Chinese medicine & numerology – quick thoughts on the numbers 5 & 6

A Solar Progression

Continuing on a theme of numerology from the previous post and mentioned briefly in my podcast, I got to thinking about the application of the Five Phases (or Elements) and the Six Qi or Conformations.

When the Neijing uses the number 5, it represents Earth, or something tangible.

This is why Zang Fu theory, dignosis, and treatment that you learn in TCM school is based on the Five.  We’re talking organs in this system & primarily physical manifestations of symptoms.

It is to this system of the Five that we often ascribe more chronic diseases because they have  existed so long as to cause organ damage.  The disease has been etched into stone as it were.Or even into the blood, the storehouse of identity.

With the Six Qi we have a different emphasis, that on Heaven.

The Heavenly influence is more immaterial. Thus these are disorders of Qi and the channels, rather than organ function. The manifestations are sudden, acute, and life threatening. Using the analogy of computer equipment, a disorder of qi would be akin to spilling water on a circuit board. All bets are off as to what will happen – but you better do something about it quick!

I find it helpful to keep these two systems separate but be aware of where they overlap.

For example, the TCM case of Liver Wind rising can involve a sudden loss of consciousness.  Here, we are talking about the 5 organs/elements but the disorder is qi based, acute, and life threatening.  Similarly, when the yin conformations (Taiyin, Shaoyin, Jueyin) become damaged we are usually talking about chronic issues.  So, obviously, here we are talking about the 6 qi or conformations, yet the disorder is chronic.

Still it can be important to keep in mind that when we are talking 6 we are talking Qi and channels and when we are talking 5 we are talking blood and organs.  This type of thinking has diverse clinical applications & can also be a fun intellectual exercise!

We will be discussing these finer points in the Essentials of Classical Chinese Medicine courses – the first one is registering right now!

Enroll today if you want to continue the exploration …


About Brandon Brown

In addition to obtaining the Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine, Brandon completed a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Classical Chinese Medicine where his continued study of the classical texts and cultural arts inform and deepen his practice of this ancient art form. His passion for education and learning have run deep throughout his life and he looks forward to exploring and discovering this beautifully ancient but still very applicable medicine with you. Learn more about Brandon

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