In more recent times there are countless acupuncture & moxibustion practitioners that advocate the importance of Zu San Li ST-36 in the treatment of a range of pathologies from diarrhoea, digestive issues, and knee pain to stroke prevention & even red eyes. I believe the vast array of seemingly unrelated symptomatic effectiveness attributed to Zu San Li lies in the notion that it is seen as the he-sea acupuncture point on the ‘earth’ meridian (stomach channel). As such, it can be utilised for rebellious qi or counter flow of qi, a concept that was first put forth in the acupuncture classic the Nan Ching. If we couple this concept with the trajectory of the stomach meridian originating at the facial region connecting the ventral trunk of the body and descending to the knee region & foot, we can imagine how when the flow of Qi within this expansive meridian is in a state of counter flow the above mentioned symptoms may arise. Basically, when the directional energetic flow of a meridian is traveling as it should be, harmony and ease are the result. The opposite is also true, thus when the directional flow of a meridian is travelling the wrong way (i.e. up instead of down) havoc and disorder manifest & symptoms may manifest on its trajectory.
It is for this reason that many acupuncturists utilise the he-sea acupuncture point on the stomach meridian (Zu San Li ST-36) to ‘draw down the inversion of Qi’. ‘Down’ relating to the physiological energetic trajectory of the stomach meridian.
One manner in which to do this is by applying direct moxibustion on St-36 Zu San Li. In the application of direct moxibustion you are essentially using the ‘small fire’ (okyu) to draw down the ‘big fire’ (manifesting as i.e. red eyes, high BP, blocked sinuses, insomnia…). Essentially, this is but one of many ways to correct the flow of Qi in the stomach meridian and the regions/systems of the body that it engages.
Thus to recap, I believe that one of the possible reasons Zu San Li ST -36 is so ever popular in both the modern and classical practice of acupuncture & moxibustion is due to the stomach meridians expansive trajectory on the anterior aspect of the body and the regions and systems it engages, coupled with its powerful ability to regulate the counter flow of Qi (as it is a he-sea point).
Now, to end this ramble & to give some imagery that will surely deepen our understanding of both the name and number. Zu San Li ST-36 is comprised of the character ‘Zu’ which shows the concept of ‘walking in meditation and balanced stillness’. ‘San’ is drawn as three horizontal lines and denotes the number three which is indicative of the heavens above, the earth below and human in the centre. Furthermore, it can highlight the descending ‘heavenly virtue’ received by the ‘earth’ which gives rise the ‘breaths’ or ‘life’. The character ‘Li’ in this context can be seen to represent a small community of farmers and their residences, but particularly the distance present between two of these farming villages. Thus, Zu San Li is also said to give one the energy and strength in times of need and to generate the capacity to travel three more ‘Li’. It is for this reason the acupuncturists of times past said ‘never travel with anyone who does not moxibustion Zu San Li”.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Giancarlo Nerini – Acupuncturist (Melbourne & Mornington Peninsula)