8 Branches of the Tao Healing Arts

Flickr - YinYang - MAMJODHJeff Nagel, MA, LAc, Guest
Waking Times

According to the ancient “Keepers of the Knowledge” from the Taoist Tradition, the evolutionary roots of Chinese Wholistic Medicine came into being at least 8,000 years ago through the first two of the 8 Branches of the Tao Healing Arts. Over the centuries the other 6 branches evolved into a unified way of life…

  1. Meditation/Self Cultivation
  2. Chi Kung/Internal Kung Fu – Tai Chi Chuan
  3. 5 Phase Nutrition, (4) Bodywork: Tui Na Acumassage/Bonesetting, Jin Chi Chinese Cranial – Spinal – Sacral Balancing, Chua Ka Deep – Tissue Self Purification Massage, Nei Kung Chi Liao – Internal Energy Diagnosis & Healing/the first healing art of China,
  4. Tao Philosophy, Cosmology, Ba Kua/I Ching Medicine
  5. Feng Shui: Environmental Chi Design & Natural Arrangement, Astrology-Numerology and the Fine Arts
  6. Herbology
  7. Acupuncture

The beginning branches are considered to be the most subtle and therefore the most powerful, as they are practiced on a personal level.  The latter branches being of a less subtle nature, miss some of the unlimited potential and power as they are done to someone or for someone.  Originally, a would-be doctor received training in the first and second branches before going on to study acupuncture & herbal medicine.  This training was developed in order to instill the arts of personal chi cultivation & self healing in the would-be practitioner before he began to treat others.  When the doctor was sick, he would give no treatments until his health was relatively restored, the idea being that it is best for the healer’s overall health to be stronger than that of the patient’s.


  • Each of the 8 Branches is essentially the study and practical application of Chi to balance and harmonize the 3 Realms: Heaven – Human – Earth.  This is the prevailing image of the Ba Kua/8 Trigrams founded by the great Taoist Sage, Fu She 80 centuries ago, predating written language in China when pictographs were commonly used.  This underlying theme is the unifying essence of all the Chinese Healing Arts gleaned through the direct cognition and observation of nature over the past thousands of years.  Whether it be with the acupuncture needle, its depth of insertion and method of manipulation, the directionality of Feng Shui architectural design and arrangement or the internal breathing/energetic connections of Tai Chi Chuan – Chi Kung, it is through these easily observed applications that the results can be so effective and profound.  Chi is ever present, the question is simply how to balance it in both the inner and outer landscapes.

    In Taoist Cosmology, time is considered to flow & ebb in various rhythmic cycles. As such, during the Communist Regime/Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s much of the ancient transmission of the knowledge was deliberately restricted and watered down for social, political and other reasons.  What emerged during that time was but the tip of the iceberg, “Traditional Chinese Medicine”- which was very far from being traditional!  A strong marriage between Western Symptomatic Medicine along with specially selected and often elementary aspects of Chinese Medicine had now been manufactured and joined into place.

    This new hybrid of Medicine almost completely overshadowed the roots of the ancient teachings as practiced for over 8 millennium since the time of Fu She, founder of the first healing art of China, Nei Kung Chi Liao.  Many of the universal, fundamental principles were either omitted, forgotten, misrepresented or misused.  In particular the Tai Chi T’u – Ba Kua Map which in its simplest form is at the very least a 4 – dimensional, binary mathematical and microcosmic model of the 3 Realms of the Universe, continues to be missing in the TCM model. This was a fundamental part of the ancient knowledge of the “Tao of Bio-Physics” and therefore, Chinese Wholistic Medicine which is derived from the diversity of nature.  Interestingly enough, thousands of years later the Tai Chi T’u – Ba Kua map is stilled used in Feng Shui, Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung, Meditation… and yet remains virtually unknown in TCM.

    Commonly this modern day system of medicine, especially as practiced in the West, relies primarily on only two of the 8 Branches, acupuncture and herbs.  It addresses in part only those health concerns within the human body while at the same time encouraging the patient to rely almost totally on the doctor/healer and tending to overlook the cultivation, empowerment and healing of the self. The external or outer environment is also often neglected or completely forgotten.  Traditionally doctors of Chinese Wholistic Medicine received payment only as long as a patient enjoyed good health.  If one became sick the doctor must treat him for free until he regained his health according to the law at the time.  A red lantern was also required to be prominently displayed outside the medical clinic for each patient who died of disease while under that doctor’s care.  These laws were upheld under penalty of death which helped to insure a high caliber of practitioner and standard of health care for the times.

    To promote external balance, this system of Natural Life Medicine includes Feng Shui (Gentle Wind-Calm Water), the sixth branch.  “Earth Acupuncture” or Environmental Chi Design & Natural Arrangement can be used to harmonize, prevent or minimize undesirable and negative influences in our surroundings on both a personal and group level.  “The science of life”- Ayurvedic Medicine from India and Tibetan Medicine, both cousins of Chinese Wholistic Medicine, along with many other time tested healing traditions around the world follow a similar approach.  Presently Medical Doctors, especially in Europe, are combining some of the ancient world wide Geomancy principles with science and developing a new branch of Western Medicine known as Geo-Pathic Medicine.

    At the core of the Teachings of the Tao which includes but is not limited to the practice of medicine, lies the virtues of Cultivation, Realization and Empowerment of the Self.  From this “Medicine of Life” springs forth the idea of the “3 Kinds of Doctors” .  The common physician treats patients when they are sick.  The advanced practitioner can diagnose and treat disease before it manifests in the physical level of the body.  The highest level of doctor has no patients nor gives any treatments or medicine.  These are the great Master Teachers that impart the “Pearls of Wisdom”, knowledge of life and the Way of Nature (Tao) to their students.  Special emphasis is placed on how to prevent and heal oneself of pain, illness and emotional disharmony…in body-mind-spirit through the self integration of the 8 Branches of the Tao.

    This ancient Life Medicine from the distant past can be a helpful guide and venerable teacher for the present as well as the future – especially in the multi-faceted & multi-dimensional aspects of Chinese Wholistic Medicine.

    About the Author

    Jeff Nagel, MA, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., is a doctor-teacher-researcher of the Tao Healing Arts and Tai Chi-Chi Kung cultivator studying Chinese Healing & Internal Marital Arts for many years.  Jeff is an experienced practitioner and well-seasoned, generous teacher of Acupuncture-Herbs, Oriental Medicine, Chi Kung and Feng Shui.  He lives in San Diego, CA and teaches workshops in Chi Kung Energy Transmission Healing, the Tao Healing Arts and Taoist I-Ching Medicine CEU classes around the US.  He has studied extensively with various masters and doctors including Taoist Grandmaster Share K. Lew, of the Yellow Dragon Monastery, China and is a 24th generation practitioner of the Taoist Elixir Style.

    Contact Information:
    Golden Dragon Health Association
    San Diego, CA., USA
    Telefax:  (619) 542-1903
    Email: judiche108@sbcglobal.net 

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