There are many beautiful passages in Nei Jing. This ongoing series will share many of the most poetic with hopes that everyone will enjoy them.
In Ling Shu, chapter sixty, Qi Bo explains the vast importance of the needle to Huang Di.
Huang Di inquires, “All needles are small and slender objects, some say that above, [the needle] is in accord with heaven, below, [the needle] is in accord with the earth, in the center, [the needle] is in accord with humans, I think that making needles this important is hyperbole, I would like an explanation.” Qi Bo replies, “What object is as big as heaven? Humans and the ‘Five Weapons’1 are larger than the needle. The ‘Five Weapons’ oppose life and are instruments of death. Humans are heaven and earth’s sentinels, can they not act in or intervene in [matters regarding heaven and earth]? Yet, a human can cure all people using only the needle. Of humans, needles, and the ‘Five Weapons’ which one is small?”
What can be larger than the needle? Weapons are larger, but they are used to murder people, not to save lives. Since the most precious creatures between heaven and earth are humans, and their lives are saved by the needle, how can the needle not be considered as important as heaven and earth? This demonstrates the fact that the study of acupuncture is difficult and laden with responsibility.
1 The “Five Weapons” are, the Bow, Spear, Lance, Sword, and Halberd. The five would be considered a whole arsenal of myriad weapons. Reducing many weapons to five types and calling the entire arsenal “Five Weapons” is a sort of understatement common in Chinese Literature (Spiritual Pivot, Wu, page 198).