Visceral Manifestation Theory
Through the observation of human physiology and pathology, TCM studies the physiological functions and pathological changes of human visceral, and the theory of the relationships between them. This is called the Visceral Manifestation Theory. Viscera refer to viscera inside the human body; Manifestation refers to three aspects: the first is the anatomical patterns, the second is the external physiological and pathological signs of viscera, and the last is the manifestation of viscera corresponding to seasons, and yin and yang. The main feature of this theory is that with the holistic perspective, of which the five internal organs from the center, TCM senses the physiological and pathological status of internal viscera through the changes of the external manifestation. With this, TCM is able to tell the property and location of the disease, and cure it by adjusting the relationships between viscera.
Viscera refer to all the internal organs, which consist of the five zang-viscera, the six fu-viscera and the extraordinary fu-viscera. The five zang-viscera refer to the heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys, the common feature of which is being able to form metaplasia and store essential qi. The six fu-viscera refer to the gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder, and tri-jiao, the common feature of which is to take in and transform food and liquid. The extraordinary fu-viscera refer to the brain, marrow, bones, meridian, gallbladder and uterus, whose form is hollow and similar to that of the six fu-viscera. But the functions of them differ from those of the six fu-viscera, and they are able to store essential qi.
The Theory of Yin and Yang and the Five-Element Theory are expressed very specifically in the Visceral Manifestation Theory. From the relationship between the zang-viscera and fu-viscera, the former belong to yin, while the latter belong to yang. The former represent external features and the latter internal features, and the two together form a whole. There exists a close relationship in physiological functions and in meridian and collateral system between one zang-organ and a certain fu-organ, such as the heart and small intestine, lungs and large intestine, spleen and stomach, liver and gallbladder, kidney and bladder, and pericardium and tri-jiao.
According to the relationship between the five zang–viscera and other organs of the body, the five zang-viscera form a whole with other orifices of the body: heart-face; blood vessels-tongue; lungs-body-hairs-skin -nose; spleen-muscles around lips-mouth; liver-nails-tendons-eyes; kidney-hairs-bones-ears-genitals and anus. Based on these specific relationships, TMC is able to conjecture the changes in the function of visceral from the representation of superficial features.
The Visceral Manifestation Theory is a unique theoretic system of physiology and pathology. Although this theory was formed on the basis of ancient anatomy knowledge, its illustration about viscera is not limited in the concept of anatomy, but also includes the physiology and pathology concepts of one system in human body, Viscera, such as the heart, lungs, spleen, liver, and kidneys, although keep the same names of viscera of modern anthropotomy, differ from the latter in their meanings in physiology and pathology. Generally speaking, in the Visceral Manifestation Theory of TCM, the physiological function of a viscus may include physiological functions of several viscera in modern anatomy and physiology; while the physiological function of a viscus in modern anatomy and physiology may also belong to the physiological functions of several viscera in the Visceral Manifestation Theory.
In this issue, the spleen and kidney are typical examples. Comprehended from the perspective of modern medical science, the spleen is an immune organ; while in TCM, it is an important peptic and is essential in one’s life after he’s born. All the food taken in by one person is transformed into nutrient substances and delivered to each part of the body through the spleen, Therefore, it plays an important role in the formation of qi and blood in the body. The kidney belongs to the urinary system in modern medical science, but in TCM. it is a viscus storing the congenital essential qi of the body, and performs regulating action on the reproductive function of the body. Only when the function of kidney is strong can a man grow and develop normally, and capable of reproduction. Therefore, in order to understand the viscera in TCM, we can’t just refer to the anatomy of modern medical science. In order to avoid misunderstandings, we should also study with the unique visceral system formed from TCM in ancient times.
From the relationship between physiological interactions of the five zang-viscera and the spirit and emotion of one person, it can be seen that the spirit and emotion, and thinking activities not only have something to do with the brain, but also are affected by the physiological interactions of the five zang-viscera. The spirit and thinking would be influenced by any abnormality in the functional interactions of the five zang-viscera; any abnormality in spirit and thinking will also in turn influence the five zang-viscera. As it is put in the Suwen (Plain Questions), ” The heart represents mind, lungs spirit, liver soul, the spleen will, and kidney ambition. “This is not to deny the function of the brain, but for further discussing the relationship between spirit interaction and the physiological interactions of each viscus.