What are the San Bao

San BaoThe San Bao of Chinese Medicine

The San Bao (pronounced Sam Bow) – or Three Treasures are three qualities or forms of energy – Qi, Jing and Shen – with Jing being seen as Yin, Qi seen as neutral, and Shen seen as Yang. Jing (Essence) has an earthy quality that is closely associated with the sexual act, while Shen (Consciousness) has the quality of spirit and is recognised as our connection with the Tao.


Qi, Chi or Ki

When Qi is used to describe the energy flowing through the meridians it is defined as “life force”, “life energy”, the driving force which makes us “alive”. When that particular quality if Qi has gone, our physical body is deemed to be dead. Qi is the Chinese word used to describe the energy known world-wide as Prana by the Indians, Pneuma by the ancient Greeks, Psychic energy, etc. Qi also refers to energy in the largest sense, it is the stuff of creation, it is both matter and energy and that which holds both together. Chi transcends and is not bounded by time or space it; it is time and space it is the WHOLE.



Jing is the most refined form of Qi; it is life essence, sexual essence. It is Yin in relation to other forms of energy and has a tendency to flow downward towards the genitalia and is related closely with the fluids associated with reproduction.
Even though Jing is recognised as being Yin in relation to the other forms of Qi, like all else it has both Yin and Yang aspects – the Yin being the reproductive fluids and the Yang being the saliva. Jing has the qualities of growth and development that gradually increase during childhood, usually reaching its peak between the ages of 20 and 25.

Although the Jing cannot be raised above its original level, by practising Qigong and living a balanced and healthy lifestyle can augment it, slowing down its decrease.

In Chinese Medicine it is said that the Jing creates the marrow, this includes the grey matter of the brain “the sea of marrow”

There are three external sources of Jing: It is inherited from our parents (genetic strength or weakness); it is influenced by our surroundings and lifestyle – “We are what we eat” Jing being extracted from the refined qualities of our food (Grain Qi) but also with the possibility of it being reduced by toxins (drugs, alcohol, pollution, etc.); and it can be absorbed from one’s sexual partner when practising Taoist sexual yoga.

The Jing is stored in the kidneys, the Lower Dan Tien, and the Exceptional Vessels.

N.B. The word Jing is also used to describe, among other things, “directed Qi” – this is when the Yi (Cognitive Mind) is used to focus or project the Qi as in an Internal Martial Arts strike or during healing work, or used as part of 5 Elements Theory as the name of the spirit of Willpower.



Shen is the least tangible, yet most spiritual of the San Bao, and is a very subtle energy. It is Yang in nature and flows upward with a fire-like quality. As with the other facets of the San Bao, Shen can be cultivated, this time through
meditation and the tranquil forms of Qigong. It is associated with the Liver and the Heart, and when the Qi from these two sources combine harmoniously they produce Shen. When these organs are out of balance the Shen becomes unsettled, leading to restlessness and agitation of the Mind. All mental health illnesses are seen as diseases or imbalances of the Shen.

“Shen is the sparkle in the eye of the wise, the substance of sentience, intuition and wisdom.” Shen is increased through meditation in any form of introspective exercise such as meditation. However, it is lost when we spend too much time and energy looking outside to the materialistic world and it should be noted that the ego destroys the Shen.

The Shen is stored in the Upper Dan Tien (Yin Tang), flows through the Exceptional Vessels, and unless stopped through meditation and introspection it is lost through the eyes.


The San Bao of Neijia

Once again this refers to Qi, Jing and Shen but within Neijia the term “Jing” refers to Willpower (as in the Jing of the Five Elements). This Jing is used to focus the Qi when “sinking” and striking, internalising the method and using the Yi to guide the Qi with greater intent.



The San Bao of Taoism

Ci, Jian & Bugan wei tianxia xian – Compassion, frugality and humility.

Abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment, simplicity of living & refusal to assert active authority.

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 67
Every one under heaven says that our Way is greatly like folly. But it is just because it is great, that it seems like folly. As for things that do not seem like folly — well, there can be no question about their smallness!
Here are my three treasures. Guard and keep them! The first is pity; the second, frugality; the third, refusal to be ‘foremost of all things under heaven’.
For only he that pities is truly able to be brave;
Only he that is frugal is able to be profuse.
Only he that refuses to be foremost of all things
Is truly able to become chief of all Ministers.
At present your bravery is not based on pity, nor your profusion on frugality, nor your vanguard on your rear; and this is death. But pity cannot fight without conquering or guard without saving. Heaven arms with pity those whom it would not see destroyed.



Taiji touchstones

When transferring internal power, it should be sunk, attached, relaxed, and completed. The power should also be concentrated in one direction. (Master Wu Yu-hsiang).