Equations are not being displayed properly on some articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Our apologies.

Sweeney, J. (2006). Chinese Medical Divination. PHILICA.COM Article number 25.

ISSN 1751-3030  
Log in  
  1340 Articles and Observations available | Content last updated 21 February, 07:32  
Philica entries accessed 3 649 976 times  

NEWS: The SOAP Project, in collaboration with CERN, are conducting a survey on open-access publishing. Please take a moment to give them your views

Submit an Article or Observation

We aim to suit all browsers, but recommend Firefox particularly:

Chinese Medical Divination

Jack Sweeneyconfirmed user (Foreign Affairs, Wuhan University of Technology)

Published in medi.philica.com

Chinese medical divination has a history that dates back some two thousand years. Qi Men Dun Jia is one form of divination currently practiced in China, Taiwan, Singapore and SE Asia. This article provides an example of how the author diagnosed his mother’s Hodgkin’s lymph node cancer by drawing a Qi Men Dun Jia outline on a piece of paper. Hospital tests confirmed the analysis of medical divination.

Article body


Qi Men Dun Jia is an ancient form of divination that, according to Chinese legend, originated with the Yellow Emperor. Just as Chinese Medicine traces its origins to the Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic ????, so does Qi Men Dun Jia claim the Yellow Emperor as its founder. In the Zhou Kingdom, the royal government separated divination from formal medicine, and the two have been divided ever since, at least on the official, government level. In recent years however, steps have been taken to re-unite the two traditions in China and abroad. In the past year, the spread of Qi Men Dun Jia to Southeast Asia and around the world signals the development of this trend.

From China's remote antiquity to the Zhou era, Yi over Wu formed the character for medicine. This reflected the fused traditions of medicine and shamanism with classic works such as the I Ching ?? (Zhou Yi ??). Etymologically, the connection between medicine and shamanism was seen in the joining of the character Yi ? (doctor or medicine) and Wu ?, (shaman) to represent medicine. During the Zhou ? era, Zhou royal governments separated Yi from Wu, replacing Wu with the characters She and You:


The intention of the Zhou government was to permanently cleave medicine from shamanism, to develop a more "scientific" or government-sanctioned body of medicine while at the same time proscribing shamanism, or at least banishing shamanic practices to the countryside. The conflict between officially-sanctioned medicine and shamanic folk practices continues today with official medicine largely in the urban areas and folk medicine thriving in rural Chinese towns and villages.

In recent years, a trend has appeared to merge these two traditions of Chinese medicine. Yang Li, a Beijing medical professor who specialises in medical divination, has published three books on the subject, one of them based on lecture notes for her medical classes in Beijing. Yang describes a number of ancient divination systems, including Wu Yun Liu Qi ????, Da Liu Ren ???, Tai Yi ?? and Qi Men Dun Jia ????. In "The I Ching and Chinese Medicine," Li advocates the adoption of Qi Men Dun Jia for use in medical divination:

"In general, both Qi Men Dun Jia and Wu Yun Liu Qi ???? have solid astronomical backgrounds rooted in ancient mathematics. Both systems take the Zhou Yi, the theories of Yin and Yang and Five Elements, Heavenly Stems and Earth Branches and the Sixty Jia Zi as the basis for their methods of prediction. The two systems stand as shining pearls among the divinatory treasures of ancient China, and each held important influence in the divinatory milieu of ancient China. Each system has its merits and ideally should be used to complement each other to enhance the function of these Chinese cultural treasures."

The introduction of Tibetan medicine into the west has fuelled the trend toward medical divination outside China. Tibetan medicine never experienced a division between divination and formal medicine in that way that Chinese medicine has. Indeed, it remains proscribed to search the internet for "Tibetan Medical divination" within China today. Divination developed in Tibetan culture along with practical Tibetan medicine and was introduced to the west in holistic form beginning in the 1960's.

Qi Men Dun Jia developed in China primarily as a form of military divination, but today has applications in business, law enforcement, match-making, trouble-shooting and medicine. In the reform era following the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (after 1976), some Chinese scholars revived the ancient tradition of I Ching or Zhou Yi research. Foremost among these scholars is Zhang Zhichun, head of the Hebei Province Zhou Yi Research Association, based in the Hebei provincial capital of Shi Jia Zhuang, a few hundred kilometres south of Beijing.

By the mid-1990's, Zhang had become proficient enough with Qi Men Dun Jia to qualify as a master. In addition to his knowledge of Chinese metaphysics, Zhang has a background in Chinese medicine. Students take classes and weekend seminars with Zhang at the association in Shi Jia Zhuang. Chief among those students is Du Xinhui, who became a teacher with Zhang at the association. Zhang published two books on Qi Men Dun Jia and Du published his own. The example below is selected from Du's work and has been translated as part of this author's books.

Skilled Qi Men Dun Jia analysts like Zhang and Du are capable of drawing up a situation and completing an analysis or diagnosis within ten minutes. A situation may be drawn up with paper and pencil, on the fingers of one's hand, with reference books or with computer software. The diagnosis may indicate the location of the illness, its severity, whether or not the disease can be cured, whether Chinese or western medicine offers appropriate treatment, the efficacy of a particular treatment, as well as the duration of disease. Moreover, Qi Men Dun Jia helps determine the quality and suitability of doctors, the physical direction of a qualified doctor and in some cases, the actual costs of medical treatment.

In Chinese tradition, Qi Men Dun Jia is known for its ability to allow one to "see what the angels see." In its capacity to fathom the unseen forces of nature at work, Qi Men Dun Jia often reveals what lies hidden to the human eye. This is where the true value of Qi Men Dun Jia lies, especially in Chinese medicine, which emphasizes the distinction between root and branch patterns, and in which patients may present with complex, overlapping patterns.

Essential to Qi Men Dun Jia analysis is an understanding of Five Phases and Yin - Yang relationships in Chinese medicine. Symbols engender and curtail each other, based upon their Five Phase relationships. These are tied into the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, which provides the Time element in Qi Men Dun Jia diagnosis. The powerful combination of the eight hexagrams of the I Ching, eight directions, Yin and Yang Theory, Five Phase Theory and the lunar calendar together comprise a precise divination mechanism capable of revealing the heart of many difficult problems as well as a timeline for recovery.

Qi Men Dun Jia divination is conducted by examination of a board upon which are fixed the positions of ten Heavenly Stems, nine stars, nine spirits, eight gates, eight hexagrams, and eight directions. These elements are divided into levels which represent Heaven, Earth, spirit and humanity. Analysis of the board positions of the elements yields clues which permit practitioners to draw conclusions about health problems and their solutions.

Qi Men Dun Jia divination emphasizes key times in a given case, usually the precise hour during which a patient requests a diagnosis. The practitioner selects the particular Qi Men Dun Jia situation that "governs" that two-hour time period during which the request is made. The analyst then begins to diagnose the patient's illness, based on the specific configuration of symbols at that hour of the day or evening. Through an aspect of Space - Time relations that is not yet understood by modern physics, the corresponding Qi Men Dun Jia situation always holds relevance for the question at hand; no matter what time the question is posed.

Qi Men Dun Jia is based on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar and the traditional Chinese clock. In Qi Men Dun Jia, a day has only twelve hours, and seasons consist of fifteen days. These are divided into three periods, or yuan, each lasting five days. Each yuan consists of sixty hours, (12 x 5). A season consists of 180 hours, with twenty-four seasons in the Chinese year. A lunar year of 360 days contains 4,320 hours or situations (360 days x 12 double-hours per day = 4,320 double hours, or situations). Through repetition, the 4,320 Qi Men Dun Jia situations are reduced into 1, 080 basic situations, and these are divided between 540 Yin and 540 Yang situations per year. The Yang half of the year begins at Winter Solstice and ends at Summer Solstice. The Yin half of the year begins at Summer Solstice and ends at Winter Solstice. The example below illustrates one Qi Men Dun Jia situation that repeats four times per year.

One double - hour equals one situation in Qi Men Dun Jia, as an hour in traditional Chinese time, based on the lunar calendar, equals two contemporary hours. The elements that comprise a situation in Qi Men Dun Jia shift places every two hours, "flying" from palace to palace, as the stars rotate in the skies above.

Proper selection of "Use Spirits" is essential to correct diagnosis. In the case of medical Qi Men Dun Jia, the symbol known as the Tian Rui Star ???generally represents the illness, ailment or disease. The Heavenly Stem that corresponds to the patient's birth year serves as the Year Fate, which represents the patient in the Qi Men Dun Jia situation. The Heavenly Stem Yi Qi ?? generally represents the doctor or medicine in the situation.

Careful examination of these symbols, coupled with application of Five Element and Yin - Yang principles, leads to a diagnosis. The practitioner must further take into consideration any special rules, postulates or conditions that apply to the specific Qi Men Dun Jia situation in question. Two thousand years of continuous practice of Qi Men Dun Jia have created a fairly large body of such rules, which may be likened to common law and conventions in British law.

Qi Men Dun Jia functions as a type of algebra and geometry of Space - Time, and as such offers only a general overview of a condition. The practitioner must combine their knowledge of Qi Men Dun Jia with medical knowledge and common sense to arrive at a correct diagnosis. The practitioner's knowledge of the specific facts of a case governs the application of the information generated from a Qi Men Dun Jia situation to the specific condition of a given patient.

While Qi Men Dun Jia may enhance the skills of medical practitioners, a word of caution is in order. Zhang Zhichun writes that Qi Men Dun Jia offers no substitute for professional decision-making. Divination cannot replace traditional diagnostic methods, whether in traditional Chinese medicine or in Western Medicine. However, Qi Men Dun Jia may complement traditional diagnostic methods, Zhang writes, by providing reference to doctors and medical practitioners.

Case Study

In Du Xinhui's book about Qi Men Dun Jia, he begins by introducing each problem with a short story that lays out the facts of the case, then a short description of his diagnosis and the outcome of the case. This is followed with an illustration of the board for the particular time period relevant to the case, then Du's analysis of why he came to the particular diagnosis. The author of this article translated Du's work from the original source:

Du's mother was ill with heart disease for many years, and she often took heart medicines for her condition, as this would put her at peace. Returning from a business trip, Du heard that his mom's health wasn't so good, so he went to see her right away.

Du asked his mother some questions and relaxed, as she appeared to have only some heart palpitations. He grabbed some paper and wrote out a prediction, figuring he had nothing to lose whether he used Qi Men Dun Jia or not. The diagnosis shocked him: cancer.

The next day Du called his elder sister and told her there was a small tumour behind mom's ear, that yesterday he had used Qi Men Dun Jia to predict the situation, and perhaps the tumour was malignant. He told his sister to prepare to take mom to the hospital for a check-up. They would find out for certain at the hospital the next day.

The next morning at eight, sister and he went to mom's house. His sister asked him to try another prediction, warning him not to make a mistake. He drew up the situation, and on another piece of paper wrote three characters: Lymph node cancer.

Mom refused to go. After three times begging her, she finally relented. They took a taxi to the provincial hospital, which specialized in tumours. Even though his mother was eighty-plus, her mind was clear, hearing fine, eye sight normal.

With a few simple procedures, the doctor gave mom a check-up. That afternoon at four o'clock, the lab test results came back, confirming: Hodgkin's lymphoma. As the doctor said, "There's no cure for malignant tumours."

Du Xinhui re-checked the Qi Men Dun Jia situation. Then he carefully considered mom's case, believing that, although it was a malignant tumour, the tumour would not grow quickly. Over the next two years, mom's condition would not worsen, and for the next two years, Mom would still fare well.

Analysis of QMDJ Situation 12 December 1996 0800

This situation took place during the first winter month, during the first phase of the season known as "Great Snow" in China. The date was "Bing Zi" year,

"Geng Zi" month, "Gui Wei" date and "Bing Chen" double hour.


Xun ?

Palace 4



Li ?Palace 9



Kun ?Palace 2



Zhen ?Palace 3 Wood


Centre ?Palace 5

"rides" Palace 2


Dui ?Palace 7



Gen ?Palace 8



Kan ?Palace 1



Qian ?

Palace 6




1. How did Du Xinhui determine that his mother had Hodgkin's lymphoma? The Tian Rui Star ??? represents the disease and falls into Xun ? Four. Inside the palace lies Death Gate ??, Geng ? and White Tiger ?? three negative symbols. These symbols combined must indicate cancer. The palace, Xun ? symbolises neck, so Du judged, it must mean lymph node cancer.

2. How did Du Xinhui determine that the disease would take a slow onset course? The Tian Rui disease spirit in Xun ? Palace Four is restricted, so the illness is not serious. Xun palace Four contains Yi Qi ??, which symbolizes doctors and medicine. Yi Qi falls into the same palace as the Tian Rui Star, so this explains that medical treatment would arrive in time.

3. How did Du Xinhui decide that the disease would not grow serious for at least two years? When the Tian Rui Star illness spirit falls into Xun ? Palace Four it meets restriction, so the condition is not life-threatening. Xun Palace holds Yi Qi, which represents doctors and medicine. The Hour Stem Bing falls into Kun Palace Two. The ancients said Bing indicates that "the thief retreats." Bing Added Geng ??? indicates that the disease will not rapidly develop.

4. How did Du Xinhui confirm the diagnosis? Mother was born as Jia You ?? year, her Year Fate is Geng ? falling into Qian ? Palace Six. This palace rides the Zhi Fu ??, an auspicious spirit, Birth Gate, an auspicious gate, and Tian Ren ??? as an auspicious star. In addition, the key is mother's Year Fate palace curtails the Tian Rui disease palace. In this way, her disease can be curtailed and the disease onset will come gradually.

The Hour Stem ?? falls close to the Tian Xin Star, ??? which is the star of medicine, and means medical treatment will arrive at the proper time. Yi Qi and the Tian Xin Star fall into the palace and cannot restrict the Tian Rui disease star, which explains why this disease can't be eradicated. Medicine and illness in the same palace mean that medicine can only be used to maintain the situation, but won't cure her disease.

This example indicates the informational wealth of Qi Men Dun Jia. In the hands of a skilled, knowledgeable practitioner, Qi Men Dun Jia offers a formidable diagnostic tool that may complement standard forms of diagnosis. Mastery of Chinese medicine coupled with command of Qi Men Dun Jia may help practitioners provide precise, in-depth diagnoses with just ten minutes of additional time. Adoption of Qi Men Dun Jia into regular practice will improve the efficiency and efficacy of Chinese medicine.

"One may see from this example that one's Four Pillar information, within the Qi Men Dun Jia situation outline, almost retains an entire lifetime of information regarding an individual's fate. We need only to cultivate a mode of thought based on symbol, number, reason and usage. We may translate these symbols according to the principles of Yin and Yang, the Five Elements, engendering and curtailing relationships, to discover the meaning behind the situation outlines. Only then may we analyse and judge in a concrete and detailed manner the many events that make up a human life."

Zhang Zhichun ???


Du Xinhui ???, Qi Men Dun Jia Xian Dai Shi Li Jing Jie?????????, (Shi Jia Zhuang shi ????, Yi Li Ren Min Chu Ban She ???????, 2003). ISBN 7-5425-0488-6

Hou, Peng Ke, Chinese mathematical astrology : reaching out to the stars, (London, New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003) ISBN: 0415297591 OCLC: 51251860

Sweeney, Jack ???, Medical Qi Men Dun Jia, Business Qi Men Dun Jia, (Wuhan ??: Yan Bo Chu Ban She?????, 2006)

Xu, Daofu ???, Yu Ding Qi Men Bao Jian ?????? (Zhen Zang Ben ???, Shang, Chung, Hsia ???; see also yang tun ?? series) (Taipei ??: Wuling Chu Ban You Xian Gong Si ???????, 2004). ISBN 7-5305-2110-I/J.2110


Yang, Li, Zhou Yi Yu Zhong Yi ?????. (Beijing 3rd edition: Bejing Ke Xue Ji Shu Chu Ban She ?????????, 2002).  (Xiu Ding Ben ???). ISBN 7- 5304-1859-9 (This book has been partially translated into English).

Zhang, Zhichun???, Shen Qi Zhi Men - Qi Men Dun Jia Lie Ti Jie ????, (Shi Jia Zhuang shi????: Hua Shan Wen Yi Chu Ban She ???????, 1999). ISBN 7-80611-732-6/1.665

Information about this Article
Peer-review ratings (from 2 reviews, where a score of 100 represents the ‘average’ level):
Originality = 116.17, importance = 65.52, overall quality = 85.76
This Article was published on 2nd October, 2006 at 16:18:31 and has been viewed 9019 times.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.
The full citation for this Article is:
Sweeney, J. (2006). Chinese Medical Divination. PHILICA.COM Article number 25.

<< Go back Review this ArticlePrinter-friendlyReport this Article

1 Peer review [reviewer #2144unconfirmed user] added 3rd October, 2006 at 03:43:13

As a Chinese myself, I would consider such divinations are based on pure coincidences, and have no scientific basis. The Five Element system is also flawed, as we now know that matter is not all composed of gold, wood, earth, fire or water.

Originality: 5, Importance: 3, Overall quality: 4

2 Peer review [reviewer #7116confirmed user] added 17th October, 2006 at 19:39:10

This article consists of two halves, each of which could benefit from expansion. The history of Qi Men Dun Jia is quite interesting, especially inasmuch as it tends to deconstruct the Western (and possibly Zhouist?) notion of an essentialized, monolithic medical tradition in China.

The second half of the article is anecdotal, and it is not clear who the anecdote pertains to. In the abstract, it is suggested that Sweeney’s mother is diagnosed with cancer; in the body of the paper it appears to be Du’s mother. As a single case study, this is novel but unimportant. A larger study of QMDJ’s outcomes would allow us to address the previous reviewer’s justifiable concern that a single succesful diagnosis may be a coincidence.

Originality: 4, Importance: 2, Overall quality: 3

Website copyright © 2006-07 Philica; authors retain the rights to their work under this Creative Commons License and reviews are copyleft under the GNU free documentation license.
Using this site indicates acceptance of our Terms and Conditions.

This page was generated in 0.3538 seconds.