Wu-Tao-Di Articles are for sophisticated students and patients. In each we try to explore the Chinese sciences, culture, medicine, and martial arts a little further to broaden our understanding and depth vis-a-vis the language and literature of Chinese antiquity.
“Wu-Tao-Di Research Article 3: He 合 Points”
Normally a 合 ‘he’ (huh) point has been translated in modern times as a “sea” point, because of the progression of the five Shu (輸 – transporting) points: well, spring, stream, river, and as expected sea. However, the Chinese word for sea is Hai 海. Of the twelve He points, only two are named for seas: HT3 – lower sea, and SI8 small sea (indeed most have earthen names like mound or hollow). What is this obsession with lower (shao) and small (xiao)? Probably they really imply a lagoon and bay, rather than ocean. Alternatively they may refer to small seas within the nearby coast to ancient China.
So what is the reasoning behind the original naming?
Looking at the etymology, He 合 means “two mouths coming together” [lit: to combine / to unite / to gather / to collect / to close / to shut / to suit]. The implication is in talking, but also there is the dualistic meaning of a mouth as in the “mouth of a river.” Something that opens up and streams of information come from it, and the source of which is somewhat “far back” and “mysterious” (as in the case of the mind and its thoughts expressed.)
Recently I was hiking at the Tioga Falls National Recreational Area, a moderately-easy hike (unless done in the rain as I did it). When we came near to the
falls, the Qi changed to more yin (as one expects near a falls of any kind), and the landscape took on special formations in feng shui (wind-water). It was, in fact, a place where He 合 was occurring, and nearby also were the wells and springs and of course the streams. But here was not only a falls but the conjoining with the stream of another falls. It was a place of spectacular breathtaking balance.
Looking at the functions for most of the 合 points, we see in general:
- “Where the Qi of the Channel enters a deeper level to communicate with its pertaining organ
- Located at or near the elbows and knees
- Actions & Effects
- [treatment of] Counterflow Qi, diarrhea, skin diseases (mainly hot)
- Issues with the Yang Organs and Channels
- Treats the Fu (hollow organs) (sic)”
Why is it that these points, mostly at the elbows and knees, are able to treat these conditions? It is because here the Qi “plunges” deeply and connects to both the eight Extraordinary Meridians and also to the organs themselves, which are, after all, the power sources of the channels. A good example of this concept is that when a gallbladder type has their gallbladder removed (usually by age 35-40), they are still a gallbladder type but have no organ to power the channel and begin suffering from tendon changes, hip and sciatic issues of the Dai mai (Girdle Vessel), cholesterolemia, toenail changes, and eventually eye and ear degradation.
These points, therefore, are a means to incite further movement of the organ systems, clear Xie 邪 Qi or Bi Bing 弊病 (epidemics). correct Qi Reversal (that is, to make Qi move correctly via regulations), increase peristalsis (that is, correct down-bearing of Zhong/Middle Qi, and in general, enhance the effectiveness of internal treatments.
Where does this idea come from? I would argue that other than the listings in Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Thearch’s Inner Canon), it comes directly from the fengshui experience; from the feeling of power that you feel when one enters a He region. The points themselves are to be rarely used in acupuncture, given that they open a doorway which can go both ways to and from the organ. However, in general we are always seeking to “return” to these areas. This hike, for instance, was in winter (water season) on a rainy day. I was dressed head to toe in blue and black (water colors), and it was a He-uniting region. The amount of yin in the air was palpable. In fact, despite the heat produced, on a fairly warm day, and being in multiple layers of clothing, we could only remain about five minutes before chills came on. There are other “more yin” (producing) waterfalls in KY, of differing topography and fengshui arrangement, but at Tioga Falls there was a strong sense of nourishing and the Return (Fu 復). So much so that it felt as though all evils could be expelled, forgotten, or could not enter the valley at all. Incredibly refreshing.
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Obviously there are already both medical and geospacial practical uses of the He concept. There are actually also martial arts and military uses, business applications, and dietary applications.
- Martial Arts – in general, a style, form, or system starts from the deep research of a technique, or series of related techniques, and evolves and becomes more “stylized” through conjoining “currents” of ideas. Eventually, of course, these styles will be inherited through lineage and diverge again as people’s ideas diverge. But at the place of conjoining (such as the current MMA phase/fad) there is an exciting flourishing of new ideas, old ideas, and a commingling and refreshing of the old into new uses. Also, in actual combat, there are nodes of conjoining of concepts, such as Qi, fa jin (expulsing energy), and li (force), and the more conjoining, the more power. For example, the addition of leverage, torque, momentum impulses, etc… to increase the li and fa jin ostensibly, to the point of making an overwhelming attack that cannot be easily thwarted and surmounted is typically the goal of nei jia practitioners from any style.
- Military – there are three “hidden” factors that are routinely ignored that unite immediately to determine the overall probability of success: knowledge (as opposed to what is hidden), terrain, and calculation (math). This is the first uniting, or what one could call “pre-Heaven” (Xian Tian). Second uniting is of the general with the situation (knowing self, enemy, terrain, plans, using spies, etc…). The third uniting is of general with troops, itself a fractal reflection of the uniting of king and ministers and generals. The final uniting comes at the moment of battle and the merging of suprahuman forces, supernatural forces, earthly forces, human consciousness, action, and the Changes (Yi) themselves. all of these opportunities of uniting creates moments for “sages” or wise leaders to enter and exit, for the importance of creating and influencing situations. This was, all in all, the main subject and theme of the Guiguzi (Master of the Ghost Valley). By controlling the factors of uniting, and by leading people along to the uniting, one can in fact influence the probability of certain outcomes. This would be the militaristic equivalent of using fengshui nodes like those at Tioga Falls, Wudang Mountain, or other such places to capture Qi for health. Instead, however, one manipulates the terrain and environmental situations, the types of men used, etc… to create powerful flow in the direction one wishes (victory). Ideally, of course, one’s will being in the direction of Heaven’s Will (Tianyi), and therefore a form of societal “medicine” and cleansing of evil, as when King Wu overthrew King Ch’ou to found the Zhou dynasty.
- Business – uniting is perhaps most easily here associated with the act of sales or consulting. But actually, in general, because you are talking about “two mouths uniting” there are almost limitless applications of “correcting Qi reversal” in business. In general, a business is always (like a country) under threat of [false] yin forces which seek to divide and conquer it, to separate its zang-fu elements and split the wu xing. The introduction of Xie (evil) Qi is not hard in business, but the elimination of them is. Thus the use of Uniting Forces is absolutely key in the Art of War as applied to business as well as medicine applied as business.
- Diet – One of the most fascinating applications is in nutritional, herbal, and agricultural (permaculture) areas. For example, the idea that (unlike pharmaceuticals) one wants to combine different types of mutually supporting, controlling, even opposing foods and herbs to enhance and increase potency against disease is supported both in western nutritional theory, and in Chinese medicine. Also, here literally an image of dinner, that good food at the family table, where mouths can unite to consume, with “Nourish Life” (Yang Sheng) and dispel family “diseases”. If one thinks about modern America, the opposite has certainly manifested, and this would support the concepts of the former. Also, in agriculture and nature in general, we see the best nutritional regions at places of high evolutionary overturn, ie – where different topographies converge, (eg, plains meeting forest, where deer prefer to congregate). The implications for cities, domiciles, and business real estate are manifold, and probably ought be discussed deeply in another followup article.
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In general, the degradation of the understanding of the He concept, moving from conceptual/contextual to poetic/philosophical brings with it the threat of real pragmatic losses. Meanwhile the character is general enough for multiple understandings, in medicine and in other areas of study governed or informed by Chinese Sciences. My recommendation is to physically experience a He-uniting region corporeally so that a visceral feeling is associated with the term and actual practice can be enhanced in whatever area (eg – US Army strategists actually meeting with troops and allies on the ground before making choices based on 2D “flat” images, thousands of miles away). Such an understanding has the promise to enhance potency (Te) and nourish life, perhaps even preventing disease itself by enhancing multiple facets of life.