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Chong Mo may be the very first acupuncture 'vessel' to form in the foetus. It's really important for all things pertaining to Blood - but much more too.
That includes fertility, pregnancy and personality. So ... Important!
Small Note to the curious. This page is a bit more technical than many other pages on this site.
If you're just starting to read about acupuncture, it could be hard-going! Why not try a somewhat easier page?
To make sense of what follows, at a minimum you'll need to read my page on Blood.
You'll read there how Blood (capital B for Blood, as opposed to blood) is formed, what it does and how symptoms arise when it is weak or deficient.
There are other, deeper, ways of understanding how Blood forms and how it behaves. One in particular accounts for many disorders, including gynecological problems, various kinds of flesh and muscle disorders and personality disorders, such as some kinds of depression, moodiness and sadness.
Chong Mo is one of the 'extraordinary channels'. (Chong Mo is often also written Chong Mai and at least one major modern author translates this as 'Penetrating vessel'.) Sometimes you'll see this word 'vessel' used to describe these channels, so in many older books they were called 'extra-ordinary vessels'. For Chong Mo, in particular, the word 'vessel' is probably more appropriate.
There are eight (8) of these 'extra-ordinary' channels, only two of which have their own acupuncture points, the Governor and Conception vessels. The other six, including Chong Mo, share acupuncture points with the 12 'ordinary' channels, like the Spleen, Stomach, Pericardium, Kidney etc channels, plus the Governing and Conception channels, but don't have points of their own.
The functions of these extraordinary channels integrate the functions of the 12 ordinary channels. It is thought that when the foetus forms in the womb, the first channels that form are these extraordinary channels, giving space and form for the developing body and the lattice of 12 ordinary acupuncture channels that will infuse it.
So, later, when these 12 channels are formed, they do so on the energetic and physical structure laid down by the extra-ordinary channels.
By the way - are these extra-ordinary channels/vessels Extraordinary, in the sense of being marvelous, bewildering or astonishing?
To the ordinary Western scientific mind, all of Chinese medicine is bewildering, not to say astonishing, and is certainly a marvel, even if just 'a lot of nonsense'!
But what about acupuncturists trained initially in the Five Elements, the Eight Principles, the Zang-fu energy organs, the pathways and point locations of the 12 'main' channels, the properties and actions of each of the hundreds of acupuncture points, the Three Burning Spaces, the theory of fluids and so on (and there's a LOT more in that 'and so on')?
For them, just when they thought they were getting a grip on it, to learn that there's a whole raft of functions at a deeper level can be an eye-rolling moment. It is almost sometimes as if the rug has been pulled out from beneath you.
Of these extra-ordinary vessels, perhaps the most difficult to get a grip on is Chong mo, because it seems to be implicated in so many situations. Once you've read some of the conditions listed below, you may think you've finally got the answer to all your problems.
Don't be too hasty! In diagnosing a condition then planning its treatment, acupuncturists have to think of many factors and often there are a number of ways of achieving good results.
Chong Mo has many functions. They all revolve around the fact that it is seen as the 'ocean' from which everything else emerged and then developed.
Like a sea, it is nourishing and supportive.
Anyone familiar with the ocean will know that it is seldom deficient - there always seems to be enough water! - but can certainly overflow and be uncontrollable. It can be cold in one place and hot in another.
When it is stormy ('rebellious' is the word used in Chinese medicine) it can block the normal flow of traffic and cause damage. It is changeable. Without it there would be no life.
In the body it manifests mainly in Blood, including how Blood is made and supplied to different parts of the body. Consequently it has a particularly strong relationship with the Kidneys, the Stomach, the Spleen and the Heart because in Chinese medicine each of these is deeply implicated in the production of Blood.
The word 'Chong' turns up in the Chinese name of a number of acupuncture points. Many of them relate in some way to the function of Chong Mo and are used to help it function smoothly.
From the point of view of Blood, it looks after many aspects and functions of the abdomen. From the moment the newly-fertilised egg attaches itself to the wall of the mother's womb, into what becomes its umbilicus flows the sustaining life-blood from the mother.
It is arguable that Chong Mo is the very first 'channel' to form, being not so much a channel as an arrangement of membranes and fascia inside and through which the organs (kidneys, intestines, heart, etc) will grow.
Translating the word 'Chong ' into English is quite difficult, because it carries so many different meanings in Chinese. It has an element of urgency about it, but also the idea of streets and passageways.
There's always a problem when translating from the ancient Chinese language because meanings have changed so much.
If you don't believe me, just look at how word meanings change quickly in English. The word 'gay' today has an entirely different meaning to what it had even just 50 years ago in the 1960s.
How English is spoken in different parts of the world today shows how fast, in hardly a generation, its use is altering, including its pronunciation.
How much more, therefore, may there have been changes in meaning and interpretation of the Chinese medical classics over the millennia!?
The urgent need is to establish a grid or lattice-like structure or 'vessel' for life to manifest in the growing cells. Along the interstices of that lattice will flow the mother's blood, nourishing and sustaining the newly created egg.
If those avenues are not put in place, then the mother's blood won't be able to properly nourish the egg, which may malform or die.
Later, points along other 'ordinary' channels find their place in the growing body. Some of those points are particularly effective at influencing how Chong Mo functions, so are said also to lie along the Chong Mai channel too. They include points along the Kidney, Stomach and Conception channels for example - see below.
That makes it seem as if the Chong mai points were added later whereas the theory of Chinese medicine suggests it came first and all the others grew out of it. Anyway, those first points are important, though not always much used.
Much of the Chong Mo pathway is deep inside the body, or uses other channels, so it doesn't have any surface acupuncture points of its own.
Bear in mind that the people who put down their thoughts on Chong Mo were and remain today highly respected, even if they lived several thousand years ago.
We pay attention to what they said because if an acupuncturist recognises a syndrome of the Chong Mo and then does what was recommended 1500 - 2500 years ago, and the patient gets better, we have to accept that that ancient individual knew what he was talking about.
So when they talk about the pathway and functions of Chong Mo, even though it is hard to understand how they could have discovered it, we accept their wisdom. That doesn't stop us re-considering what they said, but their ideas usually turn out to have been correct!
Knowing the Chong Mo pathway helps us recognise its syndromes.
Chong Mo starts in the abdomen and has just about the most complicated pathways of all the channels.
If you know anything about the pathways of the Governing and Conception Channels you'll know that they originate from the same area.
In fact, it is thought that they both emerge and grow from from the 'primeval' Chong Mo that was first created as soon as possible after the newly fertilised egg attached itself to the wall of the mother's womb.
Apple on Abdomen
© Szabolcs Stieber
The following is a summary.
If you want to know exactly where the pathway goes, and who originally described it and its functions, you need to read some of the many excellent textbooks on acupuncture theory, like the book shown, by Giovanni Maciocia.
Your umbilicus is more or less directly opposite a point midway between your kidneys, not far off from your centre of gravity.
It is as if life and blood from your mother poured into your early cells behind your umbilicus there, so that would have been where Chong Mo first laid out the 'vessel' you needed to grow in.
Internal Branch: flows through the uterus (probably the prostate gland in men) and emerges on the perineum at acupuncture point Conception Vessel 1 Qichong, Rushing Qi.
Spinal branch: from Conception Vessel 1 it travels up the front, or inside, of the spine to the small of the back. However, combining with the Conception channel it continues on up the front of the spine to the head.
Abdominal branch: it also emerges from acupuncture point Stomach 30 (Qichong) and then joins the Kidney channel between acupuncture points Kidney 11 and Kidney 21.
This means it covers the front of the abdomen to a point just below the ribs.
From Kidney 21 it 'disperses' into the chest, including the heart, breasts and lungs.
'Disperses into the chest' means to me that it spreads out over and within the chest cavity, with no particular acupuncture points, just the whole space.
Throat and Head branch: it passes up beside the throat, goes round the chin and lips and ends just below the eyes: this branch it shares with the Conception Vessel and points along the Stomach channel.
Lower branch: starting from Stomach 30 it travels down the medial aspect of the thigh and leg. On its way down the leg it connects with the three Leg Yin channels of the Spleen, Kidney and Liver. When it gets to the inner malleolus at the ankle, it splits into two branches.
Here one part goes through the arch of the foot in connection with the Kidney channel there, the other goes over the dorsum of the foot to the area of Liver 3 (Taichong). It is arguable that this 'lower' branch is actually an aspect of the Kidney channel, along which Chong mo takes Qi and Blood downwards, contrary to the usual flow along the Kidney Channel which is upwards.
You may have noticed that both Stomach 30 (Qi Chong) and Liver 3 (Tai Chong) have 'chong' in their names. Stomach 30, Ren 1 and the Kidneys seem to be the first external 'stake-outs' put in place by Chong Mo as it establishes a vessel for the body to grow in.
This vessel has other names, which help one understand its importance, even if most acupuncturists don't learn about it until after they've learned about the 12 'ordinary' acupuncture channels.
One of the great texts of Chinese medicine, the Huang Di Nei Jing, says that below the umbilicus and between the kidneys is an individual's original living 'moving' qi. This is described as the
From this you realise how the ancient Chinese viewed it. It really is the ocean in which everything else comes into being and lives. As such it was viewed as the origin of everything else in the body.
As the body grows in the womb, it lays down the 'mesh' in which form in due course all the other parts of the body from the energy organs and channels.
In particular, the ancient Chinese described what we now recognise as being the membranes and fascia, (not just in the abdomen, although commencing there), that wrap around, support and protect the internal organs. We think they thought Chong Mo's first action was to put all these in place so that the body could get on with its growth.
Many acupuncturists think that these fascia are where acupuncture channels can be found. Probably when these fascia have problems it is down to Chong Mo not being able to nourish them.
For instance, pleurisy occurs when the membranes surrounding the lungs become inflamed and start to create friction with the membrane lining the inside of the chest cavity. This makes it very painful to breathe. These membranes rely on Blood to nourish them: fundamentally this is due to Chong Mo failing to disperse properly into the chest cavity, although there are other factors involved too.
The abdomen, being the place where these Seas originate, is also a vital place for diagnosing and treating many diseases.
Well, 'goes wrong' isn't correct terminology! If it goes wrong, if you've understood me so far, you'll probably realise that life either won't start or will be short.
But it can malfunction to a certain extent. That leads to problems in several areas. Though I've divided them into discrete headings, that's only to help appreciate them. In fact, they are all interconnected and problems can arise under several of the headings at the same time.
In fact, you can't really diagnose Chong Mo as being involved unless you get symptoms in a number of different areas.
Mostly, its syndromes are those of excess, or 'rebellion', or heat or imbalance between above and below.
This is like the ocean tides. Normally they flow in and out, nourishing and moistening everywhere. Sometimes, however, when this natural process breaks down, you get too much pushing in or up, and it's mostly rather like that when Chong Mo goes awry.
NB Any one of the symptoms mentioned when you read the pages linked below could theoretically if not practically be due to something else in Chinese medicine, or could be treated differently. Chong mo is not always the answer.
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