The Office of Dr. John Aguilar, Jr.

Practitioner, Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Seattle, WA

Adjunct Faculty/Lecturer, Northwestern Health Sciences University,

Arizona School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine,

Eastern School of Acupuncture and Traditional Medicine,

Clinic Supervisor, Bastyr University

Graduate student, Asian Languages and Literature, Univ of WA

        Professional Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Current Graduate Research

Graduate student at University of Washington, Asian Languages and Literature department,  2019 to present.

Current Research:

     - Phonological reconstruction of the
       Huángdì Nèijīng Sùwèn 黃帝内經素問
       (Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic, Basic

               Brief background -


               The pronunciation of the characters comprising the Sùwèn is very different

               now then it was when the work was written. It is likely the original rhymed

               (such an argument is posited by modern scholars such as Paul Unschuld and

               Herman Tessenow in their annotated translation of the Sùwèn).

               Phonological reconstruction is the science of investigating the original

               pronunciations of words. Reconstructing the Sùwèn allows for a unique

               avenue of analyzing the version of the Sùwèn we have now to uncover

               errors entered into the text over its long history of transmission.   


               Current inventory of reconstructions of terms (Updated 6/6/19)

                    Using the work of Axel Schuessler (Minimal Old Chinese and Later

                         Han Chinese: A Companion to Grammata Serica Recensa, 2009,                           Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-3264-3)

                    And giving Middle Chinese, Late Han, and Old Chinese reconstructions

                         alongside modern pīnyīn, Chinese character, and Guǎnyùn rime


     - Investigating shén 神, "spirit/s"
        in the Huángdì Nèijīng Sùwèn 黃帝内經素問

                Brief background -

                The use of shén in pre-Han dynasty literature (before the Nèijīng was written) 

                often referred to external entities, e.g., ghosts, gods. The contemporary

                understanding of shén in Chinese medical literature is akin to awareness, the

                clarity and effectiveness of awareness/consciousness, and is closely related

                to all emotions. There, thus, appears to be a gap in meaning. As

                the Nèijīng both acts as the fountainhead of current Chinese medical thinking

                and was written very near the time when shén referred to ghosts/spirits, a

                targeted investigation may cover the gap in meaning.

     - Studying the Huángdì Nèijīng Sùwèn 黃帝内
       經素問, chapter five, in parallel with the
       Huángdì Nèijīng Tài Sù 黃帝内經太素 

          Brief background -

          Most modern versions of the Sùwèn are based on the Song dynasty (~1,000 CE)

          version Zhòng Guǎng Bǔ Zhǔ Huángdì Nèijīng Sùwèn 重廣補注黃帝内經素問,

          Broadly Supplemented and Annotated Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic Basic

          Questions, which was based on that of Wang Bing from the Tang dynasty (eighth

          century). This means most modern versions reflect the edits and commentary of

          Wang Bing. The Tàisù predates Wang Bing by roughly one hundred years. It,

          thus, offers a glimpse of the Sùwèn before edits and changes made by Wang


     - Pictographic fallacies

          Brief background -

          It is widely believed within the contemporary acupuncture and Chinese medicine

          community that the meaning of Chinese characters can be derived from a reading

          of the character as a picture. That is, characters are pictures of that which they 

          indicate (or, related, characters convey ideas directly, as "ideographs", and not

          through the writing of a word). This appears to be based largely on a book by   

          Léon Wieger, Chinese Characters: Their Origin, Etymology, History, Classification

          and Signification : a Thorough Study from Chinese Documents. Additionally, a   

          1,900 year-old Chinese dictionary, Shuōwén Jiězì 説文解字, is also understood to

          indicate some characters are pictographs. And, to be sure, there are countless

          online sources indicating Chinese characters are pictographic in nature.

          The understanding of characters as pictures of what they represent is out-dated

          and contrary to current scholarship (see below). Characters are the graphs of the

          Chinese writing system. And as with all writing systems the graphs write words;

          those words carry the meaning, not the graph itself. That is, the meaning of a

          character is derived from the word it writes, not its physical appearance. (Note,

          the semantic classifier, aka "radical", indicates the general category of meaning,

          not the specific meaning.)

          Confusion is understandable. Chinese graphs, "characters", are very different in

          appearance from other, especially Western, graphs, such as the letters used in

          the words typed here. Additionally, both classical Chinese literature, such as

          the Shuōwén, as well as early twentieth century scholarship, such as by Dr.

          Wieger, tells us that characters include components that are meant to be pictorial 

          representations of that which they represent. Many of the sources listed below, in

          fact, speak directly to this widely held misconception:   

                     Unfortunately, it [the Chinese character system of writing] has often been

               misunderstood, partly through a tendency to oversimplify, and myths about  

               characters still abound. One of these myths, which we may as well knock on

               the head right away, is that characters are "pictograms", i.e., idealized pictures

               of the things they stand for.

                    Goddard, p. 188

                    Despite popular misperception, Chinese characters are not pictographs or

               ideographs, but logographs that represent the sounds and words of a living


                     Xiaofei Tian, in Denecke, Li, and Tian, p. 27-8

                     Initially, Chinese characters were understood in the West as being able to

               communicate ideas directly without the need to be vocalized, that is, with the   

               medium of language and speech... In the second half of the 1930s, a heated

               debate developed in Western Sinology precisely on the issue of whether

               Chinese writing was ideographic or logographic...

                    Imre Galambos, in Denecke, Li, and Tian, p. 31-2 

                    The question of pictography is of some importance because even early

               Chinese writing, as writing, was logographic. That is to say, the Chinese, once

               they were writing true writing, were using graphs to record words; they were

               not using them to draw pictures or ideas even though pictographic elements

               may originally have been used to construct the logographs and record the

               sounds of the words.

                    David Keightley, in Senner, 1989, p. 188

          Please see the below resources for additional information:

          The first two by Professor Boltz of the University of Washington (and, for sake of

          transparency, my Classical Chinese and philology professor and graduate

          advisor) give the most comprehensive arguments, and are the most commonly,

          nearly exclusively, cited by the others:

          Boltz, "Pictographic Myths" 2006
          ------- The Origin and Early Development of the Chinese Writing System, 2003
           Chang and Owen, The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, 2010

           Denecke, Li, and Tian, The Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature, 


           Goddard, C. The Languages of East and Southeast Asia, 2005

           Handel, Z. Sinography, 2019
           Keightley, D. "The Origins of Writing in China: Scripts and Cultural Contexts", in

                Senner, The Origins of Writing, 1989

           Mair, The Columbia History of Chinese Literature, 2001

           Norman, Chinese, 1988

           Qiu, X. (Mattos and Norman trans.) Chinese Writing, 2000

           Rogers, Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach, 2005