Huáng Yuán-Yù (黄元御) on the importance of center earth in physiological regulation

The following is a collection of notes gathered for research on a course I am developing on center earth physiology and pathology. This is a large subject, and therefore the following information is far from complete, but is merely presented here to provide a glimpse into this important concept of proper physiological movement and dynamics. 

In the majority of Huáng’s books, great importance is laid on proper physiological movement throughout the body. Huáng’s interpretations of formulas and disease mechanisms are usually described through the lens of the proper or faulty movement and breakdown of this dynamic. The basic tenet of this medicine is based on proper movement and interaction of yin and yang, and when describing physiology or pathology, the terms Shùn (顺) translated as ‘normal’, ‘favourable’ or ‘to follow the course of’, and Nì (逆), typically translated as ‘counterflow’ are used. In very simple terms, when the body is running in ‘Shùn’, all physical processes are in harmony, running along their proper course, resulting in a state of health. When ‘Nì’ occurs and the natural movement or order of things are running against their proper course, physiological processes start to break down, resulting in dis-ease. 

As can be seen from the image below, proper healthy movement in the entire human organism is dependant on this specific circular dynamic. Elucidation on this concept is not mentioned in many literary works, with the exception of Qing Dynasty scholar/physician Péng Zǐ-Yì’s (彭子益), Circular Movements in Ancient Chinese Medicine (圆运动的古中医学), a text primarily focused on these circular movements. 

Physiological Implications

The following commentary is essentially a translation of Huáng’s original chart, with a few extra tidbits added from some of his other works. 

“When ascending and descending are balanced, and yin and yang interact, this is referred to as center qi.”

Center Qi debilitation results in an obstruction to ascent and descent. 

Foot Taiyin Spleen governs ascent on the left – Foot Yangming Stomach governs descent on the right. 

When Kidney water is too cold, this results in diseases of the Essence. 

When the stomach fails to descend, the heart is unable to descend as well leading to excessive cold of kidney water due to lack of fire. 

Heart fire flaring results in diseases of the Shen. 

When the spleen fails to ascend, both the liver and kidneys are unable to ascend. When water fails to ascend, fire flares. 

** Proper movement of center qi ensures a good balance between water and fire. 

When liver wood is depressed, this results in blood diseases. 

When the spleen fails to ascend, wood is depressed. Because the liver stores blood, when wood is depressed, this results in blood disease. 

When the lungs are obstructed on the right, this results in qi diseases. 

When the stomach fails to descend, the lungs are also unable to descend. Because the lungs store the qi, obstructed metal leads to qi disease. 

Spleen dampness is the result of center qi non-transformation resulting in a failure to ascend or descend. This leads to the improper movement of both the clear yang and turbid yin. Another possibility is a yang deficiency in the body which leads to the earth being unable to descend. As a result dampness forms.

[Upper] – Lung-Metal and Heart-Fire —> descend through stomach-earth —> When stomach earth fails to descend, this leads to counterflow ascent of both metal and fire. 

[Lower] – Liver-Wood and Kidney-Water —> ascend through spleen-earth —> When the earth is weak or center earth yang is deficient this leads to earth dampness with a failure to ascend, and thus both wood and water sink.