Traditional Chinese medicine brilliantly in a poetic way explains the basic concepts of the correspondence between man and nature, the integrity of human body and mind, and maintenance of a dynamic balance of life activities under the influence of the internal and external environments. Confucianism and Daoism philosophies summarized and synthesized knowledge and lay the foundation for establishing a unique theoretical system for Traditional Chinese medicine.
The generative and revelatory perceptions in the traditional Chinese medicine explain that the heart is the master of Zang fu. The heart is free and gives orders to its officials the zang fu organs. The heart in Chinese medicine is the totality of psychological, physiological, intellectual, and spiritual interaction with Zang fu unity. This unity is controlled by the master heart. Heart is considered as Sovereign fire (Jun Hou) and minister fire (Chen Hou), having double aspects yet being one Zang.
The word Xin (Heart) is imbedded in the Chinese culture, and language and is present in centre of thought and Chinese medicine. In western terms Heart can be considered as a physically internal organ that pumps blood for circulation in terms of its bodily functions However, in Chinese it is the conception of the mental Heart, which has a long and rich cultural history through which the concept of heart has been formed. In Chinese the Heart is called Xin and referred as the organ of thinking and the seat of thought and emotions.
The fundamentals of Chinese Medical Theory gives various functional qualities of the Heart and this epistemology arises from Taoist observation, Confucian reflection. Confucianism and Daoism are the two poles of one and the same axis The traditional Chinese medicine is an indispensable treasure house of the splendid classic culture. They differ, but both considered Heart as the locus of governance.
The Heart is described in the canon of medicine and the classic of Difficulties (1st or 2nd B.C.) as an organ situated in the thorax with its apex contacting the diaphragm and the Lungs, and its beat can be seen or felt under the nipple, serving as the source of the pulse beat. Inside the heart there are seven hollow places. And surrounding the heart is the pericardium. The Heart looks like a lotus in bud, below the lungs and above the liver. (Yi Xue Ru Men or the ABC of Medicine, 1575). This refers to the same organ as in western medicine. (Zhufan, 1985).
Heart Physiology and Pathology
Bottom of Form
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
The main physiological function of the Heart is to govern blood and to control the mind.
. Governing Blood (Xue)
Heart beats derive blood to circulate continuously through the vessels to nourish all Parts of the body. This is achieved by Heart blood in the vessels and the dynamic force that drives the blood called Heart Qi.
Controlling the mind (Shen)
The function of the heart to control the mind is known as the heart storing spirit. Broadly refers to dominator of life activities and in narrow sense a collective term for cognition, thinking, consciousness and mental states. The heart governs the mental activities.
The Role of Zang Fu Doctrine in TCM:
The doctrine Zang Fu is the theory of organ manfestations.This theory originated as early as 2000 years ago and its description appeared in the classic book The Canon of Medicine. Zang-fu is a collective name for all internal organs. There are five zang organs-the Heart, Lungs, Spleen, Liver and Kidneys, and six Fu organs-the Gallbladder, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Bladder, and Triple energizer. Also there are extraordinary organs-the brain, marrow, bones, vessels, and uterus (also the Gallbladder).Zang organs transform, produce and store and do not discharge whereas Fu organs are hollow and transport, digest food and discharge. The extraordinary organs store essential substance except the gallbladder stores bile and discharges.it. The Heart is a vital zang organ and governs the life activities of the whole body. It is called an organ of monarch in Huangdi Neijing. (Wu changguo,zhu zhongbao,2002)
The Table.1 shows the relationship between heart and body, the sensory organs and the orifices:
Table 1. Relationship between Heart and Zang-Organ Network and sensory orifices
The heart and body inter-relationships:
1. The Heart governs and controls the blood vessels
The Heart governs the blood in two ways:
Transforming Food-Qi into blood.
Circulation of blood similar to western medicine. Although in Chinese medicine the lungs, spleen and liver play a role in the circulation of blood. The vascular system is directly connected with Heart, and the blood circulating within the vessels is driven by Heart Qi.
2. The Heart reflects in the complexion
The colour and luster of the complexion depends on the circulation of blood. A rosy and lustrous complexion is a sign of healthy Heart.
3. Relations with the Fluids
Both sweat and liquid part of blood originate from the fluid assimilated from food and drink. The sweat and blood have the same source. Blood is ruled by Heart and sweat comes from the liquid part of blood, so it is called the fluid of the Heart. The close relationship between blood and sweat exists not only in physiological conditions but also in pathological changes.
4. Housing Mind & Spirit (Shen)
The Heart houses the mind. TCM sees the Heart as the organ that is responsible for the mind’s activities.
Among all mental activities, shen is utmost important. Shen means the comprehensive manifestation of life activities, such as spirit, consciousness and thinking. There is a close relation between the blood and shen.As Blood gives energy for mental activities. Only when the blood circulation normal can shen be in good order. Being the supreme ruler the Heart not only rules all the physical activities of other zang-organs, but also governs all the mental activities related to other zang-organs. The seven emotions and the five modes of the wu shen all are regulated by Heart.
Wu shen modes are attributed to zang-organ networks as shown below: Table.2 Attribution of Mental Activities and Emotions to Zang-Organs
Hun (soul, courage)
Po (vigor, liveliness)
Sadness and grief
Yi (idea, thought,)
Zhi (will, memory)
Fear and Fright
Shen dominates the movement of blood (yin) and Qi (yang) and this factor is core factor in the Chinese medicine.
Shen controls Jing and Qi, which are the founding substances of the body. Although Shen is dependent on pre-natal and post natal Jing Qi for a continuous supply Shen require blood for all activities. Blood distribution takes place through the blood vessels, and the blood vessels house Shen.Huang Neijing (,)
Since the mind resides in the Heart and if the heart blood is strong a person will asleep easily and the sleep will be sound. When the mind has no residence it will cause inability to fall asleep leading to a disturbed sleep. Therefore all dreams are related to the Heart.
5. Heart Paired with Small Intestine
Zang organs are paired and provide residence to shen. And the Fu organs provide transportation. Fu organs store and discharge materials. The relationship between Heart and the small intestine
Is of similar nature. The small intestine separates pure nutrients and from the turbid waste Then Spleen absorbs, and transports and transfers the clear nutrients to the zang –organs for storage. Water waste is discharged by the Kidneys. And solids discharges by Large intestines.
The small intestines is closely related to the Heart physiologically and pathologically through its meridians connected with Heart Meridian.
6. The Heart opens into the tongue
The heart masters the tongue (she) (suwen chapter 5)
Tongue is seen as a mirror of heart or offshoot of the Heart
Heart and tongue are internally connected with each other. The heart controls the colour, form and appearance of the tongue. Especially the tip of tongue. It also controls the sense of taste. The heart influences the tongue, talking and speech.
7. The Protection shield of Heart
As an organ Pericardium is closely related to the Heart as the outer membrane covering of the Heart providing a shield. Against exterior pathogenic attacks. The Pericardium has similar functions as the Heart.
Pericardium has deep influence on the state of the main especially emotional state. Heart being the supreme zang organ needs maximum protection and Pericardium is its last line of defense before any exterior pathogen penetrates the Heart. Therefore pericardium and Heart have a very close relationship.
The traditional Chinese medicine extensively shares the world view of ancient Chinese philosophy, that the human as an integral part of nature and as replica of the universe, so that they correspond to each other in various ways. Cosmological theories of yin-yang, the five elements, and the Qi explain the formation of the universe.
Chinese linguistic evidence shows that the Chinese Xin Heart is culturally conceptualized in the central faculty of cognition, which is the agent of thinking, feeling, understanding, knowing, reasoning and judging, as the seat of both mental and emotional lives of a human being.
Chinese Heart is simultaneously mental, spiritual, moral, intellectual, rational, volutional, Temperamental, and emotional. There are no two hearts but one single zang having two aspects.
Michael Gershon, author of The Second Brain a short history of Chinese philosophy of Fung Yu-LAN 1966: 17-19
wu changguo,zhu zhongbao,2002)