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Fu Xi Wen Pulse Intro

First of all, what is pulse taking? It is a diagnostic technique that uses the radial artery (found at the soft part of the arm next to the thumb-side of the wrist) to differentiate the exact tissues that need to be treated to solve a medical problem.

Pulse diagnosis is a fine tactile art. You only get good at it through repetition. There is nothing more fun than feeling your pulse while waiting in long lines, when you just missed the subway, or while listening to music stopped at a red light. You can also feel the pulses of your loved ones (so long as you do not treat them). They will love to hear what insights you have on their health.

Pulse Diagnoses Components

Besides the beating blood in the artery, Fu Xi Wen pulse diagnosis has the following components:

  • The energetic zone where the symptom exists as found in the divisions of the radial artery

  • Beat and back-beat angles in each of the Heaven, Man, and Earth planes

  • The sensation of the pulse at the angle

Let's break these down.

Lines of Force And The Pulse

The radial pulse contains a microcosm of the entire body. The energetic zones that we have discussed for Heaven/Man/Earth in the past have specific designations on the radial pulse as seen in the table below.

The lower arms are made up of two bones, the radius and the ulna. They end at the wrist. If you rub the bone that leads to your thumb from elbow to wrist, at the very end you will find a big bump called the styloid process. Put your finger on the styloid process. If you roll your finger over the radius bone (thumb side) at the styloid process towards the inside part of the arm, where the bone meets the fleshy part of your inside arm you'll feel part of the bone juts out into a sort of triangle point. If you put your finger half on the bone and half on the soft tissue, you will feel the beating radial pulse.

This triangular point is important in that it is easy to find and it is a major differentiator of one of the energetic zones. To find the other one's, use this triangle point as a starting point. Place three fingers on the radial artery with the last finger touching the side of this triangle (not the tip of the triangle) closest to the thumb and the first finger touching the thumb bone where the thumb tendon and the bone connect. These three fingers relate to the top three (most Yang) lines of force of the Man level. Now move all of your fingers below the triangle so that the first one touches the elbow side of the triangular point. These three fingers relate to the bottom three lines of force of the Man level.

You use the same fingers to find the same lines of force for Heaven and Earth. The only difference, is that for Earth, you extend the finger closest to the elbow one finger width further along the radial artery towards the elbow to reach the LU/BL energetic zone and extend one finger width more to diagnose the KD/BL zone. For Heaven, you do the same thing as for Earth to reach the LU/KD and BL/KD levels (respectively) and, with your three fingers in the original position touching the thumb) you also extend the topmost finger closest to the thumb a quarter finger width closer to the thumb in the very last nook between the thumb bone and the tendon to reach the SI/HT level.

Thumb side




Thumb bone

1st finger


¼ finger width


Not used

Not used

1st finger

(not extended)

1 finger width




2nd finger

1 finger width




3rd finger

1 finger width




Radial bone triangle

1st finger

1 finger width




2nd finger

1 finger width




3rd finger

1 finger width




3rd finger

(extended 1 width)

1 finger width


Not used


3rd finger

(extended 2 widths)

1 finger width


Not used


Elbow side

Beats and Back-Beats

Within each line of force, the pulse is reviewed according to Heaven, Man, and Earth planes. To do this, you focus your attention as the pulse beats up and down then East to West and, finally, North to South (in any order). In each of Heaven/Man/Earth, the pulse moves in a two beat sequence – a beat and a back-beat. For Heaven, the back-beat is down and the beat is up. For Man, one beat is East and the other is West. For the Earth level, one beat is North and the other is South.

Heaven/Man/Earth beats are all happening simultaneously, so to feel the one you are looking for, you need to focus your attention in the directions for the corresponding plane and disregard all other sensations. You also have to maintain a state of non-judging and non-interference, as it is possible to feel any of the 360 degrees of the pulse simply by looking for them. So, when you are looking just at Heaven, Man, or Earth, be mindful of these directions without anticipating the angles of their movement. Observe with a quiet mind.

In the three planes, the pulse will beat at an angle. The goal of Fu Xi Wen pulse taking is to determine the angle the pulse is moving using these beats and back beats. The perfect Heaven pulse moves up in a very short North-South line with the peak in the South close to the surface of the skin. In the case of an imbalance, the up-beat or the down-beat will instead jump up and down towards a different and very specific angle. This angle is a tissue-angle. Balance the tissue-angle and if this is the only imbalanced tissue in that area of the body, the pulse will return to the perfect beat.

Each plane, Heaven, Man, and Earth will beat in tissue-angles. Inasmuch, the pulse is literally telling you exactly the problem that needs to be treated as if you were reading it in braille.

The perfect Man beat is exactly East to West and is exactly parallel with the ground. In reality, most people will have a beat or back-beat that moves in a specific angle that likely will neither be perfectly East to West nor perfectly parallel with the ground. This angle needs to be balanced for the pulse to normalize (or reflect another tissue that needs your focus).

The perfect Earth plane beat is exactly North and South exactly parallel with the ground. In reality, these beats will move in different angles. These angles need to be balanced for the pulse to return to a perfect beat.

After you treat an angle that is indicated by the pulse, go back to the pulse and you will see an immediate response. Very often, an entirely new angle will present itself and you will need to treat each angle as it presents itself – which I call “peeling the onion”. When all of the angles that need to be treated are treated in Heaven, Man, and Earth for the lines of force, each of these pulses will reflect their perfect pulse angle. This is the indicator that you're work is (at least temporarily) complete.

The right arm is used to diagnose the lines of force while the left arm is used to diagnose the energetic boxes.

Your symptom indicates the lines of force or energetic zones to look at. The pulse angles that need treatment will unravel the reason for the symptom. It's as easy as that. In some instances, an angle will appear that has not yet been identified by Fu Xi Wen. If this is the case, don't hesitate to treat it. Most often, the pulse will show you one angle with the first beat and back beat and one angle with the second beat and back-beat. These should reflect the Yin and Yang tissue-angles for the same tissue.

Keep treating every new angle until it goes to the Heaven/Man/Earth poles and then you're done. Sometimes, however, the pulse can be extremely difficult to read as it shows you multiple angles simultaneously. In this case, do your best to whittle down angle by angle and it will become clearer. In some instances, the pulse is entirely missing or too weak to read, Recharge the Battery to fill the pulse with enough energy to start showing the imbalanced angles. If that doesn't work, you may need to open the axillary arteries to increase blood flow into the radial artery.

You can treat a pulse-defined tissue-angle locally or remotely.

Pulse Sensations

The final component of Fu Xi Wen pulse diagnosis is the sensation of the pulse within the beat and back-beat. The angle of the beat and back-beat is like a big neon sign saying “Heh, treat this!” The sensation of the pulse indicates the Five Elements moving in the imbalanced angle.

It takes acupuncturists years to learn the pulse textures that define the Five Element sensations and their combinations. We don't have years, so we're going to side-step that entire learning curve. You can feel the sensations of the pulse as indicated in the chart below, or you can simply use your trusty teishin. Place it in the energetic zone at the angle suggested by the pulse and use your tactile diagnosis to determine or confirm the Five Element imbalance. This is the best teacher for explaining those Five Element sensations you are feeling in the pulse.





Forceful, pounding, slippery

Lacking normal rhythm


Wide, swollen



Pointy top, higher than normal

Soft/weak top


Tight, side-to-side motion

No bottom


Sides are very sharp and defined

Sides are flimsy and poorly defined

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