The Concept of 天 Tian – Heaven – in Chinese medicine



“Let me explain for you the concept of Tian from Chinese medicine. Tian is often a part of Chinese psychology that is the psychology that exist within Chinese medicine. This topic is a little philosophical and might feel difficult to grasp, but when you got it you will find a concept that is VERY useful. Since it is philosophy you might find differences in explanations. Here is mine.”

Nils Volden


天 Tian – Heaven is an abstraction of the most supreme in your body. Normally we connect Tian with the brain. Meaning that we are speaking about the mental aspects of Chinese medicine and more correctly Chinese psychology. In this context, Tian includes elements like the objective presence of a persons actions and the congenital inborn patterns of actions or behavior (the congenital animal that lives in all humans), our subjective presence and our elevated sacral understanding of the human soul. Tian is visible through our actions, and fundamental in all human beings. The Yang aspect of Tian in our body are the mental aspect, and the Yin aspect of Tian are our brains regulation of our physical body.


Chinese psychology states that Tian (Heaven) decides over the complete universe (our body) and that it has a will (in born). Making Tian closely related to Hun, the etherical soul, in the human being. At the same time we also understand that Tian is closely related to Po, the corporal soul, due to its connection to the inborn animal and the fundamental primitive within us. In plain words, this means that the brain decides over the body, and that it has a autonom soul. A soul that our conscious mind can not afflict. Tian is something that does not physically exist, something you can touch. It is there, but in action – not in substance. It is not the brain, but the signals in your mind. Tian exist as a metaphor, something untouchable and subtle. Like most concepts within Chinese medicine Tian “is” and “is not” at the same time.


Mozi tells us that they who listen to Tian (heaven), loves Tian without discrimination, helps others – will for sure receive a reward. Persons that oppose Tian through discrimination and unfriendliness, or do bad things toward others will get a punishment. The understanding of Mozis words goes straight to the core understanding of the concept of Tian. We have to live in harmony with the world. We live in harmony only through listening to our inner inborn voice; and then and only then the life on earth will be good. In this statement “The World” indicates YOUR nature. You have to live as you are. If you are active by nature, you have to live active. If you are a quiet person, you have to live quiet. If you like speaking, you have to speak. If you are Yang, you have to live Yang, and if you are Yin, you have to live Yin.


Mozi said that harmony is the way to Tian, and that harmony can only be found through being true to yourself and your origin. Your origin are in plain words to live according to your congenital essence, your Li, or your genetics if you want; Yin = Yin and Yang = Yang. You should not try to live according to external factors or what others put upon you; do not copy your neighbours and friends, be your self true! People that deviate from the correct path, 道 dào/ Tao, will sooner or later suffer its consequences. Because Tao is your way to Tian. Do not forget that it is YOUR Tian and YOUR Tao; not the Tian of others. Your Tao and Tian is written in your Li and can not be rewritten. Staying on your Tao – you automatically live your Tian. Chinese psychology want us to listen to Li, the inborn, congenital essence, our ancestral qi; our Qi need to be as a shadow to a tree. The tree is Tian and the growth of the tree is Tao. Where we life is illustrated by the shadow.



We can do many things in our life, but we can not go to far from the tree; remember your Qi is the shadow of the tree. When the distance to the tree are to far and you are out of the shadow you start to get problems psychologically and physically. Most common is anxiety, depression, irritability, frustrations, fatigue and headaches. A life should not be far away from what you have been created to be; that is your Tao, your destiny, your life. Live in the shadow – live your destiny! Problems created by your inborn Tao are not of your worries; it is you, your normal you – accept yourself. If you live according to your Tian walking your walk according to your Tao in the shadow, everything is in harmony; as written in your Li. That is why you should respect who you are, how you were created and for what you were intended. Do not try to go out of the shadow of your tree, because you will suffer. Different trees have different shadows. Find your proper shadow and live there in.


To understand the concept of beginning or starting point in Chinese psychology, you need to understand the concept of congeniality often named 先天性 Xiān tiān xìng or stick to the word “Li”. This means that our genetics gives us different abilities and disadvantages. You can not fight it without sometimes going out of the shadow; leaving your Tian and Tao for some moments. The shadow guide our life; let it. Everybody have a preprogrammed sort of future, something or a path. Your future is not written any place, and can followingly be adjusted by you; your Shen. The path on the other hand is written and can not be changed. The path is your destiny, 命運 Mìng yùn. Ming yun is the direction of your Tao; the way your Tian (tree) grows. Through a better understanding of Li, the congenital, many things can be predicted and adjusted. But you cannot CHANGE the complete path. You can only adjust the direction; as with a Bonsai tree. As we live our tree grows and new branches comes. Leave fall and grows out again. Perhaps Li have some surprises for you in the future hidden in its back pocket. Remember we can not change away from our path, but we can hope and wait for our Tao to take a favorable turn. You path is relatively permanent, but we can kindly push our tree to grow in a more favorable direction; adjust for a better position in our path. Embrace your inborn potential and exploit it to the maximum. In short, live as you are created. Use all your potential; you will be surprised about how far you might push the limits.  Tian is in your Li and guides your Tao.






The writer of this article gives seminars in Chinese medicine and Chinese psychology all over the world! Go to this page to find out how.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s