Culture: Master Shen Wu’s Vital Force

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Article Originally came from Orlando Weekly October 5 to 11, 2000

Culture: Master Shen Wu’s Vital Force

Studied healer combines Ancient Chinese music and medicine to take away ills By Dee Rivers


The treatment cubicle is immaculate. I lie down and close my eyes. My cot’s sheets are soft, cool and pressed. The other cots in other cubicles, separated by white curtains, are occupied by the sallow-skinned sick. Our collective breath draws deeply, releases, waits. Suddenly, a tide of tones, music composed by the healer we have come to see, fills the room’s physical and psychic space. He will visit each of us, in turn, a half-dozen times throughout the hour.

I am first. Even with closed eyes, I can follow the choreography of Master Wu’s hands, as they move inches above my body, the current of energy as discernible as the autumn air in fallen leaves. Palpable strands of energy generated by Wu’s movements trail from my head, along my neck, across my chest, through my stomach, down my legs to my toes. The music literally vibrates my heart, as my internal deep space stirs…

Master Shen Wu Playing Instruments
Here in Orlando, the well-studied Master Wu employs ancient Chinese methods to free his patients of ills.


Music “qi gong” is a healing modality founded by Shen Wu, a qi gong master and accomplished musician, who combines ancient Chinese theories of music-as-medicine with 5,000-year-old qi gong. “Qi” (pronounced chi) is an age-old Chinese concept that means vital energy. “Gong” means exercise. An extremely complex system, music qi gong is based on mathematical models of ancient Chinese music and human physiological rhythms.

There is primary, pectoral, nutritive and protective qi, each with its own essence and job in the body. All circulate along acupuncture’s meridian network – crisscrossing channels inside the body that connect every limb, organ and orifice. These pathways have been validated by Western medical researchers, who were able to detect along those meridians radioactive tracers they had injected into acupuncture points. Other testing equipment actually measured changes in electrical energy in meridians touched by a probe connected to acupuncture points.

Illness develops when qi movement becomes blocked. Many types of qi gong – including moving, meditative and breathing forms – are used to promote health, healing, well-being and longevity.

It is qi that is manipulated during acupuncture. Even quantum physics suggests that such energy is not only the invisible, intelligent occupant of our atoms but our invisible umbilical to the universe.

A lifelong student of such difficult esoterica as the Yellow Emperors Manual of Internal Medicine and the I-Ching, Wu was especially drawn to the theory of five musical tones- representing five different elements – that correspond vibrationally to five major organs in humans. “Tones are jieu (wood), zhe (fire), gong (earth), shang (metal) and yu (water), corresponding respectively to the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys,” Wu explains, “I interpreted the literature, then combined the synthesizer and traditional instruments to produce music qi gong.”

Wu leads an exemplary life, as required by the discipline. He shares the wisdom, in qi gong classes free to the public. His resume is stellar: professor at New York State University; associate dean of Massachusetts Institute of Alternative Medicine; awards; laudatory letters from world leaders; stacks of anecdotal praise from the treated. Still, few Western physicians have even heard of qi gong.

Dr. Neil J. Finkler is a gynecologic oncologist at the Walt Disney Memorial Cancer Institute at Florida Hospital. “I have a patient who has a stage-four endometrial cancer, alive now for six years. Two years ago, during a routine visit, I said, “I don’t understnad; the books say no long-term survival. You’re not only alive, but have improved liver enzymes and no sign of disease!” She said, “I have a secret.”

The secret was Master Wu, Finkler subsequently observed Wu at work. “He said he could do a lot of things, one was take away pain in my end-stage cancer patients. A big cynic, I told him to prove it.”

Soon, Wu and Finkler were collaborating at the Institute in a nonrandomized, uncontrolled trial, to evaluate the effects of music qi gong therapy in volunteers on massive doses of narcotics for pain.

Wu did prove it: After a short trial of qigong, all patients had a significantly reduced need for narcotics. Several became pain-free and discontinued medication. The majority survived much longer than expected, and the National Cancer Institute is so impressed, its branch of alternative medicine is considering a controlled, randomized trial pitting Wu against the gold standard of pharmaceuticals.

An astonished Finkler says he has learned a lot. “Now I know about wavelengths, harmonics in the body, what Master Wu does to get in harmony with those oscillations, how he builds his energy and transmits it to patients.”

The good doctor didn’t pick up that nomenclature while at Harvard.

Elsewhere: Though they don’t yet call it qi, neuroscientists at the University of California at Irvine recently found that not only do cells respond to melodies but neurons differentiate and prioritize tones!

A poem in his office reads, “The world is crying, And nobody cares.” Master Wu, his eyes intense, says he will keep working to fulfill the motto of Shen Wu Music Qi Gong: “To spread the precious ancient Chinese technique, especially its medical aspect and to benefit all mankind.”


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