December 22, 2014.
Dear Dr. Stefano Marcelli, we noticed that your paper "Gross anatomy and acupuncture: A comparative approach to reappraise the meridian system" is very interesting. We respect you as a pioneer in this field.
Yours sincerely,
Kwang-Sup Soh, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies.


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The strange circle
in the acupuncture
kidney meridian

© 2008-2017 Stefano Marcelli

Click here to join the original source of this image...

:: brown text means unrevised translation or incomplete work ::

NB: the author uses the words "channel", "meridian" and "vessel" as synonyms to define the system of lines, tubes or slices transporting the undemonstrated energy called Qi (pronounce "tchi") to all parts of the body. Anyway he considers "meridian" more suitable for scientific speech and literature, also because it is already employed in other fields of knowledge as in geography and morphogenesis.


For years we interrogated skilled practitioners and scholars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to know why the acupuncture meridian system (AMS) presents a circle in the kidney meridian, precisely in the inner aspect of the ankle (picture above on the left), and not elsewhere. When there was an answer, it was always the same: "Because books depict it like that". Lateral and oblique deviation, inverted direction, bends and crossings are common alterations of the meridians' path, but the circle in the ankle is the only circular line, out of the many metres the acupuncture system consists of. This is why we defined it as strange. After comparing the acupuncture meridian charts with western anatomical and embryological knowledge, according to the findings reported in these pages, we have formulated some working hypotheses:

1. The acupuncture meridian system or acupuncture meridian system exists, despite Felix Mann's stance against basic acupuncture beliefs that inspired the intellectual position of many medical doctors and societies toward acupuncture.

The men who first drew the acupuncture meridian system could see it, as it is impossible to describe by other means a so wide and complex web. See here the detailed pictures of all meridian pathways and points of acupuncture.


The acupuncture meridian system should be interpreted and investigated as a four-dimensional structure that guides the embryo's development and the organism's post-natal growth, in space and time, and not exclusively considered for its therapeutic properties.


Scientific research comparing the two (eastern and western) anatomies should be resumed, making the effort to render the meridians visible with reproducibility.

The observation

We  don't know if those men could see the meridians thanks to some highlighting compounds introduced into the body, or by means of an ingenious primordial device applied to the eyes. We  certainly do not believe at all they received the acupuncture meridian charts from charitable gods or evolved aliens. Finally, though admitting this possibility, We  doubt that they could see points and meridians after waking up the so-called sixth sense through esoteric exercises of meditation.

he path of the Kidney Acupuncture Channel in the foot as it is described in Traditional Chinese Medicine classics could be wrongly considered identical both in males and females. Basing our statement on anatomical correlations, which we  presume nobody has found before now, the Kidney Acupuncture Channel path in the foot (and ankle) should have the shape of a circle only in males.

After a first look at the urogenital apparatus images from different books of anatomy, the "strange" circle in the Kidney Channel ankle path could come out of the combination of the seminal (ascending) path and urinary (descending) path. In males, the urinary path and the seminal path share the final segment of the penis urethra.

urinary path is almost identical both in males and females, being different only in regard to the urethral length. 

The shape drawn by the seminal path (penis erection is required) is the most similar to the "strange" circle in the acupuncture kidney meridian, to which it is strictly connected during the time of embryological development.

Comparative anatomy

An indirect support to our observation comes from the urogenital anatomy of cetaceans (here below the dolphin), the sheep among mammalians and even some insects.

"The penis of the dolphin originates from the rear pelvic bones and from the pelvic region, the penis extends to the penis slit, just to the back of the umbilicus. The penis is coiled or curved within the sheath (prepuce) except when erect; it is held in this position by a pair of strap-like retractor muscles. The penis slit exposes a part of the penis and the rest of the penis is firmly attached to the retractor muscles. This part of the penis which is covered with skin, is called the terminal cones, similar to the "glans penis" of most mammals. When the penis is erected, the folded skin (penis sac) can be stretched and the dolphin can protrude approximately two-thirds of its penis from the slit. Just to the rear of the terminal cone, the retracted penis shows a loop. Since during erection, the skin does not allow stretching to occur easily, this loop enables the dolphin to protrude the penis." (Dolphins, the Oracles of the Sea -







"The body of fibroelastic penis of the dolphin [Norris, 1966] and sheep [May 1964] forms an s-shaped curve in the retracted state (Fig. 3 and below). Erection involves straightening of the s-curve and protrusion of the penis through a slit in the abdomen. As there is no thickening or lengthening of the penis during erection, rigidity depends more on the properties of the tunica albuginea and trabeculae of the corpora cavernosa than on the blood-filled cavernous spaces [Norris, 1966].

May, NDS. (1964). The anatomy of the Sheep (2nd ed.). University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, Australia. pp72-73.
Norris, KS. (1966). Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. University of California Press, Berkley, USA. pp278-287.

Insect Reproductive System

The female reproductive system is shown in the drawing above on the left. The male is below.

Variation among insect reproductive systems is great. Closely related species are often isolated from one another via small variations in the morphology of reproductive organs that prohibit interspecies mating. However, a generalized system can be constructed that closely represents all sexually reproducing insects. Be familiar with differences in male and female genitalia and be able to identify structures when given a diagram.

Text taken from "Insect Morphology": University of Minnesota USA, Department of Entomology.

Picture taken form "Invertebrate Zoology" by Robert B. Barnes.


In the human embryo the proximity of the circle in the kidney meridian to the genital organs is remarkable. See also the picture at the title's right side (The Multi-Dimensional Human Embryo). The inner aspect of the ankle, where the circle is drawn, faces exactly the site where some time later testes (and not ovaries) will emerge. Our principal question is: do the buds of the lower extremities also contain the strange circle in the kidney meridian?

a) © Professor Kohei Shiota, Kyoto University Human embryo at approx. 33th day, 14 mm. Characteristic signs: Lens vesicle covered with the ectoderm. Auditory primordium. Genesis of the hand plate.

1 Umbilical cord
2 Cardiac prominence
3 Nasal placode
4 Ocular primordium
5 Bud of the upper extremity
6 Bud of the lower extremity



b) © Professor Kohei Shiota, Kyoto University Human embryo at approx. 51st day, 22-24 mm. Characteristic signs: Subcutaneous vessel network of the head spreads out. Hands and feet come closer and touch each other.

1 Umbilical cord with physiologic hernia
2 Nose
3 Subcutaneous vessel network of the head
4 Ear
5 Elbow
6 Pronation of the hands (pink arrow)
7 Knee
8 Supination of the feet (blue arrow)
9 Toes
c) and d) © MouseWorks, Inc. The forming external genitalia are not visible in this view of an 8 week human embryo on the left due to the prominent tail. The human tail regresses, as is evident in the 10 week embryo on the right. At the same time the lower limbs grow, the feet form, the external genital organs appears, and in males the testes travel along the inguinal channel toward the scrotum, their final destination.


Scientific literature on this specific subject

There are a few works on the relation between acupuncture and embryology that corroborates with and are corroborated by our findings.

In 1989 Shang C. wrote the first article that hypothesizes a relationship between acupuncture meridians and embryonic morphogenesis. He proposed the involvement of the meridian system in the growth regulation. "Both organizing centers and acupuncture points have low electric resistance. The low electric resistance is related to the distribution of gap junction and thus intercellular communication. Some acupuncture points may be organizing centers. The meridian system is important in coordination and regulation of morphogenesis. The properties of organizing centers and acupuncture points can be explained in view of singular point. Coupling and oscillation may underlie the mechanism of acupuncture as well as growth regulation." [1].
Since 2001 to 2008, J. Li-Ling, a Chinese medical doctor and geneticist, in four articles (one with Y. Wu) explains some congenital malformations in term of TCM, providing a remarkable suspect that acupuncture meridians system exists [2,3,4,5].
In 2002, TN. Lee, an American general practitioner and researcher, hypothesizes that "the genetic information contained in the one-dimensional genome may be converted into a three-dimensional body plan for development. Prior to mitosis of the fertilized egg, the chromatids, after being unpackaged from the chromosomes, link up to form a giant circular loop which is then folded upon itself into a wired-frame structure that embodies the architectural embryological developmental scheme." [6].
In 2004-2005 KT. Yung, a PhD and researcher of Magnetic Resonance Research Center, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh developed an original model to explain Qi and acupuncture meridian system: "The concept of Qi and the concept of meridian are so closely related that they must be defined and comprehended simultaneously in a coordinated fashion. Once the nature of Qi is established in terms of physics, we may be able to explain the functional role that the meridians play, as well as explain other Chinese medical terminology with a language of modem science. Based on the low electrical impedance characteristics of acupoints, we propose that the meridian channel is equivalent to an electromagnetic transmission line and the Qi is the electromagnetic (EM) standing wave riding on the line, with acupoints as its nodes." [7].
In 2004, F. Abad-Alegria and C. Pomaran, Spanish medical doctors, describe how the points with cardio-therapeutic activity according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), have the same embryologic origin as the hearth itself [8].

Acupuncture points with activity to cardiovascular pathology according to classic books, in adult (A), in a 6 weeks embryo (B): lateral (l) dorsal (d) and frontal view (f), and in a 4 weeks lateral view embryo (C). For a better comprehension in the embryological phases the cloud of localized points of the adult is represented as a black compact whole.  


A very interesting work, corroborated by our findings and following theory, is the review of "Bonghan Channel System" by KS. Soh, physicist and researcher at Biomedical Physics Laboratory, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea [9]. An excellent summary overview was made by David Milbradt in 2009 [10].
■ Philip Beach, osteopath and acupuncturist, has written a book [11] were he treats the manipulation of shape, the chance of acting into the corporeal morphology in a physical manner, basing upon forces of invisible nature (like gravity or  IR radiation, for example). Much in line with our comparative anatomical observations.


[1] Shang C. Singular Point, organizing center and acupuncture point.  Am J Chin Med. 1989;17(3-4):119-27.
[2] Li-Ling J. Connections between traditional Chinese medicine and congenital syndromes. Am J Med Genet. 2001 Oct 15;103(3):257-62.
[3] Li-Ling J. The Jing-Mai connections of the heart. Int J Cardiol. 2003 May;89(1):1-11.
[4] Li-Ling J. Human Phenome based on traditional Chinese medicine: a solution to congenital syndromology.  Am J Chin Med. 2003;31(6):991-1000. Review.
[5] Li-Ling J. Wu Y. Congenital syndromes involving the lungs: pathogenetic models based on chinese medicine theories. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Oct;14(8):1017-25. Review.
[6] Lee TN. Thalamic neuron theory: meridians=DNA. The genetic and embryological basis of traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture.  Med Hypotheses. 2002 Nov;59(5):504-21.
[7] Yung KT. A birdcage model for the Chinese Meridian System: part I. A channel as a transmission line. The American journal of Chinese medicine. 01/02/2004; 32(5):815-28.
[8] Abad-Alegria F., Pomaran C. Aspectos embriológicos de la acupuntura cardioterapéutica. Medicina Naturista, 2004 N° 6 383-287. Download here (in Spanish)
Bonghan Circulatory System as an Extension of Acupuncture Meridians Soh KS. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 93-106. The full text pdf, with terrific pictures can be downloaded here or here.
[10] Milbradt D. Bonghan Channels in Acupuncture. Acupuncture Today April, 2009, Vol. 10, Issue 04
. Download here.
[11] Beach P. Muscles and meridians. The manipulation of shape. Elsevier 2010.
[12] following


Despite our western medical knowledge, since our first studies of TCM we  have strongly felt that Acupuncture Meridians must be real and not abstract entities. But, year by years we became more and more skeptic because of the lack of clear evidence, as far as we have begun to compare them to gross anatomy. Our project's aim is to succeed in seeing the acupuncture meridians in a scientific, technological and repeatable way. If someone think this idea interesting and want to give his opinion is invited to contact me.

Dr Stefano Marcelli, MD
independent researcher in acupuncture
Via Caravaggio, 7
25047 DARFO BOARIO TERME (Brescia) Italy

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