The Three Treasures
Grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang presenting Three Treasures calligraphy - Jing, Qi, Shen
"If one understands the Dao (way) of heaven, earth and humanity and follows the Dao, one will live a long life"
- The Yellow Emperors Classic of Medicine.
The Three Treasures
In Chinese the number three is pronounced San. It is written as three horizontal lines symbolising the three layers of the Universe; Heaven, Earth and Humanity.
Three represents the creation of the universe.
The three treasures of the universe are heaven, earth and humanity
The three treasures of heaven are the sun, the moon and the stars.
The three treasures of earth are water, fire and wind.
The three treasures of man are Jing (Essence), Qi (Vital Energy) and Shen (Spirit).
Wuji is the mother of Taiji. There are two kinds of energy in Wuji; a light upward energy and a heavy sinking energy. From this movement of separation there is Taiji, Yin and Yang. This then brings forth the three treasures: Heaven, Earth and Humanity.
The name of the Three Treasures School was chosen to symbolise the essential purpose of our practice: The nurturing of mind, body and spirit; The cultivation of essence, energy and spirit.
What is Jing (essence)?
According to tradition, Jīng is stored in the kidneys and is the most dense physical energy within the body (as opposed to shén which is the most volatile). It is said to be the material basis for the physical body and is yin in nature, which means it nourishes, fuels, and cools the body. As such it is an important concept in taiji. Jīng is also believed by some to be the carrier of our heritage (similar to DNA). Production of semen, in the man, and menstrual blood (or pregnancy), in the woman, are believed to place the biggest strains on jīng. Because of this, some even equate jīng with semen, but this is inaccurate; the jīng circulates through the eight extraordinary vessels and creates marrow and semen, among other functions.
Jīng (精; essence) should not be confused with the related concept of Jin (power) nor with jīng (經; classic), which appears in many early Chinese book titles, such as the Nei Jing, Yi Jing and Cha Jing, the fundamental text on all the knowledge associated with tea.
One is said to be born with a fixed amount of jīng (pre-natal jīng, also sometimes called yuan Qi) and also can acquire jīng from food and various forms of stimulation (Qigong exercise, study, meditation.)
Theoretically, jīng is consumed continuously in life; by everyday stress, illness, substance abuse, sexual intemperance, etc.
Pre-natal jīng by definition cannot be renewed and it is said it is completely consumed upon dying.
What is Qi (Energy)?
In traditional Chinese culture Qi is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as "natural energy", "life force", or "energy flow". Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and taiji. In Chinese theory it is said to run along channels, called meridians, distributing energy around the entire body. Qi leads the blood. Taiji and Qigong seek to restore the flow of Qi and blood as do practitioners of TCM (Traditional Chines Medicine). See Tui Na massage in sidebar.
What is Shen (Spirit)?
Spirit as in being 'spirited' or 'in good spirits' rather than spiritual. We all recognise that when we are physically well we feel more buoyant in spirit.
Shen can be translated as "Spirit" or "Mind", and implies our consciousness, mental functions, mental health, vitality, and our "presence".
In TCM Shen is said to reside in the Heart, where it retires to sleep during the night. If the Shen is disturbed, there may be insomnia. Shen is specifically said to live in the Blood Vessels (part of the system of the Heart) and to be nourished by the Blood. In TCM pathology, therefore, deficient Blood may fail to nourish the Shen.
Shen is said to be visible in the eyes. Healthy Shen produces bright, shining eyes, with vitality. Disturbed Shen produces dull eyes, which seem to have a curtain in front of them - as if no one were behind them. Often seen in those with long-term emotional problems or after serious shock (even a shock that occurred a long time ago.)
In TCM healthy Shen is said to depend on the strength of the Jing (stored in Kidneys) and Qi (produced by Spleen and Stomach). Thus, Shen is dependent on the Prenatal Jing and the Postnatal Jing. If Jing and Qi are healthy, the Shen will be nourished. As mentioned above, the Shen lives in the Blood Vessels, part of the Heart system in TCM. Blood is closely related to Qi, and is formed from the Postnatal Jing derived from food and fluids, hence Blood formation is simultaneous with that of the formation of Qi.
Jing, Qi and Shen are the "three treasures" in TCM. They represent three different states of condensation of Qi, ranging from Jing (more fluid, more material) to Qi, more rarefied, and Shen, more rarefied and immaterial.