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communication and circulation (tong 通)

There are many characters used for the vital function of free-flow of blood and qi throughout the body, but the most important and commonly used is tong (通). 

The character tong (通) describes any kind of communication which is free from obstruction; it is particularly used for the spreading and free movement of qi, but can describe communication between people as much as free-flow within the organism. In classical Chinese it is to open the way, to open dialogue, to allow the mingling of different things, ideas, people. It is to give free access to something; to penetrate and to permeate. 

The radical of the character (辵/辶) is to walk, in a measured and rhythmical way – which is very similar to the character xing (行) – the xing of wu xing (五 行), the five phases or elements. Both have the same idea of regular and well-regulated movement. The easy flow of one thing into another. The character xing (行) is used to describe the regular movement of the heavens (the movement of the stars and planets is xing xing 星 行), and tong has the added dimension of the even distribution of qi which is made possible by this perpetual movement. 

The same radical is seen in the character for dao (道) which, as well as its more philosophical meanings of the way, the way things are, the ways things move and change and transform, is also seen within physiology to imply movement and free-flow. The character dao is often used to describe the movement of water, and is seen in the point name shui dao (St 28), and also the free movement of the spirit/consciousness, as in shen dao (Dumai 11) and ling dao (Ht 4). 

The character tong is found in the point names of Gallbladder 7 tong tian (通 天), communication with heaven, and Heart 4, tong li (通 理), communication with the interior. This tendency to use the character tong in association with heaven, the spirits and the heart, suggests the importance of this constant movement, circulation and communication within the psyche as well as the general physiology. In the philosophical classics tong dao (通 道) and tong xuan (通 玄) are common terms for understanding the dao and penetrating the mystery of life. 

Therapeutically, tong is to restore the movement and circulation of qi wherever there is blockage and restriction. Bu tong (不 通) suggests the lack of free circulation – the main cause of disease and dis-ease. Tong bu tong (痛 不 通) is a common expression which is used to describe pain (tong 痛) due to blockage – the character for pain sharing the same phonetic (甬) with the added radical for illness (疒).

webinars with elisabeth rochat de la vallée

In September Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée will begin a series of webinars in English on the Dao de Jing.

The first four seminars will approach the subject of water, which permeates the writing of Laozi and illustrates suppleness and ‘the strength of weakness’.

The 4 webinar courses will be held on Mondays Sept. 16, 23, 30 and Oct. 7
at 8.30 pm GMT (12:30 pm PDT 3:30 pm EDT, 9:30 pm CEST/Paris)

Click the link below to access webinar details:

Way-of-water

FU  復 the return

The Yi Jing (I Ching) hexagram 24, The Return (fu 復), is associated with the winter solstice. It illustrates the beginning of the return of the light, the return of the yang after its total withdrawal. The image of the hexagram ䷗ shows one yang line emerging at the base. The upper trigram has three yin lines and is called kun (坤), the earth ☷, the lower trigram is thunder ☳, the arousing, zhen (震), and represents the stirring of the yang in the depths.  Read more

the symbolism of numbers

The following is an extract from the introduction of a new book by Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée, The Symbolism of Numbers in Traditional China.                                                                                                                                                                             

Numbers, expressions of One

Numbers are agents of the production of the world, from the heart of the One. They symbolize an organization which is perceptible to us and understood by us, and which the human mind imposes on the universe in a process of constant transformation. They function as the operators of cosmic life in perpetual evolution. Read more

YANG SHENG    養 生  NOURISHING LIFE

Yang sheng (養 生) is term that has become familiar to us in the context of various ‘nourishing life’ practices. It is an ancient term, and specific yang sheng texts have been found which date back to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. Some of these texts specifically stress diet, exercise and sexual practices which are considered to enhance the vitality and possibly even lengthen life. But the early chapters of the Neijing suggest that it is in the ability to observe what is appropriate at a particular time and for a particular individual that the real art of nourishing life resides.

Yang (養) is to nourish, and includes the most common character for eating food shi (食), but it has a wider meaning than simple nourishment for the body – it is to nurture, to care for, to maintain, not only physically. It is commonly used to describe the way parents take care of their children, and it includes the idea of education, a nourishment of the mind. It is found in early Daoist texts, such as the Neiye, for nourishing the heart/mind, and in Confucian texts for building character. Read more

heaven earth, yin yang

yin and yang in huainanzi chapter 3

‘When Heaven and Earth were yet unformed, all was ascending and flying, diving and delving. Thus it is called the primal beginning. The dao begins in the nebulous void. The nebulous void produces space-time; space-time produces the primordial qi.

A shoreline (divides) the primordial qi. That which is pure and bright spreads out to form heaven; the heavy and turbid congeals to form earth. It is easy for that which is pure and subtle to disperse, but difficult for the heavy and turbid to congeal. Therefore, first  heaven is completed, and then earth fixed.

The combined essences of heaven and earth produce yin and yang. The successive essences of yin and yang cause the four seasons. The scattered essences of the four seasons create the ten thousand things.’ Read more

the triple heater and ‘no form’


The Nanjing (Difficulty 25) states that the triple heater (san jiao 三 焦) and master heart (xin zhu 心 主) have a ‘name but no form (you ming wu xing 有 名 無 形)’. This statement has been debated throughout the centuries, earlier commentaries, including Sun Simiao, suggesting that the use of ‘no form’ (wu xing 無 形) within the Nanjing is close to the meaning found in early Daoist texts – referring to that which is un-manifest, coming before physical manifestation – and maybe holding the qi patterning for future manifestation. They imply that the triple heater and heart master have no physical substance but are functions of qi. Nanjing 8 and 66 make a connection between the triple heater and ming men (life gate, or the gate of the unfolding of life), Difficulty 66 suggesting that the three heaters are ‘the agents for the distribution of original qi (yuan qi 原 氣)’.

Read more

Communication and circulation 通

There are many characters used for the vital function of free-flow of blood and qi throughout the body, but the most important and commonly used is tong (通).

The character tong (通) describes any kind of communication which is free from obstruction; it is particularly used for the spreading and free movement of qi, but can describe communication between people as much as free-flow within the organism. In classical Chinese it is to open the way, to open dialogue, to allow the mingling of different things, ideas, people. It is to give free access to something; to penetrate and to permeate. Read more

apologies

Recently our server crashed and we lost the last two blogs. They have now been re-instated. I was particularly concerned that the tribute to our great friend Tim Gordon disappeared.

Tim’s memorial service will take place this Friday (July 7th) at 2pm at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1

Tim’s Preface to Jing Shen

On the translation of Jing Shen – chapter 7 of the Huainanzi

Our group has been meeting for more than twenty years. The thrust of our work has been the joy of learning about translation from Chinese helped by our illustrious guides, and the insights we gain from the process of producing a translation paying scrupulous attention to the original Chinese characters and text. Read more