The Du Mai is translated into English as the ‘Governor’ meridian, this description is quite fitting as the classical Chinese characters used to depict the Du Mai evoke meaning of ‘watching’, ‘keeping an eye on’ & ‘governing’. The Du Mai seems to be the supervisor that keeps watch over the meridians and governs how they run.
Being the ‘governor’ meridian the Du Mai is accountable to the emperor (heart/mind) & thus watches over the kingdom (bodily systems) to make certain that activities and works taking place are in accordance with the emperors (mind/heart) wishes. If we look into the classical Chinese characters used to depict the acupuncture points on the Du Mai (meridian) we will find that many relate to the concept of spirit & the state of mind or emotional balance. I propose that a possible reason for this is due to the governor/emperor connection mentioned above. If the emperor relates to the ‘mind’ of an individual or the ‘state of mind’ & the Du Mai relates to the governor whose responsibility is to keep watch that the bodily system/meridians are running in accordance with the emperors or the ‘minds’ wishes, then it will come as no surprise that if the mind (emperor) is in a state of imbalance/pathology this reflects on the Du Mai with palpatory discomfort at various acupuncture point regions. For example in cases of emotional disturbances i.e. depression, anxiety & insomnia… it is common to find the thoracic region of the Du Mai to be painful when pressure is applied. In essence, if the emperor/mind is in a state of pathology and its clarity of vision is veiled, its ‘wishes’ will be distorted & this will reflect as dysfunction of the bodily systems in its control, as well as the Du Mai which governs these systems.
The Du Mai acts as the main rope that the net attaches to, and thus it keeps all in its place as well as giving strength and guidance. If we observe one interpretation of the Chinese characters used to depict ‘Du’, we find that it is drawn as an uncle & an eye. Thus it is a ‘relative’ or person that keeps an eye on you, yet not the direct person responsible for you (i.e. mother or father). In this way your parent’s interests are looked after. Again, we see that this ‘uncle’ analogy ties in very well with the concept of governor and the ‘parents’ as the emperor.
Another interpretation of the character ‘Du’ is comprised of the radicals depicting a ‘vine/stake’ ‘hand’ & an ‘eye’. Thus this too relates to ‘keeping watch’ and governing. Furthermore, this depiction evokes the concept of ‘uprightness’ which can be related to life in general, but also to the spine itself. The Du Mai runs along the spine and the importance of a straight spine or keeping the intention of the spine straight is a common theme in many schools of thought/practice (i.e. yoga, meditation, Feldenkrais, dance…). This connection of the spine and our emotions runs very deep, all we have to do is slouch in a chair for half an hour and observe how the mind feels, the opposite also applies & we can observe how we feel when we are sitting or standing straight & erect.
Thus the Du Mai/Governor/Spine and the Mind/Spirit/Emperor are truly connected in many a way & I hope the thoughts above have brought a little more perspective on why we call the Du Mai the ‘Governor’ meridian & how as acupuncturists we can further utilise this meridian to benefit our patients.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Giancarlo Nerini - Acupuncturist (Melbourne)