liùhé (六合)

literally means “six gatherings;” in acupuncture theory, it refers to the six names of the jīngmài (經脈). Each of these six is represented on both the arm and leg, making a total of twelve jīngmài (經脈). The liùhé (六合) is a very ancient concept of Chinese thought and natural philosophy, predating its adaptation for use in Chinese medicine. Originally, the liùhé (六合) represented the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) plus up and down. Thus, at its core, this idea of the liùhé (六合) has long been what we would call today “a system of axes for all of manifest reality.”

Later in Chinese medicine, by the time Nèijīng (內經) was recorded, the liùhé (六合) were understood within individuals to be the three yáng (陽) and three yīn (陰):

  • tàiyáng (太陽)
  • shàoyáng (少陽)
  • yángmíng (陽)
  • tàiyīn (太)
  • shàoyīn (少)
  • juéyīn (厥)

Each of these six represents a directional movement, and together they can be used to differentiate all movements between Heaven and Earth — within the qìjiāo (). Thus, they are a fundamental system of ‘axes’ for differentiating movements within each individual, as a microcosm of qìjiāo (). All of an individual’s “post-natal” movements and interactions can be differentiated with these liùhé (六合), just as some practitioners have learned to use the wǔxíng (五行). However, the wǔxíng (五行) are more accurately used to differentiate movements of jīng (精), as it expresses outward as yuánqì () to support post-natal qì (氣).

Indeed, the twelve jīngmài (經脈) are clearly more a manifestation of the liùhé (六合), than they are of the wǔxíng (五行), and the jīngmài (經脈) convey and manage the fundamental movements that sustain life. How can it be that modern Chinese medicine makes so little use of the liùhé (六合), and few modern practitioners know much about them? They are every bit as important as the wǔxíng (五行).

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