There are many many ideas regarding the historical foundation of the Shang Han Lun as well as theories regarding its structure. In this post, I want to introduce Professors Hu Xi-Shu’s and Feng Shi-Lun’s view on the historical threads and theoretical basis of the Shang Han Lun.
Historical basis for the Shang Han Lun: In his course on the Shang Han Lun, Professor Feng is very clear that the basis of Shang Han Lun theory is NOT the Neijing. He and his illustrious predecessor, Professor Hu Xi-Shu and Feng Shi-Lun spent many years researching this. The theory that links the Shang Han Lun with Nei Jing theory finds one of its main roots in a text written by Cheng Wu Ji in about 1156 AD. This text, called伤寒明理论, Shāng Hán Míng Lĭ Lùn (A Clarification of the Theory of Shang Han), looks at the Shang Han Lun from a Neijing perspective and was extremely influential. In the White Pine Institute course with Professor Feng he unequivocally states that this marriage of the Shang Han Lun with the Neijing is not correct. He is clear that the way that the Neijing speaks about the 6 channels is not the same as the way that Zhang Zhong-Jing speaks of them. In fact, he shows the historical thread between Neijing theory and the development of Zang Fu theory and post-classical (non-Shang Han Lun) formulas.
According to Professors Hu and Feng, the roots of the Shang Han Lun and the Classic Formulas, Jing Fang, are in the Shen Nong’s Classic on the Materia Medica, 神农本草經 Shén Nóng Bĕn Căo Jīng and the Canon of Decotions, Tāng Yè Jing Fa 湯液經法. They argue that Shen Nong’s Classic on the Materia Medica uses the 8 guiding principles of Yin/Yang, Cold/Heat, Interior/Exterior and Deficiency/Excess. Here is a diagram from Professor Feng that illustrates these historical threads.
Theoretical Foundations of the Shang Han Lun: The important point for professor Feng Shi-Lun is that the use of the 8 guiding principles is really a key to understanding and effectively utilizing the formulas of the Shang Han Lun to their fullest capabilities. Based on his many years of work with professor Hu Xi-Shu, professor Feng clearly outlines the relationship between the 8 guiding principles and the 6 channels:
One aspect of Professor Feng’s Shang Han Lun theory that I find fascinating and liberating is the idea that the placement of formulas in the text do not correspond to the channels the formula addresses. So, for example, Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang pattern, is listed as a pattern that is transmuted from Tai Yang in the Shang Han Lun and is, in many renditions of the Shang Han Lun text, in the Tai Yang chapter. For professors Hu and Feng, Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang treats a half interior, half exterior Yin pattern because it treats upper heat with lower cold. This makes it primarily a Jue Yin formula along with Gan Cao Xie Xin Tang and Sheng Jiang Xie Xin Tang. In addition to this type of formula understanding, the professors also see formulas through the lens of concurrent presentations. For example, Wu Ling San pattern is generally considered the Tai Yang organ pattern. For professor Feng Shi-Lun, Wu Ling San is clearly a mixed Tai Yang, Tai Yin, Yang Ming formula. Very interesting!
Though these classifications may at first glance seem academic, they are not. What I’ve seen in my study of this material is that these ideas are firmly based in clinical reality. This is not simply a way to classify formulas but rather it is a way to clearly diagnose the exact location, in terms of the 6 channels, of the disorder and quickly correct it. I’ve had so many ‘a hah’ moments in this study as an idea or formula that was blurry to me came into clear focus and I felt my ability to use it adroitly fell into place.
So, this is to give Jing Fang enthusiasts or potential enthusiasts a little introduction to the theoretical foundation of the upcoming 10-month course we are hosting with professor Feng. I hope it wets your appetite!
This course is an online video presentation course. Once a month 4-5 hours of video are posted for participants. Each time video is posted, it will remain posted for the entire 10 month period. During this time there will be supplemental material posted that has been translated by Greta Young, Eran Even and Sharon Weizenbaum.
Greta Young is the author of Shang Han Lun Explained and Eran Even is the translator, with Michael Max, of the upcoming title Professor Hu’s Five Steps to Shang Han Treatment Based on Pattern Identification’ (方证相对：伤寒辨证论治五步).
In addition, students will be able to post questions to and receive answers from professor Feng and Greta Young.