The Healing Power of Music

Cello being played in an orchestra.

Almost everyone feels the magic of music, but not many people understand why it affects them or how it affects them. (Image: Stokkete via Dreamstime)

Music is an indispensable part of peoples’ lives. Whether cooking, working, commuting, or relaxing, people have it to accompany them. It can even act as a type of good medicine on the human body. Music healing was recorded in ancient Chinese books and had related case records in the West. 

Shuo Yuan, a collection of stories and anecdotes from the pre-Qin period, noted that Miao Fu (an ancient shaman) played an instrument made of bamboo pipes called a lusheng, which cured peoples’ illnesses.

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Chinese medicine references the unity of body and mind. Music can make people happy, and happiness will touch the heart. The heart dominates the blood vessels, and the qi and blood are cleared accordingly. Fresh qi, blood, and energy flow to the lesion to remove harmful substances and enhance healing. 

In the mid-19th century, Florence Nightingale was aware that music helped wounded soldiers in the West. Before World War II, reports of music for therapy in hospitals and other institutions had increased significantly; after World War II, this was further recognized by the medical community.

A New York Times article in 1950 wrote: “Although the development of music therapy is in its infancy, it has shown undoubted value. Some intractable illnesses in the wounded soldiers failed with other treatments in the hospital, but were improved and even cured by music therapy.” 

Bearded old man playing music on a lusheng.
Miao Fu (an ancient shaman) played an instrument made of bamboo pipes called a lusheng, which cured peoples’ illnesses. (Image: Xubang Yang via Dreamstime)

Music is connected to the human body, culture, and the universe 

Life contains the connotation of yin-yang and the five elements. For example, Chinese music has Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La, corresponding to the tones of Western music. In traditional Chinese medicine, the five tones not only correspond to the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, earth), but also correspond to the five internal organs (spleen, lung, liver, heart, kidney), five directions (center, north, south, east, west), and seasons. 

Shu Rong, a senior British traditional Chinese medicine practitioner whose ancestors can celebrate more than 600 years in Chinese medicine practice, said: “We use the relationship between the five tones and the five elements to connect the five tones with the internal organs, seasons, and directions. Therefore, music has a huge connection with the human body and the universe.” 

The five musical tones correspond to the five internal organs of the human body and can heal diseases. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine noted: “Heaven has five tones, and man has five organs… The human corresponds to Heaven and earth.” Amazingly, modern medicine has also initially discovered that the frequency of the five tones is consistent with the five organs. 

The organs in the human body vibrate according to a specific frequency. A study published in the Journal of Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine indicates that music can resonate with the body’s organs through sound waves to regulate the physiological functions of the organs and play a therapeutic role. Traditional Chinese medicine says, “pain means blocked, unblocked gives no pain. “Shu Rong said: “The power of music can vibrate the acupuncture points and stimulate the blood.” 

The Yellow Emperor, Huangdi.
The Yellow Emperor, Huangdi. (Image: via Public Domain)

Traditional Chinese music has great healing power

According to the ancient text The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: “All diseases are initially caused by the poor circulation of qi and blood. The excess of the seven emotions cause the poor qi and blood: joy, anger, worry, loss, grief, horror, and fright. For example, violent anger can cause the qi to go up and damage the liver; horror can cause the qi to go down and damage the kidneys; loss can cause the qi to stagnate and damage the spleen… Therefore, when we overreact emotionally, it will lead to various diseases.” 

“Each organ has both spiritual and material parts,” Shu Rong explained further. For example, heart, people sometimes indicate “mind.” “Heart” is material, and “mind” represents spirit. Music can simultaneously dredge the qi and blood of the physical body and regulate the mental and emotional state. “The pain will naturally heal.” 

Shu Rong said that traditional Chinese music has excellent healing power. Moreover, listening to specific selections can also treat diseases of the corresponding organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys in a targeted manner. 

It can be good or bad medicine 

For it to cure diseases, the appropriate selections must be played. “Inappropriate music may lead to disease,” Shu Rong said. 

Music of the same frequency can resonate with human organs; that of different frequencies may disturb human organs. In traditional Chinese medicine, disharmonious sounds and noise can make people uncomfortable and affect the health of internal organs, such as the liver and kidney. 

On the other hand, whether it is beneficial to the human body depends on using the five tones and whether the composer and performer are pure or not, and whether they have good character and morality. Some bad music will cause diseases in the body and even lead to the country’s decline. 

Zheng Xuan’s Book of Rites Notes records that during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 B.C.-403 B.C.), in the state of Jin, Duke Ping hosted a banquet for Duke Ling of the state of Wei. Duke Ling asked the musicians to play something to cheer him up.

In the middle of playing, Shi Kuang, a musician from the state of Jin, hurriedly stopped the performance and said: “This is a piece of music composed by the ancient musician Shi Yan for King Zhou. It makes people lose their minds. It is the sound of the subjugation of the country! You can’t play it.“ The ancients attached great importance to the influence of music. 

Orchestra members playing their instruments.
When the connotation of the music itself is positive and the player’s heart is pure, the healing effect of it will also be strengthened. (Image: via Pixabay)

Modern-day music healing  

Shu Rong recalled meeting a patient, Mrs. Lee, whose child suffered from depression a few years ago. One day, Mrs. Lee took her child to see a Shen Yun performance. The child’s depressive symptoms were cured when they returned home, and he became very polite. A year later, the child’s depression has not recurred. Mrs. Lee felt it was beautiful and mentioned it to Shu Rong many times. 

Shu Rong said that the child’s depression was cured after watching Shen Yun’s performance, partly attributable to the compositions played in the performance. She explained that Shen Yun uses traditional Chinese composition techniques, with five tones as the main component and other tones as supplements. 

When the connotation of the music itself is positive and the player’s heart is pure, the healing effect of it will also be strengthened. The performers of the Shen Yun Orchestra are Falun Dafa practitioners who follow “Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance” to maintain a peaceful mind. Shu Rong said that the body’s spirit is stimulated in this state, and the music contains corrective energy, “which can positively affect the human body.” 

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