Tāixī 胎息 embryonic breathing, closed eyes

Tāixī 胎息 embryonic breathing, closed eyes

Tāixī 胎息 embryonic breathing

On the beginning of use of taixi term Catherine Despeux, a sinologist, says: “One of the first mentions of taixi occurs in the fifth-century biography of Wáng Zhēn 王真 (Later Han), which states that he and others “were able to practice embryonic breathing and feed themselves like an embryo (tāishí 胎食).”

Soon after that we can find a couple of citations which should probably had the intention to explain basics or give some important details to readers (actually, they don’t), and they look like these: (1) “In one of its two meanings, taixi designates a way of breathing similar to that of embryo. Breathing through the nose appears to stop and is replaced by breathing through the navel and the pores of the skin. In the second meaning, taixi is performed by neidan adepts in the abdomen.” I have a strong feeling of uncertainty that you, me, or somebody else can ‘stop breathing through the nose’ and ‘appears to stop’ doesn’t help either. “Replaced by breathing through the navel and the pores of the skin”(K. Despeux)? — Is there anybody who did such things yesterday, or the day before yesterday? Just don’t.

Another approach sounds like this: (2) “In the Tang period (618-907), the Yanling xiansheng ji xinjiu fuqi jing (Scripture on the New and Old Methods for the Ingestion of Breath Collected by the Elder of Yanling) defines the technique as follows: “One must carefully pull the breath while inspiring and expiring so that the Original Breath (yuanqi) does not exit the body. Thus the outer and inner breaths do not mix and one achieves embryonic breathing.”” Well, we have sources, authors, traditions, quotes, scientists’ opinions, thousand of followers, history of taoism, Encyclopedia of Taoism, Routledge, Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008… What we haven’t is called plain English now.

I don’t belong to inner circle of practitioners of neidan or taixi techniques in China specifically and I don’t belong to established circle of Asian Study specialists but I am a passionate reader of both and somehow I feel I should deal with this term tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. For that I suggest reread Ge Hung’s (283-343) Baopu zi, Chapter 8, today. The Tāixī 胎息 resembles now a very slow meditative breathing through the nose (welcome, nose!) and pulling the breath (yes, stop inhaling)  until 120 beats of heart (Baopu zi) and then very slowly exhale through the mouth (yeah, mouth!). Next step is 1000 beats stop (Baopu zi again) and a couple of paragraphs after that  should be definitely added to those wonderful abilities we have been spoken a bit earlier (Shèngrén 聖人 saint, sage, saintly man). In plain English (I promised earlier) for yoga practitioners it is the Lotus Pose with 4-3-2 (for beginners) or just 1 inhale-exhale cycle in minute or more than a minute. So, if I have a pulse 80 beats per minute, 100 bpm will mean a pause after inhalation more then a minute which is difficult but possible to achieve, I guess, for patient followers. Are you in or what?


Obviously, Gĕ Hóng 葛洪 is a very important figure in study of taoism and his Bàopŭ zi 抱樸子 (Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity  (Traditional Chinese here and Simplified Chinese in the Encyclopedia article) is an important source of information too. 

Needless to say, there will not be much simplicity in his picture of Taoism, so let’s make an agreement: every citation of this author which will be helpful to understand details of the ‘minor arts’ (xiaoshu—healing methods, longevity techniques, divination), nourishing life (breathing, gymnastics – daoyin, sexual techniques – fangzhong shu), and meditation will be treated carefully. All other ideas and thoughts will be omitted, because the main goal of these private notes is to figure out the shortest way through the many centuries to the core of taoism as it was for ‘cultivating inner nature of any person’ and not a religious and organized movement in the history of one of the biggest civilization in the modern world. 

There are a couple of pictures of Ge Hong from the ‘sacred internet’, it looks like he was a very different person sometimes. Frankly, the same visual effects can come in sight when we deal with scientific/historic ideas and this is another brick in my strong intention to find anything close to the time of the origin. These two pictures will not be included, definitely 🙂

Ge Hong 01Ge Hong 02