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After Ling Shu

Is there any further development in acupuncture after the publication of Ling Shu?

Many have asked me this question since I started explaining and teaching Ling Shu in 2003. 

From the progress of human history, one can see that there were tremendous progress and improvements in all aspects of this world. So, it is logical to think that Acupuncture, being a very important part of TCM, should have been improving and progressing in all these years through clinical practices. Well, that was also my question when I first started studying Ling Shu.

However, as I progressed further into the study of Ling Shu and began to comprehend the enormous depth in the realm of Ling Shu, also looking back at the past 2000 years of Acupuncture, I have to admit now that since the publication of Ling Shu, there were no progress and improvement in the field of Acupuncture but digression and deterioration. By observing how the differentiation of Meridians to the usage of acupoints are done in the present day, and from how acupoints are punctured and the techniques of tonifying and sedating are done in the present day, in the point of view of Ling Shu, Acupuncture really only exists as a name or a term only.

For example, in Ling Shu, there is no record of the Five Shu points for the Meridian of Hand Shaoyin. However, people from the later generation thought that the 5 Shu points were left out by mistake in Ling Shu. So, in Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion (《針 灸甲乙經》), the author added in the 5 Shu points for the Meridian of Hand Shaoyin. This was seen as an improvement or progress in the field of Acupuncture by many of the acupuncturists.

However, in Chapter 71 of Ling Shu, there is a very specific explanation why the Meridian of Hand Shaoyin does not have the Five Shu points. “Huangdi asked, 'Why does the Hand-Shaoyin not have Five Shu points?'" "Qibo answered, 'Shaoyin is the Meridian that is related with the Heart. Heart is the King of the Five Zang and Six Fu organs, and Shen is stored in it. The organ is very strong, and it could not be attacked by the pathogenic-Qi. If the Heart is attacked by the pathogenic-Qi, and it lost the function in holding the Shen, one will then die soon. Therefore, the pathogenic-Qi always goes to the Pericardium when the Heart is under attack by the pathogenic-Qi. The Pericardium Meridian is related with Pericardium. That is why those Five Shu points of the Heart are located at the Pericardium Meridian and not at the Heart Meridian.'" The addition of the 5 Shu points to the Meridian of Hand Shaoyin by Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion not only underminded and damaged the completeness of the theory of Meridians and acupoints in Ling Shu, this addition also contradicted the theory of the 5 Shu points reflecting the Zang/Fu organs in the study of TCM.

Furthermore, due to the misunderstanding of the author of Nanjing on the subject of “Jing-well point” of yin meridian is related to “wood” in five elements and "Jing-Well point " of yang meridian is related to "metal" ("陰井木,陽井金" ) in Ling Shu Chapter 2, the author of Nanjing discussed the "Tonifying the Mother and Sedating the Son" usage of the 5 Shu points. This has completely contradicted the theory of the Meridians and acupoints of Ling Shu. Examples of contradiction and misunderstanding of Ling Shu as such are plenty in numbers. They are discussed in Ling Shu Acupuncture. It is truely sad that the deviation from the true Acupuncture had started since the publication of Nanjing. Many ridiculous theories soon came afterwards overshadowing the correct Acupuncture way.

It is quite shameful that although acupuncture originated in China, Acupunture is also being destroyed in China.


Is Ling Shu useful for treating diseases today?

Many acupuncturists have told me that since Ling Shu did not record clinical cases, and acupuncturists of the time never saw the diseases that exist today, Ling Shu can not be applied to treating all kinds of diseases. Is this true?

On the contrary, the theory of acupuncture is complete, and the theory in Ling Shu comes from clinical practice.  靈樞中的針灸理論是臨床經驗的結晶。This may surprise those in the medical field, as many medical mysteries remain. Indeed, Ling Shu has done it two thousand years ago. Although there were no terms for HIV, high blood pressure, PMS, multiple sclerosis (MS), and so on in Ling Shu, the pathological changes of these diseases are fully dscussed and analyzed in the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

Furthermore, Ling Shu also gave the principles of acupuncture treatment from point prescription to technique. Nowadays, I have begun to teach seminars to explain how to apply Ling Shu in treating modern diseases.

For example, there is no such diagnosis as Rheumatoid arthritis in TCM. Most acupuncture texts incorrectly treat it as a type of Bi-syndrome (incorrect according to Su Wen Chapter 43 'Bi-syndrome' ). It is the dysfunction of "Ye" (液) according to Ling Shu, and one should treat the small intestine. Could one believe that by merely applying three points to treat Rheumatoid arthritis, there would be great results?

How? There is not a single chapter in Ling Shu that mentions that disease, but if you analyze several chapters together, it is clear. That is the unique way of how Ling Shu was written; one must analyze it again and again to find the answers.

In conclusion, Ling Shu has been and remains applicable to treating diseases in the present.


 Ling Shu's Misrepresentation

Su Wen chapter 44 discussed the differentiation and the treatment of "Wei-Syndrome." The symptoms of Wei-Syndrome described in Su Wen are similar to diseases such as acute myelitis, myasthenia gravis, multiple neuritis, and multiple sclerosis. These are considered to be incurable diseases today.

However, in the same chapter , it states at the end that "an acupuncturist has treated such a patient by reinforcing Ying-Spring point and reducing Shu-Stream point, regulating excess and deficiency, harmonizing Qi and blood, needling the patient in certain Season based on differentiation; Wei-Syndrome was cured. (則病已矣)."

What an exciting result! The disease can be cured, not just merely reduced in its intensity. It is one of the many examples in Huangdi Neijing, showcasing how advanced acupuncture was in the era of Ling Shu.

To what level can acupuncture cure diseases today? Backache, headache, shoulder pain... Most patients visit acupuncturists for pain relief. Acupuncture therapy therefore has been limited to just treating pain; this is mostly related to the disorder of muscle regions only, not dysfunctions of meridians or dysfunctions of Zang-Fu organs.

Unfortunately, much of the practical knowledge in Ling Shu has not been utilized to its full potential in acupuncture today. To say that acupuncture is only for pain treatment is both a great misunderstanding and an underestimation. 

Ling Shu acupuncture is capable of curing greater health problems like Wei-Syndrome, and even some seemingly incurable diseases today.


The highest level of acupuncture is in Ling Shu

We have been teaching and practicing acupuncture over twenty years, including eight years in Mainland China.

We never really understood acupuncture until we studied Ling Shu

We liked our work. But year after year, deep in our heart, we felt more frustration than enjoyment. We treated tens of thousands of patients over the years, using many different acupuncture methods such as head acupuncture, ear acupuncture, laser acupuncture, electric acupuncture, and more. We tried many so-called effective points or magic points from well-known acupuncturists of ancient and present; yet we questioned whether our practice of acupuncture was improving. 

In fact, we were not sure which methods or points would be successful with our patient each time we gave a treatment. We did not have any principles that could guide us in selecting points and acupuncture techniques. 

We also felt lost whether the patient reported good results, or reported no change. We never had a consistent method to evaluate our treatment. It seemed that our whole practice relied on whatever the patients said they felt. Years of practice did not build up more confidence or experience. 

As an acupuncture teacher, we often face questions from students such as: “Do we use the theory of Yin/Yang balance in acupuncture practice? Do we use the theory of Meridians in diagnosis? How can we remember all the indications of acupuncture points? Do we use all these points in the clinic? Do we apply the reinforcing and reducing technique in treatment? Do we apply different techniques in different kinds of diseases? All in all, how much of the theory of TCM really applies in acupuncture practice?"

In reality, though we taught numerous TCM courses in school, only a fraction of which is taught is used in the clinical setting. Obviously, there is a big gap between what is taught and what is practiced.

If acupuncture is to be taken seriously as a medical practice, these problems and questions had to be addressed. 

Motivated by these questions, we started our own research in 1997. Instead of learning new acupuncture techniques or special points like before, we studied all the classical acupuncture books written in different generations, one by one in reverse chronological order, trying to uncover the roots of acupuncture. 

We walked into a massive and messy history of acupuncture spanning two thousand years. Struggling with exhaustion, we had a very difficult time doing our research.

When we opened the earliest classic book of acupuncture, Ling Shu , it attracted us immediately.

Even though there were difficulties in understanding the classic language and the discrepancies between different editions, the questions in our practice and teaching finally started to be answered. 

We couldn’t stop reading it over and over. Eventually the answers to our questions in our practice and teaching became so clear and simple. 

We couldn’t believe it at first, it shocked us. Is it possible that we have mistaken almost every step in acupuncture practice? A way of practice and teaching that has been conducted for hundreds of years? 

We were deeply bothered by these questions. But we did not stop there. We believed that if the theory from Ling Shu was correct, it could be proven clinically. So we started to treat patients by applying the theory of Ling Shu in clinic, case by case. The clinic results were not only consistently positive but also incredible. Almost every case became a surprise to us, and every case confirmed to us the correctness of the theory. Each practice brings us closer to the highest level of acupuncture as was stated in Ling Shu

Our doubts regarding acupuncture are gone. Now we can say that if one truly understands Ling Shu, acupuncture is one of the best medical therapies.


Translating Ling Shu

"You should translate Ling Shu into English", requested students and acupuncturists when I first started teaching it in the classroom.

"I am not ready," I answered.

"We don't understand...", "we have many questions", "it brought more confusion", people said after they read Ling Shu or Spiritual Pivot by Wu Jing-Nuan or other translations of Ling Shu.

"I wish that I could read Ling Shu in Chinese," they sighed. However, they didn't know the surprising reality - that although Chinese readers could read Ling Shu, they could not necessarily understand it.

"Reading this book makes me feel sleepy," many Chinese readers say.

Ling Shu is not a book that is easy to understand. Comprehensive, deep understanding is crucial in producing an accurate translaton; otherwise, translating the book will result in more confusion. One cannot translate Ling Shu correctly if they can only understand the superficial meaning of the text; one cannot translate Ling Shu correctly if they do not have a strong foundation in the classical Chinese language; one cannot translate Ling Shu correctly if they do not understand the author's special way of writing; one cannot translate Ling Shu accurately if they do not understand the connection between the different chapters;  one cannot translate Ling Shu correctly if he does not read and understand Su Wen; one cannot translate Ling Shu if they have never practiced it in the clinic. Translating Ling Shu is not merely a matter of language. 

Ling Shu Acupucture is not only a linguistic translation of the original Ling Shu, but is also a product of research and studies on Ling Shu. Ling Shu Acupuncture reveals the acupuncture theory of Ling Shu



自從2003年我開始講授靈樞針灸,很多人都曾問過這個問題。 從人類歷史看,几千年來幾乎所有領域都有驚人的發展和進步,而作為中醫重要組成部分的針灸,歷經這麼多年的 臨床實踐。而且,繼靈樞之後,亦出現了許多其它的針灸名著,如難經,針灸甲乙經,扁鵲心書,針灸大全等,想 當然也是應當有發展和進步才對。

其實,這也是我剛剛開始研讀靈樞時的問題。 然而,隨著漸漸地進入靈樞,領略靈樞中博大精深的針灸境界,再縱覽二千年來的針灸臨床及著述,我不得不承認 這樣一個事實,那就是靈樞之后,針灸不但沒有任何發展,只有到退。從經脈辨證到輸穴應用,從刺法到針刺補瀉 ,以靈樞來看,今日針灸可以說是名存實亡。

譬如說,靈樞中手少陰經無五輸穴,后人以為是缺失,故《針灸甲乙經》補上手少陰經五輸穴。后世針家多認為此 為靈樞之后,針灸理論的發展,是對靈樞的貢獻。豈不知《靈樞邪客七十一》中對於少陰無輸有清楚而精闢的論述 :“黃帝曰﹕手少陰之脈獨無輸﹐何也﹖歧伯曰﹕少陰﹐心脈也。心者﹐五藏六府之大主也﹐精神之所舍也﹐其藏堅固﹐邪弗能容也﹐容之則傷心﹐心傷則神去﹐神去則死矣。故諸邪之在于心者﹐皆在于心之包絡。包絡者﹐心主之 脈也。故獨無輸焉。" 《針灸甲乙經》補上手少陰經五輸穴,不單單是破壞了靈樞中輸穴理論的完整性。而且,不自覺地否定了靈樞中五 輸穴所反映的中醫藏府理論。

又如,因為對《靈樞本輸第二》中"陰井木,陽井金"的錯誤認識,《難經》中提出了"補母瀉子"的五輸穴應用理論。孰不知,"補母瀉子"說完全否定了靈樞本 腧第二中關於五腧穴功能及應用的基本理論;同時,亦與素問氣府論篇第五十九中所闡述的腧 穴與經脈關系的基本理論相違。從楊尚善到張志聰,歷代研究內經名家無一苟同此說,足見其論荒謬。今世之人不 察,竟將如此顯而易見的錯繆認為是對靈樞的發揚。


從《難經》開始,針道即歧,繆論橫生,大道已隱。嗚 呼,若論針灸源自中國,我等炎黃子孫豈不應汗顏?!


過去這些年,每當我大聲疾呼﹕針灸的希望在靈樞。很多人或當面或私下質疑﹕靈樞之後不是出了很多其它針灸名 著,難道那些書都沒有价值嗎?為什麼要獨尊靈樞?

靈樞之後的針灸著作基本上可以分為三大類。第一類為研究黃帝內經的;代表作有楊尚善;王冰;張介賓;馬蒔; 張志聰。這些書從不同側面闡述了黃帝內經,為學習,進入黃帝內經,做出了極大的貢獻。如張志聰關於靈樞本腧 第二中"陰井木,陽井金"的論述,乃是歷代注家中唯一對靈樞五腧穴理論所反映的中醫思想所做最精闢的闡述。與之相比,難經關於五腧穴之論,實為淺薄,更是錯繆。余每讀於此,對張師心生敬佩。至於近代出版的許多黃帝內經或靈樞注本,大多抄自以上幾家,或有一些西醫聯想發揮,除了不倫不類,毫無任何學術价值。

第二類以擇錄或重編黃帝內經為主,代表作有難經;針灸甲乙經;銅人腧穴針灸圖經;十四經發揮,但是,亦加進 了一些靈樞以外的東西。如難經中的"補母瀉子"原氣和三焦說";針灸甲乙經中"郗穴"。

第三類則是以針灸臨床經驗為主,代表作有針經指南,潔古雲歧針法,扁鵲神應針灸玉龍經,針灸大全,針灸大成 等。這些書的大都以引述些許靈樞原文為開始,(此足見他們也承認靈樞為源頭),然後則是大量的臨床經驗,並且亦提出靈樞之外的東西。如針經指南中的"八脈交會穴";潔古雲歧針法中的"迎隨補瀉法"等。 以上這些與靈樞不同的論述,均被後世視為對靈樞的發揚光大。然而,若以靈樞觀之,卻都是離經之作。所有這些在《靈樞針灸》一書中均有詳細分析。

靈樞是素問真實完美的臨床版,靈樞用針灸將素問中的中醫理論完整的,形象的再現。一個真正認識靈樞的人也必 是認識素問的。 過去這些年,我花費了大量的時間,從理論和臨床研考了所有歷代針灸著述。所以,我敢确信地說﹕針灸的希望在靈樞。你若相信,就讓有限的歲月用在好好研讀和享受針灸中唯一的書﹕靈樞。


靈樞九針十二原第一中有"凡將用針,必先診脈。"靈樞經脈第十接著論述了根據人迎寸口脈查經脈虛實,以此确定經脈補瀉; 靈樞終始第九論述了治療經脈虛實病變的腧穴配伍原則; 靈樞九針十二原第一及素問三部九候論和針解篇第五十四則論述了針刺補瀉手法及應用原則; 靈樞四時氣第十九及素問四時氣逆從論篇第六十四則進一步論述了針刺深淺及誤針之害; 靈樞九針十二原第一及小針解第三論述了補瀉的目的"氣至"(不是病人或醫生的所謂針感); 靈樞終始第九論述了針刺補瀉後客觀的檢查方法。 這就是靈樞針灸。而且,還只是其中一部分。


沒了靈樞的針灸,只有混亂無章的針灸;沒了靈樞的針灸,只能治治肌肉疼痛之類的病證;沒了靈樞的針灸,只有 亂經的針灸;沒了靈樞的針灸,是名存實亡的針灸。











1. 將靈樞與素問中針灸相關論述放在一起,加以分析,從而全面地了解氣血,經脈,腧穴以及針刺技術理論。闢如,關於腧穴的四個特性﹕位置;與經脈的關系;功能;氣穴。這些內容分散在十几篇完全不相聯的篇章中。

2. 詳述了針刺中至關重要的人迎寸口脈及其臨床意義,并首次根據靈樞理論及臨床實踐,介紹了其脈診的具體 檢查方法。

3. 完整地闡述靈樞中的針刺理論。從何謂"氣至"得氣""到刺法的原則;從針刺深淺到留針時間;從針刺補瀉到補瀉之後客觀的觀察方法。 

4. 完整地闡述了腧穴理論。不僅澄清了後世對 腧穴認識的錯誤。如十二原穴,絡穴;背腧穴等。同時,亦對後世發明的各類新穴,如八會 穴,奇穴等,加以分析、批判。

5. 詳細介紹了靈樞中誤針之害的論述,指出"針灸安全"的錯繆。


7. 以靈樞為依據,詳細分析了靈樞以後歷代所有針灸名著理論的錯謬。從難經一直到現今針灸教科書,跨越二千年針灸歷史。


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