TCM theory

The Second Treasure

Qi, the second Treasure, is the energy that creates our vitality. Through the constant interaction of yin and yang, the two moving powers of the universe, change is brought into being and life exists. Qi is the activity of yin and yang. All movement, all functioning and all thought is the result of qi. The nature of qi is to move. The Three Treasures system includes both energy and blood. It nourishes and protects us. Qi is said to be produced as a result of the functions of the lungs and spleen. Therefore, qi tonics strengthen the digestive, assimilative and respiratory functions.

When qi condenses, it becomes jing. Fast-moving qi is considered to be yang while slow-moving qi is yin. In the system of the Three Treasures, blood is considered to be a part of the qi component of our being. Blood is said to be produced from the food ingested after the qi has been extracted through the action of the spleen. The red blood cells are said to be nutritive and are thus associated with the ying qi (yin), while the white blood cells are protective and are associated with wei qi (yang). Qi tonics are generally believed to have potent immune modulating activity. Qi tonics, composed of energy and/or blood tonics, increase our ability to function fully and adaptively as human beings.

Qi tonics increase the amount, and improve the quality, of the energy and blood flowing through our system. This increase in energy and blood results in an overall increase in physical and mental vitality.
The Third Treasure

Shen is the third Treasure. Shen is the guiding spirit, which directs qi. This is ultimately the most important of the Three Treasures because it reflects our higher nature as human beings. Chinese masters say that shen is the all-embracing love that resides in our heart. Shen is the spiritual radiance of a human being and is the ultimate and most refined level of energetics in the universe. Shen is not considered to be an emotion or even a state of mind. It presides over the emotions and manifests as all-encompassing compassion, and nondiscriminating, nonjudgemental awareness. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance.

Even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion, shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one. It manifests as our wisdom and our ability to see all sides of all issues, our ability to rise above the world of right and wrong, good and bad, yours and mine, high and low.

Certain true shen tonics encourage the opening up of shen. There are also shen “stabilizers” which help stabilize our emotions so that shen (our higher self) can rule our lives. The emotions are allowed to play themselves out, but not to dominate our lives and become obsessions or addictions. Shen tonics have been used by the great sages of the Orient to help in their quest for enlightenment and harmony with God, nature and all of mankind.


Tonic herbs can be categorized as jing (yin and/or yang), qi (energy and/or blood) and shen (opening and/or stabilizing) by virtue of which of the Three Treasures they tend to nourish and develop. Applying the principle of the Three Treasures is the highest form of herbalism. In the Orient it is called the Superior Herbalism.
Cultivating the Three Treasures

The Daoist arts put almost immeasurable emphasis on cultivating the Three Treasures. The various techniques for developing, managing, expanding and utilizing the Three Treasures include such arts as qigong (in general), neigong (internal qigong or internal alchemy), meditation, the martial arts, acupressure, tonic diet, and perhaps most powerfully of all, the Superior Herbalism, also known as tonic herbalism, among other techniques. All together, these arts are referred to in the Orient as the Art of Radiant Health.
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