ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (NICE NOTES, I KNOW): Sānguān 三關 Three Passes

Why three and where are they located? 

The Three Passes present three stages of nèidān 內丹 alchemy and they are located along the Control Channel dūmài 督脈 (yang phase, qi moves up) and the Function Channel rènmài 任脈 (yin phase, qi moves down).

What are the names (Traditional Chinese, and Pinyin with tones as always, please) for every pass and details of location?

“The first pass, at the level of the coccyx, is called wĕilǘ 尾閭 (Caudal Funnel). The second pass, located in the middle of the spinal column where it joins the ribs at chest level (at shoulder blades), is called jiájĭ 夾脊 (Spinal Handle). The third pass is at the level of the occipital bone and is called yùzhĕn 玉枕 (Jade Pillow). It is also referred to as tiĕbì 鐵壁 (Iron Wall), as it  is regarded as the most difficult barrier to overcome.”

Why are there quotation marks above?

The four sentences were extracted from the encyclopedia article: Encyclopedia of Taoism, Routledge, Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008.

Whom the article was written by?

Monica Esposito.

Is it right that the third pass referred as the most difficult barrier to overcome?

Believe me, duh!

Why Sanguan into sriyantramaster’s blog?

Why not? Actually, this is a part of the plan to enjoy in life studying three Asian languages simultaneously and share this joy through blog pages with others. After last blog in category “taoism” it can be Japanese martial art text or popular styles of yoga, or my own translation of ancient pages on erotica which brought so much light to my room. Again, why not? When business people do business for profit and Kshatriyas make money during wartime what are wise men supposed to do?

To consult them all?

:-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), :-), 🙂

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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (PERSONAL NOTES): Róng Chéng 容成

rongcheng

The specialists tell us that Rong Cheng probably was a teacher of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) and Laozi and he was an ancient master of esoteric techniques, especially known for sexual practices (fángzhōng shū 房中書), and that is why we have an article in encyclopedia written by Gil Raz: “The fourth of the ten interviews between mythical rulers and sages contained in the Mawandui manuscript, the Shí Wèn 十問 (Ten Questions), is between the Yellow Emperor and Rong Cheng who expounds on breathing techniques and preservation of pneuma (qi).”

The book Róng Chéng Yīndào 容成陰道 (Rong Cheng’s Way of Yin) was lost very long ago and sad things  happen in history every day (we know that too), the good news is that men will always try to get equal information from other sources. Usually it helps (Welcome to the Computer Age!). Recently people interested in fángzhōng shū 房中書 reading can find several translations of what have been found in Mawandui manuscripts (Hé Yīn Yáng 合陰陽 (Conjoining Yin and Yang), Shí Wèn 十問 (Ten Questions), and Tiānxià Zhìdào Tán 天下至道談 (Discourse on the Ultimate Way Under Heaven) and much more. Practically, we can choose translation referring to our taste only, from academical to popular and fictional, containing huge commentaries or nothing at all.

For example, you can choose to read Volumes I and II of ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM for four months of your life or you can read these short notes every time you want pleasure of reflection on ancient aura of philosophy, cosmology and cosmogony, hygiene, sexual guidance, daoyin gymnastics, and longevity.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (FAMILIAR NOTES): Qìxuè 氣血 breath and blood

qixue

There is three quotations from the encyclopedia entry (written by Elisabeth Hsu) I have united in one paragraph:

“Qixue refers to “breath” (qi) and “blood” (xue), which are viewed as flowing constantly through the body, being mutually transformed into one another. Qi is generally attributed with Yang aspects and xue with Yin aspects, though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, depending on the context in which they are mentioned. In those cases qi and xue  do not designate  different entities, but different aspects of the same entity. Jing, qi, xue, and mai are all said to be aspects of qi.” It looks good enough to get all main features of qìxuè 氣血 term instantly.

The brightest example of mutual interchangeability can be found in some medical books of ancient China where the blood is called qi before the “middle burner” (zhōngjiāo 中焦, the stomach system) and there it “transforms into a red liquid.”

Of course, I completely understand that modern science is modern science and biologists have their point of view on breath and blood relationships inside our bodies but the wholeness of knowledge educated people of old times kept in their hearts is still absolutely amazing fact for me.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (CLASSIFICATION NOTE): Qìgōng 氣功 practice of qi

pneuma (breath, energy, vital force)

Well, we all know the fact that qi is not a breath, qi does not equal energy, qi is not vital force (how it can be defined in the modern biology?) but if we do some easy math and put all above terms together (breath+energy+vital force=pneuma) we shall get “qi,” and the first entry in the Encyclopedia of Taoism opening letter Q is qigong.

qigong5

Qìgōng 氣功 practice of qi, efficiency of qi

About time and place of the term “qigong”  we learn from the entry written by Catherine Despeux: “Qigong is a product of the twentieth century, but is rooted in the earlier tradition. The term is mentioned in the Tang period (618-907) to designate the “practice of qi,” and in the Song period (960-1279) the “efficiency of qi.” In modern times, it has taken on a new meaning and refers not only to Nourishing Life (yangsheng) but also to martial and therapeutic techniques.”

And next follow six main branches of qigong:

  • a Taoist qigong, 
  • a Buddhist qigong, 
  • a Confucian qigong, 
  • a medical qigong, 
  • a martial qigong, and 
  • a popular qigong (including the methods of rural exorcists and sorcerers). 

Another approach gives historians a “strong qigong” (yìng qìgōng 硬氣功), incorporating martial techniques,  and a “soft qigong” (ruăn qìgōng 軟氣功).

Speaking about the “soft qigong” (ruăn qìgōng 軟氣功) we shall see:

1. Jìnggōng 靜功, or the practice of qi in rest, which traditionally was called “sitting in oblivion” (zuowang) by Taoists, “sitting in dhyana” (chánzuò 禪坐) by Buddhists, and “quiet sitting” (jìngzuò 靜坐) by Neo-Confucians. These sitting practices can be accompanied by breathing, visualization, and mental concentration. 

2. Dònggōng 動功, or the practice of qi in movement, which includes the gymnastic traditions (daoyin) of medical doctors, Taoists, and Buddhists. The induction of spontaneous movements (zìfā dònggōng 自發動功) is derived from traditional trance techniques.”

“As for the therapeutic technique of the qigong master who heals people at a distance through his energy of his hands—a method that actually revives the traditional Taoist practice of “spreading breath” (buqi)—the possible existence of an “outer energy” (wàiqì 外氣) and its efficacy have been debated at length.”—C.D.

See, classification is good enough to do a try to define your own place in the whole world picture:))

QUIZ 1 (Reading Traditional Chinese): 1—氣, 2—氣功, 3—硬氣功, 4—軟氣功, 5—靜功, 6—禪坐, 7—靜坐, 8—動功, 9—自發動功, 10—外氣.

QUIZ 2 (Translating terms from Chinese into English): 1—qì, 2—qìgōng, 3—yìng qìgōng, 4—ruăn qìgōng, 5—jìnggōng, 6—chánzuò, 7—jìngzuò, 8—dònggōng, 9—zìfā dònggōng, 10—wàiqì.

QUIZ 3 Write ten terms from the QUIZ 1 by memory.

Congratulations, it looks like you have understood totally what people are speaking about using “qigong”.

 

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (PRIVATE NOTES ABOUT BETTER LIFE): Pénglái 蓬萊

penglai

“Belief in the existence of the paradisiacal isles Pénglái 蓬萊, Fāngzhàng 方丈, and Yíngzhōu 瀛洲 in the seas off China’s eastern coast originated in the coastal populations of the ancient states of Yān 燕 and Chí 齊 (modern Shandong).”—Thomas E. Smith (Encyclopedia of Taoism), and it was very popular to go to search these islands in IV-III BCE. The actual entry in the encyclopedia  is much longer, including five islands set and more, ten islands as far as legend was developed next millennium.

It is really a relief to know about existence of the islands in the imaginable word and there is no place for politicians there: Pénglái 蓬萊 island just cannot be divided among China, Japan, and Russia. This is an abode for immortals only and this is exactly the place I want to see myself.

For extroverts at best we have Shambala restaurant in India, and (guess what?) Penglai hotels’ chain in China (with restaurants). And the word  “Hollywood” comes to mind the first :)))

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (private notes): Nǚdān 女丹 inner alchemy for women

nudannorthsichuan

Scientists believe now that the earliest traces of neidan practices for women were found in the works of Xue Daoguang’s (1078?-1191) in his commentary to the Wuzhen pian, and the texts on sexual techniques fángzhōng shū 房中書 could be the earliest source too. Xue Daoguang came from the Nang realm, which is known as Nangzhong, Sichuan province, hence the picture of an ancient town above.

Monica Esposito, Encyclopedia Of Taoism, explains the difference: “Moreover, while the White Tiger, as a male or igneous Water, resides in a man’s testicles, the Red Dragon, as a feminine or aqueous Fire, resides in a woman’s breasts. This explains why a man and a woman begin their practices from exactly opposite Cinnabar Fields (dāntián 丹田). A woman must first concentrate on the Brook of Milk (rŭxī 乳溪) in the center of her chest (also known as qìxué 氣穴 or Cavity of Pneuma), and gently massage her breast to activate the circulation of blood and qi. The breasts are regarded as the receptacle of pure secretions that can enrich her natural endowment of qi.”

The path of practicing neidan is extremely difficult to follow (no matter what gender you are) due to complex texts and rare teachers, but it cannot stop me thinking about smart and beautiful women of modern times. My guess is that one philosophical ancient text, Nèiyè 內業 (Inner Cultivation) for example, some dăoyĭn 導引 gymnastic exercises and many, many sexual guides (fángzhōng shū 房中書) for everybody, probably could solve the most of health problems and give opportunity to live your own life in the same time. That is the guess only.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (PRIVATE NOTES): Níwán 泥丸 Muddy Pellet

Diagram showing the arrangement of the nine palaces or “rooms.” The leftmost palace in the lower row is located between the eyebrows. The upper Cinnabar Field (Dāntián 丹田) is the third palace in the lower row.

Diagram showing the arrangement of the nine palaces or “rooms.” The leftmost palace in the lower row is located between the eyebrows. The upper Cinnabar Field (Dāntián 丹田) is the third palace in the lower row.

The Níwán 泥丸 (Muddy Pellet) is one of the Nine Palaces in the head and it occupies the central position as the sum of the Nine Palaces.

“Since the center is located on the vertical axis that connects Heaven to Earth and Humanity, the níwán 泥丸 is also called Kūnlún 崑崙,” a term that usually denotes the axis mundi. Hence the níwán is the Upper Cinnabar Field (Heaven), related to the Lower (Earth) and Middle (Humanity) Cinnabar Fields (see Dāntián 丹田 entry). It is “the One that connects the Three” (yīguàn sāntián 一貫三田).”–Monica Esposito, the author of this encyclopedia article. 

Another fact I think it is useful to extract from this page: “Under the name băihuì 百會 (lit., “one hundred gatherings”), the níwán is the starting and arriving point of the circuit established by the Control Channel and the Function Channel (dūmài 督脈 and rènmài 任脈). Incorporating the Control Channel at its uppermost point at the crown of the head, it is the sanctuary in which the Yang Spirit (yángshén 陽神) is stored before its return to emptiness.”(M.E.)

ERRATUM in the description of nine palaces in the beginning: under number (9) should be “one inch above the Cavern Chamber” instead of “the Palace of the Jade Emperor.” 

This comment would be much better with a better picture of the brain, yes, I agree.