Live Well Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition and Modern Research

Peter Deadman explores the wonderful Chinese tradition of nourishing life.

March 6, 2017

While the government health advisers and BMA experts issue edicts through the 24 hour news media, it's easy to forget that the ancients knew a thing or two about how to avoid coronary disease and cancer: nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables, fermented foods and balance in all things. Basically don't overload your system with saturated fats, which wouldn't have been around much in ancient China.

In this book, Peter Deadman guides the reader through all aspects of health and well-being using a mixture of ancient lore, modern stats and social research. How much sleep do we really need? How much exercise? Why do we get ill? What happens when we die? All things considered, it is an achievement to have covered all this in 19 readable chapters. Deadman uses a wise range of sources and studies - from Shakespeare and Confucious to recent research journals - it's all here.

To quote from the introduction "throughout this book, discussion of theory and practice of the modern Chinese health cultivation tradition will be compared with the findings of such (sic) modern lifestyle research". This isn't a blind worship of Eastern holistic practice, but a piece of research documenting how we can live out life according to a tradition that is termed here 'Yangshen'. To paraphrase, 'Yangshen' can be broadly divided into three parts: avoiding behaviour which causes harm, behaving in ways which promote well-being and actively 'nourishing life'. You'll find if you rest well, exercise moderately, drink tea but limit alcohol, you too can be healthy, wealthy and wise.

I found the most interesting chapter in the book was on 'Cultivating the mind and emotions' which is considered "the most important branch of the nourishment of life tradition" (p. 92). Deadman quotes texts as wide ranging as the original Tao (4th century BC) to Plato (397 BC) to modern studies on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE)'s promotion of meditation for a wide range of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and pain. The results of all these citations may be summed up as 'don't stress, and do try to live in the present moment'.

The problem faces readers who progress through the book is that at some point one realises that however interesting the research and philosophical background, the contents of the book basically boils down to common sense.

So if, say, your idea of fun is a large Jack Daniels and a burger while watching Fifty Shades Darker this might not be the book for you. On the other hand, if you want a quiet cuppa and to live to be a centenarian, you'll find this book full of reassuring advice.

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