The concept of anatomy in China



Although the conceptions of ancient Chinese medicine concerning the organs and their functions are in contradiction with the knowledge of modern medicine, still it might be used to become acquainted with them. The organs can be divided into two groups:

  1. The Five Zang Organs (credited with the capacity of storing)
  2. The Six Fu Organs (credited with the capacity of elimination)

The Zang Organs belong to Yin while the Four Organs belong to Yang.

The Five Zang Organs (Wu Zang) or Yin organs

The Five Zang or yin organs

The Five Zang or yin organs in Chinese medicine. 1. Heart, 2. Liver, 3. Spleen, 4. Lungs, 5. Kidney

  1. Heart (belongs to fire). It directs the circulation of blood. Its function is connected with the tongue. The intensity of its function can be observed from the colour of the face. Insufficiency of the heart Yang – anxiety, forgetfulness. Excess of the heart Yang – madness, sleeplessness. Insufficiency of the heart Yin – sleeplessness, palpitation, a lot of dreams.
    • Pericardium is joined to the heart and its function is analogical as that of the heart.
  2. Liver (belongs to wood). It is the reservoir of Blood in the body and regulates its quantity. It is connected with the tendons. The intensity of its function can be noticed from the colour and firmness of the nails. Its function is connected with the eyes.
    • Insufficiency of the liver Yang – dysmenorrhea, dizzy vision, weak eyesight, convulsions, etc.
    • Excess of the liver Yang – dizziness, tinnitus, red face, susceptibility to anger.
    • Utter disorder of the liver Qi – pain in the chest, oppression in the chest, vomiting, diarrhoea.
  3. Spleen (belongs to earth). It distributes the nourishment and nourishes the whole body. It is connected with the flesh. The intensity of its function can be noticed the colour of the lips. Its function is connected with the mouth.
    • Insufficiency of the spleen Yang – anorexia, dyspepsia, exhaustion, tympanites, diarrhoea, edema of the whole body, cold limbs, jaundice.
    • Insufficiency of the spleen Yin – red tongue, anorexia, insipidness.
    • In the case the spleen does not rule over the Blood, dysmenorrhea or haematuria appears.
  4. Lungs (belong to metal). They control breathing, combine air with the nourishment and keep the body in motion. They are connected with hair, from which their function can be noticed. They are also connected with the nose.
    • Insufficiency of the lung Qi – weak and short breath, dry cough, easy perspiration.
    • Excess of the lung Qi – quick and heavy breath, sensation of oppression in the chest, a lot of sputum etc.
    • Insufficiency of the lung Yin – dry throat, hoarse voice, nocturnal perspiration etc.
  5. Kidney (belongs to water). It is the main reservoir of Jing Qi. Jing Qi denotes 1. the energy obtained from nourishment; 2. the energy of the kidney itself, i.e. the main material for reproduction. The development, growth and extinction of the reproductive function is associated with the kidney. The kidney is connected with the bones and the brain. The intensity of its function can be seen from the growth of the hair and solidity of the teeth. Its function is connected with the ear, genitalia and rectum.
    • Insufficiency of the kidney Yin – dry throat, painful throat, dizziness, forgetfulness, tinnitus.
    • Insufficiency of the kidney Yang – lumbago, sensation of cold in the back, inability to remain standing for long time, pollution, impotence, intestinal tuberculosis, incontinence of urine, swellings etc.

The Six Fu Organs (Liu Fu) or Yang organs

The Six Fu or yang organs

The Six Fu or yang organs

  1. Gall bladder (belongs to wood). It preserves the gall. Its function is connected with the mental activity and is responsible for decision. It is coupled with liver. The Gall Bladder Meridian is intersected by the Liver Meridian and vice versa.
    • Excess of the gall bladder Qi – choleric temperament, susceptibility to anger.
    • Diseases associated with the gall bladder: fear, pain in the chest, bitterness in the mouth, shivering etc.
  2. Stomach (belongs to earth). It absorbs and digests nourishment is coupled with the spleen. The Stomach Meridian is intersected by the Spleen Meridian and vice versa. In the case the spleen is not able to distribute nourishment, the stomach is not able to absorb it; in the case the stomach is not able to absorb nourishment, it cannot be distributed by the spleen.
    • Diseases associated with the stomach: vomiting, constant feeling of hunger, anorexia.
  3. Small intestine (belongs to fire). It receives the nourishment digested by the stomach and transfers the energy to the spleen in order to distribute it all over the body. The small intestine is coupled with the heart. The Small Intestine Meridian is intersected by the Heart Meridian and vice versa.
    • Diseases associated with the small intestine: diarrhoea, haematuria, urine short and red.
  4. Large intestine (belongs to metal). It removes all the waste coming from the small intestine. The large intestine is coupled with the lungs. The Large Intestine Meridian is intersected by the Lung Meridian and vice versa.
    • The diseases associated with the large intestine: constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain.
  5. Bladder (belongs to water). It stores the liquids and regulates the urine. It is coupled with the kidney. The Bladder Meridian is intersected by the Kidney Meridian and vice versa. Insufficiency of the bladder Qi causes incontinence of urine.
    • The diseases associated with the bladder: anuria, enuresis etc.
  6. Triple Warmer or Triple Heater (belongs to fire). It is also called the palace of water (shuifu). Its duty is to preserve a smooth flow of liquid. There exist several explanations what it actually is. In NEIJING its function is compared to a sewage system of the body, but the location is not given. Sometimes it is said to exist only in name and sometimes it is considered to be a link between the universe and a man. It is divided into three parts: the Upper Warmer (shangjiao), the Middle Warmer (zhongjiao) and the Lower Warmer (xiajiao), each of which is associated with the corresponding part of the body. Thus the Upper Warmer comprises the heart and lungs, the Middle Warmer the spleen and stomach and the Lower Warmer the liver, kidney, bladder and the large and small intestines. It is coupled with the pericardium. The Triple Warmer Meridian is intersected by the Circulation-sex Meridian and vice versa.
    • Diseases associated with the Triple Warmer: enuresis, anuria and swellings.

Unfailing and Preserving Intestines (Ji Heng Zhi Fu)

In ZHONGGUO ZHENJIUXE-GAIYAO these “unfailing and preserving intestines” imply the brain, marrow and womb. Originally this term was used in a broader sense. In NEIJING we find the following definition:

The brain, the marrow, the bones, the pulse, the gall and the womb of the women, these six organs have been produced by the atmosphere of the earth. They are all viscera belonging to Yin and they are the natural symbols of the earth; therefore they store and do not expel and their name is ‘unfailing and preserving intestines.

In form they are similar to the Fu Organs and in function they are similar to the Zang Organs.