Meridian (Chinese medicine)

Meridian (Chinese medicine)
Meridian system

The meridian (simplified Chinese: 经络; traditional Chinese: 經絡; pinyin: jīngluò) is a path through which the life-energy known as "qi" is believed to flow, in traditional Chinese medicine. There is no physically verifiable anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians.


Main concepts

There are about 400 acupuncture points and 20 meridians connecting most of the points, however by the 2nd Century CE, 649 acupuncture points were recognized in China.[1][2] These 20 meridians include the "twelve regular channels" or "twelve regular meridians", with each meridian corresponding to each organ; nourishing it and extending to an extremity. There are also "Eight Extraordinary Channels" or meridians, two of which have their own sets of points, and the remaining ones connecting points on other channels[3][4][5].

Twelve standard meridians

Meridians are divided into Yin and Yang groups. The Yin meridians of the arm are: Lung, Heart, and Pericardium. The Yang meridians of the arm are: Large Intestine, Small Intestine, and Triple Warmer. The Yin Meridians of the leg are Spleen, Kidney, and Liver. The Yang meridians of the leg are Stomach, Bladder, and Gall Bladder.[6]

The table below gives a more systematic list of the twelve standard meridians:[7]

Meridian name (Chinese) Yin / Yang Hand / Foot 5 elements Organ
Taiyin Lung Channel of Hand (手太阴肺经) or Taiyin Lung Meridian of Hand Taiyin (greater yin) Hand (手) Metal (金) Lung (肺)
Shaoyin Heart Channel of Hand (手少阴心经) or Shaoyin Heart Meridian of Hand Shaoyin (lesser yin) Hand (手) Fire (火) Heart (心)
Jueyin Pericardium Channel of Hand (手厥阴心包经) or Jueyin Pericardium Meridian of Hand Jueyin (absolute yin) Hand (手) Fire (火) Pericardium (心包)
Shaoyang Sanjiao Channel of Hand (手少阳三焦经) or Shaoyang Sanjiao Meridian of Hand Shaoyang (lesser yang) Hand (手) Fire (火) Triple Heater (三焦)
Taiyang Small Intestine Channel of Hand (手太阳小肠经) or Taiyang Small Intestine Meridian of Hand Taiyang (greater yang) Hand (手) Fire (火) Small Intestine (小肠)
Yangming Large Intestine Channel of Hand (手阳明大肠经) or Yangming Large Intestine Meridian of Hand Yangming (yang brightness) Hand (手) Metal (金) Large Intestine (大腸)
Taiyin Spleen Channel of Foot (足太阴脾经) or Taiyin Spleen Meridian of Foot Taiyin (greater yin) Foot (足) Earth (土) Spleen (脾)
Shaoyin Kidney Channel of Foot (足少阴肾经) or Shaoyin Kidney Meridian of Foot Shaoyin (lesser yin) Foot (足) Water (水) Kidney (腎)
Jueyin Liver Channel of Foot (足厥阴肝经) or Jueyin Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin (absolute yin) Foot (足) Wood (木) Liver (肝)
Shaoyang Gallbladder Channel of Foot (足少阳胆经) or Shaoyang Gallbladder Meridian of Foot Shaoyang (lesser yang) Foot (足) Wood (木) Gall Bladder (膽)
Taiyang Bladder Channel of Foot (足太阳膀胱经) or Taiyang Bladder Meridian of Foot Taiyang (greater yang) Foot (足) Water (水) Urinary bladder (膀胱)
Yangming Stomach Channel of Foot (足阳明胃经) or Yangming Stomach Meridian of Foot Yangming (yang brightness) Foot (足) Earth (土) Stomach (胃)

Eight extraordinary meridians

The eight extraordinary meridians are of pivotal importance in the study of Qigong, T'ai chi ch'uan and Chinese alchemy.[8] These eight extra meridians are different to the standard twelve organ meridians in that they are considered to be storage vessels or reservoirs of energy and are not associated directly with the Zang Fu or internal organs. These channels were first systematically referred to in the "Spiritual Axis" chapters 17, 21 and 62, the "Classic of Difficulties" chapters 27, 28 and 29 and the "Study of the 8 Extraordinary vessels" (Qi Jing Ba Mai Kao) by Li Shi Zhen 1578.

The eight extraordinary vessels are:[9]

  1. Directing Vessel (Ren mai)
  2. Governing Vessel (Du Mai)
  3. Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai)
  4. Girdle Vessel (Dai Mai)
  5. Yin linking vessel (Yin Wei Mai)
  6. Yang linking vessel (Yang Wei Mai)
  7. Yin Heel Vessel (Yin Qiao Mai)
  8. Yang Heel Vessel (Yang Qiao Mai)

Criticism of traditional Chinese meridian theory

See also: Acupuncture: Criticism of TCM theory

In 1694, during the "quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns", after having seen some meridian diagrams from the Lèi Jīng and misinterpreting them as anatomical drawings, British Scholar William Wotton wrote this famous criticism of TCM[10]:

It would be tedious to dwell any longer upon such Notions as these, which every page of Cleyer's book is full of. The Anatomical Figures annexed to the Tracts, which also were sent out of China, are so very whimsical, that a Man would almost believe the whole to be a Banter, if these Theories were not agreeable to the occasional hints that may be found in the Travels of the Missionaries. This, however, does no prejudice to their [Medicinal Simples], which may, perhaps, be very admirable, and which a long Experience may have taught the Chineses to apply with great success; and it is possible that they may sometimes give not unhappy Guesses in ordinary Cases, by feeling their Patients Pulses: Still, this is little to Physic, as an Art; and however, the Chineses may be allowed to be excellent Empiricks, as many of the West-Indian Salvages [Savages] are, yet it cannot be believed that they can be tolerable Philosophers; which, in an Enquiry into the Learning of any Nation, is the first Question that is to be considered.

Skeptics of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often characterize the system as pseudoscientific.

See also


  1. ^ Standard Acupuncture Nomenclature, World Health Organization
  2. ^ Needham, Joseph; Lu Gwei-Djen (1980). Celestial Lancets. Cambridge University Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-521-21513-7. 
  3. ^ Deng Yu邓宇,等; Fresh Translator of Zang Xiang Fractal five System藏象分形五系统的新英译,Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine中国中西医结合杂志; 1999
  4. ^ Deng Yu, Zhu Shuanli, Xu Peng et al邓宇,朱栓立,徐彭等,Essence and New Translator of Channels经络英文新释译与实质,Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine中国中西医结合杂志,2000,20(8):615
  5. ^ Deng Yu邓宇等,TCM Fractal Sets中医分形集,Journal of Mathematical Medicine<<数理医药学杂志>> ,1999,12(3),264-265
  6. ^ Dillman, George and Chris, Thomas. Advanced Pressute Point Fighting of Ryukyu Kempo. A Dillman Karate International Book, 1994. ISBN 0-9631996-3-3
  7. ^ Peter Deadman and Mazin Al-Khafaji with Kevin Baker. "A Manuel of Acupuncture" Journal of Chinese Mediceine, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9510546-5-9
  8. ^ T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Meditation by Da Liu, pages 35-41 - Routledge and Keegan Paul 1987 ISBN 0140192174
  9. ^ The foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia, pages 355-365 - Churchill Livingstone 1989. ISBN 04430389801
  10. ^ Needham, Joseph; Lu Gwei-Djen (1980). Celestial Lancets. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Press. pp. 281–282. ISBN 0-521-21513-7. 

External links

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