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September 2022

Acupunct Electrother Res. 1992 ; 17(1): 7-14.

The origin of the five elements in the traditional theorem of acupuncture: a preliminary brief historic enquiry.

Liao SJ.

New York University Dental Center, New York.

Five Xing is an important integral in the traditional theoretic basis of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. The word Xing has been translated as Element. However, it actually denotes movement and activity. The word element implies a stationary state. Some of the evidence in ancient Chinese literature was reviewed to support the hypothesis that Five Xing were originally meant to be the Five Xing Xin (Moving Stars, i.e., Planets). By the 4th century B.C., associations of the Stars with human events gradually evolved. However, between the 4th and the 6th century A.D., when the Taoist scholar-physicians expanded the Five Xing into abstractive concepts, they used the five basic materials as their representatives. Since they were basically alchemists and not astronomers, they apparently minimized the relationship between the Five Moving Stars and the human illnesses. It is, therefore, proposed that the usage of the word Element be discontinued and the word Xing be employed as is.

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