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Pulse regulation system in “Ling Shu” (Divine Pilot) The brilliant model of systemic medicine

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Recent archaeological discoveries have shown that the history of Chinese Medicine spans over 600,000 years. From 6000 to 10,000 years ago, the emergence of He Tu (River Gram), has demonstrated that Chinese Medicine had its own system. The Yellow Emperor developed Chinese Medicine based on experiences into a systemic discipline. The pulse regulation system in “Ling Shu” (Divine Pilot) is the brilliant centerpiece of this systemic medicine.

Modern medicine has encountered bottlenecks through its use of discrete, separate methods in its attempts to discover the secrets of the human body. Finally, it has realized the importance of the body’s systems. According to the principle of system theory, it put forward the concepts of systemic biomedicine. However, in philosophy, this system is still limited compared to the Classic Chinese Medicine perspective in which the entire scheme encompasses the Universe, the Earth and the Human Beings. As a method, the western approach is still unable to shake off the shackles of mechanical materialism.

Classic Chinese Medicine, founded at the height of the monistic ontology of Dao, summed up the common principles in the Universe, the Earth, and Humans, and applied them to medicine. This process became an important catalyst in the generation of Classical Chinese Medicine. Since the moment of the Big Bang, the universe has produced the information and the laws, not only to control the occurrences and movement of celestial bodies, but also those on the earth and in the human body where it has played a decisive role accordingly. The information and laws are summarized as Taiji in Classical Chinese Medicine, that cosmic law of motion of the double spiral structure. As a part of the whole system, all the Sky, Earth, and Humans need to follow these laws. Consequently, the primary requirement for being a doctor according to the “Inner Cannon” is that “one must know the sky above, the earth below and the human in the middle” because the“body functions the same way as does the universe and the earth.”

In Yi Jing, the basic characteristics of systemic science are interlinked with the principles of “Stability,” “Variability,” and “Simplicity”. “Stability” is designed to handle the specific things in the system as “one” because “one” is stable. “Variability” happens in a closely related process of a concrete practice in which, even though occasional variations can occur, the system itself remains “unchanged”. “Simplicity” comes from the full understanding of the principles that work for the specific matters existing in the system. It is entirely possible to simplify the universe and life phenomena beyond their apparent complexities and, by so doing, come to a closer understanding of the truth. As it is written in the “Ling Shu”: “One sentence is enough for one who knows truth; one will get lost in thousands of words if you do not know the truth.”

The focus for the pulse and acupuncture systems in “Ling Shu” is on the status of the movement of Ying (nourishing Qi) and Wei (defensive Qi). Clinically, good therapeutic results can be achieved just by regulating the pulse through acupuncture once the practitioner knows the status of Ying and Wei. Obviously, in “Ling Shu,” the human body is regarded as a dynamic system. The status of Ying and Wei is the status of energy conversion and distribution of the “One” Qi which is the foundation of all the body organs and the functions of local processes. Therefore, in “Ling Shu”, the pulse and acupuncture systems have guided the clinical treatment effectively for thousands of years. They have done so by replacing complexity with simplicity.

Although “humans were born on the earth, their lives (are) connected to the sky. The Qi created by the sky and the earth is called human.” In this sense, human beings come from the Qi of the universe, so human-beings themselves are “Qi.” In Chinese Medicine, humans are considered as the “Qi” person first, then as the body with bone and flesh secondly. If Qi does not circulate smoothly, it will cause illnesses. For treatment, the regulation of Qi, of course, is the main objective. One must know Qi before treating Qi. Because the pulse is the widow to the Qi, it can help to identify the acupoints for local symptoms. We are well advised to follow this ancient dictum. “Before needling, make sure always to take pulse first, give the treatment according to the Qi's movement”.

Pulse diagnosis is a vital part of Classical Chinese Medicine. To know Qi by pulse is to connect with the universe externally and to respond to the spirit and body internally. Qi connects all the parts of the body into an inseparable whole and plays a critical role in controlling the local functions and processes.  Acupuncturists of the classical style could do entire treatments just by regulating the pulse because the mechanism of the pulse (here I create a new term “pulsology”) is no different than that of physiology and pathology. There are several systems of acupoints whose primary function is to regulate the pulse. This approach can be so accurate that certain points are closely related to the positions of the pulse. “Doctors who are good at acupuncture should treat Yin from Yang, Yang from Yin, treat the left by needling the right, the right by needling the left. They should also know the other side from this side and the surface from the internal organs. They should be able to distinguish hyper from hypo activity and be familiar with the development stages of an illness. If they can do these things, then they will always succeed with their treatments”.

The manipulation of needles is done to gain Qi feelings. “The importance of needling is to gain Qi feelings to get the result.” ‘Qi feelings,’ are the sensations of soreness, numbness, distention and pain experienced by the patients. If there are no such feelings, then wait, and push the Qi to come. When the Qi does come, doctors have to determine if it is a bad Qi or a good Qi. “A bad Qi will feel tight and rapid, while a good Qi feels smooth and slow”. Then, they need to apply the acupuncture techniques of tonification or discharge accordingly. Good Qi can be made stronger by tonification and bad Qi can be released through discharge. “Acupuncture is all about the reversing and following of the Qi to harmonize it.”

Tonification and discharging techniques are based on the following or reversing of the Qi. Mal-manipulation can happen if one does not know the local Qi's movement. Qi exists everywhere, out and in everywhere and up and down everywhere. Males and females present differences in terms morning or afternoon and left or right. These are some of the variations a practitioner needs to consider. Nevertheless, Ying and Wei follow the routines of the sun and the moon. This is stability on macro sense. It is “Simplicity” for the “Ling Shu” to regulate Qi by regulating the pulse with only one or two needles to gain instant relief from local symptoms.  “Doctors who are not skillful enough focus on the body, while good doctors focus on the Qi”.

Because of the deep understanding of the disease and the clinical use of pulse diagnosis, practioners in ancient times were able to gain insight into the mystery of human life, causing a great revolution in medical science. This revolution gave birth to the golden age of Chinese Medicine in Han and Tang Dynasties. Even today, the highly developed modern medicine still cannot surpass the brilliant achievements of the ancient Chinese Medicine in terms of human understanding at the holistic level. The doctors, the good ones who knew the pulse differentiation at that time, could cure nine out of ten patients with confidence. Besides, “the results (came) as quickly as the sound from a beaten drum”. This suggests that the prevailing medical practice had managed to avoid the blind of allure of subjective arbitrariness at least to some extent.

Unfortunately, for us nowadays, all of this seems to be a dream from our previous life. Modern Chinese Medicine cannot replicate all of those exemplary results. It cannot understand all of the principles that got lost both in direction and confidence. It is as if these glorious achievements never happened in the history of Chinese Medicine. The later decline of modern Chinese medicine is not due only to the depreciation of pulse diagnosis. It is also a consequence of the unfortunate loss of its systemic holistic concepts. The holistic concept is the soul of Classic Chinese Medicine and is its superiority. Chinese Medicine can only rediscover "itself" reflected in its history. It needs to return to its classical roots. Only then, it can strive out of the woods to recapture its original splendor.