Six Channel Theory

The twelve regular meridians are most often described within the framework of the elements. For instance, the Heart meridian is paired with the Small Intestine meridian within the Fire element.
Another way to pair and understand the 12 meridians is within the six channel theory. This ancient theory of Chinese medicine was the basis for one of the first coherent theories on the cause and progression of disease ever developed and recorded. The author Zhang Zhongjing, is a famous Chinese physician, who is similar in stature to Hippocrates in the west.

Zhang Zhongjing

Zhang Zhongjing
Developed his theories 2,000 years ago.

Six Channels

By pairing the 12 meridians, we can imagine 6 meridians.  Six channel theory pairs the Yang meridians in similar locations on the arms and legs, and it also pairs the Yin meridians in similar locations on the arms and legs.

6 Channels:

1. Tai Yang (Greater Yang)

  • Urinary Bladder (leg)
  • Small Intestine (arm)

2. Shao Yang (Lesser Yang)

  • Gallbladder (leg)
  • San Jiao (arm)

3. Yang Ming (Bright Yang)

  • Stomach (leg)
  • Large Intestine (arm)

4. Tai Yin (Greater Yin)

  • Spleen (leg)
  • Lung (arm)

5. Shao Yin (Lesser Yin)

  • Kidney (leg)
  • Heart (arm)

6. Jue Yin (Absolute Yin)

  • Liver (leg)
  • Pericardium (arm)

Notice the progression from the most exterior (Tai Yang) to the most interior (Jue Yin). Meridians are pathways for Qi and pathogens, just as any street is a pathway for the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”
External pathogens enter from the exterior environment. If the immune system is weak and the pathogens are strong, the pathogen can make its way to the interior.  The further interior it goes, the more severe the illness and the more difficult it is to resolve. For example, a stuffy nose (relatively external) is less of a concern than pneumonia (relatively internal).

As expressed in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (written 2,500 years ago) the “superior physician” is one who prevents disease while the “inferior physician” is one who treats disease.

By insuring that our Qi is abundant, flowing, and harmonized, we insure that the “bad guys” stay out of our meridian system in the first place. If pathogens do enter, we can analyze the condition and treatment based on various theories. Six channel theory is a brilliant theory and worth the effort to understand.
Six Channel Theory is explained in the classic text: Shang Han Lun.

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Cindy Black

Cindy Black is the Founder of Big Tree School of Natural Healing and the author of Meridian Massage, Pathways to Vitality. She is appreciated for her ability to make the complex accessible, fun, and practical.

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