Live Well Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition. Paperback

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Live Well Live Long explores the wonderful Chinese tradition of nourishing life (yangsheng) and applies it to modern life. As well as the traditional topics covered in yangsheng teachings - which mostly concern personal health care - concern for social, global and planetary health in the modern age demands the application of the wise principles of the yangsheng tradition to issues as varied as social justice, education, modern childbirth, climate change and environmental degradation, agricultural sustainability and so on. These are all covered in this meticulously researched book.


“Peter Deadman has achieved something wonderful, something gorgeous in creating this book. He has managed to write with great simplicity, eloquence and gracefulness about a subject which is deep and rich; yangsheng, the Chinese tradition of nourishing life … I am certain that the book will appeal to anyone who has no knowledge of the Chinese philosophy (it would be a wonderful introduction for our patients) of how to look after ourselves in body, mind and spirit through diet, exercise, sleep, deepening our relationship with nature,v‘affairs of the bedroom’ and even music and dance, amongst other gifts.”

Emma Farrant, The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine Journal (see more reviews below)


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"This is an authoritative, scholarly, thorough and compassionate book about being alive in its broadest and highest sense. It has much to offer practitioners, educators and the general public."

Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine


Elegant and accessible, informative but undogmatic, comprehensive yet not boastful.  It is a magnificent achievement, especially in the way in which it incorporates knowledge and wisdom from many cultures with no conspicuous friction.  Deadman  recognises and acknowledges many uncertainties and gaps in our knowledge, yet articulates an illuminating and authoritative narrative.”

Erik Millstone, Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex


"Elegantly written and diligently referenced; this book is an ultimate guide for wellbeing. The uncompromising relevance of this book makes it a must for all TCM practitioners and a first recommendation to all our patients."

Yanan Kim, Teamor Tea Tailors, Australia


"This is a beautiful book. It is written in a way that would make it accessible to anyone, while at the same time conveying important, well researched and useful items of knowledge. A great book to have on the shelf, for the chapters are very clear so it's easy to dip into if you want advice on a particular subject. A rich array of wisdomous tips to live a long and healthy life which have their conception in Chinese medicine, however they are all backed up with western/modern research. I highly recommend."

Amazon review


Journal of Chinese Medicine review

If first impressions are anything to go by, then Peter Deadman's Live Well Live Long ticks all the boxes for presentation and production values. With its elegant cover and glossy heavy grade paper, this beautifully bound book serves as a worthy introduction and thorough exploration of the long-standing tradition of yangsheng (nourishing life) in Chinese health culture. Yangsheng will be familiar to most readers as practices for the cultivation of health, physical and mental balance, detachment from excessive emotions, integration of mind and body and ultimately the promotion of wisdom and longevity. This tradition has been developed over the last two and a half thousand years as part of Chinese culture.

In settling down to read this book, I couldn't help initially drawing comparisons with Daniel Reid's The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity that marked my introduction and subsequent fascination with Chinese Medicine nearly 25 years ago whilst traveling around South East Asia. In many respects, Deadman's new book covers much of the same ground, but, whilst reading it felt like a homecoming of sorts for me, this book stands as an altogether more mature exploration of the topic of Chinese health traditions. Whilst other books covering yangsheng principles have tended to be heavily burdened with Chinese Medicine (CM) terminology and technical details of various practices such as qigong, Deadman has favoured a more research-led academic approach to the subject. There is an introduction to some of the key terms required for the discussion such as yin, yang, qi, blood, jing and shen, as well as the concepts of pathogenic factors, stagnation and stasis, but it is very clear from the outset that CM diagnosis and treatment fall outside the remit of this book. So much so, in fact, that further clarification of CM terms is tucked away in a useful glossary at the rear. Though this may disappoint some readers, the decision to keep this text firmly focused on Chinese health traditions rather than Chinese medicine will broaden its appeal to a wider audience, without losing its relevance in terms of both traditional and modern medical thinking. Despite the author describing this text as a 'workshop manual', he wisely avoids the obvious pitfalls of providing specific dietary advice, recipes, exercises, breathing techniques, supplements, herbal remedies or sexual health practices, beyond the general principles espoused in the nourishing life traditions.

Live Well Live Long is logically laid out, devoting chapters to all the major areas of the yangsheng tradition. A brief introduction to the definition of yangsheng is followed by an overview of the health challenges that today's society faces from chronic disease, with a cautionary reminder of the limits of medicine in trying to deal with the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and dementia. Concepts of constitution, inherited and acquired essence, gender, poverty, environmental factors, work, ignorance, medical treatment and even luck are introduced as determinants of how long we are likely to live and how healthy we are likely to be. The individual causes of disease are then explored further in relation to how they affect the balance of healthy and pathogenic qi, with constant reference to modern day studies that back up the traditional Chinese view. Chapters are then devoted to each of the main areas of yangsheng: cultivating the mind and emotions, diet (how and what to eat), exercise, sleep, affairs of the bedroom, pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care, and care of children all gain extensive coverage, and are complemented by chapters on less obvious subjects such as alcohol, tea, nature, music and dance, old age and death.

The two chapters on diet are particularly thorough, yet not overly proscriptive, covering how and when to eat as well as what to eat. As well as the major food types, they also cover modern concerns such as gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease, healthy fats, excess sugar, as well as vegetarianism and research on pesticides and organic foods. The subject of exercise is similarly well treated, warning against excessive practices and espousing the virtues of softer forms of exercise that integrate strength and flexibility, mind and body, and that are particularly suitable after a certain age. The chapter on affairs of the bedroom succinctly covers the tradition of self cultivation through sexual practice without getting bogged down in specifics. A new perspective is offered here on male ejaculation as Deadman seeks to settle the age-old debate on whether or not men should 'spill their seed.' Modern day research is used to inform the debate, including reference to prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction, and also includes comment on the effect of pornography on health and libido.

The core concepts of Taijiao (foetal education), natural birth and 'doing the month' during postpartum care are covered in depth, offering key insights into the potential risks and opportunities for changing the health outcomes of both child and mother. This leads to an interesting discussion on John Shen's ideas about pregnancy being a 'gateway' time of life (together with puberty and menopause), when significant physiological change can lead to either ill health or growth and vibrancy. Other chapters are equally revealing, and reading through them gives one the sense that no stone has been left unturned in this exploration of health. Broader considerations of environmental health, pollution, sustainability, global health concerns, social justice and education are incorporated where necessary, adding a modern day context to traditional wisdom and reminding us that global stewardship is as much a part of yangsheng as self cultivation. Of particular interest is the fascinating discussion on the importance of the microbiome, complete with references to faecal transplants in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and mention of Ge Hong's infamous 'yellow soup' (a preparation of dried or fermented faeces). This is quite rightly nestled in the appendices along with discussions of detoxing, smoking, Chinese science, the history of Chinese health exercise and spirituality.

As one might expect, this book draws heavily from the huge list of references that follow each chapter. By the author's own admission, the reliance on research can make for heavy reading at times, but thankfully the text is cleverly punctuated with research summary boxes and the liberal use of quotes and excerpts from sources as diverse as the Neijing, the Daodejing, the writings of Sun Simiao, Hippocrates, Shakespeare and even A.A Milne's Winnie the Pooh. Their use pays respect to the classics and wisdom of old, while serving as a bridge between traditional thinking and modern day research, and illustrating that ultimately health considerations essentially have not changed much in 3000 years. This mixed format ensures that the reader feels a palpable connection between the past and present at every turn. Time and time again, Deadman successfully uses modern day research to confirm that, in almost all areas of life, a moderated, balanced and harmonious 'middle way' tailored to the individual has routinely been shown to foster better health outcomes than the extremes of behaviour that are all too common in today's busy lifestyles.

If I had to offer any criticism it would be that the text would benefit from the occasional illustration to break up proceedings. Deadman has also played it safe in avoiding even a cursory discussion on vaccinations, although given the current hostile climate surrounding the debate, this omission is understandable. In summary, there is much to like about this book. For practitioners it serves as validation of many of the principles upon which our medicine is based at a time when we are coming under attack for lack of robust 'evidence.' More importantly it confirms to us that the promotion of basic health maintenance is as important as the medicine that we offer. This book therefore serves as a valuable resource to draw from or refer patients to for continuation of their care.

For the lay reader - who is bombarded with new health information daily in the form of quick fix protocols, fads and miracle cures - Live Well Live Long offers a welcome steady ship in the storm. It demonstrates, using modern research, that the accumulated wisdom of Chinese health culture, when studied and applied appropriately to our lives, can have a profound and lasting effect on health, from gestation to the grave. As such it offers the lay reader a gateway to better health. Deadman has delivered a timely and important text that will be equally at home on a practitioners desk as on a coffee table. I shall be recommending it widely to patients and family alike.

Martin John


  • Chapter 1: What is yangsheng - nourishment of life?

    Keeping it simple

    What is yangsheng?

    The four legs of the chair

    Where does modern health and lifestyle research come from?

    Longevity in Chinese culture

    Chapter 2: Health - the challenge and the opportunity

    One life

    The limits of medicine

    Chronic disease – facts and warnings

    What can we do about it?

    Chapter 3: What determines how long we live and how healthy we are?


    The Chinese explanation of constitution – inherited essence

    Acquired - post-heaven essence

    Constitutional strength - a throw of the dice?

    Constitution and longevity – the evidence


    Chapter 4: Why we get ill

    The causes of disease

    The external causes of disease – climatic factors

    The internal causes of disease – the emotions

    Neither internal nor external (miscellaneous) causes

    Irregular diet

    Overwork and overstrain



    Insufficient rest

    Night work

    Lack of exercise

    Traumatic injury

    Excessive sex

    Parasites and poisons

    Wrong medical treatment

    Ignorance54The teachings of Dr. John HF Shen

     Chapter 5: Cultivating the mind and emotions

    Moderating our emotions

    The harmful effect of unregulated emotions


    Free expression versus repression

    Joy (Excitement)


    Thinking and preoccupation

    Worry and anxiety

    Fear and fright

    Other emotions - stress

    How to manage the emotions and cultivate the mind

    Mindfulness and meditation

    Positive emotions





    Nature, music and art


    Chapter 6: Diet – how to eat

    Diet – the challenges

    How to eat - quantity

    How to eat – regular eating

    On dieting, diets and weight loss

    Chapter 7: Diet – what to eat

    The decline of modern food

    The qing dan diet

    Adjusting our diet to our needs

    Eat real food

    What to eat – an overview

    What to eat – the detail

    Whole cereal grains






    Sea vegetables


    Nuts and seeds

    Fermented foods


    Fresh foods



    Vitamins and supplements

    Vegetarian – to be or not to be?

    Organically-grown foods

    Balancing the five temperatures and the five tastes

    Chapter 8: Alcohol

    Alcohol – the harm

    Alcohol – the benefits

    What is moderate drinking?

    Making sense of alcohol research

    A Chinese medicine perspective

    Chapter 9: Tea

    Tea and health

    Principal varieties of tea

    Making tea

    Drinking tea

    A brief history of tea

    Chapter 10: Exercise

    Ancient wisdom, modern forgetting

    What is exercise?

    The evidence for exercise and health

    Exercise and the mind

    Exercise, but how much?

    More is not necessarily better

    Exercise addiction

    Exercise during pregnancy


    A broader view of exercise

    Chapter 11: Traditional Chinese exercise

    The evidence base

    Principles of the Chinese exercise tradition

    Integration of body, breath and mind

    Internal and external, hard and soft

    Free flow

    The elastic body – the fascia

    Rootedness and balance


    Internal exercises – the spiritual dimension

    A word about practice

    Afterword - Chinese sports

    Chapter 12: Sleep

    The effects of insufficient sleep

    Chinese sleep advice

    Preparing the mind

    Avoiding eating before bedtime

    Sleeping position

    Washing the feet


    How much should we sleep?


    Exercise and sleep

    Meditation and sleep

    A brief explanation of sleep disturbance in Chinese medicine

    Chapter 13: Affairs of the bedroom

    Sex as pleasure and joy

    Sex is healthy for both partners

    Sex is also dangerous

    A different perspective on male ejaculation

    Females as sources of nourishment

    The female perspective

    Dual cultivation

    About libido and constitution

    Erectile dysfunction and male health

    Research into sex and health 




    Chapter 14: Pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, breastfeeding

    Foetal education (taijiao)





    Modern taijiao


    Modern childbirth

    Early and preterm birth

    The case for a ‘follow nature’ approach to birth

    Postnatal depression and anxiety

    So what’s the alternative?

    A calm birthing environment


    Postpartum care

    Zuoyezi, or ‘doing the month’

    Breastfeeding – the optimum diet for babies

    Infant formula

    Pregnancy as a ‘gateway’

    Chapter 15: Care of children

    Causes of disease in children


    Improper feeding - overfeeding

    Improper feeding - wrong ‘temperature’ food

    Improper feeding – excessively sweet food

    Improper feeding - whole foods

    Improper feeding - dairy foods

    Improper feeding - junk food

    Improper feeding - soya




    Body image disorders

    Wrong treatment


    Chapter 16: Nature

    Human beings, health and nature – the evidence


    Nature in Chinese culture

    Nature and Chinese medicine 

    Attuning life to the ebb and flow of yin and yang

    The internal landscape – the neijing tu

    The internal landscape - acupuncture

    The internal landscape - climate

    Five phase theory (wu xing)

    Nature and herbal medicine

    Nature in the self-cultivation tradition

    Feng shui

    The dark shadow over the natural world

    Chapter 17. Music and dance

    Music and healing

    Music and the natural order in the Chinese tradition

    A brief history of Chinese music

    Ritual – music and dance


    Chapter 18. Old age

    Ageing and expectation

    Healthy ageing

    Ageing and free flow

    Ageing and exercise

    Ageing and diet

    Ageing and the mind


    The ageing brain


    Chapter 19. Death

    Embracing death

    Dealing with advanced ageing

    The medicalisation of death

    The fixer mindset


    Finding meaning in death

    Chinese philosophy and death




    Appendix A: The extraordinary story of our microbial friends

    What is the microbiota

    The development of the microbiota - birth and early feeding

    The development of the microbiota - diet

    The microbiota and calorie restriction

    The microbiota and the appendix

    The microbiota and antibiotics

    The microbiota and the immune system

    The microbiota and obesity

    The microbiota and the mind

    The microbiota and the skin

    Faecal (microbiota) transplants

    Appendix B: Smoking

    Appendix C: Detoxing

    Cultural and historical background






    Detoxing - the Chinese medicine perspective

    Appendix D: Chinese science

    The validity of traditional knowledge

    Chinese science and technology

    Why was Chinese science so advanced?

    Some examples from Chinese medical history

    Appendix E: A brief history of Chinese health exercise

    Appendix F: A final word - spirituality

    Glossary of key terms

    Further reading


More Information
Author Peter Deadman
Publication Date 1 Jan 1970
Publisher The Journal of Chinese Medicine Ltd.
Number of Pages 440
Book Format hardback
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