This is the 6th and last installment of the discussion on the Triple Burner.
6) Relationship between Triple Burner and Pericardium
Although they are interiorly-exteriorly related, the relationship between Pericardium and Triple Burner is somewhat tenuous: such a relationship is more applicable to the channels, rather than to the organs themselves.The Nei Jing and Nan Jing always refer to the “5 Zang and 6 Fu” (omitting the Pericardium), but also to the “12 channels” (including the Pericardium). Originally the Pericardium was not considered as separate from the Heart; the two were considered a single organ, which is perfectly logical considering their close anatomical relationship. In fact, when the Ling Shu lists the Yuan points of the 5 Zang in chapter 1, it lists Daling (P-7) as the Yuan point of the Heart.1
A passage from Chapter 38 of the Nan Jing makes it clear that the Pericardium and Heart were, in those times, considered as one organ. It says: “The Zang are 5; only the Fu organs are 6: why is that so? The Fu organs are 6 because of the Triple Burner…it has a name but no form, and its channel pertains to the Hand Shao Yang. [The Triple Burner] is a Fu organ and that is why these are 6.”2
This passage is revealing because of its starting question: in fact, the very question “the Zang organs are 5, why are there 6 Fu organs?” implies that it is taken for granted that the Heart and Pericardium are part of the same organ and that therefore it is strange that the Fu organs are 6. The answer explains that the Fu organs are 6 due to the existence of the Triple Burner.However, within the reply, it says that the Triple Burner “has a name but no form” thus implying that the Triple Burner is different from the other regular Fu organs and their total makes 6 only by adding the Triple Burner.3
The passage also makes clear that the Triple “has a name but no form”, i.e. it is not really an organ like the others but a complex of functions: however, it does say that there is a channel associated with it. Chapter 39 of the Nan Jing is even more specific about the fact that the Triple Burner is not actually associated with a Zang organ: “Each of the Zang organs has a Fu one associated with it. The Triple Burner is also a Fu organ but it is not associated with any of the Zang organs. That is why some say that there are only 5 Fu organs.”4
Chapter 25 of the Nan Jing specifically addresses the conundrum that there are 11 Internal Organs but 12 channels:”5
There are 12 channels but 11 Internal Organs (5 Zang and 6 Fu), why? One channel [jing] has two separate vessels [mai] in the Arm Shao Yin [Heart] and Heart Master [Xin Zhu, Pericardium]. The Pericardium has an Exterior-Interior relationship with the Triple Burner, both have a name but no form [you ming er wu xing], and that is why there are 12 channels.” This passage is extremely revealing because it confirms that Heart and Pericardium were seen as one, when it says that one channel [jing] has two separate vessels [mai] in the Arm Shao Yin [Heart] and Heart Master [Xin Zhu, Pericardium].With regard to the question of 5 Zang and 6 Fu, the author of the Nan Jing seems to be playing games with the reader because, in chapter 39, it says that the Zang could be considered to be 6 and the Fu 5! It says: ”
There are 5 Zang and yet 6 Fu, how is that? One speaks of 6 Fu but they are actually 5. Although one speaks of 5 Zang, there are actually 6. The Kidneys are two Zang: the left is the Kidney and the right is the Ming Men. The Ming Men houses the Spirit (jing shen). In men it stores the Jing in women it houses the Uterus. The Qi of the Ming Men penetrate the Kidneys. That is why there are 6 Zang. How come there are 5 Fu? [That is because] Each Zang is associated with a Fu, the Triple Burner is a Fu but it does not belong to any of the 5 Zang: that is why there are 5 Fu.”5With the development of the channel theory, the Triple Burner was associated with the Pericardium (given their corresponding position on the arm) and their number totalled 12, including the Triple Burner and Pericardium channels.Although the Pericardium and Triple Burner channels are exteriorly-interiorly related within the 5-Element scheme, this feels like a somewhat “forced” relationship to make a square shape fit in a round hole, i.e. the 5 Elements into 12 Channels.
In fact, some Chinese teachers and doctors go so far as saying that the Pericardium and Triple Burner organs are not interiorly-exteriorly related as the other organs are.As channels, the Pericardium and Triple Burner channels have a close and symmetrical relationship; they occupy symmetrical positions on the arm. The Triple Burner belongs to the Shao Yang channels which are the “hinge” between the Tai Yang and the Yang Ming channels; the Pericardium pertains to the Jue Yin channels which are the “hinge” between the Tai Yin and Shao Yin channels. Being the “hinge” implies that these channels can connect the Yang and Yin channels, i.e. the Triple Burner connects the three Yang and the Pericardium the three Yin.The Pericardium and Triple Burner channels are symmetrical in so far as the former provides the opening point of the Yin Wei Mai (P-6 Neiguan) and the latter of the Yang Wei Mai (T.B.-5 Waiguan): the Yin Wei Mai links all the Yin channels and the Yang Wei Mai all the Yang ones.
This is another reason why the Triple Burner and Pericardium channels connect the three Yang and three Yin of the arm respectively.The “Medicine Treasure” even says that the Triple Burner is interiorly-exteriorly related to the Ming Men.6
Since the Ming Men is also called the “Minister Fire”, this explains the attribution of Triple Burner to Fire and specifically Minister Fire in the 5-Element context. The Pericardium is obviously closely connected to the Heart and naturally belongs to the Fire element, hence the connection between Pericardium and Triple Burner within the Fire Element and their name of “Minister Fire”.The “Selected Historical Theories of Chinese Medicine” clarifies the relationship between the Triple Burner and Pericardium: “The Heart is the Emperor who has a Minister. The Triple Burner cavities are like a capital which houses both the Emperor and the Minister.
The Pericardium in the centre of the chest is like a palace that houses only the Emperor. The palace is inside and is Yin, the capital is outside and is Yang; hence the Triple Burner is a Yang organ and the Pericardium a Yin organ”.7
In exploring the relationship between Pericardium and Triple Burner, there is an interesting symmetry between the location of the Back-Shu point of Heart and Kidneys (Shao Yin) and those of Pericardium and Triple Burner. The Heart and Kidneys communicate with each other and their Back-Shu points are BL-15 and BL-23 respectively. The Pericardium and Triple Burner’s Back-Shu points are symmetrical in that they are one point above those of the Heart and Kidneys, i.e. BL-14 and BL-22 respectively.
The Back-Shu point of the Pericardium is naturally just above that of the Heart because of the close anatomical connection between the two organs. The Back-Shu point of the Triple Burner is just above that of the Kidneys because of the Triple Burner being the “envoy” or “ambassador” of the Yuan Qi as it emerges from between the Kidneys (see previous blog post).
There are interesting clinical applications of the Triple Burner and Pericardium channels in the mental-emotional sphere.First, emotional stress makes the physiological Minister Fire of the Kidneys rise and become pathological: when the Minister Fire is pathological, a person has “Heat”. All emotions tend to cause Qi stagnation first and stagnant Qi easily generates Heat: that is why, in mental-emotional stress, the tip of the tongue (reflecting the Heart and the Shen) is red. As we have seen above, chapter 38 of the Nan Jing even says that the Ming Men (same as Minister Fire) is the residence of the Spirit (Jing-Shen). Zhu Dan Xi said: “Not a day goes by in people’s lives that the Minister Fire is not stirred.”
The Triple Burner and Pericardium channels affect the mental-emotional state because emotional stress makes the Minister Fire rise towards these two channels; therefore when the Minister Fire is aroused by emotional problems and it rises towards the Pericardium and Triple Burner channels, points of these channels can be used to clear Heat and calm the Mind.In this context, I use particularly P-6 Neiguan to stimulate the movement of the Hun when the person is depressed, or P-7 Daling to calm the Shen when the person is anxious.There is another interesting clinical application of the Triple Burner and Pericardium points related to their being “hinge” channels, i.e. the Triple Burner (Shao Yang) is the hinge between Tai Yang and Yang Ming and the Pericardium (Jue Yin) is the hinge between Tai Yin and Shao Yin.
Being the “hinge” on a psychological level means that these channels are “mediators” in the sense that they can affect a person’s capacity to relate to other people and points of these two channels can therefore be used especially for depression: for this, I use T.B.-3 Zhongzhu and P-6 Neiguan.
1. Ling Shu, p 3.
2. Nan Jing, p. 94.
3. Ibid., p. 94.
4. Ibid., p. 95.
5. Nan Jing, p. 110.
6. Wang Xin Hua 1983 Selected Historical Theories of Chinese Medicine (Zhong Yi Li Dai Yi Lun Xuan), Jiangsu Scientific Publishing House, p. 2.
7. Ibid., p. 161.