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Introduction To Anatomy And Physiology

Fu Xi Wen believes entirely in modern
Images from 1918 Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body from
discoveries of anatomy and physiology. Traditional Chinese medicine, while it identified many tissues of the body thousands of years ago, failed to discover glands and their hormones, the pancreas (it is lumped together with the Spleen by modern practitioners), nerves (ANS, PNS, SNS, effectors, etc.), lymphatic vessels (unless one combines it as part of the Triple Warmer), viruses, bacteria and other microscopic cells. While Chinese medicine made up for some of its anatomical oversights by identifying such things as “pathogenic invasions”, history had to wait for Pasteur to identify germs as the cause of infectious diseases.

Fu Xi Wen, in contrast, believes that modern biology is right on, if still incomplete in some important areas of disease. That said, the theories of traditional Chinese medicine prevail even when we talk about modern anatomy and physiology. Traditional theory ties together tissues and structures that otherwise appear on the surface to be unique but which are very much connected in the subtle movements of the body.

I highly recommend that practitioners of Fu Xi Wen purchase a good anatomy and physiology book. Links to books are available via the Store link on the website. A good anatomy book can help a Fu Xi Wen practitioner make educated guesses as to tissues to treat when dealing with complicated cases. When dealing with tough cases, review Medline research and thoroughly educate yourself on the disease factors that have been hypothesized and tested. This does not mean that a correct answer exists yet by modern researchers, but each finding is a helpful clue when putting together the puzzle that is your problem.

There are five basic tissue categories that are repeated throughout the body. These five types correspond with the Five Elements. They are as follows:

  1. Fire: individual, free-floating cells (ie. Red blood cells, platelets, white blood cells)

  2. Earth: groups of the same cells packed together (ie. Adipose cells in adipose tissue, muscle cells in a muscle) or energy producing structures (ie. mitochondria)

  3. Metal: border tissue (ie. Interior linings such as epithelial linings on everything from arteries to organs, exterior linings from skin to cell walls, etc.)

  4. Water: structural tissue (ie. Bone, cartilage, organs) and structural divisions (ie. the Water Yin of the brain is the cerebellum and the Water Yang of the brain is the cerebrum)

  5. Wood: connective tissue (ie. Ligaments, tendons, fascia)

There are also Five Element relationships that correspond to specific organs of the body.

  • Fire: heart and small intestine (small intestine has overlap with its Child, Earth), capillaries, tongue, and root of mouth

  • Earth: digestive system (includes spleen, stomach, large intestine, small intestine), flesh (you can think of it as filler tissues), lips, mouth, and muscles.

  • Metal: lungs, skin, large intestine, sinuses, nose (the large intestine is also Metal and has crossover with Earth, its Mother)

  • Water: bones, bladder, cartilage, all organ structures, sphincters, ears, brain, sexual organs and the uterus

  • Wood: liver, gallbladder, anything that stretches and connects, eyes

    Images from 1918 Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body from

There are also two other important organ structures not included above because they relate to multiple Elements together.

Triple Warmer: aorta, arteries, cerebrospinal fluid, and hormones (Elements of Water and Fire)

Pericardium: veins, pericardium, lymphatic vessels (Elements of Water and Fire produced by Triple Warmer)

Each of our sensory organs has a Five Element relationship:

Fire: tongue and soft tissue inside the mouth beneath the tongue

Earth: lips, gums, teeth, and sense of taste

Metal: nose and sinuses, sense of smell

Water: ears and hearing

Wood: eyes and seeing

Got it? Okay. But now things get hairy. Within each tissue, you can actually find all five tissue types represented. So, take an organ like the large intestine. It has border tissue on the inside where the stools pass and on the outside where the organ connects with the internal tissues of the abdomen. This is Metal. It has a structure to it that is Water. It has ligament connections to the interior of the abdomen. This is Wood. It has smooth muscle that helps the stools move. These smooth muscles are a combination of Earth and Water. It has a lumen, open cavities, through which the stools pass. Lumen are Fire.

So, you see, things get complicated. Everywhere in the body there are Five Element tissues. And then within each tissue, there are Five Element sub-tissues.

When an organ or tissue becomes imbalanced, a Beginner, Novice, and even an Apprentice can only treat the problem in broad strokes. If the large intestine is imbalanced, you can treat the large intestine organ itself E.+20° V.0° for the Yin “substance” of the organ, and W.-20° V.0° for the Yang “function” of the organ.

When you increase your skills on the skill ladder to Intermediate, you can learn to treat the tissues within the tissues. In fact, eventually, you will be able to treat individual cell sub-structures within the tissues within the tissues. So, if you ever want to be able to function at that depth, you need to learn modern anatomy and physiology. If you really want to get it down, take a class in microbiology at a local college or university.

When dealing with a tissue, you can easily break it down to its Five Element components by differentiating its Metal boundaries, its Earth aggregation of cells, its Fire function or cells that move through the tissue, its Wood connections, and its Water structure. This simple principle will guide you well.

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