Chinese Meridians: A Closer Look, Part 2 – The Meridian Clock

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Chinese meridians | magnifying the energy systemThis Series On The Chinese Meridians includes:
Part 1:
Introduction  |  Meridian Definition  |  Meridian System Or Network Of Body Meridians  |  The 12 Meridians And Meridian Chart  |  Main Physical And Psychological Relationships For The 12 Meridians  |  Radiant Energy Field
Part 2:
Classifying The 12 Main Chinese Meridians  |  Yin And Yang Energy Meridians  |  Arm And Leg Meridians  |  The Chinese Meridian Clock
Part 3:
Relative Qualities Of The 12 Meridians (chart)  |  The Eight Extraordinary Vessels  |  Summary Of The Eight Extraordinary Vessels (Chart)  |  Chinese Transversal Lo Vessels
Part 4:
Meridian Tracing  |  Donna Eden’s Meridian Tracing Videos  |  ‘Naughty’ Meridian Videos Resource  |  Awesome Acupuncture And Meridian Charts  |  The Chinese Meridians Controversy


Now that you’re pleasantly relaxed after the Radiant Energy Field exercise at the end of part one, are you ready to dive back into the mysteries of the Chinese meridians? This second part of the series reveals how the primary 12 meridians are classified. Find out which ones carry yin or yang energy, and whether they travel in your arm or leg. It’s not always how you’d expect it to be. Then check out the awesome meridian clock. The fact that we have all these different types of energy channels is amazing enough, but to think that they work to a schedule is mind-blowing.

Classifying The 12 Main Chinese Meridians

Have you noticed how people like to classify and group things? Maybe it’s to make them easier to remember. Maybe it helps to understand the nature of the element they’re dealing with. Whatever the reason, the ancient Chinese were masters at this. Who else would be able to clock the rise and fall of subtle energies with such precision?

They sorted, grouped and labelled every tiny component of the meridian system that was so important to their concept of health and healing.

As you’ll see below, the 12 meridians are classified according to:

  • the predominant energy or chi (qi) that they carry, making them either yin, or yang meridians.
  • the limb that they travel through, making them either arm or leg meridians.  It’s equally acceptable to call them hand or foot meridians, (as in the clock diagram further down the page). The hands and feet are transition zones, where the energy gradually changes from yin to yang, or yang to yin.

The combination of these factors creates
Four Groups of Chinese Meridians:
YIN ARM           YIN LEG

Yin And Yang Energy Meridians

Lady kneeling with arms raised. Arrows show yin yang energy flow.

YIN MERIDIANS. Yin energy flows up the front and medial, or inner, aspect of the body (this is assuming a posture with the arms raised above the head).

Yin organs, for example the liver and heart, are referred to as ‘solid’ organs.

*  *  *  *  *

YANG MERIDIANS. Yang energy flows down the back and lateral, or outer, aspect of the body, except the stomach channel which is on the front.

Yang organs, for example the stomach and intestines, are referred to as ‘hollow’ organs.

Arm And Leg Meridians

As you’ll see in the chart below, there are an equal number of meridians in the upper and lower limbs.

Traditional Chinese Medicine divides the six arm meridians  into three yin, or upward flowing; and three yang, or downward flowing, energy channels.

Likewise, the six leg meridians are divided into three yin (upward flowing) and three yang (downward flowing) energy channels.

Arm Meridians

Leg Meridians

Yin and Yang
Channels Meet
In your fingersIn your toes
Yin Energy FlowsUp your arms to your fingers*Up your legs to your torso
and head
Yang Energy FlowsDown your arms to your chest*Down your legs to your toes
Yin MeridiansThe 3 YIN Arm Meridians that carry chi from your chest to your hand are the:

  • Lung Meridian
  • Heart Meridian
  • Pericardium (circulation-sex) Meridian
The 3 YIN Leg Meridians
that carry chi from your foot to your chest are the:

  • Spleen Meridian
  • Kidney Meridian
  • Liver Meridian
Yang MeridiansThe 3 YANG Arm Meridians that carry chi from your hand to your face are the:

  • Large Intestine Meridian
  • Small Intestine Meridian
  • Triple Warmer (Triple Heater or Triple Burner) Meridian
The 3 YANG Leg Meridians that that carry chi from your face to your foot are the:

  • Stomach Meridian
  • Bladder Meridian
  • Gall Bladder Meridian

*From the perspective of having your arms raised above your head

The Chinese Meridian Clock, Or Horary Cycle

This is where it gets a bit bizarre, to western ways of thinking. The main meridians are intricately linked by times of ebb and flow activity; whether they are vessels for yin energy or yang energy; and whether they flow through the arm or leg.

Chi Flow In The 12 Meridians

Chi ebbs and flows in the meridians following a specific sequence of activation every 24 hours, known as the Horary Cycle, or more commonly, the meridian clock. Horary simply means, relating to one or more hours, or hourly, from the Latin word horarius.

Two-Hour Shifts

As strange as it seems, each of the energy channels operates at peak performance for 2 hours, and then the ‘work’ shifts to the next one for 2 hours, and so on around the clock, always in the same sequence and timing.

Imagine Gated Sections:

Rhone River Lock | An illustration for the timed flow of chi in the Meridian Clock Have you ever been on a river boat that had to pass through a lock, at a weir or dam? It enters the gated section at one level, the gates are closed, and water is channeled in or out to bring the water to the same level as the next stretch of river.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it could be just an excuse to show a photo of the beautiful Rhone river in France, but that’s not the reason.

I had a bit of an ah-hah moment while I was creating the clock diagram below. Since the Chinese meridians have been compared to a giant river system of connecting channels, I thought that the concept of river locks might be a way of illustrating how the flow of chi could be regulated.

You have valves in your blood vessels to regulate the flow of blood around your body, so why not have something similar for the chi channels.

So… check out the clock diagram below and, if you like the idea, imagine that the ring of meridians is a circular canal or river, with 12 gated sections or ‘locks’.

For example…
It’s 3am and the gate to the lung section of the canal is opened, allowing water (think chi) to flow into the first lock and, because the gate at 5am is shut, the water level rises. After two hours, the 5am gate is raised allowing water to flow into the ‘large intestine lock’. When this level reaches its peak, the 7am gate is opened, and energy flows on into the ‘stomach lock’. This sequential energy rise in each of the sections continues on around the clock indefinitely.

Of course, this is just an illustration, (not an exact description) of how the energy flows from one channel to another.

The Chinese Meridian Clock, or Horary Cycle shows peak activation times for the 12 meridians Chinese Meridian Clock

Six Element Pairs – Adjacent Sections Of The Clock

There are three defining characteristics of the element pairs. Each one…

  1. Has A Single Chinese Element. Each of the 12 meridians is associated with one of the five Chinese elements of earth, fire, water, wood or metal. The Horary Cycle places two adjacent energy channels in the same element, thus creating element pairs. You’ll notice in the clock diagram above, that there is one pair for each of the elements except fire, which has two.
  2. Includes A Yang And A Yin Energy Meridian. For example, the wood element (the green one) is made up of the gall bladder (yang) and liver (yin) vessels.
  3. Has Either Arm Or Leg Meridians. These two groups do not mix in the element pairs. They are EITHER one or the other, but never both. For example, the wood element consists of two leg (foot) channels, but the metal element has two arm ones.

Please Note: There is a chart in part 3 that shows all of the characteristics of the 12 meridians, from the clock, in  an easy to read table format.

Opposite Pairs – Across The Meridian Clock

There are four factors involved in these energy channel pairs that share the same time segment for morning and night.

  1. Level of Activation When one of the meridians is at peak activation, its opposite is at its least active. For example, looking at the 3 to 5 time slot – in the morning, when the lung channel is most energised; the bladder channel, (in the Chinese meridian clock opposite pairs | Comparing the lung and bladder meridians equivalent afternoon time slot), is least active, and vice versa.
  2. Yin and Yang Energy. The opposite pairs in the meridian clock always include one yin and one yang vessel. Using the earlier example, you’ll notice that the lung channel carries yin energy, and the bladder carries yang energy.
  3. Both Limbs Are Represented. The opposite pairs always include one arm and one leg meridian. From the same example, the lung channel travels to the hand and the bladder channel travels to the foot.  In other words, when energy is flowing most strongly in one of the upper limb vessels, it is at its weakest in one of the lower limb ones, and vice versa.
  4. Different Chinese Elements. There are no opposite pairs that are from the same element. They are always different.

These factors remain consistent for every pair across the meridian clock. Each one always includes one arm and one leg channel; one yin energy and one yang energy channel; one meridian at peak activation, and one that is the least active of all the 12; and they never share the same element.

Four-Hourly Changes In The Meridian Clock

Three aspects of the clock change four-hourly, creating a continuous cycling of life force energy from upper to lower body, and back again; from yin to yang energy; and from one element to the next. This is summarised in the following table.

Chinese Meridian Clock – Four-hourly Relationships

2 hour Time slotsUpper Body (Arm) Or
Lower Body (Leg)
 Chinese ElementYin or Yang
3am to 5amUpper BodyMetalYin
5am to 7amUpper BodyMetalYang
7am to 9amLower BodyEarthYang
9am to 11amLower BodyEarthYin
11am to 1pmUpper BodyFireYin
1pm to 3pmUpper BodyFireYang
3pm to 5pmLower BodyWaterYang
5pm to 7pmLower BodyWaterYin
7pm to 9pmUpper BodyFireYin
9pm to 11pmUpper BodyFireYang
11pm to 1amLower BodyWoodYang
1am to 3amLower BodyWoodYin


The 12 meridians are classified according to: which energy they predominantly carry (yin or yang); and which limb they are associated with (arm or leg). This creates four separate groups.

The meridian clock idea cleverly reveals the timed relationships that exist between: yin energy and yang energy; arm and leg meridians; the most active and least active channels; and the five Chinese elements.

However, all of these categories, pairings and scheduling can be a bit confusing, and it’s a lot to take in.

Since it’s my goal to make this as clear as possible for you, as I mentioned before, I’ve created another chart to summarise ALL of the qualities discussed so far. You’ll find it in part 3.

Click Here For Part 3 >>


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