Health and Wellness – Lessons from Ancient China

I quote the passage below almost every day in the clinic, to share guidance from the ancient Chinese for cultivating health and longevity.  It is incredible to me that more than four thousand years ago, the sages understood how to live well and live long, and I find it incredibly fortunate that we have their words to guide us today.

It is easy to believe the ancients had powerful elixirs and secret lineage practices that extended life or made one immortal.  It is certain there are those who dabbled in alchemy, and it is undeniable that qi practices are helpful.  However, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic, among the most famous texts of Chinese culture, does not promote anything secret or magical.  The Emperor is told one could live to 100 years of age with an active mind and agile body by simply following the rhythms of nature and being in balance; body and mind.

What is the lesson? Do not spend your resources, do not exhaust your essence. Do not overwork, do not overdrink or overeat, do not over sex, do not over desire.  By not being depleted, illness does not arise, and the body and mind will thrive as it was destined to do.  This is especially apt today in a busy world with so many influences.  We must recognize it is how we live our lives and how we deplete ourselves that results in health or illness.

For more discussion on how to live long, and live well, join JulieAnn on May 17 at the Pollinator’s Hive at Folkmoot in Waynesville, NC to drink tea, chat about longevity and celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.  For more information and to register for the 2024 wellness challenge, click here.


From The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine approximately 2600 BCE

The Emperor asks: I have heard the great ancients lived to the year 100, with sharp minds and agile body. Yet, the people of today, at half of that age, are already showing illness and declie. How can this be understood, and how did the ancients achieve such longevity?

The Teacher replies: the generations before us, they understood the DAO, they followed the laws of yin and yang, lived by the rhythms of nature.  Food and drink were not overly consumed, they had regularity in activity and rest. They were not rash in thoughts or action, thus avoiding exhaustion.  They achieved sage-like longevity, living out their full destiny, and did not pass away until the age of 100.

The people of this time are not this way; they are rash in action, quickly following their heart’s desire to attain happiness and joy.  They use alcohol as a daily drink, entering the bedroom intoxicated – and thus exhaust their deep-essence. Depleting the body’s true resources, they do not achieve contentment, and they expire at the age of 50

The ancients understood that avoiding illness begins by not becoming depleted: including prevention of illness from pathogenic influences and sudden weather changes.   The ancients understood that when the rhythms of life are in harmony with nature, the qi is strengthened, the essence and the spirit is stored. By lessening one’s desires,  by being in balance, one is not affected by the influences and thus maintains great health for a great many years.