What you need to know about Jing, Qi, Shen: 3 types of Qi

In this article we’re going to focus on Qi. We’ll look into Jing, Qi and Shen (the three types of qi) what they are, and their primary function.

We tend to think of ourselves as physical beings – having a physical structure and form. And although this may be true, Zhineng qigong asserts that a human being is much more than just flesh and blood. In fact, Hunyuan entirety theory states that everything is qi, including the human being.  For those of us not familiar with zhineng qigong, hunyuan qi can loosely be described as the oneness field or wholeness field of the universe. This field holds all the information and energy that gives rise to physical substance. The qi that makes up a human being is called “human hunyuan qi” and contains three forms of qi. These are called jing, qi and shen, or more simply described as body, qi and consciousness. In other forms of qigong, they are also described as body, mind and spirit (or body, soul and spirit), but for the purposes of this article, we will stick to the former description.

Jing, qi and shen interact with each other 

Dr Pang Ming explains that although jing, qi and shen have their own unique function, they all rely on each other to form the entirety of the human being.  In fact, they are constantly communicating with each other and changing into each other.  A simple example of this is how our consciousness affects the flow of qi in our body, and consequently the body itself. When we are consumed with negative thoughts, this energy affects how we feel emotionally and physically. We may get tired and lethargic. Similarly, when our physical body is full of vitality and energy, it may feed our consciousness. We may naturally focus on more uplifting thoughts.

Jing, qi and shen as the three treasures that form one entirety

In ancient Taoist thought, there is no clear distinction between matter and energy. As Kaptchuk writes, “qi is somewhere in between, a kind of matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy at the point of materializing”(p. 43). So although we separate the forms of qi for the purposes of our human understanding, they are in fact one entirety. Jing, qi and shen are three aspects of one whole in an eternal dance where they merge and transform with each other.

In other forms of qigong, jing, qi and shen are also known as the “three treasures”. The purpose of qigong is to unify these three treasures so that they may dance in harmony with each other. In this way, our qigong practice cultivates optimal physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

In the following paragraph we will look more closely at what these forms of qi are.

Qi – the invisible substance

Qi is the texture behind all matter. It is life-force energy or vital energy. It is everywhere and in everything. It is the invisible substance that forms, transforms, fuels and sustains the physical body. In sanskrit, it is known by the name “prana” and in Japanese “ki”. It is also associated with the breath and the middle dantian. In zhineng qigong qi is the fundamental form of human hunyuan qi. It is described as the interface with the human body or the substance that connects consciousness with form.

Qi fills the entire body structure and creates a field of qi around the body. Dr Pang Ming states that there are 3 layers of qi surrounding the body. There is also an internal layer within the membranes under the skin and within the muscles and bones. From this perspective, we can see how our human body is literally bathing in qi.

Qi is in constant motion

The qi of our body system is in constant exchange with the world around us. Internal qi that we no longer need is naturally released back into our environment. And external qi in the world around us is naturally absorbed into our energy systems. This is why spending time in nature is a very healthy qigong practice. As we expel our old qi, we absorb the new fresh qi of nature. Other natural ways of absorbing qi are through eating, drinking and breathing.

The natural state of qi is to flow. Qi is transported throughout the body through pathways or channels, which are otherwise known as meridians. Through these pathways, qi nourishes our physical body. When the qi flowing through our meridians is weak, blocked or stagnant, then our body does not receive the nourishment it needs and over time can fall into dysfunction and disease.

Any form of qigong that focuses on flow can help to correct and balance these disharmonies. In zhineng qigong, LQUPQD would be the classic example for this. By regularly practicing these flowing movements, we keep this qi flowing freely and abundantly throughout our body.

Jing – the body and sexual energy

Although jing can have many interpretations, it is mainly associated with the body and earth.  Jing is form, substance and physical structure. It is gathered or condensed qi. In traditional chinese medicine (TCM) it is described as an energy substance that is passed down from the parents at the moment of conception. This jing qi or innate qi contains all the information necessary to guide physical growth from infancy throughout adulthood.

Jing also refers to our sexual energy and the essence of the reproductive cells. It is a yin form of qi, watery and fluid like in its nature. It finds its expression in fluids related to reproduction, including sperm, vaginal lubricants and the egg (Cohen, 1997). In this regard, it is generative and creative in its nature. Jing is closely associated with the kidneys and flows through and strengthens our bones.

The home of jing

The home of jing in the human body is in the lower dantian.  In zhineng qigong science, it is located in a place called “mingmen” palace.  Mingmen palace lies between the kidneys and behind the navel. As Dr Pang states, “Jing is generated from kidney qi” (p. 72). When our jing is strong and our lower dantian abundant, our body feels vibrant and energized. This vital jing constantly repairs, regenerates and renews our physical substance. In Taoism, this knowledge was applied to prolong life and gain abundant health by conserving sexual energy. A wealth of information on this topic can be found in the work of Master Mantak Chia.

All qigong exercises are helpful in cultivating jing. However, the most beneficial are those that specifically focus on the lower dantian. Although there are many in zhineng qigong that do this, a personal favourite of mine is the 3 centre merge method.

Shen – consciousness

Consciousness is the third form of human hunyuan qi, which is called “shen”. By consciousness, we mean that part of you that is self-aware. In TCM, it is described as the indwelling spirit. It is this spirit or consciousness that allows us to self-examine, to seek deeper meanings, to choose, and to participate in the shaping of our lives (Kaptchuk, 58). In traditional forms of qigong, shen is described as the light in the eyes.  It is also associated with the heart’s intelligence.

In zhineng qigong, the home of consciousness is “shenji palace”.  Shenji palace is located in the centre of the head behind the yin tang point and below the bai hui point. Whereas jing is associated with earth and the lower dantian, shen is associated with heaven, the spiritual and the upper dantian. When the shen is balanced and abundant, we feel calm and observe ourselves clearly. This is why meditation and reflection are said to cultivate shen. On the other hand, shen is depleted when we spend too much time in the external world. This is because we tend to lose ourselves the more we become absorbed in the dramas of the outer world.

Shen guides qi and body

In zhineng qigong, shen is the master of all life processes. Shen guides our qi which in turn quides our body. Dr Pang Ming states that our consciousness can permeate and regulate all parts of the body (p. 70). This means that our state of consciousness, including the thoughts, images and intentions we hold, affect our physical body. This is why adjusting the mind and holding a clear intention in zhineng qigong practice is so important.

Any qigong practice that focuses on quietening and observing the mind would be a good method for cultivating shen. Practicing the 8 verses would be a good example of this.


Cohen, Kenneth. The Way of Qigong. New York: Ballantine books, 1997

Kaptchuk, Ted. The Web that has no Weaver. USA: Contemporary books, 2000.

Ming, Pang, Ph.D. Hunyuan entirety theory.

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