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 Unit 1 -Understand the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine


Please Note: Qualified Shibashi Instructors will be able to use and adapt unit 5 of their Shibashi course to cover unit 1 assignments of this course but all references to Shibashi will need to be deleted.

To help your understanding of 8 Strands Brocade, before we head into the main theory, it will be useful to have a brief insight into some of the history and philosophy of the development of Qigong and Tai Chi in general.

The I Ching (book of change) is one of the earliest known pieces of writing in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), consisting of an ancient form of divination, it shares many principles with the movements found in Qigong forms. For a bit of fun and to give you a feel for how the I Ching works, try the link below to consult the book of change. Ask a question and see if you can work out it's meaning.

Some may say that the internal arts in China started to develop some 5,000 years ago. Exercises for health can be found in the Yellow Emperor's book The Classic of Internal Medicine, with many Taoist recluses adding and building the knowledge over time. Eventually the martial art forms that we know to day developed - with places like the Wudang mountain temple leading the way. It is generally agreed that during the 1600's the Chen family in the Henan province of China were the first to develop the Tai Chi as we know it today.

Tai Chi (Chuan) translates as supreme ultimate boxing and is a Chinese martial art based on the old Taoist concepts of Yin and Yang. Where as Qigong (Chi Kung) comes from the Chinese words Qi, meaning Energy, plus Gong, meaning work or practice. It is a term that describes an exercise system that focuses on cultivating and attracting Qi or lifeforce energies.

Both arts cross over in theory and there are many styles to be found. For example there are six major schools of Tai Chi each named after the family that created them. There are also many styles of Qigong such as Eight Strands Brocade, Shibashi, Five Element Qigong and Iron Shirt Qigong to name a few.

Five Flavours of Qigong

Tai Chi and Qigong have been developing for many years. Each time period has seen new ideas and characteristics grow. Below are the main practices linked with these internal arts in today’s world.

1. Confucian Qigong: to attain higher moral character and intelligence.

2. Taoist Qigong: The practice stresses the preservation of the physical body and spirit.

3. Buddhist Qigong: aims to free the mind to seek enlightenment.

4. Martial Qigong: Focuses on training and protecting the body from an attack.

5. Medical Qigong: Focuses on the free flow and balancing of vital energy (Qi) to bring one’s health into balance.

Now let us look at the main theory you will need to help complete the assignments for this unit. Please read through and use the links provided to help you develop your understanding. Remember your personal tutor is an email away should you have any questions. Enjoy!

In this section we will take a look at Yin Yang theory, try not to worry if some of the language seems foreign. Just try to relate it to your everyday experience and it should be easier to interpret.



1.1 Explore and evaluate the concept of the four principles of Yin & Yang.

Yin & Yang are ancient Chinese concepts that are fundamental to the understanding of 8 Strands of Brocade.

The theory of Yin & Yang stems from observing the natural world around us.

It appears that nature groups itself into pairs. For instance you can't have up without down! As an example take your journey to work each day, while driving one sees both the sky and its opposite the ground!



You may have seen the Yin and Yang symbol before.

The white aspect represents Yang and the black Yin.



Yang is usually associated with energetic qualities such as air. On the other hand Yin is associated with the physical form  of an object, for example earth.

Look at the lists on the opposite side of the page and try to get a feel for it.







Physiological functions


Yang                         Yin

Bright                       Dark

Hot                          Cold

Upper                       Lower

Movement                Rest

Out                          In

Excitatory                 Inhibitory


The rules of Yin and Yang do not stop at opposites. There are four principles that apply.

Interdependence: One can not exist without the other, for example hot and cold.

Interconsuming: Process of transformation from Yin to Yang or vise versa, for example day to night.

Intertransforming: Point where polarity changes, for example the midnight hour.

Opposition: Never in a static state, constantly changes balance through adjusting or everything can be paired with it's opposite.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with your 8 Strands of Brocade practice.

The yin-yang concept is the basis of Tai Chi & Qigong philosophy.

On a practical level, stillness is yin and movement is yang. Our practice continually moves from in to out, down to up, stillness to movement: the movements are therefore cyclical, flowing effortlessly from yin to yang and yang to yin.

The aim is to achieve balance between extremes of movement - extremes of yin and yang - but there are always yin movements and Yang movements.



 1.2 Analyse and define the meridian system.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are invisible channels through which our energy circulates around the body. In Chinese this energy is known as Qi. These channels are known as the meridians.

The Chinese use the term "jing luo" which means channel or meridian.


There are 12 main (primary) meridians and 8 extraordinary channels. The 8 extraordinary channels act as reservoirs for the main meridians.

Divergent channels: these run deep to their corresponding organs.
Luo - Connecting channels: connecting the network of meridians together.

The 12 primary meridians or channels are related to, and named after, an organ or function. These are divided into 6 Yin and 6 Yang primary meridians.


Below you will see the 6 Yin and 6 Yang meridians and their related organ.

Yin -------------------Yang
Lungs ------------Large Intestine
Heart -------------Small Intestine
Pericardium ----San Jiao (Triple Heater)
Liver ---------------Gall Bladder
Spleen -----------Stomach

There are three Yin organs and three Yang, organs relating to each arm and leg. Each Yin organ is paired with its corresponding Yang organ as in the list above. On the meridians are more than 400 acupuncture or energy points. These are listed by name, number and the meridian to which they belong.

When Qi flows freely, the body is balanced and healthy, but if the energy becomes blocked, stagnated or weak, it can result in physical, mental or emotional ill health. Imbalance in a person's body can result from inappropriate emotional responses such as: excess anger, over-excitement, self-pity, grief and fear as well as external causes.

Meridians in relation to the 8 Strands of Brocade

Some knowledge of the meridians is important for 8 Strands of Brocade practice. Each of the 8 movements opens and works a different meridian. The following demonstrates which channels are worked on with each movement.

Movement 1: This movement opens up the Sanjiao or Triple heater meridian. This organ is not recognised in western medicine, however the best way to understand it is to recognise it as the metabolism in the body. The Triple heater sends the energy that is taken from the air, food and water we consume to the different parts of the body. So this movement can be seen as having a regulating affect on the metabolism, slowing things down and smoothing things out.

Movement 2: This opens the Lung meridian. This channel is very important in 8 Strands Brocade. The Lung is known as the 'Prime Minister', it controls breath and energy and works with the heart in the circulation of blood. Through breathing and opening the lung meridian we can encourage better circulation of blood in the body.

Movement 3: Opens the stomach and spleen meridians, allowing energy to flow. The stomach receives and breaks down food and passes the energy on to the spleen to be distributed. Working on this meridian is really important in keeping strong energy levels and a good digestive system.

Movement 4: Opens the Conception and Governing Vessels. These meridians run up the centre midline of the front and the back. These channels are primarily concerned with the flow of Yin and Yang energy in the body.

Movement 5: Opens up the Kidney meridian. This movement helps draw water from the kidney meridian. The heart is related to fire whereas the Kidney is related to water. Drawing water energy up to the heart controls the fire. Water on fire creates steam – this steam is seen as the energy which moves through all the body.

Movement 6: Strengthens the Kidney energy flow. Works on the Kidney and Bladder functions.

Movement 7: Strengthens inner power in the dantien. The dantien is our core centre of gravity and a place to store the energy we have generated through the movements.

Movement 8: Shakes off stress and illness, stimulating various meridians of the body.

Meridians, Acupuncture Points and 8 Strands Qigong

There are many acupuncture or energy points on the body and some can be used to advance our 8 Strands practice. Please have a look at the following examples, they are very useful in helping assist the correct body alignments.

1) Du 20 - Bai Hui (Hundred Meetings)

Location: At the top of the head where the mid-line intersects with a line joining the apex of the ears.

Action: Lifts the spirit. Indicates the coming together of all the Yang energy.

Comments: This is the point we think about when we try to experience the lifting of the head towards the sky. Practicing this affects our consciousness. Yang Qi can energise the brain and mind, thus it is a good point to massage if one has headache or depression.

2) Kidney 1 - Yong Quan (Bubbling Spring)

Location: In the depression on the sole of the foot when the toes are curled. One third proximal the distance of the foot in the centre of the sole.

Actions: Calms the mind and clears heat. This point has a strong sinking action. Tonifies Yin.

Comments: When we relax our feet in 8 Strands practice, this point opens. Awareness of this point strengthens the root and balance.

3) Pericardium 8 - Laogong (Labour Palace)

Location: When the fist is clenched, the point is just below the tip of the middle finger.

Actions: Calms the mind.

Comments: During 8 Strands, this point can be used as the focus throughout all of the exercises. The hands should be allowed to concave slightly, which will activate the Laogong. The thumb should be held away from the other fingers so that the web of skin is slightly stretched. This will activate the Hegu point.

4) Ren 1 - Hui Yin (Meeting of the Yin)

Location: In the centre of the perineum between the anus and the genitals.

Actions: Nourishes the body's Yin and calms the spirit.

Comments: Is activated by relaxation and gentle lifting. This has a secondary effect on energising the Dantien (centre of gravity below the navel) This point connects the Ren mai (acupuncture channel running down the midline of the front of the body), to open the gate of life (an acupuncture point known as Ming Men).

Please use the site links below if you get stuck locating the points or would like more information on meridians.




1.3 Summarise & contrast the concepts of Qi.

As mentioned before Qi, pronounced "chee", means energy. You may see it spelt "Chi" or even "Ki" in Japanese, but they all carry the same meaning. Qi is the energy of the body, of the meridians, all things in the universe are made of Qi. 

Harmonising ourselves with the forces and cycles of Heaven & Earth is the core philosophy of Daoism. This ancient philosophy is where Tai Chi & Qigong originate from. It is based on the way that we harmonise with our environment: Heaven Qi, Earth Qi and Human Qi are considered to be the driving forces of the universe.

 Functions of Qi in the body

  1. Activity 

  2. Movement

  3. Warms

  4. Protects

  5. Transforms

  6. Contains

The balance of our Human Qi is influenced by the natural cycles of both Heaven & Earth Qi.

All types of Qi are important in our Qigong practice, but for now we will look at the more complex Human Qi in greater depth.

Human energy consists of prenatal Qi, acquired before birth and inherited from our parents, and postnatal Qi, Qi that is acquired after birth.

Pre natal Qi

Pre natal Qi is also known as Original Qi or Yuan Qi. Yuan Qi is formed at conception and inherited from our parents. It can be conserved but not replenished. You will have used it all up by the time of your death! Try to see this as your genetic make up in the body.

Post natal Qi

Air Qi is considered to be the most significant form of Heaven Qi that we can absorb. Tai Chi and Qigong emphasises the technique of abdominal breathing to use Heaven Qi in the form of oxygen.

Food energy is the most significant form of Earth Qi but Earth Qi can also be absorbed through correct stance - we aim to root to the ground to absorb Earth Qi during our Tai Chi and Qigong practice.



If you take a look at the diagram below you will see the interaction of Heaven & Earth Qi to provide Human Qi


 Try not to get confused by all the different types of qi. They are just called by another name at the different parts of the process.

Food Qi (Gu Qi) is energy derived from the food we eat and the main organ related to this is the spleen.

Air Qi (Kong Qi) is derived from the air we breathe and the lung is associated with this.

If you refer to the diagram above you will see that:

Energy from Food and Air mix to form Gathering Qi in the chest (Zong Qi). This is then catalyzed by the action of Original Qi (Yuan Qi, inherited from our parents and stored in the kidneys) to form Upright Qi (Zhen Qi).

Upright Qi circulates throughout the channels and organs of the body as Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi) and Defensive Qi (Wei Qi).

Nutritive Qi is the energy that nourishes the organs and tissues of the body. Defensive Qi is the energy that circulates in the outer parts of the body and prevents invasion of external pathogens.



1.4 Discuss the three treasures – Jing, Chi, Shen.

Three Treasures

Western medicine is based on structures such as bones, muscles, cells and their components. The cause and effect model is the basis of western medicine.TCM is very different. It looks at the components of the process rather than the structure. The body, in TCM, is viewed as an energy system in which various substances interact.

Qi, Jing & Shen are called the Three Treasures in TCM. They are essential components or substances of a human. When they are in harmony, all is well with the body and mind.

The aim of our Tai Chi and Qigong practice is to help retain Jing, regulate and strengthen Qi, and become mentally alert through 'working' on Shen. Let us now look at the remaining two of the three treasures Jing and Shen.

Jing - Jing is a difficult concept to understand. Translated Jing means Essence. Jing is associated with slow developmental change - from birth to death. If there is plenty of Jing then there will be a strong life force, whereas with someone lacking in Jing, the life force is weak and one might be susceptible to disease.

There are 2 sources of Jing (essence).

Pre Birth Essence - That which is acquired before birth: passed on to us by our parents, at and after conception. This type of Jing is stored in the kidneys. It is slowly consumed during life.

Post Birth Essence - That which is extracted from food and refined from the digestive system after birth and all through life. It supplements the Pre Birth Essence and together they form a generalised Essence that is stored in the Kidneys. This is called Kidney Essence.

The stronger your Pre Birth Essence the more efficient you will be at extracting Post Birth Essence from food.

Think of Jing as being responsible for slow on-going development and Qi as on-going daily movements in the body.

Shen - Shen can be thought of as the mind or spirit of a human. Without Shen there is no personality. Shen is developed by the combination of Jing and Qi energy. When these Two Treasures are in balance, the mind is strong, the spirit good, the emotions are under control and the body is strong and healthy. A sound mind cannot be cultivated without strong Jing and Qi.

When cultivated, shen will bring peace of mind. Shen controls aspects of the mind such as willpower, intent, thinking and decision making.

Intent is called Yi and it is the strength of Yi that will determine your focus.

This is important for Qigong practice: initially, if you can successfully maintain your focus on the meditative abdominal breathing practice, this is because you have strong Yi. (The wuji stance is a time to calm down to allow focus)



1.5 Discuss and critically contrast the differences between TCM and the allopathic view of the organs.

The Zang-Fu Theory

This theory of the internal organs distinguishes TCM from all other forms of medicine. Throw away all your thoughts of allopathic medicine's view of the body and prepare for a complex, holistic view that encompasses the form, function, emotion and spirit of a person.

As TCM is largely about energy (qi), many of the organs involve the production, circulation, and storage of energy. To the TCM doctor, the normal biological function of an organ is often secondary to how the organ is functioning in the creation or circulation of Qi. Understanding this can be useful when practicing Qigong especially when one knows what meridian or organ they are working on with a particular movement.

The 6 Zang 'organs' - heart, lung, spleen, liver, kidney and pericardium.

The 6 Fu 'organs' - gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder and sanjiao (Triple heater).

Each of the twelve zang-fu organs listed have a corresponding allopathic organ, except the pericardium and san jiao which both describe functions that are not related to an organ. The pericardium is the protective layer around the heart. The Sanjiao stands for triple heater and is closely related to metabolism in the body. The brain, marrow, bones, vessels, gallbladder and uterus are known as the " extraordinary fu " organs.

Zang organs can be associated with storage and yin, while Fu organs can be associated with governing and yang. The Zang store all the bodily fluids and energies. Fu, on the other hand, act as governors by taking in, processing and moving out all external substances. The Zang are also called the solid organs since they store, while the Fu are called hollow since things go through them.

The zang-fu theory explains the physiological function, pathological changes, and mutual relationships of every organ. In traditional Chinese medicine the zang and fu organs are not simply anatomical substances, but more importantly represent the generalization of the physiology and pathology of certain systems of the human body.

Take the lung as an example of a very important organ in the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong, through its function of connecting us to the world. The Lungs take charge of the following characteristics.


1) Govern Qi (Energy) & respiration
2) Control dispersion & descending
3) Regulate water passages
4) Connect us to the World
5) Open into the nose
6) Control skin and hair



1.6 Explain and summarise the 5 Elements.

 In Chinese these are known as Wu Xing. Wu means five and Xing translates to phases. The ancient physicians discovered that through comparing similarities with different external phenomena links could be forged to the categories of the five elements. All the theory of Five Elements is encompassed in Daoism and can relate back to Qigong and Tai Chi practice and how this helps keep the body in balance.

 The following elements are used within TCM, Tai Chi and Qigong theory.

1. Wood

2. Earth

3. Metal

4. Water

5. Fire


Five Element (Wu Xing) Categorization

The ancient physicians used the Five Elements theory to study extensively the connections between the physiology and pathology of the body and the natural environment. They discovered that by comparing similarities with different external phenomena, links could be forged to the categories of the five elements.

Opposite are the Five element characteristics

Five Elements theory assigns each of the five elements to all things around us. Wood, for example, represents germination, extension, softness, and harmony. It is then inferred that anything with those characteristics should be included in the category of the wood element.

In your own time see if you can find out other characteristics for the elements fire, earth, metal and water! Good luck - try these websites to get you started…



Within the Five Element theory there are different cycles that occur between the various elements. It is through these interactions that the elements and the parts of the body associated with them can become out of balance. The main cycles concerned with the Five Elements are:

Shen or Sheng Cycle (Generating Sequence)

Ko Cycle (Controlling Sequence)

Destructive Cycle (Overacting Sequence)

Anti Ko Cycle (Insulting Sequence)

Exercises like Tai Chi and Qigong can work to address disharmony in the body and 8 Strands of Brocade practice is no exception. As an example the bones are related to the water element. Imbalance in this element may cause lower back pain and sore knees. Practitioners of 8 Strands can help strengthen the energy of water and assist in healing such problems through the practice of movement 5. By drawing water energy up to the heart this controls the fire element. Water on fire creates steam – this steam is seen as the energy which moves through all the body and ultimately will help to nourish support and remove stagnation in areas such as the lower back.

To give you an idea on how the body can be viewed in relation to the Five Elements it is useful to look at the Shen Cycle (generating cycle).

The Shen or Sheng cycle- This is often known as the nourishing cycle or the mother-child cycle. Here each element generates the next and naturally occurs in nature. So for example wood generates into fire and so on.

Please take a look at this website to help you understand the Five Elements and the Shen Cycle further.



For a bit of fun use the link below to find out which Five Element personality type you are.



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