This essay examines the concept of the three treasures—jing, qi and shen—in the writings of Wu Shouyang as an example of late imperial discourse on internal alchemy (neidan 內丹). A well-known concept basic to Daoism as well as Chinese culture in general, the three treasures are differently interpreted in various contexts, and the specific ideas associated with each of them shape the views of human nature and immortality in which they play a central role. While the metaphorical registers are the most distinctive characteristic of inner alchemy discourse, the three treasures are presented by Wu and other inner alchemy authors as the basic ontological categories to which most metaphors refer. As such, they connect the theory and practice of cultivation with ordinary human experience, and place both in a broader cosmological perspective. Moreover, one of the main soteriological objectives of cultivation—the creation of a yang spirit (yangshen 陽 神)—should be understood within the matrix of ideas associated with the three treasures. A close analysis of these ideas, therefore, reveals much about the fundamental aspirations of internal alchemy and the meaning of immortality (xian 以) in this context.


Additional Information

pp. 117-145
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.