Scientific Qi Exploration – The Jingluo

Scientific Qi Exploration

The Jingluo: Part 1 – The Horary Cycle

by Dr. Marty Eisen

1.  Introduction

Jing can be translated as “to pass through” or “pathway” and refers to the vertical channels or meridians.  Luo means “network” and refers to the network of channels that branch off horizontally from the vertical channels.  The Jingluo system consists of the 12 Regular Meridians, 8 Extra (or Extraordinary) Meridians (Ren, Du, Chong, Dai, Yangqiao, Yinqiao, Yangwei and Yinwei  Meridians), 15 Collaterals, 12 Divergent Meridians, 12 Muscle Regions and 12 Cutaneous Regions (1,2,3,4). 

Nearly every form of Qigong makes use of  the meridians directly or indirectly.  Qi is imagined to flow in the meridians or certain postures or exercises cause Qi to flow.  Tapping or massaging certain acupoints affects the internal organs through their connecting meridians.  Similarly sounds or mantras, by vibrations transmitted along the Meridians, can influence the internal Organs.  Thus, every Qigong practitoner should be familiar with the Jingluo.

The great importance of mastering Jingluo theory was emphasized in ancient Chinese texts.  Chapter 10 in the Miraculous Pivot states that the Meridians and Collaterals determine life and death in the treatment of all diseases and the regulation of Deficiency and Excess conditions so that one must gain a thorough understanding of them.  In other words, the Jingluo system is not only necessary for treating diseases, but also for homeostasis.  Chapter 13 states that internally, the 12 Regular Meridians connect with the Zang-Fu Organs and externally with the joints, limbs and other superficial bodily tissues.  Thus, the Jingluo system,  carries Blood and Qi, nourishes the interior Organs, as well as the bones, tendons, muscles and skin. Acupuncture-needle-red

Acupucture points or acupoints on Meridians are located using anatomical landmarks and proportional body measurements in terms of the cun.  The cun is the width of the distal inter-phalangeal joint of the thumb.  

First, the ancient Chinese theory of Jingluo will be presented.  Then, some western scientific attempts to justify the theory will be discussed in future articles. 

2.  Chinese Classical Sources

The  Jingluo concept was conceived during the long history of certain Chinese practices which include Shamanism, massage, primitive forms of Qigong, Taoist, Confucionist and Buddhist meditations, clinical observations of the development and cure of diseases and the propagation of needling sensations. 

There are tales of ancient Qigong masters who could sense the energy flow in their own bodies and also in their patients by feeling or sight.  Today, there are still methods of Qigong diagnosis being used by some practitioners based on feeling Qi and even some claiming to see Qi.  

Two silk scrolls, written in 3 B.C., contain the earliest description of Meridians and Collaterals.  However, the earliest major text on the Meridians and Acupuncture is the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) compiled during during the period from 1B.C. to 1 A.D.  It is divided into two books, Plain Questions (Su Wen) and Miraculous Pivot (Ling Shu).  Most of the Su Wen was written as a conversation between the Yellow Emperor, a legendary ruler, and his learned courtiers.  It discusses physiology, morphology, pathology, morphology, pathology, diagnosis and prevention form the classical Chinese medical viewpoint.  The Ling Shu contains clinical applications of acupuncture and moxibustions and desccribes the Jing-Luo and acupuncture points.

It is estimated that there are 10,000 traditional Chinese medical treatises still available.  Only brief discussions of some of the important texts will be presented.

The Nan Jing (Classic of Difficult Issues) was compiled anonymously in 1 or 2 A.D.  It was  a unified and comprehensive treatise on the theory of Meridians, Collaterals and Points, as well as the etiology of diseases, their diagnosis and therapeutic needling.  The Shang Han Lun (Sytematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion), written by Zhang-Zhong Jing in 220 A.D., addressed acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal medicine.  It became one of the clinical foundations of traditional Chinese herbology.   

One of the oldest surviving  texts, the Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing (Comprehensive Manual of Acupuncture and Moxibustion), written by Huang-Fu Mi in 282 A.D., described the important theoretical arrangement of acupoints into 3 continuous Channels originating from the feet and running to the hands, as well as 3 Channels starting from the hands  and running to the feet.

The peak in education in Chinese acupuncture and herbology was reached during the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.).  The Imperial Medical College was founded in 618 A.D.  Later, similar Chinese medical colleges were established in each province.

The government continued to support acupuncture education during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.).  Wang Wei-Yi , a court doctor, was orderd to revise and verify information about acupoints and Meridians.  He precisely located 359 points on 14 channels, describing the medical indications and needling depth of each point.  He also designed 2 life-size bronze figures inscribed with the acupoints and Channels.  These statues were used for testing students.  A figure was filled with water or mercury and coated with wax.  The accuracy of a student’s needling was determined by whether the intended hole was needled and so leaked fluid.  Another famous text  of the Song dynasty was Instruction on the Pulse (Mai Jue) by Cui Jia-Yan.  It was published in 1189 and translated into several European languages in the seventeenth  century.

Acupuncture-handResearch, education, clinical improvements, collation and commentary continued to flourish during the Ming dynasty (1366-1644 A.D.).  The Zhen Jiu Da Cheng (Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion), written by Yang Ji-Zhou and published in 1601, synthesized many classical texts and also unwritten, traditional practice procedures.  It became one of the most influential medical texts for later generations.  It was the major source of information transmitted to Europe  in the nineteeth and twentieth centuries.    

3.  Functions of the Jingluo

The Jingluo connect the Organs and tissues of the body and important in physiology, pathology, prevention and treatment of diseases.

(a)  Transport Qi and Blood Regulating Yin and Yang

Chapter 47 in the Miraculous Pivot states that the Jingluo transport Qi and Blood to adjust Yin and Yang, nourish tendons and Bones, and to improve joint function.  Thus, all parts of the  body can communicate with each other and normal life activities are maintained in equilibrium.

(b)  Resist Pathogens and Serve as Passages for Pathogen Transmission

If the Antipathogenic Qi is strong Pathogenic Qi will not be transmitted to the interior.  However, if the  Antipathogenic Qi is weak, the Jingluo may serve as passages for Pathogen transmission. 

(c)  Reflect Symptoms and Signs and Signs of Diseases

Chapter 71 in the Miraculous Pivot points out that the Pathogenic Qi can manifest in different locations by its transmision via the Jingluo connecting the involve d Organs as in Table 1.

Involved Organs

Location of Pathogenic Qi

Heart and Lung







popliteal fossae


Table 1   Transmission of Pathogenic Qi Via the Jingluo to Traversed Locations

Chapter 22 in Plain Questions states that in Liver disease the hypochondriac pain may extend to the lower abdomen; in Heart disease there may be pain in the chest, fullness in the costal region, pain in the back, shoulder, and medial regions of the arms.  Related tissues and sense organs may also exhibit signs.  For example, Heart Fire flaring up may cause tongue ulcers, ascension of Liver Fire may lead to the eyes swelling; deficiency of Kidney Qi may impair hearing.

(d)  Transmit Needling Sensations; Regulating Deficiency and Excess

The medical text, Precious Supplementary Prescriptions, states that acupoints located on the Jingluo usher Qi to distant locations to achieve curative results.  In Chapter 5 of the Miraculous Pivot  postulates that the key point of acupuncture treatment is to know how to regulate Yin and Yang.  Chapter 9 in the Miraculous Pivot says that acupuncture treatment must aim at regulating the flow of Qi.  This means that the stimulation of acupoints is transmitted to the relevant Zang-Fu Organs.  Consequently, normal free flow of Qi and Blood is restored, the function of the Organs regulated, and the disease is cured.  None of this would be possible without the transmision function of the Jingluo.   

4.  The Horary Cycle

In Ancient times, the Chinese separated the day into 12 two hour periods, denoted by the Twelve Earthly Branches.  These periods were based upon the movement of the Sun, with twelve o’clock midday being the most Yang point and twelve midnight the most Yin point.  They discovered that the Qi flows cyclically through the Meridians and pertaining Organs so that each Meridian and Organ experiences maximum physiological activity during a specific two hour period.  This Qi flow is by the connection of the Meridians of the hand and foot, Yin and Yang, exterior and interior.   This concept comes from the school known as “Zi Wu Liu Zhu Fa” and dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).  This cyclic flow is called the Horary Cycle.  It is also known as the Midday/Midnight Law because the energy of a given Meridian and Organ reach their minimum in the twelve hour later two hour period following its two hour maximum period.  The flow in the Horary Cycle is depicted in Figure 1.

                                    Lung (L)                   Large Intestine (LI)

                                  Spleen (Sp)                        Stomach (S) 

                                    Heart (H)                   Small Intestine (SI) 

                                   Kidney (K)                        Bladder (B)                     

                                 Pericardium (P)                  Sanjiao (SJ)  

                                   Liver (Liv)                      Gallbladder (G)

Figure 1                                   The Horary Cycle

Each acupoint on an external Meridian is named in Chinese.  It is also denoted by a letter or letters, as shown in Fig. 1, to denote its Meridian and also a number.  The energy flows along a Meridian from the smaller to the larger number.  The acupoints are numbered consecutively starting with 1.  For example, the first point on the Lung Meridian is Zhongfu or L 1 and the last point is Shaoshang or L 11and the Qi flows from L 1 to L 11.      

In the Five Element style of acupuncture an important part of the treatment is to remove energy blocks – that is, when there is a relatively greater amount of Qi in the Meridian before the block and a relative deficiency in the Meridian after the block (5). The relative amount of energy in the Meridians is found by palpating the pulse.  The energy can be made to exit the first Meridian in the order of Horary Cycle by first tonifying its Exit Point and enter the next Meridian in the Horary Cycle by then tonifying its Entry Point.  These Entry and Exit Points are not necessarily the first and last points on the Meridians.  For example, in a Sp/H Block, the Exit Point of the Spleen (Sp 21, from Table 1) would be tonified.  Next, the Entry Point   (H 1, from Table 1) on the Heart Meridian would be tonified. 

The most active acupoint during the maximum energy period of a Meridian is called the Horary Point.  It corresponds to the same Element as the Meridian containing it – for instance, the Metal acupoint for the Lung and Colon meridians.  The Entrance, Exit and Horary points for each Organ and its time period are listed in Table 2.

Earthly Branch

Max. Energy Time Period

Organ or Meridian

Entry Point

Exit Point

Horary Point


3 a.m. – 5 a.m. Lung

L 1

L 7

L 8


5 a.m. – 7 a.m. Large Intestine

LI 4

Li 20

L I1


7 a.m. – 9 a.m. Stomach

S 1

S 42

S 36


9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Spleen

Sp 1

Sp 21

Sp 3


11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Heart

H 1

H 9

H 8


1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Small Intestine

SI 1

SI 19

SI 5


3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Bladder

B 1

B 67

B 66


5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Kidney

K 1

K 22

K 10


7 p.m. – 9 p.m. Pericardium

P 1

P 8

P 8


9 p.m. – 11 p.m. Sanjiao

SJ 1

SJ 22

SJ 6


11p.m. – 1 a.m. Gallbladder

G 1


G 41


1 a.m. – 3 a.m. Liver

Liv 1

Liv 14

Liv 1

Table 2           Horary Cycle Maximum Energy Periods, Entrance, Exit & Horary Points

The Horary Cycle can be used can be used to maintain maximum health by adjusting lifestyle in accordance to the body’s natural biorhythms.  For example, breakfast should be nutritious, since the Stomach is most active between 7 and 9 a.m., in accordance with the saying,  “Breakfast like a king, supper like a pauper”.   In order to eliminate jet lag the body clock must be reset so that Horary Cycle functions in the same time as the local time of the destination. Stimulating specific Horary Points on the body allows the energy to transfer from one meridian to another, thus helping the biological clock update itself in mid-flight (6). 

The practice of each third of the long Yang Lu-chan (1799 – 1872) Tai Chi form causes the Qi to circulate once through the Horary Cycle.  This promotes smooth Qi circulation in the Meridians and so is beneficial to the practitioner’s health.  This form contained fast and slow movements.  The (new) long form, practiced by most Yang stylists today, was devised by Yang Cheng – Fu (1883 – 1936) and only contains slow movements.  This form may also promote the aforementioned Qi circulation.  However, it is doubtful that practicing any of the modern, shortened versions of the Yang style will circulate Qi as occurs in the performance of the long Yang form.     

Each of the twelve Regular Meridians has its own acupoints and pertains to a Zang (Yin) or Fu (Yang) Organ with the same name.  There exists an exterior (Yang)-interior (Yin) relation of connection by the Meridians.  Each Meridian exhibits its pathological manifestations in the event its Qi flow is not smooth.  Those that pertain to the Zang Organ communicate with the related Fu Organ and vice versa.  Hence, a pair of related Organs has a physiological and pathological influence on each other.  Moreover, points on the related Meridians can be used to treat disorders on the related Organ – for instance, points on the Liver Meridian can be used to treat Gallbladder disorders.

In the following, the front refers to the surfaces facing forward when the arms are held down by the sides with the palms forward and the toes of the feet are facing the side with the heels touching each other and trying to form a straight line, like the first foot position in ballet.

Three Yin and Yang Meridians are located symmetrically on the front and back surfaces, respectively, of both arms and legs – see   and

For example, there is a Lung Meridian on both arms and a Stomach Meridian on both legs.

Meridians on the body are also located symmetrically on both sides, but are usually shown on only one side -see

The exact course of the twelve Regular Meridians will be described in the order of their flow in the Horary Cycle, beginning with the Lung Meridian.   The route of each Meridian will only be described on one side of the body, since the Meridian with the same name has an analogous route on the other side.

Marty Eisen

Marty Eisen

Marty Eisen, PhD – a retired scientist, who constructed mathematical models in medicine. He has studied and taught Yoga, Judo, Shotokan Karate, Aikido, Qigong, Praying Mantis Kung Fu, and Tai Chi. Dr. Eisen studied Chinese Medicine through apprenticeships and correspondence courses .   His  latest project is to help arrange free courses for veterans in Chow Qigong for health or as a vocation  – see   For more information about Dr. Eisen please visit


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About Martin Eisen

By profession, Dr. Eisen was a university Professor specializing in constructing mathematical models such as those in cancer chemotherapy and epilepsy. He has studied and taught Yoga, Judo, and Aikido. Dr. Eisen was the founder and chief-instructor of the Shotokan Karate Clubs at Carnegie-Mellon and Dusquene Universities and the University of Pittsburgh. He helped teach Yoga in Graterford prison. His curiousity about the relation of Qi to healing and martial arts led him to study TCM, Tai Chi and Praying Mantis Kung Fu. He was initiated as a Disciple of Master Gin Foon Mark. Dr. Eisen now teaches (at his Kwoon and by webcam), writes and researches Praying Mantis, Qigong and Yang Tai Chi - see
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