System of Meridians and Collateral Channels in the Body
The system of meridians and collateral channels in the body connects the internal organs and limbs﹐ as well as the upper and lower, and the interior and exterior body. The meridians are the main pathways of the system; the collateral channels are the branches that extend from the meridians. The meridians run vertically whereas the collateral channels are the horizontal branches. The meridians are found deeper in the body and the collateral channels shallower.
The system is made up of meridians and collateral channels. Of these, the meridians include the twelve main meridians, eight extra meridians, as well as the twelve meridian divergences, twelve meridian sinews and twelve cutaneous regions. The collateral channels include the fifteen collateral vessels, the superficial collateral vessels and the tertiary collateral vessels.
The twelve main meridians are the three yin meridians of the hand (namely, the lung meridian, the heart meridian and the pericardium meridian), the three yang meridians of the hand (namely, the large intestine meridian, the small intestine meridian and the triple energizer meridian), the three yin meridians of the foot (namely, the spleen meridian, the kidney meridian and the liver meridian), the three yang meridians of the foot (namely, the stomach meridian, the bladder meridian and the gallbladder meridian). They are the most important meridians in the human body. They all have definite start and stop points, and their circulation follows a regular pattern. They form a network of regulated crossover functioning. They are directly linked to the internal organs, and are the main passageways of the blood and vital energy in the body.
There are eight extra meridians, sometimes they are referred to the as “eight extra meridians.” These are the governor vessel, conception vessel, thoroughfare vessel, belt vessel, yin heel vessel, yang heel vessel, yin link vessel, and yang link vessel. Extra meridians are different from the main meridians – their functions include linking and adjusting the twelve main meridians.
The circulation of blood and vital energy along the twelve main meridians follows the order in which the meridians take over from each other and the cycle is repeated. In addition, the circulation of blood and vital energy is also regulated by the governor vessel, the conception vessel and the thoroughfare vessel among the eight extra meridians. The meridians and collateral channels in the body work harmoniously together in multiple and ways, and they are vital to the distribution of blood and vital energy throughout the body.
The health protection system in the human body is the system of meridians and collateral channels. The system is a multi-layered, multi-functional and multi-formed regulatory system. It is an objective biological system that exists in the body. To deny its existence is foolish. In ordinary circumstances, the system of meridians and collateral channels “is, from moment to moment, responsible for the adjustment, supervision and guarantee of good health in the body.” “Illnesses result from the malfunctioning of the system of meridians and collateral channels.” It is the ultimate controller of the body’s self-healing system. The ancients described it as “the determiner of life and death, and (that it) deals with all illnesses.”
Biological research has shown that in the study of anatomy the system of meridians and collateral channels is embedded in the tissues which include the system of blood circulation, the nervous system and the lymphatic system. Together these systems constitute a complex biological system. This conclusion is basically the same as what the ancients understood about the system of meridians and collateral channels. The system is linked to the skin and the exterior of the body; internally, it is connected to all the internal organs. When an organ falls ill, it is manifested in the surface pressure points, for example, tenderness or low resistance, etc., so that there may be feelings of soreness or numbness in the pressure points. This is an indication that a certain internal organ is not functioning properly. Research has shown that in the deep tissues that correspond to the pressure points, there are high levels of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, chrome and various other elements. The level of calcium found in the pressure points, for example, can be dozens of times or even hundreds of times more than in non-pressure points. Calcium is an important “messenger” element with a vital role to play in passing on the messages of life.
The human body is a network; there are six meridians from the hands, six from the feet, and one each from the chest and the upper back. These fourteen meridians have many branches, known as collateral channels. They are linked to the internal organs, the limbs, the skin and the facial features and orifices, so that all parts of the human body are within the network, and there are a total of 354 pressure points. The system of meridians and collateral channels comprises the nervous system, the blood vessels and the lymphatic system. The meridians and collateral channels bind all the internal organs, the exterior and the interior of the body together. Every organ is a microcosm of the whole; no part can be complete on its own. Each part is linked to the whole through the system of meridians and collateral channels. Illnesses in any part of the body are an indication of functional obstruction in the whole; conversely, illness in the functioning of the whole is reflected in the malfunction of one part of the body. For example, illness in the gallbladder causes tenderness or soreness about an inch below the yang ling quan pressure point. If there is illness in the lungs, then at the zhongfu pressure point, there is soreness or tenderness. The system of meridians and collateral channels in China, as well as all the ancient civilisations in the world, is the foundation of all the health preservation and healing techniques, such as qingong, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, bloodletting, acupressure and massage. If there were no study of meridians and collateral channels, there would not be acupuncture, qigong, tuina, etc. To locate the pressure points, the practitioner can use the technique of high vibration, where one uses a small rubber hammer and a stethoscope to knock along the meridian. If the sound is “onk, onk”, then it is not a pressure point; if the volume is high and the pitch is high, then it is a pressure point.
The system of meridians and collateral channels is the result of evolution. When did living organisms develop meridians and collateral channels in the course of evolution? Obviously, it happened when the living organisms acquired the nervous system, the blood circulation system and the lymphatic system. The meridians and collateral channels came into existence in Platyhelminthes and certainly not later than chordates. With mammals, the system of meridians and collateral channels is close to perfection, it is almost the same as in humans. There are two self-healing systems in the human body; one is the proprietary system such as the skin and the lymphatic system. The other is the combination system, which, while its function is to carry out metabolism, it also has the self-healing function; an example of such is the liver and gallbladder in the digestive system. However, irrespective of the system, it takes its orders from the brain and the central nervous system. Between the central command centre and the various systems, there needs to be an intermediary which brings about the balance between the parts – that is, the five facial features and seven orifices and the internal organs, the internal and the external — and the whole body. The intermediary is the nervous system, the blood circulation and lymphatic system which self-organizes, self-regulates and self-delivers; and that is the system of meridians and collateral channels.
Within the system, the source qi circulates to the internal organs, the skin, the facial features and the orifices. Deficiency in any part is reflected in the corresponding meridians and collateral channels. Illness of the stomach is reflected in the sanli pressure point in the feet, heart problems are shown in the neiguan pressure points. From the sanli pressure point in the feet runs a meridian that governs the functioning of the stomach; from the neiguan pressure point runs another meridian that controls the functioning of the heart.
The system is something that cannot be found in the study of Anatomy, neither can it be observed in Morphology; only in Physiology nor employing various modern scientific techniques is it possible to trace its existence and from there conclude that the system of meridians and collateral channels exists. Medical analysis based on mechanistic materialism is totally useless here. Only holistic medicine, guided by dialectical materialism, and the clinical evidence accumulated from several thousands of years of practice of acupuncture and qigong can reveal and access this unique health-preservation system. It is only through this system can we determine that the human body is composed of matter, energy and intermediate metabolism. Through this system, the psyche and metabolism of the human body combine and become one. This is an important discovery and has been successfully used in clinical settings. For several thousand years, Chinese medical practitioners who are well-versed in this system have used acupuncture, moxibustion, tuina, cupping, massage, hand manipulation, IV, bloodletting and skin scraping have brought relief to billions of patients. This achievement is astounding and no winner of the Nobel Medical Prize can hold a candle to it.
Western medicine learned about this achievement in about the year 1275 A. D. from Marco Polo’s book, The Travels of Marco Polo, in which there is a description of acupuncture in China. It was only in the 17th century that the technique was introduced to France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Sweden and Italy. In the 1930’s and 40’s, Tenny L. Davis translated “An Ancient Chinese Treatise on Alchemy Entitled Ts’an T’ung Ch’I” “The Master Who Embraces Simplicity: A study of the philosopher Ko Hung, A.D. 283-343” and “Folios on Awakening to Reality/Perfection” into English. Following that, in France, Italy, the U.S.S. R., Britain, Romania, Switzerland, Canada and the United States various acupuncture societies were established and a periodical “Meridian and Collateral Channels” was published.