Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture
Introduction of Zang-Fu Organs
Zang-fu is the general term for the organs of the human body, and includes the six zang organs, the six fu organs and the extraordinary fu organs. The heart, lung, spleen, liver, kidney and pericardium are known as the six zang organs. The gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder and sanjiao are known as the six fu organs. The brain, marrow, bones, vessels, gallbladder and uterus are known as the "extraordinary fu" organs.
Since the pericardium is a protective membrane of the heart and the "extraordinary fu" organs pertain respectively to the other fu organs, they are generally referred to as five zang and six fu organs. The main physiological functions of the zang organs are to manufacture and store essential substances, including vital essence, qi, blood and body fluid. The main physiological functions of the fu organs are to receive and digest food, and transmit and excrete the wastes.
The eleventh chapter of Plain Questions says: "The so-called five zang organs store pure essential qi without draining it off, and for this reason they can be filled up but cannot be over filled. The six fu organs transmit water and food without storing them, and for this reason they may be over supplied but cannot be filled up."
This description not only describes the functions of the zang-fu organs, but also points out the basic physiological differences between the zang and the fu organs in their physiological functions.
Although the zang organs are different from the fu organs in terms of physiological activities, there is a structural and functional connection by the way of meridians and collaterals between individual zang and fu organ, between the zang and fu organs collectively, and between the zang-fu organs on the one hand, and the five sense organs and tissues on the other.
The theory of the zang-fu organs considers the physiological functions and pathological changes of the zang and fu organs, as well as their interrelationships. This theory was called "Zang Xiang" by ancient doctors. "Zang" refers to the interior location of the zang-fu organs, and "xiang" denotes their manifestations or "image." In other words, the zang-fu organs are located on the inside of the body, but their physiological activities and pathological changes are reflected on the exterior. The book Classified Classics by Zhang Jiebin (1562-1639) states: "The zang-fu organs are situated interiorly and manifested exteriorly, therefore the theory of the zang-fu organs is called Zang Xiang."
There are two main aspects to the theory of the zang-fu organs. Firstly the study of the physiological functions and pathological changes of the zang-fu organs, tissues and their interrelationships. Secondly the physiology and pathology of vital essence, qi, blood and body fluid, as well as the relationship between these on the one hand and the zang-fu organs on the other. Historically, the development of the theory of the zang-fu organs in the course of extensive medical practice involved three aspects:
In addition, there are some descriptions in the fourteenth, thirty-first and thirty-second chapters of Miraculous Pivot, as well as some descriptions in Classics on Medical Problems. It can be seen, therefore, that the practice of anatomy in China predates the Christian era. All these are the indispensable foundation of the formation of zang-fu theory.
To summarize, the comparatively integrated theory of the zang-fu organs, which takes the five zang as its core, was formed through a long period of clinical practice and observation.
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