HyungSang Medical Science: Inspection of Face and Body for Diagnosis of Diseases
SEOUL, KOREA — David B. Agus (one of Steve Jobs's oncologists and a medical researcher at the University of Southern California (USC)) wrote in his book titled “The End of Illness,” “I am an oncologist who cannot treat advanced cancer well.” Dr. Agus, a world-renowned cancer doctor whose career in oncology has spanned the past two decades, has begun to question mainstream Western medicine’s fundamental approaches towards health and diseases, challenging long-held wisdoms and dismantling misperceptions.
In 2009, Dr. Agus stood before thousands of colleagues at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Denver and bluntly stated, “We’ve barely budged in our “war” against cancer in the last five decades. We’ve all made a mistake, myself included, by focusing down, by reducing the study of disease down to finite points.”
Dr. Agus blamed the world’s defeat in the long-fought war against cancer on the germ theory of disease that Western medicine blindly accepted throughout the course of the 20th century. According to Dr. Agus, cancer is not an infectious disease that is from without; cancer is rather from within. Once the balance of our body system breaks down, tumors start to self-reproduce. He stresses that cancer itself has to be understood as part of our body system just like the liver, the heart, and the lungs. Rather than fighting cancer head-on, the prevention and early diagnosis of cancer is more important. His book “The End of Illness” was placed on the list of New York Times’ best-sellers for 10 weeks, provoking controversies in global medical circles.
Yet, from the perspective of traditional Korean medicine, Dr. Agus’s assertions are nothing new. His argument that the body and diseases should be viewed as complex systems serves as a reminder of traditional Korean medicine’s main principle, namely that the most important thing is to strengthen the body itself, the harbor of the disease, rather than solely zero in on the eradication of disease.
Dr. Seong-tae Cho, the head of Bon-Diol Academy Clinic and Chairman of the Society of HyungSang Medicine said, “Traditional Korean medicine has long held a view that once the balance of the body is broken, the body cannot stunt the abnormal growth of body tissues – for example, tumors. Dr. Cho has long been studying HyungSang medical science (형상의학 [HyungSang-uihak] in Korean, 形象医学 in Chinese simplified characters), which holds that the way a person looks reveals what is occurring within their body. People are incomplete creatures, so they have their own values and weaknesses that may cause disease. Therefore, when a person contracts a certain disease, the job of restoring the balance of his body should come before everything else. Then, let’s take a closer look at HyungSang medical science.
What Is HyungSang Medical Science?
To attain a better understanding of HyungSang medical science or HyungSang, people need to look into how traditional Korean medical doctors examine their patients. How can traditional Korean medical doctors examine their patients without resorting to a stethoscope, X-rays and other scientific check-ups? When traditional Korean medical doctors have one-on-one sessions with their patients, they ask them about their symptoms and the history of their diseases. Based on what the patients is suffering from, traditional Korean medical doctors generally make a diagnosis.
However, there is another form of diagnosis that is performed without the knowledge of patients. It is called facial diagnosis: doctors carefully observe whether the patient is tall or not, whether he has protruding lower-jawbones, whether his nose is big and his lips are small, and whether his complexion is pale.
Dr. Cho explained, “Traditional Korean medicine follows the four-step diagnoses of “Looking1 (at their outward appearance), Looking (at their complexion), Inquiring (about their symptoms), and Taking (their pulse).” At the moment, traditional Korean medicine is heavily dependent on pulse taking and symptoms rather than the outward appearance and complexions. Before I came into contact with HyungSang medical science, I was also focused on pulse taking and symptoms. Disease is caused by various factors and produces varied symptoms, and the patient’s facial appearance, complexion, pulse and symptoms should all be factored in to determine the right diagnosis and treatment,” added Dr. Cho.
Bian Que (according to legend, the earliest known Chinese physician who was reputed to bring the dead back to life) said, “Disease is an outward manifestation of internal problems. As such, even negligible symptoms on the outside can help doctors predict the future occurrence of a certain disease.” Korean medical encyclopedia “Donguibogam” also said that careful observation of the patient’s outward appearance furnishes an important clue to the disease he is suffering from. According to Donguibogam’s first chapter “Naegyeong (Overview of the Inner Body),” large and well-shaped ears are representative of healthy kidneys, while thin and weak ears indicate weak kidneys.
If the ears are strongly attached to the lower jawbones, the kidneys are well shaped and well placed. If one of the two ears is placed higher than the other, one of the kidneys is hanging lower. The ears mirror the condition of your kidneys. “Donguibogam” says facial features are related to the condition of internal organs: the eyes are linked to the liver, the lips to the stomach, the nose to the lung, and the tongue to the heart. Such basic formulas contained in “Donguibogam” allow traditional Korean medical doctors to check the health of five vital organs and the six viscera.
HyungSang Medical Science’s Diagnosis
Dr. Cho said, “HyungSang medical science enables doctors to learn about some of the patient’s symptoms even before taking his pulse or hearing the patient’s story. Let’s say there is a patient with a turned-up nose, which is a sign of a weak bladder. In turn I will ask him, “Did you go diaper-free later than other kids? Do you sometimes wet your pants when you feel exhausted? The patient will be very surprised by my sharp-edged questions. He will wonder how I noticed his problems before he has a chance to verbalize them.” Dr. Cho said he was also startled by witnessing the theory of HyungSang medical science hit the mark in actual clinical cases. However, HyungSang medical science should not come as a surprise; it is an experimental study using cumulative statistical data on traditional Korean medicine’s clinical results that are several thousands years old.
Some patients cast a strong doubt on HyungSang medical science practitioners, saying they are more of quasi physiognomists rather than traditional Korean medical doctors. At first glance, HyungSang medical science can be confused with face reading or Chinese fortuning telling. Yet, it is different from them on the grounds that HyungSang medical science aims to cure diseases and works towards the positive health of people. Dr. Cho emphasized, “The significance of medical science deserves renewed attention from the perspective of preventive medicine, not to mention medical treatment.”
HyungSang medical science encompasses not only the outward appearance but also human nature and lifestyles. Dr. Cho mentioned, “Tigers contract tiger-specific diseases while rabbits develop rabbit-specific diseases. Since tigers are carnivores and use their spine a lot, their disease results from such factors involved in hunting and eating meat; plant-eating rabbits will have diseases related to their intake of plants. This is true of human beings. Overweight people are vulnerable to diseases associated with obesity, while skinny folks often get sick due to their skinniness. Therefore, overweight people and skinny folks have a different set of lifestyles and have to choose different ways to remain in good shape. HyungSang medical science divides the physical traits of human beings into 13,500 different classifications.
The Teachings of Dr. In-kyu Park (1927-2000)
Dr. Cho’s father is Dr. Se-hyung Cho, a prominent traditional Korean medical doctor who invented “Saam Acupuncture Method.” Surprisingly enough, Dr. Cho did not follow in the footsteps of his famed father and opted for HyungSang medical science in the hope of mastering Donguibogam. Dr. Cho’s encounter with HyungSang medical science dates back 25 years. Dr. Cho began to form ties with his teacher Dr. In-kyu Park, who developed HyungSang medical science by reinterpreting Donguibogam. HyungSang medical science, which grafts the logics of the science of divination onto traditional Korean medicine, is a study which covers physiology and pathology based on the appearance of people to discover desirable ways for disease treatment and prevention. HyungSang medical science is currently growing in authority as one of the methodological frames for studying Donguibogam.
The following is an excerpt from Korea IT Times’s interview with Dr. Namil Kim (Dean of College of Korean Medicine of Kyung Hee University) and Dr. Seong-tae Cho, the head of Bon-Diol Academy Clinic. Dr. Kim handled the interview.
Q. Dr. Kim – Why did you decide to become a traditional Korean medical doctor?
A. Dr. Cho - I admired Dr. Jeong-je Kim (1916∼1988). He was one of the leading traditional Korean medical doctors who established the legitimacy of traditional Korean medicine and laid the foundation for the rigorous six-year curriculum at traditional Korean medicine undergraduate schools. He was also well versed in Donguibogam. I thought once I mastered Donguibogam, I would leave my mark in the field, so I went to see Dr. In-kyu Park.
Dr. Park founded the Korean Orthodox Oriental Medical Society in 1976 to teach traditional Korean medical doctors HyungSang medical science. The first batch of doctors graduating from the HyungSang program consisted of six people, but the number ballooned to 18 and then to 30 by 1989. In 2000, Korean Orthodox Oriental Medical Society changed its name to the Society of HyungSang Medicine. I feel deeply indebted to my teacher Dr. Park.
Q. Kim – Why Dongui bogam?
A. Cho - I chose Donguibogam because it is a thorough compilation of thousands-years-old traditional Korean medicine. I was moved when Donguibogam was inscribed on the Memory of the World Register by UNESCO in 2009. This was no coincidence, as Donguibogam was the only medical book on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. Donguibogam will turn 400 years old in 2013. Still, there are naysayers asking me “Do you still consult that book?” However, I ignore their chiding because I feel that eternal truth does exist.
Q. Kim - Why didn’t you follow in the footsteps of your father Dr. Se-hyung Cho, who invented “Saam Acupuncture Method”?
A. Cho - I embraced the teachings of various traditional doctors in order to obtain a new perspective. My father graduated from his traditional Korean medicine school at the age of 39. After he opened his own clinic, he continued his studies. Dr. Ki-Taek Kim and my father created Goheung Society of Traditional Doctors and released a medical handbook of ‘Uimunbogam’ which I have read numerous times. As a result, I was certainly influenced by my father and Dr. Kim. When I refused to learn Saam Acupuncture Method, my father was angry. He wanted me to follow in the footsteps of what he had achieved. However, he acknowledged my different path before he died.
Q. Kim - Have you ever thought about the future of traditional Korean medicine in running HyungSang educational programs?
A. Cho - There are HyungSang associations centered on time-honored remedies, Dongui bogam, acupuncture and Chuna manual medicine. However, the central principal axis is needed for better treatment. I strongly believe that HyungSang medical science is the central axis because medicine needs to thoroughly grasp the rules of human lifestyles. Since people often find it hard to follow a certain set of rules to maintain a healthy life, they need help from doctors. HyungSang helps people maintain a healthy, appropriate lifestyle as well as curing and preventing diseases. HyungSang divides the physical traits of human beings into 13,500 different classifications.
Q. Kim - You’ve said HyungSang will brighten the future of traditional Korean medicine. What do you do to globalize HyungSang?
A. Cho - Bon-Diol Academy Clinic is working hard to attract Japanese patients. However, Japanese patients do not indiscriminately welcome traditional Korean medicine with open arms. In introducing HyungSang to Japanese people, I said, “Tigers contract tiger-specific diseases and rabbits develop rabbit-specific diseases. So do people.” My message was well received. If there are doctors who can help relieve your pain, their nationality doesn’t matter. Practicing medicine with sincerity will have global appeal. My book “The Way You Look Tells Your Disease” is also available in Chinese and the Japanese version of it is due out soon. The English version is in the planning stage. I want to make HyungSang more widely known throughout the world and help more patients experience the benefits of HyungSang.
Q. Kim - Since your family produced three generations of traditional Korean medical doctors. Do you want your daughter follow your footsteps?
A. Cho - As the proverb goes, “Three generations of doctors are required for practicing medicine decently.” Since there is no fine set of HyungSang textbooks, HyungSang has a long way to go. I would be very happy to see my daughter take up the baton. I hope she makes continued efforts to develop HyungSang into a science.
Interview conductor - Dr. Namil Kim / Dean of College of Korean Medicine of Kyung Hee University
Writer - Sung-mi Kim / Korea IT Times
Korea IT Times and Kyung-Hee University (the College of Oriental Medicine Department) run a Series of articles on “Traditional Korean Medicine Sparks Global Interest.”
July 2011 — Opening article in 12 parts- The World Loves Oriental Medicine. Introduction of Traditional Korean Medicine by Interviewing Kim Namil, Dean of College of Korean Medicine, Kyung-Hee University (Published)
July 2012 — Outstanding Specialist, Dr. Seong-tae Cho, the head of Bon-Diol Academy Clinic and Chairman of the Society of HyungSang Medicine Talks about HyungSang Medical Science: Inspection of Face and Body for Diagnosis of Diseases (Published)
August 2012 — Outstanding Specialist – Dr. Yu Bong-ha, President of Oriental Hospital Kyung-Hee University and Presidential Practitioner of Oriental Medicine.
September 2012 — Donguibogam 400th anniversary project in 2013/ International Traditional Medicine Expo 2013 (co-hosted by Gyeongsangnam-do & Sancheong-gun from September 10 to October 19, 2013)