Taoist classical texts often deal with symbolisms and abstractions. Microcosmic Orbit
Meditation works by visualizing the energy channeling through different parts of the human
anatomy. Hence it is of interest to find out the anatomical description of the human body
from the Taoist perspective as it relates the channeling of energy or vital essence. This
description is from a translation of an eleventh century manuscript written by Chang
Po-tuan by Thomas Cleary.
Taoist texts speak of the 'medicinal elements' of internal alchemy, using metaphors
such as 'red lead', 'black mercury', 'cinnabar', 'white snow', 'green dragon', 'white
tiger', 'sun rays', and 'moon beams'. These metaphors refer to various aspects and
elements of the Three Treasures - essence, energy, and spirit - which are the only real
elements of internal alchemy.
The vital junctions, or 'passes', used in circulating internal energy are also given
mysterious names, such as the 'Yellow Chamber', 'Red Cauldron', 'Mysterious Pass', 'Lead
Furnace', 'Flower Pond', 'Dragon Lair', and 'Vermilion Palace'. These colorful names
denote the invisible but highly functional points inside and along the surface of the
body, where energy collects, transforms, and enters various channels for circulation.
Taoist internal alchemy is actually a highly scientific method of harnessing, controlling,
conserving, converting, and circulating essence and energy under the guidance of spirit in
order to replace depletion with accretion, reverse disintegration with integration, and
counteract degeneration with regeneration.
A term of particular importance in Taoist internal alchemy is the 'firing process',
which has nothing at all to do with fire. The firing process refers to breathing, which
acts as a bellows to gently fan the 'fire' of energy in the 'cauldrons' of the Elixir
Taoists believe that the human body has three posterior passes and three anterior
passes. The three posterior passes are in the coccyx, at the base of the spine;
in the mid-spine, where the ribs join the spine; and at the back of the brain.
The pass in the coccyx, at the bottom of the spine, connects with the channels of the
genital organs. From this pass ascends the spinal cord, which is called the Zen Valley,
or the Yellow River, or the Waterwheel Course, or the Mountain Range up to the
Court of Heaven, or the Ladder up to Heaven.
This is the road by which positive energy ascends; it goes right up the point opposite
the center of the chest, the pass of the enclosed spine, where the ribs join in back, then
it goes straight up to the back of the brain, which is called the Pass of the Jade
The three anterior passes are called the Nirvana Center, the Earth Pot, and the Ocean
of Energy. The Nirvana Center is the so-called upper elixir field. It is a spherical
opening 1.3 inches in diameter and is the repository of the spirit. That opening is three
inches behind the center of the eyebrows, right in the middle.
The space between the eyebrows is called the Celestial Eye. The space one inch
inward is called the Bright Hall. The space one inch farther in is called the Hidden
Chamber. One inch farther in from that is the Nirvana Center .
The windpipe has twelve sections and is called the Multi-storied Tower; it goes
to the openings in the lungs, and reaches the heart. Below the heart is an opening called
the Crimson Chamber, where the dragon and tiger mate. Another 3.6 inches directly
below that is what is called the Earth Pot, which is the Yellow Court, the
middle elixir field.
The umbilical opening is called the Door of Life. It has seven channels
connecting with the genitals. The leaking of sexual energy takes place through these
channels. Behind the navel and in front of the kidneys, right in the middle, is the place
called the Crescent Moon jar, or the Ocean of Energy. And 1.3 inches below
that is what is called the Flower Pond, or the lower elixir field. This is where
vitality is stored, and it is the place where the medicine is gathered.