In the Daoist tradition there are said to be Three Treasures housed in the three Dan Tiens that in effect constitute our life. These are known as jing, chi 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, chi and shen into English. They are generally translated, though, as essence, vitality and spirit.
Of the three treasures only chi has received some recognition in the West so far, but the other two are equally wondrous.
Jing has been called the “superior ultimate” treasure. Jing existed before the body existed, and then 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.
Chi is the invisible life force which enables the body to think and perform voluntary movement. The power of chi 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) and mouth (yin gate), it circulates through the 12 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 chi 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 chi. 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 chi automatically. When we have a large amount of chi, we will also have strong shen, and we will become bright and glowing.
The Three Treasures can also be understood 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 chi, 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 steadier the flame, the steadier the light given off; and the greater the flame, the greater the light.