Wuji Xuan Life Wellness

twelve meridian

What are the Meridians, Channels and Vessels in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

The fundamental theories that holds together the system that we know as Traditional Chinese  Medicine includes Five Elements, Yin and Yang, Qi and Blood, and Meridians, Channels and San Jiao.   Ths week we'll cover the basics of Meridians to help you better understand what it is and how it works in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are a few foundations which are bedrock. One of the cornerstones to some modalities such Tuina (Chinese medical massage), Acupressure and Acupuncture is the meridians. The meridians can be also called channels or vessel. Don’t be confused if you hear someone jumping back and forth on the three words!


What are meridians? Lets define them.

The meridians are like a road where vital life force “qi” flows throughout & within us. There are twelve regular channels mapped on the body, each being associated with a organ. By this connection of meridian & organs, both can impact each other. An ailment within the physical organ, will show tension or discomfort in the channel. On flip side, the channel can be stimulated to help balance the physical organ and achieve vitality. The meridians help distribute blood, body fluids and qi, balance yin & yang energies and help protect the body against external factors (which can cause illness).

twelve meridians tcmImage from naturalwellnessgirl.com

12 Meridians

  • Lung
  • Large intestine
  • Stomach
  • Spleen
  • Heart
  • Small intestine
  • Bladder
  • Kidney
  • Pericardium
  • Triple Heater
  • Gallbladder
  • Liver


8 Extra-Ordinary Meridians

eight extraordinatry meridians tcm

Image From academyoffragrancealchemy.com

  • Governing Vessel (Du Mai)
  • Conception Vessel (Ren Mai)
  • Penetrating of Thrusting Vessel (Chong Mai)
  • Belt or Girdle Vessel (Dai Mai)
  • Yang Heel Vessel (Yangqiao Mai)
  • Yin Heel Vessel (Yinqiao Mai)
  • Yang Linking Vessel (Yangwei Mai)
  • Yin Linking Vessel (Yinwei Mai).

What is the difference between the Eight Extraordinary Channels vs. the Twelve Meridians?

The Eight Extraordinary Channels are the supports to the Twelve Meridians. They are the oceans of blood and qi which nourish the rivers of the twelve meridians. The Extraordinary Channels do not have their own points, except two of them being the Governing & Conception Vessels.


What determines the direction of the channels?

Generally speaking, the full organs (Zang) such as the Heart or Liver are correlated with Yin. Their channels are Yang in direction, going upward toward the sky. The empty organs (fu) such as the Stomach or Large Intestine are correlated to Yang. Their channels are Yin in direction and go down toward the earth. By pairing an energy with an opposite direction the balance of Yin and Yang is achieved within the channel & physical organ. To find out more about Yin and Yang go here.


Stay tuned! We'll cover more TCM fundamentals in our coming posts.