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Numerological Restrictions in Traditional Chinese Medicine: Tai-Yi and Ba Feng’s Case

Serguei Zinine

This study is dedicated to an analysis of medical aspect of the macrocosm/microcosm structural homomorphism in Chinese culture, presented in works of Wan Weiyi of Song, and Liao Shengkong of Qing period: "Tongren shuxue zhenjiu tujing" and "Zhenjiu jicheng", respectively. These treatises are practical manuals of acupuncture, and both include short passages on lucky and unlucky days for the therapy ("ji1 ri" and "ji2 ri"). Generally, these conceptions of "lucky and unlucky days' belong to the set of ideas, defined by Shigeru Nakayama as 'hemerology".

The Liao's definition of these days is more extensive, than Wang's one, and includes more conceptual allusions (p.31-34). The author indicates that the major reasons for defining these days as unlucky are the influence of "eight winds" ("ba feng") and travelling of Tai-yi star through 'nine palaces' ("jiu gong").

The human body (microcosm) and the cosmos (macrocosm) have the common substrate - pneuma qi. Therefore all important movements and changes in the macrocosm influence the microcosm. The principle is common for practically all traditional cultures. However, its implementation in Chinese medicine is rather specific and interesting. It is closely connected with popular religious conceptions.

The human body, according to Chinese medical conceptions, has nine parts, corresponding to nine celestial regions, and symbolized by Ming Tang scheme. Tai-yi star revolves around Wei star, and visits all nine regions by turn. Tai-yi deity animates the star, and it has a bodily counterpart, visiting all nine parts of body. Supposedly, any therapy for each part is prohibited while the deity resides in it.

Liao Shengkong provides eight numerical tables of "unlucky days" for every period of 45 days. Every table has nine columns, corresponding to nine body regions, and five rows. So, for example, in dong zhi period ("winter solstice" or midwinter) the left leg therapy is prohibited on 8th, 17th, 26th, 35th and 44th days. Actually, Liao's tables are a "rationalizing reordering' of Wang Weiyi's tables, bearing the Ming Tang form.

Special symbolical reordering of the tables allows us to state that this pseudo-rational system has a numerological basis. All tables are generated on the basis of eight magical squares with sums 15, 18, 21:


4 9 2
3 5 7
6 1 6
6 2 4
5 7 9
1 13 8
2 7 9
1 3 5
6 3 4
1 6 8
9 2 4
5 7 3
5 1 3
4 6 8
9 2 7
3 8 1
2 4 6
7 9 5
7 3 5
6 8 1
2 4 9
8 4 6
7 9 2
3 5 1

This system of squares could be further reduced to two matrices (magical squares):


2 4 6
3 1 8
7 5 9
8 4 6
7 9 2
3 5 1

Actually, the system of eight squares (and the whole "unlucky days" system) is a special production of these magical squares. Therefore it could not be a theoretical generalization (let a mystified one), based on empirical observations.

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