The Energy Concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Master Wen-Ching Wu

Medical Qigong is a compilation of effective preventive, healing, and strengthening exercises derived from a long history of the Chinese people's experiences as they struggled with nature. As early as the Shang Dynasty (1766-1123 B.C.) and the Zhou Dynasty (1122-249 B.C.), there have been drawings vividly representing the art similar to what we call Qigong today. In the early part of the Spring-Autumn (722-480 B.C.) period, the Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic, the oldest Chinese medical text, was compiled and presented theories and methods for Qigong training.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the human body is treated as an integral system of interrelated networks with different physiological functions. This integral system uses the engery pathways to link the organs and other human systems into a unified whole, making the communication and interaction between parts of the body possible. The energy that flows in the energy pathways is called Qi. It extends internally to the organs and externally throughout the body, completing an interrelated system of networks.

The energy meridians were accurately charted by Dr. Wang Wei-Yi (987-1067 A.D.). He was a distinguished acupuncturist in the Northern Dynasty. Dr. Wang was responsible for casting the two life-size bronze acupuncture figures, and was in charge of compiling the Manual of the Illustrated Points for Acupuncture and Moxibustion. The bronze figures and the manual facilitated the research, development, and teaching of acupuncture.

Energy Meridians

The Qi pathways in the human body include 12 channels, 8 extraordinary vessels, 15 main branches, and collaterals. Channels refer to energy pathways that connect to the organs internally and extend to the limbs externally, and have accessible acupuncture points on the surface of the body. Vessels are energy pathways that connect to the channels, but without a direct connection to the organs, and (save for the Conception and Governing Vessels) have no accessible acupuncture points of their own. The 15 main branches are the branches of the 12 channels plus one from the Conception Vessel, one from the Governing Vessel, and an additional one from the Spleen Channel. The smaller netlike energy pathways, branching out of the energy pathways are called collaterals. These energy pathways are the connectors between the organs and the limbs, link to the upper and lower body, the regulator and the balancer for the entire body; making the human body an integrated whole.

The 12 Qi channels are connected to 6 viscera and 6 bowels. The 8 Qi vessels that to not have a direct connection with the organs, supplement the 12 qi channels. Sometimes the combination of the 12 Qi channels, and the Conception and Governing Vessels are lumped together and called the 14 Channels and Vessels. They are lumped together because they all can be accessed externally through the acupuncture points.

Acupuncture points or Qi cavities are locations on the surface of the skin which connect to the channels or vessels. These locations either have a greater accumulation of Qi, are points for draining or nourishing Qi, or are important passages for the energy pathways

There are two primary functions for the energy pathways. First, they conduct regular patterns of physiological activities when the body is functioning in a normal state. Secondly, they systematically reflect symptoms of disease when the body is ill. A TCM doctor can decipher the irregular manifestations in the physical body, in order to help with their treatment of the disease.

When the human body is ill or injured, the symptoms which appear will depend upon the condition of Qi in the body. During illness, Qi generally manifests in two ways: Qi-deficiency or Qi-stagniation. Qi-deficiency refers to a weakness in the functioning of the body or the organ systems. Qi-stagnation refers to a restricted flow of Qi in the body. Qi flows throughout the human body. It is supposed to flow unrestricted. If any part of the body is injured, or is ill, a restriction of Qi and blood has occurred.