Sun Simiao, the celebrated Tang Dynasty author and 'King of Medicine', famously included the I Ching (Yi Jing or Book of Changes) in the list of books that he thought were necessary to study in order to become a great physician. It was clearly not enough only to study medical books - one also needed to understand philosophy and metaphysics. Zhang Jiebin of the Ming Dynasty, another renowned practitioner and author, also enthused about the importance of 'change theory' (yi xue). With such illustrious advocates one might presume that the subject would be on the curriculum of every modern school of Chinese medicine. This is often not the case (at least in the West), however, and we are therefore in need of authors who have studied the subject and its clinical application. This book is a welcome addition to the literature on this important topic. With 30 years experience as a student, practitioner and teacher of subjects as varied and interrelated as Daoist philosophy, the I Ching, feng shui, Chinese astrology, qi men dun jia (divination), tai ji chuan, qi gong, nei gong, acupuncture and herbal medicine, the author is well placed to share his extensive knowledge. He has learnt directly from Dr Chao Chen and his son Yu Chen, who use I Ching acupuncture methods in their clinical practice as part of an ongoing, living tradition.
This is not just a book on I Ching and ba gua (eight trigram) theory, but a presentation of how these fundamental symbols and images - that represent interactive life processes - can be applied to the body areas, organs and channels utilised in acupuncture treatment, and how this knowledge can be used to inform particular treatment strategies. The first part of the book introduces the fundamentals of Chinese philosophy, and while most readers will already be familiar with the concepts of qi, yin yang and the five phases, many may not be so conversant with the early and later heaven ba gua sequences, the he tu and luo shu diagrams and the nine palaces. This philosophical foundation is then extended to include the fundamental aspects of the Chinese calendar, including the 10 heavenly stems, 12 earthly branches, 12-stage growth cycle, eight characters (ba zi) of the Chinese astrology chart, 24 jie qi fortnightly periods that make up the year, and the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. Since each of these aspects could take up a book on their own, Dr Twicken does a good job of presenting just the essentials, and provides a useful presentation of the philosophical framework behind the clinical practice of acupuncture. A particular feature of the book is the regular provision of concrete examples for the abstract metaphysical concepts discussed, such as linking the 76 Reviews Journal of Chinese Medicine • Number 100 • October 2012 24 vertebrae of the spine with the 24 jie qi fortnightly periods, or showing how yin yang, the five phases, the twelve branches and the twelve stage growth cycle all combine with the hourly cycle of channel qi of the 'Chinese clock'.
Well-illustrated with numerous charts and diagrams, the text guides the reader through the maze of interrelated concepts that build up in ever-expanding layers of increasing complexity. It is no mean feat to navigate this complicated world of diagrams and trigrams with their various linkages to organs and channels, and the author's patient step-by-step explanations, with clear accompanying illustrations, will help those unfamiliar with the concepts to find their way (and allow anyone who gets lost along the way to reorientate themselves). He is at pains to reference other classical texts where appropriate – particularly the Shi Yi (Ten Wings) for the trigram associations, and the Nei Jing Su Wen (Inner Classic Basic Questions) and Ling Shu (Spiritual Pivot) for the medical aspects.
The second part of the book gives details of treatment strategies, showing how the theory is applied in practice according to six 'balance methods'. These include: balancing the six channel pairs using hand points to treat the opposite foot and vice versa; balancing yin yang channel pairs using hand or foot points to treat the opposite extremity respectively; balancing using shu-stream and he-sea points; balancing using the opposite channel according to the Chinese clock; balancing lines in an indicated trigram using a point pair indicated by another of the six channel combinations (i.e. Jueyin with Yangming, Shaoyin with Shaoyang or Taiyin with Taiyang); and finally, a hexagram line-balancing method where a favourable hexagram is used to decide which points are needed to correct the hexagram associated with the primary channel being treated. Case examples are given for each method and clearly presented so that the reader can apply them quite easily themselves. Some methods are relatively simple and result in points that might well have been considered using other systems. Others lead to very different point choices. In the final count clinical effectiveness will be the judge of their usefulness.
That this approach to acupuncture treatment is part of the pluralist legacy of Chinese medicine is certain, although it is not part of the mainstream. We are therefore indebted to Dr Twicken for his efforts to preserve and share this knowledge with the wider community of practitioners. He achieves his aim of uniting heaven and earth - as seen in hexagram 11 'Tai' on the front cover which blends the philosophical and the practical – and has produced an addition to the literature that may help to reinstate philosophical studies as an integral part of Chinese medicine theory and practise.
Acknowledgements. Introduction. 1. Qi. 2. Yin-Yang. 3. Eight Trigrams and the Early Heaven Ba Gua. 4. Five-Phases. 5. The He Tu Diagram. 6. Nine Palaces. 7. Later Heaven Ba Gua. 8. Chinese Calendar. 9. Clinical Applications. Balance Method 1. 10. Balance Method 2. 11. Balance Method 3. 12. Balance Method 4. 13. Balance Method 5. 14. Balance Method 6. Case Studies. Conclusion. References. Further Reading.