Chinese medicine contains many remnants of ancient Chinese beliefs. These beliefs stem back to an age where the majority of people saw the realm of the living as only one plane of existence. This plane ran parallel to the realm of the dead. The sensible person learnt how to placate the dead through worship and ritual in order to ensure that spirits did not negatively impact upon day to day life. In modern times this kind of belief is diminishing, especially in the western world, but still we have some reminders of this kind of practice within Chinese medicine. One clear example of this is within the 13 ‘ghost points'(十三鬼穴) of Sun Si Miao who was a famous Chinese doctor who lived during the Tang dynasty.
The 13 Ghost Points
The ghost points are 13 points upon the meridian system that an acupuncturists would needle. They are listed below along with their Chinese names. The original names of the ghost points have been changed in contemporary TCM so some names may differ from what many acupuncturists are accustomed to:
- Gui Gong 鬼宮 – Ghost Palace – DU 26
- Gui Xin 鬼信 – Ghost Purity – Lu 11
- Gui Lei 鬼壘 – Ghost Heap – Sp 1
- Gui Xin 鬼心 – Ghost in the Heart Mind – Pc 7
- Gui Lu 鬼路 – Ghost Road – Bl 62
- Gui Zhen 鬼枕 – Ghost Pillow – Du 16
- Gui Chuang 鬼床 – Ghost Bed – St 6
- Gui Shi 鬼市 – Ghost Market – Ren 24
- Gui Ku 鬼窟 – Ghost Hideout – Pc 8
- Gui Tang 鬼堂 – Ghost Hall – Du 23
- Gui Cang 鬼藏 – Ghost Preserve – Ren 1
- Gui Chen 鬼臣 – Ghost Official – LI 11
- Gui Feng 鬼風 – Wind Ghost – Extra Point
Here is the classical poetry of the 13 ghost points taken from ancient Chinese medicine:
Poetry of the Ghost Points
男從左起針,女從右起針 When needling men start from the left and when needling women start from the right side of the body.
第一針人中，名鬼宮 從左邊下針右邊出 Our first point is Ren Zhong. It is also known as the Gui Gong. Approach the point from the left but insert and remove from the right.
第二針手大指爪甲下，名鬼信 入肉三分 Beside our thumbnail corner is the second point which we know as Gui Xin. Needle this point to a depth of three Fen (measurement in acupuncture – one Cun is ten Fen as a guide for acupuncturists!)
第三針足大指爪甲下，名鬼壘 入肉二分 Our third meridian point is near to the nail of the large toe, it is known as the Gui Lei and we can needle it to a depth of two Fen.
第四針掌後橫紋，名鬼心 入半寸（即太淵穴也） Our fourth meridian point is on the line at the base of the palm (wrist crease). It is known as the Gui Xin and we can needle it to a depth of half a Cun.
第五針外踝下白肉際足太陽，名鬼路 火針七鋥，鋥三下(即申脈穴也) The fifth meridian point is on the border of the white skin and it rests upon the foot Taiyang meridian (Bladder meridian). We should use afire needle for seven quick pricks to a depth of 3 Fen.
第六針大椎上入髮際一寸，名鬼枕。火針七鋥，鋥三下 The sixth meridian point is on the back above Da Zhui meridian point. It is one Cun into the hairline and is known as Gui Zhen. We should fire needle the point for seven quick pricks at a depth of three Fen,
第七針耳前髮際宛宛中耳垂下五分，名鬼床 火針七鋥，鋥三下 The seventh merdian point is in front of the ear next to the hairline, 5 Fen below the ear lobe. It is known s the Gui Chuang and we fire needle it seven times to a depth of 3 Fen. (Note that in modern times this point has been changed in location to the St6 point)
第八針承漿，名鬼市 從左出右 The eighth meridian point is known as the Gui Shi. We approach the point from the left but insert needle from the right.
第九針手橫紋上三寸兩筋間，名鬼窟（即勞宮穴也） The ninth meridian point is three Cun above the wrist crease between two tendons. It is known as Gui Ku
第十針直鼻上入髮際一寸，名鬼堂。火針七鋥，鋥三下（即上星穴也） The tenth meridian point is directly upwards from the line of the nose 1 Cun into the hairline. It is known as Gui Tang and we should fire needle it quickly seven times.
第十一針陰下縫，灸三壯，女人即玉門頭，名鬼藏 Meridian point number 11 is on the join below the genitals. This point is near to the tip of the vagina for women and called Gui Cang. We should burn three lots of moxa here for treatment.
第十二針尺澤橫紋外頭接白肉際，名鬼臣 火針七鋥，鋥三下（此即曲池） The twelth meridian point is where the horizontal line of Chi Ze meets the line of the white skin. This point is called Gui Chen and we should fire needle it seven times quickly to a depth of 3 Fen.
第十三針舌頭一寸，當舌中下縫，刺貫出舌上，名鬼封 仍以一板橫口吻，安針頭，令舌不得動 The thirteenth meridian point is 1 Cun below the end of the tongue. It is situated in the centre of the seam beneath the tongue. Insert the needle upwards through the tinge until it sticks out of the top of the tongue body. This point is called Gui Feng. A second needle should be placed in the mouth to stop the tongue from moving.
已前若是手足皆相對，針兩穴 若是孤穴，即單針之 In the case of points on both arms and legs, needle bilaterally. In the axe of single points simply needle the one point.
As you can see from the above poetry, they often suggested fire needling with regards to treating the ghost points. In modern times this is not necessarily the case though many practitioner still use the fire needling method. In addition to this, it is rare that we would ever burn moxa near to the genitals as advised in the poem nor would be insert a needle all the way through the tongue whilst stabilising the tongue in the mouth with a second horizontally placed needle. Convincing patients that this is a good idea might be tricky in modern times!
The Use of Ghost Points
The use of ghost points has been changed in modern Chinese medicine to mean ‘points used in the treatment of mood disorders’ and so on. This is not really the case as they were listed as treating literal invasion by a Gui – a ghost. They were essentially the most basic of the ways in which possession could be carried out within Chinese medicine. There are other more complex treatments in the case of ghosts but they are beyond the scope of a single online article; on top of this the study of the the spirit world is long and in depth in the ancient medical traditions; here we can only give a brief run down of the basics of ghost point usage.
Gui Gong 鬼宮 – Ghost Palace – DU 26
This point was listed for manic behaviour, depression, suicidal tendencies, obsessions and fears originating in possession by malevolent spirits. It is also the point generally indicated for the treatment of spirits that cause night paralysis and demons that haunt you both in your sleep and waking. If the demons can be heard speaking in your ear then this point was particularly important.
Gui Xin 鬼信 – Ghost Purity – Lu 11
This point was for hysterical behaviour, disorientation and possessed walking during both the day and night. If the ghost was causing a distant draining of essence then this point was indicated.
Gui Lei 鬼壘 – Ghost Heap – Sp 1
This point was indicated for ghosts causing a person to shout and rave in the street as well as ghosts that stopped you sleeping and demons that caused manic thought patterns. Psychoses with anger and rage was also indicated here.
Gui Xin 鬼心 – Ghost in the Heart Mind – Pc 7
Ghosts that lead to madness, hysteria and random laughter and crying. If the laughter becomes insane and ‘distant’ then the ghost is deep within the system and must be cleared with this point.
Gui Lu 鬼路 – Ghost Road – Bl 62
Ghosts that lead to epileptic type behaviour are treated with this point. These often come with feelings of heat and of random energies moving through the body that lead to sickness and depression.
Gui Zhen 鬼枕 – Ghost Pillow – Du 16
This point is for ghosts that have ridden on the Wind to enter the body. In classical thought, strong winds carried evil spirits and the potential for possession was stronger. In these cases early treatment of invading spirits was carried out with Gui Zhen.
Gui Chuang 鬼床 – Ghost Bed – St 6
Ghosts that possess the mind and prevent clear thinking and speech are treated with this point. It is also a general point for ghosts that cause contrition of the face. It was classically thought that strong ghosts could make their own faces be known through the face of their victims and this was one such point for clearing these nasty critters!
Gui Shi 鬼市 – Ghost Market – Ren 24
This point is for ghosts that cause depression, melancholic behaviour and suicidal thoughts. If there is deviation of the face and in particular the mouth then this point is indicated.
Gui Ku 鬼窟 – Ghost Hideout – Pc 8
If the ghost is causing convulsions and spasms that are with a full sense of awareness then this is the point to use. If there is no mental awareness during the convulsions then Gui Lu should be used instead.
Gui Tang 鬼堂 – Ghost Hall – Du 23
Ghosts that cause headaches, splitting pain in the middle of the brain, watering of the eyes and strong mode swings are treated with this point.
Gui Cang 鬼藏 – Ghost Preserve – Ren 1
Ghosts that are sapping a persons consciousness are treated with this point. It is also indicated for waking somebody up from coma. In the case of women there was a particularly awful kind of spirit that was said to come during the night and sexually assault their victims. This point was used (in conjunction with the Si Shen Cong) to disrupt these spirits connection to the victim.
Gui Chen 鬼臣 – Ghost Official – LI 11
This is the general point for ghosts that are causing the Shen to become disturbed and the personality to slowly begin shifting. It was also the point for ghosts coming from rituals and cult like groups actions.
Gui Feng 鬼風 – Wind Ghost – Extra Point
This most unpleasant point to have needled was the master point for the exorcism of very strong spirits. Luckily it should not have been need very often as the process for inserting the needle sounds horrendous (see poetry above!).
Selection of Ghost Points
Ghost points always had a very distinct way of being used. Firstly they were never used in conjunction with ‘non ghost points’ and secondly they were always coupled with the patients ‘inherent ghost point’ which is the meridian point which has the strongest resonance with the spirit world. We shall look at what this point is for individual patients shortly. Essentially this means any ghost point treatment should involve either two or three needles. Two needles if there is simply the ‘inherent’ point and a non-bliateral point and three needles in the case of bilaterally located points.
Locating the patients ‘inherent ghost point’ is dependant upon their year of birth. This is because the twelve Earthly branches of time-based energy dictate which point was open at the time of conception. Each year a different meridian point has a stronger connection to the spirit realm. The chart below shows the branches on the left column and the ten stems of Heaven on the top bar. In the case of selecting the ‘inherent ghost point’ of a patient we only need the Earthly branch from the left column. Find your patients year of birth (remembering that in Chinese calendrical sciences new year starts in February*) and the name of the branch will be shown in the left column.
Chart of the Stems and Branches for Year of Birth
Once you have the branch of the year you will be able to select the ‘inherent ghost point’ because each one is attached to an Earthly branch. Below are the branches of the ghost points:
- Gui Gong 鬼宮 = Yin
- Gui Xin 鬼信 = Wu
- Gui Lei 鬼壘 = Hai
- Gui Xin 鬼心 = Shen
- Gui Lu 鬼路 = Xu
- Gui Zhen 鬼枕 = Chou
- Gui Chuang 鬼床 = Chen
- Gui Shi 鬼市 = Mao
- Gui Ku 鬼窟 = Wei
- Gui Tang 鬼堂 = Zi
- Gui Cang 鬼藏 = Never the inherent point
- Gui Chen 鬼臣 = You
- Gui Feng 鬼風 = Si
So, your treatment for expelling ghosts will then include the ‘inherent ghost point’ which is needled neutrally (no tonifying nor reducing techniques) and the other point or points which you have selected for the treatment according to the symptoms presented by the patient.
We then stimulate the ghost points (but not the inherent point) by tonifying the needle during Yang hours of the day and reducing the needle during Yin hours of the day in order to harness the Yin and Yang energies present at that particular time of the day. Below is a list of the hours of the day (actually split into two hour segments) along with its properties of either Yin or Yang:
- 23:00 – 01:00 = Yang
- 01:00 – 03:00 = Yin
- 03:00 – 05:00 = Yang
- 05:00 – 07:00 = Yin
- 07:00 – 09:00 = Yang
- 09:00 – 11:00 = Yin
- 11:00 – 13:00 = Yang
- 13:00 – 15:00 = Yin
- 15:00 – 17:00 = Yang
- 17:00 – 19:00 = Yin
- 19:00 – 21:00 = Yang
- 21:00 – 23:00 = Yin
The needles would generally be retained for a fair amount of time; long enough that you see change in the patients pulse and presentation. Note, however, that as a practitioner I am rarely in favour of set times for length of treatment, I always monitor the treatments progression with pulse diagnosis to see how the Qi is adjusting to my treatments.
There are obviously a great deal more facets to the ghost points than I have been able to introduce in this article. I hope though that some reading this might gain even a slight onsite into some of the older belief systems which permeate throughout Chinese medicine as well as seeing the importance of time in dictating treatments with regards to Yin and Yang.
Possession is a long and complex study and the ghost points only really touch upon the surface of this area of medicine. It is my hope to introduce more on the subject of spirits and ghosts through the Scholar Sage site and future publications as well since it is a fascinating part of ancient belief.
*Though Chinese new year varies each year, for the purposes of selecting stems and branches of the year we generally use the start of february as our start date.