation that occur within the body.

The fu are involved with chuan hua (傳 化) – they move food through the digestive tract, chuan (傳), extracting nutrients and consolidating waste in a process of transformation hua (化). The large intestine ‘changes and transforms’ – bian hua (變 化). The spleen, working with the purer aspects of food, has the function of ‘yun hua’ (運 化) – a term which describes the transmutation, transformation and diffusion of subtle essences. Chuan moves things from one place to another, yun distributes and permeates like a shower of rain. Bian hua (變 化) is the process within the body which constantly recreates our being.

In the dictionary bian (變) is given several possible meanings: change, alteration, permutation, a sudden change in the order of things, an external visible change of an animal’s coat… Hua (化) can be to melt, to dissolve, to burn up; to transform. It is also a catalyst, something that provides the trigger for change, and also ‘to conjure up as if by magic’. There is more alchemy in hua.

A phrase we find frequently in the early chapters of the Huangdi Neijing is ‘yang hua qi, yin cheng xing’ (陽 化 氣 陰 成 形) – yang transforms qi, yin completes form.

Hua is often found along with sheng (生) – to give life to, to generate, as of the sheng cycle. Two common phrases used to describe the function of the spleen are: ‘pi wei sheng hua zhi yuan’ (脾 為 生 化 之 源) – ‘the spleen is the source of generation and transformation’, and ‘pi wei hua sheng qi xue zhe zang’ (脾 為 化 生 氣 血 之 臟) – the spleen is the zang which transforms and generates qi and blood.

In both philosophical and early medical texts, hua often refers to the creative transformative power of heaven and of the spirits. The spirits are able to bring about transformation, because they themselves are constant and not subject to change. The XiCi (the great commentary on the Yi Jing, I Ching, Book of Changes) says: ‘That which is beyond the transformations of yin yang is known as the spirits (shen 神)’. That which is not transformed exists before the separation of yin and yang, it is therefore part of the origin, the ‘pre-heaven’ – and because it is ‘original’ it is able to act as a transformer of things. Hence yuan qi (源 氣 original qi) is able to act as a catalyst in the changes and transformations within the body, while remaining the same. Similarly, the shen brings the intelligence to the blood and to the cells while also providing the unchanging spark of consciousness.

We find also in the XiCi ‘Understanding the way of transformation is how one perceives the spirits.’


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