Throughout my training in shiatsu, acupuncture and Japanese acupuncture, I was never introduced to the inner landscape. I remember waiting impatiently for science to prove the existence of ki or qi, so as to take away any doubt about what we were doing. By chance, about 10 years ago, I came across the depiction of the Neijing Tu, the picture shown here below, which I couldn’t understand but was immediately attracted to. I found some text which shed some light on how to relate to it and I even started to put it in my teaching without really understanding more than that it showed how to connect and circulate the governing and conception vessels. A few years ago, after starting TAO training, my understanding of the inner landscape began to deepen. I finally understood what the picture was about.

Text and visuals: Joyce Vlaarkamp, November 30, 2019. 
Watch the webinar Wandering in the Inner Landscape.

Nowadays, I no longer believe that it is necessary for science to prove the existence of ki. Western medicine has its origins in western science and philosophy and due to this it is difficult to connect to Eastern philosophy and science; it just comes from a different perspective. The Eastern vision of the body, as we can see from the inner landscape, is a vision of symbols and metaphors. It does not have its origins in clinical work and human anatomy as Western medicine does.

In our practice of Eastern medicine, we work with a scope of wholeness, no division between body, mind and emotions. But in fact, at the same time, we work from a certain dualism: the inner and outer landscape. The outer landscape, the manifested body, is what we can see and hold: skin, bones, muscles, organs. Western medicine treats us from this perspective.

Eastern medicine, on the other hand, works from the inner landscape. It is where the manifested body comes from and will return to, more like a potentiality. It is a complete reflection of the world around us. It has a sun and moon, water, mountains, forests, stars. All our functions are depicted here in a symbolic way. An individual’s inner landscape is abundant and complete, despite any history of sickness. Treatment and training of this landscape works on optimising the ki network, meridian system and consciousness.

It was during the Rangaku movement (first half of the 19th century) in Japan, after two centuries of being closed off from the rest of the world by the Tokugawa shogunate, that the dualistic nature of the inner and outer landscape became apparent. A group of Japanese scientists was allowed to study anatomy books brought to Deshima by doctors from Holland and Germany. In so doing, they discovered that the actual body looked far more like the pictures depicted in these books than the symbolic representation of the body according to Chinese Medicine. Symbols versus manifestations.

As we work and train our skills and knowledge, it is very important to understand this. In Taoism, these two landscapes are compared to the ocean and a wave: why work with the tip of the wave when you can move the ocean?

Below you see an image of the inner landscape, de Neijing Tu, which can be found in the White Cloud Temple in Beijing, carved in a stone. It can be inked and rubbed off on paper.

Neijing Tu (1886), The Inner Landscape. Image by: KamLanKoon

You can see a trunk, no limbs. The perineum is the lowest point. We see a boy and girl on a watermill representing the testes and ovaria. We can see the spine erecting from it right up to the nine peaks of the Kun Lun mountains, connecting us to the heavens. Here you can see Lao Zi , symbol of wisdom and consciousness. The Governing and Conception vessels meet in the front of the head, as the tongue (the drawbridge) can be placed behind the teeth to make the connection. We see the sun and moon representing the eyes. The 12 levels of the Pagoda symbolises the throat which connects the head with the trunk.
Here, we see the cowherder who holds the Big Dipper, symbol for the Heart and Innocence; the trees that symbolize the Liver Wood. The buffalo and ploughboy cultivating the earth as a symbol for the diligence to train and cultivate the Earth for self-transformation. The weaving maiden is capable of making silk from the light of the moon and symbolises Kidney yin. The Kidney yang is symbolized by the fire, the Ming Men, the gate of vitality or destination between the second and third lumbar.

So these are the details. The big picture is to understand the three dantiens, the fields that generate the SAN BAO, the three treasures of the Jing, Ki and Shen. The earth produces the Jing, the heaven produces the Shen and man produces the Ki, the connection between yin and yang at the level of the Heart.

As a shiatsu practitioner, we have to be present in our Jing to be rooted and vital. We can develop our touch and contact while working with the Heart to make a genuine and appropriate connection with our clients. Moreover, we can develop our clarity and consciousness to see that which can’t be noticed by our sense organs.

The inner landscape offers the symbols that give us an idea of how to train and develop ourselves as human beings and shiatsu therapists to work with the ki landscape of our clients.


Are you ready to ‘Wander the Inner Landscape’? Come to the European Shiatsu Congress in Amsterdam and begin the journey!