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Chinese Healing Exercises: The Tradition Of Daoyin

The Yinshu was one of the two medical texts (the other being the Maishu or the Book on Vessels) that were part of the Zhangjiashan Han bamboo texts discovered in 1983.[4] According to translator Vivienne Lo, it dates back to around 186 BCE,[4] during the Western Han dynasty,[8] although Ori Tavor suggests that the text "(reflects) a textual corpus that was already circulating as early as the 3rd century BC."[9] A transcript of the Yinshu, titled Zhangjiashan Hanjian Yinshu shiwen (張家山漢簡引書釋文), and an accompanying commentary by Peng Hao (彭浩) were published in 1990.[10] Lo writes that it is "the earliest extant treatise on the Chinese tradition of daoyin", which she defines as "a regimen which adjusted personal hygiene, grooming, exercise, diet, sleep and sexual behaviour to the changing qualities of the four seasons."[4]

Chinese Healing Exercises: The Tradition of Daoyin

Research has shown that language may both influence and be influenced by spatial (e.g. image schematic) representations and has provided evidence for perceptual-motor activation in language processing. However, there is less research on the possible proprioceptive bases for the spatial representations evoked in and by language. This paper looks at representations of the body and bodily experience in traditional medical systems. Focusing first on the ancient Chinese medical (CM) tradition, I show how the theory of 'qi' and the 'jing luo' entails a dynamic body schema, which accounts for many image schemas discussed in the cognitive linguistic literature. In CM, the dynamics of qi account for a wide range of psychophysiological experiences providing evidence for the embodied basis of numerous cross modal correlations such as that between space (image schemas) and emotions. Discussion with and observation of traditional Chinese healers suggests that the CM psychophysiological model is a representation of the body based on introspection or consciousness of what has been termed the 'bodily self' as well as a kind of intuitive perception of others' bodily experiences. This accords with the literature which attributes early knowledge of the qi and jing luo to 'dao yin' practitioners using ancient 'self-development' techniques and highly sensitive and empathetic physicians. I next turn to the Zulu healing tradition and consider bodily experiences reported by practicing Zulu 'izangoma' (diviners) in videotaped interviews. These unusual - but socially and culturally important - experiences provide insight into the dynamics of the bodily self and identity as well as attributions of action, intention and agency. In the process of initiation, izangoma begin to hear the voices and sense the intentions and directions or even take on the identities of one or more 'amadlozi' (ancestors). They also learn to 'feel' others' bodily experiences as well as intra- and inter-personal issues. For practicing izangoma, diagnosis and cure are both frequently based on information provided by ancestors (often in dreams) and the ability to mirror their patients' psychophysiological experience. These reports suggest that for izangoma the bodily self is not merely located in space and time but constitutes them through egocentric and allocentric mappings. Finally, I briefly examine some recent research on the body schema, proprioception and perception, the 'like me' hypothesis and 'out-of-body' as well as 'out-of-time' experiences showing that valuable correlations can be made with the data presented on traditional medical systems and practitioners. I conclude that understanding the embodied spatial bases of language requires a broader and better understanding of our proprioceptive and subjective experience of the body itself, and that this should include continued investigation of bodily representations and experiences in traditional medical systems across the cultural spectrum. 041b061a72


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