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The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 1 of 4 NCCA Study Guide

Strength
Kaptchuk CAM Description
EMPTY
(xu mai)
Pulse of
Deficiency
Type
Big but soft and weak-balloon partially filled with water.
Feels empty on heavier palpation and often slow
Yin pulse
Qi & Blood deficiency
SOGGY
(ru mai)
Soft
Combination of thin, empty, and floating pulses
Extremely soft, it is less clear than a thin pulse and is perceptible only in
superficial position. The slightest pressure makes it disappear.
Yin pulse
Deficient Blood or Jing and sometimes Damp
SCATTERED
(san mai)
N/A
Floating, big and weaksimilar to empty. It is larger and less distinct than the
empty and tends to be felt as it recedes.
Yin pulse
KI Yang exhausted and floating away.
FULL
(shi mai)
Pulse of
excess type
Big and strong, pounding against all 3 fingers at all levels
Yang pulse
Sign of excess
Depth
Kaptchuk CAM Description
FLOATING
(fu mai)
Superficial
Superficial, buoyant w/very light palpation but obscured w/ heavier palp.
Yang pulse type
Floating & tight or rapid = EPF, Floating & empty = yin def.
HOLLOW
(kong mai)
N/A
Feels like the stem of a green onionsolid on outside but empty within.
Yin pulse
Deficient Blood and often seen after great loss of blood.
LEATHER
(ge mai)
N/A
Combination of wiry and floating, with aspects of empty. Feels like the tight skin
on top of a drum.
Yin pulse
Deficient Blood or Jing
DEEP/SINKING
(chen mai)
Deep
Sinking, found with heavier palpation
Yin pulse type
Yin organ conditions: qi & yang def. (weak) or qi or blood stasis (full)
FRAIL
(ruo mai)
Weak
Soft, weak and somewhat thin. Usually felt at the deep level.
Yin pulse
Extremely deficient qi/yang.
HIDDEN
(fu mai)
N/A
Deep as if below bone
Yin pulse
If strong = Cold obstr. the channels, If weak = Def. yang cant raise pulse.
CONFINED/
PRISON (lao mai)
N/A
Very deep and wiry, and usually long and strong. Form of Hidden.
Yang within Yin
Obstruction due to Cold

The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 2 of 4 NCCA Study Guide



Width
Kaptchuk CAM Description
THIN/FINE
(xi mai)
Thready
Distinct & clear, like a fine thread
Yin pulse
Blood deficiency (will fill out with tx, esp. with moxa) and often qi defic.
MINUTE
(wei mai)
N/A
Fine and soft but lacks the clarity of the thin pulse
Barely perceptible and seems to disappear.
Yin pulse
Severe qi and blood deficiency
FLOODING
(hong mai)
Surging
Surges with the strength of a big pulse to hit the fingers at all 3 depths, but
leaves with less strength, like a receding wave.
Yin in Yang
Heat has injured Fluids and Yin.
BIG/WIDE
(da mai)
N/A
Distinct & broad
Yang pulse
Heat in Stomach or Intestines
LONG
(chang mai)
N/A
Perceptible beyond the 1
st
and 3
rd
positions.
Yang pulse
This is OK unless it is also tight and wirythen it is excess or heat
SHORT
(duan mai)
N/A
Doesnt fill spaces under the 3 fingers and usually felt in only one position.
Yin pulse
Qi deficiency
Rhythm
Kaptchuk CAM Description
KNOTTED
(jie mai)
Knotted
Slow pulse that misses beats irregularly
Yin pulse
Cold obstructing qi or blood or deficiency (qi, blood or jing)
It is a sign that the HT isnt properly ruling the Blood.
HURRIED
(cue mai)
Abrupt
Fast pulse that misses beats irregularly
Yang pulse
Heat agitating qi and blood
INTERMITTENT
(dai mai)
Regularly
intermittent
Misses more beats than Knotted or Hurried but beats in a regular rhythm
Yin pulse
Serious HT disharmony or Yin organ deficiency/exhaustion
MODERATE
(huan mai)
N/A
Healthy, perfectly balanced pulse
Normal in depth, speed, strength and width
Dont need this to be considered healthy.
Sometimes considered slightly slippery

The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 3 of 4 NCCA Study Guide



Speed
Kaptchuk CAM Description
RAPID
(shu mai)
Rapid
More than 5 beats per respiration or higher than the given normal rate
Yang pulse type
Heat is indicated
SPINNING BEAN/
MOVING (dong
mai)
N/A
Combo of Short, Tight, Slippery and Rapid.
Felt only in one pos. & is incomplete, without head and tail, like a bean.
Yang pulse
Shock, heart palpitations, anxiety, fright, fever or pain
SLOW
(chi mai)
Slow
Less than 4 beats per respiration or lower than the normal rate
Yin pulse type
Cold is indicated
Shape
Kaptchuk CAM Description
SLIPPERY
(hua mai)
Rolling
Very fluid. Slides under the finger, smooth & oily. Common in Pregnancy
Yang within Yin
Full = damp or phlegm
Empty = damp or phlegm with qi deficiency
CHOPPY
(se mai)
Hesitant
Uneven, rough, jagged edges
Can be irregular in rhythm & strength
Yin pulse usually
When thin = Blood or Jing deficiency
When full = Congealed Blood
WIRY
(xuan mai)
String-taut
Taut, hard, like a guitar string pushing against the fingers evenly at all
levels. No fluidity. Can be deficient or full
Yang pulse
LR/GB stagnation, problems or pain or phlegm causing obstructions
TIGHT
(jin mai)
Tense
Strong and seems to bounce from side to side like a taut rope. Fuller and
more elastic than wiry. It vibrates, can seem faster than it is.
Yang within Yin
Excess, Cold/pain and stagnation












The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 4 of 4 NCCA Study Guide


The Normal Pulse

Has Stomach qi (superficial level)
o Feels gentle
Theres a connection but it in no way invades another person.
Its not insubstantial.

o Feels calm
Trees nicely swaying in the wind, no disturbance or agitation.
It feels like a cow chewing cud.

o Has 4 beats per respiration (you can use the rhythm of your breath to count if the persons is
erratic)

Has Spirit (middle level
o Soft
The pulse shouldnt be malleableit should be soft on outside and strong and resilient on inside.

o Neither big nor small

o Regular in rhythm & quality
Its not intermittent or missing beats and there are no speed changes.

Has a Root (deep level
o There is clarity in the deep position (yin) and in the 3
rd
pulse positions.
o Clarity = pulse should be a distinct entity


Normal Pulse Rates
Age Rate
0-4 90+
4-10 84
10-35 76-80
35-50 70-72
50+ 68