I recently went through the online Jingui Yaolue (JGYL) courses through the Institute of Classics in East Asian Medicine (ICEAM) for the second time. The first time, back in 2011, I was just holding on for dear life. I got married that year, and the clinic was only 2 years old – just about to take a critical step towards maturity. It was busy, and the material felt quite opaque, particularly compared to what’s in the Shanghan lun (SHL).
This time, I caught on to the structure and rhythm of the text a bit more.
I had time to read a couple of different translations and slow down a bit. I also was at a point in my clinical practice where these formulas were coming up repeatedly. Still, there’s a sense that I don’t quite get it, and formulas keep dropping out of my mind. So, since I’m a sucker for a systematic project, I’m going to be working through it and documenting the results here.
Let me make something clear. I’ve been studying and using these formulas and this text for a little while, but I’m by no means an expert. In these posts, I don’t intend to put myself forward as one. I hope to talk a little about the formulas from various perspectives in a way that might be helpful to readers, but is most definitely helpful to me.
If you really want to get into the Jingui, the ICEAM courses I mentioned above are a splendid start.
ICEAM just minted a new offering, too, a hybrid online-live mega course (2.5 years long) to ground yourself thoroughly in Han dynasty Chinese herbal medicine. As far as translations of the text are concerned, I rely almost entirely on the Wilms, Wiseman “green book” translation.
As I mentioned, I want to look at the formulas of the Jingui yaolue from a few different perspectives
I’m a hard-headed learner, particularly with herbal medicine. It takes time for things to soak in. So, I try to immerse myself in whatever I’m learning as much as possible. More importantly, I try to come at the material from many perspectives.
In this case, I’ll focus on:
- The basic information as revealed in the text
- Any interesting variations or changes to the formula that have emerged over time
- Sensory experience with the formula
- Clinical experience with the formula
- The formula dynamics – or the way the formula hangs together and does what it does
- How the formula relates to other formulas, both in this text and in other texts and traditions
- If it’s interesting, I’ll check out any biomedical research that involves the formula
Focusing on the formulas doesn’t mean ignoring other features of the text
I’m most interested in getting the formulas fully in my brain, and understanding them more deeply. But, it’s only natural that understanding of the text itself and what it teaches will emerge as I go. I plan to work through the text by chapter. Which formulas are there together, and what that means, is something I’m always interested in. This necessarily means reading the translators’ notes, whatever commentaries I can access, as well as analyzing the formulas carefully.
I’ll be using Obsidian as my primary tool for working with the data I discover and produce
Given the nature of this project, it’s a perfect fit for ongoing work with my favorite new knowledge management tool, Obsidian. Obsidian is out of beta and just… incredible. Everything works perfectly, and I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of its capacities. I’ll share my organization and graphs as I go, particularly when they demonstrate something interesting.
I’ll do some stream-of-consciousness type sharing on the Deepest Health community
If you’re not already a member, you can sign up for free right now. It’s very simple. I’ve made a special “Cohort” group on the site for containing this information so that I don’t fill up the main feed with my random observations, research notes, and resource finds. If you click this link, you can join that cohort so you get those updates. If you’re not already a member, you’ll be prompted to sign up.
I am going to start with Chapter 2 – “Tetany, Dampness and Thermoplegia”
This chapter contains formulas that are very useful in the treatment of pain, particularly in the soggy Pacific Northwest – I’m very fond of Gualou guizhi tang, for instance. It also has formulas that are included in the Shanghan lun as well – something I always find interesting. I’ll be batching formulas at times, particularly when I find out less about them.
I look forward to sharing my adventures with you.