celebrating the year of the fire monkey…

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Monkey Press is named after the Monkey King – popularised in the 16th century novel ‘Journey to the West’. Monkey blends skill and initiative with irreverence and a sense of freedom – ridiculing pomposity and cutting through illusion. He particularly enjoys upsetting the hierarchical structures of both religion and government, infuriating the Jade Emperor and the Queen of Heaven by stealing peaches of immortality from their garden.

So the year of the monkey is likely to be an interesting one! And what will the fire element bring? Less havoc than wood, maybe, and hopefully an increase of that monkey intuition and clarity of perception… the ability to discriminate and refine. The fire element could make this into a highly energetic and transformative year – we just have to make sure that we use that discrimination and clarity of perception before taking a leap into the unknown!

early impressions of claude larre


Claude Larre S.J.What I liked about Father Larre was not that he was a sinologist, but that he was a real human being. Someone with a very deep sense of what it means to be human. He answered questions by really listening, and answering in an unexpected way – with life. He answered with the reality of life and not with concepts. From studying Western philosophy I was completely fed up with concepts! It is very easy to play with concepts – but where does it take you? So I was really interested by that, and that was the reason why I continued to see him. He had spent more that 20 years in Asia, in China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Japan – so he was really impregnated by that experience. He was working at that time on his PhD thesis on the Huainanzi, and also starting a translation of the Daodejing. Read more


This description of Autumn was written by Peter Firebrace and first published in Eastern Currents magazine in Canada.

Qiu 秋 the fall, the autumn, shows an ear of grain filled with fire 火. Summer’s passing, fall’s approaching, inner time coming, metal time to cut the ties that bind. Autumn is two edged, on the one hand the harvest season with its mellow abundance and on the other the shortening days, the nip of death in the keen cool air. A time of evening, of rebalancing, the scales tipping in favour of the dark, the cold, the yin, the in. Central to it is the Mid-Autumn Festival zhong qiu jie 中 秋 節, held on the full moon, the 15th day of the 8th month (September 8th in 2014), to celebrate the growth and power of yin, of the abundant harvest, of woman and the moon. Then the heat turns to cold, the dew to frost and we stand at the gate of winter, time of buried endings and invisible beginnings, of water’s regenerative renewal. Read more


Joy is the emotion related to summertime, to the fire element and to the heart. Following the movement of fire, it has an uplifting, diffusing action on the qi. This is usually seen as a positive movement, releasing blockages, opening the mind and body to receive the shen or spiritual influences. But it can become a pathological over-stimulation, or an over-dispersion that leads to collapse. The Confucian ‘virtue’ related to the fire element is ritual or rites, which could be seen as the way to safeguard this opening to spirit.

The following passage is taken from Chinese Medicine from the Classics: a Beginner’s Guide. Read more


nourishing the development of life summer

養 長   yang zhangsummer 2

Neijing Suwen chapter 2 gives guidelines for the nourishment of life throughout the four seasons. The passage devoted to the three months of summer celebrates the splendour of the development of life, when living is easy, there is a relaxation, a joy of being alive. After the struggles of winter and the constant activity of spring, the surge of life comes to fruition in summer. This part of the text is full of characters for flowering, flourishing, ripening, maturing; abundance, proliferation, accomplishment:

‘The three months of summer are called proliferating (fan 蕃) and flourishing (xiu 秀). The qi of heaven and earth intertwine, and the ten thousand things flower (hua 華) and bring forth fruit (shi 實).’

Read more



rice farmingYang sheng is an ancient term, and specific ‘nourishing life’ 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 (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) 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.

The ancient Chinese were good at this kind of observation. The medicine described in the classical texts is essentially a move away from the idea that human lives are at the whim of ancestors, gods and the forces of nature, in need of priests and shamans to intercede with the powers of good and bad fortune on their behalf; at this time in history the idea evolved that human beings are responsible for their own destiny, and that it is up to the individual to make the best of what they have been given by ‘heaven’ or nature (tian 天) at birth. Knowing how to look after our ‘inheritance’ forms the basis of Chinese medicine. The classical texts advise us to observe what is natural and to adapt our behaviour according to the laws of nature; learning to avoid what is harmful and adopt what is beneficial for life. Not to contend, not to struggle, but to follow what is natural and in accordance with one’s true nature; to follow what is naturally so (zi ran 自 然). Read more


In the Northern hemisphere we have just passed the spring equinox – our official beginning of spring – which was accompanied by an auspicious new moon. But Chinese new year began exactly one month before with the new moon of February 18th. The phase between the new moon and the full moon of March 5th forms one of the four gates of the year, when the earth element aids the transition from water to wood. Now we are in the wood phase of the year of the wood sheep.

Following on from our reflections on winter, this commentary on Suwen chapter 2 from the Monkey Press book The Liver by Claude Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée, describes the natural movement of the spring qi and its association with the force of the liver.  As growth in the spring is dependent on the storage in the seed of the winter, so the strength of the liver is dependent on the yin of the kidneys. Read more

On the mystery of life and being a practitioner

Claude Larre S.J.I have recently been re-editing the Monkey Press title The Eight Extraordinary Meridians for a reprint. Taken from the perspective of the texts of the Neijing and Nanjing, the book considers these vessels as the first organization of life within a human being, the initial divisions into yin and yang,  interior exterior, above and below being managed by eight principles of government in the same way that the eight trigrams symbolize all possible combinations of yin/yang and the eight winds describe all possible movements between heaven and earth. In treatment they may be used to influence deep-seated and possibly inherited problems because they hold this basic information patterning. Similarly, they have always been considered by daoist alchemists and meditators as a pathway for the return to the origin. Considering this – Claude Larre concludes the book with his own insightful comments. Read more


Birds 2 1

The following reflections on winter are taken from the Monkey Press book The Kidneys. Beginning with the text of Suwen chapter 2, which describes each of the four seasons and introduces for the first time the idea of the resonance between winter, water, the north and the kidneys, it goes on to describe the three months of winter in the Li Ji, Book of Rites. The commentary is by Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée.



‘The three months of winter are called closing in and preserving.

The water freezes, the earth is broken up – there is no longer any communication with the yang. Read more

Sadness and Grief


A friend recently asked me to copy the passage on sadness and grief from my book, Chinese Medicine from the Classics: A Beginner’s Guide, as he felt that it might be useful to a patient in their recent state of bereavement. Since that request, a friend of mine also died.

At these times the classics of Chinese medicine can help to remind us of the ever changing nature of reality and within our personal suffering, bring us closer to the timeless and universal.

The passage is reproduced below:

Several characters may be translated as sadness and grief. In the character bei (悲) the heart is below (心) and above is fei (非) which is a negation, a denial, a negative prefix. It is literally a negation of the heart. It is usually translated as sadness, and suggests a movement of repression and restriction which is often associated with the metal element and the lungs. But in Suwen chapter 5 the expression of will associated with the metal element is you (憂), which may be translated as oppression or sometimes oppressive grief. The character ai (哀) is also often paired with bei and both characters are then translated as grief or mourning. Read more