Zang-Fu (Yin Organs and Yang Organs) – This concept constitutes the core of TCM’s physiology and it is strictly related to the Theory of the Five Elements.

The five Yin Organs are Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lung and Kidney. They do not have a direct correspondence to those of western medicine, in that their function is broader. Their main function is to produce and store Qi, Xue and Jing.

The six Yang Organs are Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Gallbladder, Urinary Bladder, Stomach and Sanjiao. Their functions almost match with those of western medicine’s, apart from Sanjiao.  

Each Zang-Fu (together with Pericardium) has its own energetic meridian and belongs to one of the Five Elements. Moreover, Zang and Fu are mutually connected by means of the 12 meridians.

 Functions of the Lungs

  • Rule Qi of the entire body and Respiration.
  • Regulate and move the liquids in the body.
  • Control skin, sweat glands, sweat pore and body hair.
  • Spread Wei Qi (defensive Qi) at the level of skin and muscles.
  • Open into the nose.

 Functions of the Spleen

  • The Spleen is the most important Organ for the production of Qi. It extracts Food Qi (Gu Qi) from food and liquids in the Stomach. Food Qi is essential in the formation of Qi and Blood.
  • Governs transformation (of food in Qi) and transportation of Gu Qi upward to the Lungs to be combined with air to form Zong Qi (that goes to the Heart to form Blood).
  • Controls the muscles and the four limbs.
  • Opens into the mouth and manifests in the lips.

Functions of the Heart

  • Governs the Blood and the Blood Vessels.
  • Manifests in the complexion.
  • Stores the Shen. 
  • Opens to the tongue.
  • Manifests on the face.

Functions of the Kidneys

  • Store the Jing.
  • Rule birth, growth, development, reproduction, and sexuality.
  • Produce Marrow (the substance that constitutes bones, bone marrow, spinal cord  and brain, the “Sea of Marrow”). Rule the Bones.
  • Rule Water (body liquids) and its metabolism.
  • Assist the Lungs during inhalation by “grasping the Qi”.
  • Open into the Ears.
  • Manifest in head hair.
  • Control the two lower orifices.
  • Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang are the foundation of the Yin and Yang of the whole body. They rely on each other for their existence: Kidney Yin provides material basis for Kidney Yang and  Kidney Yang provides necessary Heat for all the Kidneys’ functions.

 Functions of the Liver

  • Liver ensures smooth flow of Qi.
  • Stores the Blood.
  • Controls the tendons.
  • Manifests in the nails.
  • Opens into the eyes.

Pericardium, “the Heart Protector” or “Heart Governor”

It is the outer membrane around the heart that protects it from attacks by exogenous pathogens. It is considered as an addition to the Heart and has about the same functions. In Acupuncture and Tuina massage however, the Pericardium has its own meridian and is just as important as the heart Channel itself. Many of its points are used to treat the Heart and Shen pathologies (mental state and emotional problems).

The Yang Organs

Five of the six Yang Organs, namely Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Gallbladder, Urinary Bladder and Stomach have about the same functions recognized by the western physiology. It is not the same for the concept of San Jiao, the Triple Burner.

San Jiao

Unlike the other Organs It does not have a specific localization. It defines a set of functions. San Jiao means “three parts”. In fact it is composed of:

  • Upper San Jiao – over the diaphragm, includes Heart and Lungs. 
  • Central San Jiao – between diaphragm and pylorus, includes Spleen-Stomach and Liver-Gallbladder.
  • Lower San Jiao – under the pylorus, includes Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Kidneys and Urinary Bladder.

The function of San Jiao is to regulate the circulation of Qi among the Organs and Meridians.

(January 2014)