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Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Using Taoist Principles of Preventive Medicine

Many Chinese follow a way of life called Taoism. Its goals are to promote balance and both the immediate environment and the universe.

Taoists believe that anyone can reach a state of enlightenment called Hsing Ming Shuang Hsiu, the balance of mind and body. Required: Great self-discipline and personal effort, including the cultivation of health and longevity.

Interesting: The Taoist emphasis on preventive medicine is so strong that in old China people paid their physician only when they were well. If they got sick, the treatment was free.


Taoists believe in an internal energy called CHI, the breath of life. CHI corresponds closely to western concepts of bioelectricity, the body's electrical program. By changing this inner program, people can influence their metabolism in a way that actually strengthens the immune system.

Taoists believe that CHI flows through a system of subtle veins, called meridians. If the CHI is blocked anywhere in the body, you'll have too much CHI - too much energy - on one side of the blockage, and too little on the other.

To open the blocked areas along the meridians so the CHI can flow freely, the Chinese use a series of exercises that involve breathing, gentle movement and visualization.

Called CHI KUNG, the exercises are based on fine animals - the crane, bear, monkey, deer, and tiger. Each exercise affects a specific internal organ and bodily system. CHI KUNG, which resembles tai chi exercises, are easy to learn.


In addition to the meridian system, Taoists believe that the human body contains three basic forms of energy that create health when they are in balance with each other.

CHI is breath energy. It resides in the chest and lungs. The three sources of CHI are the air we breathe, the food we eat and the energy and strength of the immune system that we inherit from our parents. The more CHI you accumulate, the greater your vitality and better your health.

JING is sexual energy, which is believed to be stored in the lower abdomen and cultivated through balanced sexual relationships.

SHEN is spiritual or intuitive energy. SHEN, which means clarity of mind, requires the ability to temporarily shut off the interference of constant thinking. Most people's minds are like a T.V. that they can't turn off. Without the clarity and fullness of SHEN, which is developed through meditation, none of the other techniques are possible.


There are two underlying principles of Taoist philosophy that tell us how to live in a manner that promotes health and well-being.

TZU JAN involves things that grow from the inside out rather than being created outside. Translation: Spontaneity, which shouldn't be confused with impulsiveness. Spontaneity means sensing what is coming from inside you and allowing it to express itself.

WU WEI, or effortlessness, involves going with the flow, lacking artifice, using only those muscles needed for the task at hand.

Taoists think that these two principles should be applied consistently on every level-lifestyle, relationships, exercise, movement, etc. By: Kenneth S. Cohen

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