Taoist sexual practices

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A Chinese print depicting "The Joining of the Essences", based on Tang Dynasty art Heqi.JPG
A Chinese print depicting "The Joining of the Essences", based on Tang Dynasty art

Taoist sexual practices (simplified Chinese :房中术; traditional Chinese :房中術; pinyin :fángzhōngshù; lit. : 'arts of the bedchamber') are the ways Taoists may practice sexual activity. These practices are also known as "Joining Energy" or "The Joining of the Essences". Practitioners believe that by performing these sexual arts, one can stay in good health, and attain longevity or spiritual advancement. [1] [2] [3]



Some Taoist sects during the Han dynasty performed sexual intercourse as a spiritual practice, called "Héqì" (合氣, "Joining Energy").[ citation needed ] The first sexual texts that survive today are those found at the Mawangdui [ citation needed ]. While Taoism had not yet fully evolved as a philosophy at this time, these texts shared some remarkable similarities with later Tang dynasty texts, such as the Ishinpō (醫心方). The sexual arts arguably reached their climax between the end of the Han dynasty and the end of the Tang dynasty[ citation needed ].

After 1000 AD, Confucian restraining attitudes towards sexuality became stronger, so that by the beginning of the Qing dynasty in 1644, sex was a taboo topic in public life[ citation needed ]. These Confucians alleged that the separation of genders in most social activities existed 2,000 years ago and suppressed the sexual arts. Because of the taboo surrounding sex, there was much censoring done during the Qing in literature, and the sexual arts disappeared in public life[ citation needed ]. As a result, some of the texts survived only in Japan, and most scholars had no idea that such a different concept of sex existed in early China. [4]

Ancient and medieval practices

Qi (lifeforce) and Jing (essence)

The basis of all Taoist thinking is that qi () is part of everything in existence. [5] Qi is related to another energetic substance contained in the human body known as jing (), and once all this has been expended the body dies. Jing can be lost in many ways, but most notably through the loss of body fluids. Taoists may use practices to stimulate/increase and conserve their bodily fluids to great extents. The fluid believed to contain the most Jing is semen. Therefore, Taoists believe in decreasing the frequency of, or totally avoiding, ejaculation in order to conserve life essence. [6]

Male control of ejaculation

Many Taoist practitioners link the loss of ejaculatory fluids to the loss of vital life force: where excessive fluid loss results in premature aging, disease, and general fatigue. While some Taoists contend that one should never ejaculate, others provide a specific formula to determine the maximum amount of regular ejaculations in order to maintain health. [7] [8]

The general idea is to limit the loss of fluids as much as possible to the level of your desired practice. As these sexual practices were passed down over the centuries, some practitioners have given less importance to the limiting of ejaculation. This variety has been described as "...while some declare non-ejaculation injurious, others condemn ejaculating too fast in too much haste." [8] Nevertheless, the "retention of the semen" is one of the foundational tenets of Taoist sexual practice. [9]

There are different methods to control ejaculation prescribed by the Taoists. In order to avoid ejaculation, the man could do one of several things. He could pull out immediately before orgasm, a method also more recently termed as "coitus conservatus." [10] A second method involved the man applying pressure on the perineum, thus retaining the sperm. While if done incorrectly this can cause retrograde ejaculation, the Taoists believed that the jing traveled up into the head and "nourished the brain." [11]

Practice Control

Another important concept of "The Joining of the Essences" was that the union of a man and a woman would result in the creation of jing (), a type of sexual energy. When in the act of lovemaking, jing would form, and the man could transform some of this jing into qi, and replenish his lifeforce. By having as much sex as possible, men had the opportunity to transform more and more jing, and as a result would see many health benefits. [6]


The concept of Yin and yang is important in Taoism and consequently also holds special importance in sex. Yang usually referred to the male sex, whereas Yin could refer to the female sex. Man and Woman were the equivalent of heaven and earth, but became disconnected. Therefore, while heaven and earth are eternal, man and woman suffer a premature death. [12] Every interaction between Yin and Yang had significance. Because of this significance, every position and action in lovemaking had importance. Taoist texts described a large number of special sexual positions that served to cure or prevent illness, similar to the Kama Sutra. [13]


For Taoists, sex was not just about pleasing a man. [14] The woman also had to be stimulated and pleased in order to benefit from the act of sex. Su Nu, female advisor to the "Yellow Emperor" (Huang Di, 黄帝), noted 10 important indications of female satisfaction. [15] If sex were performed in this manner, the woman would create more jing, and the man could more easily absorb the jing to increase his own qi. [16] According to Jolan Chang, in early Chinese history, women played a significant role in the Dao () of loving, and that the degeneration into subordinate roles came much later in Chinese history. [17] Women were also given a prominent place in the Ishinpō, with the tutor being a woman. One of the reasons women had a great deal of strength in the act of sex was that they walked away undiminished from the act. The woman had the power to bring forth life, and did not have to worry about ejaculation or refractory period. To quote Laozi from the Dao De Jing: "The Spirit of the Valley is inexhaustible...Draw on it as you will, it never runs dry." [18]

Women also helped men extend their lives. Many of the ancient texts were dedicated explanations of how a man could use sex to extend his own life. But, his life was extended only through the absorption of the woman's vital energies (jing and qi). Some Daoists came to call the act of sex “the battle of stealing and strengthening.” [19] These sexual methods could be correlated with Daoist military methods. Instead of storming the gates, the battle was a series of feints and maneuvers that would sap the enemy's resistance. [20] Jolan points out that it was after the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-906) that "the Dao of Loving" was "steadily corrupted," and that it was these later corruptions that reflected battle imagery and elements of a "vampire" mindset. [21] Other research into early Daoism found more harmonious attitudes of Yin Yang communion. [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

Taoism Religious/philosophical tradition of Chinese origin

Taoism, or Daoism, is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasises living in harmony with the Tao. The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasising rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving "perfection" by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called "the way" or "tao". Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasise wu wei, "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 "compassion", 儉 "frugality", and 不敢為天下先 "humility".

Tao or Dao is a Chinese word signifying the "way", "path", "route", "road" or sometimes more loosely "doctrine", "principle" or "holistic beliefs". In the context of East Asian philosophy and East Asian religions, Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one's human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential for individual wisdom. This intuitive knowing of "life" cannot be grasped as a concept; it is known through actual living experience of one's everyday being.

Coitus reservatus, also known as sexual continence, is a form of sexual intercourse in which the penetrative partner does not attempt to ejaculate within the receptive partner, but instead attempts to remain at the plateau phase of intercourse for as long as possible, avoiding the seminal emission. It is distinct from death grip syndrome wherein the male has no volition in his emissionless state.

Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen which would be ejaculated via the urethra is redirected to the urinary bladder. Normally, the sphincter of the bladder contracts before ejaculation, sealing the bladder which besides inhibiting the release of urine also prevents a reflux of seminal fluids into the male bladder during ejaculation. The semen is forced to exit via the urethra, the path of least resistance. When the bladder sphincter does not function properly, retrograde ejaculation may occur. It can also be induced deliberately by a male as a primitive form of male birth control or as part of certain alternative medicine practices. The retrograde-ejaculated semen, which goes into the bladder, is excreted with the next urination.

Mantak Chia Thai author

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Daoyin Series of health-promoting exercises practiced by Daoists

Daoyin, also called Daoist neigong, is a series of body and mind unity exercises practiced by Daoists to cultivate jing (essence) and direct and refine qi, the internal energy of the body according to Traditional Chinese medicine. The practice of daoyin was a precursor of qigong, and was practised in Chinese Taoist monasteries for health and spiritual cultivation. Daoyin is also said to be a primary formative ingredient in the well-known "soft styles" of the Chinese martial arts, of Taiji quan. and middle road styles like Wuxingheqidao.

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Neidan esoteric doctrines and physical, mental, and spiritual practices in Taoism

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Jolan Chang was a Chinese-Canadian sexologist and Taoist philosopher who wrote the luminary classics on Eastern Sexuality The Tao of Love and Sex and The Tao of the Loving Couple. He was born in Hangzhou as the son of an army general. After the revolution he lived for a number of years in Canada, but later he moved to Sweden. He died in Stockholm.

<i>Ishinpō</i> literary work

Ishinpō is the oldest surviving Japanese medical text. It was completed in 984 by Tamba Yasuyori and is 30 volumes in length. The work is partly based on a Chinese medical work called Zhubing Yuanhou Lun, compiled by Sui Dynasty writer Chao Yuanfang. Many of the texts cited in Ishinpō have been lost in China, and have only survived to the present through their inclusion in the work. It is a national treasure of Japan.

Microcosmic orbit A Taoist qigong or tao yin qi energy cultivation technique

The microcosmic orbit (小周天), also known as the Self Winding Wheel of the Law, is a Taoist Qigong or tao yinqi energy cultivation technique. It involves deep breathing exercises in conjunction with meditation and concentration techniques which develop the flow of qi along certain pathways of energy in the human body which may be familiar to those who are studying traditional Chinese medicine, Qigong, T'ai chi ch'uan, Neidan and Chinese alchemy. The exercise can be performed usually at first in a sitting position, but it can also be practiced standing as in Zhan zhuang or with movements included as with T'ai chi ch'uan.

Way of the Five Pecks of Rice

The Way of the Five Pecks of Rice or the Way of the Celestial Master, commonly abbreviated to simply The Celestial Masters, was a Chinese Taoist movement founded by the first Celestial Master Zhang Daoling in 142 CE. At its height, the movement controlled a theocratic state in the Hanzhong valley, north of Sichuan. In 215 CE, the state was incorporated into Cao Cao's Kingdom of Wei, and the followers of the Celestial Master were dispersed all over China.

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Taoist meditation associated with the Chinese philosophy and religion of Taoism

Taoist meditation, also spelled "Daoist" refers to the traditional meditative practices associated with the Chinese philosophy and religion of Taoism, including concentration, mindfulness, contemplation, and visualization. The earliest Chinese references to meditation date from the Warring States period. Techniques of Daoist meditation are historically interrelated with Buddhist meditation, for instance, 6th-century Daoists developed guan 觀 "observation" insight meditation from Tiantai Buddhist anapanasati "mindfulness of breath" practices.

The Xiaodao Lun is an anti-Daoist polemic written in 570 for the Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou (543–578) by the Buddhist courtier Zhen Luan. After holding several inconclusive debates in the court, Emperor Wu commissioned the Xiaodao Lun as one of two reports examining the suitability of sponsoring either Buddhism or Daoism as a state religion for the Northern Zhou dynasty, with a view towards unifying China. The Xiaodao Lun mocked Daoist practices, accused Daoists of plagiarizing Buddhist texts, and portrayed the religion as dangerous to social stability. Its advice was disregarded by the Emperor, who supported the preservation of Daoism, but his dynasty was ultimately short-lived. Zhen Luan's Xiaodao Lun is preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon and is consulted for its quotations of Daoist texts that have not been preserved until today.

Women in Taoism

The roles of women in Taoism have differed from the traditional patriarchy over women in ancient and imperial China. Chinese women had special importance in some Taoist schools that recognized their transcendental abilities to communicate with deities, who frequently granted women with revealed texts and scriptures. Women first came to prominence in the Highest Clarity School, which was founded in the 4th century by a woman, Wei Huacun. The Tang dynasty (618-907) was a highpoint for the importance of Daoist women, when one-third of the Shangqing clergy were women, including many aristocratic Daoist nuns. The number of Daoist women decreased until the 12th century when the Complete Perfection School, which ordained Sun Bu'er as the only woman among its original disciples, put women in positions of power. In the 18th and 19th centuries, women Daoists practiced and discussed nüdan, involving gender-specific practices of breath meditation and visualization. Furthermore, Daoist divinities and cults have long traditions in China, for example, the Queen Mother of the West, the patron of xian immortality, He Xiangu, one of the Eight Immortals, and Mazu, the protectress of sailors and fishermen.


Contemporary texts

Classical texts


  1. "Tantric and Taoist Practices to Improve Sex". Psychology Today.
  3. "Tao of Sexology: Sexual Wisdom and Methods". www.thegreattao.com.
  4. Van Gulik (1961), preface
  5. Robinet (1997), p. 7
  6. 1 2 Wile (1992), p. 6.
  7. Wile (1992), p. 92.
  8. 1 2 North, Kris Deva. "Taoist Ejaculation Formulas". Healing Tao. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  9. Wile (1992), p. 46.
  10. van Gulik (1961)
  11. Wile (1993), p. 20.
  12. Wile (1992), p. 85.
  13. Wile (1992), p. 28.
  14. Chang (1977), p. 29
  15. Chang (1977), p. 32
  16. Reid (1989), p. 272
  17. Chang, (1977) p. 30
  18. Reid (1989), p. 273
  19. Wile (1992), p. 11.
  20. Wile (1992), p. 14.
  21. Chang (1977), p. 76
  22. Needham (1983)