In Chinese medicine, autumn is linked with the metal element and the large intestine (yang) and lung (yin) organs. They are elegantly paired; one eliminates wastes, while the other receives chi (energy). We let go of the old to make way for the new.
The Chinese culture also looks at a person’s emotional or spiritual level. Holding onto old beliefs, judgments and negative thoughts can pollute our speech, our relationships, and our basic sense of self worth. If we don’t let go of what is complete, we won’t be able to move on to the next phase.
Many ancient cultures, not just the Chinese, link inhalation with inspiration. The lungs manage our body’s protective energy, helping us to fend off the wind and cold that are accompany the seasonal change. When this energy is weak, colds and flus develop. More wind causes aridity: dry lungs, cough, and skin. The skin, known in Chinese medicine as the “third lung,” can fail in its capacity to eliminate, which can lead to acne, psoriasis or eczema.
The emotion associated with metal is grief and sadness. If there is a death, on any level, a suitable quantity of grieving should happen. Then, there is an appropriate time for the sorrow to end. If weeping lungs sigh too long, a person can become drained; and this leads to fatigue.
This season is also a good period to clean your house, eliminating what is no longer of importance. Trees shed their leaves, riding themselves of items no longer of use. Yet people will clutter their home to such an extent that they don’t even know how to find the things that are important to them. If you have trouble purging yourself of unnecessary belongings, hire a personal organizer to help.
Steps to consider during autumn:
- Boost your exercise level — or any activity that increases your breath.
- Consume foods that complement the seasonal change to go inward, especially as we head towards winter. Such foods are often sour: pickles, vinegar, lemons, limes and grapefruit. Other such foods to consider: yogurt, plums, apples, and rose hip tea. To fight the dryness try barley, whole oats, millet, sweet potatoes and yams, seaweeds, almonds, pine nuts, eggs, persimmons and pears.
- Hydrate — drink lots of water
- Less is better — Let the shedding of autumn nourish the soul.
How do you prepare for Autumn?
Until next time,
10.01.13 – 10.18.13
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5 Lessons We Can Learn from Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been healing people for thousands of years. Although quite different from Western practices, there are at least five lessons that we can glean from its method and philosophy.
1. Listen – TCM practitioners pay attention to the whole body. Using their senses – sight, smell, hearing, feeling and even taste — to pick up on messages from the body. For the Eastern practitioner, a reddish complexion indicates heat. A sweet smell often points to spleen deficiency and/or dampness problems.
2. Treat the problem not just the symptoms - In most Western medicine, painkillers are prescribed for the pain. In TCM, pain is due to the non-free flow of qi (energy) and/or blood. When the qi and blood flow freely, there is no pain. Therefore, it is essential to keep our qi and blood full and moving freely for optimal health and well-being and especially for being pain free.
3. Treat the whole person – Western medicine focuses on the organs. Eastern medicine treats people as the whole – mind, body and spirit. A TCM practitioner inquires about family, diet, and life stressors, among other areas. S/he takes into consideration what’s going on in the patient’s life.
4. Health is not just about the disease, it’s also about wellness – We often see the yin-yang symbol associated with Chinese Medicine. That’s because TCM believes in keeping the body in balance. It addresses wellness as well as prevention.
5. Evidence is in the eyes of the beholder – Many who’ve been treated by Eastern remedies have said that they were able to get relief for ailments that Western treatments failed them. Could it be a placebo effect? Possibly. But even scientific research acknowledges that empirical evidence is not the only method of confirmation. For the rational mind, it’s difficult to accept that we may not be able to explain why – yet positive results have been supported.
More research in TCM practices will continue. In the meantime, it’s valuable to be open to the lessons it can provide.
What lessons have you gained through Eastern Medicine?
National Fortune Cookie Day
September 13th is National Fortune Cookie Day. Do you know their American background? Fortune cookies became common in Chinese restaurants after World War II. Since desserts were not traditionally part of Chinese cuisine, the cookies provided Americans an after meal treat with an unusual flair.
Early fortunes included Biblical sayings, or quotes from Confucius, Aesop and even Ben Franklin. Later, fortunes included lottery numbers, smiley faces, jokes, and sage, if trivial advice.
Fortune cookies were originally made by hand using a chopstick. In 1964, Edward Louie of San Francisco’s Lotus Fortune Cookie Company, automated the process by creating a machine that folds the dough and slips in the fortune. Today, the world’s largest fortune cookie manufacturer, Wonton Food Inc. of Long Island CIty, Queens ships out 60 million cookies a month.
What’s your favorite fortune cookie saying? Have you ever had a fortune come true?
During World War II, Shanghai became one of the very few places in the world that would accept European Jews fleeing from the Nazis without documentation. From Germany and Austria alone, 20,000 Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai beginning in 1938. “The main thing was to get out of Germany, and really at this point, people did not care where we went, anywhere just to get away from Germany” was what Ernest Heppner recalled about fleeing his homeland and escaping to Shanghai with his mother in 1939.Although the well-established Sephardic community prepared a social service system to aid the refugees, Shanghai was still a huge culture shock. Refugees who came to Shanghai on a European liner and served breakfast, now found themselves waiting on a line in a soup kitchen. They were very poor and jobs were hard to find. As time went on, many started to adapt. Some launched small cafes, shops, or small factories; others worked as doctors or architects. The Heppners opened up a place called Café Louis, which became a popular spot for the refugees to gather. The refugees developed their own little area called “Little Vienna” due to the cluster of European restaurants and shops.They dealt with rumors of being deported without warning. They combated diseases by soaking fruits in chemicals before eating. Bathing was an extravagance as hot water could only be bought in stores. Dormitories were filled over capacity and everyone shared a single washroom. Living situations weren’t the only thing; disease was an enormous problem. By the end of 1939, scarlet fever killed well over 100 people in shelters; and by the end of 1944, hunger and infection killed about 1,000 of the Jewish population.Even though they managed, it still wasn’t a glamorous lifestyle for the German and Austrian Jews. “The conditions in Shanghai were terrible, but it wasn’t Auschwitz,” said Ingrid Wilmot, a survivor of the hard times.Most survivors left China in the late 1940s; and they refrained from talking much about the experience. China recently opened the Shanghai Jewish Museum to honor their history.Resources:http://www.jewishtimesasia.org/shanghai/262-shanghai-communities/46-shanghai-china-jewish-communityhttp://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007091http://articles.latimes.com/1997/jul/15/news/mn-12725http://www.shanghaijews.org.cn/english/
“Double Happiness” is a popular Chinese character. The symbol is a favorite sign that represents love, happiness and good luck. Prominently displayed at weddings,, you can find it everywhere – invitations, the cake, table decorations and even wrapping paper! It’s often represented in paper cut outs as well as on red pieces of paper. Like many facets of Chinese culture, there’s a tale behind its origins.
During the ancient Tang Dynasty, a young boy was travelling towards the capital to attend a national final exam. If he did well, he would be selected as a minister in the courts. On the way to his exam he suddenly fell ill and was taken into a house where an herbalist and his daughter lived. The boy recovered quickly with the herbs that the herbalist and his daughter had given him.
While there, he had fell very much in love with the herbalist’s daughter. When he left, the herbalist’s daughter wrote part of a couplet for the young boy: “Green trees against the sky in the spring rain while the sky set off the spring trees in the obscuration.” He promised to come back to her after his examination.
The boy took the exam and passed. He received the highest score! The emperor then tested and interviewed the winners. The boy was asked to finish a couplet, which needed a right part to finish. As the emperor wrote “Red flowers dot the land in the breeze’s chase while the land colored up in red after the kiss.” The boy realized that the herbalist’s daughter’s part fit ideally with this. Without hesitation, the boy answered with the girl’s couplet. The pleased emperor made the young boy the minister of the court. As part of the reward, the emperor allowed the boy to visit his hometown before assuming office. The boy then met with the girl and told her the emperor’s couplet. They then married.
On their wedding day, the couple both doubled the Chinese character of happy to express their delight. From then on, it became a social custom.
What are the symbols in your life that represent happiness?
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Chinese Wedding: The Bride
The Chinese marriage is a revered ceremony. The traditional event signifies the transition from childhood to adulthood. The Chinese wedding dress one of the most important elements. A “good luck woman” attends the preparation of the bride and speaks words of wisdom to her.
The style of the bridal dress varies in each region, but always includes the color red, which symbolizes good luck and guards against evil spirits. It also indicates prosperity, joy and love. You’ll rarely see dark colors as they denote sorrow and grief in the Chinese tradition.
Depending on the region, it can either be one or two pieces. If you are a Chinese bride living in the North, you wear what it is called a “qi pao” or “cheongsam”, which is a form fitting, long, one-piece garment embroidered with elaborate gold and silver designs. If you are a Chinese bride living in the South, you wear what is called a “hung qua”, which is a two-piece garment that consists of a long decorative jacket over a long embroidered skirt also elaborately decorated with the golden phoenix and dragon.
In extravagant situations, the bride wears a crown-like headdress, often made of silver and decorated with pearls and feathers. This adornment may also feature a red silk veil which covers the bride’s face as she makes the transition coming from her family’s home to her husband’s home. In the previous generations, the bride would wear this veil to cover her face for the entire ceremony. The newlyweds do not see each other until the night of their wedding.
Before the wedding, the bride bathes in water infused with pomelo or pomegranate leaves. The Good Luck Lady performs the hair combing ceremony, known as “shutou” to further bless the bride with luck for a bountiful union.The four bridal comb blessings include: (1) First combing ensures that bride and groom will be together all their lives, (2) Second combing brings harmony to the marriage, (3) Third combing blesses the couple with many children and grandchildren, (4) Fourth combing is a blessing for longevity.
What cultural traditions do you like to include in your wedding?
Until next time,
Jewish Refugees of Shanghai during WW II
- Jewish “Little Vienna” neighborhood in Shanghai, circa 1930s (Courtesy of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum)
I’m a woman of Chinese heritage who converted to Judaism after a long personal and soul-examining journey. The connection had surprised even me. So much so, that I searched for a link that would tie these two seemingly different cultures together. In an unusual discovery, I found there was a historical connection: World War II.
Young Jewish Refugee surrounded by Chinese friends (Courtesy of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum)
From the early 1930s to mid-1940s, approximately 20,000 stateless Jewish refugees fled Hitler’s wrath and horrific Nazi persecution to one of the few places that would accept them without the required and hard-to- obtain immigration visa – Shanghai. This fascinating and little-known past had me captivated –I had to learn more.
Serendipitously, I discovered a Jewish Tour of China, being led by Professor Xu Xin of Nanjing University. It turned out that Professor Xu Xin is one of the premiere experts on Jewish history in China. So in 2003 I traveled with him and a small group through China and Shanghai.
The highlight of the trip for me was of course our time in Shanghai. Here we visited the Hongkew District, walked along the Bund, where many of the buildings of the 1930s still stand, and the longtangs where the Chinese resided and operated their businesses. We also went to the synagogue frequented by the WWII Jewish population. Here I met the elderly Chinese caretaker who was there during those times. I felt a bridge to the people who fascinated me so.
The intermingling of cultures here has and continues to be a source of inspiration for me, so much so that I wrote the recently published novel, Shanghai Love.
Who would have known that it would’ve caused such attention about the subject? I’ve been inundated with questions about the history, the people and cultures. Happily surprised and with so much rich material to share, I’ll explore these and other related topics here in my blog.
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And please comment and let me know your thoughts and connections. I look forward to hearing from you!
Until next time,