Chosen (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 22)

The final televised Buffy episode offers a very clear Channel Divergence to treat, one which accesses the last of the Extraordinary Vessels, the one concerned with passing on a lineage, with making choices, with encircling a person’s body into a solitary figure — but one which also brings all that to the surface, changing the form of one’s life through manifesting one’s choices.  Willow opens this channel with magic (and it often seems like magic for an acupuncturist to be able to treat multiple people simultaneously, as most clinicians can attest.)  This post, then, is for Willow.

The Channel Divergence I propose treating in this episode is the Kidney CD.  It’s intimate link with the Dai Mai and other Extraordinary Vessels points to its capacity to access not only to the ‘Prisoners of the Dungeon’ (the Turok-han vampires beneath the seal), but also the physiology which will be passed into the Slayer Lineage.

The episode opens with Caleb coming back to life and Buffy slicing him in two, ‘up the middle’, starting with his ‘external kidneys’.  Buffy quotes the openign lines of the Buffy series, and comes to the realisation that it doesn’t have to be that way:  “one in every generation…  She alone…”

Angel and Buffy then have a discussion about having souls, or specifically, about Spike’s ensoulment.  Buffy admits that Spike is in her heart.  Buffy then returns home.  Alone.

Buffy presents her plan to the Scoobies, a plan which will ensure she is not alone.  It is also a plan which entails Willow going beyond the darkest place she had ever been.  Later in the episode, we will see Willow come out the other side, having gone through that darkness, to a place of light.  The Potentials, too, will have to make a choice.  They go to the Hellmouth, and collectively feed their blood to the seal, opening it.  The non-potentials — Dawn, Xander, Anya, Giles, Principal Wood — stay above ground.  Dawn delivers a potent line to Buffy before she enters the Hellmouth:  “Anything you say will sound like good-bye”.  Dawn then walks away.

Descending into the depths while Willow casts her spell, they wait for their transformation into Slayers.  Willow’s spell succeeds.  A great battle ensues, culminating in Spike’s redemption and the collapse of the Hellmouth.  (The collapse of the Hellmouth incidentally disrupts the Scoobies’ plans for what to do after the battle.)

The final lines of the episode contain food for thought in reference to the KD CD:  “We changed the world.”  “We’ll have to find them [the new Slayers].”  And perhaps most importantly, when using the Channel Divergences of Acupuncture for self-transformation, Buffy says:  “Make your choice:  are you ready to be strong?”

How exactly does this episode relate to the Kidney Channel Divergence?  After all, it is usually used for deficient yin conditions from overwork (“lao taxation”) and adrenal exhaustion (a condition in which too much yin has been transformed into wei qi).  Those familiar with the ‘kidney return’ protocol will note that it uses selected points on the KD CD.  Symptoms include empty fire, which is a loss of jing giving way to heat.  The trajectory of the Kidney CD will illustrate my argument more fully:

The channel diverges from the primary Kidney meridian at KD-10, near the knee.  A he-sea or he-uniting point, this point homes to the Kidney organs.  A little known effect of the point is its usefulness in treating mental disorders.

From KD-10, the channel moves laterally to link up with the confluent point of the BL-KD Channel Divergence at BL-40.  BL-40 is the end of a third trajectory on the Bladder Meridian, originating at Du-4, moving outwards towards the lower inner bladder line (to encompass the shu points of the LI and SI) and down towards the knee.  This is one reason why BL-40 is particularly effective in treating low back pain:  it connects directly with the low back.  In combination with Du-26, the entire spine, including the marrow it houses, is affected.  (As a side note, Du-26 also treats mental disorders.)

From Bl-40, the channel follows the BL divergence pathway, passing through BL36 on its way to Du 4.  BL-36 and DU-4 both relate to the ability to stand upright, or as Buffy phrases it: “Can stand up, will stand up.”

From the Du Mai, which some readers may recall is the Extraordinary Vessel of individuation and going-out into the world to meet one’s destiny (Du-4 is called ‘Gate of Destiny’), the Kidney divergent channel then homes to the Dai Mai via BL-23 and BL-52, the shu points of the Kidneys and Will, respectively.  Physiologically, the movement to the Dai Mai allows the channel divergence to move pathogens to the last of the EVs:  wei qi using yuan qi to store or create latency.  The kidney uses fear or cold to repress pathogen, especially fear of dying, thus limiting potential of yuan qi.  It is the ‘dungeon’, reserved for prisoners who couldn’t be killed (due to status, position, lineage, family relations, etc).  Yet the next point in the channel, BL-52, is the gate of will, where one overcomes fear and cold and can make one’s choices.  In a way, this is also the point of a ‘will-within-the-will’, a situation in which a person is acting for one set of articulated reasons, but is actually responding to a much larger, more extensive set of choices about his or her life.  “Make your choice.”

Following the Dai Mai, the KD Channel Divergences goes to GB26, SP15, ST25, KD16, and CV8.  If the Kidneys are a dungeon, the Dai Mai is a closet, into which pour all the unresolved emotional and physiological work entrusted to a particular lineage to work out.  The Dai Mai is the means to transmit a factor to one’s future lineage to work out.  Physiologically, it helps let go of things person is not conscious of (wei qi is not conscious), often by invoking the qualities of the Gallbladder to help let go of fearful, repressed emotions, the baggage we have difficulty letting go of.  It sets the prisoners of the Kidney free.  “Anything you say will sound like goodbye.”  In patients with a KD CD pathology, the Dai Mai reflex area of the hara is often full or filling.

The KD Channel Divergence pathway then follows the primary KD Channel trajectory on the abdomen, which is actually the Chong Mai trajectory.  The KD CD thus accesses the ‘Gate of Destiny’, brings that individuation through the elements of life which need to be resolved, and transmits them within the person to the EV which contains the blueprint of one’s lineage.  It allows all that hidden fear and baggage to meet the emotions for resolution.  The Chong Mai, as both the sea of blood and sea of the 12 channels, is intimately concerned with the full range of human emotion.  “How does it feel, B?”  This is also where the pathophysiology can move from consuming jing to consuming blood in an effort to keep a pathogen latent.  From consuming the attention of one’s life, to sucking up emotional energy, certain pathologies move more deeply into the body.

From the Chong Mai and KD primary channel points, the KD CD moves to CV23 and the Root of the Tongue, having passed through the Heart.  CV-23 is a Yin Wei Mai point, and concerns both continuity — in the case of the Potentials, their continuity with the Slayer lineage, which is their destiny, and all the history and mystery inherent in that lineage — and integrity: how the person remains who they really are in the face of challenges presented by life.

From CV-23, the KD CD then moves along the Jawline.  How does a person integrate experiences into her life?  The jawline is where one can see how a person chews on, savours, and assimilates experiences.  It is also a final place for deposit a pathology:  the teeth hold latent pathogens.   (If the tooth is removed, pathogenic process may still continue, and move to affect the throat.  Gua sha ST5 area, SCM, if this portion of the CD is diseased.)  “I want you… to get out of my face.” (Or “a nice, wholesome, my person has a pierced tongue sort of way”)

From the jaw line, the Channel Divergence moves backwards to BL-10, which connects yin to the head via marrow at lower border of skull.  “It’s bloody brilliant.”  BL-10 is also a Window to the Sky point, and as such draws things up from where they’ve lain buried to the light of the heavens, much as Spike brought light from the ‘trinket’ to the Turok-han.  “Spike”

Treatment would be three-time needling, shallow-deep-shallow, as we want to bring up the slayer-essence latent in each potential.  However, instead of doing a strictly ascending, or even a looping technique (in which one begins with KD-10 on one side, moving to BL-10 and then down the other side, to exit at KD-1 or BL-67), I will take a tip from Spike, and bring the light of a WTS point to a Doorway to the Earth point, and then move in an ascending direction.  Thus, I will begin on the left side with BL-10 and move downwards towards KD-10; then I will move to the right side and begin with KD-10, moving upwards to the nape of the neck.  The idea is to bring the idea to the depths of the person, and draw out what is needed to make that realisation an actual reality.

From here, follow treatments with either the Dai Mai or Chong Mai will help ground the person in her or his new identity.  KD CD treatments combine very well with Dai Mai and Chong Mai treatments, as can be seen from the trajectory of the KD CD.

In terms of Herbal Medicine, many formulas can be used to augment jing.  As for envoys, several herbs go to the Dai Mai and other EVs, but Wu Zei Gu goes to the Dai Mai exclusively (and not to other EVs); to bring the formula outwards to the TaiYang level, Hua Jiao goes to the middle to disperse cold (but homes to the KD channel), and Gao Ben raises qi to the vertex.  Both herbs would be good additions to a martial arts training formula like Jin Feng Jiu, which increases jing and quiets restlessness.  Jin Feng Jiu is composed of equal portions Sheng Di, Shu Di, Dang Gui, Mai Dong, Di Gu Pi, and Yin Yang Hua, with one-half a portion of Sha Ren.  Grind or use whole to make wine, steeping the ingredients for two or three months first.  (Guard the body from losing jing while taking this formula; this is especially important for men.)

* * *

So this completes my series of posts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Chinese Medicine.  I originally began this exercise simply because I needed a way to keep my diagnostic skills up between my graduation from acupuncture school and being allowed to practice.  I also wanted a forum for presenting some of the more obscure, ‘superstitious’ aspects from the history of Chinese Medicine out into the world.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I’ve enjoyed composing them.  As always, the posts have been meant for educational purposes only.  If you or another person feel you could benefit from the perspective of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Finally, all medicine, but Chinese medicine in particular serves a single purpose:  to relieve unnecessary suffering so that individuals can return and live out their lives.  The final line of the series puts this nicely:

“You’re not the one and only chosen one now.  you’ve just got to live as a person.”

Happy Slayage.

Jason Scott Johnson
2013, September 29.
Michaelmas Day.



Bargaining, Part 2 (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 2)

The first half of the two-part episode ‘Bargaining’ ends with an image of Buffy’s corpse coming back to life — still buried in her coffin.  Buffy needs to claw her way out of the earth if she is to survive.  We later see Spike offer his sympathies; he had to do the same, once.  Newly reborn, Buffy’s senses are still hazy:  her sense of sound seems acute, but her vision remains blurry for much of the episode.  Eventually, Buffy makes her way to the Tower from which she jumped at the end of Season Five.  Dawn follows Buffy up the Tower and pleads with Buffy to come down.  ‘It was made by crazy people’, Dawn explained, and its stability, having been constructed without a clear blueprint, was questionable.  Indeed, we see the tower as it begins to collapse.  While at the top of the tower, Buffy explains to Dawn that where she had been, everything was shiny and clear.  “Is this hell?” Buffy asks.

Clarity is the culmination of the Water phase in human life.  Associated with wisdom, the virtue of the Kidneys, clarity comes about when jing is entirely transformed and the vice of water, fear, falls away.  In terms of the Kidney channel itself, the Kidney points on the abdomen reflect the relationship between completing one’s journey in life and the ‘curriculum’ with which one is born.  Those points are nearly all intersection points with the Chong Mai.  In fact, the Kidney channel, of all the channels, contains the most Chong Mai points, illustrating the conceptional relationship between the jing stored in the Kidneys as it unfolds in the emotional life of the blood contained in the Chong Mai as ‘sea of blood’.  In a sense, the Chong Mai facilitates the movement from Kidney jing to Liver blood.

The chong mai is the first of the extraordinary vessels.  The Nan Jing refers to the EVs as the vessels which catch the overflow of the luo-mai, the collateral vessels.  The Luo Mai are associated with blood and the emotional aspects of life.  Those emotions which cannot be immediately dealt with are held in the body in the form of spider veins.  These spider veins can accumulate, pass into the next channel in the cycle, or eventually drain into the EVs.  When they drain into the EVs, the idea is that the person now must incorporate resolving those emotional challenges as part of his or her blueprint in life.  As the first of the EVs, the chong mai in particular embodies this characteristic.  The chong mai is the blueprint from which the rest of life unfolds.  Clearing the chong mai helps induce clarity in life, through the delineation of that blueprint.

In the collapse of the tower which gave Fifth-Season Buffy the opportunity to sacrifice herself to save the world, we see an implosion of the structure of her previous curriculum, whose culmination was self-sacrifice.

Now that Buffy has a new incarnation, what will be Buffy’s new curriculum?  She completed that blueprint whose end was self-sacrifice; it does not need to be repeated.  What is the goal for this new existence?  That is the question this season asks; it will be answered in Season Seven (moving from self-sacrifice to self-giving).  However, the initial question Buffy confronts is doubt about the sufficiency of her self-sacrifice.  Did she do something wrong, that she’s come back, in more or less the same body?  What does this mean, existentially?

The ling-soul is the capacity for self-cultivation, through the working together of the virtues of the five little shen – the hun, po, shen, jing, and yi/ intent.  Part of self-cultivation is exactly the work of getting piety, reactivity, reflectivity, materiality, and intent to operate harmoniously in one’s life.  Buffy’s shen or ling soul has returned to her body, but as we find out, something in that body, some element of the jing is different.  Given that the chong mai is the sea of blood, perhaps some of the difference in jing is due to the use of fawn’s blood in Willow’s spell.  (The fawn’s blood, by the way, should have clotted once it was collected, if it was not continually stirred, but perhaps this is part of the magic of the jar of Osiris).

In any case, I am going to assume Buffy’s pulse is ‘tied to the bone’, a classic Chong Mai pulse.  She also has the classic Nan Jing symptom of chong mai disorder:  rushing and urgency in the body.  (Today, we might consider these terms to refer to anxiety or panic attacks.)  The chong also treats generalised counterflow of qi and blood.  Given that Buffy was so recently a corpse whose qi and blood were decaying, restoration of movement and integration would seem to be counter the flow of normal events.

I would treat her by opening the Chong Mai at SP-4, then needle KD-12 DaHe (‘Great Luminance’), and close again at SP-4.  Sp-4, as a luo-point, treats counterflow, while KD-12 is needled to help restore clarity to Buffy’s new life.

As for herbs, Lu Jiao Shuang is noted by Ye Tian-shi to treat Kidney Channel Blood.  Since the chong is often thought of as a collateral of the Kidney channel, using this medicinal, in combination with Wu Wei Zi and Dang Gui should help stabilise the new found ability to move Buffy is experiencing.  Wu Wei Zi is useful in cases where someone feels a deep seated guilt over something for which they were not truly responsible, in this case, coming back to life.  Dang Gui causes the hun to rejoice in itself, letting Buffy rejoice in the cycle of life.


I would like to revisit the CV here as well.  After the chong mai, the ren mai is the next vessel to be activated.  The ren mai is responsible for attachment.  We see attachment take several forms in the opening episode:  Anya-Xander, Willow-Tara, and Dawn-Buffy.  Dawn in particular starts the redevelopment of Buffy’s curriculum in life:  “I need you to live.  I’m your sister.”  She plays on the hun’s capacity for fraternal piety (LV-Chong connexion) and brings it into the terrain of the ren mai.

I would raise another possibility:  using the Ren Mai to treat attachment to ideas, to an excessive fixity of ideology.  For example, could it work to treat Willow’s insistence on needing to get Buffy out of the hell dimension in which Buffy tells Spike she was not?  I would focus especially on TanZhong, CV-17 in such a case.  Tan Zhong is the place were sacrifices were held by the emperor at the direction of his Confucian advisors.

Of course, if we treated Willow, would Buffy have come back to life?  Would we have had a sixth season?

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you know of anyone recently raised from the dead, who is seeking clarity in their new life, please seek out a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

Fool for Love (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 7)

I had forgotten about this episode as a full piece, until I rewatched it last night. I had remembered Spike’s backstory, of course, and the amazing beauty make-up done for Drusilla and Darla. And who can forget the kick-ass Slayer Nikki from the 1970s?

What I had forgotten was the framing of the story: Buffy staked by her own weapon, Riley’s slow movement towards the shadow sides of his character, and Spike’s vulnerable side. Although Doug Petrie, in the commentary, says the episode is about people telling one another things they need to hear but don’t want to hear (and therefore reacting badly to those statements), it is also about how a person’s character does not really change, even if the externals accumulate into creating a new persona. Spike remained the broken-hearted romantic; Riley still has the character of someone who needs to get the mission accomplished. While Spike’s changes are obvious, what changes in Riley’s case is the means and willingness to work with other people. I would argue though, that he remains true to his character — the classic ‘tragic flaw’ placed in a 21st century context.

What can be diagnosed in this episode?  I had thought about treating Buffy for her abdominal injury (SP luo treats ‘lancinating pain in the intestines’), or her inability to defend herself (BL luo treats that, although this is phrased as ‘sniveling’ in the Jia Yi Jing), or even Spike’s obsession with Buffy (again SP luo could come into play). Certainly, the death-wish that all Slayer’s have would be something to pre-empt (perhaps with the Great Luo of the SP), but I already addressed that in an earlier episode. Riley, however, provides a more interesting case.

Looking at Riley, nothing particularly physiological is going on. His adrenal overload is gone. He’s recovered well from Season 4’s events. But something is happening to him internally. His usual optimism is being blocked somehow, and unable to keep up with Buffy, he’s beginning to slip. A certain sadness at not being heroic (which is different from being the hero), a frustration at no longer having a well-oiled team to be part of, a disappointment from the lopsided relationship with Buffy (because he thinks Buffy is the one for him — and he knows he’s not the one for her) all conspire to move his personality to extreme behaviours, slowly but surely.

In a sense, we could argue that the po-corporeal souls are gaining dominance over the hun-ethereal souls, or more physiologically, his blood has begun to flow erratically upon itself, ying and wei qi mixing improperly.  The po-spirits are the ‘bone souls’ which seek to drag humans into their mortality. They are the souls which become dominant in cases of addiction and reckless behaviour, when the severe qi of the Lungs ceases to govern justly and evenly. They number seven, originally, and are lost after each cycle of seven (for women) or eight (for men) years, travelling down the spine to exit through the anus.  If something severe happened to a person during that cycle, or if the po-soul has something to hold onto, it will displace a portion of the vertebral column as it leaves.   The hun, as mentioned before, are more the personality-like souls, the souls often honoured at the ancestral altar, surviving for three generations before fading away or re-entering the family lineage.

We can therefore choose to look at Riley’s case either from a spirit-physiological perspective and figure out a way to harmonise the hun and po, or we can look at it from a psychological point of view.  In the latter case, we can give a simple diagnosis:  Riley is vexed.  He doesn’t know what to do, but he cannot break character.  Vexation and oppression is the sign of counterflow in the Kidney network vessels (foot shao yin luo).  Counterflow movement thus supports the above statement that the blood has begun to flow back upon itself.  Interestingly, of all the luo-channels, the only one to enter the bones is the Kidney luo.  The SI goes to ‘shoulder bone’ — some would read this as LI-15 — but the Kidney luo actually enters the lumbar spine.  Treating the Kidney luo by re-establishign its proper flow thus could have an effect over the po-souls which exit through the spine.  One could theorise that counterflow in the KD luo allows the po-souls greater freedom and draws them into the blood, where they reside as parasites or the three worms, but that would be a theoretical stretch which need not be explored in depth here.

The acupuncture treatment for Riley’s vexation and oppression would then be to lance KD-4, and check to see if any broken blood-vessels lie along the trajectory of the channel as it ascends the leg.  I might consider bleeding SP-4 and PC-6 as well, since the cause of the condition is known, but I think I’d actually lance those in a follow-up appointment, once Riley really begins to acknowledge what is going on.  For now, relieving the vexation and counterflow could help him re-establish a proper movement in his life.

Herbal treatment would focus on the gathering qi of the chest, rather than a strictly blood-moving formula for the Kidneys.  The po-souls are held in tension in the body, anchored between both by the solid bones and thick jing, and also by the yang qi which gathers in the Lungs.  When the qi is weak, the bones continue to store the po-souls, but they are allowed to wreak havoc.  One could argue that when the bones are weak, the po-souls begin leaving the body pre-maturely, having no strong residence; whether this could lead to earlier mortality or not is debatable.  Regardless, the greater danger is weak qi.

Herbally speaking, I would select a variation of Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang:  the early twentieth century formula, Sheng Xian Tang (Raise the Sunken Decoction).  The formula contains only five herbs: huang qi (four parts), zhi mu (two parts), chai hu (one part), jie geng (one part), and gan cao (two-thirds a part).  The formula tonifies the gathering qi in the chest, opening all the body’s physiological processes.  Currently, the formula is also used to treat cardiovascular disorders.

In Riley’s case, I was suggest his previous experience in the hospital when he had a heart rate well above normal led to an exhaustion of qi in the upper burner.  This in turn led to a backing up or counterflow of qi and blood in the lower warmer — his Ming Men- and Jing-related physiology seems to be functioning just fine, given his core strength and energy.  Tonifying the qi of the chest will help raise the blood back up and re-establish proper flow.  Additionally, the huang qi secures the exterior, while the jie geng floats qi to the surface, unmixing wei qi from ying qi.  This will give Riley some psychological balance as he negotiates his path between his love for Buffy and his conviction (whether misplaced or not) that he is not the one for Buffy.

It is unlikely that the formula would need to be taken long term in Riley’s case, unless Riley has the weak pulse indicative for the formula.

As always, this post is for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have cardiovascular conditions and would like to seek herbal treatment under the supervision of your regular physician, please seek a qualified local practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

Fear Itself (Buffy Season 4, Episode 4)

On the face of it, this is an episode about fear — or more precisely, a psychological study of each character’s own particular personal insecurities.  Buffy can’t protect the whole group, Oz fears the wolf inside him will overpower him, Xander feels invisible, Willow has her own fears about her ability to produce workable magic, and Anya is focused on Xander.  Like the fear demon who appears at the end of the episode, each person’s fear is only a small thing which gets magnified out of proportion when attention — in this episode, going around in circles in a labryinthine fraternity house; in real life, a perpetual mulling in the mind, heart, or soul — is fixed on it.  A closer look at the script reveals another theme emerging in bits and pieces throughout the episode:  a preoccupation with the face.  This post will therefore treat the topic of Chinese medical facial diagnosis.

(For those interested in fear and mulling, as separate phenomena, please see my earlier posts on Season 3, episodes 8 and 13, and Season 2, Episode 6.)

The episode begins with Xander’s attempt at creating a ferociously scary expression on his pumpkin ending up merely dryly sardonic.  Willow and Oz chip in by noting its mocking eyes and nose of self-loathing.  A perfectly systematic face reading, though geared strictly towards expressiveness, rather than medicine.  Meanwhile, Buffy is going through a post-Parker depression and ‘what’s wrong with me’ self-perception.  (My post on the Season 2 Halloween episode treats comfort with one’s self.)  Buffy’s pumpkin is left as a  “freak with no face”.  Later, Joyce gets “nostalgia face” in a mother-daughter encounter over Buffy’s Little Red Riding Hood costume.   Eyes come back into the picture when peeled grapes turn into literal eyeballs at the now haunted frat house.  After the gang arrives, Willow lashes out at Buffy, saying her face is 50/50.  Xander himself cannot be seen, due to his fear of his own invisibility to his friends, although he does note that bloody face in corner can see and speak to him.  Oz fears his wolf-face, although in this instance ‘face’ isn’t mentioned as such.  Finally, we note the illustration of the fear demon’s appearance (actual size) led Buffy not to want to fight it, if possible.  Of course, once they discovered the demon’s actual size, thoughts changed…

Facial Diagnosis in Chinese medicine consists of two aspects:  quality and quantity.  Quantity is governed by dividing up the face into sections which reflect parts of the body (or life). Several systems emerged during the course of Chinese history, the most popular of which superimposes a figure over the face so that its abdomen covers the nose, the arms wrap the eyes, the legs cross lotus-style around the mouth, and the head is at yin-tang or just above, in the centre of the forehead.  This system therefore treats the nose as the site at which the state of the viscera is ascertained, while the bowels or external areas are viewed along the edge of the nose.  The Lungs are uppermost, between the eyes, below which is the Upper Pivot, then the Heart (some texts place the Heart in between the eyes, and the Lungs in between the eyebrows), a place marked ‘On the Road’, the Liver, the Spleen, and the tip is called ‘wang mian’.  Beside the nose are the stomach; beside the corners of the mouth, the small intestine, and above that and towards the corner of the jaw is the large intestine.  The Kidneys are just in front of the ears, near the ‘Three Silly Geese’ acupuncture points (TH21, SI19, GB3).  Manuscript P. 3390, housed in the Biblioteque Nationale offers some illustrations of medieval physiognomy charts from Dun Huang, and are reproduced in Lo and Cullen’s book treating the Dun Huang medical texts, Medieval Chinese Medicine.

Quality is found by looking at lustre, colour, suppleness, blood (vessels), and blemishes with regard to the skin of the face. While lustre gives an indication of fluid balance in the body, and the presence of spider veins indicates pathology in a particular channel (e.g. along the zygoma would indicate a Small Intestine Luo Vessel issue, dealing with discomfort at or desire for attention from others), by far the most important aspect to look at is the overall colour of the complexion. The colours of the complexion differ from mere skin colour.  Just as the state of blood can be seen as if through the gauze of the skin, so also can the sort of colours described in the classics be seen ‘through’ or ‘reflecting out of’ the facial complexion.

The colours noted in the classics typically follow a five-phase pattern:  cyan indicates wood, red fire, yellow earth, white metal, and black water.  However, facial diagnosis also paid attention to prognosis, and these colours were distinguished into auspicious and inauspicious colours.  For example, if the complexion was black like double lacquered boxes or a crow’s feather, the patient would live; if it was a dull black like coal, the patient would die.  Likewise, cinnabar red or cockscomb red was positive; a complexion of ochre, coagulated blood, and dry red leaves foretold death.  Indigo indicated poor prognosis, but as did the colour of young or wet grass and lichen.  However, cyan like the wings of a mandarin duck, a wheat shoot, foliage, jade, or a blue-green wall were all positive signs of health.  White like quicklime and dried bone was inauspcious, while soft white like a goosefeather, or lustrous white like porkfat and precious jade signified recovery.  Yellow earth like the hearth was a poor prognosis, but that like silk thread or a crab’s belly was better.

Eyes are sometimes looked at, too, for their overall expression, catchlights, and sclera colour.  Glassy or shiny eyes indicate a shen disturbance, usually one needing to be anchored.  Dull eyes indicate that the Heart needs nourishment.  More detailed analysis of the eyes, or specifically the iris, falls into the realm of iridology.

Huang Fu Mi writes, “Complexion,pulse, and cubit skin correspond with one another… So it follows then that a cyan complexion will be accompanied by a wiry pulse; a red complexion by a hook-like pulse; a yellow complexion by an interrupted pulse; white by a hair pulse; and black by a stone-like pulse.  If one observes a certain complexion and it is not accompanied by its pulse but rather by the pulse of its restraining phase, then this portends death.  If by the engendering phase, recovery.”  (Jia Yi Jing Scroll 4, Chpater 2, Part 1, section 1.)

Taking the Jia Yi Jing approach, treatment would then follow a five-phase approach, in which the meridian to be treated corresponds to the facial complexion; points would be selected based on the pulse indications of generating or controlling cycle.  Alternately, a Ling Shu approach could follow the same method of diagnosing an elemental pair of meridians, but the points selected for needling would then nuance the treatment to address whether the illness varied by time of day, whether it was hot or cold, affected the meridian or organs, or was due to some form of blood stagnation.

As always, this post is for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese Medical approaches to health, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!