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The Three Treasures – Jing (Essence), Qi (Vitality) and Shen (Spirit)
In the tradition, which forms the foundation of the traditional Oriental healing and health-promoting arts, there are said to be Three Treasures that in effect constitute our life. These are known as Jing, Qi (pronounced chee) and Shen.
The ultimate goal of all of the Oriental healing and health-promoting arts is to cultivate, balance and expand the Three Treasures. At the highest level of the Oriental healing arts, the practitioner is attempting to harmonize all aspects of one's being. This is accomplished by focusing one's attention on the Three Treasures. There are no exact translations for the terms Jing, Qi and Spirit into English. They are generally translated, though, as Essence, Vitality and Spirit.
The author's great teacher, Master Sung Jin Park, used to describe the Three Treasures by comparing them to a burning candle. Jing is like the wax and wick, which are the substantial parts of the candle. They are made of material, which is essentially condensed energy. The flame of the lit candle is likened to Qi, for this is the energetic activity of the candle, which eventually results in the burning out of the candle. The radiance given off by the flaming candle is Shen. The larger the candle and the better the quality of the wax and wick, the steadier will be its flame and the longer the candle will last. The greater and steadier the flame, the steadier the light given off and the greater the light. Master Park described it like this:
'There are three treasures in the human body. These are known as Jing, Qi and Spirit. Of these three, only Qi has received some recognition in the West so far. Qi is but one of the Three Treasures, the other two are equally wondrous.
Jing has been called the 'superior ultimate' treasure, even though even in a healthy, glowing body, the quantity is small. Jing existed before the body existed, and this Jing enters the body tissues and becomes the root of our body. When we keep Jing within our body, our body can be vigorous. If a person cares for the Cavity of Jing, and does not hurt it recklessly, it is very easy to enjoy a life of great longevity. Without Jing Energy, we cannot live.
Qi is the invisible life force which enables the body to think and perform voluntary movement. The power of Qi can be seen in the power that enables a person to move and live. It can be seen in the movement of energy in the cosmos and in all other movements and changes. Coming from heaven into the body through the nose (Yang Gate), it circulates through the twelve meridians to nourish and preserve the inner organs.
Shen energy is similar to the English meaning of the words 'Mind' and 'Spirit.' It is developed by the combination of Jing and Qi energy. When these two treasures are in balance, the mind is strong, the spirit is great, the emotions are under control, and the body is strong and healthy. But it is very difficult to expect a sound mind to be cultivated without sound Jing and Qi. An old proverb says that 'a sound mind lives in a sound body.' When cultivated, Shen will bring peace of mind.
When we develop Jing, we get a large amount of Qi automatically. When we have a large amount of Qi, we will also have strong Shen, and we will become bright and glowing as a holy man.'
Jing is the first Treasure and is translated as 'Regenerative Essence,' or simply as 'Essence.' Jing is the refined energy of the body. It provides the foundation for all activity and is said to be the 'root' of our vitality. Jing is the primal energy of life and is closely associated with our genetic potential, and is associated with the aging process. Jing is stored energy and provides the reserves required to adapt to all the various stresses encountered in life. Since Jing is concentrated energy, it manifests materially. Jing also is said to control a number of primary human functions: the reproductive organs and their various substances and functions; the power and clarity of the mind; and the integrity of one's physical structure. Jing, which is a blend of Yin and Yang energy, is said to be stored in the 'Kidney.' Jing is generally associated these days with the hormones of the reproductive and adrenal glands, and Jing is the vital essence concentrated in the sperm and ova.
When Jing is strong, vitality and youthfulness remain. Strong Jing energy in the Kidneys, so the Chinese say, will lead to a long and vigorous life, while a loss of Jing will result in physical and mental degeneration and a shortening of one's life. Jing is essential to life and when it runs low our life force is severely diminished and thus we lose all power to adapt. The quantity of Essence determines both our life span and the ultimate vitality of our life. Jing is burned up in the body by life itself, but most especially by chronic and acute stress and excessive behavior, including overwork, excessive emotionalism, substance abuse, chronic pain or illness, and sexual excess (especially in men). Excessive menstrual patterns, pregnancy and childbirth can result in a dramatic drain on the Jing of a woman, especially in middle aged women. When Jing is depleted below a level required to survive, we die. Eventually everyone runs out of Jing and thus everyone dies (at least physically).
Qi, the second Treasure, is the energy that creates our vitality. Through the constant interaction of Yin and Yang change is brought into being. Qi is the activity of Yin and Yang. Movement, functioning and thought is the result of Qi. The nature of Qi is to move. In the Three Treasures system includes both Energy and Blood. It nourishes and protects us. Qi is said to be produced as a result of the functions of the Lungs and Spleen. Therefore, Qi tonics strengthen the digestive, assimilative and respiratory functions.
When Qi condenses, it becomes Jing. Fast moving Qi is considered to be Yang while slow moving Qi is Yin. In the system of the Three Treasures, blood is considered to be a part of the Qi component of our being. Blood is said to be produced from the food ingested after the Qi has been extracted through the action of the Spleen. The red blood cells are said to be nutritive and are thus associated with the Ying Qi (Yin), while the white blood cells are protective and are associated with Wei Qi (Yang). Qi tonics are generally believed to have potent immune modulating activity. Qi tonics, composed of Energy and/or Blood tonics, increase our ability to function fully and adaptively as human beings.
Shen is the third Treasure. Shen is the Holy Spirit which directs Qi. This is ultimately the most important of the Three Treasures because it reflects our higher nature as human beings. Chinese masters say that Shen is the all-embracing love that resides in our Heart. Shen is the spiritual radiance of a human being and is the ultimate and most refined level of energetics in the universe. Shen is not considered to be an emotion, or even a state of mind. It presides over the emotions and manifests as all-encompassing compassion, and non-discriminating, non judgmental awareness. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance.
Even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion, Shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one. It manifests as our wisdom and our ability to see all sides of all issues, our ability to rise above the world of right and wrong, good and bad, yours and mine, high and low, etc.