Just my point: LU 2

10 October 2023 | Practice
Peter Firebrace
BAcC Fellow: Denmark
Exploring the landscape of the body, one finds that others have been there before and given well-chosen names to key locations in times long past. Here, at what we so prosaically call Lung 2, lies 雲 門 yun men Cloud Gate, a gate in, to and of the clouds.

We are at the top of the trunk at the highest yin meridian point, and the bridge over to the towering Kunlun mountains of the head is not so far away. Clouds are natural at this height, they come with the territory.

I remember once in China a friend and I took a trip up the mountain trail of Omeishan, the high sacred mountain near Chengdu, in Sichuan province. As we climbed, often overtaken by stocky local women with huge stacked bundles of firewood on their backs, we saw the changes in vegetation as we reached higher and higher. This was reflected in the roots and herbs spread out on rickety tables from time to time for sale to passing pilgrims and travellers. Different plants grow at different heights and change as the altitude and climate changes. It was an overcast late autumn day and as we climbed the air became ever mistier and soon it was hard to continue upward safely. We were in Cloud Gate territory and had to stop and return.

Men 門, a gate, is a way into a new area, a place of exchange on the borderline. The point next to LU 2, also below the clavicle – two cun away – is ST 13 ­­­­­氣 戶 qi hu Qi Door, another opening. So we have LU 2 Cloud Gate for the tai yin 太 陰 and ST 13 Qi Door for the yang ming 陽 明 – a large expansive gate for heaven and a smaller door for the earth, both helping the lungs and stomach distribute their qi across the boundaries.

We see that Cloud Gate gives an access to heaven itself and thereby the benefits that heaven brings

Clouds for the Chinese are an intrinsic part of their heaven-earth interaction, bringing rain to the earth and by extension fluids to the body. As it says in the Neijing Suwen chapter 5:

So, clear yang makes heaven and unclear yin makes earth. Earth qi, rising, makes clouds and heaven qi, falling, makes rain. Rain comes from earth qi and clouds come from heaven qi.

Heaven and earth, clouds and rain, vapours and fluids are in constant and perpetual exchange. LU 2 雲 門 yun men Cloud Gate is the only cloud point in the body, emphasising its special nature on the lung meridian. This is where we contact that cloud-renewing ability of rehydration. Clouds move easily and freely in heaven and this is the quality of LU 2, able to circulate the lung qi without obstruction, clearing heat, calming coughing and easing pain.

The lungs are the great adapter, said in ancient times to have 24 kong 空, holes or voids, so able to interact correctly with each of the 24 fortnightly solar periods of the year, jie qi 節 氣, with their various seasonal challenges.

Yin organ of the metal element, the lungs are endangered when they are too dry – from external heat in hot weather, from fever, and also from excessively heated houses in modern times, where the natural moisture inherent in air is removed, to the detriment of the body. LU 2 is an important point to remember when they are affected by heat and dryness. Both are very debilitating to the lungs as the upper heater itself is considered to be like a mist, a fine spray, wu 霧. When this is lost, they cannot function correctly.

Classically Cloud Gate yun men 雲 門 was the name of a piece of music for Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, whose benevolence was considered to bring fertility and the promise of life-giving water from above onto the earth below. We also find Cloud Gate in a poem Beizhengfu, Travels to the North by Ban Shupi in 25 CE:

At dawn, in the Great Capital, I let my horse go and in the evening lodge in the Dark Palace of Gourd Valley. Passing through Cloud Gate, I look back and gaze at the majestic height of the Tower that communicates with Heaven, tong tian tai 通 天 台.

In both the music dedicated to the emperor responsible for life on earth and in the poet’s description of his journey to the north we see that Cloud Gate gives an access to heaven itself and thereby the benefits that heaven brings.

A temple in the clouds, Wudang mountain, China

A temple in the clouds, Wudang mountain, China

As an acupuncture point, LU 2 has several different uses – local, respiratory and also as a restorative for old people. It is excellent to treat painful conditions of the shoulder, such as frozen shoulder where it is impossible to raise the arm without pain. I also use massage in such cases, helping to find the tender points and move the stuck qi. Combining LU 2 with affected local points is of great benefit, for example LU 2 with GB 21 jian jing, SI 12 bing feng, LI 15 jian yu, with distal points such as LI 11 qu chi and LI 4 he gu.

For respiratory problems LU 2 is often overlooked and overshadowed by its more celebrated neighbour LU 1 Central Storehouse zhong fu 中 府. LU 1 was in the past considered to be a spleen point, not a lung point, as it is on the line that continues from SP 17 shi dou to SP 20 zhou rang. This makes LU 1 an excellent point for phlegm where both spleen and lung are deficient. Its name Central Storehouse shows its strong link to the middle heater and the stomach since it is storing, fu 府, what comes from the centre, zhong 中.

Some commentaries differentiate the two points in saying that LU 1 masters the interior and closing, while LU 2 masters the exterior and opening. We saw above the relation between LU 2 Cloud Gate and ST 13 Qi Door, two gates or doorways at the top of the trunk. Some say that in the 12-meridian cycle itself that starts with the lungs and ends with the liver, the beginning and end points are both gates: LU 2 Cloud Gate yun men 雲 門 and LIV 14 Cycle Gate qi men 期 門. As mentioned, early texts allocate LU 1 to the spleen and not the lung meridian, so it is LU 2 Cloud Gate that opens the entire meridian cycle. This perspective certainly gives it that opening quality.

LU 2 treats coughing with acute breathlessness, where one has to remain seated and cannot lie down. It is given as a special point to treat heat in the four limbs, along with LI 15 jian yu, BL 40 wei zhong and DU 2 yao shu. It treats sore throat, heat and congestion in the chest and heart pain. It also treats goitre.

Some commentators say LU 2 is forbidden to needle, warning against an excess of elevation and diffusion of clear, pure qi that could fill the head to the point of disturbing it, like too much fine wine, so causing vertigo. We should be aware of this possibility, although I have never seen it myself in using the point.

Finally, it is good to remember that Cloud Gate is well indicated for old people who tend to be colder, who lack correct qi above with consequently an empty head and a lack of clear yang in all the orifices of the face, which leads to a dulling of the senses and a lack of ability to retain fluids. It is interesting to see this deeply nourishing quality that affects the head. In this way LU 2 is an important addition to points that help to restore and recover qualities that ageing too often takes away. I often use it with SI 6 yang lao 養 老 Nourishing the Old and KID 7 fu liu 復 溜 Restoring the Current.

Revitalising to the movements of the shoulder, restorative to the proper functioning of the lungs – particularly in heat and dryness – and regenerative to the fading of the senses in old age, LU 2 Cloud Gate is a fantastic point to have at one’s fingertips.