Chinese medicine is one of the oldest and most comprehensive medical systems in the world. It has been misunderstood in the west, mostly due to poor translations of ancient Chinese medical texts.
The Chinese correctly identified the heart and its vascular system a thousand years before the birth of Christ. The blood vessels were even categorized according to whether they flowed away from the heart (arteries) or whether they flowed toward the heart (veins.)
They stated that 3 things were flowing in the blood vessels (xue mai):
- Vital air or oxygen (qi)
- Blood (xue)
- Nutrients extracted from food (ying qi)
How they were able to determine that oxygen or “vital air” was in the blood is remarkable.
The oldest medical text that has survived is the Huang Di Nei Jing. It is composed of two parts. It is a very large volume, about a 1000 pages. The first section is on human anatomy, physiology, how the organs function and theories of disease aka pathophysiology. The second part is on treatment through acupuncture, Chinese herbs and more.
It states that we breath in what is known as the da qi. Da means great, qi means air. The lungs extract the essence of the air, aka the da qi. The qi enters into the bloodstream through the lungs, then the blood and the qi are transferred to the heart to be pumped to the entire body.
It’s truly remarkable they were able to figure this out a thousand years before Christ, because after all, it wasn’t until 1628 when Dr. William Harvey proclaimed he had discovered the circulatory system. The Chinese were talking about this 2000 years previously!
The ancient words for vessel and vital air were mistranslated in the early 1930’s by Soulie de Morant. He mistranslated the word qi as “energy” and the word mai as “meridian.”
Philologists unanimously agree that neither of these two words existed in the ancient Han language. Interestingly enough, they are two of the most commonly used words today when referencing Chinese medicine.