Following on from my last post, The Pulse, I wish to delve slightly deeper into its subject. In my book, Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis (Eastland Press, 2001), I present teaching that was passed on to me by Dr. John Shen, an innovative and venerable master of pulse diagnosis. It is based on seventy years of Dr. Shen’s work, and on thirty years of attempting to feel, understand, and codify what he taught. All the while, I have added substantially from my own observations, which sometimes differ from his.
The human organism has a limited reservoir of symbols with which to express its internal anguish, and we call these symptoms. This restriction of the expression of dysfunction and misery calls for, and is the genesis of, the art and science of diagnosis. Likewise, the pulse is limited in its variety of sensations or qualities, and so is likewise constrained in its ability to communicate the internal state of the person. While some students of the pulse have the ability and sensitivity to perceive more sensations than others, the qualities themselves do not change, and their distinguishing features are the same as ever. However, what has changed are the causes for these qualities, the practitioner’s ability to distinguish them from one another, and the language with which to explain them.
To meet the needs generated by these shifts, my pulse model, called the Shen-
Some of the qualities in the CCPD system vary slightly in sensation at different positions, and some have different meanings in different positions. The qualities are accessed at the six Principal Positions and twenty-
During my twenty-
Throughout Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, I have attributed new interpretations of qualities commensurate with the stresses of our time, and I have aspired to create a modern language of qualities based on easily recognizable sensations. “A feather floating in the wind” or “the pulse of the heart should sound like the blows of a hammer (continuous)” from the Nei Jing, is poetry that appeals to the soul of a sensitive person. However, it is insufficient to illuminate and communicate the nature of a pulse quality to a 21st-
While drawing from the vast reservoir of past wisdom, I have attempted to bring pulse diagnosis, with all of its inherent power to diagnose and preclude disease, into modern times. It does not need to justify itself in terms of the classics. The only issue is whether or not it works.