Taoism: The Three Dantians

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Have you heard about the concept of "San Bao", the 3 Treasures ?

"In the sky there are three Treasures: the Sun, the Moon and the Stars.
In Man, there are also Three Treasures: the Jing, the Qi and the Shen."
- Taoist proverb

San Bao is the basis of the Chinese energy system, directly from ... Alchemy ! 🧪


According to the Taoist tradition, the human life span is of the order of a hundred years, but few people reach this advanced age, because they live in contradiction with Nature.

Jing QI Shen - The 3 Treasures

In order to re-establish a natural balance, the Taoists developed, in two methods, what is called the art of longevity, which was then taken up and developed by Traditional Chinese Medicine ☯.

The first "Wai Dan" or external cinnabar uses medicines made from minerals. We will come back to this in the second part of this article. The second one, "Nei Dan" consists in an internal work on the 3 Treasures that are Jing, Qi and Shen:

mind body

1) Jing

Jing is associated with the physical body, tissues and blood, matter as the fundamental substance that composes and maintains the functioning of every living being. It is the essence of life 🧠.

Jing, whose Chinese ideogram is complex, also refers, depending on the context, to :  "purified, essence, extraction, perfect, excellent, meticulous, subtle, elegant, sharp, gifted, competent, energy, spirit, sperm, seed, extremely, elf, spirits, demon".

Restore Jing Energy

  • Eat healthy food with as little chemical additives as possible
  • Sleep in the most restorative areas (before midnight)
  • Nourish harmony in friendships and sexuality

2) Qi

Qi is the energy or breath that activates vital functions. Thus Qi can be translated "steam, breath, air, atmosphere, the animation of life (composed of the rhythms Yin and Yang), the vital energy that produces, animates and maintains all forms.

Qi is the air all around us and the oxygen in the air. Qi is the oxygen transported by hemoglobin from our lungs to all the tissues of our body. And Qi is also the carbon dioxide and methane that escape from our various orifices. 

Balance your Qi

  • Clean the energetic flow (meridians) through acupuncture, massages (Shiatsu, Tuina) and herbal medicine
  • Mobilizing the body through Qigong exercises
  • Develop your respiratory capacity

    energy flow

    3) Shen

    Shen is consciousness, or mind: it is the sum total of all mental, emotional and intellectual activities. Thus Shen is also translated as :  "God, divinity, supernatural, magical, mental, expression, look, elegant, intelligent".

    It is said that Shen Spirit is governed by the heart (Xin), the monarch of the internal organs ♥️. The Chinese word Xin means both heart and mind. And Xin is considered to be the seat of consciousness.

    How to Increase Shen Energy ?

    • Meditating in silence
    • Walking in Nature
    • Read and study sacred texts

    qi energy

    Energy arts such as Qi gong allow to regulate and balance these 3 Treasures:

    • Jing: Nourishing vitality
    • Qi: Regulating energy
    • Shen: Peace of mind

    Jing, Qi and Shen are inseparable and interdependent🔗. For example, without a sufficient supply of Qi, Jing will run out and Shen will be restless. If Shen is not relaxed, this in turn will affect breathing and the ability to produce and retain Jing will also be affected.

    In everyday life we are constantly asked to "get out" of our centers: computers, smartphones, television, mental and physical over activity, lack of sleep, etc... Dispersion is one of the main sources of loss of vital energy and therefore in the long run it can affect our health.

    🥋 Qigong exercises have proven themselves for thousands of years and allow you to regain vitality and happiness.

    On an alchemical level, this inner work consists in transforming Jing into Qi, and Qi into Shen in order to spiritualize matter and develop one's consciousness. The image of the cauldron (cooking of matter that produces steam) in the Taoist tradition refers to this.

    energy healing

    Where Are The Dantians Located ?

    Each one of the functions mentioned above is associated with a major vital energy center or Dantian (which can be translated by elixir fields.) These 3 centers produce and coordinate all the vital functions (in particular that of the 5 "noble organs"; heart, lung, liver, spleen, kidneys) of the body and the spirit.

    The location of the three Dantians is in correspondence with their functions:


    1) Lower Dantian

    The Lower Dantian or Xià Dāntián, point 6VC (Design Vessel or Ren Mai): It is located 2 or 3 fingers below the navel, 2 fingers inward.

    🌍 It is associated with the earth. It is often called Dantian by extension, it is the one that is most often cited. At the end of each exercise, the energy is brought back to the Dantian. It is related to the earthly energies Yin, Jing (the essence). It is associated with life force and sexual energy. Acupuncture point: Qihai.

    2) Median Dantian

    The Median Dantian or Zhōng Dāntián, point 17VC: Less often cited, it is located in the chest at the solar plexus, between the breasts.

    The Median Dantian is associated with man.  It is related to the Yin and Yang energies, the Qi (the breath) ☯. It is associated with the breathing "Zong Qi". The energy of the food "Gu Qi" and the Prenatal Qi (genetic inheritance) "Yuan Qi". Point of accupuncture: Tanzhong.

    3) Superior Dantian

    The Superior Dantian (Upper Dantian) or Shàng Dāntián corresponding to the sky, it is located at the level of the skull, precisely between the eyebrows.

    👁️ It is also called the "3rd eye".  It is in relation with the celestial energies Yang, Shen (the spirit). It is associated with consciousness. Point of accupuncture: Yintang.

    These three vital points are used in particular in the "Iron Shirt Qi gong", one of the most famous Qi gong in China, designed to strengthen the bones, fascias (organ wrappings) for a healthy ... iron !

    The practice of Qi Gong, through movement and thought, allows to:

    • Cleanse the metabolism by refining energy and eliminating toxins.
    • Accumulate energy in the 3 centers
    • To balance the 3 energies Jing, Qi, Shen (internal alchemical phase)

    life force energy

    Dantian Breathing

    The practice of dantian breathing has effects on the free circulation of energy, on warming the body, on the feeling of defativation, of having clearer ideas, of needing less sleep and of having more tonus.

    Dantian Breathing Method:

    Breathing is done through the nose when inhaling and exhaling 👃. It should be done in a natural way; we are only the observer of what is happening. Make sure that the lungs do not seem to fill up, that the ribs do not or as little as possible move apart and that the clavicles do not rise.

    • At the beginning, we can imagine a balloon placed in the lower abdomen, at the level of the perineum, which dilates by a strong thrust of air on the walls of the abdomen on inhalation and retracts on exhalation, the air then concentrates in the center of the balloon.
    • When one is comfortable with the process, one begins to lengthen the breath more and more, so that consciousness becomes one with the breath. We let the balloon inflate and deflate by itself, rather than actively breathing, while performing our Qi Gong movements or static postures.

    I would advise a beginner to learn how to breathe through the elongated lower abdomen, by placing the Lao Gong point - located in the center of his palm - on his Dan Tian, 2 fingers below the navel.

    Then, he will be able to practice breathing sitting on the edge of a chair, on his pins and straight back. Finally, he will breathe standing, naturally, rooting himself well towards the ground to capture the energy of the Earth and expelling the worn energy through the fontanel, the tips of his fingers and feet. 

    Taoist Alchemy

    Cinnabar is a term coming from alchemy, it is called "dragon's blood". It is actually mercury sulfide. In the 4th century BC, Taoist monks developed alchemy 🔮.

    This discipline, which brings together cosmological knowledge, beliefs and secret initiatory practices, aims at the transmutation of metals into gold and the realization of an elixir of long life.

    healing techniques

    1) External Alchemy - Waidan

    Thanks to cinnabar, Taoist alchemists succeeded in extracting gold from the ore more efficiently than by gold panning, the only technique known until then. Cinnabar is also used to obtain an immortality pill or a long-life elixir 💊. 

    The lords of the Hans dynasty (206 BC - 220) ordered these famous pills from their alchemists. The result is that many of them died from it. The term "Waidan" or "external cinnabar" is used to refer to external alchemy.


    2) Inner Alchemy - Neidan

    Other Taoist monks practice internal alchemy, "Neidan" or "internal cinnabar" by practices combining work of the body and the spirit. To reach immortality, the breath (Qi), the essence (Jing or Ching) and the spirit (Shen) are the necessary and sufficient materials.

    Ge Hong (283-343), a Taoist, Confusianist official wrote at that time,

    "the esoteric and exoteric treatise of the master who embraces simplicity".

    It states that immortality is accessible to those who understand and follow the laws of nature. At the end of the 8th century, internal alchemy seems to have taken precedence over external alchemy in the search for immortality.


    Inner Alchemy Practices

    In the Lower Dantian, the essence is refined and transformed into breath. In Middle Dantian, the breath is refined and transformed into spiritual energy. In the Upper Dantian, the spiritual energy is refined and reintegrated into the emptiness, the Tao ☯.

    Emptiness is the emptiness of mind and at the same time the state of mindfulness...


    Read next: How to become a Taoist ? The Taoist must cultivate virtue, follow the natural flow of things without disturbing or attempting to alter it. Discover more in this article...


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