The Chinese Body Clock: How (and When) “Chi” Flows

chinese medicine

The Chinese Body Clock is integral to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Ancient physicians believed that chi — vital force or energy — circulates throughout the body every 24 hours.

The Chinese Body Clock is divided into twelve 2-hour intervals. At each interval, chi passes through a meridian represented by an organ system. The featured organ will be at its most abundant or strongest.

Since another important aspect of TCM is balance (yin and yang), there is also an opposite organ at its weakest during each interval.

The Chinese Body Clock encourages us to harmonize our activities to chi, and by doing so, maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit.

The 24-Hour Chinese Body Clock

3:00 to 5:00 a.m. – Lungs

This interval represents the start of the 24-hour clock. The lungs are at peak condition, making it an ideal time to meditate or do breathing exercises.

Fill your body with oxygen to keep it warm and functioning well throughout the day.

A lung chi imbalance may manifest as grief or sadness.

5:00 to 7:00 a.m. – Large Intestine

As chi moves through the large intestine, this is the optimal time for bowel movement. Honoring this function allows you to release all the toxins from the day before and start your day anew.

It’s an excellent time to let go of unhelpful thoughts so positive chi can flow more efficiently through the body.

A large intestine chi imbalance can make you feel trapped or want to be rescued.

7:00 to 9:00 a.m. – Stomach

Digestion and absorption will be working optimally during this time. That may be why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As such, make sure that you eat a hearty and balanced one.

An imbalance in your stomach chi may bring out feelings of disgust or despair.

9:00 to 11:00 a.m. – Spleen

In TCM, the spleen is associated with mental processing. With chi flowing here, you can think clearly and be more productive.

An explanation for this is that food is being digested, and energy is released throughout the body. As such, this is a great time to get work done.

An imbalance in your spleen chi may appear as low self-esteem.

11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Heart

Your heart is working optimally during this time, so it’s best to pursue heartwarming or emotionally-grounding activities such as having lunch with friends or doing a short meditation. You can also focus on your passion or activities that give you a sense of purpose.

An imbalance in your heart chi can manifest as extreme joy or sadness.

1:00 to 3:00 p.m. – Small Intestine

Just as the small intestine absorbs and filters, you can utilize chi flow by engaging in discernment.

Use this time to make important decisions or review challenging issues. If your energy is low, you can also take a short nap.

An imbalance in your small intestine chi may arouse feelings of abandonment.

3:00 to 5:00 p.m. – Bladder

This is the time the bladder releases fluids accumulated throughout the day. It is also a good opportunity to release negative thoughts and feelings.

A cup of tea during this time is an excellent way to detox and replenish.

A bladder chi imbalance can make you feel irritated or timid.

5:00 to 7:00 p.m. – Kidney

The kidney doesn’t just regulate body fluids. In TCM, the kidney plays a significant role in maintaining yin and yang balance. Take the opportunity to pause and recharge.

Have a light but nourishing dinner to replenish your nutrients. You can also activate your circulation by walking, getting a massage, or stretching your body.

A kidney chi imbalance can bring about feelings of terror or fear.

7:00 to 9:00 p.m. – Pericardium

As chi flows through your pericardium, it is strongest at protecting your heart. To honor this function, you can show love and support for the people in your life. Take time to nurture these relationships. This is also an ideal time for intimacy with your partner.

Similarly, show love and compassion for yourself by engaging in self-care activities.

An imbalance in your heart chi can make it difficult to express your true feelings.

9:00 to 11:00 p.m. – Triple Burner

Triple Burner or “San Jiao” refers to the restorative functions of organs in your upper, middle, and lower cavities. As the body adjusts and replenishes, this is also the best time to wind down and relax.

Quiet the body with gentle stretching, a calming meditation, or cuddling with your loved one.

This meridian also aligns with the circadian rhythm, and the body secretes melatonin to prepare for sleep.

An imbalanced triple burner chi can make you feel paranoid or confused.

11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. – Gall Bladder

As chi reaches the gall bladder, the body can regenerate and repair itself. Yin energy starts to fade, and yang energy starts to emerge.

As such, thinking is less clear, and it may arouse negative emotions. You can balance this out by focusing on the day’s positive events and practicing gratitude.

The spike of chi energy may predispose you to overthink but try your best to go to bed.

A gall bladder chi imbalance can make it challenging to make decisions.

1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. – Liver

This is the time the body starts detoxifying and releasing toxins to produce new blood. To ensure smooth chi, you should be asleep.

It may indicate a liver chi imbalance if you wake up a lot. You may feel anger, resentment, or frustration. A quick mindfulness routine can help calm your thoughts.

Harnessing Chi as it Flows Through Your Body

With the fast pace of modern life, we rarely have the time to slow down. The Chinese Body Clock gives us the opportunity to examine what we do throughout the day. We can become more intentional and match our actions to the natural flow of chi. When we’re able to achieve balance, we can lead healthier and happier lives.


Photo by Leon Gao on Unsplash



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1 comment on “The Chinese Body Clock: How (and When) “Chi” Flows

  1. This is very interesting and unique for me. The flow of the chi shows us the healthy way of living life.

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