qíjīngbāmài (奇經八脈)

is usually translated as “Eight Extraordinary Vessels.” While this is the common denotation of this phrase, it is not the greatest translation. Elizabeth Rochat once told me a very important principle of translating classical Chinese is to be clear on exactly how each character is being translated. In this case, the second character, jīng (經), is not mentioned in the common modern translation. If instead, we break this four character expression into two pairs, we have: qíjīng () and bāmài (八脈). The second is easy; it simply means “eight vessel flows/movements.” Noting the possibilities for translating a complex including the character “jīng (經),” qíjīng () could be translated as “extraordinary organizing principles,” or “organizing principles of the Extraordinary.” Thus, the entire expression could be read as either “the eight vessel flows of the extraordinary organizing principles” or “the eight vessel flows of the organizing principles of the Extraordinary.” These eight qíjīng () are conduits of jīng (精) in the form of yuánqì (), while the twelve ‘primary’ jīngmài (經脈) are conduits of wèi (衛) and yíng (營).

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