Study Guide for Unit 5 - Traditional Chinese Medicine 


The study guide for this unit will look at the ancient theory behind TCM and Shibashi.

  • The concepts of Yin & Yang
  • Qi
  • The Three Treasures
  • Meridians
  • Organs as perceived by TCM


Although we do not study the history of this discipline during the course, you may want to take a look at some of the links that can found below. These can be used to gain a brief background to both the history and philosophy of TCM.

Yin & Yang 

Yin & Yang are ancient Chinese concepts that are fundamental to the understanding of Qigong.

The theory of Yin & Yang stems from observing the natural world around us.

It appears that nature groups itself into pairs. For instance you can't have up without down! As an example take your journey to work each day, while driving one sees both the sky and its opposite the ground!


You may have seen the Yin and Yang symbol before.

The white aspect represents Yang and the black Yin.



Yang is usually associated with energetic qualities such as air. On the other hand Yin is associated with the physical form  of an object, for example earth.

Look at the lists on the opposite side of the page and try to get a feel for it.








Physiological functions



 Yang                         Yin

Bright                       Dark

Hot                          Cold

Upper                       Lower

Movement                Rest

Out                          In

Excitatory                Inhibitory           


The rules of Yin and Yang do not stop at opposites. There are also four principles that apply.

Interdependence: One can not exist without the other, for example hot and cold, up and down.

Interconsuming: Process of transformation from Yin to Yang or vise versa, for example day to night or cold winter to warm spring into hot summer.

Intertransforming: Point where polarity changes, for example the midnight hour.

Opposition: Never in a static state, constantly changes balance through adjusting. Everything contains a seed of the opposite.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with your Shibashi practice.

The yin-yang concept is the basis of Tai Chi & Qigong ancient philosophy. On a practical level, stillness is yin and movement is yang. Our practice continually moves from in to out, down to up, stillness to movement: the movements are therefore cyclical, flowing effortlessly from yin to yang and yang to yin.

The aim is to achieve balance between extremes of movement - extremes of yin and yang - but there are always yin movements and Yang movements.


We suggest that you now listen to the audio session below, which has been provided to help with your understanding of Yin Yang.  

Yin Yang Assignment Audio.mp3

Please open the attachment called Qi & the Dantien. This will give you an overview of what will come next. The aim is to lead you through the complexities of Qi in steady stages!


Qi & the Dantien.doc Qi & the Dantien.doc
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                                                                             Three Treasures
Western medicine is based on stuctures such as bones, muscles, cells and their components. The cause and effect model is the basis of western medicine.
TCM is very different. It looks at the components of the process rather than the structure. The body, in TCM, is viewed as an energy system in which various substances interact.

Qi, Jing & Shen are called the Three Treasures in TCM. They are essential components or substances of a human. When they are in harmony, all is well with the body and mind. The aim of our Shibashi practice is to help retain Jing, regulate and strengthen Qi, and become mentally alert through 'working' on Shen.


We will now look at Qi, Jing and Shen, in turn.





Qi, pronounced "chee", means energy. You may see it spelt "Chi" or even "Ki" in Japanese, but they all carry the same meaning. Qi is the energy of the body, of the meridians, all things in the universe are made of Qi. 

Harmonising ourselves with the forces and cycles of Heaven & Earth is the core philosophy of Daoism. This ancient philosophy is where Tai Chi & Qigong originate from. It is based on the way that we harmonise with our environment: Heaven Qi, Earth Qi and Human Qi are considered to be the driving forces of the universe.
As an example -too much sun or too much rain (Heaven Qi) will affect the growth of plants in the earth, hence Earth Qi is affected by (or absorbs) Heaven Qi. 

Now open the attachment called Heaven, Earth & Human Qi. It may help you to understand the the next stage. 

Heaven, Earth & Human Qi.doc Heaven, Earth & Human Qi.doc
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Human Qi is said to draw from above (Heaven Qi) and below (Earth Qi). The balance of our Human Qi is influenced by the natural cycles of both Heaven & Earth Qi. 
All three types of Qi are important in our Shibashi practice, but for now we will look at the more complex Human Qi in greater depth, and it's dependence on Heaven & Earth Qi.

Human qi consists of prenatal qi, acquired before birth and inherited from our parents, and postnatal qi, qi that is acquired after birth.

Pre natal qi
Pre natal qi is also known as Original qi or Yuan qi. Yuan qi is formed at conception and inherited from our parents. It can be conserved but not replenished. You will have used it all up by the time of your death!
Post natal Qi
Air Qi is considered to be the most significant form of Heaven Qi that we can absorb. Shibashi emphasises the technique of abdominal breathing to use Heaven Qi in the form of oxygen.

Food Qi is the most significant form of Earth Qi but Earth Qi can also be absorbed through correct stance - we aim to root to the ground to absorb Earth Qi during our Shibashi practice.

If you take a look at the diagram below you will see the interaction of Heaven & Earth Qi to provide Human Qi.



In the diagram above, and the explanation that follows, you will see that both pre natal and post natal qi form parts of the Human Qi.

Try not to get confused by all the different types of qi. They are just called by another name at the different parts of the process.

Food Qi (Gu Qi) is derived from the food we eat and the main organ related to this is the spleen.

Air Qi (Kong Qi) is derived from the air we breath and the lung is associated with this.

If you refer to the diagram above you will see that:
Food and Air Qi mix to form Gathering Qi of the chest (Zong qi). This is then catalyzed by the action of Inherited or Original Qi (Yuan Qi, inherited from our parents and stored in the kidneys) to form Upright Qi (Zhen Qi).
Upright Qi circulates throughout the channels and organs of the body as Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi) and Defensive Qi (Wei Qi).
Nutritive Qi is the energy that nourishes the organs and tissues of the body. Defensive Qi is the energy that circulates in the outer parts of the body and prevents invasion of external pathogens.


Functions of Qi

  • Activity and movement
  • Warms
  • Protects
  • Transforms
  • Contains




Jing is a difficult concept to understand. Translated Jing means Essence. Jing is associated with slow developmental change - from birth to death.
If there is plenty of Jing then there will be a strong life force, whereas with someone lacking in Jing, the life force is weak and one might be susceptible to disease.
There are 2 sources of Jing (essence).

  1. Pre Birth Essence - That which is acquired before birth: passed on to us by our parents, at and after conception. This type of Jing is stored in the kidneys. It is slowly consumed during life.
  2. Post Birth Essence - That which is extracted from food and refined from the digestive system after birth and all through life. It supplements the Pre Birth Essence and together they form a generalised Essence that is stored in the Kidneys. This is called Kidney Essence.


The stronger your Pre Birth Essence the more efficient you will be at extracting Post Birth Essence from food.

Think of Jing as being responsible for slow on-going development and Qi as on-going daily movements in the body. 



Shen can be thought of as the mind or spirit of a human. Without Shen there is no personality. Shen is developed by the combination of Jing and Qi energy. When these Two Treasures are in balance, the mind is strong, the spirit good, the emotions are under control and the body is strong and healthy. A sound mind cannot be cultivated without strong Jing and Qi.
When cultivated, shen will bring peace of mind.
Shen controls aspects of the mind such as willpower,intent, thinking and decision making.
Intent is called Yi and it is the strength of Yi that will determine your focus.
This is important for Shibashi practice: initially, if you can successfully maintain your focus on the meditative abdominal breathing practice, this is because you have strong Yi. (The wuji stance is a time to calm down to allow focus)

Yi is particularly important when visualising Qi flow for advanced practitioners- details of this can be found in the Purpose of Shibashi handout (Study guide for unit 4).

For more on Qi, Jing & Shen take a look at these links


Medical Qigong






Now you will go on to learn about Acupuncture channels, Qi flow and acupuncture points relevant to Shibashi practice.



According to TCM, there are invisible channels through which Qi circulates around the body. These are called meridians.



There are 12 main (primary) meridians and 8 extraordinary channels. The 8 extraordinary channels act as reservoirs for the main meridians.

Divergent channels: these run deep to their corresponding organs.
Luo - Connecting channels: connecting the network of meridians together.

The 12 primary meridians or channels are related to, and named after, an organ or function. These are divided into 6 Yin and 6 Yang primary meridians.



Below you will see the 6 Yin and 6 Yang meridians and their related organ.

Yin -------------------Yang
Lungs ------------Large Intestine
Heart -------------Small Intestine
Pericardium ----San Jiao (Triple Heater)
Liver ---------------Gall Bladder
Spleen -----------Stomach

There are three Yin organs and three Yang, organs relating to each arm and leg. Each Yin organ is paired with its corresponding Yang organ as in the list above. On the meridians are more than 400 acupuncture or energy points. These are listed by name, number and the meridian to which they belong.

When Qi flows freely, the body is balanced and healthy, but if the energy becomes blocked, stagnated or weak, it can result in physical, mental or emotional ill health. Imbalance in a person's body can result from inappropriate emotional responses such as: excess anger, over-excitement, self-pity, grief and fear as well as external causes.






Meridians, Acupuncture Points and Shibashi
There are many acupuncture or energy points on the body and some can be used to advance our Shibashi practice.



The main energy points used in Shibashi can be found below. 


1) Du 20 - Bai Hui (Hundred Meetings)
At the top of the head where the mid-line intersects with a line joining the apex of the ears.
Action: Lifts the spirit. Indicates the coming together of all the Yang energy.
Comments: This is the point we think about when we try to experience the lifting of the head towards the sky. Practicing this affects our consciousness. Yang Qi can energise the brain and mind, thus it is a good point to massage if one has headache or depression.

2) Ren 1 - Hui Yin (Meeting of the Yin)
Location: In the centre of the perineum between the anus and the genitals.
Actions: Nourishes the body's Yin and calms the spirit.
Comments: Is activated by relaxation and gentle lifting. This has a secondary effect on energising the Dantien (centre of gravity below the navel) This point connects the Ren mai (acupuncture channel running down the midline of the front of the body), to open the gate of life (an acupuncture point known as Ming Men).

3) Du 4 - Ming Men (Gate of Vitality)
Location: On the back, at the level of the waist between the spinal processes of the vertebrae L2 and L3.
Actions: Tonifies yang (warming) energy and the Kidneys (the storehouse of essence). A good point for lack of motivation and life force. This point strengthens the knees and spine.
Comments: Opening this area will align the tail bone, connect the torso to the legs and relax and balance the lower abdomen. This point can be seen as the Yang aspect of the Dantien and can strengthen a persons core.

4) Ren 6 - Qi Hai (Sea of Qi)
Location: Approximately 2 inches below the navel on the centre line of the abdomen.
Actions: Regulates Qi, tonifies Qi and the Yang of the body.
Comments: This is the point in the area of the Dantien or centre of gravity. A good point to warm in case of extreme physical and mental exhaustion. In Shibashi we can help this by cupping the hands over this point at the end of the exercises.

5) Ren 17 - Shan Zhong (Central Altar)
Location: In the centre of the sternum, on the midline level with the nipples.
Actions: Tonifies Qi in the chest, relaxes the diaphragm and allows Qi to sink to the Dantien. It clears fullness and tightness from the chest so improves respiration.
Comments: In Shibashi this is achieved by sinking the chest and opening up the back. This action has a powerful affect on strengthening and balancing breathing. Fullness of the chest can be linked with holding on to emotional tension. Relaxing this point naturally disperses tightness from the chest.

6) Ren 23 - Lian Quan (Pure Spring)
Location: On the mid-line of the throat above the Adam's Apple in a depression.
Actions: Opens the throat and connects the yin channels of the arm to the body.
Comments: This point relates to tucking the chin in for our correct stance.
The action aids sinking the Qi, relaxing the body and releasing and opening the throat. In turn this also aids the breathing.

7) Du 16 - Feng Fu (Wind Palace)
Location: Directly below the ridge of the occipital bone (base of the skull) in a depression on the mid-line of the spine.
Actions: Clears the mind and is a good point to work on for stiff necks.
Comments: There is a link between this point and Ren 23. Tucking in the chin opens the neck and activates Du 16. Opening this point allows Qi to flow freely in the arms - often stagnation in the area of Du 16 stops circulation in the arms. Thus this relationship balances the upward flow of Qi with the outward.

8) Kidney 1 - Yong Quan (Bubbling Spring)
Location: In the depression on the sole of the foot when the toes are curled. One third proximal the distance of the foot in the centre of the sole.
Actions: Calms the mind and clears heat. This point has a strong sinking action. Tonifies Yin.
Comments: When we relax our feet in Shibashi, this point opens. Awareness of this point strengthens the root and balance.

9) Pericardium 8 - Laogong (Labour Palace)
Location: When the fist is clenched, the point is just below the tip of the middle finger.
Actions: Calms the mind.
Comments: During Shibashi, this point can be used as the focus throughout all of the 18 exercises. The hands should be allowed to concave slightly, which will activate the Laogong. The thumb should be held away from the other fingers so that the web of skin is slightly stretched. This will activate the Hegu point.

10) Large Intestine 4 - Hegu (Union Valley)
Location: In the middle of the 2nd metacarpal bone on the radial side.
Actions: Strengthens the Wei Qi, improves immunity . Influences the circulation of Qi and Blood
Comments: See Laogong above.

Please use the sites below if you get stuck locating the energy points that are mentioned. A handout is also provided to help with this.

Energy Points.doc Energy Points.doc
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                                                                          The Zang-Fu Theory

This theory of the internal organs distinguishes TCM from all other forms of medicine. Throw away all your thoughts of allopathic medicine's view of the viscera and prepare for a complex, holistic view that encompasses the form, function, emotion and spirit of the body.

As TCM is largely about energy (qi), many of the organs involve the production, circulation, and storage of energy. To the TCM doctor, the normal biological function of an organ is often secondary to how the organ is functioning in the creation or circulation of Qi.

Study Guide Module 5 - Philosophy of Tai Chi & Qigong
The 6 Zang 'organs' - heart, lung, spleen, liver, kidney and pericardium.
The 6 Fu 'organs' - gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder and sanjiao (Triple heater).
Each of the twelve zang-fu organs listed have a corresponding allopathic organ, except the pericardium and san jiao which both describe functions that are not related to an organ.
The brain, marrow, bones, vessels, gallbladder and uterus are known as the
" extraordinary fu " organs.

Zang organs can be associated with storage and yin, while Fu organs can be associated with governing and yang. The Zang store all the bodily fluids and energies. Fu, on the other hand, act as governors by taking in, processing and moving out all external substances. The Zang are also called the solid organs since they store, while the Fu are called hollow since things go through them.
The zang-fu theory explains the physiological function, pathological changes, and mutual relationships of every zang and fu organ. In traditional Chinese medicine the zang and fu organs are not simply anatomical substances, but more importantly represent the generalization of the physiology and pathology of certain systems of the human body.

Take the lung as an example of a very important organ in the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong, through its function of connecting us to the world. The Lungs take charge of the following characteristics.

  1. Govern Qi (Energy) & respiration
  2. Control dispersion & descending
  3. Regulate water passages
  4. Connect us to the world
  5. Open into the nose
  6. Control skin and hair