Tiger’s mouth (LI-4) association to the lungs and qi (for TCM professionals)

LI4 Acupuncture point

LI4 acupuncture point [合谷 hé gǔ union valley] is for sure, a top-10 most commonly used point in acupuncture treatments.

This point belongs to the hand yang ming large intestine channel [手陽明大腸經 shǒu yáng mīng dà chāng jīng] and has few very interesting alternative names, which highlight both anatomy and function of this point.

Thus it is recommended to be familiar and more important to understand the point’s alternative names in Chinese.

1. 虎口 hǔ kǒu Tiger’s mouth

2. 合骨 hé gǔ uniting bones


Tiger’s Mouth [虎口 hǔ kǒu] is a reference to the ability of the thumb and index finger to open wide like a tiger’s mouth, where the point is located in between. Moreover, and even more interesting, this point is a command point of the face and mouth [四總穴] and can treat many types of mouth [口 kǒu – mouth] and head disorders. As well, in Chinese astronomy tiger [虎 hǔ] is associated with the third branch [寅 yín] which is part of twelve earthly branches [十二地支] and with the lung organ. This point has a strong qi [氣 qì] effect in the body, therefore we can think that because the lung and large intestine are in interior-exterior [表裡 biào lǐ] relationship, this point actually effects the lungs, which are the “commander of qi” [肺主氣 fèi zhū qì] in the body.

2. Because the Chinese words for valley [谷 gǔ] and [骨 gǔ] bone have similar pronunciation, the name [合谷 hé gǔ] union valley or [合骨 hé gǔ] uniting bones serves as poetic mnemonic to remember that the point is located in between the the first and second metacarpal bones.


  1. Introduction to English Terminology of Chinese by Nigel Wiseman.
  2. Grasping the wind by Nigel Wiseman.
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