Recently I was speaking to my friend and teacher, Andy Ellis about Wen Bing.  He told me about a book I had not heard of.  This text is by the late Dr. Hu Xi-Shu called

Understanding Warm Disease through Six Channel Differentiation of Patterns

Below is my translation of his introduction to the text with commentary. (Thank you to Sabine Wilms for helping me with the translation). This is also meant to give an introduction to two talks that are happening today in regard to working with people who are suffering from The Virus:  Caroline Radice is teaching on Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Tang.(12:00 pm EST) I am speaking on San Ren Tang and Huo Po Xia Ling Tang.  (3pm EST)

Dr. Hu writes:

For the purpose of elucidating the rules of transformation and the diagnostic principles of “10,000 diseases, one origin” Zhang Zhong-Jing wrote the Shang Han Lun.  Thereby making clear the range of tools.  (showing us our options) Therefore, I often say, “The treatment method of 10,000 diseases is already exhaustively covered in the single book, the Shang Han Lun; and yet, the treatment formulas for the 10,000 diseases , verily are not complete within this single text.

Dr. Hu is telling us plainly that, though the Shang Han Lun principles are complete, the formulas within the text are not, by themselves, enough to treat all 10,000 (meaning the countless) diseases.

There are so many types of illnesses.  The signs and symptoms that make up an illness are very changeable.  Even if you had formula for every illness and every pattern, the shi, 势, the dynamic of the illness is something that is difficult to get a handle on.  Nevertheless, when you apply meticulous study of master Zhang’s methods, differentiating patterns, evaluating the pulse, to thereby separate Yin and Yang, separate the 6 channels, and then you can determine the formulas and herbs. Then you can treat the 10,000 diseases and what would be so difficult about this?!

Here Dr. Hu is saying that, through the deep study of the Shang Han Lun, we can understand and apply the principles, and apply those principles to our writing of formulas.  Doing this, 10,000 diseases are not so difficult!

If you don’t profoundly investigate Zhang Zhong-Jing’s methods thoroughly and you only stubbornly cling to his formulas, this is like swallowing something wholly without digesting it, not even being aware of how this stubborn clinging restricts you from responding to the propensity of the illness.  How could you not mislead yourself and therefore mislead others?

Dr. Hu is warning us to not be rigid in our application of formulas.  We don’t need to only use formulas from the Shang Han Lun!  Though we should understand what Zhang Zhong-Jing’s dosages within a formula mean, we should not fail to modify those dosages according to the presentation of patients in front of us.  We also need to be able to additions and subtractions to formulas to address the actual presentation in front of us.  Anyone who “stubbornly clings to the formulas” of the Shang Han Lun, will be misleading at best.  And yet, we can be completely loyal to the principles of the Shang Han Lun.

The presentation of warm disease is similar to the cold damage and wind strike of the Shang Han Lun. Even though Zhang Zhong-Jing has warnings about sweating, purging and warm needle, the cases of being wronged at hands of crude technicians misusing Ma Huang and Gui Zhi, resulting in death, are countless.  This is why the specialty of Wen Bing was considered so important by later generations.  Master Wu, although he could not avoid later generations turning it into a whole school of thought, in terms of treatment, he truly had unique elaborations.  This led to a special field of study though, at the same time master Wu never lost sight of the source being the Shang Han Za Bing Lun.   Study of the strategies and tools of the Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue provides the foundation.   He knew that it makes no difference if the formula comes from here or there, as he recognized that CM is a Tao of a single thread.

Dr. Hu has great respect for Wu Ju-Tong, the author of the Wen Bing Tiao Bian.  He knew that Dr. Wu’s roots never left the principles of the Shang Han Lun, in spite of later generations wanting to turn Dr. Wu’s ideas into a “whole school of thought.”  He bemoans the fact that “crude physicians,” profoundly misunderstanding the principles of the Shang Han Lun, misused the formulas against the clear advice of Zhang Zhong-Jing, thus giving the Shang Han Lun a bad reputation.

The misunderstanding of the principles of the Shang Han Lun as described in an earlier post, still abounds.  Here is a quote from an article about the Shang Han Lun and Wen Bing:

In the Shang Han Lun, patterns are differentiated via the Six Channels system, a method that defines the contention between zheng qi and pathogenic qi,and describes transmission of disease from exterior to interior.  On the other hand, in Wen Bing theory, Ye Tian-Shi adopted the pattern identification method of the Four Aspects, wei, qi, ying and xue, and alsothe San Jiao method, to determine the severity of the pathogen and its transmission from the superficial level to the interior.   Irrespective of the diagnostic method, they reflect a common patho-mechanism of disease transmission—i.e. from exterior to interior.1
Most practitioners of Chinese medicine have been taught this way.  The author is trying to say that the views of the Shang Han Lun and Wen Bing theory are similar and hence should not be in competition.  I most heartily disagree that the perspectives of the Wen Bing “school of thought” are similar to the principles of the Shang Han Lung.  This perspective will blind practitioners to the profound benefit and proper use of the Shang Han Lun principles. At the same time, I also very much agree that there is no competition.  The innovative formulas as well as the principles of Wu Ju-Tong and others are profoundly useful and can easily be understood through the principles of the Shang Han Lun.
On the other hand, the formulas written by Wu Ju-Tong and others can be easily understood and integrated into our understanding of the Shang Han Lun principles.
  1. From Sibling rivalry: Resolving family conflict in Wen Bing and Shang Han, by Greta Young Jie, The Lantern 15-2