jie – regulation and rhythm

Jie (節) is a division, an articulation, but one that is appropriately measured and regulated. Its radical is bamboo (竹) which can be seen in its modified form at the top of the character. And jie (節) originally refers to the nodes of the bamboo where the stages of growth can be seen. This measured gathering together, in a kind of knot, before the next stage of growth is said to give bamboo its strength and stability. The lower part of the character (即) is to be exact, precise, immediate. The first of the classical dictionary definitions of jie (節) is a node, a knot, a joint, and it is also to measure, to moderate, to give regularity and rhythm.

In Chinese medicine, jie (節) is used to describe the stages of progression through the meridians, and particularly the gathering of qi (氣) at the joints – a binding that gives both strength and articulation, and reflects the structure of bamboo. The term is used frequently in the descriptions of the jin jing (筋經, muscular channels), for example, the tendino-muscular channel of the shao yin of the hand (heart meridian) is said to knot (jie 節) at the pointed bone at the wrist (shen men, Ht 7), while the jue yin of the hand (xin xhu, heart master/pericardium) knots (jie節) at the elbow and in the armpit. We can also see the similarity with the character jin(筋, tendon/muscle) – the right part of the phonetic here referring to apart of the body (月or 肉). The structure of the muscles reflects the growth and development of bamboo and its consequent strength. 

Jie also implies the way in which circulation is regulated and given the correct rhythm. It is used to describe the ‘articulations’ of the year –the solstices, equinoxes and the four ‘quarter days’, or ‘gates of the year’ which mark the beginning of each season. They give the year its rhythm and are celebrated with festivals, marking times to work and times to rest.

The jie qi (節氣) are the 24 periods of the calendar, which describe the appropriate weather or qifor each of the 15 day periods – for example, August 8th is the Beginning of Autumn; August 23rd, End of the Heat; Sept 7th, White Dew; September 23rd, Autumn Equinox.

Jie (節) is also the name of a kind of bamboo clapper used to keep time in music – where it moderates and gives rhythm. And it appears as the name of hexagram 60 in the Yi Jing, variously translated as moderation, division, to be well-measured. It is a time to regroup, gain strength in order to move forward.

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