Seahorse Books

Taoist Arts of the Lee family training manuals by Chee Soo

Traditional Diagnosis

As the Five Elements are linked to the Yin and Yang, and these in turn are governed by the Tao, it is understandable that curing illness is also linked to the Five Elements. These cures are:

Firespiritual cure
WoodCh’ang Ming
Earthherbal therapy
Five elements therapies

The Spiritual Cure

The spiritual cure comes about by altering your eating and drinking habits so that you become closer to nature, and thereby closer to your own Tao and the Supreme Spirit. In addition, it means becoming more understanding, more conscious, and more aware of the work of the Supreme Spirit that goes on around you, and learning to conform to the infinite laws that he has laid down. It means dedicating your life to helping others along the pathway of their lives, and in turn trying to make them understand as well. It also means that you should say your prayers in thanks for everything that is bestowed upon you, the food that you eat, the clothing that you wear, the car that you own, and every time you safely cross the road, or find a parking space. It is not luck that brings you home safely every evening, but the gift of the Supreme Spirit, so say ‘thank you’ a hundred times a day for all the gifts you receive.

Chang Ming

Chang Ming is the Taoists natural eating and drinking system, and it will cure the majority of illnesses. It means eating good wholesome and natural foods, so carefully balanced that sickness is eradicted and ill health becomes a thing of the past. Remember that one of the most simple of all indicators of general sickness is the common cold. If you catch a cold every year, then you are in real trouble, and you have no one to blame but yourself, for you have created the cause that has brought about the symptom.
The food that you eat and the fluid that you drink must be within the boundaries of the universal laws and the very fine balance of Yin and Yang.

Herbal Therapy

Herbal therapy has long been a part of Chinese medical history, as it has also been with every other country in the world. But the Chinese have far exceeded the efforts of other nations in this particular field. With over 30,000 herbs on record they have found the answer to every conceivable illness, and according to the traditional classification, they have also listed them in order of the Yin and Yang tendencies.
Modern traditional herbal therapeutics have further divided these two groups into a further three sections under each heading, and have recorded them as either vegetable, animal or mineral. Naturally the vegetable section is the largest of the three.


Acupuncture has been practised in China for thousands of years and is the simple insertion of a needle at a specific point or points along an energy channel, or meridian, as it is more commonly known. This will either stimulate or sedate the energy force that flows along that particular channel, which in turn has its links with a specific organ. Over nine different needles used to be available, varying in length and thickness, although in the beginning stone needles were in common use, and it was much later that copper and iron needles were used.


Thermogenesis is another ancient art of China. It works by combating an inner Yin illness with an external Yang force — applied heat. This Yang heat has two main objectives, either to draw the Yin cause to the surface by attraction, or to penetrate into the body and overcome or destroy the Yin in its own centre. For the best results, the heat is generally applied to the acupuncture points, and in the old days the skin was actually burned and many of the older Chinese still bear scars reminding them of their earlier treatment. Today, however, the skin is only warmed through, and no burning is necessary. There are, however, certain points along the lines of a meridian where heat treatment is absolutely banned or strictly forbidden, although acupuncture may be used.


Whilst it is important to know how to effect a cure, it is even more essential to understand the cause, and traditional Chinese doctors are elevated in this particular field, utilizing the ‘five methods of examination’ (Wu Chen Ch’a):

Using the mouth to ask questions.

Using the eyes to see the symptoms and the indication of the possible causes.
Using touch, to feel lumps and to induce muscular reaction by light pressure. In addition touch was used in the art of Pulse Study (Chen No).
Using the ears to hear the changes of tone in the voice, as well as the percussions of the lungs, or the rumblings and other sounds in the bowel systems of the body.
Using the nose to smell the odours emanating from the various regions of the body, such as the mouth, sexual organs, anus, under the armpits, etc

Asking Questions

Asking questions might seem quite an ordinary thing to do, but it is a very responsible job, and not always that easy to do with shy or reticent patients. However, it is necessary to fully understand the person’s complaint, its development, how long it has gone on for, the person’s eating and drinking habits, any accompanying aches or pains and how long they last, and whether it is painful at a specific time of the day. It is also sometimes useful to know the area of the world that they were born in, also the eating habits of the parents, and whether there are any hereditary tendencies in the family, and if so, how far back in time these inclinations seem to go.
It is also necessary to enquire about more personal things, such as the colour or smell of the urine, or the motions, regularity of periods and the types of pain that come with them, difficulties in intercourse, and any soreness in or around the other cavities of the body. A delicate approach is of course required for this questioning.
Naturally there are further difficulties when you have to interview young children, the mentally handicapped, or the deaf or the dumb. They will all have difficulty in explaining their particular illness, the type of pain, even how long they have had it, and as for remembering past symptoms this is almost an impossibility for those in the first two categories, so it will be necessary to obtain as much information as you can from their relatives or even close friends. When attempting to diagnose someone who is unconscious, you will of course have to rely entirely on background information from others.
All this information will give you the patient’s general medical history so far as it relates, to the complaint, as well as giving you an indication of the person’s eating and drinking habits, which can have a very great influence on health. As you will see, asking questions is a very important part of the process of diagnosis.

Using the Eyes

Visual observation diagnosis is very important too, for it can supply extremely useful data on the present health of the person, and likely problems that may crop up in the future. In many cases you can also see if the illness has gone on for a long time. In other instances, you may be able to see the start of an illness, or detect the actual sickness, even though the person concerned does not have any outward symptoms, such as pains, rashes, vomiting, or hot or cold spells. It is quite possible that even the patient himself does not know that he is ill, so you will be able to combat the possible cause of the sickness even before the onset of symptoms.
Visual diagnosis is more important than many Westerners realize, for it means that the traditional doctor can examine parts of his patient without that person being aware that they are being inspected, or that an assessment of symptoms and the cause of illness has been mentally recorded.
First of all, the colour and texture of the skin on the face and hands will be immediately visible, and there may be many colours that can be seen, such as red, brown, white, yellow, grey, purple, semi-transparent white, and even green, and all these colours will indicate the general health of the person, and also show the possible cause of it. For instance a yellow skin is an outward sign of jaundice, which in turn indicates that there are problems with the pancreas, and possibly the liver and gall bladder as well. Red shows that the heart is overworking; very dark brown or black is associated with the kidneys; grey shows that the liver is swollen so trouble can be expected; white is generally anaemia; transparency in the skin shows either skin complaints or tuberculosis; and green, which is getting more and more common in the Western world, is cancer.
The general texture of the skin may be dry, oily or wet, and there may be excessive growth of hair. Dry skin shows skin complaints; oily skin is caused by overeating; wet skin indicates that the person drinks too much fluid, which in turn can affect the kidneys and may have a detrimental effect on the heart; and excessive hair, especially over the organs of the body, will show that a particular organ is under stress and is overworking.
Look at the fingernails: if there are white spots or flashes then this is a sure sign of excess consumption of sugar, sweets or fruit. There should be no half moons at the at the base of the nail; if they are present they indicate toxins in the bloodstream, and the bigger the half moons, the greater the problem. Long, thin nails are Yin whilst a short, broad nail is Yang. The natural grain of the nail should run from top to bottom. If the grains is deeply rutted or runs deeply across the nail, then it could show that there are bacteria in the intestine, or worms, and that there is a very erratic pattern of eating.
Now let us have a look at the face, which can supply us with a wealth of information. Vertical lines between the eyebrows indicate a bad liver, which will make the patient temperamental — so watch out. Erratic lines running across the forehead show a split personality, but evenly spaced parallel lines are a sign of excessive fluid consumption, so there could be an effect on the kidneys.
If the eyebrows are long and thick, this shows vitality, long life and happiness; if they are very thin this show Yin weaknesses; and if there is no eyebrow at all, cancer is indicated. The eyebrow should follow the natural curvature of the eye if you are Yang, but if you are Yin and the eyebrows turn upwards at the ends towards the temples, then it is a positive sign of weaknesses in the system, lack of vital energy, and that you have been eating too much meat for a very long time.
The eyelashes should be strong and straight but if they curl upwards then the person is Yin and it is a sign of bad health caused through the consumption of too much meat and meat products, and in a woman it shows that her ovaries are deeply contracted, so if she ever has a baby then the child is going to be affected by the same influence.
The eyes themselves have their own story to tell. Long thin eyes with the iris centralized are a sign of good health. White large round eyes denote susceptibility to colds and flu, for the general health is weak and very delicate. If both eyes turn outwards towards the ears then there is far too much toxin in the body and if the energy of the body is depleted to lower levels in the future, there is always the possibility of cancer showing its effects. On the other hand crossed eyes is a sign of being too Yang and therefore there is a tendency towards high blood pressure. If the white of the eye can be seen not only on both sides of the iris but also above it as well then the person is very Yin. Such people are cruel, will argue on the slightest pretext, and will lose their temper for no apparent reason, therefore being completely unpredictable
If the white of the eye changes in colour, then this indicates a vanety of Yin illnesses. Yellow is linked with jaundice, and red shows a liver complaint. Grey or blue means that the eyesight is declining, and if the symptom is ignored then blindness will eventually result. Coloured spots on the white of the eye near the ins denote also that there are various body malfunctions, and unless dietary improvements are made soon then the patient can exoect serious internal trouble.
Bags under the eyes, if they are soft and spongy, signify that there is too much fluid in the body, in which case the kidneys will be overworking, but if the bags have a tendency to be firm or even hard then this is a sure sign of the formation of kidney stones. Always try to look at the edge of the bottom eyelid for this is one place that make-up cannot hide. If it is white then the person is anaemic, and if it is red then there is inflammation due to infection and it has come to the surface as an outward symptom of excessive consumption of meat, sugar and fruit
Discharge of fluid from the eye generally referred to as mucus, should be slight and transparent, but if it becomes a heavier emission and yellow in colour then this points to excessive intake of dairy products. If a woman has this discolouration and extra discharge in her eyes, then she must expect to have the same density of emission from her vagina.
Even the shape of the nose will give an indication of the Yin and Yang influences. A long thin nose with small nostrils is Yin and caused simply by too much Yin food such as ice cream imitation fruit drinks, and too many drugs and medicants A fat bulbous nose shows that the person has an enlarged heart and if it is also red in colour, then the blood capillaries are under pressure and this could lead to heart trouble or heart disease. A cleft or indentation in the middle of the nose denotes that the two chambers of the heart are not the same size or that they are not working in harmony with one another, and so there is irregular beating * which is generally called heart murmur.
What about the mouth? If it is large then this indicates that there is a degeneration in the digestive system and also in the sexual organs. Thin lips or lips of different thickness show that the person is Yin. If the bottom lip is bigger than the top lip then the intestines are in trouble — a very common problem in the West. But if the top lip is swollen then this shows that the stomach is weak. If cuts or cracks appear on the lips then don’t waste time — do something about it as soon as you can, or you are going to have bowel trouble. Also ensure that you change your diet if cysts appear on the lips for it can also indicate that you have a cyst, an ulcer or a tumour in the respective region of your organs, the stomach being represented by the top lip, and the large intestine by the bottom lip.
The teeth should all be straight, uniform in size and of a standard shape. If they slope inwards this is a sign of being too Yang; if they slope outwards and have gaps between them, this indicates someone who likes to be on the go and cannot be expected to stay at home for very long. Bad teeth, tooth decay, weak teeth or pointed teeth are all Yin complaints created by bad blood or bad saliva, and all are due to very bad eating and drinking habits.
These are but a few of the many signs of ill health that can be seen on the body, and all that is necessary for diagnosis is a trained eye to recognize the symptons and the ability to know which organ or part of the body is creating the cause. Then one must know how to eradicate the cause, in order to establish good health on a permanent basis.

Using Touch

Diagnosis by touch is the most important section of all, for feeling the Pulse’ (K’anmai) or (Ghenmai) is an art that every traditional Chinese doctor learns to do first, for it is only acquired by a very delicate and sensitive touch, and experience can only come over a very long period of time and constant practice. It is said that this art goes back to nearly 3000 BC, and it is just as important today as it ever was for it can indicate immediately any irregularities in the functioning of the twelve organs of the body.
Modern Western doctors lay the tip of one finger on the radial artery and count the rhythmic pulsation of the heartbeats. The Chinese doctor places three fingers on the radial artery and by a light pressure can understand the condition of three of the Yang organs, and by a deeper and firmer pressure can appreciate the health of three of the Yin organs. By feeling the pulses on the other wrist, in a similar way, he can obtain information on the differences affecting another six organs, which are as follows:

Left radial artery Light pressureDeep pressure
Index finger Small IntestineHeart
Middle fingerGall Bladder Liver
Third fingerUrinary BladderKidneys
Right radial arteryLight pressureDeep pressure
Index finger Large IntestineLungs
Middle fingerStomachSpleen
Third fingerTriple HeaterHeart Controller
Pulse positions and internal organs

By feeling the pulses, it is possible to understand the levels of internal energy (Ch’i), and there is a vast range of different fluctuations that pass along the channels or meridians connected with the above-mentioned organs. The traditional doctor will then take the necessary steps to sedate or tonify the organs involved.
In addition to the twelve pulses mentioned, there are many other points on the body where the pulse can be taken, such as the arms, neck, head and legs, where the arteries rise fairly close to the surface of the skin.
Touch is also used to feel the strength or weakness, heat or coldness, tension or softness in various parts of the body, and to feel the extent of any lumps or bumps on the surface of the skin or internally, as well as gently feeling the severity of any fractures that have been incurred. So diagnosis through the medium of touch, which is a vast field, is extremely necessary for the full understanding of the human body. Thousands of years of practical experience within China have proved its worth over and over again, and its accuracy amazes Western practitioners.

Using the Ears

The next sense to be used in diagnosis is hearing, or the use of the ears, which can be used to detect alterations in the tones of the voice, the pitch of the voice and whether it is high or low, and whether the tone is smooth or rough. It can detect whether air is entering the lungs smoothly, or whether it has an uneven journey.
The ears can also listen to various internal activities of the body which may be in the form of creaks, clicks or rumblings in the bladder and bowel systems.

Using the Nose

Finally, the nose can be used to help or to confirm diagnosis, for the smell emanating from a person’s body through the mouth or armpits, or through the discharge of urine or motions, can indicate the part of the anatomy that is causing the trouble, and will help in the classification of the illness as well.

The ‘Eight Classifications’

In addition to these methods of examination, traditional doctors were taught, and are still trained in, the ‘Eight Classifications’ (Pan Fen Lei), which are also closely related to the Yin and Yang:

1. Yin2. Yang
3. Internal4. External
5. Cold6. Hot
7. Excess8. Deficient
Eight principles

By fully understanding the meaning and the depth of each, in conjunction with all the five methods of examination and diagnosis, Chinese traditional doctors were able to amalgamate them all into one definite conclusion. Then, and only then, was the appropriate treatment recommended.


The Taoist Ways of Healing

by Chee Soo