Circular Dynamics of Ancient Chinese Medicine II


by Peng Ziyi (1871-1949)

Translated from the Original Chinese by Bryan McMahon


The Human Body Gives Rise to the Zang-fu Organs in Resonance with the Five Movements of the Great Qi


The body resonates with the wood energy of the environment and gives birth to the Liver zàng and Gall Bladder organs. The wood qi is the product of the heat from the sun that strikes the earth’s surface, descends during autumn, is stored in the water during winter and emerges in spring. The wood qi of the human body is the same. Though the liver and gall bladder organs are both located on the right side of the body, the function of the Liver channel is on the left and the function of the Gall Bladder channel is on the right. The Gall Bladder minister fire must descend on the right, enter into the water element and then reemerge to rise on the left side, giving rise the function of the Liver channel. Diseases of the Liver channel are diagnosed in the left pulse; problems with the left side of the abdomen can be treated using the Liver channel. The Liver and Gall Bladder govern the sinews; their function is to dredge and course. Dredging and coursing occur in every part of the body as wood qi permeates everywhere.

The body resonates with the fire energy of the environment and gives birth to the Heart zàng and Small Intestine organs. The Heart and Small Intestine govern the blood; their function is expansion and circulation. Expansion and circulation occur in every part of the body as fire qi permeates everywhere.

The body resonates with the metal energy of the environment and gives birth to the Lung zàng and Large Intestine organs. The Lung and Large Intestine govern the skin; their function is to gather. Gathering occurs in every part of the body as metal qi permeates everywhere.

The body resonates with the water energy of the environment and gives birth to the Kidney zàng and Bladder fǔ organs. The Kidney and Bladder govern thebones; their function is to store. Storing occurs in every part of the body as water qi permeates everywhere.

The body resonates with the earth energy of the environment and gives birth to the Spleen zàng and Stomach fǔ organs. The Spleen and Stomach govern the muscles; their function is to transport and transform. Transportation and transformation occur in every part of the body as earth qi permeates everywhere.

The body resonates with the minister fire energy of the environment and gives birth to the Pericardium zàng and Mingmen organs. Mingmen is also called the Sanjiao. The Pericardium and Mingmen govern the fatty connective tissue; their function is to ignite and burn. Igniting and burning occur in every part of the body as minister fire qi permeates everywhere. The fatty tissue in the right kidney is the minister fire of the Mingmen. The atria of the heart is the Heart zàng; the apex of the heart that lies within the visceral pericardial is the Pericardium zàng

The Stomach is theof the Spleen; the Spleen is the zàng of the Stomach. Zàngmeans to store. means to transform. The nature of yang is to transform; the nature of yin is to store. The zàng stores that which has been transformed; the transforms that which has been stored. The human body resonates with the yang qi of creation and gives birth to the ; it resonates with the yin energy of creation and gives birth to the zàng. The fǔ organ is yang; its color is bright. The zàng is yin; its color is dark. Yang and bright, therefore it can transform; yin and dark, therefore it can store. This is the meaning of the characters 臟腑 zàngfǔ. Other zàngfǔ pairs are the same in nature. 

When the expansive flow of the liver wood qi of the human body is deficient, there will be symptoms likeabsent sweating, reduced urination, constipation, abdominal pain, intercostal pain, delayed menstruation in women. When expansive flow is excessive, there will be symptoms like spontaneous sweating, excessive urination, nocturnal emission, fever, dizziness, tinnitus, leucorrhea and shortened menstruation in women. Deficient expansive flow of qi is caused by deficiency of fire qi within water; excessive expansive flow is caused by deficiency of metal qi. 

When the gathering of the lung metal qi of the human body is deficient, there will be symptoms like excessive sweating, dizziness, fever, cough, wheezing, nocturnal emission, excessive urination, diseases of atrophy. When gathering is excessive, there will be symptoms like aversion to cold, constipation, epigastric stuffiness, absent sweating. Deficient gathering is caused by excessive expansion of wood qi; excessive gathering is caused by deficiency of fire qi unable to open and promote. 

When the opening and promoting of the heart fire qi of the human body is deficient, there will be symptoms like blood obstruction, spiritual lassitude, lack of flavor in the mouth, blood cold. When opening and promoting is excessive, there will be symptoms like pain in the tongue, pain in the throat, palpitations, frustration. Deficiency of opening and promoting is caused by deficiency of the fire qi within wood. Excessive opening and promoting is caused by deficiency of the middle qi, leading to metal qi not descending. 

When the storing of the kidney water qi of the human body is deficient, there will be symptoms like floating yang, dizziness, fever, edema of the feet. Deficient storage of the kidney is caused by weakness of the gathering of metal qi and excessive expansive flow of wood qi. There are no diseases of excessive storing of kidney water. The stronger kidney water stores, the stronger the root of yang energy will be.

When the transporting and transforming of the spleen earth qi of the human body is deficient, there will be symptoms like abdominal fullness, food stasis, vomiting, diarrhea, heaviness of the four limbs, lassitude of the entire body. When earth qi is excessively solid, it cannot transform and transport. 

When the igniting and burning of the minister fire qi of the human body is deficient, there will be symptoms like cold in the lower half of the body, the kidneys will be cold, Spleen Stomach function will be poor, with difficulty controlling both urination and bowel movements. This deficiency of the igniting and burning of the minister fire is due to a shortage of the essential qi of the minister fire. There are no diseases of excessive igniting and burning of the minister fire; there are diseases of the minister fire failing to descend. When the minister fire descends into the water element, there is fire within water; this generates yuan qi.When the minister fire does not descend, there will be burning heat in the exterior. The greater the burning heat is without, the more deficient the minister fire is within.

The circular dynamic of the five elements is completely integrated and cannot be separated; the human body is also thus. Diseases of the five elements are all due to a loss of this circular dynamic, which in turn leads to separation of their individual roles and loss of integration. The above pathological discussion is merely an outline, meant to represent general categories of disease. The role of the middle qi is to maintain the integration of the five elements. The creation of the middle qi lies at the dividing plane of the earth’s surface and is disseminated throughout the entire space of creation. This plane of the middle qi is located between sternum and belly button in the human body and is disseminated throughout the entire body. The middle qi is like the axle and the four directions are like the wheel. The axle moves and the wheel turns; the wheel turns and keeps the axle responsive. The axle turns in the inside and the wheel rises and descends on the outside. This is Chinese medical physiology. Chinese medical pathology then is simple – either the axle is not turning or the wheel is not rising and descending. Chinese medical treatment strategy is to either assist the turning of the axle in order to power the rising and descending of the wheel or assist the rising and descending of the wheel in order to power the turning of the axle. From the wheel to the axle, this is called prenatal; from the axle to the wheel, this is called postnatal. These concepts of prenatal and postnatal physiology, pathology and treatment strategy are all represented in the hétúin the Book of Changes. It will be discussed in detail in the “Life and the Universe” chapter.

Moving from the wheel to the axle, its rising and descending creates middle qi; moving from the axle to the wheel, middle qi creates rising and descending. The great qi has actual material form; the movements of its material form has a definite method and clear order. There are individual roles that come together in collaboration; there is the role of collaboration that gives rise to the individual. This is the circular dynamic of the hétú by which it establishes all of creation. 

The heat from the sun that strikes the earth’s surface is gathered by the autumn metal and is stored beneath the earth in the water. During storage by the water qi, the yang heat combines with water, emerges from the surface of the earth as wood qi. Wood qi continues to rise and becomes fire qi. These are the four images; the dynamic movement of the four images creates the middle qi, also known as earth qi and abides at the center of the four images. This circular dynamic of the five elements is the universe. 宇 yǔ represents the individual form of the circular dynamic of the great qi; 宙 zhòu represents its space. The space of the universe encompasses the movements of the earth and sun; the extraordinarily small space of an individual human body here on Earth is actually something quite ordinary, a simple and spontaneous replica born of the circular dynamic of the great qi, a genetic copy of the universe. Thus it is said that the human body is a microcosm. 

 

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Understanding the Designations of the Twelve Primary Channels

 

Hand Taiyin Lung channel of xīn metal, Hand Yangming Large Intestine channel of gēng metal: The Lung is an yin organ, the Large Intestine is a yang viscera; both are generated by the accumulation of the metal energy of the great qi. Gēng and xīn indicate the yang and yin nature of metal energy. The function of metal energy is to gather. The gathering function of the Lung channel metal energy moves from upper to lower; the gathering function of the Large Intestine channel metal energy moves from lower to the upper, forming a circular dynamic. The Lung channel travels from chest to hand, connecting with the Large Intestine; it governs descending. The Large Intestine channel travels from hand to head, connecting with the Lung; it governs ascending. Taiyin and Yangming correlate to damp earth and dry metal. The Large Intestine channel holds yang metal energy, the Lung channel holds yin metal energy as well as yin earth energy. 

 

Foot Taiyang Bladder channel of rén water, Foot Shaoyin Kidney channel of guǐ water: The Kidney is an yin organ, the Bladder is a yang viscera; both are generated by the accumulation of the water energy of the great qi. Rén and guǐ indicate the yang and yin nature of water qi. The function of water qi is to strore. The storing function of the Bladder channel water energy moves from upper to lower; the storing function of the Kidney channel water energy moves from lower to upper, forming a circular dynamic. The Bladder channel travels from head to foot, connecting with the Kidney; it governs descending. The Kidney channel travels from foot to chest, connecting with the Bladder; it governs ascending. Taiyang and Shaoyin correlate to cold water and emperor fire. The Bladder channel holds yang water energy, the Kidney channel holds yin water energy as well as yin fire energy.

 

Foot Shaoyang Gall Bladder channel of jiá wood, Foot Jueyin Liver channel of wood: The Liver is an yin organ, the Gall Bladder is a yang viscera; both are generated by the accumulation of the wood energy of the great qi. Jiá and indicate the yang and yin nature of wood qi. The function of wood qi is to dredge and course. The dredging and coursing function of the Gall Bladder channel wood energy moves from upper to lower; the dredging and coursing function of the Liver channel wood energy moves from lower to upper, forming a circular dynamic. The Gall Bladder channel travels from head to foot, connecting with the Liver; it governs descending. The Liver channel travels from foot to chest, connecting with the Gall Bladder; it governs ascending. Shaoyang and Jueyin correlate to minister fire and wind wood. The Liver channel holds yin wood energy, the Gall Bladder channel holds yang wood energy as well as minister fire energy.

 

Hand Shaoyin Heart channel of dīng fire, Hand Taiyang Small Intestine channel of bǐng fire: The Heart is an yin organ, the Small Intestine is a yang viscera; both are generated by the accumulation of the fire energy of the great qi. Dīng and bǐng indicate the yang and yin nature of fire qi. The function of fire qi is to open and promote. The opening and promoting function of the Heart channel fire energy moves from upper to lower; the opening and promoting function of the Small Intestine channel fire energy moves from lower to upper, forming a circular dynamic. The Heart channel travels from chest to hand, connecting with the Small Intestine; it governs descending. The Small Intestine channel travels from hand to head, connecting with the Heart; it governs ascending. Shaoyin and Taiyang correlate to emperor fire and cold water. The Heart channel holds yin fire energy, the Small Intestine channel holds yang fire energy as well as yang water energy. This yang fire is the great fire that is stored within the Taiyang cold water; thus the Small Intestine channel is designated as Taiyang. 

Hand Jueyin Pericardium channel of minister fire, Hand Shaoyang Sanjiao channel of minister fire: The Pericardium is an yin organ, the Sanjiao is a yang viscera; both are generated by the accumulation of the minister fire energy of the great qi. The function of minister fire qi is to ignite and burn. The igniting and burning function of the Pericardium channel minister fire energy moves from upper to lower; the igniting and burning function of the Sanjiao channel minister fire energy moves from lower to upper, forming a circular dynamic. The Pericardium channel travels from chest to hand, connecting with the Sanjiao; it governs descending. The Sanjiao channel travels from hand to head, connecting with the Pericardium; it governs ascending. Jueyin and Shaoyang correlate to wind wood and minister fire. The Sanjiao channel holds yang minister fire energy, the Pericardium channel holds yin minister fire energy as well as yin wood energy.

Foot Yangming Stomach channel of earth, Foot Taiyin Spleen channel of earth: The Spleen is an yin organ, the Stomach is a yang viscera; both are generated by the accumulation of the middle earth energy of the great qi. and indicate the yang and yin nature of earth qi. The function of earth qi is to transport and transform. The transporting and transforming function of the Stomach channel earth energy moves from upper to lower; the transporting and transforming function of the Spleen channel earth energy moves from lower to upper, forming a circular dynamic. The Stomach channel travels from head to foot, connecting with the Spleen; it governs descending. The Spleen channel travels from foot to chest, connecting with the Stomach; it governs ascending. Yangming and Taiyin correlate to dry metal and damp earth. The Spleen channel holds yin earth energy, the Stomach channel holds yang earth energy as well as yang metal energy. 

One meaning of the character 經 jīng, or “channel”, is “to pass by”. The zangfu are like batteries that store electricity and the channels like wires that transmit it. In this sense, 經 jīng may also mean “to regulate”.

Memorizing the above diagram is the first basic skill required for the study of this text. If you have difficulty memorizing it, just remember the three words of each channel name. The three yang channels of the hand travel from hand to head, the three yang channels of the foot travel from head to foot, the three yin channels of the hand travel from chest to hand and the three yin channels of the foot travel from foot to chest. First memorize this outline, then move on to each individual channel. If you cannot memorize this basic information, there will be nothing to build on for the remainder of the text. It’s important to note that every historical school of Chinese medicine would take this exercise to full completion and require students to draw this diagram from memory within three days. It is difficult for those who study on their own to discipline themselves like this; regrettably, many try but fail to complete this first step.