Differences between Taoist and contemporary Chinese concepts

Meridians form an essential energy structure in the body that determines the energy circulation processes in Man’s body in relation to Man’s personal structure. The modern theory of meridians differs considerably from the traditional Taoist concept. The reason for this lies in the Mawangdui manuscripts (discovered in the beginning of the 1970s) dating back to the 170 BC.

Contemporary Chinese medicine, oddly enough, considers meridians as pertaining to the structure of the physical body of Man, whereas the Taoist doctrine – as pertaining to Man’s energy body. So we must understand the differences between the way Taoism and Chinese medicine define the meridians.

Chinese medicine works with an average version, which of course doesn’t correspond to every person, and moreover leads to a corrupted understanding of the meridians. If we take into account the fact that in contemporary man most of the meridians do not function, the effectiveness of the concept of the Chinese medicine is rather relative.

The Taoist system defines the meridian in relation to the Perfect Man and does not take into account the personal data. This leads to an understanding of the interaction with the meridians that differs from the contemporary one.

According to the Taoist concept there are three groups of meridians in Man’s body. The first group is the basic one and it is comprised of 12 meridians; the second group is related to 8 meridians, and the third group – with 13 meridians. The 12 basic pairs of meridians determine the existence of the body in a state of rest and make up the Microcosmic orbit. The eight meridians represent the moving body and are described as the Macrocosmic orbit.

The 13 meridians are related to the efforts built in the 12 meridians, and are called ‘alchemical’, i.e. they can appear only in case man has learned how to create the necessary effort in the meridian. Otherwise the meridians cannot be formed. And since Taoist medicine views the meridians from the perspective of the Perfect Man, it takes into account these meridians too. Well, actually, the real experts of Chinese medicine use not so much the knowledge of the meridians but rather the system of links, which is mastered through experience.

Initially the Taoist doctrine conceptualized the human body as a form inscribed in a sphere or a square (depending on whether it’s in motion or at rest). For example, if we look at a particular person from the perspective of motion, we can immediately see the problems related to the rising or lowering energy. We know the efforts in the body that move the energy up and down, so we can identify the conceptual problems. If you have a problem with the circulation, this problem is always a related with the middle part of the body, which does not in fact connect the upper and the lower parts of the body.

Of course, we can arrest or temporarily switch the flow of energy, but this does not resolve the issue. We should know that the problems of the middle part are created by food and breathing. It is therefore quite natural that if a person in such a situation is not forced to eat properly, nothing will change. As we can see, one does not even need to know the meridians, it is enough just to understand the circulation of energy.

Constant and transient

In connection with meridians I’d like to further draw your attention to a very curious discrepancy. If we examine the meridian of the liver we’ll come across a positioning, which is no more than simply directing the energy in the area of the liver, where there are many additional paths that seem to somehow get lost. How can a meridian get lost? The meridian is constant. It may lack the energy however the meridian itself has its own nature and schema. And it’s perfect regardless of the imperfections of the energy in certain cases.

Further if we look at the muscle-tendon meridian of the liver, we’ll encounter a number of tendons and muscles, which – examined closely – represent a totally different meridian schema and are based on the movement of the qi-jing energy, and not the qi-qi energy, where we examine only the meridian.

You could argue that there are points that reveal the activation of a certain meridian. Yes, indeed, there are a points, but more than half of these points do not have a fixed value.

Ask any experienced expert of Chinese medicine about the simple (according to Chinese medicine) meridian of the liver or the lung. Let him tell you how many points he uses in the treatment process. He will most probably answer: two or three.

Indeed, no real acupuncturist ever uses, or even can use, all the points. The higher the level of the doctor, the fewer the points he uses, because he knows what he needs to work with, and he doesn’t need to poke at the points that "float" and need to be looked for. Those who think that using a lot of points is a measure of skill, simply poke in the body, creating not so much a therapeutic effect, but rather a psychological one.

The three levels of the meridian efforts

Actually the knowledge about the meridians is related to the geometrical doctrine; initially the meridians in the legs, arms, body and head are positioned in a manner similar to the meridians of the Earth. Each meridian has three levels of the effort: it can have a qi effort, a jing effort and a shen effort. Saying that a meridian has a qi energy is not correct. The meridian is characterized by the effort of the energy and not by its availability of absence.

The meridians are located around the leg, as if around a cylinder. Therefore if we take the meridian of the liver, this meridian is called ‘the meridian of the liver with qi effort’. The meridian with qi effort separates our leg into 12 sections.

The meridian of the liver with shen effort is located along the central axis of the cylinder, in which our leg is inscribed. What do we see? All meridians with shen effort are located along the axis; they collectively build the system of meridians called ‘alchemical meridians’ and are characterized by particular frequency characteristics.

The meridian from the perspective of the jing effort is the angle created between the central axis and the meridian with a qi effort. This very effort creates the conditions necessary for the functioning of the 8 meridians.

We have hereby defined two very important concepts related to: how filled our meridian is and how centered it is. Each meridian is a formula and this formula determines the particular spiral of each meridian. All of the three efforts described above create this spiral.

What fills the meridian? Only two vessels: the feet or the abdomen. This is why we first learn how to link these two filling points – the feet and the abdomen – a process that is linked to filling.

What determines the tension? Firstly, the organ, and secondly – the initial point of the meridian that determines the impulse. We have to learn how to create tension in these zones. Initially we learn how to build tension in the thumbs and toes, that’s until the moment when our abdomen is ready to determine the vibration of each meridian.

Tension is also created by the region of the diaphragm and in the area of the elbows and the knees, but we can work with it only once we have learned how to identify our axis. It should be clear that Man has tension points, whereas meridians are relative. So when we begin to deal with the meridians, we either come up with a random study of random phenomena, or else we need to understand geometry. When we create the geometry, we obtain three different tension conditions, which create different groups of channels. As a result, we have six types of tension in the body and another tension (the seventh) in the axis. This gives rise to the rhythm that determines our existence.

Therefore, Taoist medicine considers, first of all, seven systems of the body (not more) that have a tension identification code. These seven systems are the following: skin, muscle, blood, bone, tendon, plus the reproductive system and the control system (or the endocrine system). All other systems, including the nervous, are dependent.

We must know that when we study the meridians the simplest possible thing is to understand the meridians from the perspective of filling. Secondly – from the perspective of proportions, when we examine the structure from the perspective of Yin-Yang, from the perspective of Wu Xing. Then – from the perspective of the axis, and later – from the perspective of space, tension, and finally – from the perspective of rhythm. As a result we get a scheme that serves as a foundation for the general studying, which those who participate in any form of studying follow.

Therefore when we examine the meridians, we should know where we’re going and why we need to study the body from the perspective of proportions and geometry. This is why the Macrocosmic and Microcosmic orbits are studied – in order to center the meridians. So naturally each effort is seen from the viewpoint of the governor. For the qi effort this is the abdomen, for the jing effort – the chest, and for the shen effort – the head, consciousness. These are called cinnabar fields. Each cinnabar field has its own governor.

This is generally the scheme for the existence and the functioning of the meridians. If you want to study it, you should start by studying the meridians and by understanding the schemes related to their functioning. This knowledge has not been transferred into the modern concept of the meridians as a result of the hurried manner in which the Chinese medicine was created following the command of the Great Leader.


20 may 2012

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