When You’re Dead, You’re Cold: The Shang Han Lun

Yaron Seidman is one of my recent herbal teachers.  I’ve been studying with him for about 3 years now.  This is embarrassing because I have only recently really felt that I understood how he actually works in terms of writing prescriptions.  I had not, until recently, received the core transmission.  Of course I have understood a lot of what Yaron points to in his teachings.  I could have passed the tests and become a Certified Hun Yuan Practitioner.  But that would have felt wrong to me.  Actually it would still feel wrong!  What I mean is that I did not feel that I truly grasped the way he works and the way a Hun Yuan practitioner would work.  I do feel now that I got it!  What a great feeling.  However, I cannot call myself a Hun Yuan practitioner yet because I have not worked it myself in the clinic enough to make the teaching my own.  That will take time and experience.

Yaron comes from a Huo Shen Pai, Fire God current in the vast world of Chinese herbal medicine.  There is so much talk about the ideas from this school, the Huo Shen Pai 火神派 floating around these days.  I have found that there are many currents within this current, meaning that there is a wide variety of perspectives and methods among practitioners of this way.

Probably the most prevalent image most of us have when we think of the Huo Shen Pai is the large dosage of Fu Zi and sometimes other warm or hot herbs.  It is true that many practitioners from this lineage do use large dosages of Fu Zi but it is not true that all practitioners use it as the main focus all the time.

For me, the heart of the ideas behind the Huo Shen Pai is the idea that the life force is warm/Yang.  The simple statement that we are cold when we are dead illustrates the life has warmth within it.  In fact, Zhu Danxi’s school of tonifying Yin has been greatly criticized by some from the Huo Shen Pai tradition because it is so obvious when we die that there is plenty of Yin.  What is gone is the Yang!  When we are dead, nothing moves, nothing functions and nothing is warm.  It’s a still and cold bag of bones.  It is the most extreme case of Yang deficiency one could imagine!

If we start with the idea that the life force is warm, than anything that goes against the life force is the opposite, cold.  Hot conditions are not due to hot pathogens but are rather due to the bodies own life force or Yang failing to move properly.  When Yang gets blocked, it gets hot.  But the question is, what is blocking it?  Any lack of movement is basically lack of Yang and so, it is cold.  Even with extreme heat as in a Yang Ming pattern, the formulas are not thought of as heat clearing but rather as unblocking so the Yang can move and not be so built up.  Yang can be blocked and build up and Yang can also not be held in place properly.  Yang not held in place can flare about causing heat signs and can also leak out causing cold signs.  In any case, the heat is nothing other than our own life force being messed up with the opposite of it, cold.

The Shang Han Lun then can be seen as a book about what happens when the life force is blocked or not stored properly and what to do about this.  It is the treatise on damage from cold because it is the treatise on what messes with our life force – which is warm.  In other words, the text has almost nothing to do with “cold pathogens” coming in from the outside going deeper and deeper.

Yaron Seidman has a very unique and individual way of understanding the Shang Han Lun.  Though I do not work exactly the way he does, I do try to work with the basic understanding of helping the life force find it’s root within us and function properly. Signs and symptoms tell us how the life force is not connecting or functioning well.  Our methods return the patient to the flow of it.  This is not fanciful thinking.  It is really how it works and it is really what the Shang Han Lun is teaching us.

Yaron is going to be teaching next month in Fairfax, CA. on the Shang Han Lun Code – Click here for information).This is sponsored by Genevieve Le Goff at Between Heaven and Earth. The course will be streamed live for those who are far away.  Yaron does not simply teach techniques or methods.  He offers a way of connecting to the classics, especially the Nei Jing and Shang Han Lun that we can solidly bring into the clinic, eventually.  It took me a long time to integrate and grind away at the teachings so it is not for those who want quick fixes.  For those who want

  • to bind back toward the oldest texts and the lineage of sages they arise from
  • to feel that your way in the clinic connects directly back to them
  • to work hard to reap the benefit of finally knowing what to do confidently

you’ll love this!

I think this coming workshop is a good one to take to check out Yaron’s work if you are interested.

This entry was posted in Classic Formulas, Huo Shen Pai, Theory and Practice. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to When You’re Dead, You’re Cold: The Shang Han Lun

  1. You are so right about what you said about Yaron. The first few times I saw him on some webinars – I was awestruck. Its not even that I am that interested in fertility, but everything he said, and how he said it sounded and FELT right, and true. It really made me question what I was doing and how I was thinking. He was really inspirational. I can see that a lot of study at school about Shang han lun is pretty superficial and what most call classical thinking is merely lipservice. When I get the chance, I hope to enrol in some of his classes. he sure keeps us on our toes.
    Many thanks also for your post on Illustrating diagnosis. Only last month, I was bitching about how I was fed up of seeing the same cases all the time – and you explained my dilemna perfectly – its not that the cases are the same – its that I am seeing with blinkered sight. Back to the drawing board.

  2. Please provide more information regarding the date/time and ability to view (via live stream) the talk next month in Fairfax, CA with Yaron Seidman. I am located in the state of Oregon and cannot come to CA to attend. Thank you.


  3. Topics in Chinese Medicine says:

    Hi Victoria,
    Sorry, I guess the link in the post was not obvious. You can go to this website for more information:


  4. Victoria says:

    Great, thank you.

  5. You have inspired me . I think I am going to take this course online. I have met Genevieve recently indirectly. One cannot dismiss serendipitous coincidences.
    thanks, Sharon.


  6. To add a bit more, Yaron teaches very clearly about life and how in exact detail it occurs, reaches fullness, declines and ends. How is one to treat or prevent death or illness if one is not clear about life puzzles me. Many schools teach this material without much foundation and students often graduate without the tools to do real medicine when it comes to the crunch, because they don’t accomplish this understanding or only vaguely.
    Many students enjoy knowing many formulas, going far and wide, look clever, yet still are unable to unravel basic pathology according to life and death. You can see in the chat rooms how little understanding of health or disease there is. It is true that with Yaron you may only study a handful of formula, but your medicine will become impeccable, your community will grow to respect you, and above all you will sleep peacefully, knowing there is nothing greater that you can do. When you understand life, you can tackle anything that diminishes it such as external influences, or the simple lack of it. The seminar should bring the SHL to a swift conclusion as you will also learn how place it in context of CM thinking rather than placing it as a bible or instruction manual.
    The beauty of CM is that you must make it your own. You have to be able to think CM fast, including life/death when your kids or family is ill.

  7. Topics in Chinese Medicine says:

    Thank you Alex.

    One aspect of Yaron’s course I have loved is his encouragement through words and by example of making the medicine our own. Each real doctor has to ultimately do this. We cannot just follow our predecessors because each new situation that crosses our paths is unique and must be met freshly. In addition, we all bring out own experience, not only in the medicine but in our lives, that we must integrate. Each of us then practices in our own way, yet deeply connected to and respectful of our roots and lineage.
    I have also very much enjoyed the contemplation of what we are trying to do with our medicine. It is about eliminating symptoms and reducing suffering but, you are right, it is about aligning with and receiving our lives to the utmost. What is life? Where does it come from and where does it go? How do we align with it? Reduction of symptoms, health and longevity are the result of this alignment and connection. So, it is a matter of where we place our attention and intention as practitioners.
    I hope we can meet some day Alex!

  8. just to let everyone know that Yaron’s seminar will be be streaming as I spoke with Genevieve and it wasn’t cost effective. oh well – next time for me.

  9. sorry i meant will NOT be streaming.

  10. Sharon,

    I got this late, sorry. Too much studying with Hunyuan, I let down few blogs. But what you are saying really touch me. I do study with Yaron since late 2011. You are so right, it is hard to consider myself a real good Hunyuan’s practitionner, even if I received the certificate . It made me feel good to read that I am not alone to feel this way. It is not an easy course and we need a lot of study and contemplation to understand the core of it. Thank’s Sharon for this article .


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