According to Chinese medicine
an important aspect of your health is regulated
and maintained by your jing 精.
It must be said, at the outset, that Chinese medicine often doesn’t translate easily into English. We don’t have the concepts, so we don’t have the equivalent words. As a result, translations often use words which confuse the meaning. This is especially true here.
The key is to try and understand what is meant rather than translate what is said.
What is jing?
Jing 精 is one of the three treasures (sānbǎo 三寶) and along with your shen 神 and qi 氣, these three treasures determine your physical, mental and emotional health. In brief, jing relates to the physical structure of your body, shen to the part of you that is self-conscious and qi to the active processes created by, and involved in regulating, the relationship between these two.
The character for jing is a composite of two characters. On the left is mǐ 米, the character for a grain of rice with something bursting out of it. The implication is a release of something as a result of an active process. On the right of the character is qīng 青, the character for the colour of lush young, vibrant, growth.
Jing refers to the vitality of life within nature and describes the material structures created and supported by this vitality and the active processes within it. It is most closely translated as essence.
What are these essences?
The term essence, in it’s broad sense, describes anything that is essential to the proper construction and maintenance of the body, and describes substances within the body that have been refined by the physiological processes of the body, governed by the internal organs.
The process starts within the body through the transformation (huà 化) of food and drink within our digestive system. Here we transform organic matter into it’s component parts. These component parts are considered jing or essence. Once transformed they are transported (yùn 運) to where they are needed.
Jing are the physical substances used to build, repair and fuel your body, so it can house another of the three treasures – shen your consciousness.
Why are they so important?
There are two distinct and important aspects to your jing. Each strongly influences your health:
Pre-natal: the stuff you inherit from your parents.
Often talked about in relation to DNA and genetics, in an attempt to align Chinese and Western ways of understanding the body, there are clear similarities between pre-natal jing and DNA but they are not exactly the same. The material structures of DNA are no doubt composed of what Chinese medicine describes as jing and it definitely creates these structures that make you alive and unique.
To Chinese medicine we are composed of ancestral energy moving through time.
We are the latest edition of a long line of ancestors and pre-natal jing is what we inherit. It determines your basic constitution, strength, and vitality, and is fixed in quantity at birth and can’t be added to, only used more slowly. It is like a battery inherited at birth and is the sum total of all the refined processes of our ancestors and, like any battery, it has a limited life, depending on the way in which it is used. Late nights, working too hard, poor diet excess sexual activity all fall into the category of things that consume pre-natal jing more quickly.
Conversely, conserving pre-natal jing is the subject of many texts and certain practices in Chinese medicine, such as breathing exercises, Tàijí (太及), and Qì Gōng (氣功). It is achieved by striving for balance in how you conduct your life.
Nurturing the pre-natal aspect of your jing is mostly common sense – engaging in the things that nourish, such as good diet, gentle exercise, plenty of rest, a balanced emotional world and moderation in the things that deplete it.
Post-natal: everything you do during your life.
After birth, we begin eating, drinking, and breathing independently. Our system extracts and refines energy from the food and drink we consume and the air we breath, and combines them to support us physiologically. Post-natal jing is the complex of essences that are extracted from the food, drink and air you consume that fuels and repairs your mind and body. If this is well looked after the impact of our daily activities draws less on our pre-natal reserves and life is preserved for longer. Post-natal jing is important and, for a long, healthy, life, should be nurtured.
In summary, pre-natal jing is inherited, determines aspects of your constitution and is influenced by your parents health at the time of your conception. It cannot be altered but can be supplemented and influenced with careful attention to your post-natal jing. The more you nurture post-natal jing, the longer your pre-natal jing will last and the longer, and more healthily, you will live.
Are there things I should do more?
- Make sure digestion is working well (Click for details).
- Eat good quality food and drink to supplement post-natal qi.
- Taiji, Qi Gong & meditation
- Resolve emotional issues
Some foods are especially beneficial for supporting jing: eggs (poultry and roe); organ meats; bone broth; bee pollen; kidney beans; sea vegetables; royal jelly; black rice; and seeds (basically the jing of animals and plants…).
Are there things I should do less?
- Lack of sleep and staying up late
- Chronic stress
- Drugs and alcohol abuse
- Men – excessive ejaculation
- Women – excessive sexual activity
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