Heaven and Earth, the creative and the created, micro and macrocosm. All ways of saying there is a reality we inhabit, and beyond that a lot of mystery. And mystery is something us humans have, at best, an ambivalent relationship with.

We seek to find some sense of order in what can be a captiously unsettling and unpredictable world. We look to the heavens and seek a larger frame for our experience as we look for the patterns that connect.

In this conversation Deborah Woolf graciously entertains some questions that I had arise after her Qiological Live presentation on the Earthly branches. 

Listen into this conversation on how Earth reflects back the influences of Heaven.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • Earthly branches are about Time
  • We can map, not the qi cycle of the organs, but also the human life cycle out on the Chinese Zi Wu clock
  • The Gallbladder’s relationships with pre-natal and jing,
  • The San Jiao and Pericardium arise at birth when the septum of the heart closes, and the channel system then begins to function
  • Thoughts on the last 18 days of each season, which can be seen as an aspect of the Earth phase
  • Translating Yi as intention has some problems
  • The Branches are about both the channel and the seasonal aspect
  • Why it is more helpful to call a channel by its full name
  • The curious correspondence between yin and yang Earthly Branches and the Saam organ pairs
  • How relationships of harmony in the Ba Zi and with the astrological animals is interestingly enough mapped right onto the body
  • How the channels are the intermediary between the organs on the inside and the climate on the outside
  • You don’t need to do a lot in terms of treatment to be effective, but you do have to be clear in the message you’re sending to the body
  • What go-to’s do you use when you’re not quite sure what to do
  • Just when does a season begin?


I am a crazy keen acupuncturist and super enthusiastic lecturer, who, by chance, have discovered and loved the cosmology and numerology inherent in Chinese Philosophy and Medicine. I was lucky to start studying (10 years after I know I wanted to be an acupuncturist) at the UK college that teaches the most philosophy and theory, based on Five Phases, wuxing 五行, and Stems and Branches, wuyun liuqi 五運六氣. My course was a 5 year long extravaganza, and I came out the other side, exhausted, changed and driven. Since then (20 years ago) I have not stopped treating, teaching and studying: these three activities interact fruitfully with each other, allowing me to deepen my understanding and practice of this amazing approach to health, the body and the cosmos.

As I am the daughter of academics I took what I was taught and read around the subjects, so that I was able to immerse myself more fully in ancient Chinese culture. I have followed Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee for 25 years, and have studied classical Chinese for at least 15 years. I may not be able to ask for soup, but I can make a stab at translating very obscure classical Chinese texts! This immersion and reading and teaching has allowed me to apply my ‘apprentice’ style learning to my practice. I thoroughly appreciate and love what I do and am grateful daily for the opportunity to learn more and be able to help my patients even more!



Links and Resources

Download this PDF of a few essential charts which is a helpful reference for this conversation on the Earthly Branches.
There are parts of this episode that will be easier to follow if you have the charts handy.

Here’s the link to the recordings of Deborah’s Qiological Live series on the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches.



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