The Huangdi Neijing: The Foundational Text of East Asian Medicine

Neijing text

Neijing text

The Huangdi Neijing, or Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, is the primary source text of East Asian medicine. So important is this text, that the single defining feature that determines whether a given medical practice exists within the tradition of East Asian medicine is whether or not its practices and theories can be traced back to this original text. The Neijing itself, is not a medical textbook in the traditional sense, rather it is a collection of writings compiled by a group of unknown authors during China’s Warring States Period and Han Dynasties (475 BCE-220 CE). At this time, a revolutionary new naturalist philosophy emerged, whose ideas have served as the theoretical foundations for East Asian medicine for over 2,000 years. In this new viewpoint, the outward patterns and forms of nature were carefully studied to discern the deeper unseen patterns of motion and change that created them in order to understand the hidden governing principles of nature and the universe. From these ground breaking ideas, a comprehensive system of medicine was then established.

Neijing Nature-Based Medicine: Rediscovery of an Ancient Text Method

Despite the central role the Neijing text plays in East Asian medicine, its ideas and writings have been difficult to understand fully and over the centuries many scholars and commentators have tried to explain its full meaning. In the 1980’s, a majority of early Chinese texts were placed on computer databases. This allowed an entirely new approach to classical text research which has finally unraveled the deeper meanings of these texts. The work of classical text archeology has been the primary work of Dr. Edward Neal for the past twenty-years. From this research an entirely new vision of early Chinese medicine has emerged, in which the human body is formed by the same basic processes that create the different aspects of nature and the cosmos. In nature, there are rivers, in the body there are blood vessels, in nature there a plants and trees, in the body there are muscles and joints that move and turn and so forth, all of these are formed by the same basic patterns. This new understanding has created a universal understanding of human health and illness that brings together the greater patterns of nature and the cosmos with the design and functioning of the human body in one unified model. By telling new stories about the human experience and what it means to be alive in both health and illness, these ideas have created wholly new approaches to a variety of global health and human challenges.

In 2020, Dr. Neal formally established the name Neijing Nature-Based Medicine (NNBM) to describe these innovative ideas and approaches. Neijing Nature-Based Medicine is a formal clinical research methodology that takes new ideas derived from classical text research and studies ways to translate these ideas into contemporary global health care settings. These ideas form a bridge between early concepts of Chinese traditional medicine, deeper patterns of the cosmos and nature and the experience of human health and illness in a single unified theory of human illness.

Dr. Neal recently authored a groundbreaking 3-part series about Neijing Nature-Based Medicine, published in the Journal of Chinese Medicine and available on this website.