Point name categories

The point names appear to adhere to a limited number of forms or categories.

The point name categories that I identify, are:

I believe that for the basic 361 points, there are no other categories. Point names can belong to several of these categories at the same time, but I would be suspicious of a translation that does not belong to any of these (see reasons for that below). This may be different for some of the extra points, but I haven't included them.

The 5 categories

Effect that the point has

The biggest group, but not the majority of point names, describe the most noteworthy effect that a point has. This is often in some kind of poetic way. Examples are:

  • BL-1 睛明 Brightening the Eyes,
  • BL-20 脾兪 Spleen Increase,
  • SP-10 血海 Sea of Blood,
  • TB-2 液門 Juices Gate,
  • GB-26 帶脈 Girdle Vessel.

Indication for using the point

Less there are point names that describe the most noteworthy indication for using a point. This is basically the opposite of the effect it has. Examples are:

  • BL-45 譩譆 Scream,
  • LIV-12 急脈 Hasty Pulse,
  • DU-15 瘂門 Muteness Gate,
  • KI-14 四滿 Four Fullnesses.

Terrain of the point

Often, point names are a poetic description of the terrain of skin, tendons, muscles and bones. Examples are:

  • BL-65 束骨 Bundle of Bones,
  • DU-26 水溝 Water Trough,
  • GB-20 風池 Windy Pond,
  • GB-39 懸鐘 Hanging Bell.

Location of the point

Point names can also be about where the location of the point is. It is sometimes hard to distinguish this from the previous category, the terrain of the point. Examples are:

  • BL-31 to BL-34 that indicate the notches in the sacral bone as Upper, Second, Middle, and Lower Bone Notch,
  • DU-19 and DU-21, Behind and In Front of the Crown of the Head,
  • LU-5 尺澤 Cubit Marsh,
  • LI-15 肩髃 Shoulder Bone.

Act that one can perform to find the location of the point

A few point names describe an act that one can perform to find the location of the point. For example:

  • SP-8 地機 Ground Pivot

.. can be found by pivoting the leg, while keeping the foot on the ground. When one does that, the muscles open and close at the point's location, revealing a depression.

Obsolete category

In a previous version, I had another category that I have found to be obsolete: Vessels or meridians connected to the point. After finding better translations for the points concerned, I removed this category.

The biggest change is in how I translate the character in REN-7 陰交, SP-6 三陰交 and GB-35 陽交. In my previous translation (as in other translations),  was taken to mean 'intersection,' as a point where meridian channels join. After gaining more insight into the psychological effects of these three points, I thought it better to translate with 'interaction,' as these points have an effect on mood in interactions between people, where the person takes either a yin or a yang role.

Reasons for limiting point names to 5 categories

Point names precede theories about points

In order to have theories about acupuncture points, one must first be able to identify those points. For that, point names are indispensible. So, point names must have been there before there were theories about points.

With the Element of a point, or with He-Sea points, Jing-River, Luo-Connecting points, etc., it's less important to keep track of that by point name. One just learns which points are which. And since a point can belong to several of such categories at the same time, chosing one category over the other is always a bit arbitrary. So, there isn't really a need for changing existing point names, to indicate things like this.

Limited categories help clarity

With only two or three Chinese characters per point name, there is not so much that makes clear in what context they should be understood. When there is only a limited number of categories that names can belong to, like the 5 here, it is easier to see what they mean. It is therefore not likely that point names could be anything one could think of.