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Music Therapy

Music therapy has developed into a modern science, but it was first developed in China. The Chinese have searched for the secrets of the universe’s melody and rhythm for millennia.

Music therapy is part of Chinese medicine, and the two have an interwoven, continuous relationship. Music, the theory of yin and yang, and the five elements are interconnected. The ancients thought that the essence of music was the Tao — the changes of yin and yang, the regulating force of life, the tone and mood of the universe.

A correct combination of rhythm, timbre, energy, and other factors reflect the Tao of yin and yang. The ancient Chinese divided music into five tones, belonging to the five elements.

A mural from the tomb of Xu Xianxiu in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, dated 571 AD during the Northern Qi dynasty, showing male court musicians playing the pipa and liuqin, and a woman playing a konghou. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)
A mural from the tomb of Xu Xianxiu in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, dated A.D. 571 during the Northern Qi Dynasty, showing male court musicians playing the pipa and liuqin, and a woman playing a konghou. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

According to Chinese medicine, the five sounds correspond to the internal organs. This theory is used in clinical diagnosis and treatment. Different sounds affect different organs.

The theory of the five tones forms the holistic basis of music therapy in Chinese medicine. The yin and yang of heaven and earth are related to the human body’s yin and yang. Taoists have always believed that the human body is a small universe, and inner harmony can be affected by outer harmony.

A half-section of the Song Dynasty (960–1279) version of the Night Revels of Han Xizai, original by Gu Hongzhong; the female musicians in the center of the image are playing transverse bamboo flutes and guan, and the male musician is playing a wooden clapper called the paiban. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)
A half-section of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) version of the Night Revels of Han Xizai, original by Gu Hongzhong; the female musicians in the center of the image are playing transverse bamboo flutes and guan, and the male musician is playing a wooden clapper called the paiban. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Traditional Chinese music is based on the doctrine of the mean and strives to achieve harmony with heaven, earth, and the human body through music. There is a Chinese saying: “Harmony between music and man, harmony between heaven and man” (樂 與人和, 天人合 一), and this is believed to be the ideal state.

Health of body and mind are connected with social factors; good music can lead people to be good, and it can benefit their health.

Dr. Benjamin Kong from Sweden and Dr. Xiu Zhou from Germany are the principal editors of the China Research Group.

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