“The Supreme Medicine has three distinctions:
Ching [essence], Qi [vitality]. and Shen [spirit],
Which are elusive and obscure.
Keep to nonbeing, yet hold on to being.
And perfection is yours in an instant.
When the distant winds blend together,
In one hundred days of spiritual work
And morning recitation to the Shang Ti,
Then in one year you will soar as an immortal.
The sages awaken through self-cultivation;
Deep, profound, their practices require great effort.
Fulfilling vows illumines the Heavens.
Breathing nourishes youthfulness.
Departing from the Mysterious, entering the Female,
It appears to have perished, yet appears to exist.
Unmovable, its origin is mysterious.
Each person has Ching.
The Shen unites with the Ching,
The Shen unites with the Qi,
The breath then unites with the true nature.
Before you have attained this true nature,
These terms appear to be fanciful exaggerations.
The Shen is capable of entering stone;
The Shen is capable of physical flight.
Entering water it is not drowned;
Entering fire it is not burned.
The Shen depends on life form;
The Ching depends on sufficient Qi.
If these are neither depleted nor injured
The result will be youthfulness and longevity.
These three distinctions have one principle,
Yet so subtle it cannot be heard.
Their meeting results in existence,
Their parting results in nonexistence.
The seven apertures interpenetrate
And each emits wisdom light.
The sacred sun and sacred moon
Illuminate the Golden Court.
One attainment is eternal attainment.
The body will naturally become weightless.
When the supreme harmony is replete,
The bone fragments become like winter jade.
Acquiring the Elixir results in immortality;
Not acquiring it results in extinction.
The Elixir is within yourself,
It is not white and not green.
Recite and hold ten thousand times.
These are the subtle principles of self-illumination.”
– The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic.
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. It 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.
It is considered extremely difficult to enhance the original Jing after conception, although it is not at all difficult to deplete and weaken it, and thus to weaken and shorten one's life. The only way to strengthen the original Jing is through specific highly sophisticated yogic techniques such as those developed by the Daoists and by consuming certain potent tonic herbs known as Jing tonics. The purpose of taking Jing tonic herbs is to maintain healthy levels of postnatal Jing. If postnatal Jing is maintained at sufficient levels, prenatal Jing is used much more slowly and the aging process is slowed down.
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 marital 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. It may also be translated as our "higher consciousness." 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," a primary organ system. 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-judgemental awareness. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance. 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, and so on. Shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one, even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion.
Our true Spirit, which the Chinese call Shen, is the spark of divinity that resides within the heart of every human being and manifests as love, kindness, compassion, generosity, giving, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, tenderness and the appreciation of beauty. It is the Spirit of a human being as the divine messenger, the channel of God's will and love. Shen is the purpose of all spiritual paths. It is the Buddha's desire to end suffering and it is Christ's love and compassion... Shen manifests only when the heart is open. Once the heart is open, Shen manifests as light that illuminates the path of a man or woman in life's journey toward the spiritual goal and along the spiritual path.
Source: Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs by Ron Teeguarden, M.H., 1998.