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December 14, 2019 nathanbrine

Taoist Alchemy: Glossary

This list of terms is for my students, and is updated regularly as new vocabulary is introduced during class.

Note: translation of neidan terms is notoriously difficult simply because English does not have the vocabulary; also alchemical meanings shift depending on their context. Approach the following definitions loosely. I recommend learning the terms in the list, then forgetting the English translation and building up your own definition as your practice develops.

Primary lists (words included in the guided instructions for each Level, good to know)

Level One

Qì 氣 - energy, life-force

  • Qì 炁 – precelestial original energy, the qi we refine in our body

Yexing 野性 – wild nature. Part of us controlled by our senses and desires.

Yìnian 意念 – awareness; intention

  • Nian 念 – passive field of awareness; consciousness. Yin.
  • Yì 意 - awareness with direction and movement; intention Yang.

Shén 神 - spirit (the high frequency energy of conscious awareness. If you can’t feel it just use awareness)

  • Shéngūang 神光 – light of our spirit; spiritual illumination
  • Shíshén 識神 – (lit. spirit of recognition); our postcelestial shen, given birth through our senses, gives birth to the seven feelings; our ego this-world self.
  • yúanshén 元神 – original spirit; our precelestial shen; it’s found inside our body; good to get to know. Yuanshen splits into yin shen and yang shen. It is also master of our shishen.

Xiǎofù 小腹 -lower abdominal cavity (below the belly button); inside is known as the lower space 下空

Xìatían 下田 -the Lower Field, commonly referred to as the lower dantian. An important energy centre, a main focal point of practice.

Zhōngtían 中田 – the Middle Field, commonly referred to as the middle dantian. This energy centre is in the middle of the chest cavity.

 

Level Two

Tianmu 天目 – Celestial Eye (Third Eye). Used throughout the alchemical process to work with the Light of our Spirit.

Tianmuxue 天目穴 – The Celestial Eye Point. Area between the eyebrows where the Celestial Eye looks outwards from the body. Also called the Upper Opening of the Mysterious Pass. This is an opening where shen can enter and exit the body, also where celestial and personal energies meet. Ling also gathers here. The scope of this area is larger than just the acupuncture point.

The three characters that make up this word are used to reference the three stops we make inside the head when we are practicing Open the Celestial Eye. Presented in order of the practice:

  • Xue 穴 – acupoint. Location: between eyebrows. 
  • Mu 目 – eye. Location: Upper Field.
  • Tian 天 – sky (heaven, cosmos). Location: Rear Celestial Mirror. 

Kūngōng 坤宮 – Palace of Kun (Earth); another of the many terms for the xiatian (lower dantian)

Qìxúe 氣穴 – Cavity of Qi; xiatian before there is anything in it. Actually, the qixue is an area of qi we use it changes. It can be one of the Three Fields, or Three Spaces or even the whole inside of the body.

Neiqiang 內腔 – Inner cavity. When the abdominal cavity, chest cavity, and head cavity are sealed and connected they form the inner cavity. The inner cavity is an internal energetic space used for advanced alchemical practices. 

 

Level Three

Shangtian 上田 – the Upper Field, commonly referred to as the upper dantian. This energy centre is in the middle of the head on the level of the eyebrows, usually just behind the temples.

Shényì 神意 – spirit and intention together, often used in higher level alchemy techniques

Yishi 意識 – passive field of awareness. It is used in conjunction with yinian, which is active. It is also used with our shenyi. Yishi is used after we have gone through the elixir training and are working on the sacred embryo and five arts. 

 

General list (including words that might be helpful but not necessary for practice)

ān lú shè dǐng 安爐設鼎 -stabilize the furnace and set up the cauldron

Baihui 百會 – Highest area in the physical body. Highest point on top of the head. To find, draw two lines straight up from the ears to the top of the head.

Chen 沉 – to sink. 

Chu shen  出神 – the shen intentionally exits the body. Shen chu 神出 means the shen has unintentionally been scattered outside the body. Practitioners want the first one not the second.

Dao 道 – literally means way.

Daojiao 道教 Taoism.

Daojia 道家 Taoism.

Daoyin 導引 – the traditional term for Chinese health and qi exercises.

Daoyin ci 導引詞 – guided instructions.

Daoyin shu 導引術– the art of using guided instructions. Dragon Gate alchemy is passed on using daoyin shu. 

Ganwu 感悟 – to sense. But not through our physical senses.

Gōng 功 - practice (n); embodied skill developed through hard practice

  • gōngfu 功夫 – kungfu, but really any high level of embodied skill developed though practice
  • nèigōng 內功 – internal work or internal art (a broad term used to encapsulate a wide variety of internal practices, generally not a specific practice)
  • qìgōng 氣功 – energy work (note this is a modern term used to encapsulate a wide variety of Chinese practices, generally not a specific practice)
  • shéngōng 神功 – practice that works with our shen or spirit, common in neidan practice.
  • jìnggōng 靜功 – stillness practice
  • zhōutīan gōng 周天功 – Micro, Macro, and Maoyou Cosmic Orbit practice
  • Minggong 命功 – Life Force Practice (more material aspect of self)
  • Xinggong 性功 – Inner Nature Practice (less material aspect of self)

Hòutīan 後天 – Postcelestial, later heaven, after creation of phenomenal world; postnatal (Chinese med.)

Hǔohòu 火候 – Fire Phasing; this is a cooking term that describes the how much heat to cook something. In alchemy it refers to how strong to make our intention, shén, and breath to cook the elixir.

  • Wénhǔo 文火 – Civil Fire; gentle fire phasing
  • Wǔhǔo 武火 – Martial Fire; strong fire phasing
  • wenwuhuo 文武火 – breath starts gentle and increases in strength
  • wuwenhuo 武文火 – breath starts strong and becomes gentle

Huangting 黃庭 – the Yellow Court. Describes a central area used when bringing together yin and yang during the alchemical process. The term does not refer to a single location, but changes depending on what we are doing.

Huiguo 悔過 – repentance training. Used to purify turbid qi.

Huiyin 會陰 – Lowest area in the torso, between the anus and genitals. One of the Three Lower Yin Gates.

  • Huiyin xue 會陰穴 – The acupoint in the middle of the Huiyin.

Huxi 呼吸– breathing.

  • Ziran huxi 自然呼吸 – Natural Breathing. Also called normal breath fanxi 凡息, the opposite of True Breath (zhenxi 真息). There is regulated and unregulated.
  • Neixing huxi 內行呼吸 – Inner Breathing. Breathing that is focused inside the body.
  • Maokong huxi 毛孔呼吸 – Pore Breathing. In the old days called Personal Universe Breathing (zishen yuzhouhuxi 自身宇宙呼吸).
  • Sanhuo huxi 散伙呼吸 – Disperse Fire Breathing. Used to close a session.

Jiadao 家道 – A temple lineage of Taoist practice. Contrast with Shandao. 

Jiedan 接丹 – form an Elixir.

Jin 勁 – a specific force developed and used in martial arts training.

Jīng 精 -the energy of our physical essence; jing – qi – shen (the Three Treasures of the body); kind of lower frequency energy found in the body, through neidan practice is transformed into higher frequency energy. Experienced as a vibration/pulsing inside the body. Alchemical ingredient using for forming elixirs in the lower dantian.

Jīngqi 精氣 – jing and qi together. This term is used when working with jing and qi together. Often used with lower level alchemy techniques.

Jìng 靜 - stillness (foundation of Taoist practice)

  • jìnggōng 靜功 – stillness practice
  • lìan jìng 練靜 – practice stillness

Kōng 空 - empty

  • fàngkōng 放空 – to empty, to make something empty

Kua 胯 – the kua includes all the tendons and muscles that run through the groin area (inguinal crease). We have a kua on both left and right sides.

Kūngōng 坤宮 -Palace of Kun (Earth); Another of the many terms for the xiatian (lower dantian)

Líng 靈 – spirit; our eternal spirit that merges with our shen at conception (Shen is the spirit of our body). Ling exists before and after our physical body’s existence.

Maoyou zhoutian卯酉周天 – the Maoyou Cosmic Orbit. The energy circuit through our internal organs.  

Minggong 命功 – Life Force Practice. Works with the more material aspects of the self, such as the physical body, jing and qi. Usually works with the Lower and Middle Fields. Contrast with Xinggong.

Mingqiao 明巧 – sense organs in the head.

Mingshi 冥師–our Hidden Teacher found inside our body.

Muyu 沐浴- bathing and cleansing. An important stage in forming the Elixir and the Embryo.

Nèidān 內丹 -internal alchemy (lit. internal cinnabar). Other words for internal alchemy:

  • lìan dān 煉丹 -practice alchemy (lit. refine the elixir)
  • dāndào 丹道 -Way of Alchemy
  • jindan 金丹 – Golden Elixir
  • jindan zhi dao 金丹之道 – Way of the Golden Elixir

nèigōng 內功 – internal work or internal art (a broad term used to encapsulate a wide variety of internal practices, generally not a specific practice)

Neiqiang 內腔 – Inner cavity. When the abdominal cavity, chest cavity, and head cavity are sealed and connected they form the inner cavity. The inner cavity is an internal energetic space used for advanced alchemical practices. 

Neiqi 內炁 – inner qi. Stuff we create in our body.

Neiyao 內藥 – lit. Internal Medicine. I translate as Internal Alchemical Ingredients. Also called the Small Pill.

Niwan 泥丸 – Muddy Pellet. Another term for the Upper Field.

  • Niwan gong 泥丸宮 – Palace of the Muddy Pellet. Another term for the Upper Field.

Neizhao 內照 – inner illumination.

Ruyao 入藥 – depositing the Alchemical Ingredients into the cauldron.

Sanbao 三寶 – The Three Treasures:

  • Internal Three Treasures are jing, qi, and shen energy.
  • External Three Treasures are sun, moon, and stars

Sankong 三空 – The Three Spaces

  • Internal Three Spaces: 1. lower abdominal cavity 2. chest cavity 3. head cavity
  • External Three Spaces: 1. personal space (arms length from body) 2. social space (human society) 3. natural cosmic space

San tian 三田 – the Three Fields: shangtian, zhongtian, and xiatian.

San xia yin 三下陰 – The Lower Three Yin Gates. These need to be energetically sealed during the alchemical process. 

  • Qíanyīn 前陰 -(lit. front yin) where the genitals attach to the torso.
  • Huiyin 會陰 – Bottom of the torso, between the anus and genitals (perineum).
  • Houyin 後陰 – Anus. Also known as the Lower Magpie Bridge. 

Sanxian Gong 三仙功 – Three Immortals Practice. The neidan curriculum of the Dragon Gate Lineage.

Shandao 山道 Any mountain lineage of Taoist practice. Contrast with Jiadao. 

Shangtian 上田 – the Upper Field, commonly referred to as the upper dantian. This energy centre is in the middle of the head on the level of the eyebrows, usually just behind the temples.

Shang Qi Mingqiao 上七明巧 – The Upper Seven Openings. Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and mouth. Places where our shishen easily leaks out. Need to be sealed. 

Shén 神 - spirit (the high frequency energy of conscious awareness. If you can’t feel it just use awareness)

  • yúanshén 元神 – original spirit; our precelestial shen; it’s found inside our body; good to get to know. Yuanshen splits into yin shen and yang shen. It is also master of our shishen.
  • shíshén  識神 – (lit. spirit of recognition); our postcelestial shen, given birth through our senses, gives birth to the seven feelings; our ego this-world self.

Shéngōng 神功 – practice that works with our shen or spirit, common in neidan practice.

Shéngūang 神光 – light of our spirit; spiritual illumination; it’s also wisdom and a good way to work with our inner nature (性 xing).

Shenguang zhi shen 神光之身 – the light body.

Shenlei 神累 – tired spirit. Happens after too much shen work.

Shénqì 神氣 – spirit and qi together, often used in mid-level alchemy techniques

Shényì 神意 – spirit and intention together, often used in higher level alchemy techniques

Shi 視 –to see.

  1. yuan shi 遠視 – To See Afar
  2. fan guan 反觀 – To turn around Observation
  3. nei shi 內視 – Inner Seeing
  4. nei guan 內觀 – Inner Observation

Shuigong 睡功 – Sleep Practice. Also known as Shuixian Gong 睡仙功 (Sleeping Immortal Practice).

Sōng 鬆 - a state when tension is released; relaxed

  • fàngsōng 放鬆 – to release tension

Qì 氣 - energy, life-force

  • Qì 炁 – precelestial original energy, the qi we refine in our body

Qichang 氣場 – energy field.

Qìxúe 氣穴 – Cavity of Qi; xiatian before there is anything in it. Actually, the qixue is an area of qi we use it changes. It can be one of the Three Fields, or Three Spaces or even the whole inside of the body.

Qíangōng 乾宮 -Palace of Qian (heaven); Another of the many terms for the shangtian (upper dantian)

Qíanyīn 前陰 -(lit. front yin) where the genitals attach to the torso, one of the three lower yin gates

Qìgōng 氣功 – energy work (note this is a modern term used to encapsulate a wide variety of Chinese practices, generally not a specific practice)

Qìhùa  氣化 – qi transformation  (it’s a good thing, means stuff is going on during your session). 

Qihuo 起火 – the Firing Process.

  • Jiuci qihuo 九次起火– the Nine Times Firing Process

Qīng lú 清爐 -Purifying the furnace (cleaning out energetic and emotional sludge from the body)

Qiqing liuyu 七情六慾) – seven emotions and six desires.

Queqiao 鵲橋 – Magpie Bridge. Spaces along the microcosmic orbit that need to bridged. 

  • Shang queqiao 上鵲橋 – Upper Magpie Bridge: mouth.
  • Xia queqiao 下鵲橋 – Lower Magpie Bridge: anus. 

Taiji 太極 – lit. extreme poles. A state where there is difference and therefore perspective and relationship. Contrast wuji.

Tianmu 天目 – Celestial Eye (Third Eye). Used throughout the alchemical process to work with the Light of our Spirit.

Tianmuxue 天目穴 – The Celestial Eye Point. Area between the eyebrows where the Celestial Eye looks outwards from the body. Also called the Upper Opening of the Mysterious Pass. This is an opening where shen can enter and exit the body, also where celestial and personal energies meet. Ling also gathers here. The scope of this area is larger than just the acupuncture point.

Tianmen 天門 – energetic opening on the top of the head where shen can exit the body. In front of the Baihui but above the forehead, top of the Broken Line (vertical axis for the Three Fields). When closed is called the dingmen.

Ting 聽 – hearing.

  • Yuan ting 遠聽 – Far Hearing
  • Jin ting 近聽 – Near Hearing
  • Fan ting 反聽 – Return Hearing
  • Nei ting 內聽 – Inner Hearing

Wuji 無極lit. no poles. A state where there is no differentiation. Contrast taiji. 

Waidan 外丹 – external alchemy.

Wushu 五術 – The Five Arts. Often called the five Taoist arts. They include: fate calculation, appearance discernment, divination, practices, and medicine.

Wuwei 無為 – allowing things and processes to happen of their own accord. The opposite of youwei 有為.

Wuxing 五行 – The Five Phases (also translated as five elements or five agents) is a conceptual model used to understand our world.

Xīu Dào 修道 -Cultivate the Tao

  • xīuxíng dà dào 修行大道 -cultivate the Tao
  • xīulìan 修煉 -practice; any practice that transforms the self
  • xīulìan zȟe 修煉者 -practitioner
  • zìxīu 自修 -self-cultivation

Xīantīan 先天 –  Precelestial, earlier heaven, before creation of phenomenal world; prenatal (Chinese med.)

Xiǎofù 小腹 -lower abdomen (below the belly button); inside this area is the lower space 下空

Xìatían 下田 -the Lower Field, commonly referred to as the lower dantian. An important energy centre, a main focal point of practice.

Xinggong 性功 – Inner Nature Practice. Work that focuses on the more insubstantial and unchanging aspects of the self. Usually involves the Upper Field or Celestial Eye. Contrast with Minggong.

  • Xiuxing 修性 – another term for cultivating our inner nature

Xingjin bagu 行筋把骨 – practice that works the sinews and bones

Xinjing 心靜 – stillness of mind. First major benchmark of Taoist cultivation.

Xiu wulou 修無漏 – to energetically seal the body. Part of building foundation and preparation for neidan.

Xúanqìao 玄竅 -Mysterious opening. An energetic opening in the body. Where to? That’s for us to find out.

Yìnian 意念 – awareness and intention together.

  • Nian 念 – passive field of awareness; consciousness. Yin.
  • Yì 意 - awareness with direction and movement; intention. Yang.
  • Li 力 (Nianli 念力)- power of our awareness. Also short for anchor point of awareness, zhuoli dian 著力點)

Yinxian Methods 引仙法 – lit. Attracting Immortality Methods. Dragon Gate preparatory methods used throughout Taoist alchemy.  

Yishi 意識 – passive field of awareness. It is used in conjunction with yinian, which is active. It is also used with our shenyi. Yishi is used after we have gone through the elixir training and are working on the sacred embryo and the Five Arts. 

Yunyou 雲遊 Cloud Wandering.

Youwei 有為 – the intentional doing of something to reach a goal. Opposite of wuwei 無為

Zanian 雜念 – random thoughts.

Zhanzhuang 站樁 – standing post practice.

Zhenren 真人 – A practitioner who has completely reconciled their past, including their past lives.

Zhenwo 真我 – the True Self.

Zhōngtían 中田 – the Middle Field, commonly referred to as the middle dantian. This energy centre is in the middle of the chest cavity on the level of the physical heart.

Zhongxin xian 中心線 – external centreline of body. Running from nose to navel on outside of body.

Zhongzheng xian 中正線 – internal centreline in body.

Zhuji築基 – building foundation. Preparatory work for neidan practice.

Zuoguan 坐關 – Barrier of Sitting. First major challenge of neidan practice.

Zhuanshi nengliang 轉世能量 – reincarnation energy. Nasty karmic stuff we want to clear out through our practice.

 

 

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