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location: Frist page History & Culture Ji Kang’s Ideas about Life Nurturing (Ⅱ)
2018-07-31
Ji Kang’s Ideas about Life Nurturing (Ⅱ)

II. His ideas of regarding one’s Shen (spirit, 神) as important (“Guishen (贵神)” in Chinese)

Ji Kang explained his ideas of regarding one’s Shen as important during the process of Life nourishing in his monographs Life Nurturinglun (The Theory of Life Nourishing) and Danan Life Nurturinglun (Answers to questions about Life Nurturinglun).

Although Ji Kang said that “Junzi (a superior person) knows that the human body and the Shen are interdependent”, he regarded Shen’s role as more important: “The Shen to a body is like the king to a country. Shen’s disorder can do harm to human body, just like the king’s fatuity can make a country perish.” He suggested that “People should deeply understand the difficulty of keeping healthy. Small negligence may breed heavy loss.” So he put forward the method of maintaining Shen: “Keep smooth mood to maintain Shen and make your body healthy”, “Don’t be overly emotional”, “Use the method of Tu Na (exhaling and inhaling) and eat healthy food to coordinate your body and Shen and improve their conditions together”.

Traditional Chinese medicine theories regard Shen as the ruler of life. “A person will die without Shen (One’s mental functions such as sentiment, ambition and inner peace).” (quoted from Lingshu Tiannianpian) By obtaining inner peace and smooth mood can a person enjoy health and longevity. “A person’s heart is like the king’s palace, where immortals can be summoned. ... thus, if the king is wise, the common people in his country can lead harmonious lives. And if a person's Shen is always in good status, he can lead a long life.” (quoted from Suwen Linglanmidianlun) Ancient Chinese Life Nurturing theories attach importance to preserving the body and the Shen together. Preserving Shen is more emphasized. To make one's body healthy, one should make his or her Shen healthy first. “If a person only cares about his body and ignore the status of his Shen, he can’t live long. Because the body is only a carrier of Shen. With out Shen, human cannot survive.” (quoted from Yujian) “We should put the maintenance of Shen in the first place and the caring of the body in the second.” (quoted from Yiwenleiju) The maintenance of Shen is to maintain psychological health. Proper Shen-maintaining method can enable a person to be sane, calm, stable, pleasant, make his Qi and blood flow smoothly, and get him an unobstructed meridian. The maintenance of the body is to do physical exercises and strengthen one's limbs, muscles, joints, derma and tendons. The maintenance of Shen is the base of Life nourishing, while the maintenance of the body has a comparatively low priority. The real way of Life nourishing is to maintain one's Shen and body at the same time. Ancient Chinese medicine and Life Nurturing theories emphasize that “The best way of Life nourishing is to cultivate one's mind.” Laozi suggested people to “have a pure heart without excessive desires”. Zhuangzi suggested that “Having no excessive desire is the core of moral.” Neijing suggested that people can get longevity through the maintenance of Shen. “If a person can be immune to excessive desires and evil intentions, he can live a long and healthy life.” (quoted from Suwen Shanggutianzhenlun)

Ji Kang’s ideas of regarding one’s Shen as important partly came from his political demand as well. According to Zong Baihua, The period of Han, Wei and Six Dynasties is the most politically-disordered and socially-turbulent era in Chinese history. In the hash political environment, Ji Kang still refused to play up to the Sima family and preserved his integrity. He described himself in Letter Breaking off Relations with Shan Juyuan: “I want to get rid of political affairs and preserve my own nature.” He also used his Guishen ideas to protect his thinking’s independence and show his offbeat attitude. Another starting point of his ideas was his need of Life nourishing. He said: “I become calm and peaceful.” “To gain fame and official position in the present political environment is immoral, so I will never do it.” “I refuse to eat delicious but greasy food, because they do harm to my health.” He reached the realm of “being immune to external things and maintaining pure Shen and Qi” to “become peaceful, get rid of miseries” ,“concentrate and be calm to stay healthy”. Literary works are always deeply influenced by the writer’s spirit. Ji Kang’s idea of Guishen and his way of maintaining mental health contributed a lot to his literary achievements.

(By Niu Aijun)

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