• Lori Hsu, L.Ac.

四氣調神大論篇第二 Su Wen Chapter 2

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Note: "四氣" refers to spring warmth, summer heat, autumn cool, winter cold -- the weather of the four seasons. People should know how to adjust and adapt to the changes in the weather, in order to prevent disease. This chapter discusses how to tune our shen "調神" according to the seasons so as to achieve the way of nourishing life.

The three months in spring are a time to sprout from the old, the birth of all in heaven and earth, and all things are glorious. One should sleep in the evening and wake up early, walk about in the courtyard, and let the hair loose to relax your body and sinews. Be mindful about life, cultivate living and not killing, giving and not taking, rewarding and not punishing; these are the intentions of spring qi, and the way of nourishing life. Acting in contrary to this will damage the Liver, and will turn into cold damage in the summer, and reduced capacity to extend and grow with summer.


The three months in summer are a time where all things are beautiful. The qi of the heaven and earth interchange, and all things flower and fruit. One should sleep in the evening and wake up early, and not dislike the long days. Let the mind be without anger, just like the flower turning to fruit, allowing the qi to dredge and flow out, as if what one loves is outside (i.e be active outdoors) (络所爱在外); these are the intentions of the summer qi, and the way of nourishing life. Acting in contrary to this will damage the Heart, lead to malarial disorders in autumn, and reduced capacity to retract along with autumn, and the disease to relapse in the winter.


The three months of autumn are a time where all things mature and settle, the heavenly qi is hurried and the earthly qi calm. One should sleep early and wake up early, just like the rooster. Let the mind be calm, in order to moderate the decline of autumn/fall, retract the shen qi, to let the autumn qi be level, and not to let the mind wander out, so the Lung qi will stay clear; these are the intentions of the autumn qi and the way of nourishing life. Acting in contrary to this will damage the Lung, and lead to cold diarrhea with undigested food in the winter, and reduced capacity to store along with the winter.


The three months of winter are a time where all things hide and store, the water turns to ice and the land cracks, the yang is not disturbed. One should sleep early and wake up late, and must wait for the light. Let the mind be quiet like being in ambush and hidden, with secret thoughts to oneself and with something that is known only to oneself, avoid excess cold and seek warmth, do not sweat from the skin to prevent the qi from being taken; these are the intentions for the winter, and the way of nourishing life. Acting in contrary to this will damage the Kidney, and lead to flaccid and cold limbs in the spring, and reduced capacity to birth along with the spring.

The heavenly qi is clean, clear, light and bright; if it remains a hidden virtue, then it doesn't descend. Then the sun and moon won't shine when the heaven shine, and the evils will invade openings and orifice; the yang qi will be blocked, the earthly qi will obscure the light, the cloudy fog cover and there will be no white dew, so the interchange of qi doesn't happen, and all things are not nourished, and not being nourished leads to death. Angry qi is not expelled, the wind and rain doesn't come and go, the white dew doesn't descend, and so the plants die; evil wind attack repeatedly, the torrent rain fall excessively, the four seasons and heaven and earth do not promote each other, lose their way with the Dao, and things die prematurely. Only the saintly human can adapt to these changes, be without weird diseases, not lost along with all things, and with the life force not diminished.

Acting in contrary to the spring qi leads to Shao Yang not birthing, and the Liver qi changes within. Acting in contrary to the summer qi leads to Tai Yang not extending/growing, and the Heart qi punctures within.

Acting in contrary to the autumn qi leads to Tai Yin not retracting, and the Lung qi dries and fills up excessively.

Acting in contrary to the winter qi leads to Shao Yin not storing, and the Kidney qi descends independently.

The yin yang of the four seasons, are the basis for all things. Therefore the saintly humans maintain the yang qi during the spring and summer, and maintain the yin qi during the fall and winter. In order to abide by this basis, they rise and fall with all things at the gate of life. Acting contrary to the root, will disturb the foundation and damage the true qi. Therefore, the yin and yang of the four seasons, is the beginning and end of all things, the foundation of life and death. Acting contrary to it will harm life, following along with it then disease will not begin, and is the way of nourishing life. The way of the Dao, the saintly humans will walk it, the fools will disobey it.

Abiding by yin and yang principles (interdependence, interchanging, counteracting, counter-consuming, complementing) will be life, acting in contrary will be death. Following it will be natural order; acting in contrary will be chaos. To not follow is also acting in contrary, and is an internal exclusion of the external. Therefore, the saintly humans do not treat the diseased but treat the disease before it happens, they do not treat the chaos but treat before the chaos happens, this is as it should be. If the medicine is given after the disease has taken hold, or if pacification happens after it has become chaotic, isn't it just like digging a well after we are thirsty, or making weapons after war has begun, it would already be too late!

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