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The Three Treasures or Three Jewels (Chinese : 三 寶 ; pinyin :sānbǎo; Wade–Giles :san-pao) are theoretical cornerstones in traditional Chinese medicine and practices such as neidan , qigong , and tai chi . They are also known as jing, qi, and shen (Chinese :精氣神; pinyin :jīng-qì-shén; Wade–Giles :ching ch'i shen; "essence, breath, and spirit").
Jing, qi, and shen are three of the main notions shared by Taoism and Chinese culture alike. They are often referred to as the Three Treasures (sanbao三寶), an expression that immediately reveals their importance and the close connection among them. The ideas and practices associated with each term, and with the three terms as a whole, are complex and vary considerably in different contexts and historical periods.— Despeux 2008, p. 562
This Chinese name sanbao originally referred to the Daoist "Three Treasures" from the Daodejing , chapter 67: "pity", "frugality", and "refusal to be 'foremost of all things under heaven'". It has subsequently also been used to refer to the jing, qi, and shen and to the Buddhist Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). This latter use is misleading, however, as the Three Jewels in Buddhism is a completely different philosophy. The Buddha is the teacher, the Dharma is the teaching, and the Sangha is the community. The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the external supports for achieving realization, while the Three Treasures of Daoism are interior qualities or attitudes to be cultivated.
In long-established Chinese traditions, the "Three Treasures" are the essential energies sustaining human life:
This jing-qi-shen ordering is more commonly used than the variants qi-jing-shen and shen-qi-jing.
The Daoist "Mind-Seal Scripture of the Exalted Jade Sovereign" (Gaoshang yuhuang xinyin jing (高上玉皇心印經), or the "Imprint of the Heart" (Xinyin jing), is a valuable early source about the Three Treasures.
Probably dating from the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), this anonymous text presents a simple and concise discussion of internal alchemy ( neidan 內丹). In particular, it emphasizes the so-called Three Treasures (sanbao三寶), namely, vital essence (jing精), subtle breath (qi氣), and spirit (shen神).— Komjathy 2004, p. 29
Frederic H. Balfour's brief 1884 essay about the "Imprint of the Heart" (Xinyin jing) contains the earliest known Western reference to the Three Treasures:
"There are three degrees of Supreme Elixir – the Spirit, the Breath, and the Essential Vigour."
In neidan ("internal alchemy") practice, transmuting the Three Treasures is expressed through the sequence:
Both Neidan, Neo-Confucianism and Traditional Chinese Medicine distinguish the between "priheaven" (xiantian先天), referring to what is innate or natural, and "post heaven" (houtian後天), referring to what is acquired in the course of life.
The former are the "three origins" (Sanyuan三元):
The Huainanzi (c. 2nd century BCE) relates qi and shen to xing 形 ("form; shape; body"):
The bodily form [xing] is the residence of life; the qi fills this life while shen controls it. If either of them loses their proper position, they will all come to harm.
The Journey to the West (late 16th century CE) novel refers to the Three Treasures when an enlightened Daoist patriarch instructs Sun Wukong ("Monkey") with a poem that begins:
Know well this secret formula wondrous and true:
Spare and nurse the vital forces, this and nothing else.
All power resides in the semen [jing], the breath [qi], and the spirit [shen];
Guard these with care, securely, lest there be a leak.
Lest there be a leak!
Keep within the body!
Liuhebafa quan is an internal Chinese martial art. It has been called "xinyi liuhebafa" (心意六合八法拳) and is also referred to as "water boxing" due to its principles.
Dantian is a concept in traditional Chinese medicine loosely translated as "elixir field", "sea of qi", or simply "energy center". Dantian are the "qi focus flow centers", important focal points for meditative and exercise techniques such as qigong, martial arts such as tai chi, and in traditional Chinese medicine.
The Three Treasures or Three Jewels are basic virtues in Taoism. Although the Tao Te Ching originally used sanbao to mean "compassion", "frugality", and "humility", the term was later used to translate the Three Jewels in Chinese Buddhism, and to mean the Three Treasures in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Chinese alchemy is an ancient Chinese scientific and technological approach to alchemy, a part of the larger tradition of Taoist body-spirit cultivation developed from the traditional Chinese understanding of medicine and the body. According to original texts such as the Cantong qi, the body is understood as the focus of cosmological processes summarized in the five agents of change, or Wuxing, the observation and cultivation of which leads the practitioner into alignment and harmony with the Tao. Therefore, the traditional view in China is that alchemy focuses mainly on longevity and the purification of one's spirit, mind and body, providing, health, longevity and wisdom, through the practice of Qigong and wuxingheqidao. The consumption and use of various concoctions known as alchemical medicines or elixirs, each of which having different purposes but largely were concerned with immortality.
Neidan, or internal alchemy, is an array of esoteric doctrines and physical, mental, and spiritual practices that Taoist initiates use to prolong life and create an immortal spiritual body that would survive after death. Also known as Jindan, inner alchemy combines theories derived from external alchemy, correlative cosmology, the emblems of the Yijing, and medical theory, with techniques of Taoist meditation, daoyin gymnastics, and sexual hygiene.
Three Treasures or Three Jewels may refer to:
The Wuzhen pian is a 1075 Taoist classic on Neidan-style internal alchemy. Its author Zhang Boduan was a Song dynasty scholar of the Three teachings.
The Xiuzhen tu is a Daoist diagram of the human body illustrating the preventative Chinese medical principles called Neidan'internal alchemy', incorporating Chinese astrology, and cosmology.
The Neijing Tu is a Daoist "inner landscape" diagram of the human body illustrating Neidan'internal alchemy', Wu Xing, Yin and Yang, and Chinese mythology.
Bigu is a Daoist fasting technique associated with achieving xian "transcendence; immortality". Grain avoidance is related to multifaceted Chinese cultural beliefs. For instance, bigu fasting was the common medical cure for expelling the sanshi 三尸 "Three Corpses", the malevolent, grain-eating spirits that live in the human body, report their host's sins to heaven every 60 days, and carry out punishments of sickness and early death. Avoiding "grains" has been diversely interpreted to mean not eating particular foodstuffs, or not eating any food (inedia). In the historical context of traditional Chinese culture within which the concept of bigu developed, there was great symbolic importance connected with the five grains and their importance in sustaining human life, exemplified in various myths and legends from ancient China and throughout subsequent history. The concept of bigu developed in reaction to this tradition, and within the context of Daoist philosophy.
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.
Liu Yiming (1734–1821) (刘一明) was a Chinese Taoist master, thinker, and writer. He was one of the main representatives of Taoist Internal Alchemy, or Neidan. He was an 11th-generation master of one of the northern branches of the Longmen 龍門 lineage, and the author of a large number of works that illustrate his views on both Taoism and Neidan.
The c. 350 BCE Neiye 內業 or Inward Training is the oldest Chinese received text describing Daoist breath meditation techniques and qi circulation. After the Guanzi, a political and philosophical compendium, included the Neiye around the 2nd century BCE, it was seldom mentioned by Chinese scholars until the 20th century, when it was reevaluated as a "proto-Daoist" text that clearly influenced the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, and other classics. Neiye traditions also influenced Chinese thought and culture. For instance, it had the first references to cultivating the life forces jing "essence", qi "vital energy", and shen "spirit", which later became a fundamental concept in Daoist Neidan "internal alchemy", as well as the Three Treasures in traditional Chinese medicine.
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 Taoist nuns. The number of Taoist 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 Taoists practiced and discussed nüdan, involving gender-specific practices of breath meditation and visualization. Furthermore, Taoist 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.
In religious Daoism and Traditional Chinese medicine, yangsheng, refers to various self-cultivaton practices aimed at enhancing health and longevity. Yangsheng techniques include calisthenics, self-massage, breath exercises, meditation, internal and external Daoist alchemy, sexual activities, and dietetics.
Shengtai is a Chinese syncretic metaphor for achieving Buddhist liberation or Daoist transcendence. The circa fifth century CE Chinese Buddhist Humane King Sutra first recorded shengtai describing the bodhisattva path towards attaining Buddhahood; shengtai was related with the more familiar Indian Mahayana concept of tathāgatagarbha ("embryo/womb of the Buddha", Chinese rulaizang that all sentient beings are born with the Buddha-nature potential to become enlightened. The Chan Buddhist teaching master Mazu Daoyi first mentioned post-enlightenment zhangyang shengtai, and by the tenth century Chan monks were regularly described as recluses nurturing their sacred embryo in isolated locations. The renowned Daoist Zhang Boduan was first to use the expression shengtai in a context of physiological neidan Internal Alchemy, and neidan adepts developed prolonged meditation techniques through which one can supposedly become pregnant, gestate, and give birth to a spiritually perfected doppelganger.
Taixi refers to Daoist meditation and neidan Inner Alchemy methods, the principle of which is to breathe like an embryo or fetus in the womb, without using nose or mouth. Techniques developed for embryonic breathing include xingqi, biqi, fuqi, and taishi.
Chinese xingqi is a group of breath-control techniques that have been developed and practiced from the Warring States period to the present. Examples include Traditional Chinese medicine, Daoist meditation, daoyin breathing calisthenics, taixi embryonic breathing, neidan internal alchemy, neigong internal exercises, qigong deep-breathing exercises, and taijiquan slow-motion martial art. Since the polysemous keyword qi can mean natural "breath; air" and/or alleged supernatural "vital breath; life force", xingqi signifies "circulating breath" in meditational contexts or "activating vital breath" in medical contexts.
The Xingming guizhi is a comprehensive Ming dynasty (1368-1644) text on neidan self-cultivation techniques, which syncretistically quotes sources from the Three teachings of Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, and is richly illustrated with over fifty illustrations that later texts widely copied. The classic Xingming guizhi has been republished for over four centuries, from its first woodblock edition in 1615 to digital versions in the present.
Huanjing bunao (還精補腦, " is a Daoist sexual practice and yangsheng method aimed at maintaining arousal for an extended plateau phase while avoiding orgasm. According to this practice, retaining unejaculated jing supposedly allows it to rise through the spine to nourish the brain and enhance overall well-being. Daoist adepts have been exploring various methods to avoid ejaculation for more than two thousand years. These range from meditative approaches involving breath-control or visualization to manual techniques such as pressing the perineum or squeezing the urethra.