nei jing tu

Neijing Tu: Inner Landscape of the Human Body

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"Nei" in Chinese means inside or inside. "Jing" means the warp of a fabric, the warp thread that interlaced with the weft thread forms a fabric.

But it can also have the meaning of classical scriptures or religious canon, which are ultimately also "wefts". "Tu", it is a plan, a map, a drawing (as in Taiji tu) 🗺️.

wu wei

Nei Jing Tu can be translated as "Map of our Inner Weave".

The best known version of this diagram was found on a stele dated 1886 on a wall of one of the buildings of the Taoist White Cloud Temple in Beijing (白雲觀) 🏯. This depiction of internal work is said to be about a thousand years old (difficult to verify at source).

What do we see ?

The Taoist inner alchemy map can be read from bottom to top and represents the human body seen from the side. There are three essential parts:

  • It depicts the different energy transformations that occur during the practice of internal alchemy

We see the spine and the skull. We see the symbolized organs.

In the lower part, a boy and a girl (the Yin and the Yang ☯ ), work together to operate a water wheel to send water (the Jing - the Essence, in this region is the Kidney), along the sinuous channel (the column).


hand painted illustration by Jennifer King visit

By reversing the Jing or Essence, represented by the stream of water along the spine, they prevent it from flowing down and being lost. This water will cross different passages.

It will be heated at the level of the middle Dan Tian 中丹田 in order to produce steam (the Qi 氣) which will be diffused towards the upper Dan Tian 上丹田 , itself represented by Mount Kun Lun representing the different components of the mind and the brain 🧠.

The lower cinnabar field is placed next to the four symbols of Yin Yang representing the four outer agents (wood, fire, metal, water), with the fifth (earth) in the center.


🌲 On the right is a forest, the Liver. To the left of the cinnabar field stands a buffalo plowing the land and planting the gold coin, an image of the first seed of the golden elixir. The buffalo ploughing the earth, thus symbolizes the transforming function of the Center (associated with the Spleen, Stomach and Intestines).

In the center is the median cinnabar field, in the shape of a spiral and located in the region of the heart. Just above it, a young boy holds the constellation of the Great Bear, symbolizing the center of the cosmos. This ball of fire is associated with the Heart, symbol of love and compassion and which is also the home of the Shen 神, the organizing consciousness.


According to the legend of the "Cattleherd and Weaver", Niu Lang 牛郎 and Zhinü 織女. A cowherd, corresponding to the star Altair, can meet his wife, the star Vega, only once a year 🌟. In Chinese medicine, the weaver represents the hoarding function of the Jing of Kings and the cowherd represents the Fire Emperor of the Heart, both forming the Shao Yin axis.

Further up, above and behind the pagoda (the trachea, the place where the energy of Heaven and Earth passes through), is the Jade pillow, located at the back of the skull.

The upper part of the image represents the upper cinnabar field. Behind the high mountains, on the left, emerges the meridian governor, Dumai; the old man sitting next to him is Laozi 老子. 


Below begins the designer meridian, Renmai, which runs along the front of the body. The standing monk, with his arms raised, turns to Bodhidharma 達摩 (who introduced Chan Buddhism to China 🇨🇳). The two points of the eyes are represented by the sun and the moon.

And what does the Neijing Tu diagram tell us ?

It is an illustration of the interaction between our three Dantian, it presents the flow that unfolds in the "Eight Wonderful Vessels" 奇 经 八 脉Qi Jing Ba Mai and reveals the resonances between Heaven 天, Man 人 and Earth 地.

Nature is outside, nature is inside us, we function like her, and we take her as a model to manage our daily life. We cannot go against nature.


hand painted illustration by Jennifer King visit

He also evokes Yuan Shen 元神, "the Original Spirit", and describes the five Shen* 神 associated with the five Zang organs 臟 plus one Shen associated with the gallbladder 胆 神.

This map is interesting and helps us to better understand how the Chinese see the internal and energetic functioning of our body. Nothing to do with our conception of man as a "machine": The body is "a machine that moves by itself", is the formula used by Descartes.⚙️.

The body is like a clock, with gears, everything works like a well-oiled mechanism. The body is matter and nothing but matter...

It is well conceivable that Westerners have a little difficulty in perceiving the body as the Neijing Tu !

Get your Inner Alchemy Scroll at This chart is a representation of the original found in the White Cloud Taoist Temple.

 Nei Jing Tu from Baiyun Guan


Read next: The Three Dantians. The practice of Dantian breathing has effects on the free circulation of energy, on warming the body and on the feeling of defativation.



  • Jennifer King

    Nihao. I see you have used pictures of my hand painted illustration of the Neijing tu on your website. It is under copyright which means under law you really need to have my permission to reproduce my version, if you had contacted me I would have been very happy for you to use it. I don’t mind if you use it – but please include my name as the artist responsible for this reproduction. I also sell this as a print on my own website: I don’t make a lot of money selling art, and I spent time studying Internal Alchemy in China, and put in a lot of time and effort to reproduce this image correctly and with tender, sincere respect – and to include the calligraphy which was a lot of work and hand written by a Daoist friend of mine. Both our seals are imprinted to the side of the image body, not to say it is “ours” but respectfully allowing the original design to stand alone. I am honoured that you have chosen it to represent the details behind this enigmatic picture. Please contact me if you have any questions. Jennifer King

  • Eddie Salas

    Hi Sifu Yu Tse Zhang, I amazed at your age and your ability to be so sharing and loving.
    As a practicing practitioner of Yang style taiji chuan i must have the scroll of Neijing Tu!!
    May i ask where can i buy an original ink print of the Neijing Tu as the chinese medicine traveller website does not have any available. please email me anytime i live in Sydney Australia and it has been extremely long road to find egoless teachers of Daoist practices. i look forward to correspondence.
    May you continue on your long life in health and happiness Sifu
    Warmest Regards

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