The Three Treasures (San Bao) which are Jing (essence), Chi (internal energy) and Shen (spirit) are also called “the Three Origins” or “the Three Roots” (San Yuan ), because they are the origins and roots of life.
Jing translates to “essence” because it is the most original, and the most refined part of everything. It represents the most fundamental part showing its characteristics. Sperm for example is called Jing Zi, which translates to “essence of the son” because it contains the Jing of the son.
Jing is the original source of all living things and determines the nature and characteristics of this thing. Jing is the root of life.
Chi is the internal energy of the human body. It is like electricity flowing through a machine to make it work. The Chi comes either from the conversion of the Jing transmitted by the parents or from the food we eat and the air we breath.
Shen is the center of the mind, the spirit of being. It is what makes us humans in comparison to animals, that do not have Shen. Shen needs to be fed with Chi or energy. When the body is sufficiently filled with Chi, the spirit can come alive.
These three treasures have many inter-relationships.
Meditation and chi-kung practitioners believe that there are two main types of Chi.
The first is called Original Chi (Yuan Qi) or prenatal Chi (Xian Tian Qi) and comes from the Original Jing (Yuan Jing) transmitted by parents during conception.
The second, called postnatal Chi (Hou Tian Qi) is taken from the Jing of food and air.
When this Chi is flowing is brought to the brain, it can breathe energy into the Shen and the soul. The Shen, thus energized, can then guide and distribute the Chi to the whole body.
Each of these three elements or treasures has its own roots. It is necessary to know them to be able to strengthen them and protect the three treasures:
*1. The human body needs several kinds of Jing and with the exception of Jing transmitted by parents, all the others must be found in food, air and surrounding energy. Of all the Jing, the most important is the original Jing. It is the root and seed of life as well as the foundation of strength. If the parents are strong and healthy, so will the child’s original Jing, giving him a solid foundation on which to grow. The Chinese believe that to live a long and healthy life we must protect and maintain this Jing. It is like money invested in a bank. You can indefinitely live on the interest it yields, but if you withdraw and spend the capital, nothing is left.
The roots of the original Chi are in the parents before birth. After birth, this Jing remains in his residence: the kidneys. These are then considered to be the roots of Jing.
Keeping these roots strong and strong allows you to have enough original Jing to supply the whole body. Although the nominal quantity cannot be increased, training in chi-kung for instance can improve the quality.
*2. Chi comes, on the one hand, from the conversion of the original Jing transmitted by the parents and, on the other hand, from the transformation of air and food.
Like all Jing, the original Jing is the most essential, it is the same at the level of different Chi. Always place the original Chi above the others. This energy is pure and of excellent quality, compared to the Chi from food and air which, depending on the time and place of absorption, can modify the state of Chi and cause a positive or negative excess. If you protect and retain your original Jing, you will be able to produce a pure original Chi.
Both original Chi and Jing have their roots in the kidneys. When the kidneys are strong, the original Jing is also strong and the Chi which results from its transformation is large and strong.
*3. Shen is the life-sustaining force. It has no substance, but gives expression and appearance to Jing. The Shen is also the control tower of the Chi. When your Shen is strong, not only will your Chi be too, but you can also set it in motion and guide it effectively.
Shen (spirit) has its roots in the mind (Yi, or intention). When the brain is energized and stimulated, your mind is more “aware”, giving you the ability to focus more intensely, and to elevate yourself spiritually. The brain must be constantly and sufficiently fed with Chi. This is what gives him his clarity and his ability to concentrate. Abundant intake of Chi can energize the mind, elevate Shen, and increase vitality.
When the Chi is brought to the head, it returns to its residence in the upper Dan Tian (in the center of the forehead).
When the Shen is weak, so is the Chi, leading to an acceleration of physical degeneration. When the Chi in the body is weak, the Shen is automatically affected and weakens in turn.