In Chinese Medicine we tend to look at the transformational aspect of the myriad beings. And with good reason, because this is how we treat disease. Yet, it is the functionality that brings Chinese Medicine diagnostic methods together and connects it to the past.
The concepts of Qian heaven and Kun earth represent the functionality of Qi. Qi can be defined as having two different aspects, namely yang and yin. Both yang and yin have two distinct aspects. One aspect is how it functions and the other is how it transforms and changes into living beings.
This is reflected in chapter 5 from the Yellow Emperor’s Classic, Hence, the accumulation of yang that is heaven, the accumulation of yin, that is earth. Yin is tranquility, yang is agitation. Yang gives life, yin stimulates growth. Yang declines, yin stores. Yang transforms qi, yin completes physical appearance.
The first part of the text, the accumulation of yang that is heaven, the accumulation of yin, that is earth, is referring to heaven and earth as function, and its aspects are tranquility and agitation.
The second part of the text, Yang gives life, yin stimulates growth. Yang declines, yin stores. Yang transforms qi, yin completes physical appearance, is referring to how yang and yin interact and become the fundamental principals governing the myriad beings.
In Chinese Medicine we work with the concepts of fire and water. This emphasizes the importance of form. Form is the way fire and water manifest in the body. Yet, we must never forget the importance of function. Function is best represented by the concepts of Qian heaven and Kun earth.
Fire and water each have a direction that it associates with. Fire corresponds with the south, and water with the north. Both Qian heaven and Kun earth have no location of their own. Which means that they are constantly present in all of the theoretical models concerning yin and yang. In fact understanding Qian heaven and Kun earth will unify and connect the concepts of the five agents and the six conformations.
Have you ever wondered why there are five agents and not six. If yin and yang give birth to the five elements, then why are there five and not an even number? This question has troubled me since I was a student. It always seemed unlikely that the two yin and yang images could make five subdivisions. Why are there two sorts of yang called heat and fire in the six qi? Why is the name of the shao yang ministerial fire conformation have no location? Tai yang cold water of the north has a location, the north. All these questions can be answered by Qian heaven and Kun earth having no location of their own.
The concepts of Qian heaven and Kun earth form the base of Chinese Medicine. Together they give birth to Chinese Medicine.
They are the functional aspects of yin and yang qi. The interaction of Qian heaven and Kun earth creates the concepts of Li fire and Kan water. Fire and water are how Qian heaven and Kun earth take form in all beings.
The words Qian, Kun, Li, and Kan come from the I Ching naming of the accompanying trigrams. .
It is the concepts of Qian heaven and Kun earth that connect us to the eternal Dao.
Chinese Medicine, the I Ching, and Daoism form a trilogy. One part can be better understood by learning another part.
We tend to think of the five agents or elements and the six conformations as two separate theories. They are in fact just one concept and understanding Qian heaven and Kun earth makes this clear.
We can say that Qian heaven and Kun earth are omnipresent in all of Chinese Medicine. We should never forget their presence and role in the transforming and growing of the myriad things.