The Three Treasures in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Jing, Qi & Shen: Creative, Life-Force & Spiritual Energy

Pak Tai Temple on Cheung Chau island in Hong Kong
@ Didier Marti / Getty Images

The Three Treasures—Jing, Qi, and Shen—are substances/energies that we cultivate in qigong and Inner Alchemy practice. Though there is no exact English translation for Jing, Qi, and Shen, they are often translated as Essence, Vitality, and Spirit. The qigong practitioner learns to transform Jing into Qi into Shen—the so-called “path of transmutation”—and also to transform Shen into Qi into Jing—the “path of generation” or “path of manifestation.” The Three Treasures can be thought of also as three different frequencies, or as existing along a continuum of frequency. Practitioners of Inner Alchemy learn to modulate their consciousness along this vibratory spectrum—choosing their frequency in much the same way we might choose a specific radio station to tune into.

Jing - Creative Energy

The most concentrated or densely-vibrating energy is Jing. Of the Three Treasures, Jing is the one associated most closely with our physical body. The home of Jing is the lower dantian, or the Kidney Organ System, and it includes the reproductive energy of the sperm and ova. Jing is considered to be the root of our creative Vitality, the physical substance out of which our life unfolds. The modern-day herbalist Ron Teeguarden tells the story of how his teacher, Master Sung Jin Park, likened Jing to the wax and wick of a candle. It can also be thought of as being similar to the hardware and software of a computer—the physical basis for a functioning system. Jing is lost through excessive stress or worry. It is also depleted, in men, via excessive sexual activity (that includes ejaculation), and in women via abnormally heavy menstruation. Jing can be restored through dietary and herbal supplements, as well as through qigong practice.

Qi - Life-Force Energy

Qi—life-force energy—is that which animates our bodies, which allows movement of all sorts: the movement of breath in and out of our lungs, the movement of blood through the vessels, the functioning of the various Organ Systems, etc. The home of Qi is the middle dantian, and it is associated in particular with the Liver and Spleen Organ Systems. If Jing is the wax and wick of a candle, then Qi is the candle flame—the energy produced via the transformation of the physical base. If Jing is your computer’s hardware and software, then Qi is the electricity that allows the system to turn on, to actually function as a computer.

Shen - Spiritual Energy

The third of the Three Treasures is Shen, which is our Spirit or Mind (in its largest sense). The home of Shen is the upper dantian, and it is associated with the Heart Organ System. Shen is the spiritual radiance that can be seen shining through a person’s eyes—the emanation of a universal loving-kindness, compassion, and enlightened power; of a heart brimming with wisdom, forgiveness and generosity. If Jing is the wax and wick of a candle, and Qi its flame, then Shen is the radiance given off by the flame—what allows it to actually be a source of light. And in the same way that the light from a candle depends upon the wax, wick, and flame, so does healthy Shen depend upon the cultivation of Jing and Qi. It is only through the temple of a strong and balanced body that a radiant Spirit can shine.

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Your Citation
Reninger, Elizabeth. "The Three Treasures in Traditional Chinese Medicine." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Reninger, Elizabeth. (2023, April 5). The Three Treasures in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Retrieved from Reninger, Elizabeth. "The Three Treasures in Traditional Chinese Medicine." Learn Religions. (accessed May 30, 2023).