Sun Simiao and Preserving Shén and refining Qì

Sūn Sīmiǎo (孫思邈)Sūn Sīmiǎo (孫思邈) is one of the best known of ancient Chinese doctors. According historians Sūn Sīmiǎo lived between 581-682. Legends however tell that he lived more than 140 years and his body did not decay after his death. When he was buried his body was light as plain clothes.  He, like many other great doctors, was also alchemist and scholar of classical Daoist scriptures like Dàodéjīng (道德經) and Yìjīng (易經).

Today every student of Chinese medicine knows his name and at least two of his works – Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (千金要方 Qiānjīn Yàofāng) and A Supplement to Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (千金翼方 Qiānjīn Yìfāng). These works are both huge 30 volume writings combining knowledge from many classics. They are still in use today. The influences of Buddhist medicine coming from India during early Tang-dynasty are also visible in these works and his other writings. The knowledge Sūn Sīmiǎo collected was so vast and important that he became known as King of medicines (Yàowáng 藥王) and temples were later built in his honour.

Like many other great scholar doctors he also wrote about alchemy and ways of preserving life. One of these writings is Inscription of Preserving Shén and refining Qì (Cúnshén liànqì míng – 存神錬氣銘) which is found in Daoist Canon (DZ 834). Today many scholars and doctors consider these texts as mere wishful thinking. Regardless the truth studying them give us great deal of information about the philosophy and world view of the most skilled doctors in past and helps us to understand and follow their thinking through the classics.


Note: While reading the following translation please bear in mind that the Heart also means Mind, Shén is usually translated as spirit and Líng is could be roughly translated as the Great Spirit or Numinous.

孫思邈 – 存神錬氣銘

Sūn Sīmiǎo – Cún shén liàn qì míng

Inscription of Preserving Shén and refining Qì

夫身爲神氣之窟宅
神氣若存身康力健
神氣若散身乃死焉
若欲存身先安神氣
即氣爲神母神爲氣子
神氣若倶長生不死

Human embodiment is dwelling place of Shén and Qì
If Shén and Qì are stored the embodiment is tranquil, strong and healthy
If Shén and Qì disperse the embodiment dies
If one desires to support the embodiment [one must] first calm Shén and Qì
The Qì is mother of Shén, Shén is the child of Qì
If Shén and Qì are whole the life is long and there is no death

若欲安神須煉元氣
氣在身内神安氣海
氣海充盈心安神定
定若不散身心凝靜
靜至定倶身存年永
常住道源自然成聖

If one desires to calm Shén one must refine Yuánqì
[When] Qì is within embodiment
The Shén is peacefully in Qìhǎi
[When] Qìhǎi is full and overflowing
The Heart is calm and Shén is settled
If [Shén] is settled and not dispersing
The embodiment and Heart are concentrated and tranquil
Tranquility peaks to being settled completely1
The embodiment is maintained years everlasting
Always dwelling at the source of Dao and one naturally becomes a Saint

1. (定倶 term comes from Buddhist sources and is usually translated as Samadhi)

氣通神境神通慧命
命住身存合於眞性
日月齊齡道成究竟
依銘煉氣欲學此術

Qì is connected to condition of Shén, Shén is connected to wisdom and destiny (Mìng)
Destiny residing within [constantly] maintained embodiment unites with True nature
[Thus one obtains] age equal to Sun and Moon and Dao is obtained
According the inscriptions of refining Qì if one wishes to learn this technique

先須絶粒安心氣海
存神丹田攝心靜慮
氣海若具自然飽矣
專心修者百日小成三年大成
初入五時後通七候

First the cereals must be renounced and Heart must be placed to Qìhǎi
Store Shén in Dāntián and collect the Heart to tranquillize [its] anxieties
When Qìhǎi is whole one is naturally satisfied
In concentrated Heart cultivation 100 days [bring] small accomplishments
Three years [bring] great accomplishments
First one enters five states [of mind] and then one can go through seven stages

神靈變化出沒自在
峭壁千里去住無礙
氣若不散即氣海充盈
神靜丹田身心永固
自然迴顏駐色變體成仙
隱顯自由通靈百變
名曰度世號曰眞人

Shén and Líng transform and change exiting and submerging freely
Steep cliffs or thousands miles, leave or staying without hindrances
If Qì does not disperse Qìhǎi fills to overflowing
[When] Shén is still in Dāntián, the embodiment and Heart are always constant
Naturally returns the [youthfulness of] colors to facial features and stature
The embodiment changes to immortal
The hidden and obvious [reveal their] natural origins
One understands hundreds of transformations of Líng
This is called Passing through the world
[One is then] entitled as True person (Zhēnrén)

天地齊年日月同壽
此法不服氣不嚥津不辛苦
要吃但吃須休即休
自在自由無阻無礙
五時七候入胎定觀
夫學道之人入有五時

Heaven and Earth are like his years, sun and moon like his lifespan
With this way one does not [need to] swallowing Qì or saliva nor is it exhausting or painful
[When] needs to eat one just eats, [when] requires rest one sets to rest
Naturally and spontaneously without blocking and without obstacles
Five states and seven stages [all happen by] entering the womb and fixing the contemplation
Student of Dao starts with five states

第一時心動多靜少
思綠萬境
取捨無常
忌慮度量
猶如野馬
常人心也

1. State: Heart has lots of movement and peace is minimal
[In mind] thoughts, green colours and 10 000 things
Conditions come and go without continuity
Jealous, anxious, considering and measuring like a wild horse is the usual human Heart

第二時心靜少動多
攝動入靜
心多散逸
難可制伏
攝之勤策
追道之始

2. State: Heart has very little peacefulness but lot of movement
[When] regulating movement one enters to peace but Heart disperses and escapes often
[Mind] is difficult to control or suppress and direct it to [this] method
Here the pursuit for Dao begins

第三時心動靜相半
心靜似攝
心常靜散相半
用心勤策
漸見調熟

3. State: The Heart moves and is still equally
Heart is peaceful and seem directed
Heart in general is peaceful and scattered in equal amounts
[One is able to ] use Heart for the method
Gradually consciousness adjusts and becomes skilled [using the method]

第四時 心靜多動少
攝心漸熟
動即攝之
專注一境
失而遽得

4. State: Heart has lots of peace and little movement
The Heart is collected and more and more skilled in [technique]
The movement is right away directed with it
One is truly focused to the present
If [concentration is momentarily] lost then [focus is] immediately obtained

第五時心一向純靜
有事無事
觸亦不動
田攝心熟
堅散准定
從此已後處顯而入七候
任運自得非關作矣

5. State: The Heart has unified direction and is pure and calm
Then doing is not doing and [even] emotional blows don’t move
[Dān]tián has gathered Heart deeply and steadfastly the scattered has made to set
This already completed ones place is clear and one enters to the seven stages
Making use of [method] one naturally obtains [Dao] without obstructions!

第一候宿疾並銷
身輕心暢
停心人内
神靜氣安
四大適然
六情沉寂
心安懸境
抱一守中
喜悅日新
名爲得道

1. Stage: Old diseases dissolve
The embodiment becomes light and the Heart joyful
[When] Inside man the Heart is meditative Shén is tranquil and Qì is peacful
Four big (elements) are married and six passions are in profound peace
The Heart is peacefully suspended [over] circumstances and embraces unity and protects the center
Joyfully happy about every new day
This is called “Obtaining Dao”

第二候超過常限
色返童顏
形悅心安
通靈徹視
移居別郡
揀地而安
鄰里知人
勿令舊識

2. Stage: Crossing over normal limits
One’s appearance returns to younger outlook, form is joyous and Heart is in peace
One opens to Líng and has [all] penetrating vision
Change [your] residence, leave [your] country, select place and settle down
Associates and relative who [once] had known one, no longer recognize him

第三候延年千載
名曰仙人
遊諸名山
飛行自在
青童侍衛
玉女歌揚
騰躡煙霞
綠雲捧足

3. Stage: Prolonging life years to thousand
This is called immortality
Traveling all famous mountains, flying and moving freely
Azure servants follow as guardians, jade women are singing praises
Rising and walking vaporous rosy clouds, green mists offer its support

第四候煉身成氣
氣繞身光
名曰眞人
存亡自在
光明自照
晝夜常明
遊諸洞宮
諸仙侍立

4. Stage: Refining the embodiment to Qì
Qì revolves [ones] embodiment with light [and one] is called True Human (Zhēnrén)
Appearing and disappearing (living and dying) freely
Brightness and light naturally shines and day and night are constantly illuminated
One can travel all caves and palaces or attend all immortals immediately

第五候煉氣爲神
名日神人
變通自在
作用無窮
力動乾坤
移山竭海

5. Stage: Refining Qì to become Shén
One is called Spirit-human (Shénrén)
Transforming and going freely and doing and using without exhaustion
One has power to move Qián and Kūn (Heaven and Earth)
Move mountains or empty the seas

第六候煉神合色
名曰至人
神既通靈
色形不定
對機施化
應物現形

6. Stage: Refine Shén and uniting it with color (body)
[One] is called Perfected man (Zhìrén)
[Being] Shén already one connects to Líng
Color (bodily substance) and form are not fixed
They respond to moment by changing
And [one] reflects other beings with his shape and form

第七候身超物外
迥出常倫
大道玉皇
共居靈境
聖賢集會
弘演至眞
造化通靈
物無不達
修行至此
方到道源
萬行休停
名日究竟

7. Stage: Embodiment transcends outside material
One distances oneself outside all normal order [of the world]
Together with Jade Emperor of Great Dao reside in Líng-realm
Saints and wise assemble spreading the greatest truth of Mother Nature and universal Líng
There are no beings without realization, [all] cultivation and movement culminates at the root of Dao
10 000 ways all end here and this is called The Ultimate

今時之人
學道日淺
曾無一候
何得通靈
理守愚情
保持穢質
四時遷運
形妄色衰
體謝歸空
稱爲得道謬矣

People of this age study Dao less [each] day and cannot [obtain even] the first stage
How could they obtain universal Líng?
Ruled with maintaining their stupidity and sentimentality
Only preserving and holding on to their filth and material [wealth]
Four seasons turn and change, their shapes distort and color (body) grows weak
Their substance declines and [they] return to the emptiness
To call this obtaining Dao is absurd!

此胎息定觀是留神駐形之道術
在口訣不書於文
有徳至人方遇此法
細詳留意 必獲無疑
賢達之人 逢斯聖矣

These Daoist techniques of embryo-breathing and fixed contemplation keep Shén and halt form
[These] were transmitted orally and not written in language
Having the virtue to meet the Perfected man and this teaching
[One must] be very precise and throughout to keep the idea
These must be learnt without doubts.
Man worthy of attainment will meet this Saint

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Classic of Inner Contemplation (Tàishàng Lǎojūn Nèiguānjīng)

Sitting in contemplationRegarding the post about the Over-simplified body I got a question about the possibility of having the translation of whole source text (Nèiguānjīng – Classic of Inner Contemplation) available.

So to begin a series of contemplation (nèiguān) related articles the Tàishàng Lǎojūn Nèiguānjīng or Classic of Internal Contemplation has been translated to English. Download the English translation here:  Neiguanjing.

Do you have a great Gallbladder?

Gallbladder in classics

In acupuncture the Gallbladder channel is used frequently for wide variety of symptoms. The most common mental association are with anger in case of excess or timidity and indecisiveness in case of deficiency. These ideas of Gallbladder (mental) pathologies originate from Sùwèn and Língshū.

Sùwèn explains that Gallbladder is linked to anger (ch. 23) and also explains how a hot gall and indecisiveness are linked to throat and bitter taste in mouth (ch.47).

Língshū tells that weak, dull and fearful mind are part of Gallbladder pathologies (ch. 4). In dreams the Gallbladder can produces themes of fighting, blaming and self cutting (ch. 43: “則夢鬥訟自刳”). The chapter 50 explains how courage of soldier is linked with abundance of Gallbladder qì, strength of liver, heart and Sānjiāo.

But why Gallbladder is associated with decision and judgement? Why does the big gall mean great courage?

The Sùwèn 8 says: “The Gallbladder is official of exact and correct, decision and judgement stem from it.” (膽者中正之官決斷出焉)

中 means center, central, exact and for example in archery hit to the center.
正 means just, correct, upright and correct
決 means to decide, conclude and judge. It also means to execute a person.
斷 means to cut apart, sever and to decide. It also means to put an end to something.

The Gallbaldder is a fǔ organ and its zàng pair is liver. The liver is said to be the general of the imperial army, who is responsible for plans and vision of the situation. But even its decision depends on the gall. In fact Sùwèn 9 states that “All 11 organs obtain their judgement from Gallbladder”.

One of the easiest ways to understand this is by meridians. The gall belongs to Shǎoyáng. The Shǎoyáng is composed of two meridians, one being the gall and other being Sānjiāo. The Sānjiāo (as three burners/jiāo and not just the channel) has its beginning in the space between kidneys or Mìngmén. The much debated Nánjīng chapter 66 explains how the influence of the Sānjiāo stems forth and forms the source of all meridians. Its influence can be found from source or yuán (原) points of every meridian. The Sānjiāo is sometimes thought as a prime mover and a link between the earthly manifestation (of elements/organs and meridians) and the formless Heaven.

The Gallbladder is also one of the six extraordinary fǔ, others being brain, marrow, bones, channels/blood vessels and womb. These extraordinary fǔ are formed of Earthly qì and they function like Earth by storing the essences. The Sānjiāo and these extraordinary fǔ-organs form the structure of essence cultivation and transformation. The Gallbladder has close relation to other extraordinary fǔ-organs. Therefore it is said “the qì that is born within the Gallbladder is the source of 10 000 transformations”. (膽中生氣為萬化之元也)

Gallbladder Shén

The Gallbladder once also had its own Shén called Blaze of the Dragon or Lóngyào (龍耀).

In Xīuzhēntú there is a paragraph about Gallbladder:

膽者金之精水之氣其色青附肝短葉下膽者敢也膽大者必不驚神名龍耀字威明形如龜蛇混形其象如懸袋重三兩三銖為肝之腑若據膽當不在五臟之數應歸於六腑因膽亦受水氣與坎同道又不可同於六腑故別立膽臟合於膀胱亦主毛髮黃庭經曰主諸氣力攝虎兵外應眼瞳鼻柱間腦髮相扶亦俱鮮九色錦衣綠華裙

The Gallbladder is the essence (jīng) of Metal and Qì of the Water
Its color is blue-green (Qīng)
As small sack it is attached under the Liver
Gallbladder is the courage and sureness
When Gallbladder is big one does not fear or be frightened
Its Shén is called Blaze of the Dragon (Lóngyào)
Its function is to be Majestic Brightness (Wēimíng)
Its form is like mixture of the turtle and snake
Gallbladder looks like a hanging sack
It weights three liǎng and three zhū (about 115g)
It is the Fǔ and is like it were grabbed by liver
Gallbladder should not be counted to five Zàng, it belongs to six Fǔ
Gallbladder receives Qì of Water and with Kǎn (坎 ☵) it collects the Tao
So it is not similar as others of the six Fǔ
And it could therefore be counted as Zàng
Together with the Urinary bladder it governs the hair
Huáng Tíng Jīng says:
(Gallbladder) governs all the Qì and strength (Lì)
It directs the strategy of attacking tigers
It has outer relationship to gazing, pupils
And the root of the nose between the eyes
It supports the brains, hair and also everything that is bright
(Its Shén has) nine colored bright cloak and green glorious hems

The quote in the end is from Huángtíngjīng. In Huángtíngjīng just before the quote reads that:

膽部之宮六腑精,中有童子曜威明。

“Within the palace of Gallbladder is the essence of six fu.
At the center is Young child (like) glorious Majestic Brightness.”

The text later continues:

能存威明乘慶雲,役使萬神朝三元。

[Gallbladder] is able to store Majestic Brightness and ascend with the blessed cloud.
Serving as delegation between 10 000 shén and three origins (sānyuán or three pure ones).

With these pieces of information it becomes clear that the courage is born out of qualities associated with clarity and brightness. With Sānjiāo the Gallbladder is connected to Heaven and Tao and can bring down their perspective and clarity to other Shéns. With this clarity and vision the plans (Liver) can be made, the decisions of heart can be firm and found, the fear of kidneys transform to alertness and reaction speed, 7 pòs remain lightened and yì is steady. This is when the true courage is born.

These mental aspects of Gallbladder are treated in classics with GB 40 Qiūxū (丘墟) as it is the yuán (原) point of Gallbladder. Many modern authors seems to use more GB 13 Běnshén (本神). Běnshén being also excellent because it has connection to root of all shéns, Yuánshén (元神) residing in the brains. It also gathers all the shéns and rises the essence to fill the brain.

Following points are have also proven clinically excellent even as they are less known and used in modern practice:

GB 18 – Chéng líng (承靈)

Gallballder in communication with Líng or Heaven.

GB 23 – Zhéjīn (輒筋)

This point was once called 神光 (shén guāng – Shéns brightness) and  膽募 (dǎn mù). It was considered mù point of Gallbladder. Currently the following point rì yuè (日月) is held as mù-point.

GB 27 – Wǔshū (五樞)

The name could be translated as the Axis of five (shéns). It also has connection to Girdle vessel.

GB 28 – Wéidào  (維道)

This point reflects the function of Gallbladder to store and collect Tao with the lower jiāo (坎 ☵).

GB 42 – Dìwǔhuì (地五會)

This is the point of Earthly meeting of five shén. The Heavenly meeting is at St 9.