Managing the Triple Burner: Space

The first movement of Eight Brocades is “Hold up the sky with two hands to manage the Triple Burner.” The Triple Burner (Sanjiao) is a unique concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and it expresses the holistic idea of TCM. We know that the heart is important, and we know that the lungs, the kidneys, the spleen, and the liver are important. However, rather than look at an individual organ only, TCM looks at the relationships between organs and functional coordination. A disease is not always caused by a virus; it can also be caused by organ disharmony. The Triple Burner (Sanjiao) refers to the space inside the trunk of our body and relates to the ten internal organs, which are the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, small intestine, stomach, large intestine, and urinary bladder.

TCM regards the human body as a micro universe, and understanding nature helps to understand the Triple Burner (Sanjiao). For example, in space, the planets in the solar system are independent as well as interacting with each other through the invisible force of gravity, and the sun is the main factor of influence. Similarly, inside the space of our body trunk, the internal organs are independent as well as interacting with each other through the invisible Qi, and San Jiao plays an integrative role in transporting the vital energy (Yang Qi) in our entire body and making the ten internal organs function as a holistic organ. 

Besides comprehending San Jiao through the fundamental interaction in space, even though the ten organ names are the same as Western medical organs, they are more than just an anatomical feature. For example, the heart not only pumps blood but also relates to joy. Thus, to maintain the wellness of the heart, cardio exercise is not enough; we also need to know how to take care of our moods. The movement of managing the Triple Burner combines the mind, Qi, and body in a content state, allowing the internal organs to collaborate with one another. 

The movements for managing the Triple Burner are straightforward: arms up over the head and down to the sides. At the same time, we breathe in when our arms are up and breathe out when our arms are down. In addition to synchronizing the breathing and arm motions, the legs also follow the arms: straight legs with arms up, softened knees with arms down. The legs are stable yet supple. 

After becoming familiar with the movement, we can practice in more detail: While the arms are up, concentrate on creating space between the arms and opening the trunk of the body. Power up through the base of the palm. While moving down, drop the elbows and sink the shoulders as well as the hips. Always keep the upper body centred. Furthermore, be aware that the Eight Brocades is not merely physical movement. As a big house filled with stuff does not necessarily have space, a big, sturdy body does not mean it has space inside for Qi to flow. A whole heart, which includes a light, relaxed mood, and an open mind can provide the space for the vital energy (Yang Qi) to flow smoothly.

We need space to rejuvenate. Begin with generating a space inside, then support the vast sky with two hands and manage Sanjiao, our energizer! 


  1. Health Qigong Management Centre of General Administration of Sport of China, Health Qigong – Ba Duan Jin (Beijing: People’s Sports Publishing House, 2005).
  2. VCD, Health Qigong – Ba Duan Jin (Beijing: Beijing Sport University Audio & Video Press).

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