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Symbolism and Medicine in the Mountains of China
I was flying down one of China’s windy country roads in a taxi, speeding around sharp corners with sheer cliffs thousands of meters high on one side and weaving through hundreds of tourists and traffic. We were traveling way faster than the average speed limit on Pender Island, my home. I felt overwhelmed by the people and the pollution, thinking about all the stories my friends back home had told me, warning me about such things. China is known as a place of mysticism, but at that moment I felt that this mystery was in the past – the new China was simply an overpopulated mess in desperate need of order.
I was traveling to Lu Shan, a mountain resort town and popular park, for a rural experience away from the busy Traditional Chinese Hospital in Changsha, Hunan, where I was practicing as an acupuncturist and a Traditional Chinese doctor in training. I had chosen to travel to Lu Shan because it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Geo Park, one of about 27 protected areas in China. This forested mountainous region of Jiang Xi Province is rich in bamboo forests, lakes and wildlife and a place where poets, political leaders and religious leaders have come for thousands of years to relax and enjoy the spectacular views, occasionally discovered among the misty mountains.
As we drove, we passed many inscriptions in the rocky landscape of famous poems or sayings that have inspired the Chinese community over the centuries. I had come here to relax, but I was a nervous wreck! I tried to pay attention to my translator, who was busy translating the taxi driver’s story. The taxi driver was taking us to a scenic spot called Three Tiered Waterfall and was explaining how a tourist quietly mentioned that he saw the image of a sparrow in the waterfall and now a few years later everyone in China wanted to come to Lu Shan for to. look at this amazing phenomenon.
On the hike to the Three Tiered Waterfall, I saw how different the parks in China were from those in Canada. The entire path to the falls was lined with granite paving stones, which was common in all the parks I visited. A huge amount of work, stretching over several hundreds of kilometers of parks. I think the rocks provided protection from erosion – thousands of tourists visit these parks every year – or protected people from soiling their shoes and fine clothes. Sometimes I spent 2 or 3 hours climbing the stone steps to reach the top of some rock that might be called the Yellow Dragon’s Head or something, sweating all the time from the intense heat and humidity, to reach the top to saw the families of the Chinese. , from 2 to 80 years old, dressed all the way in clothes worthy of a delicious western experience, high heels and all!
Poetic symbolism permeated the environment as well. Besides the sparrow at the waterfall, I saw other symbolic features – two rocks that looked like lovers reuniting after a long separation, or the mountain top that looked like a student holding his text in deep concentration. These features were marked by rocks with inscriptions. The Chinese certainly value an active imagination, and especially one that makes deeper sense of the world in which we live.
This imagery was already apparent to me after studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for the past five years. According to TCM theory, the human body is an integrated whole, both with itself and with the natural world in general, completely united.
Acupuncture points are named after mountains or valleys. Organs are usually named after images of what they represent, the womb is called Zi Gong, which literally translates as Palace of Children. Diseases are sometimes named after the weather. The function of herbs is often related to the part of the body they appear, such as Ba Ji Tian which looks like a tendon and is actually used to strengthen tendons. At the hospital, I saw thousands of people coming from all over China to receive a traditional diagnosis and treatment with the same enthusiasm they had for their parks. Many patients explained that their trust in this natural remedy was based on its long uninterrupted history (over three thousand years) of practice and that it gave good results, often without side effects. The sister hospital of the one I worked at was built on the same site where an old TCM scholar had his original clinic, over two thousand years ago! Chinese medicine has never had a dark age and the Chinese people are very proud of it. Outside the hospital every morning I saw large groups of people doing Qi Gong and Tai Ji, with movements named after various animals, another link between the human and natural worlds that guides the Chinese people.
Over time I began to relax and notice how the natural world was integrated into the lives of the people around me. I began to look at rocks and hillsides differently, thinking about deeper meanings than just what kind of material they were made of. I even started to relax with the traffic. Instead of seeing the situation as simply chaotic and lacking in order, I began to see more fluidity. The roads became riverbeds and the cars became like water, flowing around every obstacle they encountered. Once I used my imagination, China became a place of symbolic images that were deeper than just the overcrowding and pollution I had been warned about.
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#Symbolism #Medicine #Mountains #China