Elisabeth Rochat De La Vallée is an internationally recognised author known for her translations of the classics. She also supervises student translations and teaches internationally. Her latest book, The Double Aspect of the Heart, explores the relationship between the heart and the pericardium/heart master; the sovereign and ministerial fire.
This book reminds us of the classical perspective where the heart comprises of a powerful duo, citing the Lingshu, Suwen, Huananzi et al. to negate the way two indivisible aspects have been divided artificially in more recent times. The Nanjing tells us there are 12 meridians and 6 fu, but only 5 zang, reiterating that while the heart has two meridians, there is only one zang. She leads us to consider such possible mechanisms for the division as the distinctly different pulse positions on the wrist which connects them more closely as heart/small intestine and pericardium/triple heater. Elisabeth uses the pathways and points of these two meridians to discuss their interrelationship and invite us to once again relate these findings to contemporary explorations. She reminds us the first pioneers to make the transmission of TCM to the West made interpretations that were influenced by the culture and political needs of that time and that much of the wisdom inherent in the classics has remained hidden, creating splintered pockets of knowledge for what is at heart a holistic art.
Considering that the heartbeat produces the all-encompassing electrical pulsation throughout the body that it does, it is not hard to understand from this physical aspect alone why the heart holds the position as sovereign. Yet the heart/mind is clearly much more than an organ that merely provides a physical function. TCM tells us that this is where the spirits dwell and through the blood the heart brings both connection and protection to the whole body. Elisabeth brings the relationship of the blood and heart into focus and also reignites our imagination in a section on the fire element to which both the ministerial and sovereign aspects belong. Personally I found the opportunity to revise the fire element from this perspective and to consider the application to clients with this constitutional element, offered me insight into ways to address related pathology. She also explores the emotions and the relationship of the heart to select sense organs.
Elisabeth undoubtedly has an expansive knowledge of the classics and is able to support translations with a cultural appreciation of the original etymology of the point characters she refers to. She is first and foremost a scholar though, and as such there are times when I find her prose puts facts before flow. However, as an advocate of true education in Chinese Medicine, this book speaks powerfully and I certainly consider it a quality addition to my reference books.
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