- Is It Possible To Live As A Hermit On Wudang Mountain?
- How Is Life For A Foreigner Studying Chinese Medicine In China?
- How Does Yin And Yang Fit Into Chinese Medicine?
Hobbies and Interests: Magic performance and daoism
- Classic of the Yellow Emperor by Maoshing Ni
- Tao Te Ching: The Classic of the Way and Virtue by Lao Tzu
- The Growth of all Things (Wan Wu Sheng Zhang) by Feng Tang
Most Influenced By: Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Lee, Dalai Lama, any courageous people
This edited transcript is less than 25% of the interview. You can listen to the full interview, above
Adrian Bye: Today I’m here with Thomas. Thomas is from France and he lives up on Wudang Mountain basically as a hermit. Thomas, thanks for joining me.
Thomas Morillon: My pleasure.
Adrian Bye: Thomas makes a weekly trip into Wudang to pick up supplies for the mountains. Thomas, can you tell us a little about your life, where you’re from and where you grew up?
Thomas Morillon: I’m from France and now 39 years old. I studied Chinese in France at university; I was always interested by China and the mysticism around China. I studied three years in France; English, Chinese and International Trade. That was the only Major available in my city with Chinese, so I went for that to be able to work in a company at the import/export sector. During my studies I came three times to China, in Beijing and in South of China for almost half a year. In those three years of studies there was almost half a year spent in China already. And you know, China is so special you can fall in love with it. It’s so different and difficult to describe. I thought I just have to come and see what happens. A friend told me if I want to go just go.
Adrian Bye: What year was that?
Thomas Morillon: That was 2003 in August.
Adrian Bye: We are in 2015 now, so you’ve been here twelve years.
Thomas Morillon: Yes.
Adrian Bye: You’ve been studying Chinese medicine. Can you talk a little bit about that and what got you into Chinese medicine?
Thomas Morillon: What brought me into Chinese medicine is a book I saw in France. We’re talking about Daoism. In Daoism there is this famous sentence; we say: In ten Daoists you’ve got nine doctors, which underlines the link between the aim of Daoism and the aim of Chinese medicine; which is to be healthy, mind and body health, and longevity. So Daoism is using the principle of Chinese medicine. Chinese people like to care about health; what do you eat is good for you, what do you drink can be good for you, and exercise. They are very at ease with their body. This is something very common in China, the care for health. That is also a very important part in Daoism. So in that book I saw this sentence. I thought it would be awesome to be so happy, to be healthy, just living in a very lightly manner. I registered for a five years course in Chinese medicine in Shanghai, Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs speciality.
Adrian Bye: Tell us what you studied in terms of Chinese medicine. You’ve done five years full time. That’s a lot.
Thomas Morillon: Actually, you have to choose right at the beginning between two specialities. Internal medicine, which is more about health, and the other speciality is more about acupuncture and massage. I choose internal medicine because it’s the most difficult and the most complete. It’s like the trunk of the tree while the acupuncture and massage are more like the leaves. I thought it would be more interesting to know the most difficult part before and then being able to study by myself the rest. When you choose internal medicine you have to go through acupuncture and massage as well, but less time. The first three years you study half of Chinese medicine and half of Western medicine. The fourth year is only Chinese medicine, and the fifth year is in a Chinese hospital.
Adrian Bye: Teach us some basics of Chinese medicine diagnosis. Looking at the tongue is important, right?
Thomas Morillon: That would be one, looking. Looking at the brightness of the face, the eyes; all the details you can have. And the more experience you have, the more patients you see, and the theory you get from the Traditional Book of Chinese Medicine, especially the old ones, like Huang Ting Jing, the Yellow Court classic. Most of the good Chinese doctors just see someone and they can diagnose. That’s very impressive, just by looking; even the person at two, three meters away. We’ve been told that the doctor should be the standard. If you take the pulse you can have sixty beats per minute. That is the western way of seeing it. But in traditional China, when the doctor was taking the pulse, he didn’t have a watch, he was with counting according to his own breathing. So his breathing has to be the same every day. That’s very difficult. That needs a lot of practice to always have the same breathing like a motor, without any feelings and emotions. That is according to your breathing. If you feel it’s quick, it’s quick; if you feel it’s slow, it’s slow. There are a lot of requirements in Chinese medicine for the doctor. It’s very demanding for the doctor in terms of self-practice.
Adrian Bye: You did five years studying TCM. Can you give us some examples of things that you have treated using yin-yang concepts?
Thomas Morillon: Yin and Yang is one of the principles of Chinese medicine. You have to see if it’s yin/yang, if it’s inside or outside, if it’s old or new. You have to describe this. Yin and yang can be the base for absolutely everything. You can put everything into yin and yang. All the ideas, concepts, everything you can divide in yin and yang. In terms of Chinese medicine, yin and yang is in different circumstances; yin is what cools down your body, yang is the part more active. For Chinese medicine, the perfect is the balance between the two. From the balance as the best situation we can have a surplus of yang, surplus of yin, lack of yin, lack of yang, we can have lots of combinations. Actually, when you diagnose by questions, you ask for symptoms, which are related to yin and yang, which are very obvious. For example, if someone says my throat is always dry, my eyes are dry, and at the same time I can see his two cheeks are red and the heart of his hands and feet are always hot, especially before sleeping at night, this is a lack of yin; very obvious. There is no need to say much more. The opposite, if someone says he is very active and he can’t rest, and it’s all of a sudden, we know there is an intrusion of yang into his body and we need to clear it.
Adrian Bye: You come from a western background. From the enlightenment there is the idea of the scientific method and evidence-based medicine. You’ve grown up with these concepts. You’ve spent a lot of time studying Chinese medicine and you know, as do I, that many Chinese are not completely comfortable with Chinese medicine, although a lot are. What’s your opinion on the scientific method and the ideas of the west versus Chinese medicine?
Thomas Morillon: As I told you, we’ve been taught Chinese and western medicine together. I think some of them have to be used. It needs quite a lot of knowledge to use properly those two methods. For example, like last week, I had a cold that lasts for a week. I do nothing because I’m too busy, and then it goes into an infection of the lungs. I need some Chinese medicine to clear that. I know that Chinese medicine is one hundred percent natural and is good for me but I know that it’s going to take a little bit of time. So the first day I take my Chinese medicine, in the evening I’m going to take a pill for the cold of western medicine so I can have a good sleep. The pill for the cold from the western medicine is going to shut down my immune system, so there won’t be any fight during the night; which is not good because I need to fight against this infection. But because I want my eight or nine hours of sleep, I’m going to use just a little bit of western medicine to have my sleep. During the day I’m going to use the Chinese medicine. Of course we can’t ask everybody to think that way because that needs lots of knowledge to know what kind of medicine is doing what at what moment and what kind. That is what I take as my experience, and for my patients I do the same. If I believe that western medicine would be nice at that moment I will use western medicine; and if I think Chinese medicine is good, I’m trying to use as much as possible of Chinese medicine.
Adrian Bye: What kind of things do you use yourself?
Thomas Morillon: Everything. The five components of Chinese medicine are massage, acupuncture, herbs, dietetic, like food, and Qi Gong, exercise. I use them all. Herbs are more when you are sick, or you’re becoming sick.
Adrian Bye: So you completely changed your life around what you learned studying TCM, didn’t you?
Thomas Morillon: Yes. Chinese medicine or Daoism is a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that preserves your calmness, your health and your happiness. So it’s a lifestyle.
Adrian Bye: So let’s talk about lifestyle. You moved from Shanghai and you live essentially as a hermit up on the mountain. You want to tell us about your life as a French hermit on Wudang Mountain?
Thomas Morillon: I don’t know if it can be described as a hermit. I wanted to have this experience to live alone in the mountain because it’s presented as the last step in the courses of Daoism. I’ve been going to many temples, living in many different temples, even whuzu academies. I felt that I was always in a studying position, like learning from people, and I don’t have time to rest and digest everything to make it my own and to make my mind clear about everything. It’s said that hermitage, it’s like a retreat, is a nice way to do that. I found a place up on the mountain. I started to live there for now almost a year. Especially through the winter you feel that you are alone in this mountain with the snow. It’s amazing. You don’t have people to speak to, so you don’t speak. That is a way to make your mind more inner; it doesn’t go outside. You don’t speak and slowly you start to search and see what’s in your mind more clearly than when you speak and when you’re disturbed by activity. You can see what is good in your mind and what is going wrong. Then you can fix it if needed. I spent at least sixty percent of my time doing some work in the house, because it was an old farm; what I took as a Daoist practice, because it’s hard, it’s difficult, it’s tiring. The other half of the time I was practicing meditation, Chinese scriptures, or Kung Fu.
Adrian Bye: You said you’re reading scripture. Is that one of the Daoist texts, and if so, which one? Is that Dao De Jing?
Thomas Morillon: Dao De Jing is the most read, everyone has to read it, from the first to the last breath. The other one in Chinese is a short classic, which is called Taishang Laojun Shuo Cang Gingjing Jing, the classic of calmness and purity of Laozi. It has only about 400 characters.
Adrian Bye: You mentioned meditation. What kind of meditation are you doing? Is it standing meditation or something else?
Thomas Morillon: At night or in the evening it’s more sitting meditation; standing meditation is better in the morning because it’s yang. You can grow the energy while doing standing meditation, while in the evening it may wake you up while you want to calm down for a good sleep. In sitting meditation it’s either the breathing techniques, looking for emptiness, just relax and looking for sensation and emptiness, or visualization. Three kinds.
Adrian Bye: You would do all three in one sitting? Or you do one one day and one the next day?
Thomas Morillon: I don’t have rules. I have those methods, and according to my feelings and my needs. If I’m very tired, emptiness is the only one that can replenish me. If I’m not tired, I can use some Kung Fu and try to go further in my training.
Adrian Bye: So you are doing Tai Chi or Kung Fu or Qi Gong? What are you doing up there on the mountain?
Thomas Morillon: The three of them. Martial arts, Kung Fu is Wushu, is for entertaining your body to make it more flexible and to be able to protect yourself in need. Tai Chi is to increase your energy by a series of slow movements, which are not stopped. They are all linked together. It’s like water and clouds, they never stop. It’s very good exercise because one series of Tai Chi is at least five to ten minutes. So for five to ten minutes you think about nothing else but your movements. That’s a perfect meditation, because the body is working slowest as it should or can. You produce more energy than it’s consuming, it’s a gain of energy. That’s the principle of energy in Tai Chi. It’s a very good exercise, I like it. Qi Gong is the most closest to Chinese medicine because the movements are made on the spot, you don’t move left or right, just on the spot. It can be done by any kind of population, kids and old people, no regards to your physical condition. So that’s my favourite.
Adrian Bye: Thomas, thanks for doing the interview.
Thomas Morillon: My pleasure.