Living in our contemporary world dominated by abstract, universalizing and modernistic temporal systems such as the Gregorian Calendar (with its Northern Hemispherical bias) and Greenwich Mean time (with its de-localizing bias of ‘universal time’) presents huge challenges for those of us living in the various localities in both hemispheres of the globe wishing to follow health practices according to the principles of living in harmony with local space, local time and local culture. For those of us in the South who wish to follow traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there is the added challenge of practicing TCM according to the foundation principles of differentiating clinical patterns and associating yao (‘remedies’). This is a practice based on situated health practice dispensed in accordance with defined complex temporal phases set on the basis of the ancient Northern Hemispherical Traditional Chinese Calendar (TCC) Li fa.
In the prologue to his book On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900, Benjamin Elman observed that ‘like their classicist counterparts in sixteenth-century Europe, the Chinese authors of natural histories sought to identify and classify natural phenomena through correct use of language of words. For them, all phenomena originated from the stuff of the world (qi) formed through the spontaneous shaping of all things (zaohua) by some sort of ultimate shaping force (zaohua zhu) or internal power (zaowu zhu). They mediated efforts to make sense of the world of things through their prevailing social, political and cultural hierarchies.’ Therefore, the stuff of the world qi acts, translates, defines, flows, gets stuck and then gets unstuck. When qi ‘clots’ ju there is life. When qi disperses san, there is death and a new form of life. Qi assumes a Yin and Yang life, a motion dichotomizing into ‘clotting’ (yin) and dispersion (yang), descending (yin) and ascending (yang) and finally a new form of life. These are the Yin and Yang expressions and transformations ab initio of qi. Here, yin and yang are regarded as the basic attributes of all things.1 This qi is a translating and mediating element in the configuration of yin and yang.2
“The Primary qi in the celestial sphere assumes no visible form that one can see. Observing and following the flow of the shi chen (two hour periods/ twelve lunar months) on Earth to which the handle of the Big Dipper points out to, one can come to realize its (qi) presence”.3 And this visibility is materialized in the Traditional Chinese Calendar (TCC) as the temporo-spatial forms of the ‘four seasons’, twenty four solar terms, and the sexagenary year, months, days, and two-hour periodic cycles. However, this premodern time system has been replaced by the Western modern time system. One of the political consequences of the the 1911 Revolution in China was the demise of the TCC. On January 2, 1912, Sun Yat-sen informed all provinces that participated in the uprising against the the Qing imperial rule that the yin calendar (TCC) had been abolished and replaced by the yang calendar (The Gregorian Calendar). On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China adopted the Gregorian Calendar. The modern time system replaced the premodern traditional time system. The TCC was translated in a one-sided fashion into the image of the ‘universe’ of the Western Gregorian Calendar and the Greenwich Mean Time. The ‘primordial unity of the ‘system of space’ with the ‘system of time ‘ was replaced by the Newtonian ‘doctrine of absolute space and time’.
The late Shu Hsien-liu contended that ‘space and time are not to be separated from the actual content or happenings of the world, material and spiritual... The universe or yu zhou is seen by the Chinese philosophers to embrace within itself a physical world as well as a spiritual world, so interpenetrated with each other as to form an inseparable whole. It is not to be bifurcated, as is done in Western thought into two realms which are mutually exclusive or even diametrically opposed.’ This is a received view in modern science which looks at all knowledge including the premodern traditional Chinese natural studies as ‘a mere abstraction of the world out there.’
The late Bruno Latour referred to ‘translation’ as the interpretation given by fact-builders of their interests and those of the people they enrol. In his seminal work Science in Action, he writes, "It should be clear why I used the word translation. In addition to its linguistic meaning (relating version in one language to versions in another) it also has a geometric meaning (moving from one place to another). Translating interests means at once offering new interpretations of their interests and channeling people in different directions".4
This offers the possibility of a local and situated interpretation of other knowledge systems. I translate Li fa into the local conditions in various countries and regions of both Northern and Southern Hemispheres. I have adapted the core principles of TCC to produce a calendar that is synchronized with the Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). In this enantiodromia5 yin-yang time system, the temporal (yang)-spatial (yin) sexagenary ‘heavenly stems’ (yang) and ‘earthly branches’ (yin) cyclical symbols representing the year, months, days, and twelve double-hour time periods of the TCC are orchestrated with the years, months and days of the modern Gregorian calendar and the 24-hour system of UTC. This dual time system is a "symphony of alternating rhythms whereby spatial elements (in front yin -behind yang) and temporal elements (before yin-after yang) become inseparable".6
I am developing this time system into an I-phone appliance7 that can perform this integrated time system into the different time zones of the world thereby reconstructing the ‘unified field if existence’ of such disciplines as Chinese chronobiology, chronoacupuncture, feng shui, traditional Chinese organic farming, and Chinese prognosticational systems of fortelling major climactic events like floods, drought, pandemics, earthquakes etc in various localities in both hemispheres of the planet.
Cang Xiao He, Ziran kexue shi jian bian (A concise edition of the history of natural science) Beijing chubanshe, Xi an,1983, p. 211)
R. Tiquia, Traditional Chinese Medicine as an Australian Tradition of Health Care, University of Melbourne Custom Book Centre, (Thesis Series), Melbourne, p. 173.
Chan Yu Tang Foreword, Chen Shu Tang, Ziwuliuzhu sho au (Demystifying Chronoacupuncture), Beijing: Renmin weisheng chubanshe, 1991, p.7.
Bruno Latour, 1987, Science in Action: how to follow scientists and engineers through society, Harvarrd University Press, Cambridge (Mass), 108-117.
The word 'enantiodriomia' is a combination of the words ' enantio' (opposites) and 'dromos' (running). So the word 'enantiodromia' means 'to run in contrary ways.' [Lesley Brown (ed.), 1993, New Shorter Oxford Dictionary , Oxford: Clarendon Press, Vol.l 1, p. 812].
Marie-Louise von Franz, Number and Time Reflections Leading toward a Unification of Depth Psychology and Physics, Andrea Dykes (trans), Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974, 95.
This is a chronoacupuncture app which can be deployed and used in various time zones all over the world. Here a link to a Silicon Beach pitch night where I explained the mechanics of this app.
Dr. Rey Tiquia is a Technoscience philosopher with the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne. He is a qualified practitioner of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). He took his BA from Manuel Luis Quezon University, Manila, Philippines, and his MSc and Ph.D. degrees in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne, Australia. Rey does research in qualitative social research, sociological theory and medical anthropology. His current project is 'Restoring the Chinese Calendar Li fa and the Cosmic Breath Qi to the Real World.' Rey speaks and writes in Chinese (modern and classical), English, Tagalog and Spanish.