The Shen-Hammer system of Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis™ (“CCPD”) is a sophisticated system of diagnostics which relies on the subtleties of the sensations, qualities and structure of the radial artery at both wrists. While heavily steeped in ancient wisdom and classical traditions of pulse diagnosis dating back thousands of years, CCPD has evolved to provide insight into the diseases and constitutional imbalances that affect modern man in an industrial world.
CCPD was significantly adapted by Dr. John H.F. Shen over the course of his long and renowned career, during which he saw hundreds of thousands of patients. After an intensive apprenticeship with Dr. Shen over a period of 28 years, Dr. Leon Hammer took on the arduous task of codifying and continuing the evolution of this pulse system.
Ding Gan-Ren published a book entitled Summary of Pulse Study and in its Foreword noted that he was integrating the styles of Lĭ Shí-Zhēn, Chen Xiu-Yuan, and Jiang Zhi-Zhen. The first two are authors of well-known works on pulse diagnosis, while the last is claimed to be the author of a secret manual passed down to Dr. Shen through the Ding family.
As a student at the school of Ding Gan-Ren, John Shen will have been exposed to all of these influences. From what we know of this part of history it appears to be this Menghe tradition of pulse diagnosis that Dr. Shen learned in his youth, later developed, and after his immigration to the United States, passed to Dr. Hammer.
Through his second-century book The Pulse Classic (Mai Jing), Wáng Shū-Hè has had a profound influence on the practice of pulse diagnosis. Wáng puts forth a compilation of the predominant pulse classifications wherein a zang and fu are both present in each of the six positions. There are five depths present in each position, and these are differentiated by beans of pressure (3, 6, 9, 12, 15). The deeper depths represent the yin (solid) organ, and the more superficial depths reveal its paired yang (hollow) organ.
Lĭ Shí-Zhēn, author of the sixteenth-century work Lakeside Pulse Studies (Bin Hu Mai Xue), has had an equally profound influence on pulse diagnosis. The system described in his text relates each of the six positions to one of the five solid yin organs. Each position has three depths: the most superficial reveals the qi aspect of the associated organ, the middle depth reveals the blood aspect, and the deepest represents the yin-substance aspect.
This important text contains lively debates about several methods of pulse diagnosis. It includes one that involves five beans of pressure versus another with nine beans, as well as arguments in support of Wáng Shū-Hè’s methodology.
Today, the debate continues: does an entire individual position represents the qi, blood, and yin-substance aspects of a yin organ as held by Lĭ Shí-Zhēn, Dr. Shen, and the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, or does it represent the yin (solid) and yang (hollow) paired organs of a phase as described by Wáng Shū-Hè?
Other perfectly valid systems of pulse diagnosis completely ignore, or partially combine, the part the radial pulse plays with other pulses in other locations such as the carotid artery and the pedal pulses. As an organism, the body broadcasts information about itself in many ways. The fact that we can hear these messages at all is far more important than arguments over the best way to listen to them.
The Shen-Hammer system of Pulse Diagnosis is based upon the interpretations of Dr. Shen and leans toward an emphasis on the work of Lĭ Shí-Zhēn. In addition, some concepts reflecting the interpretations of Zhang Jie-Bin and others are drawn from the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic.