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The Whole Concept

The Whole Concept


Chinese medicinal theory (CMT) takes our body, including interior and exterior organs and tissues, as a coherent, organic whole. Mother Nature’s four seasons, microclimates and surrounding environment physically and pathologically affect our body. CMT emphasizes not only the unity of human body interior but also the unity of human body with outside world.


Inside our body, the organs are mapped with the Five Elements relationship of the Mother/Child, Suppression/Counter-suppression (Please refer the Five Elements in Chinese Medicinal Theory). The Five Elements theory is a guideline to the balance and harmony of our body.


In CMT, human body is mainly constructed by Zang organs、Fu organs and meridians etc.

Zang (solid, yin) organs: liver、heart、spleen、lung and kidney

Fu (hallow, yang) organs similar to containers: stomach、small Intestine、large Intestine、bladder、urinary bladder and Sānjiaō (or the three truncal cavities)


Each Zang organ is paired with a Fu organ. Heart pairs with small intestine; liver pairs with gallbladder; spleen pairs with stomach; lung pairs with large intestine; kidney pairs with urinary bladder. Zang organ leads Fu organ’s function and each pair performs one characteristic of the Five Elements.


The two paired organs connect with each other by meridians, and all pairs are networked and unified by meridians as well. Meridians are chi pathways transporting chi to drive blood flow and support body systems’ physiological activities.


The relationship of Zang and Fu organs

The paired Zang and Fu organs not only physiologically are connected to each other, they but also pathologically affect each other. Zang organ’s pathological problem will affect Fu organ; Fu organ’s pathological problem will affect Zang organ; or both Zang and Fu organs have same pathological problem. Chinese therapeutic methods are often to treat Fu organ when Zang organ is ill, to treat Zang organ when Fu organ is ill, or to treat both organs at the same time.


  1. The relationship of heart and small intestine

Heart is Zang (yin) organ and small intestine is Fu (yang) organ. Heart attributes to fire in the Five Elements. Heart masters blood driving blood circulation; small intestine receives the chyme transported from stomach and digests and transforms chyme to food essence and food residue. Then, stomach chi distributes the food essence to spleen and spleen digests and transforms food essence into Postnatal Jing. Postnatal Jing later gets distributed by spleen to lung and heart and transformed into blood. Thus, heart blood is constantly supplied.

  1. The relationship of lung and large intestine

Lung is Zang (yin) organ and large intestine is Fu (yang) organ. Lung attributes to metal in the Five Elements. Lung masters chi and regulates waterways; large intestine masters fluid and recycles fluid; these two organs co-work to ensure feces is healthy discharged without water residue or drying out in large intestine.

  1. The relationship of spleen and stomach

Spleen is Zang (yin) organ and stomach is Fu (yang) organ. Spleen attributes to earth(soil) in the Five Elements. Spleen and stomach are separated by a membrane but are connected to each other by meridians. This pair is the main organs in food digestion, absorption, transportation and transformation.


  1. The relationship of liver and gallbladder

Liver is Zang (yin) organ and gallbladder is Fu (yang) organ. Liver attributes to wood in the Five Elements. This pair co-works in assisting digestion and controlling emotion. Liver secretes bile and gallbladder stores bile. Gallbladder, then, distributes bile to small intestine. This pair co-works in assisting digestion. Liver governs human emotion of anger and depression. Gallbladder governs courage.


  1. The relationship of kidney and bladder

Kidney is Zang (yin) organ and bladder is Fu (yin) organ. Kidney attributes to water in the Five Elements. Kidney masters water by distributing fluid in food essence to nourish and moisturizing body systems; recycles waste fluid and distributes the part of useful fluid to lung for nourishing and moisturizing body systems and the part of waste water to bladder for transforming as urine. Bladder relies on kidney chi’s driving to transform waste water into urine, and store and excrete urine.

The relationship within Zang organs

CMT regards Zang organs are the center of human life and Fu organs assist Zang organs’ function. Every Zang organ’s function is not isolated; they are physiologically and pathologically networked together and affect each other with mother/child、suppression and counter-suppression etc. relationship based on the Five Elements theory.


Zang organs in mother/child relationship (Mother gives birth and nurses child):

Liver (wood) nourishes heart (fire).

Heart (fire) nourishes spleen (earth).

Spleen (earth) nourishes lung (metal).

Lung (metal) nourishes kidney (water).

Kidney (water) nourishes liver (wood).

Zang organs in suppression relationship (One organ suppresses the next 2nd organ’s function):

Liver (wood) suppresses spleen (earth) (Wood depletes the nutrients in earth).

Heart (fire) suppresses lung (metal) (Fire melts metal).

Spleen (earth) suppresses kidney (water) (Earth buries water).

Lung (metal) suppresses liver (wood) (Metal chops wood).

Kidney (water) suppresses heart (fire) (Water extinguishes fire).

Counter-suppression: If an organ is supposed to suppress the opposite other and yet this organ’ s function is too poor to suppress, this organ may be suppressed by the opposite other such as kidney chi too weak to suppress heart could be depleted by heart chi (Water too weak to quench fire could be dried out by fire).

The Five-Element attributes to human body and the Mother Nature

CMT has clear definitions towards Zang organs, how they master, govern or regulate human body systems、mind、emotion and senses etc, and how they are influenced by the Mother Nature.

Zang Organs Liver Heart Spleen Lung Kidney
the Five Elements wood fire earth(soil) metal water
the five colors green red yellow/brown white black
the five body constituents sinews meridians muscles skin bones
the five senses eyes tongue mouth nose ears
the five lusters nails face lips body hair hair
the five fluids tears sweat thin saliva (moisturizing) nose mucus thick saliva


the five emotions Anger & depression happiness thinking melancholy & sorrow scariness & panic
the five flavors sour bitter sweet spicy salty
the five seasons spring summer long summer autumn winter
the five seasonal chi(s) wind Summer heat wet dry cold


Zang organs’ physiological function


  1. Regulates chi flows without obstruction, ensuring blood、Jing、fluid distributed throughout the body.
  2. Boosts the digestion function of spleen and stomach.
  3. Governs our emotion of anger and depression.
  4. Stores blood and regulates the amount of blood.


  1. Heart masters blood. As the hub of all blood vessels, heart drives blood circulation for blood to nourish and moisturize the whole body.
  2. Heart masters our mind, our mental state.


  1. Digests and transforms foods and water into food essence.
  2. Produces blood by supplying food essence to lung and heart for further transforming into blood.
  3. Governs blood to flow inside blood vessels.
  4. Is a water distribution hub in water metabolism.
  5. Lift and position body organs.


  1. Creates and masters body chi.
  2. Governs respiration.
  3. Regulates chi movements assisting blood flow.
  4. Lung chi governs water metabolism.
  5. Distributes Wei chi (Defense chi) to the surface of skin.


  1. Stores Jings in charge of body growth、development and reproduction.
  2. Masters water by regulating the distribution and excretion of water in body.
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