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Dolly Yang

An exploration of the significance of the Daoyin [therapeutic, 'leading and guiding'] exercises in Zhubing Yuanhou Lun 諸病源候論

dolly yang

One of the important early Chinese medical texts which includes daoyin exercises as a treatment is Zhubing yuanhou lun (ZBYHL). It was compiled by Chao Yuanfang 巢元方, the imperial physician of Emperor Yangdi 煬帝of the Sui 隋Dynasty, in 610 C.E. ZBYHL is the earliest known nosological text to be found in China. It is a medical compendium in 50 juan, describing 1739 diseases and detailing under sixty-seven headings their etiology and symptoms. More particularly, ZBYHL lists 110 sets of daoyin exercises which are helpful in the treatment of specific diseases.

The content of these 110 sets of daoyin exercises is the main focus of my PhD thesis. The initial task is to translate the descriptions of the diseases and the corresponding daoyin instructions. An examination and analysis of the text will follow in order to gain a deeper understanding of the daoyin practices contained in ZBYHL.

To establish the foundation for the research, a literature review will be undertaken. Western scholars such as Catherine Despeux and Livia Kohn have done valuable research into the daoyin tradition mainly in the context of Daoist longevity and Yangsheng 養生 practices. This research focuses on the curative aspect of daoyin practices as described in ZBYHL. It seeks answers to questions such as:

  • Is daoyin central to the medical practices of ZBYHL and if so, why?
  • What particular benefits does the text suggest can be achieved by daoyin practices?
  • What distinguishes those illnesses for which daoyin is prescribed and those which it is not?
  • Is there a tension between preventative and curative daoyin ?

In order to answer some of these questions and to understand more fully the medical aspects of daoyin exercises in ZBYHL, the research will draw insights from the Chinese medical theories which inform these exercises. For example, the theory of Yin and Yang, the five phases, the twelve channels and the idea of Qi 氣 are all concepts important to the daoyin practices. The techniques employed in the daoyin exercises in ZBYHL will be examined, including those relating to posture, breath and moving the qi.

A synopsis of the textual history of daoyin will be given and will make possible an understanding of the historical development of the daoyin tradition and the particular contribution made by its practices in ZBYHL. The primary task is to trace relationships between different daoyin manuscripts and books. Texts such as Yinshu引書, Huainanzi 淮南子, Baopuzi 抱朴子, Qianjinyaofang 千金要方,Yangshengyaoji養生要集, Zhengao 真誥, Yangxing yanming lu 養性延命錄, Taiqing daoyin yangsheng jing太清導引養生經, Yunji qiqian雲笈七籤, Ishinpō 醫心方will be examined. Secondary sources written in English, French and German will be explored as well as those in traditional and simplified Chinese.

The research will examine the historical background and political context in which the text was compiled. It will seek answers to questions such as:

  • What can we tell from the text about the political, cultural and religious influences which helped to shape it?
  • To what extent are these daoyin practices available to all strands of 7th Century Chinese society rather than only to Daoist religious circles and to the imperial court?

Critical questions concerning translation will be considered. Some may relate to issues such as the standardisation of Chinese medical terminology and others to the tension between connotative and denotative translation styles.

I am a native Chinese, born in Taiwan, and went on to receive a classical Chinese education. I gained a first class degree in Religious Studies from the University of Wales, Lampeter and was awarded an AHRC scholarship to study librarianship for a Masters degree at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Presently, I work as a subject librarian at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.

d.yang.11@ucl.ac.uk

Page last modified on 15 nov 11 16:34 by Vivienne Lo