Chapter Three of the Mai Jing explains the meaning of the names of the pulse positions, the cun, guan and chi.
The word cun means measurement. The art of pulse taking is the art of making measurements of the movement of Yin and Yang. The cun position is in the area of LU-9, the Qi Mouth.
The word guan means gateway. Sometimes this is translated as barrier. The Middle Jiao and in particular a healthy Spleen, is the gateway to health. The Liver is also at the guan position; the Liver is the gateway between the Upper and Lower Jiaos. It’s also the gateway to various levels of consciousness, and provides entrée to the collective unconscious.
The word chi means pattern, as in a tailor’s pattern or a pattern maker’s design grid. Through the chi position we can see the pattern that has been laid out in the constitution, the template from which the patient’s life is being played out. The themes of our lives are created from a pattern or template stored in the Jing-Essence. At any moment we are constitutionally expressing our pattern, our destiny as it stands at that moment.
The word chi also translates as 10 cun. To look into the chi pulse is to see 10 cun into the Yuan level. Clearly, the pulse cannot literally be 10 cun deep anatomically, so this refers to the possibility of seeing very deeply into the constitution, the destiny, the Will, the curriculum of that life. To be able to see to a depth of ten cun at the chi position means to be able to obtain a reading of the unlimited depth of the constitution. With practice, there’s no limit to what one can discern from the chi pulse. We can even see past trauma there. If you inquire about an event that you might sense in the chi position and it becomes tight while you are talking about it, the memory of that period might be very traumatic. As practitioners we can bring these events into consciousness to enable the patient to heal from insults to the Jing-Essence. Healing is not to prevent death, but to free the patient from constraints in the passage of life.
…the pulse enables us to measure (cun) movements through the gateway (guan) that is the pulse and understand the pattern (chi) that is the marked template expressing from the curriculum—the program of one’s life stored in the Kidneys.