Music as Therapy in Traditional Medicine 2015

During this period of revelry of all things Chinese, let’s delve into the history of music in Ancient China.

In Ancient China, musical instruments such a pottery ocarinas and stone chimes were a discovery that dates as far back as 1500 BC. By mid 3rd century BC, the classification of musical instruments by the type of material from which they were made strongly implies that music was already widely performed then. In the 6th century BC, Chinese philosopher Confucius believed music was not for people’s entertainments, but to be used to influence. Hence the sorting of music into four functional categories; music for chanting, worship, battles and banquets.

Then 2300 years ago, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, Ancient China’s first recorded medical text, documented the use of music as therapy. Physicians in Ancient China had discovered a way of incorporating the energizing, empowering, rejuvenating and relaxing therapeutic powers of music into the healing process.

The foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the Five-Elements Theory which postulates that wood, fire, water, earth and metal are the five basic elements of the material world. Each element corresponds to many other aspects such as the internal organs, colour, season of the year, or music notes. TCM uses the correlation between the internal organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and spleen) and the five-element correspondences, such as the Chinese five-tone music system (Kung, Shang, Chiao, Chih and Yue) to achieve various healing purposes.

Here’s a tabulated summary of the correlation:

Elements

Wood

Fire

Earth

Metal

Water

Tone (Chinese)

Chiao

Chih

Kung

Shang

Yue

Tone (Western)

E

G

C

D

A

Seasons

Spring

Summer

Change of seasons

Autumn

Winter

Emotions

Anger

Over-excitement

Anxiety

Grief

Fear

Attributes

Kindhearted

Generous

Tolerant and kind

Righteous and friendly

Mentally balanced and gentle

Affects

Liver qi

Heart

Spleen

Lungs yin

Kidneys

Effects

Relieves depression

Nourish the heart and invigorate blood flow

Strengthens spleen

Protects and nourishes lungs yin

Nourish kidney yin, protect kidney essence and reduce lung fire

 

There were three clinical studies done in China which tested the healing power of the classical Chinese Five-Element music. One study was on nursing students with reported depression. Another study was on elderly patients with seasonal affective disorder. The last study was to evaluate the effects of the Five-Element music on advanced cancer patients’ quality of life. The results of all three studies showed positive responses to the use of the Five-Element music as therapy for medical issues.

But remember, as with other general rules, “No matter which emotions the music expresses, taken to the extreme, it can harm the body and the flow of qi energy.”

 

References (in order of appearance):

http://www.farsidemusic.com/acatalog/History_2.html

http://www.edgemagazine.net/2014/08/musical-therapy-in-chinese-medicine/

http://www.tcmbasics.com/basics_5elements.htm

https://spectacularvancouver.wordpress.com/2008/11/08/traditional-chinese-music-five-elements-five-tones/