The location and function of the Sanjiao

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2001, (65), pp. 26 - 32
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Chinese medical classic describe the location and function of the Sanjiao (the Trple Energiser). Chinese medicine's conception of the Sanjiao is examined in this paper using references in the classical texts. Classical material presents the Sanjiao as the "unique fu": a hollow organ whose unusual structure includes all kinds of cavities and spaces in the body. The tree biggest cavities in the trunk - the chest, abnominal and pelvic cavities - are associated with the upper, middle and lower jiao (the "three burning spaces"). Other spaces in the extremities and muscles are called cou in the Neijing and these are as important as the "three burning spaces" in understanding the Sanjiao's physiology and pathology. Part 1 of this paper expores classical medical sources concerning the Sanjiao's location, shape and structure. Part2 extents this discussion to include the Sanjiao's location, shape in Chinese medical physiology. The cavities and spaces that comprise the structure and location of the Sanjiao form a network of fluid and qi passageways extending in all directions thoughout the body. The cavities and spaces are a point of juncture and passageway for the qi, the body fluids, and their transformations. The Sanjiao's network of spaces therefore provides a site and a thoroughfare, enabling the ascending and descending movement of qi and fluids, and the movement between interior and exterior - the coming in and going out of yin and yang. Chinese medicine's classical sources describe the Sanjiao's locations and functions in detail: they support traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)'s viscera-based concept of the Sanjiao, and explain less well-understood aspects of its nature and physiology.
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