In the course of their epic journey, the pilgrims in the classic novel “Journey to the West” are exposed to a series of hardships, including a vicious sandstorm conjured up by the Yellow Wind Monster. As the sand whirls around them, Zhu Bajie, the strongest of their party, begins pulling at the Monkey King’s clothes, pleading, “Big brother, it’s windy—let’s go find shelter!” The Monkey King only laughs scornfully, saying “Come on little brother, toughen up! If we can’t even stand a little wind, how do you think we’ll fare when we run into evil spirits?” Bajie shoots back, “Big brother, haven’t you ever heard the saying, ‘Steer clear of lust as if warding off an opponent, and be wary of the wind as if warding off arrows’?”
Though his words were couched in rather crude terms, Baije was onto something. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) teaches that there are six types of climate: windy, cold, hot, humid, dry and flaming. Excessive exposure to any of the six will lead to illness, with those who contract a wind-related illness being said to have “caught wind” (受风 shòu fēng). Bajie’s playful saying, comparing wind’s sting to that of an arrow tip, stems from wind’s unpredictable nature and the human body’s vulnerability to it. Needless to say, under siege from a wind demon, Bajie and the Monkey King were wise to take cover.
Each of the four seasons boasts a different kind of wind, but the gusts of winter are thought to be the nastiest. Known as “the north wind” (朔风 shuòfēng), this gale brings with it a bitter frost, capable of killing all but the hardiest of souls. So, if you feel a headache or cold creeping up your back near the end of the year, it’s more than likely you have caught wind. So which parts of your body are most susceptible to this element and what are the symptoms?
While most of the body is covered with clothing, the head is often left exposed. This does give you the chance to catch some rays, but it also leaves those with weaker constitutions or poor levels of yangqi (阳气, a TCM term referring to the hotter side of the yin-yang balance) vulnerable to catching wind. Possible symptoms include headaches, pains in the joints or even throughout the whole body, as well as an internal imbalance of yin and yang.
Catching wind can also lead to more serious health problems when it attacks your body’s natural defenses. A case in point is jingluo (经络), the parallel energy channels that run down either side of the spine, and serve to balance ying and yang, distribute qi throughout the body and repel external threats. When wind disrupts your jingluo, yangqi escapes from the body, resulting in an internal imbalance and increased vulnerability to illness.
In recent years, a desire to keep up with the latest trends and stay in fashion has put increasing pressure on people to show more flesh at the expense of wrapping up warm. True, it can be a bit embarrassing to be the only person on the street bundled up like an Eskimo while others strut their stuff, but it’s never wise to sacrifice your health for the sake of beauty. For those who can’t leave home without their vanity mirror, there are plenty of fashionable hats that can also keep your head warm—just be sure they fit well! Scarves are another great add-on that performs the double-duty of keeping you both cozy and stylish. Neck wrappings are essential for protecting your dazhuixue (大椎穴), a key acupuncture point below your neck where yang accumulates.
Translated by Beijing Zhu (朱蓓静)