Minimal Knowledge on the Acupuncture Meridian System

The Acupuncture Meridian System is made of meridians (called also channels or vessels), situated inside the body and on its surface. "It is written and said" that they connect distant and different parts of the body each other, for example the temporal region on the head to the external aspect of the foot and the gallbladder organ, the lung to the tip of the thumb and the stomach to second toe. Within the meridians both Qi and blood would flow in different proportions. Everyone know what is the blood, the Qi has been neither seen nor identified. In occidental languages there are no adequate translation for what qi is according to Chinese Traditional Medicine, but "vital energy" or "vital force", which are undefined expressions for non-measurable entities. Qi is also known as ki (Japanese) or chi in some martial arts.

The Acupuncture Meridian System is composed of:

- 12 PRINCIPAL (also called MAIN or REGULAR) meridians, any of which is connected with the homonym internal organ and has its own points. The 12 principal meridians and connected organs are distinguished in 6 yin (3 on the medial surface of the superior limb, and 3 on that of the inferior limb). Yin and yang are the two complementary terms of the famous theory of opposites (see here to get a sense of it). At least in regard to the anatomical organs, "yin" can be perfectly translated with full (liver, kidney, spleen...) and "yang" with empty (gall bladder, bladder, stomach...). Note that traditional Chinese Medicine has two different words for full organ (zang) and empty organ (fu), that occidental medical terminology does not possess. Any FULL principal organ-meridian is coupled with a EMPTY principal organ-meridian. In certain cases (for example liver-gall bladder and kidney-bladder) the coupling makes sense according to modern physiology, in other cases (stomach-spleen) it does not. In our opinion, this is because the coupling have been transported from the traditional medicine to modern medicine in a wrong manner. In this specific situation, what that ancient Chinese intended for spleen is partially identifiable with the endocrine pancreas.

According to Chinese traditional physiology, and differently from the blood, which thanks to the hearth's pump is pushed contemporary toward all organs and directions, the qi covers the paths of the principal meridians one after the other, with a period of two fixed hours of maximum peak for each meridian, and two hours of minimum peak after 12 hours. As the principal meridians are 12, the cycle is completed in 24 hours. In the progression of Qi circulation, couples of full meridians (yin) alternate with couples of empty meridians (yang), as indicated in the table below:

face <thorax
flow pick



day 1 03-05 LUNG thumb thorax hand
05-07 LARGE INTESTINE  fore finger hand face
07-09 STOMACH  second toe face foot
09-11 SPLEEN little toe foot thorax
11-13 HEART little finger thorax hand
13-15 SMALL INTESTINE  little finger hand face
15-17 BLADDER little toe face foot
17-19 KIDNEY little toe foot thorax
19-21 PERICARDIUM middle finger thorax hand
21-23 SANJIAO ring finger hand face
23-01 GALL BLADDER  fourth toe face foot
01-03 LIVER big toe foot thorax
day 2 03-05 LUNG thumb thorax hand
05-07 LARGE INTESTINE  fore finger hand face
... ... ... ... ... ...

- 8 EXTRAORDINARY meridians, without connection with specific organs. Two of them (Governor Vessel Du Mai, and Conception Vessel Ren Mai) have their own points. In the 8 Extraordinary Meridians it is said that Qi is not subject to tidal flow.
- 12 secondary meridians or collaterals that connect each other coupled meridians of different nature yin and yang.

see details of the 14 (12+2) meridians possessing acupuncture points

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