the triple heater and ‘no form’

The Nanjing (Difficulty 25) states that the triple heater (san jiao 三 焦) and master heart (xin zhu 心 主) have a ‘name but no form (you ming wu xing 有 名 無 形)’. This statement has been debated throughout the centuries, earlier commentaries, including Sun Simiao, suggesting that the use of ‘no form’ (wu xing 無 形) within the Nanjing is close to the meaning found in early Daoist texts – referring to that which is un-manifest, coming before physical manifestation – and maybe holding the qi patterning for future manifestation. They imply that the triple heater and heart master have no physical substance but are functions of qi. Nanjing 8 and 66 make a connection between the triple heater and ming men (life gate, or the gate of the unfolding of life), Difficulty 66 suggesting that the three heaters are ‘the agents for the distribution of original qi (yuan qi 原 氣)’.

Some later commentators suggest that ‘no form’ has more the meaning of no shape – no structure, no containment. Certain modern physicians suggest that the triple heater represents the shapeless tissue found between the organs, the fascia, the endometrium, and various kinds of tissue which acts as wadding and padding within the cavity of the trunk. In fact these tissues are rich with fluids and blood and are often considered to be the location of the conduits of qi.

It is interesting to see that the term gao huang (膏 肓) – generally interpreted as embryologically primitive tissues – is found in the outer bladder line points of the triple heater (Huang men 肓 門 Bladder 51) and pericardium (Gao huang shu 膏 肓 兪 Bladder 43) – and also Huang shu 肓 兪, Kidney 16, close to the navel.

Maybe there is a link to be found between the ‘no form’ of the origins of life at ming men, and this primitive tissue, which is seen embryologically to begin around the area of the navel and migrate towards the heart. Gao huang shu and Huang men are used to treat life threatening disorders, severe depletion and exhaustion – when a reboot of the fire of ming men and a transmission of original qi is necessary to reset the qi patterning.

According to Sun Simiao:

The three heaters through their connectivity make a unity. They govern the way of the spirits (shen dao 神 道), which come and go in the five zang and six fu. They know how to distribute life in the form of qi, they are connected to the origin, they make the blood and maintain life through the spirits.

(Textual quotes from Heart Master Triple Heater, Claude Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée)

Sandra will be teaching on the Triple Heater and Minister Fire at the

College of Integrated Chinese medicine on December 7th 2017.

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