Acupuncture and medicines unable to remedy.
Zhang Wuji was so unschooled in the practice of acupuncture that blood started spurting out of Chang Yuchun’s Kai Yuan acupoint. Located in the abdomen, it was one of the vital points of the body. Thus, the sight of the gushing blood threw Zhang Wuji into a panic at once. Suddenly, someone laughed loudly behind him. The boy turned around and saw Hu Qingniu standing with his hands behind his back, watching his desperate attempts to stem the flow of the blood with a smirk on his face.
Holding Zhang Wuji’s wrists, Hu Qingniu suddenly realised that the boy’s pulse thumped in such an unusual manner that he could not help but pay closer attention to the strange and irregular beats. Could this child have been struck by the ‘Mystical Palm Technique of Profound Darkness’ (Xuan2 Ming2 Shen2 Zhang3)? he asked himself. But this technique has been lost for such a long time that there is no one left who knows how to use it. If it is not the Mystical Palm Technique of Profound Darkness, what is it? Yet, there is no technique that can produce a cold and deadly toxin as this. It is also very amazing that the child has not died, despite having been poisoned for a long time. Yes, that old Taoist Zhang Sanfeng must have used his rich internal strength to keep him alive. Now, with the toxins stuck in his internal organs, only the deities can save his life. He picked the boy up and put him back into the chair.
By and by, Zhang Wuji regained consciousness and saw Hu Qingniu seated opposite him, staring at the flames on the stove that he used to boil medicinal brews. On the other hand, Chang Yuchun was stretched out on the grass outside the door. Each occupied with his own thoughts, no one said anything to anyone else.
Having dedicated his entire life to the study of medicine and healing, Hu Qingniu could cure the most terrible of diseases and ailments. As a result, he became known as the ‘Sage of Healing’, giving proof to the amazing extent of his skills and abilities. Yet, he had never seen the toxins that were created by the Mystical Palm Technique of Profound Darkness all his life, and a long-term survivor who had this deadly poison in his internal organs was even more unbelievable. Like the wine-lover who found an exquisite brew and the glutton who smelt the fragrance of meat, how could he pass up such an invaluable opportunity to display his prowess? After thinking for half a day, the eccentric physician, who had initially refused to treat Zhang Wuji, finally came up with a wonderful solution to his personal dilemma: First, I will cure him. Then, I will make him die.
However, it was easier said than done to have the toxins in the boy’s internal organs expelled. After more than two shichen (four hours) of deep thought, Hu Qingniu finally took out twelve bronze slivers, gathered up his internal strength and began inserting the tiny pieces into twelve different acupoints on Zhang Wuji’s body. These included the Zhong Ji (Zhong1 Ji2), Tian Tu (Tian1 Tu1) and Jian Jing (Jian1 Jing3) acupoints on his abdomen, neck and shoulder respectively. The Zhong Ji acupoint was located at the confluence of the three Yin Channels of the Foot (Zu2 San1 Yin1 Jing1) and the Channel of Ren (Ren4 Mai4), while the Tian Tu acupoint was located at the confluence of the Channels of Yinwei (Yin1 Wei1) and Ren. As for the Jian Jing acupoint, it was found at the confluence of the Hand Shaoyang Channel (Shou3 Shao4 Yang2 Jing1), the Foot Shaoyang Channel (Zu2 Shao4 Yang2 Jing1), the Foot Yangming Channel (Zu2 Yang2 Ming2 Jing1) and the Yangwei Channel (Yang2 Wei1 Mai4).
Consequently, the twelve bronze slivers served to block each one of the Twelve Regular Channels (Shi2 Er4 Jing1 Chang2 Mai4, or Zheng4 Jing1 Shi2 Er4 Mai4) and the Eight Extraordinary Channels (Qi2 Jing1 Ba1 Mai4) in the boy’s body. The five primary internal organs (a.k.a. Wu3 Zang4) — the heart, lungs, spleen, liver and kidneys — as well as the pericardium, were considered y in elements in traditional Chinese medical practice, while the six secondary organs (a.k.a. Liu4 Fu3) — the stomach, large intestines, small intestines, gall bladder, urinary bladder and the Three Visceral Cavities (a.k.a. San3 Jiao1) — were considered yang elements. Together, these were known as the Twelve Regular Organs. The pulses of Ren, Du (Du1), Chong (Chong1), Dai (Dai4), Yinwei, Yangwei, Yinjiao (Yin1 Jiao1) and Yangjiao (Yang2 Jiao1) were neither Yin nor Yang in their movements, so they were known as the Eight Extraordinary Pulses(1).
The blocking of these Daily Organs and Extraordinary Pulses had the effect of containing the toxins in Zhang Wuji’s body in their various locations. Then, Hu Qingniu burnt dried moxa leaves on the Yun Men (Yun2 Men2) and Zhongfu (Zhong1 Fu3) acupoints on the boy’s shoulder, as well as the Tian Fu (Tian1 Fu3), Xia Bai (Xia2 Bai2), Chi Ze (Chi3 Ze2), Kong Zui (Kong3 Zui4), Lie Que (Lie4 Que1), Jing Qu (Jing1 Qu2), Da Yuan (Da4 Yuan1), Yu Ji (Yu2 Ji4) and Shao Shang (Shao4 Shang1) acupoints along the entire length of his arm. These eleven acupoints were collectively known as the Hand Taiyin Channel of the Lung (Shou3 Tai4 Yin1 Fei4 Jing1), so the heat from the burning of the moxa leaves could remove some of the toxins there. For Zhang Wuji, the terrible discomfort caused this heat-based treatment was vastly different from the massive chills he suffered whenever he had a toxin attack. After the Hand Taiyin Channel of the Lung was done, the Foot Yangming Channel of the Stomach (Zu2 Yang2 Ming2 Wei4 Jing1) and the Hand Jueyin Channel of the Pericardium (Shou3 Jue2 Yin1 Xin1 Bao1 Jing1) were next ….
Hu Qingniu did not care whether the treatment caused Zhang Wuji any pain, and his use of the moxa leaves soon left dark burnt patches of skin all over the boy’s body. On his part, Zhang Wuji refused to show a single sign of weakness: You want to make me yell in pain, but I am not even going to make the slightest fuss. Therefore, he smiled and talked as if nothing was wrong, engaging Hu Qingniu in an animated discussion of the various acupoints and their locations. Although he knew next to nothing about medical practice, his godfather, Xie Xun, had taught him the various methods of blocking and releasing acupoints as well as the techniques of repositioning them. As a result, he knew exactly where each acupoint was. Such knowledge paled in comparison with the immense understanding of the renowned physician, of course, but since it touched a little on the principles of medicine, it served to get Zhang Wuji into Hu Qingniu’s good books. Consequently, both of them chatted endlessly as the physician went about burning more moxa leaves on the boy’s skin.
Zhang Wuji did not understand almost everything that the physician told him, yet he wanted to show the man that “my Wudang School knows all these things as well”. So, every now and then, he would throw in a fallacy and argue his point, while Hu Qingniu took time to explain the error in detail. By and by, the physician realised that “this little fellow is just spouting nonsense in total ignorance”, so all his explanations had been a waste of time and effort. Fortunately, Hu Qingniu did not have any companions in this remote valley, except for the two pages who helped him to cook, clean and make medicinal brews. As a result, he found himself cherishing the rambling discussion on acupoints that his young patient had come up with.
By the time Hu Qingniu was finished with the moxibustion of all the acupoints that were related to the Twelve Regular Organs, it was already dusk. The pages served a dinner of rice and vegetables on the table before taking a tray of food out to Chang Yuchun, who was still sprawled on the grass.
That night, Chang Yuchun slept outside, and Zhang Wuji did not bother make a single request of Hu Qingniu to let his hapless nephew in. Instead, he went out at bedtime and lay down to sleep beside Chang Yuchun in a silent indication of his willingness to share in the man’s troubles. Hu Qingniu pretended not to see the goings-on, yet he could not help but be amazed by the boy’s actions: This little fellow is indeed different from other children.
Early the next morning, Hu Qingniu started the moxibustion treatment on Zhang Wuji’s Eight Extraordinary Channels, taking almost half the day before he was done. These stagnant pulses did not have the benefit of the free-flowing arteries and veins that coursed through Twelve Regular Organs, so it was a lot more difficult to expel the toxins that had found their way there. After that, Hu Qingniu prepared a prescription that used the reverse method of combatting the cold with something even colder. Consequently, Zhang Wuji shook and shivered for half a day after consuming the brew, before emerging with a marked improvement in his health.
Then, Hu Qingniu spent the later part of the day treating Zhang Wuji with acupuncture. The boy tried to provoke the physician into treating Chang Yuchun as well, but Hu Qingniu did not react much to his words, except to say, “My nickname, the ‘Healing Sage of Butterfly Valley’, is not entirely correct, for how can I call myself a ‘Sage’ in vain? I like it better if people refer to me as ‘The One who Ignores the Dying’.”
At that time, he happened to be pushing a needle into the Wu Shu (Wu3 Shu1) acupoint between Zhang Wuji’s waist and thigh. This acupoint was located in the confluence of the Foot Shaoyang Channel and the Dai Channel, about one-and-a-half cun (5 cm) beside the urinary tract.
“The Dai Channel must be one of the strangest things in a person’s body,” said Zhang Wuji. “Mr Hu, do you know that there are people who do not have the Dai?”
“Rubbish!” answered Hu Qingniu. “How can a person not have the Dai?”
The boy was spouting nonsense, of course, but he went on, “There are many people under the sun, so any oddity is possible. Besides, I do not see much purpose in the existence of the Dai.”
“Well, it is true that the Dai is more special than the other channels of the body,” said Hu Qingniu, “but how can you say that it has no purpose? Mediocre physicians who do not understand its functions often prescribe the wrong treatments and medicines for it. I have written a book called ‘A Discussion of the Dai Channel’ (Dai4 Mai4 Lun4). Read it and you will understand why it exists.” He disappeared into an inner room and emerged a moment later with a thin hand-written book with yellowing pages, which he passed to his young patient.
Zhang Wuji opened the first page and read: “The channels of the Twelve Regular Organs and the Eight Extraordinary Pulses run through the entire body, but the Dai Channel circulates only in the abdomen … ” The book went on to comment on the errors that physicians had made since ancient times: In ‘The Functions of the Fourteen Channels’ (Shi2 Si4 Jing1 Fa1 Hui1), the Dai was said to contain four acupoints, but in ‘Successful Acupuncture’ (Zhen1 Jiu3 Da4 Cheng2), the Dai was described as having six acupoints. However, none were correct, for its acupoints numbered ten altogether. Two of these were so well-hidden that they were usually missed out.
Zhang Wuji did not understand many of the things he read in the book, but he realised that its contents and views were extraordinary. Consequently, he took the opportunity to discuss some of the errors that the ancient physicians had made.
Hu Qingniu was so pleased that he responded to all the boy’s questions and remarks until he had finished inserting gold needles into each of the ten acupoints of the Dai Channel. After telling Zhang Wuji to take a rest, he added, “I have another book, ‘The Manual of Acupuncture and Moxibustion for the Meridians(2)’ (Zi3 Wu3 Zhen1 Jiu3 Jing1), which records all the painstaking research that I have done through the years.” He went into the inner room again and came out with a hand-written tome so thick that it had to be separated into twelve smaller books.
All these years of living in isolation in the remote valley had turned Hu Qingniu in a very lonely man. Although he had a constant stream of patients, they were only interested in speaking praise for his unparalleled abilities as the healer of a million ailments. Unfortunately, he had already grown tired of hearing these words more than twenty years ago. As a physician, Hu Qingniu prided himself not in the exquisiteness of his abilities, but in the massive body of research, discoveries and techniques that he had accumulated in his lifetime. He knew that he had an extraordinary accomplishment in his hands, yet there was no one to share it with, except himself, the lonely inhabitant of a desolate valley. Therefore, when Zhang Wuji showed pleasure in reading the books that he had authored, Hu Qingniu felt as if he had found a friend who could understand his heart. Thus, he was more than happy to share his best work with this young patient who had no inkling what medicine and its practices were.
When Zhang Wuji opened the books, he found that each page was filled with characters as tiny as the head of a fly, detailing the acupoints, herbal prescriptions and methods of acupuncture for a mind-boggling array of diseases and ailments. A sudden thought entered his head: If I read on, perhaps I will find a way to heal Brother Chang’s injuries. He picked up the ninth book, which was labelled ‘The Pugilistic Arts’, turned to the section on ‘Treating Injuries Caused by Palm Techniques’, and began his search. There were the Red-Sand Palm Technique (Hong2 Sha1 Zhang3), the Iron-Sand Palm Technique (Tie3 Sha1 Zhang3), the Poison-Sand Palm Technique (Du2 Sha1 Zhang3), the Silken Palm Technique (Mian2 Zhang3), the Mountain-Opening Palm Technique (Kai1 Shan1 Zhang3), the Tablet-Breaking Palm Technique (Po4 Bei1 Zhang3) … all sorts of palm-strike injuries were listed, together with detailed descriptions of their symptoms and treatments. After reading through 180 different varieties, the words ‘Heart-Splitting Palm Technique’ (Jie2 Xin1 Zhang3) popped up.