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´╝îConverting Jing (Body/Flesh) to Qi´╝îConverting Qi to Shen´╝îConverting Shen to the Void´╝îConverting 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.