onsdag 20 april 2011

Buying more books (say ”Yes, please”), meeting Wang Bing in his study when he´s editing the Neijing

I like books. I also like the knowledge they bring, the joy they can hold, the closeness to another human being they offer in seeing the world through another human´s mind.

In Chinese medicine, I guess I would fall into the Scholar version of it, those reading the classics and researching how to most effectively treat a patient, often weaving it together with the old Daoist work itself. Previously, I have studied and read the whole Daoist canon of works (researching into the different versions of the Daodejing, the Zhuangzi, Liezi, Wenzi, some of the Daozang, old Maoshan manuals and learning oral teachings and energetic work linked to the texts in Daoist training) including the different versions of the Sunzi Bingfa, The Art of War and its links to chinese martial arts and Daoist work. I have also read chinese poetry, and the old shamanic Chuci, Songs of Chu. I have studied the Yijing, the Book of Change, both in old lineage material and in the Daoist art of Baguazhang, and in the research of the text itself. Just the study into Neiye – the Classic of Internal Cultivation, one of the oldest Daoist training manuscripts left – was fascinating all by itself. It´s an incredible text on the oldest Daoism, and the humanity in it is striking: the Daodejing and Zhuangzi were written to be publically disseminated, but the Neiye feels more like the writer is sitting in front of you over a cup of tea, discussing the teachings. The christian Gospel of Thomas have a slightly similar tone compared to the political version of the Nicean Bible.

Now, this course leads me deeper into the whole Chinese medical canon. It´s pretty darn big. The chinese have been writing about medicine and research for a while. The earliest written manuscripts that are pure chinese medicine is from about 200 BC (from earlier, copied texts), and then they just kept on going. I especially like the text from 495 that focuses on techinques to sterilize equipment for use in surgery. God knows what we in the West were doing with medicine during the Dark Ages in 495 AD. And there are many thousands of graves unexcavated in China, so these texts are just what have been found to date.

Daoism would say that if you are dealing with a conflict or a war, read and study the Sunzi. If you are dealing with illness or disease – in any version, yours, someone else´s, society´s – study the Huangdi Neijing, the Neijing. And before any of them, deeply study the Yijing, or you won´t understand how change works in neither warfare nor healing. The Wang Bing Neijing really is quite nice. I got it a few days ago. Wang Bing was a physician during the early Tang Dynasty in the 700´s. The translation by Wu and Wu (a married couple) is actually one of only two into English that contains the whole Neijing. The Neijing itself is in two sections: the Suwen, the General Questions, and the Lingshu, the Spiritual Pivot (we´ll look at those in detail further on). Most translations available (not many, six or seven) either take only some chapters of the Suwen and translate, some chapters of the Lingshu and translate, or bits and pieces all through the Neijing and translate with commentary. Some of them are good, but it´s quite nice to have the book with the whole Neijing in it. Wu and Wu´s version also contains all the characters of the chinese text translated by paragraph.

However, today, we´re going to shake hands with a human being who was passionate about bringing good chinese medicine out to help people. He was a living, breathing human being who lived one thousand three hundred years ago – one thousand two hundred and forty-eight years ago, to be precise. Because Wang Bing, when he went through the Neijing and cleaned it up from the then existing version from the 500´s, also wrote a preface.

Wang Bing starts with describing the virtues of the old classics, and the Neijing in particular. He tells how it can help the weak, release blockages, and help humanity. He quotes stories from the Zhuangzi and the Daodejing, then goes into the research into the different editions that existed at the time, and says, ”I, Wang Bing, admired the Way (Dao) and always loved the care of one´s health in my youth. Fortunately, I happened to come upon the Canon of the Yellow Emperor, whose function is that of a mirror which can guide the treating. But the popular copies were disordered, there were duplications in the tables of contents, the first and the last parts of the book contradictory to each other, the words and their meaning was disparate, so that it was difficult to apply it in teaching and it was difficult to read and understand. These errors have been retained for years and they have been repeated so that they have produced corruptions of the text.”
This he wrote in 762. The latest version he was cleaning up was from the 500´s.

Wang Bing clarified the Neijing, compiled it to a better, more coherent unit, and added text that was missing from partial, earlier versions (of which many probably were around, it was not the case of buying one edition in the bookstore). He adds, carefully, that any editions to the text itself has been undertaken with great care, and is added in red ink to the text´s original black, so that the additions are clear.

Wang Bing finishes his preface to the Neijing with the following words:
All my efforts were made with the purpose of clarifying the text to fulfil the loyal hopes and wishes of the Emperor and to bring out the profound words in such a way that they are like a star suspended high in the sky where the Kui star cannot be confused with the Zhang star, and that they are like a deep well which is so clear that one can distinguish fishes and turtles under the water. I also wish to prevent the Emperor and his subordinates from dying young and to give both the barbarians and the Chinese the hope of prolonging their lives, and to clarify matters for the learners and to make the highest principle prevail and keep in continous existence of it, so that after a thousand years, people will know that wisdom and kindness of the great sages were without limits.
This preface was written in the first year of Bao Ying of the great Tang dynasty (762 AD).”