This painting/carving was imprinted within the tomb of Mawangdui Han, who was buried in 168 B.C. The ancient manuscript depicts the different positions related to channeling one’s qigong, or chi energy. This spiritual energy was highly regarded (and is still highly regarded) as a leading cause in influencing one’s well-being, both mentally and physically. Any disruption in this energy is seen to cause physical illness, and mental distress. In this specific energy, different exercise and meditative positions are described in ways that were believed to open up one’s qigong channels, thus promoting health and well-being, and improved livelihood of a person.
For thousands of years, this style of thinking has ruled over traditions in the East, spanning throughout most of Asia, and is even practiced in some areas of the West. This is described in Eastward Journeys chapter in the book, The Cure Within. This chapter describes the transition from the quantitative, “hard-science based” methodology of diagnosing disease solely based on strict, medical tests, to a more lenient kind of medicine, which was focused more on the effects the mind had on the body. These new methods were adopted from a different perspective, which relied more on the effects that the mind could have on the body. The energy by which the mind affected the body was known as qigong, and several practices such as meditation and acupuncture, which are mentioned on pages 222-230, describe how calming the mind and fixing blockages in this chi energy was shown to not only reduce stress, but also cure certain ailments (especially pain).
With the new changes implemented in Western medicinal organizations, which included training doctors in a novel way (with a bigger focus on curing patients with medicine, rather than empathizing with them), many patients sought out different approaches into looking at curative medicine. This new exploration led to a new era of integration, where a combination of chemical and spiritual healing was used to both diagnose, and treat patients. This Eastern-Western combination used the best of both worlds, implementing chemical treatment when curing disease, and implementing spiritual disease to answer the question “why am I sick?” By realizing that people’s methods of thinking could affect their health, focus on medication and relaxation, along with certain exercises (as seen in the ancient painting), provided people with a belief that their minds could not only change their bodies, but could also change the way they felt about life.
With this in mind, one of the most interesting aspects of the tomb painting was the fact that over the course of thousands of years, the belief that a mind-body connection exists has been passed on through several generations, and is found throughout our world now. The most important aspect of this new medicine was the fact that it could be self-administered; that is, you didn’t have to go do a doctor or get some artificial drug to cure your sicknesses. Instead, relaxation, self-reflection, and a combination of movements and needles (acupuncture) were seen to be as preventative and curative as most “Western medicines.” This dramatic paradigm shift opened up the world to a new way of looking at life, and often began new studies that looked at both the possible effects that the mind, and body could have on the physical and spiritual well-being of people.
“Mawangdui Archaeological Discoveries.” Beijing Digital Museum of Technology and Science. Accessed February 15, 2015. http://www.tcm-china.info/art/2012/11/22/art_2420_63547.htm
Harrington, Anne. “Eastward Journeys.” InThe Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine, 222-230. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.