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Three Treasures: Jing, Qi, Shen

For thousands of years traditional Chinese medicine has taught and lived by the theory of “Three Treasures”, a philosophy which states that there are three elements essential to sustaining human life. These elements are Qi (energy), Shen (spirit) and Jing (essence). 

Each division or branch of Chinese medicine aims to regulate and nourish the Three Treasures as a foundation for balancing energy throughout the body. When Qi, Shen and Jing are balanced and strong we have the highest level of emotional, mental and physical strength. In this space of balance and strength, we become more adaptable, have higher immunity and each aspect of life will become lighter. 

So! Let’s meet the elements. 

Jing, which translates to “essence” is the most fundamental aspect of our energy. Jing is the foundation for the two other elements. Our Jing is inherited from our parents and it guides us as we develop, grow and reproduce. To strengthen our Jing, we must pay attention to the food that we eat. Chinese medicine views Jing as our fuel and back-up energy bank, when our Qi is low, we rely on Jing to get us through. Jing becomes depleted when we overwork, use stimulants or have long-term illness. Think of Jing as an energy source that is the fuel for your entire life, it’s hard to restore and it’s crucial to our overall well being. 


Next up, Qi! Qi, which translates to “energy” is our day-to-day function and health. The key components to balanced Qi are simple, clean air and nutritious food. Our Qi thrives and we are full of daily energy when our digestive and respiratory systems are strong. Think of Qi as energy flowing smoothly. A lack of flow leads to physical aches and pains, mood swings and mental fog. The most common blockage of Qi is daily stress. Working to balance and moderate our lives will improve flow and lead us back to the land of contentment. 

Last but not least, Shen! Shen translates to “spirit”. Our Shen is made up of emotions, intelligence, the way we think and our spirituality. The spirit energy connects us to the universe and acts as an anchor for the body. When our Shen is strong, we feel at peace and our wisdom shines through. On the flip side, a weak Shen provides a platform for anxiety, depression, distractedness and other serious mental and emotional conditions. We can strengthen our Shen by cultivating relationships and valuing things like growth, love and tolerance. A strong Shen gives us purpose and guides us in pursuing our destiny.

 In modern times, following the Three Treasures theory is an excellent way to find your ground and live your best life. The concept is simple but deep and so meaningful. If you’re inspired but don’t know where to start, try these meditation techniques to tame your mind.


Image: Light sculptures by Isamu Noguchi