The Neijing Tu (simplified Chinese: 內经图; traditional Chinese: 內經圖; pinyin: Nèijīng tú; Wade–Giles: Nei-ching t'u) is a Daoist "inner landscape" diagram of the human body illustrating Neidan "Internal alchemy", Wu Xing, Yin and Yang, and Chinese mythology.
The Nei Jing Tu is a map of the body and its processes. The map illustrates the transformations that occur during Nei Dan or certain types of meditation.
1. Gate of Life and Death
This represents the area where our life force can flow downward and out of the body, which drains our remaining life force. Life force can leave in this way via sexual energy and blood. It can leave through the penis, vagina, or anus. Practicing Nei Dan can reverse the flow of the life force, turning it upward to be recycled in the body. This reversal of the flow of life force is the key to health and rejuvenation. It allows qi to be retained and guided through the channels to energize the body. The Microcosmic Orbit Nei Dan assists in directing qi up the back to be recycled in the body.
2. Tail Gate
Life begins in the lower Dan Tian, in the uterus. This area contains Jing, which is the foundation of the body, and it includes Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang. Located at the perineum, there is a boy and a girl. The boy represents Kidney Yang, the testicles, and Jing qi. The girl represents Kidney Yin, the ovaries, and Jing Yin. The boy and girl are turning a waterwheel. The waterwheel represents the process of integrating Yin and Yang (Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang) and pumping it into the Du channel at the coccyx, where it will continue to flow up the body. In Chinese medicine, the body’s Yang (the Gate of Vitality/Ming Men) cooks Jing to create source qi. This source qi is referred to as steam. Source qi is the original qi in the body. It is the foundation of all qi. The quality and quantity of this qi is essential to health and vitality. In Nei Dan, we begin meditating in this area. This helps to make the steaming process more efficient and effective at producing source qi. The boy, the girl, and the waterwheel represent this process of steaming.
3–4. Sacral Hiatus Gate
The qi from the Tail Gate flows to the sacral hiatus, Du 2, Yao Shu. This is represented as a rock with eight holes. The rock is the sacrum. The holes in the rock are the eight sacral foramina. The spinal nerves flow into the foramina. An enormous amount of energy flows through this area. These holes are a metaphor for “portals” that receive Earth energies, and then blend them with the Kidney Yin and Yang from the Tail Gate. The Sacral Hiatus Gate includes Jing qi, which includes sexual energy. Jing creates the marrow matrix, which includes marrow and bone. Jing is closely related to bone. Guiding qi to the sacrum infuses the bone with vitality and enhances Jing. The sacrum represents Earth and the lower part of the lower Dan Tian. Moving vital substances to this area is a type of “marrow washing practice.” The sacrum acts as a pump that moves qi up the spine. This area has a strong influence on Jing, bone, source qi, fertility, and the genitals.
5. Gate of Destiny
The qi from the Sacral Hiatus Gate moves to the Kidneys and Ming Men, Du 4. The Ming Men is the Gate of Vitality and the Fire of the body. This Fire (Yang) ignites the process of Yang cooking Yin. The Fire cooks Jing, which creates source qi. This gate has a strong influence on the Kidneys, both Yang and Yin. “Ming” means destiny. In a Nei Dan context, destiny means the quality of our life force. Nei Dan influences the quality of our life. Destiny includes hereditary and ancestral influences. Cultivating this gate and cultivating the entire lower Dan Tian can release ancestral influences. We can transform and move beyond them. By refining the qi, the energetics and influences inside Jing are transformed to a neutral state. This is the qi stage in the Jing-qi-shen process.
6. The Cauldron
This is the lower Dan Tian cauldron. This is where the Ming Men cooks Jing, creating source qi. This area also activates sexual qi (which comes from Jing). In Nei Dan, we bring internal energies together. This cauldron serves to conserve, refine, and move them. This cauldron is where we mix and blend our life force to rejuvenate our body. This refined qi becomes the basis of our life, our awareness, and our consciousness.
7. Yin–Yang and Tai Chi
The four Yin–Yang/Tai Chi symbols represent the moving force inside our body. This natural force assists in the transformation of Jing to qi to shen. This force activates the Ming Men, the Gate of Vitality. Ming Men cooks Jing, creating steam or source qi. In Nei Dan terminology, we call this creation of source qi “steaming.”
8. Buffalo Plows the Land and Plants the Golden Elixir
This gate is opposite the navel area, at the back. It is a bridge from the Kidneys, Jing, sexual qi, source qi, the Spleen/Stomach center, and the yi. It includes the relationship between prenatal and postnatal. When sexual qi and source qi move into the Du channel and flow up the spine, source qi also moves to the Earth center/the Spleen, and Stomach. Earth is the transforming element. In Nei Dan, the function of Earth is to transform Jing into qi. This is the first stage in the Nei Dan process of Jing-qi-shen. In Chinese medicine, this center creates Gu qi. Gu qi then rises up to the Lungs and Heart. This rising of qi is essential to create qi and blood in the body. The Earth center houses the yi. The yi is our intellectual capacity. It is our thinking and thoughts. The yi filters all experiences of life. It organizes and digests life experiences. Understanding this process enables us to realize how we process life experiences. The Nei Dan process can assist in changing how we process these experiences. Awareness of the process can also help in releasing ourselves from attachments to old patterns and imprints from early life and from current stresses and intensities. Nei Dan refines our life force, the yi, and our filtering process. This refined life force can connect to our Yuan Shen. This process allows patterns, imprints, and stresses to become conscious, allowing them to be transformed. More importantly, we have the opportunity to see them as patterns, imprints, and stresses, rather than part of our essential nature. The Earth center is the link from the lower Dan Tian to the upper Dan Tian. If stagnations, blockages, or other aspects of conditioning are not transformed, they will go to the Heart center. This will subsequently influence our Heart shen.
9. The True Dan Tian
This is the location of the Elixir Field. It is the area above the cauldron at the four Tai Chi symbols; it is closer to the spine. This area is where the body’s heat creates steam. Qi is represented pictorially as the steam rising from Fire cooking rice. This image of steam is an essential aspect of Nei Dan.
10. Weaving Maiden Spins at her Loom
This area is the right Kidney, which is Yin and Water. Above the maiden is the cowherder, which represents Yang at the Heart level. The weaving maiden gathers Yin from the body, the stars, the planets, and the cosmos. This Yin is then stored in the lower Dan Tian. One’s intention, breath, and body (for example, the eyes) are used to gather and store vital substances in the lower Dan Tian. This gate is where the Yin of the Kidneys and the Yang of the Heart unite. This unification is the mingling of shen and Jing, which nourishes the transformation of Jing-qi-shen.
11. The Kidney Zhi Spirit
This area reflects the Kidneys’ ability to store prenatal energies, which then transport those energies to support our spiritual development. The Kidneys contain the zhi and willpower. Your willpower helps you live the life you desire.
12. Gate to the One
This area is located opposite the Heart. It is an area where qi can be drawn into the Heart and the Heart center.
13. The Big Hammer
This is Da Zhui, the Big Hammer, Du 14. It is at the seventh vertebra. It is where all the Yang channels intersect. Da Zhui connects the lower center to the upper center, and then connects the trunk to the arms. This area needs to be clear and free flowing, to let qi circulate to the upper Dan Tian and the arms.
14. Cave of the Spirit Peak
This area is Yao Men, Mute’s Gate, Du 15. There is an internal pathway that flows from this point to the brain. It has a strong influence on JingShen, the brain. This area guides qi to the upper Dan Tian and assists in the transformation of Jing-qi-shen. This center assists us in self-expression.
15. Sea of Marrow
The whole head is a mountain with nine caves. The Sea of Marrow surrounds the crown of the head. It includes areas behind, in front of, and to the sides of the crown. This area is where heavenly energies flow into our body. An alchemical image includes nine caves. We practice Nei Dan in these caves and centers.
16. Top of the Great Peak
This area contains the pineal gland, which is an “internal compass” in Nei Dan. This inner compass connects to the North Star, and the center of the sky/celestial. This area connects to heavenly energy. We can make this connection by tucking our chin inward and tilting our head upward.
17. High Place of Many Veils
The High Place of the Many Veils is where the spirit and soul can either exit or enter. It is between the Great Peak and the Muddy Pill.
18. Muddy Pill
Muddy Pill is located at Bai Hui, Hundred Meetings, Du 20. When this area is open, it feels like soft mud. It includes the hypothalamus gland. It is a conduit to draw qi inward, as well as project qi outward. It connects to the Big Dipper.
19. House of Rising Yang
This is the third eye (Yin Tang). Yin Tang receives energies from the sun and the moon. It is the center of psychic powers, and it is a conduit to the exterior.
20. Nine Sacred Peaks
This location is near the mid-eyebrow. The area includes the pituitary gland; it receives energies to travel in the earthly planes.
21. Immortal Realm
This is the area in front of the crown. The Immortal Realm can draw heavenly energies into the body.
22. Lao Zi
Lao Zi is the Old Man. He is the founder of philosophical Taoism. He is located in the celestial (head) and his long, white beard flows to the Earth. Lao Zi is a living embodiment of the unity of Heaven and Earth. As he lives in the Way (The Tao), he becomes the Way.
23. Heaven and Earth Destiny
This is Damo extending his hands up to connect to the heavenly energy. Damo and Lao Zi are the founders of philosophical Taoism and Chan Buddhism (Chinese Buddhism). Both represent the integration of our heavenly and earthly destination.
24. Sun and Moon Within
The two circles above Damo are the sun and the moon. They are Yang and Yin. The sun and the moon are also the left and right eyes. By moving the eyes in Nei Dan, we move the Yang and Yin energies in the body. The eye movement integrates and mingles Yang and Yin, which creates harmony. In Nei Dan, the eyes are used to look inside the body. This “looking” guides qi. When we spiral at various areas of the body, the eyes likewise spiral, which enhances the effects of circulating, gathering, and collecting.
25 and 26. Du and Ren channels
The Du and Ren channels are the major Yin and Yang channels. They are represented here as thick channels lying above, below, and in front of Lao Zi. These two channels comprise the Microcosmic Orbit (small Heavenly Orbit).
27. The Drawbridge
This is the tongue. It is sometimes called the “Pool of Water.” When the tongue touches the palate, it connects the Ren and Du channels. This allows energies to flow through the Microcosmic Orbit and the three Dan Tian. This bridge generates fluids, which are the result of Nei Dan. The f luids change from saliva, to nectar, and then to elixir. With practice, the body generates and accumulates increased levels of qi. This influences the organs, glands, and our body fluids. As we cultivate our life force, our qi and body fluids change.
28. Dew Pond
This area is located behind the soft palate and connects to the pituitary gland.
29. Mouth Pool
This is Yin Jiao, Gum Intersection, Du 28. It is the area where the elixir f lows from the Dew Pond. Cosmic energy enters here during breathing.
30. Heavenly Pool
This is the area where the tongue connects to the palate. This area brings saliva to the palate.
31. The Pagoda
This is Tian Tu, Heaven’s Chimney, Ren 22. It is located in the space at the top of the sternum. The qi flowing in the heavenly orbit flows down the throat through this area to nourish the Heart.
32. Flaming Balls of Fire
This area is around the “Cowherder Boy Connects to the Stars” (see 34 below). It represents the Nei Dan cultivation at the Heart center. This Nei Dan contains the Fire and passion of our quest for self-realization.
33. Spiral of Rice Grains
The rice grain is a metaphor for the microcosm. All of life is inside each person. Learning to focus our life with Nei Dan enables us to understand both Heaven and Earth. The ways of Earth are called nature. The ways of Heaven are called destiny. The way of the Tao is the cultivation and integration of both Heaven and Earth, which allows one to enjoy the fruits of all aspects of life.
34. Cowherder Boy
Connects to the Stars This area reflects the connection of the Heart shen, love, and compassion. The stars reflect our connection to the Big Dipper and the heavenly realm. Aligning to the Big Dipper during the year enables us to connect to and gather heavenly energies, to support our Nei Dan practice.
35. Milky Way
This is a bridge connecting the Heart and the Kidneys, connecting the Yang and Yin, and connecting the Water and Fire. The Heart and the Kidneys are Shao Yin. This connection reflects Jing seeking shen, and it reflects the will for self-realization. The Milky Way merges the Kidney zhi and the Heart shen.
36. Lung Spirit
The Lung Spirit represents the value of releasing. When the Lungs inhale, they fill with cosmic qi; when they exhale, they empty. Emptying is essential to health, vitality, and self-realization. Being empty allows each breath, and each moment, to be new and rejuvenating.
37. Solar Plexus
The Solar Plexus is the middle Dan Tian. It includes the Spleen, Stomach, Liver, Gallbladder, and the hun and the yi.
38. Outer Ring of the Forest
This area is the edge of the rib cage. It is where the diaphragm is housed.
39. Liver Spirit
The trees are the Wood element, and they correspond to the Liver. The Liver stores and transports qi and blood. Its function includes creating the smooth flow of qi and blood. It also supports the smooth flow of emotions. The Kidneys are the Water element. They nourish Wood and the Liver, which in turn nourishes the Heart: this is Wood nourishing Fire. The Liver is the general, and a good general has a good plan. Nei Dan cultivation reveals a plan, and a direction in life.
39a. Gallbladder Spirit
This area is in the middle of the Liver. The Liver and the Gallbladder open to the eyes. The outer eyes are eyesight; the inner eyes are spiritual clarity. The Gallbladder is essential in obtaining clarity. Nei Dan cultivates our ability to be clear and decisive.
39b. Spleen Spirit
This location is at the Spleen area. It relates to the yi and the transformation process. Nei Dan transforms and refines. As the yi becomes refined with Nei Dan practice, we are able to be a living expression of the Way/the Tao.
40. Lower Dan Tian
This area represents the alchemy of the lower Sea of Qi. “The Cauldron,” “Yin–Yang and Tai Chi,” and “Buffalo Plows the Land and Plants the Golden Elixir” represent the Nei Dan process.
The processes in the Nei Jing Tu and our body continue throughout our lifetime. The flow of seas, rivers, streams, springs, and wells is the exterior image of the interior flows of vital substances: Jing, qi, blood, and body f luids. Proper flows of Water are essential to life and a bountiful harvest. Optimal circulation of the vital substances is a key to health and vitality. The Eight Extraordinary Channels Nei Dan is a powerful way to assist in creating effective circulation of vital substances. This healthy flow clears the rough, allowing you to see and experience the diamond shining inside. This Nei Dan assists in fulfilling our life quest, and achieving self-realization.
~Eight Extraordinary Channels, Qi Jing Ba Mai, A Handbook for Clinical Practice and Nei Dan Inner Meditation, Dr. David Twicken DOM, L.Ac. ~