còulǐ (腠理)

this is generally translated as a purely physical (anatomical) concept — either the pattern of pores and fine lines on the skin or the interstitial space (space between the skin and flesh), by both modern Chinese medical practitioners and classically oriented sinologists. The imagery of lǐ (理) refers to the pattern of the grains of a piece of jade, and by extension refers to any organizing ‘principle,’ doctrine, (natural) law, or theory about some phenomena; in modern Chinese language, these lǐ (理) gathered together (hélǐ (合)) refer to logic, reason, and even truth.
I do not accept the idea that còulǐ (腠) has only a purely physical interpretation. This space between the skin and flesh is the location where wèiqì (衛氣) profuses to the surface; thus, I believe còulǐ (腠) refers to the organizing principle of the upward and outward profusion of wèiqì (衛氣) through the superficial layers of the body. When wèiqì (衛氣) flows in the proper way – shùn (順), it expresses harmonious – hé (和) – function of the body; if the còulǐ (腠) is too loose (unable to consolidate – gù (固)), then it allows external pathogenic factors to penetrate through the superficial layers. However, if it is too tight, the còulǐ (腠) can prevents yáng from releasing to the exterior, and thereby lead to build up of (pathological) heat. (for more details on the physiology of wèiqì (衛氣) see Sùwèn 3).

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