Review of Jingyue Chuanshu Part II by Allen Tsaur

I had the pleasure of reading the forthcoming second installment of the Jingyue Quanshu by Allen Tsaur. This text struck a chord with me on three primary fronts: 1) as a SHL formulaic database, 2) an overview of clinical methodology, and 3) as an example of the influence of military philosophy in Chinese medicine.

I would like to first say that this book is laid out quite well and easy to read. It just flows, much to the benefit of reader’s retention of information.

Clinical herbalists will certainly appreciate the material, especially for those particular to the Shanghan Lun. 71 formula entries from Zhang Jingyue with indications, modification trees, as well as some great commentary and critique by multiple physicians including Chen Xiuyuan. I picked up valuable nuances in these discussions, especially on some of my most used herbs, that have already been put into practice in my treatment strategies. I found myself at times sharing a similar clinical perspective as Zhang Jingyue, at other times with Chen Xiuyuan; I agree, for example, with his opinion of Huang Qi’s nature as being primarily one of lifting and rectifying the exterior, vs its ability to supplement qi. We also get an overview of Zhang Jingyue’s tongue diagnosis, an assortment of case studies, and some great discussion on qi dynamics.

On my third point, Allen and Michael’s text couldn’t have been timelier to my studies in early Chinese history and the influence of military philosophy in the philosophy of the Neijing. Military texts began to be composed from about 500 BCE, and they exerted a significant influence on the cultural, administrative, and organizational evolution in the pre-imperial period, including the vessel theory of the Neijing. Lewis, Rickett, Major, Meyer, and Yates [the latter in particular] have detailed how the Huanglao philosophy found in the Neijing most closely resembles that of the military manuals of the Warring States. (Before you jump to Kongzi, keep in mind that concepts such as forms and names, benevolence, righteousness, virtue and trustworthiness were being discussed very early on in manuals such as the Sun Bin bingfa, and it is erroneous to presume that the Confucians held a monopoly over these concepts in Warring States times.)

But I digress—point being that success results from recognition and arrangement. Functionally and descriptively speaking, our role as clinicians can be effectively modeled upon the methodology one adopts as commander on the battlefield. In my view we are there to be certain and to achieve a goal, not to moralize and entertain abstraction. What I love most about this installment of Zhang Jingyue’s work is that it both stresses and demonstrates how that model of thought can be, and has been, applied in a clinical setting. Eight formulaic strategies, each with a corresponding list of formulae, laid out as battle arrays. Part 1 covers the first four battle arrays, (supplementing, harmonizing, attacking, dispersing), and some of my favorite commentary in this book comes from the Appendixes, which are dedicated to the topics of strategy and the historical context of battle arrays.

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