‘Three Treasures’ ( san bao ), jing, qi and shen
Jing , or Essence – our constitutional and ‘physical’ energy – is what we inherit from our parents. We now know that we share 99.4% of our genes with our closest relatives, the higher primates.
These primal instincts are largely carried in our jing. They play an important role in how we live our lives. A substantial amount of human suffering and illness results from imbalances in these drives.
Qi we share with all matter in the universe or the ‘ten thousand things’ ( wan wu ). Qi literally gives us our life and our vitality.
Shen , or spirit, is the treasure we do not share with animals. Animals possess jing and qi , but they do not possess shen. Shen is bestowed on us from Heaven and gives humanity its glory and human consciousness. That is why humanity is ‘the most precious thing in the universe’ ( Xunzi
In the Huainanzi it says that: ‘The gross qi becomes animals, the subtle qi becomes Man’ ( Major, 1993 ). The Three Treasures therefore reflect the Heaven, Humanity and Earth concept. Jing, which gives us our biological link with the other animals, is linked with Earth. Qi is what we share with all the ‘ten thousand things’, and shen is humanity’s unique gift from Heaven. The relationship between these ‘treasures’ and yin and yang is shown in Table 1.1 . Table 1.1 The Three Treasures in relation to Heaven, Earth and Humanity Heaven yang shen Humanity yin / yang qi Earth yin jing The great physician Zhang Jiebin succinctly expressed the relationship between the Dao, nature
Heaven yang shen
Humanity yin / yang qi
Earth yin jing