Qi, also known as “vital energy” or “life force”, is basically energy in the most general sense. Qi gives life to all things, and to the Ancient Chinese, Qi is the underlying reality of all things physical. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), life is defined as a “gathering of Qi.”
The underlying substance behind the physical structure of the human body as well as all human functions. According to TCM, a person’s growth, reproduction, and aging are governed by Jing. There are two types of Jing: Prenatal and Postnatal.
Prenatal Jing is obtained from one’s parents while Postnatal Jing is derived from food and nutrition.
Refers to one’s consciousness, will, and cognitive activities. This includes personality, character, etc.
The Three Treasures/The Three Jewels/Sanbao
The term Taoists use to refer to Qi, Essence and Spirit. Taoists regard the Three Treasures as the three elements that constitute human life.
The Three Flowers
The term that Cultivators use to refer to Qi, Essence and blood. Cultivators regard the Three Flowers as the elements that constitute the human body and all bodily functions.
The best analogy I can come up with is this: think of a human being as an AI-powered robot. As such, the Jing/Essence would be the materials that forms the parts and mechanism of the robot’s body (iron, metal, the silicon and germanium inside the chips, plastic, etc.); the Qi would be the electricity/electric current that powers the robots physical movements; the Spirit, then, would be the AI computer program that governs the robot’s behavior.
Note on the Difference between the Three Treasure and the Three Flowers
The Three Flowers are the elements of the human body while the Three Treasures are the elements of human life in general. The difference between them is easy to see. In the Three Treasures, one of the component is Spirit, which has nothing to do with the physical body. But the Spirit is still an important part of human life.
In Chinese Medicine, Yin Qi is a form of Qi that are relatively material, substantial, condensing, solid, heavy, descending, cold, moist, cooling, dark, passive and quiescent.
It also refers to a woman’s Qi.
A form of Qi that are relatively immaterial, amorphous, expanding, hollow, light, ascending, hot, dry, warming, bright, aggressive, and active.
A rare form of Yin Qi. Zhou Qin’s body has it.
A rare form of Yang Qi. Li Yundong’s body has it due to the Jindan.
Adolescent Yang Qi
The purest form of Yang Qi in the world. It is also the most essential part of the Yang Qi in the human body. Stored in a person’s Huiyin (an acupoint located on a person’s perineum) Only a woman’s Qi is able to draw it out from the Huiyin.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Yuanyang is the most essential and important component of the human body’s Yang Qi. Practitioners of TCM believe that they are stored somewhere near the kidneys (two viscera located on the small of the back, one either side of the spine). Yuanyin is the same.
The process where a man feeds off a woman’s “Yin Essence” through sexual intercourse. When a woman reaches orgasm, her body releases something called the “Yin Essence”, which will then be absorbed by the man. As long as the man doesn’t ejaculate, the process will have nourishing effects on the man.
The process where a woman feeds off a man’s “Yang Essence” through sexual intercourse. When a man ejaculates, he loses his “Yang Essence”, which will be absorbed by the woman.
Zhi Yin and Zhi Yang
According to Chinese philosophy, all entities that exists in the universe has both Yin and Yang properties/characteristics. Zhi Yin entities are those whose Yin properties are more prominent than the Yang. Zhi Yang entities are the opposite.
An acupoint located on the top of a person’s head. The only acupoint capable of raising someone’s Yang Qi when stimulated (manually or with acupuncture needles)
An acupoint located at the center of one’s forehead. Typically massaged with the middle finger.
An acupoint located at a person’s temples.
An acupoint located between the base of the nose and the upper lip. The attributes typically assigned to the Renzhong are width, depth, and length. In general, a wide, deep and long Renzhong is a good sign.
For women, Renzhong can be used to gauge their fertility. Deeper and longer the Renzhong implies higher fertility.
Wearing the Crown of Three Flowers
The state in which one’s Essence, Qi, and blood gather at the top of one’s head. Once this state is reached, Cultivators will refine and convert their Essence, Qi, and blood into Spirit (see Xiao Zhoutian).
The Convergence of Five Qis
For non-Cultivators, the Qi belonging to the five Zangs (see Zang-fu) are all concentrated where each of the five Zangs are in the human body. The first step to be a Cultivator is then to get all the five Qis to converge and flow together.
The wearing of the crown of Three Flowers and the Convergence of Five Qis are the prerequisites before a Cultivator can enter the first phase of Cultivation, the Zhuji phase (refer to Chapter 19 in the novel).
Three-Pronged Flower Gathering
A massage technique practiced by Cultivators. Done with both hands: thumbs on the top of the head (Baihui), middle fingers pressing on the center of the forehead (Shenting) and pinkies on the temples (Taiyang). If done properly, it causes Qi to flow the same was as performing the Xiao Zhoutian. Su Chan once performed this technique on Li Yundong during a lecture.
Butterfly Flower Gathering
A massage technique practiced by Cultivators. When performed, it will benefit the masseur as well by mobilizing their Qi and improving their blood circulation. This is just like the mutualistic relationship between a butterfly and a flower. The butterfly feeds on the nectar, while the flower gets pollinated during the process.
A physical state in which the five states of one’s existence (heart, will, spirit, Qi, strength) are in complete harmony with each other: heart with the will, will with the spirit, spirit with Qi, and Qi with strength. Being in such a state will allow a person to unleash their full strength.
A generic term that refers to any circumstances in which martial arts training or Cultivation goes horribly wrong. It usually leads to devastating consequences.
Think of Dantians as containers to store the Three Treasures (Essence, Qi, Shen). There are three Dantians, one for each treasure. You can think of them as a treasure box or treasure chest if it helps.
Lower Dantian: Below the navel (about three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel), which is also called “the golden stove”; stores Essence
Middle Dantian: at the level of the heart, which is also called “the crimson palace”; stores Qi
Upper Dantian: at the forehead between the eyebrows or third eye, which is also called “the muddy pellet”; stores Spirit
The organs in the human body as defined by TCM. Note that these “organs” have different definitions than the ones in Western Medicine. From here on, any Zang-fu, or “organs” defined by TCM will be referred to with their first letter capitalized (Lung, Small Intestine, etc.)
Zang refers to organs considered to be yin in nature: Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney. These will be referred to as the Wu Zang (in Chinese Wu means five).
Fu refers to organs considered to be yang in nature: Small Intestine, Gall Bladder, Urinary Bladder, Stomach, and San Jiao. These will be referred to as Liu Fu (in Chinese Liu means six).
The most important point to note is that these organs have different definitions than those of Western Medicine.
Cultivation/the art of Cultivation is the art of cultivating oneself in order to achieve spiritual transcendence. The end goal of cultivation is for a person to achieve unity or “be one” with the Tao. A practitioner of the art of Cultivation is known as a Cultivator. In the novel, the art of Cultivation isn’t practiced by just mortals, even magical beings like fox spirits could practice it.
The author describes 9 phases of Cultivation – Sutai, Lianqi, Ningshen, Zhuji, Shentong, Huaying, Jinshen, Leijie, Feixian (Each of these phases has 9 stages of their own)
Classifications of Cultivation Discipleship
There are three common types of disciples in any Cultivation school: Waimen; Neishi; Zhenchuan
Zhenchuan disciples are those to whom the master passes down everything he or she knows. They are privy to all the techniques of their school, including the secret or ultimate techniques. They are regarded as the master’s most important disciples as well as the master’s authentic successors.
Neishi disciples are those who receive direct guidance and instructions from the master. In other words, the master trains them directly. Waimen is the direct opposite of Neishi. Waimen disciples do not receive direct guidance from the master. Rather, they rely on self-exploration. For example, a Waimen disciple of Master X’s School of Cultivation might have heard a lecture from X or read a book written by X and then decided to practice the skills themselves.
These distinctions aren’t difficult to understand if one considers the respective meaning of their Kanjis.
Waimen (外门) literally means “outside the door.”
Neimen (内室) literally means “inside the room.”
Zhenchuan (真传) literally means “genuine teachings.”
A being who possesses magical powers and who is immortal. Becoming a Shenxian is the goal of Cultivation. A Cultivator who successfully unites with the Tao will achieve spiritual transcendence and become a Shenxian.
Da Luo Jinxian
A Shenxian who lives in the Great Overarching Heaven (Da Luo Tian). The Great Overarching heaven is the heaven of the highest order according to Taoism (in Taoism, there are 36 heavens). A Da Luo Jinxian is immortal and will never age.
The natural order/principles that governs everything that exists. Lao Tzu emphasized the impossibility of capturing the essence of The Tao by linguistic means. The best way to think of The Tao is as some kind of “law” or “essence” that governs everything in the natural world, and that keeps the Universe balanced and ordered.
Acupoints and Meridians
Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests that the human body runs on Qi. Qi flows and circulate through the body, thus sustaining life functions. Meridians are the pathways (lines) through which Qi flows in the human body. Acupoints are just points on the Meridians.
One of the human body’s eight extraordinary meridians. Also known as the Governing Vessel.
One of the human body’s eight extraordinary meridians. Also known as the Conception Vessel.
A technique practiced by Cultivators to mobilize the Yuanyang in their bodies to form a complete circuit. The path: lower dantian, Huiyin, anus, Weilyu, Jiaji, Yuzheng, Baihui, Yingxiang, Queqiao, dantian. The point of the whole process is to gather one’s Essence, Qi and blood to the top of one’s head (aka wearing the crown of Three Flowers), and then to convert one’s Essence, Qi, and blood to one’s Spirit.
When a fox undergoes training in the art of Cultivation, it attains magical powers and becomes a Fox Spirit. They have the ability to shapeshift and take a human form (a woman).
A technique practiced in Traditional Chinese Medicine in which the doctor uses three fingers to take the patient’s pulse at three positions on each wrist simultaneously.
A condition or syndrome characterized by symptoms such as brainfog, chills, nausea, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, sexual dysfunctions, etc. According to Chinese Traditional Medicine, it is believed to be caused by a loss of semen and orgasm.
The practice/art of Cultivating through sex.
A woman who nurtures her Yuanyin to be absorbed by a man through sexual intercourse/Karmamudra.
A type of medicinal pill obtained via Waidan (aka External Alchemy).
A type of Jindan.
A generic term referring to pills made by gods, goddesses, and other celestial beings. Since it’s a generic term, the specific functions of Xiandan varies. The Renyuan Jindan is a type of Xiandan.
An archaic Chinese term for “school” or learning institute.
Bao Quan Li
A common greeting rituals performed by practitioners of Chinese Martial arts. To perform the Bao Quan Li, bring two hands to chest level and press the right fist to the left palm.
Literally: ‘rich second generation’
A Chinese term for the children of the nouveau riche in China.
Xiongkou Sui Dashi
A type of performing art in ancient China. Involves the performer holding a huge rock, concrete slab, etc. on their chest while their partner smash it with a huge hammer. Shaolin monks took it a further by having the one holding the rock lying on a bed of nails.
In Buddhism, Samadhi is a state of complete concentration achieved through meditation.
Flames of Samadhi
Taoists believe that that a combination of one’s Essence, Qi, and Spirit (see the Three Treasures)
18 Bronzemen (Shaolin Shiba Tongren) and the 18 Bronzemen’s Formation (Shaolin Shiba Tongren Zhen)
There are two contexts in which these two terms can be understood: the historical and modern context. The meanings are different in both contexts.
In the historical context, the 18 Bronzemen is a group of 18 elite shaolin warriors stationed to protect and guard the front entrance of the Shaolin temple. According to legends, the 18 Bronzemen were there to provide a trial for any student of the Shaolin temple looking to leave the temple and go into the outside world. Any student must first breakthrough the 18 Bronzemen’s Formation before they could leave the temple. The purpose of the trial is to allow only the strong Shaolin warrior to leave the temple — the weak ones might damage the Shaolin temple’s reputation if they leave and got defeated in battle. Even if a student failed the test, they would still benefit from their attempt; they could learn from their failures and improve their skills.
In the modern context, the 18 Bronzemen Formation refers to a type of onstage stunt performance which typically re-enacts the historical trial process that a Shaolin student had to go through to leave the Shaolin temple. One performer would play the role of a “student” while the other 18 would play the 18 Bronzemen (the ones covered in gold/bronze body paint). The whole performance involves the “student” going through tests put out by the 18 Bronzemen. The tests are stunts like breaking sticks on every part of the student’s body (legs, head, back, arms, etc.), having the student lie down on a bed of knives while one (or several) bronzeman stepping on top of the student, stabbing spears into the student’s body, etc. Here is a link of such a performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAc7dcji6-Y