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This article discusses the theory of the San Jiao from various sources, including the Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic), Nan Jing (Classic of Difficulties), the interpretations of modern practitioners of Chinese medicine and the views of the author himself. It clarifies confusion regarding the identity of the San Jiao, and presents a new theory that originates from the text of the Nei Jing itself. This paper explains for the first time how the original theory of the San Jiao has been lost due to misinterpretation of the original texts, and puts forward the idea that the structure of the San Jiao is essentially made up of the oesophagus, Stomach and Small Intestine. Descriptions of the nature of the San Jiao in the Nei Jing are explained, clarifying its function as a transporting fu organ that acts as a water passage to receive, digest and drain water out of the body. Treatment strategies based on Nei Jing theory are provided for both San Jiao channel and organ disorders. The theories relating to the San Jiao in the Nei Jing and Nan Jing are also compared and contrasted, in order to clarify current theories of the organ. The author concludes by rejecting the widely held notion that the San Jiao contains the zang organs and their functions, pointing out that the modern concept of the San Jiao is too large, involves too many organs, and has such numerous functions attributed to it that the result is a vague and confusing organ with no clear functions of its own.
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