Jessica Byerly, University of Illinois, China, June 7, 2013

Today, during our acupuncture course, we started talking about qi, blood, and body fluid. In traditional Chinese medicine, qi is considered the fundamental substance constituting the universe, a phenomenon caused by change and movement. Qi is not only the fundamental substance, but it maintains the functions of the body. It is invisible and is manifested in the function (and dysfunction) of the zang-fu organs. Changes and movements of qi explain all vital activities of the body and the functional activities of the organs. It is derived from three sources: qi inhaled by the lungs, from water and food absorbed by the spleen and stomach, and qi stored in the kidney.

After discussing qi, we talked about blood from a TCVM viewpoint. Blood is derived from the qi of food essence, nutrient qi, and the essence of the kidney. Qi’s relationship with blood is multi-faceted: it produces blood, propels its circulation, is carried by blood, controls circulation of blood in vessels, and prevents extravasation. With the loss of blood there is a loss of qi, followed by fatigue. Ginseng, which you may have seen as an ingredient in your energy drink or as a nutritional supplement, is a plant thought to replenish the body’s qi.

Another important concept introduced today was the concept of meridians. A meridian is a pathway in which the qi and blood of the animal body are circulated. They correspond to the body’s organs and extend over the exterior of the body. Along each meridian there are a number of acupuncture points that can be stimulated for therapeutic effect. The meridians form a network, linking tissues and organs into an organic whole. The twelve meridians are distributed bilaterally with three on each side. Yin organs correspond to yin meridians and yang organs correspond to yang meridians. From meridians there are branches called collaterals that run transversely and superficially from the meridian “trunks.” In the context of meridians, our instructor briefly introduced us to the idea of electroacupuncture as a good technique for the new acupuncture practitioner. Instead of having to stimulate each individual acupuncture point along a meridian, one can use the start and end points of a meridian with an electroacupuncture machine for the same effect.

After class, Naeemah, Elodie, and I took in an acrobatics show at the Chaoyang Theatre in Beiing. The hour-long show consisted of amazing acrobatic feats with a fleet of bicycles, staircases, parasols, a tower of chairs, etc. There was also dancing, juggling, and other impressive gymnastic displays. In the finale, they filled a metal dome with motorcyclists one by one until there were seven riding around in circles in a death-defying stunt that had us gasping every time another person joined the fray. We thoroughly enjoyed the display of artistry and athleticism and I hope I can see the National Acrobats of the P.R. of China if they perform at the Krannert Center again.