• Lori Hsu, L.Ac.

生氣通天論篇第三 Su Wen Chapter 3

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Note: "生氣" means the life qi "通天" means to reach the universe, together they refer to one's life force being in resonance with the universe and the natural environment. The 5 qi and 5 tastes, all come from the natural environment, and when the 5 qi and 5 tastes become abnormal, they can also be hurtful to our health. This chapter discusses these issues.

黃帝 said: "Since the ancient times, what is referred as in resonance with the universe is life, and that has its basis in yin and yang. Between the heaven and earth, within the 6 cardinal directions (north, south, east, west, up and down), the qi of the 9 country-states, the 9 orifices, 5 yin organs (Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, Kidneys), and 12 major joints (4 limbs w/ 3 major joints) all resonate with the heavenly qi. The yin and yang of the universe generate the 5 elements and have 3 yin qi and 3 yang qi. If yin and yang are repeatedly offended by people then people will be hurt by evil qi, and it is what determines their life span."


The qi of the cerulean sky(heaven) is clear and clean, and so the people's minds are not chaotic and easily mastered. If acting in alignment with the flow, then the yang qi will be secure. So even if there are evil pathogens, they can do no damage. This is the natural order that follows from the seasons. So the saintly humans can focus their mind, adapt to the weather and connect with the divine knowledge. If this natural order is not followed, then the 9 orifices will close, the external will tighten and block the muscles, and the protective/wei 衛 qi will disperse. This is self-harm, and qi will diminish.


The yang qi in humans, is like the sun in the sky. If without the sun, then the life will diminish and the world not be illuminated. The fate of heavens depends on the sun to shine, it is because the yang depends on the sun to rise and expand, and then it becomes protection/wei.

Disease due to cold, likes to shiver, afraid to get out, the shen 神 qi is floating.

Disease due to summer heat, there is sweat, irritability, then cause panting; desire to speak while being still, the body is like hot coal, the sweat comes out to release heat.

Disease due to damp, the head feels like a weight, the damp heat cannot be resolved, the large sinews will contract causing stiffness and immobility and the small sinews will extend causing atrophy and weakness.

Disease due to qi (deficiency), there will be edema, the four limbs will support each other due to weakness, this is due to yang qi deficiency.


The yang qi in humans, will expand when overworked, and cause yin essence depletion, if this continues repeatedly, then this will lead to "burnt reversal" 煎厥 (disease name for burnout, death by overwork).When this happens the eyes blind and not see, the ears closed and not hear, the essence will be lost just like when the levees break and the water flow becomes rolling and unstoppable (the text description of this happening is poetic). Yang qi disorder is also when extreme anger causes major qi obstruction and disorder, and the blood collects at the upper part, this leads to "excess reversal" 薄厥 (disease name for stroke from liver fire or liver yang rising)


When there is damage to the sinews, they will become flaccid and useless, and the mind then cannot control movement. (this is common sequelae post stroke)

When there is sweating on one side of the body, this will lead to one sided hemiplegia. (this is common prodrome for stroke)

When there is sweating with dampness, this will lead to eczema/heat rashes (痤痱).

Eating too well, then the foot will produce gout (大丁/疔), becoming prone to this disease like an empty vessel easy to receive.

If catch wind after physical exertion, then the cold will settle on the skin and cause little acne, and if it stagnates for long time, it becomes small boils(痤).

The yang qi, when it is refined it can nourish the mind, if it is gentle, it can nourish the sinews. When the skin pores do not open and close properly, then the cold qi will enter opportunistically, damaging the yang qi and the sinews will lose the warmth and the body bends and hunches over. A sinking pulse indicates a leaking of essence. If the cold lingers within the muscles, then the qi at the shu (兪) points will thin out, and it transforms into pathogenic qi and can threaten the body seriously. When the ying(营) qi cannot flow accordingly, it is because there is obstruction and counterflow in the muscles, and overtime develop carbuncle swells. The spontaneous sweating due to qi deficiency (魄汗), happens when the body is weak and the qi lacks luster, the transport from the points closes, and this turns into wind malaria (风瘧 -- the symptoms are irritability, headache, fear of cold, spontaneous sweating, feverish then cold)


The wind pathogen is the cause of 100 diseases. If one's mind is clear and calm, then the yang qi will be secure, the muscular interstices will be shut and can reject, so even when the there is an extremely toxic and strong wind pathogen, it cannot cause any damage; this is also a result of appropriately adjusting according to the seasons.


A lingering pathogen will transform overtime, if it reaches the point where the above is not communicating with below (yin yang separate), even the best doctors cannot help. Therefore, the over accumulation of yang also leads to death, because the yang becomes separated, and in this case it should be drained; if not swiftly and repeatedly apply the correct treatments, then bad treatments will lead to defeat of the zheng (正) qi and lead to death. The yang qi circulates the exterior during the day, and becomes active with the life qi when the day breaks and becomes the most abundant at noon; it starts to decline when the sun is at the west, and the pores start to close as they are the doors where the yang qi disperses. At night, should restrain and close to reject, to not disturb the sinews and bones, and avoid dew and fog. If do not follow flow of yang qi during these three time periods, the body will be diminished by the trapped pathogen.

岐伯 mentions: "The yin, stores the essence and thus yang qi repeated rise. the yang, protects the exterior and thus secures yin. When the yin cannot overcome its respective yang, then the pulse will be thin, rapid. When the yang cannot overcome its respective yin, then the 5 yin organs's qi will be disorderly, and the 9 orifices obstructed. The saintly humans are good at managing yin and yang to balance, allowing the sinews and the pulse to match, the bone and the marrow strong and secure, the qi and blood flows accordingly; if like so, then the interior and exterior are harmoniously adjusted, and the evil qi cannot damage, the ears and eyes are bright and clear, therefore the qi is upright normally. "


When the wind gradually attacks qi from the exterior, the essence becomes injured and depleted, and the evil damages the Liver.

When overeat foods, the sinews and channels will overextend laterally, and there might be bloody diarrhea that may transform to hemorrhoids.

When over consume alcohol, there will be counterflow qi.

And then if overexert with physical activity/sex inappropriately after, the Kidney qi will be damaged and the high bone (高骨 bone in the waist area near the Ming Meng point) be broken.

Ordinarily it is necessary in yin and yang harmony for the yang to be compact in order to secure. If the two is not harmonious, it is like the spring without autumn, the winter without summer; therefore, to be able to harmonize yin and yang, is the saintly way to nourishing life. If the yang is strong but not compact, the yin qi will exhaust. If the yin is even and the yang is close to yin, the essence mind( shen) is clear and healed; if the yin and yang separate, the essence qi becomes completely gone.

The generation of yin, has the basis in the 5 flavors; the five palaces (organs) of yin is damaged by the five flavors.

It is said if there is an excess of sour flavor, the Liver qi can be supplemented but the Spleen qi consumed;

if the there is an excess of salty flavor, the qi of the big bone(=high bone) is overtaxed, the muscles shorten and the Heart qi is depressed/constrained;

if there is an excess of sweet flavor, the Heart qi breaths heavily and fully, the complexion becomes black and the Kidney qi doesn't not balance;

if there is excess of bitter flavor, the Spleen qi cannot be moistened, the Stomach qi is distended;

if there is excess of spicy flavor, the sinews and channels breaks down and loosens, the shen also becomes damaged.


It is said that to tend to the harmony of 5 flavors the bones will straighten upright and the sinews pliable (骨正筋柔); the qi and blood will flow accordingly, the interstitial spaces will be tight, and this makes the bone qi stronger and refined. If adhere with discipline and diligence, then can have long life according to the heavenly endowments.


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