‘the eastern quarter’

東 方 dong fang

Neijing Suwen chapter five is the great chapter (da lun 大 論) which defines the movement and behaviour of qi within human beings in terms of yin yang and the five elements/phases. The text moves on from the four seasons, four directions of chapter four, and elaborates into the four quarters – with the addition of the central region (zhong fang 中 方), which governs the earth. The section of the text which details the five phase correspondences begins with the eastern quarter:

The eastern quarter (dong fang 東 方) produces wind (feng 風)

Wind produces wood (mu 木)

Wood produces the sour (suan 酸)

The sour produces the liver (gan 肝)…

The liver produces muscular movement (jin 筋),

The liver masters the eyes (mu 目).

The character for the east (dong 東) is a picture of the sun (日) rising behind a tree (木). The east is presented first because it represents the beginning of things – it is where the sun rises, the beginning of the day, the beginning of a new cycle, the new season stirred into being by the generative power of the wind. The sun, the symbol of yang movement, enlivens the wood qi, bringing growth and renewal at the beginning of the new year.

The tree (木). remains deeply rooted (ben 本) within the earth, the yin, in order to grow – just as the liver must remain rooted in the yin of the kidneys, the yin of the liver blood, in order to fulfil its yang movement.

The character for spring (chun 春) is very similar – here the sun (日) is placed at the bottom of the character, while the top is a slightly more complex variation of the wood character, suggesting all kinds of growth and proliferation.

This idea of movement and growth, the ability to stretch and expand, is seen in the association the text makes between the liver and muscular movement. It is reflected in clarity of vision, and the kind of visioning that we associate with the hun and with dreams… all of which must remain rooted in the yin in order to move and expand with ease and fluidity.

The quality of qi of the eastern quarter defines the correspondences of the wood element – they all have the same fast moving, far-reaching, far-acting attributes, with the inevitable danger of stretching too far and losing their anchor in the yin.

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