Archive for the ‘General TCM’ Category


A-shi Point.  This is an acupuncture point that is not based on the meridians of the qi but according to the location or site of the symptom. This is also called a “reflexing point” and mostly used for pain syndromes.

Acupoint Injection. Or “water needling”, this is a procedure that involves introduction of a herbal solution directly into an acupuncture point. This is injected with the use of the needle.

Acupoint. Also called pressure or potent points, these are the sites through which the vital energy of organs and meridians normally flow through the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine philosophy there are about 361 important acupoints along the meridians.

Acupressure. The practice of applying finger pressure to specific body acupoints. It is generally believed to provide therapeutic benefits and used for relaxation and wellness.

Acupuncture. The practice of inserting extremely thin needles into strategic locations in the body to balance of flow of qi or life force. Acupuncture is believed to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissues hence boosting the body’s immune system.

Assistant Herbs. In Chinese herbology, assistant herbs are used in herbal combinations to help the monarch and minister herbs to perform their pharmacological functions and to relieve the symptoms of the condition. Assistant herbs can also regulate any toxicity present in the monarch and minister herbs.

Bi Syndrome. A term used in acupuncture which refers to a blockage or obstruction in the meridians, organs or extremities. This is characterized by pain, swelling of the tendons and joints, numbness and heaviness of muscles or limitation of movements of the joints.

Bladder. An important meridian responsible for storing and excreting urine. It is said that an imbalance in the bladder can lead to urinary problems.

Blood. In TCM, blood is viewed as the fluid inside the blood vessels that provide nutrition for the cells and organs and keeping the body moist.

Chinese Medicinal Diet. In TCM, this refers to a specially prepared meal plan made from Chinese herbs, food and condiments for the symptoms of the disease that was diagnosed. A Chinese medicinal diet is a functional diet that is used to prevent and treat diseases, improve fitness, and can also slow down the aging process.

Cupping. This is a practice of applying a series of bell or cup-shaped vessels upside down over strategic points on the skin to create a vacuum and create a stimulating effect.

Dampness Evil. This is said to be caused by a pathogen affecting the yin. Symptoms of having the dampness evil in the body include sluggishness, tiredness, heavy limbs, sticky and turbid bodily discharges and a sticky coat on the tongue.

Decoction. This is the process of combining and cooking medicinal herbs to create a brew or a soup for a specific illness or condition.

Eight Therapies. These are the common therapeutic methods performed by trained TCM practitioners. The methods are: diaphoretic (dispersion of pathogens from the body’s surface); Emetic (expelling toxic substances via the mouth); Purgative (relieving the bowels); Regulating (building the body’s resistance to pathogens by controlling body functions); Warming (eliminating cold and boosting yang); Heat-Removing (diminishing fever and quenching bodily thirst); Tonifying (nourishing and boosting qi or life energy); and Resolving (elimination of accumulated and stagnated qi, blood, phlegm, retained food and fluids that have hardened into lumps).

Energy Tonic. Or known as “qi tonic,” they influence the spleen functions and help the body increase its vitality for the body to function optimally. Not to be confused with stimulants, the energy tonic is believed to enhance the absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal system so that energy and blood circulates freely within the body.

Enuresis. Commonly referred to as “bed wetting,” in Chinese medicine, this is attributed to kidney-qi failure, or a primordial energy deficiency.

Epimedium.  Scientific name: Epimedium brevicornum Maxim; This is a common herb used in Chinese medicine to relieve stress and fatigue. It has been used by Chinese folk healers to strengthen the yang element in the body and boost qi. The leaves are believed to be potent aphrodisiac and are also used for the alcoholic beverage “Spring Wine.”

Exogenous Evils. Called “Lao Shang” in Chinese, this refers to the six natural weather factors that are not harmful under normal conditions but become toxic to the human body when in excess or there is an imbalance in the yin and yang elements inside the body. The six climates involved are: wind, cold, summer-heat, dampness, dryness and fire.

Fire and Heat Evils. This refers to the pathogenic effect to the yang element in the body, producing heat-related symptoms such as fevers, inflammation, skin eruptions, dry skin, brittle hair and constipation.

Five Elements Theory. A fundamental principle used by Chinese medicine practitioners to explain the relationship between the natural world and the body. The basis of Traditional Chinese medicine as known in the modern world, this theory asserts that all substance and matter in the universe are correlated and interact naturally to one another. The five essential elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water have corresponding effects on climatic seasons of Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn and Winter, as well as body parts and organs such as the Liver, Heart, Lungs, Kidney, Stomach, Intestines, Bladder and so on. There is an organized relationship in all the elements in nature and the body, and the practice of TCM is to restore and maintain the harmony among all the five elements.

Five Zang Organs. Also referred to as the “yin” organs, these are the liver, heart, spleen, lung and kidneys. Their primary roles are to produce, regulate and store essential qi, blood and other bodily fluids.
Flush Channel. Or the “thoroughfare vessel,” this is an acupuncture point that is where the 12 normal meridians in the body converge.

Gall Bladder Meridian. The Leg Shao Yang Gall Bladder Meridian starts out from the outer corner of the eye. Afterwards it splits into two paths – one runs at the exterior, weaving back and forth at the back of the head and then curves by the ear to trail down the top of the shoulder, the lateral side of the rib cage and abdomen and ends at the side of the hip. Another path goes into the cheek and trails down internally – down to the neck, chest, gall bladder – and then comes out to the lower abdomen to connect with the other trail at the hip before it snakes down to the lateral side of the thigh, the lower leg, crossing over the ankle and lands on the tip of the fourth toe. This meridian is used in acupuncture for conditions of the eyes, ear, throat, as well as mental illnesses.

Gecko. Used in Chinese herbology, the Gecko lizard is widely found in southern China. It is believed that the tail and the backbone of the Gecko are good ingredients for a warming Yang tonic. It is also said to boost the strength and endurance among athletes and is said to provide sexual energy.

Ginseng. Also known as the “king of herbs” it is one of the most valued and most commonly used Chinese herbs. It is believed to help strengthen the immune system, regulate metabolism and help combat stress and fatigue.
Glossy Pivet Fruit. Scientific Name: Fructus Ligustri Lucidi. A sweet and bitter fruit found in several provinces in China that is believed to have therapeutic actions on the liver and kidney meridians.

Governor Vessel Meridian. Running along the end of the spinal column up until the head, this is referred to as the “Sea of the Yang Meridians” because this is where all the Yang meridians meet and it controls the qi flow in all the Yang meridian points in the body.

Guide Herbs. In an herbal combination, the guide herbs act to direct the herb’s active ingredient to reach the target meridian. It also provides a buffer effect on the other herbs in the mixture.

Healthy Energy. Also referred to as “genuine qi”, “vital energy,” “vital essence” or “vitality qi”. This refers to the proper and natural functioning of all the elements of the body according to the climate and seasons.

Heart Energy. In TCM, the heart organ is not only related to cardiovascular functions but also to mental and “spirit” activities. Deficiency in heart energy leads to palpitations, shortness of breath, pale face, fatigue and general weakness.

Heart Meridian. Also known as the Arm Shao Yin Heart Meridian and is one of the twelve major meridians of the body. The Heart Meridian actually starts from the heart and then splits of into three branches. The first goes down to the small intestine. The second one travels up along the throat to the eyes. And the third goes under the arm and runs along the inner side of the forearm, elbow and upper arm, crossing to the inner side of the wrist and palm. It ends at the inside tip of the little finger where it connects with the Small Intestine Meridian. The acupoints in this meridian are used for heart, chest and nervous system disorders.

Inspection. Part of the diagnosis process in TCM, inspection entails the practitioner or physician to make use of his visual senses to ascertain the condition of the patient. By observing the changes in the patient’s appearance, secretions, excretions and vitality, he or she can determine which body part is affected. Generally the following parts are inspected: Tongue, Movement and Posture, Body Shape, Skin Colour and Spirit (or outward manifestation of vital qi).

Jing. In TCM, Jing is considered an essential fluid-like substance for life. It is needed for reproduction, growth, development and maturation. As one grows older, Jing normally decreases. The Jing can be found in the kidneys.

Kidney Meridian. Leg Shao Yin Kidney Meridian. The line starts from the bottom of the small toe then crosses the middle part of the sole and the arch of the foot, goes behind the inner ankle upwards along the inner lower leg and thigh and enters the body to connect with the kidney. The path continues over the abdomen running externally until the upper chest. Another branch begins from the kidney and moves internally upward through the liver, diaphragm, lungs, throat to land at the root of the tongue. Still yet another branch connects with the heart and the pericardium. This meridian is used from gynecological, genital, kidney, lung and throat conditions.

Kidney Qi. An important body organ, the kidneys regulate the urinary and excretory system and also has influence over the reproductive, endocrine and nervous systems. If there is imbalance in the kidney qi, it manifests itself as spiritual fatigue, frequent urination, soreness and weakness in the lower back and knees, menstrual problems for women, prostate disorders in men and sexual dysfunction in both genders.

Large Intestine Meridian. It is also known as the Arm Yang Ming Large Intestine Meridian. This starts from the tip of the index finger then runs between the thumb and the index finger. It travels along the back of the forearm and the front side of the upper arm until the highest point at the shoulder. From this tip it branches off into two paths: an internal one travels to the lungs, diaphragm and large intestine, the other trails externally upwards to the neck, cheek, entering through the gums and lower teeth then curves around the upper lip and to the opposite side of the nose. Imbalance in the Large Intestine Meridian can cause diarrhea, constipation dysentery or oral problems such as toothache.

Liver Meridian. Also called the Leg Jue Yin Liver Meridian, it starts from the top of the big toe and across the top of the foot then crosses around to the inner ankle to trail upward along the inner side of the lower leg and thigh. The path then goes around the external genitalia to the lower abdomen, up to the lower chest, the liver, the gall bladder then further upwards to the throat, eyes and then emerges from the top of the head. Imbalance in the Liver Meridian presents itself as pain in the groin area, incontinence, hernia, difficulty in urinating and chest fullness.

Listening and Smelling. Another step in TCM diagnosis where the practitioner or the physician uses his auditory and olfactory senses to determine changes in the patient’s condition. The patient’s speech, breathing and coughing is analyzed in terms of sound and form. As well, excretions and secretions are smelled for abnormal odours.

Lung Meridian. The Arm Tai Yin Lung Meridian. It begins in the middle area of the body and runs down to the large intestine. Then it passes through the diaphragm to connect with the lungs. As with the other meridians, it branches out: one travels from the armpit and runs down the upper arms to the elbow crease. It then continues until the tip of the thumb, passing along the major artery of the wrist. The other branch appears from the back of the wrist and ends at the inner tip of the index finger connecting with the Large Intestine Meridian. This meridian is used for conditions of the throat, chest and lungs.

Lung Qi. The lungs connect with the throat and nose and they regulate respiration as well as water flow in the body. An imbalance in the lung energy results to feeble cough, asthma, shortness of breath fatigue and lusterless complexion.

Meridian. The Chinese term for meridian is “Jing Luo.” “Jing” refers to the vertical channels, while “Luo” refers to the networks that branch off from the vertical channels. Meridians are the major pathways through which the qi flows. In TCM, there are 12 identified major meridians that correspond to the yin and yang organs and the pericardium. These are also interrelated and which are used for treating ailments and correcting imbalances in the qi.

Minister Herbs. In an herbal combination, the minister herbs support the monarch herb in performing its major action on the body. It also helps treat the accompanying symptoms of the ailment.

Monarch Herbs. Also known as the principal herb in a combination, it performs the primary and leading effect in the herbal combination. A potent herbal combination is said to contain one to two monarch herbs.

Moxibustion. A method of TCM therapy whereby a burning moxa wool (made of mugwort leaves), or moxa wool occasionally mixed with herbs, is applied on a patient’s acupoints to facilitate healing. The heat from the moxa wool is said to penetrate deep into the affected location without damaging the skin. This technique is used to warm the meridians, boost the flow of qi and blood and eliminate the pathogens from the body.

Nutrient Essence. In diet or food therapy, the nutrient essence is acquired from the food and is considered a necessity for the body to maintain its health and optimum performance. Nutrient essence, when absorbed by the body can be converted into Jing, which is stored in the kidneys.

Organs. In TCM there are five major organs that cover a wide range of systems and functions in the body: the heart, the liver, the spleen, the lung and the kidney. Each of these organs possesses their own qi or energy and an imbalance leads to chronic ailments.

Orifices.  These are the openings of the five major organs on the body’s surface: the eyes for the liver; the tongue for the heart; the spleen opens into the mouth; the nose to the lungs; and the kidneys open into the ears. It is said that when an orifice is closed, there is blockage, or worse, unconsciousness.

Otopuncture Therapy.  This is a form of acupuncture whereby certain acupoints on the patient’s ears are stimulated. There are two forms of otopuncture therapy: the use of needles and padding with herbal seeds.

Overstrain. In TCM, overstrain refers to the endogenous causes that result to chronic conditions. These causes include stress, toil, improper diet or emotional troubles. Overstrain is believed to damage the spleen and kidney energies such that the patient can suffer from restlessness, palpitations and vexing heat.

Palpation. A diagnostic method in TCM where the physician takes the patient’s pulse and feels the skin, hands, feet, chest, abdomen and other areas of the body for abnormalities and changes. In TCM, pulse-taking is an important method to determine the location and the nature of the patient’s condition.

Pericardium. In TCM, the pericardium is viewed as an attachment to the heart – it is actually the membrane that surrounds the heart. When exogenous pathogens invade the heart, the pericardium is the first to be attacked.

Pericardium Meridian. The Arm Jue Yin Pericardium Meridian. It starts from the chest from the pericardium and runs down along the diaphragm to connect with the Triple Burner Meridian. It has two branches: one from the chest travels to the armpit and along the middle part of the upper arm, down between the lung and heart channels to the elbow crease. It continues down the forearm and enters the palm where it ends at the tip of the middle finger. A second branch emerges from the palm and connects with the Triple Burner Meridian at the end of the ring finger. Imbalance in the Pericardium Meridian presents itself as symptoms of heart pain, palpitations, chest discomfort and “shen” disorders such as manias.

Pestilential Evil. Droughts, floods, extreme heat, pollution and unsanitary environmental conditions are examples of pestilential evil. This pathogenic factor affects not only one, but a significant number of people with epidemics and highly contagious diseases.

Phlegm. A good indicator of a pathogenic substance or a disorder in the body. Phlegm can either be external and visible, or internal and invisible.

Qi. Commonly translated as “energy flow”, or the “breath of life”, qi is an essential and fundamental concept in TCM that pertains to the vital energy that flows throughout and around the body. It is believed to be found in all living things and is formed from the harmonious interaction of yin and yang energies. Qi flows through the body’s meridians and the practice of TCM is hinged on regulating and maintaining the proper flow of Qi throughout the body.

Qi-Gong. A system of physical and mental training exercises for physical, emotional and spiritual health. There are four types of training in Qi-Gong: dynamic, static, meditative and training activities requiring external aids. Also considered as part of TCM, the practice of Qi-Gong is meant to control the flow of qi.

Questioning. This is the first method in TCM diagnosis where the practitioner asks detailed questions about the patient’s immediate complaint, symptoms, medical history and background and more.

Reverse Flow of Qi. This usually refers to an adverse or negative state of qi in the body, resulting to dysfunctions in certain internal organs. Signs of a reverse flow of qi present itself in shortness of breath, vomiting or hiccups.

Scraping Therapy. Believed to be a variation of acupressure or TCM massage, it is a therapeutic method practiced by old Chinese healers whereby rim tools that have been lubricated with oil or warm water is scraped down the patient’s shoulder, back or neck. This is believed to promote blood and qi circulation in the body, activate meridians and regulate functions of the organs. It has been used for treatment or relief of motion sickness, stomach distention and flu.

Seven Emotions. These refer to the human emotional responses to environmental conditions and changes. They are believed to be potential causes of illnesses. The Seven emotions are: sadness, fright, fear, grief, anger, extreme joy, and restlessness or pensiveness.

Shen. This represents the spiritual abilities of a person such as his passion and enthusiasm for life, to think and form ideas and speak coherently and to live a happy life.

Shanghan. The term used to connote severe diseases caused by exogenous cold evils. Manifestations of shanghan vary from chills, aching of muscles and bones, belching, and may present itself with or without fever.

Small Intestine Meridian. Arm Tai Yang Small Intestine Meridian. This major meridian connects with the Bladder Meridian through a short branch in the cheek that travels upward to the inner corner of the eye. It connects to the small intestine along a branch that moves internally through the heart and stomach. Imbalances in the Small Intestine Meridian are said to result to stiff neck, sore throat, hearing problems, and pain along the shoulder, upper arm, elbow and forearm.

Spleen Meridian. This starts from the big toe, running along the inside of the foot and crosses to the inner ankle. It then travels upward along the inner lower leg and thigh, entering into the abdominal cavity to connect with the spleen and upwards to the Heart Meridian. Disharmony in the Spleen Meridian can cause loose bowel movement, flatulence, indigestion or gastric pains.

Stagnation of Qi. In contrast to reverse flow of qi, this condition depicts the impairment of the normal flow of qi in the body. Stagnant qi in the meridians may result in pain and aches in the body.

Stomach Meridian. Leg Yang Ming Stomach Meridian. This channel begins from the end of the Large Intestine Meridian (side of the nose), and travels along the inner corner of the eye then emerging from the lower part of the eye. It then travels downwards entering the upper gum, lips and lower jaw. When it reaches the corner of the forehead through the front of the ear, it splits into an internal and external branch. The Stomach Meridian connects with the Spleen Meridian at the end of the bid toe. This meridian is used for several gastro enteric diseases as well as toothaches and mental illnesses.

Syndrome Differentiation. This is the stage where the specific disease or disharmony in the meridians is recognized, arrived at after the four steps of diagnosis and examination. In this process, the physician determines the stage at which the disease has developed, the specific location and the degree of resistance between the body’s immune system and the attacking pathogens.

Taijiquan. Also known as Tai Chi Chuan, it is considered a dynamic form of Qigong. It is a system of routines with therapeutic benefits as well as recognized as a martial art. The objective of Taijiquan is to promote a balance between the yin and yang energies in the body and the smooth flow of qi along the meridians.
TCM. The acronym for Traditional Chinese Medicine, an alternative medical system and practice originating from ancient China.

Tonification. A process of therapeutic treatment whereby the nourishment and replenishment of the qi and the blood when they are deficient in the body,  as well as the balance of yin and yang is restored. There are different methods of tonifying: through diet; tonifying by herbs; by acupuncture and moxibustion; or by massage.

Triple Burner Meridian. Arm Shao Yang Triple Burner Meridian. In TCM, the Triple Burner is an essential element in digestion and consists of three parts: the Upper Burner (Mouth to Stomach); the Middle Burner (Stomach to Large Intestine) and the Lower Burner (Small Intestine to Rectum). The Triple Burner Meridian connects with the Gall Bladder Meridian through an external branch that runs up the side of the neck, the ear and ends at the outer end of the eyebrow. An internal branch connects with the Triple Burner sections. This meridian is used for ailments involving the ears, eyes, chest and throat.

Tui Na. Also known as Naprapathy, it is a form of Traditional Chinese massage that focuses on meridians and acupoints to bring balance to the body’s energies.

Wei Qi. This is the TCM equivalent of the body’s immune system as known in mainstream medicine.

Weifen (or Wei) Syndrome. If a patient is diagnosed with the Wei Syndrome, there is weakness and eventual wasting of the muscles particularly in the lower extremities of the body.

Wind Evil. An influential pathogen that causes cold ailments such as chills, vertigo, spasms or twitches.

Yang Deficiency. Inadequate yang energy in the body manifests itself in general swelling, pale complexion, lethargy, lower back pain, a deep and slow pulse and bland taste in the mouth. This denotes that the body cannot sustain functions of warmth and motivation.

Yin Deficiency. Lack of yin energy in the body results to symptoms of night sweats, fever, dizziness, insomnia, blurry vision, dry mouth, scanty and yellow urine and afternoon fevers. This denotes that there is excess heat in the body.

Yin-Yang. In Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang are mutually interdependent properties or elements that represent the duality of everything. The two polar factors constantly interact in either a complementary or opposing way, and the result of their interaction produces Qi. In TCM, Yin stands for coolness and bodily fluid that moisten and nourish the organs and tissues, while Yang represents heat and the body’s ability to generate and maintain warmth and circulation in the body.

Zang Fu. In TCM, it denotes the functions of the major organs of the body and their interaction to each other. There are twelve zang fu organs: the yin organs of the heart, liver, spleen, lung, kidney, pericardium; and the yang organs of small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, urinary bladder, stomach and the triple burner.


The diagnosis process in Traditional Chinese Medicine is not just about the simple grouping of the displayed symptoms. It is also about the treatment strategy that automatically accompanies the diagnosis since there are standard formulas for the symptom patterns.

In order to diagnose a patient in Chinese medicine, a practitioner gets the information needed through inquiry and observation. There are four basic categories of diagnostic observation used in the practice. These are sight, sound and smell, questions, and touch. These four areas of investigation are usually sufficient for traditional practitioners to accurately assess the imbalances found in the body.

An important concept in the diagnosis in Chinese medicine is that the indicators should always be taken holistically. Meaning, everything relates to the wellbeing and state of the person. For example, fatigue can indicate blood deficiency or wind cold.

A TCM practitioner would consider that symptom in relation with other indicators. If the patient’s pulse is strong, it could mean that the condition dealt with is wind cold. On the other hand, a weak pulse indicates a blood deficiency. Thus, it is vital to remember that the signs or symptoms of the patient must be related to everything else that the patient feels or demonstrates.

Sight in Chinese medicine diagnosis is particularly important. By examining the face, especially the tongue, and the body, the practitioner can see the signs and symptoms that point to the illness. As for the use of sound and smell, the practitioner listens to the sounds that come from the patient and tries to identify any unusual smells.

Touch is also a critical aspect in the diagnosis process in Chinese medicine. It is used to find out the area where pain is experienced and to read the patient’s pulse. For instance, if the body feels hot when it is touched, it means that there is a problem with the balance of temperature. On the other hand, if the body feels cold then there is an issue with dampness. Tumors that feel like they have defined borders are usually thought of as an indication of the stagnation of blood while soft masses are from phlegm.


Gua Sha is an ancient therapy practiced in traditional Chinese medicine that is used to relieve the stagnation of blood that obstructs surface tissues and inhibits organ function. The meaning of the Chinese character “Gua” is to rub or to scrape while the second character “Sha” means a reddish and raised area of skin. Literally in Chinese “Gua Sha” means “to scrape away fever”.

The Gua Sha technique facilitates healing of the body by pressing or “scraping” the skin repeatedly with certain blunt, rounded tools such as a soup spoon, a slice of jade or a coin. Special therapy oil is applied on the skin first before it is scraped so the client does not feel any pain during the therapy. The strokes are repeated until the Sha appears, resulting in the appearance of red, elevated patches on the treated area.

Likewise, the client shouldn’t feel any pain after the session. Gua Sha will not damage the skin and the Sha rashes or bumps should be gone within two to four days. If the Sha takes longer to fade, it means the client has poor blood flow and is likely to have either a blood or Qi deficiency or an underlying organ deficiency.

There are two scraping methods in Gua Sha. The first one, meridian scraping, is a combination of acupressure with subcutaneous skin scraping while the second one, holographic scraping, involves scraping certain body points that correspond to the affected body organ.

Gua Sha is a versatile preventive, curative and strengthening TCM technique. It is particularly effective in relieving body pain from headaches to shoulder, neck, back and joint pains as well as nerve pains, PMS, rheumatism and osteoporosis. Gua Sha is also helpful in the treatment of diseases that are brought about by functional imbalance of an internal organ.

Being a practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Gua Sha aims to treat the person as a whole and not just his or her specific ailments. Therefore, to summarize its health benefits, Gua Sha stimulates the immune system, eliminates toxins from the body, restores the body’s PH balance, improves circulation, regulates organ functions, relieves pain, revitalizes Qi, reduces stress and fatigue, and restores emotional harmony and mental clarity.


Moxibustion is a technique in Traditional Chinese Medicine wherein moxa wool (from mugwort herb) is burned and used to promote healing and good health by reinvigorating the blood and stimulating the flow of vital energy or Qi. The herb mugwort has long been used in folk medicine. It is known as an emmenagogue herb, which stimulates menstrual flow.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mugwort has warm as well as bitter and acrid properties. When mugwort is burnt, its warming properties can drive out the cold from the body while its bitter or acrid nature relieves stagnation, clears phlegm and corrects the flow of blood and Qi.

Moxibustion can be done in two ways: direct and indirect. The direct method uses a small amount of moxa shaped like a cone, which is burned on the surface of an acupuncture point. The moxa can be left on the area after being ignited until it has burnt out or it can be extinguished before the skin is burned. The more popular method is indirect moxibustion where a moxa stick is ignited on one end and held closely to the body surface being treated until it becomes red.

Moxibustion is typically performed along with acupuncture, another centuries-old TCM method using fine needles. When combined with acupuncture, a needle will be inserted into an acupuncture point first and then the practitioner will wrap the needle’s tip with moxa. When the moxa is ignited, it will deliver heat trough the needle to the affected area.

Moxibustion is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to dispel cold and dampness inside the body and warm the energy pathways (meridians) to facilitate smoother circulation of blood and Qi. Moxibustion is recommended specifically for individuals with stagnant body constitutions like people with colds, flu, frozen shoulders, painful menstruation and digestive ailments.

Some individuals who are interested in trying out moxibustion therapy may be concerned about the burning aspect of the technique. As with any form of therapy, moxibustion is safe when it is done by a qualified practitioner. While there are no specific licensing requirements to practice moxibustion in the US, practitioners must still possess a license to practice acupuncture in order to perform moxibustion therapy.


By Dr. Maoshing Ni

In the quest for living a long and healthy life, many of us feel overwhelmed by all the things we are supposed to be doing. Just how are we supposed to fit in exercise, meditation, cooking nutritious food and all the other healthy things we should be doing on top of work, relationships and parenting responsibilities? We could start with a 30-hour day, or we can make simple, practical changes to our daily lives that gradually turn into lifelong habits.

A great Chinese sage from my heritage, Lao Tzu, promoted a practice called wu wei, which means effortless being and doing. Effortless being means to be natural, adaptive and unforced. Effortless doing means not applying unnecessary energy or force to anything.

In the context of bringing about healthy changes in your life, this means working with yourself as you are now without trying to alter your whole lifestyle at one time. It means working with the schedule you have, the relationships you have and the health you have, exactly as they are, only adding small changes little by little.

If you approach new changes to benefit your health with rigidity, you will be more likely to miss a day, then two days, then a whole week, and then perhaps beat yourself up a little and give up on the whole plan. Instead, adopt an attitude of wu wei and make tiny incremental changes in your day, fitting the items in where you can.

Here are some simple tips, in the spirit of wu wei, to get you started on your longevity quest:

Notice your breath
When you feel particularly stressed out, take a moment to look at how you’re breathing: you’ll probably find it to be shallow and irregular. Unknowingly, many of us have forgotten how to breathe over the years. Instead of deep, diaphragmatic breaths, we take shallow breaths from the top of the lungs, which can result in feelings of anxiety. Proper breathing is important not only to mitigate stress, but also to dispel the toxins and wastes from our bodies.

To de-stress, close your eyes and breathe deeply, slowly and rhythmically for 10 counts, three times a day. This activity requires very little effort, and could possible help you work up to a daily meditation practice, which is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, protect your heart, and lengthen your years. A guided meditation that can help you on your path is Meditations to Live to Be 100.

Turn off the screen and tune into your food
It’s tempting for efficiency’s sake to check emails or catch up on news during meals. But for your longevity’s sake, when it’s time to eat, just eat. For one meal a day, try sitting down at a table and put everything else to the side, the newspaper, computer and TV. Take a few moments to consider what the food you are about to eat will do for your body. Then take your first forkful and enjoy the taste and sensations, chewing until your food is no longer solid. When we are distracted and hurried, we often forget to chew, and because your stomach does not have teeth, this can interfere with digestion. Over time, slowing down and becoming aware at your meals will lead to improved digestion, better absorption of nutrients, and joyful eating–all of which will benefit your longevity.

Take a 20-minute walk every day
In my two decades of investigating the daily activities of centenarians, I found that every one walked for at least 30 minutes a day, and most walked more than an hour. Aside from producing proven benefits for your heart, walking is the perfect low-impact exercise for promoting digestion and encouraging cleansing of the lymphatic system. Make it more motivating by walking a dog or giving yourself a pleasant destination.

Eat 5 different colors every day
For thousands of years Chinese medicine has observed that there are five elemental energies in our bodies, represented by wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each of these elements also corresponds to a color: wood to green, fire to red, earth to yellow and orange, metal to white, and water to black, blue and purple. In traditional Chinese medicine it is believed that health and longevity depend on a balance of all five elemental energies. Try eating a diet that includes the five elemental energies every day. For each category of food–vegetable, fruit, nuts, beans and grains–eat all the five corresponding colors. For example, your daily vegetables should include something green (possibly spinach), red (perhaps a beet), orange (yam), white (cauliflower) and dark-colored (eggplant.)

If this sounds a bit esoteric, consider this: in the categories of fruits and vegetables, the pigments that give the skins their coloring are packed with powerful antioxidants crucial for maintaining health, preventing cancer, and protecting against environmental toxins. Start small with just two different colors a day in all the categories, then add one color a day, and before you know it, you’ll be up to five a day.

The trick to bring these life-lengthening changes into your life is to work your way gradually and without any undo force to the full goal. To sum it all up with a message from another sage, Confucius said it best when he stated: “It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.”


Eating is a hot topic in the United States–partly because we seem to do it so badly. For all of our modern scientific knowledge, our eating habits have made us one of the world leaders in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We know all about vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates–so why aren’t we healthy? While the reasons are no doubt many (processed food, sedentary lifestyle, cheap calories, etc.), one way back to a healthier lifestyle can be found in the East Asian tradition, which has developed and honed the practice of food therapy over many thousands of years.

Here are five tips on healthy eating according to the East Asian tradition, which I explored while writing Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing and Long Life (Da Capo Lifelong), with Chinese medicine experts Yuan Wang, L.Ac., and Warren Sheir, L.Ac.

In the West, we can be found casually eliminating whole food groups, say fats or carbohydrates, or trying to exist on a single type of food (the grapefruit diet, anyone?). That’s an anathema in the East, where we’re advised to pursue balance in our bodies and in our minds by eating a variety of foods to maintain health. No single ingredient or kind of ingredient is vilified or consumed to excess. As one Chinese proverb says, “Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent: all must be tasted.”
1. Balance Is Beautiful
Food is also used to bring balance between the individual and his or her natural cycles and parts of the environment. Particular foods are thought to counteract an individual’s personal tendency toward, say, restlessness or fatigue, and different choices are recommended for different seasons. Take a food’s temperature, for example.
2.Take The Temperature
Are you the kind of person who runs cold? Or do you tend to feel hot? What is the weather like outside? According to the East Asian tradition, the answers to these questions can help guide your healthiest food choices.

In the interest of balance, traditional Chinese medicine advises people who tend to run cold to gravitate towards “warm” foods and spices. This refers not only to the food’s physical temperature, but also to its effects on the body (think of breaking a sweat when you eat a curry). On the warmer end of the spectrum are foods and herbs such as ginger, chili peppers, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, green onions, and walnuts. Warm foods are also especially appropriate in the winter or an unusually cold day.

Similarly, people who tend to run hot or who are in a hot environment are advised to consume more cool foods (think of the tingly cool sensation you experience when consuming a mint beverage). In addition to mint, cool foods and herbs include citrus, tofu, milk, lettuce, celery, cucumber and tomato.

3. Color Counts
In this era of orange cheesy doodles and blue cupcake frosting, you’d be forgiven for thinking of color as an artifact unrelated (or perhaps detrimental) to health. However, in the world of natural foods, traditional Chinese medicine teaches us to try to consume foods of various colors–purple eggplant, red tomatoes, green spinach, black sea vegetables, white garlic and yellow squash, for example–to fortify different parts of our bodies and to balance each other’s beneficial properties. By paying attention to this rainbow of hues, Chinese food therapy transforms what we in the West often lump into a few categories, say “fruits” and “vegetables,” into patterns more complex and inviting.

Interestingly, scientific studies have related phytochemicals in colored plant foods to their healthful effects. For example, red tomatoes, peppers and watermelon contain lycopene (linked to cancer prevention); orange and yellow fruits such as squash, carrots and apricots possess beta carotene (which may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease); and white garlic and onions contain a number of sulfides (which may possess anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and immune enhancing qualities).

4. Raw Might Not Be Better
In our society where over-processed foodstuff is encountered at every turn, members of the raw food movement need to be applauded for getting back to basics. However, assuming that you are selecting natural, mostly organic foods to begin with, traditional Chinese medicine would recommend a different approach in the kitchen.

According to this tradition, cold, raw food such as salads are particularly hard on the digestion and should be eaten in moderation. Cooked foods are considered especially beneficial for anyone who is in a weakened state due to an illness, childbirth, or advanced age, since cooking helps unlock nutrients and facilitates their absorption. Warm food also relieves the body of the task of bringing the food to body temperature.

One way to consider eating raw foods is to combine them with warming and digestion-enhancing ingredients–say, including garlic with that cucumber salad or using a miso-based dressing on your lettuce.

5. Eat Until You Are 70 Percent Full
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the East Asian tradition stresses moderation as key not only to the kinds of food to eat for maximum health, but also the amount of food to consume for longevity. In China, the saying goes “For long life, eat until you are 70 percent full.” The Japanese have a similar maxim (although in that country you get to eat until you are 80 percent full). Eating too much food is seen as unnecessarily stressing the body, especially its digestive organs and related processes. So put down that fork (or chopsticks) before you are truly sated and reap the health benefits of moderation



CAN Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) join hands to treat cancer patients?

If you asked Prof Li FuMin, a Singapore-based consultant TCM practitioner who specialises in immunology and oncology, the answer is yes. In fact, an integration of both techniques is more beneficial than using any of them alone, he says, but only if doctors from both sides talked to each other more often.

“Both Western and TCM have their individual strengths and weaknesses. And cancer is a unique disease that neither of them can treat nor cure fully,” Li, 68, explains when met in Kuala Lumpur recently. “That is why integrating the two might be more efficient in treating the disease.”

Although his statement might appeal to conventional logic, barriers to an integrative approach in cancer treatment have thus far prevented it from becoming a widespread reality. The lack of communication and mutual trust between practitioners from both systems are among two of them.

“In China, where Western medicine and TCM are deemed equal, and medical students from both systems are required to have basic knowledge of the other medical system, there is generally greater integration in the approach,” Li said. In other places, where complementary medicine is still regarded with a huge dose of scepticism, patients can find it more difficult to benefit from both systems.

“Sometimes patients are told to completely avoid consuming traditional Chinese medicines when they are on conventional cancer treatment,” Li laments. But on the contrary, TCM can play a supportive role to cancer treatment, he added.

Elaborating on the way Western medicine and TCM are usually integrated in cancer treatment today, Prof Li offered: “Usually, patients will go through the conventional therapies like surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy first before they go for TCM therapies.

“It can act as a complementary therapy that could help alleviate some of the side effects of these cancer treatments, regulate patients’ body systems to improve their quality of life and prevent the recurrence of cancer once the disease is stabilised.”

This is the way Li would suggest his patients go about it too. “After being diagnosed with cancer, many patients will consult many doctors, trained both in Western medicine and TCM. But I would always advise my patients to seize the opportunity to remove the tumour or go for chemotherapy or radiotherapy first.

“After that, TCM can help them with side effects and their recovery. It can also help reduce the chances of recurrence when taken long-term,” he explained.

The reason for this approach is a very practical one, because TCM practitioners could not diagnose cancer.

“The claim that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners could diagnose cancer is a fallacy,” Li emphasised. First of all, many cancers have little or no symptoms until it reaches a late stage, which make diagnosis through the TCM way (observation of external symptoms and enquiries into a patients’ lifestyle) difficult, if not impossible.

Second, as TCM practitioners deduce the presence of a disease or ailments by relating certain groups of external symptoms to unhealthy changes inside the body, it is also difficult to diagnose a highly variable disease like cancer accurately.

“Cancers can manifest in very different ways in individuals, and we now know that external symptoms may sometimes mislead us in our diagnosis,” Li said. “That is why, to diagnose cancer, or other diseases, for that matter, we need to use modern diagnostic facilities,” he added.

Besides leaving the diagnosis to Western medicine, Li also stressed the importance of communication between attending doctors from both systems of medicine, particularly when a patient goes for conventional cancer treatment and TCM at the same time.

“When patients go for both treatments separately without informing their doctors about the other treatment, they may risk being repeatedly treated, over-treated, or mistreated. For instance, if you are about to go for a surgery, a traditional Chinese herb that increases your blood flow may cause you to bleed excessively during the procedure,” he said.

You would also be better off if you consult a TCM doctor who specialises in cancer treatment and understands conventional cancer treatment.

“In cancer treatments, only when the TCM doctor understands his patient’s condition and the procedures his patient had undergone completely will he be able to prescribe the best treatment to suit his patient’s needs,” said Li, who also reads his patients medical records, X-rays and laboratory results when they are referred to him.

“And just like Western Medicine, TCM doctors can specialise in the treatment of certain diseases as well,” Li said.

In Malaysia, although there are efforts in integrating TCM and other traditional complementary medicine systems into public hospitals, the recognition of TCM as a complementary therapy for cancer treatment is still limited.

However, said Malaysian Oncological Society president Datuk Dr Mohd Ibrahim Wahid, many cancer patients undergoing treatment still seek alternative treatment, with or without their oncologists’ consent or knowledge.

“So, even if we strongly oppose it, it doesn’t help the total care of the patient,” he said.

And since his patients are going to go for alternative medicine like TCM anyway, he prefers to know about it. “If (TCM) is used as a complementary therapy, and if it has no unsafe or untoward interactions with the treatments we are giving our patients, then we have no problems with that,” he said.

“We are only concerned when patients rely solely on traditional treatments as an alternative to conventional treatment and delay appropriate treatment. This is because it will jeopardise our chances of curing or treating the cancer,” he added.

So, if cancer patients undergoing treatment are taking alternative medicine, Dr Ibrahim strongly advises them to inform their oncologists.

“Even when we are still not exactly sure how these medicines interact with conventional cancer treatment, we can monitor our patients’ condition with blood tests to ensure that their condition do not worsen as a result,” he says.

The way forward, as Dr Ibrahim sees it, is for oncologists to work together with TCM practitioners for the benefit of cancer patients. “We can’t say that Western medicine can cure every ailment, and we can’t say that Chinese medicine can cure every ailment too.

“Maybe by working together, patients can have the best of both worlds and they can be reassured that we are doing the best we can to give them the best possible care,” he said.


Repressed emotions can cause disease. How this disease manifests in each of us is completely individualized. Releasing emotions can heal disease. Even cancer. Even diseases that Western medicine deems incurable.

Perhaps these notions seem presumptuous, yet they have been well-documented by the investigative tools of Western science, and are also found within the tenets of global healing traditions worldwide.

Anger, fear, and sadness: These are three primary emotions that may be causes of disease. They are normal and natural feelings, and we all experience them as natural aspects of our wonderful humanness. But when these feelings remain internalized without avenues for expression and release, they can create a vibrational state in our body-mind that disrupts our natural homeostatic balance.

This imbalance can express itself in body-mind symptoms. I use the term body-mind because these symptoms can express themselves in physical symptoms or as emotional symptoms or both. When symptoms become loud enough, we may have a label for them in Western medicine—a disease.

Repressed Emotions

Where do repressed emotions come from? This depends on your worldview.

First, they may come from experiences that we’ve had in this lifetime that were traumatic. Most often, in early childhood, this occurs after we lose the wonderful state of being unselfconscious and become aware and attuned and sensitive to the experiences around us. We may have experiences that are painful emotionally, and one natural response may be to protect ourselves and internalize these emotions.

Another source of repressed emotions may be past-life experiences. If this concept is challenging, I ask you to suspend any disbelief and read on. There exists a wide body of research, conducted by reputable scientists, supporting the veracity of this phenomenon. Again, details are beyond the scope here, but please write for details if you’re interested.

Past-life experiences that were traumatic and were not healed during past incarnations may have been carried with us as we entered our present body-mind in this lifetime. Interestingly, this worldview of past lives is shared by most global healing traditions. These healing traditions accommodate and utilize the notion in their understanding and treatment of health and illness.

Often it is easier, given the paradigm of Western medicine, to first consider the physical body, symptoms, or “dis”-ease. Focusing on the physical body can be a starting point for healing and transformation on many levels. Yet unless we address emotional roots and links, we cannot heal completely on any level.

Our thoughts, emotions, and physical symptoms are intimately linked.

Most familiar in the West are traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, two systems that have found footing on our shores. These systems link bodily symptoms and emotions. In Chinese medicine, the lung is the repository for grief, the liver for rage, and the kidney for fear. In Ayurveda, the vata dosha may yield arthritis and worry; the pitta, ulcers and rage. It may be helpful to consider these connections when reflecting upon your own health concerns.

There are many, many ways to enable healing. I will briefly summarize some of these.

Some tools and techniques are “passive”; others are “active.” Passive approaches are those that are done to you, such as acupuncture and massage. Active ones are those that you can do yourself, completely on your own, such as pranayama, or breathing exercises. Active techniques can be truly empowering, but passive ones are useful too. Sometimes it is helpful to have an experience to shift one’s body-mind state without having to put forth a lot of effort.

Breath and Food

Breath is the fuel and life force for our body-mind. Western science has well documented the relationship between respiration and physical and emotional health. Interestingly, this is an inherent tenet of global healing traditions. Qi and prana are considered life force in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, respectively. Without breath, we do not exist.

Compromised breathing can cause illness; optimized breathing can enable healing. Learning natural breathing as well as specialized breathing techniques can affect our body-mind, our emotional state, and can be a conduit to emotional healing.

Food is medicine for our body-mind. All foods have effects on our emotional states. These effects are unique to each of us. Hippocrates, considered the father of Western medicine, wrote of these concepts. He believed that “food should by thy medicine and thy medicine food,” and also taught that it is “more important to know the patient that has the disease than to know what disease the patient has.” 

Particular Therapies

Any therapeutic modality affects both body and mind, hence the term body-mind. This is so even in Western medicine. There are many approaches, tools, techniques, and systems. The following is merely a list, not exhaustive, for your consideration:

Energy medicine techniques; energy psychology techniques; body-centered therapies such as Rolfing; Ayurvedic treatments and bodywork; Chinese medicine approaches, including acupuncture; manual therapies such as chiropractic and osteopathy, vibrational medicine such as flower essences; herbal therapies; homeopathy; the various techniques of yoga traditions; past-life therapy; breath-work therapy; creative self-expressive therapies; writing or journaling therapies; and movement therapies. Some of these require a practitioner, some of these you can do on your own.

Some final suggestions: Be gentle and patient with yourself. The greatest healer lies within you, not within the office of any practitioner or the scope of any technique or system. Healing is a journey of exploration and growth, a journey that will only and always lead to a greater sense of well-being.



SOME couples struggle to conceive, especially when infertility might be an underlying problem.

And besides undergoing Western fertility treatments, some are turning to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for help.

TCM treatments include herbal remedies and acupuncture, which are meant to bring the body into balance and thus facilitate conception.

But those who turn to TCM should know that TCM isn’t a quick fix, said physician Loh Kim Gek, 55.

As with Western medicine, a substantial amount of time and patience may be required before a couple sees a successful result.

With TCM, couples need to undergo at least nine to 12 months of consistent treatment, said Ms Loh, who is one of four physicians at the fertility unit in free clinic Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution.

Ms Loh, who has more than 20 years of experience, added: “I feel a sense of satisfaction when my patients bring along their babies to meet me. It makes me very happy.”

She has helped about 30 per cent of some 900 couples to conceive.

She said that the success rate could have been as high as 50 per cent if some of those couples had stuck to their treatment without giving up halfway.

Although women are traditionally blamed for fertility problems, Ms Loh said that, in seven out of 10 cases, the problem actually lies with the male.

She will give a talk on Saturday to explain how TCM can help to boost fertility, and how one can improve one’s constitution. my paper gets her to answer some questions from readers.

Why would TCM be better than Western medicine in fertility treatments?


Ms Loh: TCM treatment for gynaecological problems has a long history in China, and has proved to be effective.

To me, TCM and Western medicine serve complementary needs. TCM treats the root problem, while Western medicine tackles the symptoms.

For instance, if you have ovulation problems or problems with the quality of your ovaries, TCM treatment – which comprises Chinese medicine as well as acupuncture – can improve the function of the ovaries. TCM can also help strengthen men’s sperm to enable a higher chance of conception.

But if you have problems such as a blockage in your fallopian tube due to ovarian cysts, then I would recommend Western treatment to remove them. My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for two years.

What can we do to improve our chances of conceiving?

MR J. Y. QUEK, 31

Ms Loh: Firstly, you should learn how to be free of worry. When people are anxious, it will affect the quality of a woman’s ovaries and the effectiveness of sperm. In my talk, I will share some simple methods for relieving stress.

Secondly, you need to build up your constitution and prevent development of illnesses. Illnesses during the ovulation period can greatly affect conception.

You can improve your general health by drinking teas, such as chrysanthemum and wolfberry tea, boiled dried longan, American ginseng and red dates, or wolfberry and lily tea with some brown sugar. But do consult your TCM physician to see if these are suitable for your condition, and seek treatment as soon as possible.

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   As 2010 dawns, the turning of a decade gives people a great opportunity to get their affairs in order – and for some, fengshui too.

    The streets to the west of Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, are lined with shops selling new fengshui calendars and books, along with the usual incense. And traders say it is not just elderly people snapping them up.

    “We get all kinds of customers here,” said a shopkeeper surnamed Wang, who has the exclusive rights to sell fengshui calendars whose covers sport a smiling Li Juming, a Hong Kong practitioner.

    “Young tourists are always buying calendars for themselves or their parents.”

    The peak time for sales is the Spring Festival. The trader said she will buy in a large amount of stock for the rush.

    Fengshui is gaining interest among young people in China. An online survey of about 600 people conducted by METRO on social networking website last week found that around 70 percent said they, more or less, believe in fengshui.

    Pang Bo, a 24-year-old university student in Beijing, is a believer despite an education background of computer science.

    Pang thinks fengshui arrangements of interior design helps visitors feel comfortable.

   Pang said he felt uneasy when he stepped into a hotel room he had booked in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, last month.

    “It was the interior decoration,” he said. “The dressing mirror on the wall faced the bed, which made me feel uncomfortable.”

    But some of his friends said Pang was superstitious.

    Pang admitted that most of the time he didn’t know how to explain it.

    Wang Haohua, a fengshui practitioner in Beijing, told METRO that young people, especially white-collar workers, are now his biggest clients, along with executives with large enterprises.

    “The most frequent questions asked by young people are about their career paths and their relationships,” Wang said. 

    Wang said fengshui, which translates as “wind water”, is a set of knowledge that people use to improve their living environment in ancient China. Fengshui knowledge could be dated back to 3,000 years ago.

    He said it still cannot be explained by science but that does not mean it is wrong.

    “It is just like traditional Chinese medicine; sometimes difficult to illustrate but effective,” he said.

    Wang added that there were also people who followed the advice of fengshui masters just for psychological comfort.

     Zhang Xixi, 23, is a Beijing office worker born in the year of the tiger.

    As 2010 sees the return of the tiger, Zhang said she was told by a fengshui practitioner to visit a temple to avoid bad luck.

    “I don’t know much about fengshui but after going to the temple I feel safe and comfortable about the new year,” she told METRO. “Everyone needs good luck, right?”

Although fengshui has enjoyed somewhat of a comeback across the world in recent years, the argument between science and superstition has raged for decades.

In late 2008, the University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei province, offered a course covering the “architecture of fengshui”.

However, it was cancelled after criticism on campus and in the media.

Tao Shilong, a famous geologist in his 80s, said fengshui is superstition in an article posted online.

“For me, a fengshui practitioner is no different from a fortuneteller or palm reader,” said one college student on an online forum.

Hou Wenxia, who opened a consultancy firm close to the Confucius Temple, said it is hard to reason with.

“It is not easy for young people to understand its philosophical foundation,” he said. “Fengshui is closely associated with ancient Chinese culture and philosophy.

“Some people say it is superstitious. I think at its core, fengshui calls for harmony between human beings and nature.”

Source: China Daily