Channel (Chinese medicine)

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Channel (simplified Chinese: 经络; traditional Chinese: 經絡; pinyin: [jīngluò] error: {{lang}}: missing language tag (help)), also known as meridian, in traditional Chinese medicine, is the common name of vessel (經脈, also known as channel) and collaterals (絡脈). It is the path of running qi (氣) and blood (血), connection zang-fu viscera (臟腑), communication inside and outside, and run through top and bottom.

It is from the techniques and doctrines of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, acupressure, and qigong. According to these practices, the body's vital energy, "qi", circulates through the body along specific interconnected channels called meridians. There is no physically verifiable anatomical or histological proof of their existence, though research has shown how transmission of information experienced as qi could be possible through the subcutaneous fascia.[1][2]


In TCM, patterns of disharmony (ie, bad health and emotional disorders) in the body are thought to be caused by disruptions of the body's energy flow along a series of acu-tracts. To correct those disruptions, specific points on the meridians called acupoints (Chinese xué/穴 - lit. "hole/cave") are stimulated via needles, burning incense cones (moxa), applying pressure or other means.

The Standard Acupuncture Nomenclature published by the World Health Organization listed about 400 acupuncture points and 20 meridians connecting most of the points, however by the 2nd Century CE, 649 were recognised in China[3]. Such 20 meridians are usually called the "12 standard meridians" (十二經常脈 or 十二正經), with each meridian corresponding to each organ; nourishing it and extending to an extremity. There are also "8 extraordinary meridians" (奇經八脈), two of which have their own sets of points, and the remaining ones connecting points on other channels.

The twelve standard meridians go along the arms and the legs. They are: Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestine, Urinary Bladder, Kidney, Pericardium, Triple Warmer (aka Triple Heater), Gall Bladder, and Liver. These terms refer to biological functions and not the structural organ, which is why there are some on the list with no corresponding anatomical structure.

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.[4]

The table below gives a more systematic list of the meridans:

Meridian name (Chinese) Yin / Yang Arm / Leg 5 elements Organ
Lung Channel of Hand (?) Taiyin (greater yin) Arm Metal (金) Lung (肺)
Paricardium Channel of Hand (?) Jueyin (absolute yin) Arm (手) Fire (火) Pericardium (心包)
Heart Channel of Hand (?) Shaoyin (lesser yin) Arm (手) Fire (火) Heart (心)
Colon Channel of Hand (?) Yangming (yang brightness) Arm (手) Metal (金) Large Intestine (大腸)
Sanjiao Channel of Hand (?) Shaoyang (lesser yang) Arm (手) Fire (火) Triple Warmer (三焦)
Small Intestine Channel of Hand (?) Taiyang (greater yang) Arm (手) Fire (火) Small Intestine (小腸)
Kidney Channel of Leg (?) Shaoyin (lesser yin) Leg (足) Water (水) Kidney (腎)
Spleen Channel of Leg (?) Taiyin (greater yin) Leg (足) Earth (土) Spleen (脾)
Liver Channel of Leg (?) Jueyin (absolute yin) Leg (足) Wood (木) Liver (肝)
Stomach Channel of Leg (?) Yangming (yang brightness) Leg (足) Earth (土) Stomach (胃)
Urinary Bladder Channel of Leg (?) Taiyang (greater yang) Leg (足) Water (水) Urinary bladder (膀胱)
Gall Bladder Channel of Leg (?) Shaoyang (lesser yang) Leg (足) Wood (木) Gall Bladder (膽)

Author Alberto Villoldo indicates that these Chinese meridians coincided exactly with the flux lines or cekes which are known to Inca medicine people as rios de luz, rivers of light that flow within the luminous body. The kawak, the seers, can see the rivers of light or cekes along the surface of the skin. And Shamans throughout the Americas rely on their ability to massage the points where it was blocked so that the light could flow freely again. [5]

Criticism of TCM meridian 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[6]:

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.

Later research seemed to disprove the claim of some authors that the existence of meridians could be proven by injecting radioactive tracers at acupuncture points.[7]

Skeptics of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often characterize the system as pseudoscientific. Proponents reply that TCM is a prescientific system that continues to have practical relevance.

See: Acupuncture: Criticism of TCM theory

See also


  1. Kimura M, Tohya K, Kuroiwa K, Oda H, Gorawski EC, Hua ZX, Toda S, Ohnishi M, Noguchi E. “Electron microscopical and immunohistochemical studies on the induction of "Qi" employing needling manipulation.” Am J Chin Med. 1992;20(1):25-35.
  2. Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis by James L. Oschman, PhD, Churchill Livingston, 2000
  3. Needham, Joseph (1980). Celestial Lancets. Cambridge University Press. pp. p.100. ISBN 0-521-21513-7. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  4. Dillman, George and Chris, Thomas. Advanced Pressute Point Fighting of Ryukyu Kempo. A Dillman Karate International Book, 1994. ISBN 0-9631996-3-3
  5. Alberto Villoldo. Shaman, Healer, Sage Hamony Books, 2000. ISBN 0-609-60544-5
  6. Needham, Joseph (1980). Celestial Lancets. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Press. pp. pp. 281-282. ISBN 0-521-21513-7. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  7. . "Acupuncture meridians demythified. Contribution of radiotracer methodology". Retrieved on 2007-05-07.


External links

bg:Меридиан (акупунктура) de:Meridian (TCM) nl:Meridiaan (Chinese geneeskunde)