The fourth master of Chinese Medicine, Zhu Dan-Xi, had the opportunity to study and adapt his teachings based on the other three masters’ schools of thought – bringing together the Four Great Masters’ of Chinese Medicine.
Zhu believed that people suffered from chronic disease as a result of overindulgence in pleasurable things and activities, resulting in weakness of the yin essence. His treatments recommended temperance and use of tonic formulas, especially those that nourished the kidney and liver. He systematized his findings into four categories. He believed that all diseases were rooted in pathology due to qi, blood, phlegm or constrained emotions.
Zhu Dan-Xi (1281-1358 c.e.), from Zhejiang Province, was a descendent of Zhu Xi. Zhu Xi was a historically prominent scholar of Confucianism and was pivotal in the neo-Confucianist movement. Zhu Dan-Xi also displayed a keen mind for understanding classical theory and immersed himself deeply in the study of Confucianism.
It was said that he was a very diligent student with a fondness for memorizing the Classics. He was originally planning on a career in government and was ready to sit for the examinations, but was led to study medicine when his mother and teacher both became severely ill. After determining his path to study medicine, he sought a teacher. He was a quick study and became a noted physician in a short period of time. He was also well versed on the works and methods of the previous Masters of the Jin-Yuan medical reform movement and developed an accomplished understanding of the Neijing.
Zhu Dan-Xi came to his own conclusions about the origin of diseases. He believed that a very large component in the stagnations leading to the four categories was based in an unchecked fire in the body known as “ministerial fire.” While this heat serves to warm and animate our being in health, it can also turn inward and lead to a pathological state fueled by excessive unfulfilled desires. This longing leads to heat and friction in the body that consumes our flexibility and fluidity leading to loss of kidney yin.
His philosophies became known as the Yin Nourishing School. As the name implies, Zhu Dan-Xi placed the emphasis in treatment on the preservation and maintenance of kidney yin.
He placed emphasis on the importance of the conservation of kidney yin and essence through self-care techniques. This allows vital substances to be preserved and not squandered indiscriminately, including adapting to seasonal variations in personal endeavors, hygiene and diet.
Zhu Dan Xi was also a member of the Tai Ping Imperial Academy. As a member of this prestigious consortium he was able to elucidate his theories into a number of herbal teaching formulas. Representations of Zhu Dan-Xi’s teaching formulas included Da Bu Yin Wan (Major Yin Nourishing Pill), which contains rehmannia (shu di huang), phellodendron (huang bai), anemarrhena (zhi mu), and tortoise shell (gui ban). The first three ingredients would later become the central ingredients of the most widely used formula for yin deficiency with damp heat in the lower burner, Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan. This is the “Rehmannia Six” formula with the added ingredients of anemarrhena (zhi mu) and phellodendron (huang bai).
Zhu Dan Xi was strongly influenced by Li Dong-Yuan’s teachings and while his thrust was on yin nourishing therapies, he considered Yuan’s emphasis on homeostatic balance of the spleen and stomach integral in the replenishment of yin and fluids. He created the formula Bo He Wan (Citrus and Crataegus Formula, or Preserve Harmony Formula) to satisfy all the criteria in removing any and all impediment in the humors. This formula is in total alignment with his model of the four causes of disease.
Zhu Dan Xi wrote several books and some of his most important teachings were gathered and published as Dan Xi Zhi Fa Xin Yao (The Essential Methods of Dan Xi), which has been translated into English.
Zhu Dan Xi brought closure to the time of the Four Great Masters of Chinese Medicine. The contributions of Zhu Dan-Xi, Li Dong-Yuan, Zhang Zi-He and Li Wan-Su to Chinese medicine are comprehensive and vast. Their significance is timeless. They are teachings that shed light on what Man needs to thrive. Their collective wisdom is also a very clear commentary on what nourishes and what hampers our personal health and vitality. These teachings’ adaptability and applicability are an invaluable contribution to the cause of disease and strategies of healing.