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Ringing Rocks, Autumn Bells and the 5 Phases of TCM


Wellness insights from Acupuncture Center of NJ, providing holistic complementary mind-body-heart-healing since 1986, in Morristown, NJ!

Ringing Rocks, Autumn Bells and the 5 Phases of TCM

Peter Kadar


Have you ever heard such a thing that a field of rocks in nature can emit bell like musical sounds? As an acupuncturists and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) I’m curious about the connections between the natural world and healing. So I checked out the website called Atlas Obscura: Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations for information on the Ringing Rocks Park in Pennsylvania as soon as I heard about both “sites”.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 2.40.33 PMWow, as it turns out such fields of musical rocks have been lying there just an hour away all these years. The Ringing Rocks County Park is a Buck’s County park not far from Pottstown, P.A. The site is undeveloped, extends nearly half a mile, and is accessible by a hiking trail. A popular theory suggests that these particular ringing rock boulder fields are formed from a rock type called olivine diabase. Geological actions further influence some of them to be more capable of giving off sounds when struck.


In June of 1890 a local physician, Dr. John J. Ott of Pleasant Valley, gave a musical performance using boulders taken from the Stony Garden boulder field. The suggestion for the construction of the lithophone was made by the historian William J. Buck. The rocks weighed approximately 200 pounds apiece, and apparently Ott was able to change their sound by slightly chipping the boulders. He played several selections using a steel hammer and accompanied by a brass band. “The clear, bell-like tones of the rocks could be heard above the notes of the horns.” (Humphreys 1905, Fackenthal 1919, Sigafoos 1935 ). The tunes included “Home Sweet Home” and a composition of his own entitled “Sounds from the Ringing Rocks” – possibly a takeoff from the 1873 piano music score of the same name. Ready for a hiking trip to have some fun making the rocks sing? Be sure to bring a hammer!


And when you are busy hammering around in order to find the rocks among rocks that ring bells for you, keep in mind that in Chinese Traditional Medicine rock and its origin; Metal, is one of the Five essential elements or phases (wu xing) in a cycle that govern the flow of energy in the world outside and inside of ourselves. It corresponds to autumn, and its essence is about consolidation and letting go. Remember the phrase “For whom does the bell toll?” Perhaps it serves better here to think of it as “for what does the bell toll?” We all have some reckoning to do, and things that we need to let go of — in order to refocus core energy, for eco-balance inside and outside ourselves.

Helen Chen Post by Helen Chen, L.Ac., M.S.T.O.M.


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