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Diagnostic Methods - Class 09
Chinese Medicine Diagnostic Methods
By: David Botton

Pulse Qualities

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Pulse Qualities



Large / big (da mai)

thick/wide and felt over finger tip

heat in in stomach / intestines

Thready / fine / thin (xi mai)

thin/fine but very distinct and clear




qi or blood

yin and blood of weak constitution

if extremely find and barely felt

Faint / minute pulse (wei mai)

extreme deficiency


Long (chang mai)

feels like it stretches beyond its position

if also String-taut sign of excess

Short (duan mai)

does not full the length of its position

deficient Qi

String-taut / Wiry / Bowstring (xuan mai)

feels taut, straight and long like taut violin string

liver / gall bladder disorders


phlegm and retained fluids

Tense / tight (jin mai)

feels tight and forceful like stretched rope, thicker than String-taut



retention of food


Deficient / empty / vacuous (xu mai)

deficient Qi or Blood

forceless pulse

Excess / full / replete (shi mai)

excessive Qi or Blood

forceful pulse

if large, roaring waves, (rapid)

Surging / Flooding Pulse (hong mai)

superficial large pulse enters with force and leaves weak

excess heat


Superficial / Floating (fu mai)

felt strong at first touch but with pressure disappears

external invasion

weak and rapid (no external symptoms)

deficiency of yin

strong (no external symptoms)

interior wind

if thready

Soft / soggy pulse (ru mai)

superficial,  thready (thin) and with out force

damp disorders

deficient blood or jing

if hard and large

Drum-skin / leather pulse (ge mai)

deficient blood or jing

if forceless and large

Scallion-stalk / hollow pulse (kong / kou mai)

deficient / loss of blood

if pulse has no feeling of boundry

Scattered pulse (san mai)

Kidney yang exhaustion

Deep / Sinking (chen mai)

only distinct with deep pressure

disharmony internal


excess interior condition


interior deficiency

if thready

Weak / frail pulse (ruo mai)

deep, thready (thin) and with out force

deficiency of both blood and Qi

if only felt close to bone

Hidden pules (fu mai)

if strong cold obstructing meridians

if weak deficient yang

if hard and large

Confined / prison pulse (lao mai)


Rolling / slippery (hua mai)

constant uninhibited flow like a rolling perl on a dish

phlegm / retained fluids

retention of food and excess heat

during pregnancy

if rapid and forceful

Stirring / spinning bean / moving pulse (dong mai)

Hesitant / choppy (se mai)

slow/relaxed and thing with rough and uneven feeling of slowing and quickening

stagnation of Qi or blood

also forceful

impairment of essence (jing) and deficiency of blood

Regularly Intermittent / Regularly interrupted (dai mai)

slow and week with a pattern of missing beats even long stops

declining Zang qi

wind syndromes

painful syndromes

disorders due to fear and fright

traumatic contusions or sprains

if long stops - advanced cardiac disease


Slow (chi mai)

less than 4bps per breath

< 60bpm



excess yin


deficiency of yang

if missing beats

Knotted / bound pulse (jie mai)

slow with irregular missing beats

excessive yin

accumulation of Qi

retention of cold phlegm and stagnant blood

Rapid (shu mai)

faster than 5bps per breath

> 90bpm



excess yang


deficiency of yin

if missing beats

Abrupt / hurried / skipping (cu mai)

hurried and rapid with irregular missing beats

excessive yang heat

stagnation of Qi and Blood

retention of phlegm or food

Moderate (huan mai)

4 bps per breath

~ 60bpm

Racing (ji mai)

7-8 bps per breath

> 120bpm

(c) 2005 All Rights Reserved - David Botton