Practitioner, Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Seattle, WA

Adjunct Faculty/Lecturer, Northwestern Health Sciences University

Adjunct Faculty/Lecturer, Arizona School of AOM
Adjunct/Clinical Faculty, Bastyr University

Graduate student, Asian Languages and Literature, Univ of WA

        Professional Curriculum Vitae (CV)

The Office of Dr. John Aguilar, Jr.

Classical Chinese from the neijing



Dr. Aguilar makes audio lectures (podcasts) available where he gives instruction in Classical Chinese through a close reading of the Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic (Huángdì Nèijīng).


"Classical Chinese" is the language (technically writing system, as opposed to spoken language) with which Chinese medicine's foundational texts were written, such as the Nèijīng and Treatise on Cold Damage (Shānghán Lùn). This writing system, as well as the associated spoken language, "Old Chinese", are distinct from modern Chinese. Though related, the ability to read modern Chinese does not confer the ability to read Classical Chinese. To read the classics, one must learn Classical Chinese.


Further, translations are necessarily limited in their ability to convey the original. The act of translation is a complex decision-making process. Readers with no direct knowledge of the source material are not privy to what the translator is choosing to omit; they are not even aware of when such decisions are being made. Translation is an act of original creation, not replication. Reading a translation is not equivalent to reading the source material. 


The most direct and practical means to studying the classics, then, is under the guidance of someone with formal training in Classical Chinese. Dr. Aguilar has been studying the Chinese language since roughly 2010. He began his formal language training at the University of Washington, Department of Asian Languages and Literature, in 2013. He has been studying Classical Chinese at the UW since 2016 and is currently a graduate student studying under expert philologist Professor William Boltz.


This lecture series begins with a close reading of chapter five of the Nèijīng. This chapter is crucial, essential to Chinese medicine and the contemporary "Traditional Chinese Medicine" (TCM). The listener will learn the contents of this chapter while slowly developing their own ability to engage the classics directly themselves.


We will be using as our primary text the translation recently published by scholar, professor, and translator Sabine Wilms, PhD: Humming with Elephants: The Great Treatise on the Resonant Manifestations of Yin and Yang ($53). The listener will need to purchase this text.


It is highly recommended the listener also download the smartphone app Pleco and purchase the "Basic Bundle", as well as the two dictionaries: A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine and A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese.



Series 1

The first series is a set of eight, one-hour lectures. They are available beginning July 13th, 2020. The cost is $110. You pay for and access the lectures via my podcast



Cited works

Throughout the series I will mention primary and secondary sources. Below is a comprehensive list for you reference:



Harper, D.  Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts. NY: Routledge, 1998.

Kong, Y. Huangdi Neijing: A Synopsis and Commentaries. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2010.

Kroll, P. A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, Rev ed. Boston: Brill, 2017.

Lin Yi 林億 et al. Zhong Guang Bu Zhu Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen (Xin jiao zheng ed) 重廣補注黃帝内經素問 [Important and Extensive Supplement to an Annotated Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic Basic Questions]. Beijing: Kexue Jishu Wenxian Chuanbanshe, 2011. 

Loewe, M. ed. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographic Guide. Berkley: The Society for the Study of Early China, 1993.

Tessenow, H. and Unschuld, P. A Dictionary of the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen. LA: University of California Press, 2008.

Unschuld, P. Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text. LA: University of California Press, 2003.

Unschuld, P. Huang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu: The Ancient Classic on Needle Therapy. LA: University of California Press, 2016.

Unschuld, P. and Tessenow, H. Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: An Annotated Translation of Huang Di’s Inner Classic – Basic Questions. Vols 1 and 2. LA: University of California Press, 2011.

Wilms, S. Humming with Elephants: The Great Treatise on the Resonant Manifestations of Yin and Yang (A Translation and Discussion of Chapter Five of the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic Plain Questions). Whidbey Island: Happy Goat Production, 2018.

Wiseman, N and Ye, F. A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine. Taos: Paradigm Publications, 1998.

Yang Shang-shan 楊上善. Huang Di Nei Jing Tai Su 黃帝内經太素 [Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic Supreme Questions]. Beijing: Zhongguo Yiyao Keji Chubanshe, 2018.

Yang Shang-shan 楊上善. Huang Di Nei Jing Tai Su 黃帝内經太素 [Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic Supreme Questions]. Beijing: Xueyuan Chubanshe, 2019.

Zhang Can-jia 張燦玾. Huang Di Nei Jing Wen Xian Yan Jiu 黃帝内經文獻研究 [Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic Literature Research]. Beijing: Ke Xue Chu Ban She, 2014.

Zhang Jing-yue 張景岳. Lei Jing 類經 [Classic of Categories]. Beijing: Zhongguo Yiyao Keji Chubanshe, 2011.

Zhang Zhi-cong 張志聰. Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen Ji Zhu 黃帝内經素問集 [Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, Basic Questions, Collected Commentaries]. Beijing: Zhongguo Yiyao Keji Chubanshe, 2014.