Yin and Yang In Medical Theory
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Yin and Yang In Medical Theory



From Patricia Ebrey, Chinese Civilization : A Sourcebook, 2d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 77-79

The concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five Agents provided the intellectual framework of much of Chinese scientific thinking especially in fields like biology and medicine The organs of the body were seen to be interrelated in the same sorts of ways as other natural phenomena, and best understood by looking for correlations and correspondences. Illness was seen as a disturbance in the balance of Yin and Yang or the Five Agents caused by emotions, heat or cold, or other influences. Therapy thus depended on accurate diagnosis of the source of the imbalance.

The earliest surviving medical texts are fragments of manuscript from early Han tombs. Besides general theory, these texts cover drugs, gymnastics, minor surgery, and magic spells. The text which was to become the main source of medical theory also apparently dates from the Han. It is the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine, supposed to have been written during the third millennium BCE by the mythical Yellow Emperor. A small portion of it is given below.

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