torsdag 21 april 2011

Sanjiao revisited: Triple Burner: the organ that is no organ (now with notes and smileys)

Currently we are going through the Sanjiao meridian in class. Test on Thursday. Ooops. Anyway. Sanjiao is usually translated as ”triple burner” in English. Literally, ”three burners”. It is a curiosity: an organ that has no physical, one organ linked to it.

All the other main meridians are linked to physical organs. In Chinese medicine (Classical Chinese Medicine, CCM) each organ has (at least) three levels: 1) the physical organ itself, what is an ”organ” to Western medicine, 2) the qi, energy of that organ, and the links from it to the rest of the body and how they work, and 3) the emotions and mind-states linked to that organ and to ourselves. All these three weave together in unity in Chinese medicine. They would never be seen as separate – even the act of seeing them as being able to separate leaves heads towards Western thinking. ”Separate” simply isn´t possible. And then there is also 4): how well the first three move in balance and harmony with the external world outside ourselves.


The body has three main sections. Upper burner – head to diaphragm. Middle burner – the diaphragm to belly button. Lower burner – everything beneath that. The function of the Sanjiao is making the flow and function between them smooth and balanced. This is one of many things that the Sanjiao meridian itself can work with. It´s a Yang meridian, where, for example, the Pericardium meridian we spoke about before, is a Yin meridian. They are a pair: Pericardium and Triple Burner.

This is one of those facets that you often have to treat people to make them discover that it´s possible. I have seen this work in real life, and seen how the needles awaken the link between the three jiao in the person. Suddenly, they feel a wholeness they never knew could be there. It´s very nice to watch. :) The kind of health that good CCM can give people is something that has to be felt personally to be understood. Here in the West, we simply have no tools for discovering the joy of that kind of health at all. There are no Western medical techniques that come even close. Most of us are programmed and brain-washed by bad Western science in how we view reality and health, and the depth these programmings go to is greater than most of us ever discover.


It is one of our first longer meridians, and covers a total of 22 points. The meridian itself starts at the ulnar (outer) side of the ring finger. From there it goes up the arm on the outer side, makes a brief jump over the shoulder and then goes on up to the side of the head, around and to the ear and touching eyes and throat. Part of this main channel also continues all the way through the body, through all the three burners, internally. There is another branch that touches the tounge, but this is the main one.

It has several bloody branches we have to study, along with all the other channels´ branches. Oh well. No-one said CCM was anything but complex and difficult to learn.


Treating the Sanjiao meridian weaves the three burners together with remarkable speed and smoothness. It can also treat problems with internal heat, balance the function of energy to the outside of the body, work with Wind in the body, and with certain kinds of ear- and eye-problems.

Ear-problems in CCM can be of many different kinds and for many different reasons. Loss of hearing in old people is often that their kidney energy is going down, which it does naturally through age, and this can often be treated fairly well through acupuncture. Sanjiao meridian-treatments would move more specifically to ear-problems caused by problems in the Wood element, the liver and gallblader, and how that has affected hearing. Same goes for eye-problems.


Treating it is also one way of indirectly working with and balancing the Pericardium, Fire Element and shen. In the older texts, the Sanjiao is seen as one of the conduits for yuanqi, the original qi of the body, which rests in the kidneys and lower dantian, and it can be worked and balanced to activate this when it has gone down or become inactive.

Yuanqi is the CCM term for the energy we are born with – some call it genetic qi, some call it original qi. It is the main part of your bank-balance for health all throughout your life. Some people are born with stronger yuanqi, some with weaker. The strong ones can work all hours of the day, party all night, and die healthy at 99. The weaker ones will have more health problems and issues, and will be fatigued and tired more easily. Problems with low yuanqi can be treated and balanced through CCM, as well as through specific kinds of qigong.


We are going to talk more about the Five Elements in a future post, and do the same with the concept of Wind in Chinese medicine. Wind is one of the liuxie, six evil influences, six major ways the our external environment can affect the health in our internal one. Of these, Wind is seen as the most important to protect against.

CCM talks about six main external pathogenic factors (try to work that phrase into an everyday conversation) that will affect a person from the outside. If the system is quite healthy, the effect is negligable: if it´s less healthy, it will be more affected by it. CCM teaches that external wind can get into the energy and body of the patient in energetic form. If the immune system, both in physical and energetic version, and the defenses aren´t strong enough, if you already are ill, old, have a cold, too tired, stressed – Wind can get inside to a greater depth and start causing more serious health-problems. There are techniques for diagnosing and treating this. Wind can also be a purely internal factor – emotions manifesting erratically could be seen as wind, for example; internal pain that moves around a lot with no fixed abode but comes and goes, moving, would also be seen as Wind.


The Yellow Emperor said, ”In heaven, there are winds from the eight directions, but for man, there are only winds of the five viscera, and what is the reason?”

Qibo answered: ”All the eight winds are evil winds that may hurt the human body. If one´s channels are being affected by the evil wind, it will further invade the viscera. When the viscera are touched by the evil wind through channels, one will contract disease and the winds of the five viscera will occur.”

- Neijing, chapter 4.

The eight winds of heaven” here are the winds from the eight directions in nature. In humans, this then shifts to how it affects the organs (viscera) linked to the Five Elements – in our discussion here, Sanjiao, Triple Burner, which is linked to Fire together with the Pericardium, Heart, and Small Intestine. If it goes into the body, it would first affect higher depths where the meridians (channels) are. If it goes deeper and starts creating more injury, it will come to the level of the organs themselves. Xie, evil, is an older phrase which harks back to the time when shamanism still infused Chinese medicine. Winds were seen not only as winds, but with the possibility of including evil wind spirits that might hurt you, instead of all the friendly ones who simply played with your clothes and hair. Today it would normally be translated as an ”external pathogenic factor”, and GoreTex has been invented, to the blessing of everybody.


...re-reading this I realize that I will have to write some explanations to this. I sometimes forget that people read this blog who don´t know something about Chinese medicine from before. I´ll write an annotated version of this post in a little while to remedy that...

Hope this did the job. :)