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THE ORGANS

Supporting Your Life

One of the most fascinating aspects of Traditional Chinese Medical Theory is the observation of the various body's internal structures (such as organs), their unique, specialised functions and how they relate to the rest of the body and function as a whole, unified system. Although Chinese Medicine observes the physical structure of the organs, where it really shines is in its understanding of the "Qi activities" and functions of each organ - the 'inner life activities' one could say.

Likewise, methods for the cultivation of health and personal power such as Qigongalso employ this valuable knowledge such that a practitioner can sense the organs, their state and how to optimise their function through specific exercises. Not only do the organs affect the body on a energy (Qi) and physical level, they are also intertwined with the mental-emotional landscape of the entire organism, how it expresses itself and how the emotions reflect and affect organ function.

Below is a brief summary of the main functions attributed to each of the organs. Please note that this is an introductory overview and there is a wealth of knowledge for each organ:

Yin Organs

Spleen: The spleen is an organ that has a very close relationship with Qi and blood because the spleen is responsible for extracting the pure Qi from food which eventually is also used to form blood. This is a process of transporting and transforming which the spleen is recognized for.

Sayings about the Spleen:


  • "The Spleen is the foundation of post-natal existence"

  • "The Spleen rules transformation and transportation"

Signs of an imbalance in the spleen can present as having difficulty thinking or forming clear thoughts as well as too much worry. When the spleen is strong a person will be able to think clearly and make good decisions based on their insight about situations.

Liver: The liver's closest relationship is with blood and softens the movements of Qiin the body, as opposed to spleen which keeps Qi moving along the correct routes. The blood of the liver provides a essential balance to the Qi for the body and in particular the spleen's Qi. A disharmony of the blood of the liver can lead to menstrual problems such as too much pain and irregularity. When the liver is imbalanced one can also become easily angry and prone to stubbornness.

  • "The Liver behaves like the General of an army"

  • "When the Liver is harmonised the eyes can distinguish the five colours"

Kidneys: Because the kidneys are the storehouses of Jing ('essence') they oversee the developmental stages across the lifespan such as growth, maturation and ageing. The Jing (essence) is the also the source of reproduction which is why the kidneys are also referred to as the 'root of life'. All of the body's organs and tissues need jing and the kidneys provide them with it. Strong kidneys give one the power to exert their will in the world and take responsibility for one's self. When the kidneys are weak, a person can experience extreme fear, anxiety and fear of death.

  • "The kidneys rule water"

  • "The kidneys regulate the yin-yang of the entire body"

Heart: The 'Shen' (Spirit) is stored in the heart. The heart ensures being connected to situations eliciting appropriate responses and behaviors. The pulse can be examined as healthy if the heart is doing its job properly because it is in charge of the blood and blood vessels. If the heart Spirit (Shen) becomes disturbed one can experience insomnia, anxiety and strange behaviours.

  • "The heart is ruler of the blood vessels and blood"

  • "The brilliance of the Heart is apparent in the face"

Lungs: The lungs are rulers of the Qi, breathing in the Qi from the external environment and combining it with the Qi inside the body. The lungs also play a part in the movement and transportation of fluids in the body. The lungs are particularly susceptible to grief and mourning. If the lungs are healthy this can detected by lookin condition of the hair and skin.

  • "The state of the Lungs can be seen from the skin and hair"

  • "The Lungs are the 'tender' organ" 

Yang Organs

Stomach: The stomach is where food is received to be further processed. It does this by sending the "pure" essences of the food to the spleen to form qi and blood and it send the "turbid" portion of the food to the small intestine to continue digestion.

  • "The Stomach 'receives' and 'ripens' food and fluids"

  • "The Stomach rules descending motion"

Gall Bladder: The Gall Bladder assists in the process of digestion by storing bile and sending it to the intestines, which is made by the liver through the abundance of blood and qi received by it. Too much qi in the Gall Bladder can cause anger and rash decisions to be made.

  • ​"The Gall Bladder rules courage and decisiveness"

Bladder: The bladder and kidneys complement each other in their functions because the bladder stores and excretes urine which is produced by the kidneys. The lungs, small and large intestines move their turbid fluids to the kidneys for this to happen

Small Intestine: The Small Intestine continues to separate the pure and impure parts of the food received from the stomach and send the pure to the spleen and the impure to the large intestine for further process and excretion of waste products.

Large Intestines: As the feces are formed as a result of the final processing of the large intestine, fluids are also absorbed.

Triple Burner: The Triple Burner is an interesting "organ" because it is not an actual organ as such but rather a collection of channel pathways, cavities and spaces which reside amongst and between organ and body structures that allow those structures to better carry out their functions and increase the connections between them.

  • "The Triple Burner has a name but it has no shape"

  • "The upper burner is a mist, the middle burner is foam and the lower burner is a swamp"

Source Material: 

  • The Web that has No Weaver by Ted. J Kaptchuck

  • Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine by Nigel Wiseman & Andrew Ellis

  • Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine Translated by Wu Liansheng & Wu Qi