Taoist Practices

The Small Universe

Xiao Zhou Tian (Small Universe Circulation)

The Small Universe Circulation in Taoism means one circulation of Qi up the Governing Vessel and then down the Conception Vessel as one complete circuit.

In this circulation, Qi starts at Lower-Dantian, goes downward to pass the Huiyin Point, then the anus, and then goes up the back through the Governing Vessel passing through the three Gates (Weilv, Jiaji, and Yuzhen), arrives at the Yin Tang Point, continues down the Governing Vessel to the Renzhong Point (GV-26),

Then connects with the Conception Vessel, via the "Magpie Bridge". Qi usually moves through smoothly down the Conception Vessel to Lower dantian.

Since the Qi rotation is relatively smaller, it is called the Small Universe.

This is the first step of Inner Alchemy practice; the transmutation of Jing into Qi.

Please Note: There are several details in the Small Universe Circulation practice that may vary according to its lineage. The above description is intended to give a very basic description to those whom have not had the chance to practice yet and is by no means intended an instruction manuel.

  • Qi means essential life force.
  • Small Universe Circulation is also called the Microcosmic Orbit, Small Circulation, Small Orbit etc..
  • Lower Dantian is one of the three major energy centers of the human body. It is a crucial energy center for almost all Chinese Cultivation practices.
  • Huiyin Point is located at the perineum between the genitals and the anus.
  • The Three Gates
    1. Weilv Gate (corresponds to GV-1),
    2. Jiaji Gate (corresponds to GV-10), and...
    3. Yuzhen Gate (corresponds to GV-17)
  • Magpie Bridge: is a Taoist term which refers to any of the temporary connections of two Acupoints; in this case the connection of the GV-26 and .
  • Yintang Point (Extra-1) is an acupoint located at the middle of the eyebrows also called the "Third Eye".
  • Biqiao Midpoint is a Taoist Acupoint located at the bisection of the two Yingxiang Points (LI-20) on the Large Intestine Channel.
  • Jing means essence, its the raw material or unrefined energy.

What is Inner Alchemy?

Inner Alchemy practice is the pursuit of returning to the source (Tao). It involves systematically refining ones Jing-Qi- Shen.  And provides us a means to better understand ourselves, the universe we live in, and our purpose in life.

Within Taoism there are structured guidelines and practice methods regarding the attainment of unity with nature. These guidelines and practice methods are divided into External Alchemy and Inner Alchemy.

External Alchemy originated from ancient Chinese alchemy which was aimed at converting base metals into gold or silver. In External Alchemy, Taoist made and consumed pellets (Dan). The risk of consuming External Dan was huge. As a result, during the Song Dynasty ( 960 to 1279 CE ), Zhong Liquan and Lv Dongbin began promoting Inner Alchemy and ever since External Alchemy became less and less popular.

Inner Alchemy is based on traditional "Jing-Qi-Shen Theory". Tao (Spirit) generates Qi, Qi generates Jing, and Jing generates Body/Flesh (Xing) which is the normal generation sequence according to Taoism. The purpose of Inner Alchemy is to return to original nature (the source), which is to return Body/Flesh to Jing, Jing to Qi, Qi to Tao (Spirit).

The practice procedures are; Building a Foundation,Converting Jing (Body/Flesh) to Qi,Converting Qi to Shen,Converting Shen to the Void,Converting the Void to Tao.

The harmony, interaction and connection of Heart and Kidney is crucial in Inner Alchemy.

During the practice, you need to calm your mind and descend your Heart Fire to warm your Kidney Water. Which then changes into Qi and travels through the Small-Universe route. When Yang Qi has accumulated in your Lower Dantian, move the Qi to the Middle Dantian. Then place the Shen in the Qi at Middle Dantian for cultivation.

This is called Convert Qi to Shen. Our Shen will cultivate in the Qi at Middle Dantian for ten months. This is known as the Large Universe Practice. After ten months, we will move the Shen to Upper Dantian for further cultivation (usually for 9 years), which is called Converting the Spirit to the Void. After 9 years, our Spirit can move to the crown of head, and finally leave the body, which is called Convert Emptiness to Tao.

Inner Alchemy &  External Alchemy

Although Inner Alchemy started quite early, there were only general descriptions of the system, and a lack of technical terminology. When Inner Alchemy became popular at the end of the Tang Dynasty ( 618 to 907 CE ), it adopted terminology from External Alchemy. For example, the two commonly used chemicals in External Alchemy-lead and mercury are compared to Kidney Water and Heart Fire in Inner Alchemy.  Also, an "oven /stove" is the appliance used to make/clinker the pellets in External Alchemy, which is compared to the human body in Inner Alchemy. The terminology of Inner Alchemy was derived from that of External Alchemy, how ever the definitions have changed completely.

Inner Alchemy and TCM

Inner Alchemy and TCM have the same purpose: adjust and balance Jing, Qi and Shen for the sake of health and cultivation. The names and location of the energy points are similar or even the same in many cases. There are things in common regarding the circulation of the energy channels. Most of the early Inner Alchemy practicers were also ancient Chinese doctors.

Inner Alchemy and Martial Arts

Taoist practicers focus on the combination of dynamic and static, using motionlessness to restrain activity. For example, during the Building Foundation process, you can practice while you are sitting, standing, lying or even walking in a quiet place. Taoist ancestor Zhang Sanfeng used Tai-Chi-Chuan to assist the Inner Alchemy practice.


Professor Teng


Professor Teng is an internationally recognized Qigong master who has been practicing Qigong for over forty years. A graduate from the Beijing T.C.M. University and a well learned student of countless Qigong Masters, he used ancient Chinese health preserving techniques to gradually created Kongran theory, in which his Qigong is based.

Kongran theory's main concepts are derived from the archaic Chinese aerification theory,  which emphasizes purity, simplicity and peacefulness.

Read more: Professor Teng


Kong Ran Qi Gong Practice

Given to us by Professor Teng

The purpose of Kongran Qigong is to balance and harmonize ones internal and external Qi, promoting ones over all mental, physical and spiritual well-being.


  1. Stand with your feet together, heals touching, toes apart at forty-five degrees from the center, your body upright, your arms relaxed by your sides and the top of your head elevated as if being pulled up by a string. 
    • Relax  in this stance for a moment, let your mind clam and your breath be natural.
    • Step to the left with your left foot in aline with the outside of your left shoulder.
    • Relax again.
    • Step to the right with your right foot in aline with the outside of your right shoulder.
    • Relax again, letting your mind calm and your breath be natural.
  2. Stand in the first Posture as described below.
  3. Then start the visualizations.
  4. Then go through the relaxation sequence while holding the opening posture.
  5. Then start the hand postures as described with pictures below. Hold each posture for a couple of minutes until you feel relaxed. ( click on the postures to see pictures of them )
  6. Then Close

Note: You can do just the opening posture and close if you want, especially in the beginning when you're not used to holding the postures for a long time and then gradually add each posture one at a time as you get more comfortable holding them for longer time. You can also choose to only practice the postures you need depending on what is best for you.

Read more: Kong Ran Qi Gong Practice