How many characters are there inside the whole 內業 Nèiyè (Inner Cultivation) text?

I really don’t care, do u? We are just in the beginning of rewriting all vocabularies for all chapters and the emendations from the Harold D. Roth edition (1999) will be included. So some characters will go out, some characters will be changed in writing and some of them will sound different.

How many characters are there in the first part?

I really care, don’t u? And answer is easy: 8 lines multiplied by 4 equals 32. These 32 characters are truly magic if you read them every day and care after them using your pen or brush, or brain, or heart, or all put together to enjoy ancient ideas and your precious time guaranteed to be spent properly.

Can you place all 32 characters from the first part in the alphabetical order?

I thought you’ll never ask! Watch the magic:
藏 cáng store up, reserve, hoard; keep safe; hide away, secrete
此 cĭ this, these, here

地 dì earth, soil, as land

凡 fán in general, overall, in every case of, whenever, whatever, whoever, whichever, all of

穀 gŭ grain, cereal, common food crops
鬼 guĭ returning spirit of the dead, revenant, ghost, specter; often associated with the carnal-soul (魄 pò) that is tied to the earth; 鬼神 guĭ shén gods and demons (Roth translates it like ‘ghostly and numinous’, others follow ‘ghosts and spirits’)

間 jiān NB This graph a medieval development of 閒 xián, interstice of space, interval, space between, in between, among, in the midst of
精 jīng essence; purest, most highly concentrated element; germinal essence, life-germ contained in the Dao; the energy that nourishes the human body and is esp. attached to sexuality (semen, menstrual fluid); seminal; vital; seed(ling)

列 liè to array, arrange in ranks or sequence; sign up, align(meant); set out; enlist(meant). 列星 liè xīng star alignment (in astrology)
流 liú flow, drift, course, glide, run, stream; circulate, distribute, spread

人 rén person, human being, man, mankind, others, the other one(s)

上 shàng on top, on high, above, higher, up(ward)
神 shén spirit(ual), god(ly), divine, deity; sacred, etherial, holy; natural order, law of nature
生 shēng life; live, be alive, exist; emerge, come forth, appear; to grow, develop
聖 shèng possessing wisdom, judgment, and moral excellence; profoundly wise and virtuous; sage(ly), sagacious. 聖人 shèng rén saint, sage

天 tiān the sky, the heavens, celestial; 天地 tiān dì heaven and earth, world

為 wéi do; make, contrive; effect; carry out
五 wŭ numeral five; fifth. 五穀 wŭ gŭ five crops (millet, sesame, soya beans, barley or wheat, rice or other variants), all crops, all grains
謂 wèi speak to; speak about, address, say, tell of; to call, term, refer to as, to mean
物 wù things, matters, material things, phenomena, the exterior world, human beings

下 xià below, low(er), under, at the bottom; down(ward), go down, decline, to go down, fall
星 xīng star; astral, star-like
胸 xiōng breast, chest, as seat of affections; inner mind; 胸中 xiōng zhōng one’s mind

於 yú in, at, on, to, from, with regard to

則 zé standard, norm, precept; rule, example; usual, follow a law; VB-phrase conjunction, occurs between two VB-phrases subordinating the former to the latter, specifically with the meaning ‘if VB-phrase 1, then VB-phrase 2’
之 zhī to go; pronouns: this, that, these, those, him, her, it, them; demonstrative adjectives: this, that, these, those; marker of noun-phrase modification; possessive marker; marker of sentential nominalisation
中 zhōng in, inner, innermost, inside, among; centre, central, middle, in the midst of

How many different characters are there in the first part we should learn soon?

If you will memorise 27 characters you can read the first part in 32 characters without teacher’s presence. And believe me, nobody cares what you read, right?

Xing Qi English Translation 1999

In: Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundation of Taoist Mysticism by Harold D. Roth, 1999

01   To circulate the vital breath:

02   Swallow it and it will collect.

03   When it is collected, it will expand.

04   When it expends, it will descend.

05   When it descends, it will be become stable.

06   When it is stable, it will be firm.

07   When it is firm, it will sprout.

08   When it sprouts, it will grow.

09   When it grows, it will return.

10   When it returns, it will become heavenly.

11   The heavenly dynamism is revealed in the ascending [of the breath];

12   The earthly dynamism is revealed in the descending [of the breath].

13   Follow this and you will live;

14   Oppose it and you will die.

Xing Qi Traditional Chinese Text With English Vocabulary

01 行氣 xíngqì

02 吞則蓄 tūn zé xù

03 蓄則伸 xù zé shēn

04 伸則下 shēn zé xià

05 下則定 xià zé dìng

06 定則固 dìng zé gù

07 固則萌 gù zé méng

08 萌則長 méng zé cháng

09 長則復 cháng zé fù

10 復則天 fù zé tiān

11 天機舂在上 tiān jī chōng zài shàng

12 地機舂在下 dì jī chōng zài xià

13 順則生 shùn zé shēng

14 逆則死 nì zé sĭ

Xing Qi Different Characters (1-20)

01 xíng (1) walk, move, travel, about to, soon, will, behavior 

02 氣 qì (1) vital energy, air, vapor

03 吞 tūn to swallow, to take (1)

04 則 zé (11) rule, standard, norm, example, imitate, follow, linking statements: then, already, turned out that, but …

05 蓄 xù to store up, to grow (e.g. a beard), to entertain (ideas) (2)

06 伸 shēn extend, stretch out, open up; trust (2)

07 下 xià (3) postpos.: under, below, lower, get down from, go down

08 定 dìng to set, settled, to fix, fixed,  to determine, to decide, to order, forehead, name of a star (2)

09 固 gù hard, strong, solid, sure, assuredly, undoubtedly, of course, indeed, admittedly (2)

10 méng people, sprout, bud (2)

11 cháng (2) long, height, (read zhăng = grow, increase, excel)

12 復 fù (2) again, return, repeat

13 天 tiān (2) sky, heaven, nature, god, divine

14 機 jī changes, motion, machine, secret, engine, opportunity, intention, aircraft, pivot, crucial point, flexible (quick-witted), organic (2)

15 舂 chōng to pound (grain), beat (2)

16 在 zài (2) be at, rest with, consist in, be present, be alive

17 上 shàng (1) postpos.: on, above, upper, ascend, go up, supreme

18 地 dì (1) earth, round

19 順 shùn to obey, to follow, to arrange, to make reasonable, along, favorable (1)

20 nì disobey, rebel, oppose, contrary, opposite, backwards, to go against, to betray, accord with (1)

Xing Qi English Translation 1997

One of the first Xing Qi English translation can be found in the book: Early Chinese Medical Literature by Donald Harper, 1997

“Swallow, then it travels; traveling, it extends; extending, it descends; descending, it stabilizes; stabilizing, it solidifies; solidifying, it sprouts; sprouting, it grows; growing, it returns; returning, it is heaven. Heaven—its root is above; earth—its root is below. Follow the pattern and live; go against it and die.”

To compare parallel translations easier, I put the numbers of lines according to the translation made by Harold D. Roth in his book Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundation of Taoist Mysticism by Harold D. Roth, 1999

01   xing qi [Harper thinks this is a title and he begins his translation from the second line 吞則蓄 tūn zé xù]

02   Swallow, then it travels;

03   traveling, it extends;

04   extending, it descends;

05   descending, it stabilizes;

06   stabilizing, it solidifies;

07   solidifying, it sprouts;

08   sprouting, it grows;

09   growing, it returns;

10   returning, it is heaven.

11   Heaven—its root is above;

12   earth—its root is below.

13   Follow the pattern and live;

14   go against it and die.

I would like to add a couple of paragraphs from the point of view of D. Harper to make some details clear.

“The verbs that identify the stages of cultivation are not obscure words (travel, extend, descend, etc.), but neither is it obvious exactly how the technique is excited. Like the ’Neiye’ and the Laozi, the text is an example of verse meant for recitation by initiates who would have received fuller knowledge of its meaning either orally or in ancillary texts. The verse itself is the verbal distillation of the technique, each verb an icon of the act of circulating vapor.”

“The true focus of the Mawangdui and Zhangjiashan macrobiotic hygiene texts is on techniques. Unlike the ’Neiye,’ which is theoretical exposition on the physiology of the sage, the excavated texts are meant to teach how to do it—whether it be breath cultivation, exercise, sexual  cultivation, or dietetics. Prior to their discovery, the only ancient example of a macrobiotic technique was a rhymed inscription on a dodecagonal block of jade bearing the title xingqi 行氣 (To circulate vapor). The artifact is thought to be late Warring States (perhaps late fourth or early third century B.C.). The technique is presented in nine trisyllabic phrases which describe the stages of breath cultivation from first swallowing the vapor to completion; four explanatory phrases concludes the text.”

I have to say, that running along the cold or hot mountain’s dirty road and keeping in mind all those transformations between the earth and heaven like a smart human being that’s probably the best hours in my life now.

內業 Nèiyè 01-07


001   凡物之精   fán wù zhī jīng

002    此則為生   cǐ zé wéi shēng

003   下生五穀   xià shēng wŭ gŭ

004   上為列星   shàng wéi liè xīng

005   流天地間   liú tiān dì jiān

006   謂之鬼神   wèi zhī guĭ shén

007   藏於胸中   cāng yú xiōng zhōng

008   謂之聖人   wèi zhī shèng rén


009   01   是故此氣  shì gù cĭ qì

010   02   杲乎如登於天   găo hū rú dēng yú tiān

011   03   杳乎如入於淵   yăo hū rú rù yú yuān

012   04   綽乎如在於海   chuò hū rú zài yú hăi

013   05   崒乎如在於屺    cuì hū rú zài yú qǐ

014   06   是故此氣也   shì gù cĭ qì yĕ

015   07   不可止以力   bù kĕ zhĭ yĭ lì

016   08   而可安以德  ér kĕ ān yĭ dé

017   09   不可呼以聲   bù kĕ hū yĭ shēng

018   10   而可迎以意  ér kĕ yíng yĭ yì

019   11   敬守勿失   jìng shŏu wù shī

020   12   是謂成德  shì wèi chéng dé

021   13   德成而智出  dé chéng ér zhì chū

022   14   萬物畢得   wàn wù bì dé


023   01   凡心之 形 fán xīn zhī xíng

024   02   自充自盈  zì chōng zì yíng

025   03   自生自成  zì shēng zì chéng

026   04   其所以失之 qí suŏ yĭ shī zhī

027   05   必以憂樂喜怒欲利  bì yĭ yōu lè xĭ nù yù lì

028   06   能去憂樂喜怒欲利  néng qù yōu lè xĭ nù yù lì

029   07   心乃反齊  xīn năi făn qí

030   08   彼心之情  bĭ xīn zhī qíng

031   09   利安以寧     lì ān yĭ níng

032   10   勿煩勿亂  wù fán wù luàn

033   11   和乃自成  hé năi zì chéng


034   01   皙皙乎如在於側  xī xī hū rú zài yú cè

035   02   忽忽乎如將不得  hū hū hū rú jiàng bù dé

036   03   渺渺乎如窮無極  miăo miăo hū rú qióng wú jí

037   04   此稽不遠  cĭ jī bù yuàn

038   05   日用其德  rì yòng qí dé

039   06   夫道所以充形  fú dào suŏ yĭ chōng xíng

040   07   而人不能固  ér rén bù néng gù

041   08   其往不復  qí wăng bù fù

042   09   其來不舍  qí lái bù shĕ

043   10   寂乎莫聞其音  jì hū mò wén qí yīn

044   11   卒乎乃在於心  cù hū năi zài yú xīn

045   12   冥冥乎不見其形  míng míng hū bù jiàn qí xíng

046   13   淫淫乎與我俱生  yín yín hū yú wŏ jù shēng

047   14   不見其形  bù jiàn qí xíng

048   15   不聞其聲  bù wén qí shēng

049   16   而序其成  ér xù qí chéng

050   17   謂之道  wèi zhī dào


051   01   夫道無所    fú dào wú suŏ

052   02   善心安處  shàn xīn ān chù

053   03   心靜氣理  xīn jìng qì lĭ

054   04   道乃可止 dào năi kĕ zhĭ

055   05   彼道不遠  bĭ dào bù yuăn

056   06   人得以產  rén dé yĭ chăn

057   07   彼道不離  bĭ dào bù lí

058   08   人因以和  rén yīn yĭ hé

059   09   是故萃萃乎其如可與索  shì gù cùi cùi hū qí rú kĕ yú suŏ

060   10   渺渺乎其如窮無所  miăo miăo hū qí rú qióng wú suŏ

061   11   彼道之情  bĭ dào zhī qíng

062   12   惡意與聲  è yì yú shēng

063   13   修心靜意  xiū xīn jìng yì

064   14   道乃可得  dào năi kĕ dé


065   01   道也者  dào yĕ zhĕ

066   02   口之所不能言也  kŏu zhī suŏ bù néng yán yĕ

067   03   目之所不能視也  mù zhī suŏ bù néng shì yĕ

068   04   耳之所不能聽也  ĕr zhī suŏ bù néng tìng yĕ

069   05   所以修心而正形也  suŏ yĭ xiū xīn ér zhēng xíng yĕ

070   06   人之所失以死  rén zhī suŏ shī yĭ sĭ

071   07   所得以生也  suŏ dé yĭ shēng yĕ

072   08   事之所失以敗 shì zhī suŏ shī yĭ bài

073   09   所得以成也  suŏ dé yĭ chéng yĕ

074   10   凡道無根無莖  fán dào wú gēn wú jīng

075   11   無葉無榮  wú yè wú róng

076   12   萬物以生  wàn wù yĭ shēng

077   13   萬物以成  wàn wù yĭ chéng

078   14   命之曰道  mìng zhī yuē dào


079   01   天主正  tiān zhŭ zhēng

080   02   地主平  dì zhŭ píng

081   03   人主靜  rén zhŭ jìng

082   04   春秋冬夏天之時    chūn qiū dōng xià tiān zhī shí

083   05   山陵川谷地之材也  shān líng chuān gŭ dì zhī cái yĕ

084   06   喜怒取予人之謀也  xĭ nù qŭ yú rén zhī móu yĕ

085   07   是故聖人  shì gù shèng rén

086   08   與時變而不化  yú shí biàn ér bù huà

087   09   從物而不移    cóng wù ér bù yí

內業   Nèiyè: the good and bad (well, not so bad) news for this blog followers

This spring I have decided to follow emendations of the text made by Harold D. Roth in his book Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism, 1999 Columbia University Press.

Chapter 01-07 are cleared: characters counting are correct after deleting some, the difference is only 3 characters (less). Some characters have different tones in the dictionaries, and if I need to hear Chinese vocal pronunciation I use a special application which allows me to utter Chinese characters closely to native speakers. I don’t show emendations marks and don’t comment on the chapters in blog, I really wanted to have the text I can read, meditate and enjoy.

Only the seven parts of twenty-six are cleared (that’s the bad news) but all seven are here now (and that’s the good one). Cosmogonic introduction, 氣 qì, 心 xīn and 形 xíng are the subjects for the first chapters one-three, 道 dào is considered in chapters four-six, and the seventh chapter is like a conclusion topic for the first one.

People don’t dance like this, people don’t play music like this, and people don’t write like this anymore. There is something in ancient philosophy that has been done once and for a long, long time. I am glad that I can belong to those who can appreciate old traces in the modern times.