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Valuable Points for Acupuncturists to Know and Use

by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

Ma Danyang (originally named Ma Yu) was a famous Daoist (1). He was born around 1123 A.D. to a very wealthy family in Haining (Shandong Province), and as a young man developed talents in the fields of acupuncture and poetry. In fact, he is well known today for his poem (ode, song) about 12 acupuncture points, relayed in this article. Soon after marrying Sun Bu'er, he and his wife followed the Daoist Wang Chongyang (1113-1170). Wang was one of the leading Daoists of China, and wrote several important works, including the text Chongyang Zhenren Jinguan Yusuo Jue (Master Wang Chongyang's Instructions on the Golden Gate and Jade Lock) which described, among other things, visualizations of the world within the body as part of a meditation practice in cultivating qi. Ma and his wife built a Daoist retreat for Wang, gave up their extensive family property holdings, and became Daoist monks, living a simple and peaceful life. Eventually they separated in order to pursue their celibate meditative activities in solitude. Before his death, Wang conferred on Ma the secret method of the "Complete Perfection" (quanzhen). Ma practiced this and became known as one of the Perfect Ones Who Embrace Oneness. He was thus acknowledged as one of the "seven perfect ones of the north," as was his wife (see the Appendix). He had written two books: Shenguang Can (Brilliance of Divine Light) and Dongxuan Jinyu Ji (Gold and Jade Essays of the Pervasive Mystery). The name that he took, Danyang, translates as "Cinnabar Yang," meaning "Yang Elixir."

Ma Danyang had written an ode to 11 miraculous acupuncture points, which was published within the text of Jade Dragon Manual in 1329. A century later, Xu Feng (who is known for introducing the eight extraordinary meridians) added a 12th point and gave the ode the new name: Song of the Twelve Points Shining Bright as the Starry Sky and Able to Heal All the Many Diseases. This song was translated to English and published as an appendix to The Golden Needle and Other Odes of Traditional Acupuncture by Richard Bertschinger in 1991 (2). The original name of the 11 point song by Ma Danyang is instructive: Song of the Eleven Points Responding to the Stars in the Sky. It is likely that Ma was thinking not only of the wondrous nature of the points, later described as "shining bright as the starry sky," but also about the influence of the stars on the points, as part of the Daoist interpretation of acupuncture.

The ode (song) is structured very simply. Each verse is comprised of phrases of five characters; also, except for the introduction, all verses (describing each of the acupuncture points) are comprised of 8, 10, or 12 of these five-character phrases. After an introduction naming all the points and indicating that certain points might be used in pairs, each of the 12 points is described in three parts:

The 12 points are presented in the table below, including a concise listing of the indications given by Ma Danyang in the ode (the point LV-3 is the 12th point that was added later and described in the same style as used by Ma). After the table, the entire ode is provided, with slight editing of the translation by Bertschinger.

Ma Danyang's 12 Star Points

Point Name Translation Meridian Location Indications According to Ma Danyang's Song
Zusanli Three Miles ST-36 swollen belly, cold stomach, intestinal noises, diarrhea, swollen leg, sore knee or calf, injury from cold, weakness or emaciation, parasites, aging
Neiting Inner Courtyard ST-44 chill in the hands and feet, hatred of voices, skin rashes, sore throat, continuous yawning, toothache, intermittent fevers without appetite
Quchi Crooked Pond LI-11 aching elbow, hand cannot close, arm very weak, throat closes up, repeated or persistent fevers, severe lesions over the whole body
Hegu Joining Valleys LI-4 headache with a swollen face, malarial fevers, burning then cold, tooth decay, nose bleed, lock jaw and unable to speak
Weizhong Middle Equilibrium BL-40 lumbago, especially when severe and leading up the back, aching muscles which cannot extend, rheumatism which returns irregularly, knee stiffness
Chengshan Receiving the Mountain BL-57 severe back-pain, hemorrhoids, bowel difficulties, swollen ankles and knees, repeated or continuous tremors or aches, cramps and spasms
Taichong Supreme Rushing LV-3 sudden fits and convulsions, swollen throat or breast, both feet unable to walk, all types of hernias, cloudy mist in front of the eyes, aching waist
Kunlun Kunlun Mountains BL-60 spasms and pain in the tailbone, difficulty in breathing, fullness in the chest, being unable to walk or even step out, painful movement
Huantiao Jumping Circle GB-30 lower back pain, rheumatism aggravated by cold or damp, pain running down from thigh to calf
Yanglingquan Yang Mound GB-34 swollen knee accompanied by numbness, one-sided pains due to cold, inability to raise the foot, sitting or lying as someone old and weak
Tongli Penetrating Within HT-5 stammering and stuttering, distress, irritation, palpitations, limbs go heavy, head, face, and cheeks turn red, lack of appetite and expression
Lieque Narrow Defile LU-7 migraine, the whole body lifeless with wandering pains, phlegm incessantly blocks above or in lockjaw

The appearance of the verses, in Chinese characters, was like this one for Zusanli (3):

Ma Danyang's ode to the acupoints

Here is the translated text of the entire song:

Song of the Twelve Points Shining Bright as the Starry Sky and Able to Heal All the Many Diseases


Put out your hand to Three Miles, Inner Courtyard, the Crooked Pond, and Joining Valleys.
Pair Middle Equilibrium with Receiving the Mountain, Supreme Rushing with Kunlun Mountains,
Jumping Circle accompanies the Yang Mound, Penetrating Within along with Narrow Defile.
With support use the rule of support; with severance, use the rule of severance.
All 360 holes do not escape these 12 strange charms; healing a disease is like magic:
A torrent whirling as wind-driven snow, the Northern Dipper sends down its true workings.
The Golden Lock teaches us to snap it open.
One truly clever can pass this on; the unfaithful have only restless talk.

Zusanli, Three Miles, ST-36

Three Miles under the eye of the knee, three inches in between the two tendons.
One can reach into the center of a swollen belly.
It is splendid at healing a cold stomach, intestinal noises, and diarrhea.
A swollen leg, sore knee, or calf, an injury from the cold.
Weakness or emaciation and parasitic infestation of all sorts.
When your age has passed 30, needling and moxa applied at this point change your thinking.
To find it, look extremely carefully; three cones of moxa, eight fen in, and peace.

Neiting, Inner Courtyard, ST-44

The Inner Courtyard outside the second toe, this point belongs to Foot Yangming.
It can heal a deathly chill in the hands and feet and is good for the hatred of voices.
Skin rashes and sore throat, continuous yawning and toothache.
Intermittent fevers without appetite, a needle here means true awakening.

Quchi, Crooked Pond, LI-11

To find Crooked Pond, fold the hand to the chest, bend the elbow and seek the corner of the bone.
It is splendid at healing an aching elbow or an arm attacked so the hand cannot close.
When drawing back a bow is impossible, or the muscles so loose you cannot comb the head.
If the throat closes up suddenly and it seems fatal, when fevers are repeated and persistent.
Or for severe lesions over the whole body, immediately needling this point they improve.

Hegu, Joining Valleys, LI-4

The Joining Valleys lie at the Tiger's Mouth, between two bones where thumb and finger fork.
A headache with a swollen face, malarial fevers, burning then cold.
Tooth decay or a nose bleed, lock jaw and unable to speak.
The needle enters five fen deep, the patient then immediately at peace.

Weizhong, Equilibrium at the Middle, BL-40

Equilibrium at the Middle in the crook of the knee is on the horizontal crease within the pulse.
For lumbago when you cannot straighten up, especially when severe and leading up the back.
Aching muscles which cannot extend, rheumatism which returns irregularly.
A knee difficult to extend or bend, the needle goes in and immediately there is rest.

Chengshan, Receiving the Mountain, BL-57

Receiving the Mountain named Fish's Belly, between the flesh where the bulk of the calf divides.
Is splendid at healing a severe back pain, hemorrhoids, or difficulties in the bowel.
Swollen ankles and swollen knees.
Repeated or continuous tremors or aches, sudden cramps and spasms.
A needle into this point brings peace.

Taichong, Supreme Rushing, LV-3

Supreme Rushing on the big toe, in two inches behind the joint.
By its pulse you know there is life, it can cure sudden fits and convulsions.
The throat and breast swollen, both feet unable to walk.
All types of hernias: one-sided, bulging, drooping.
A cloudy mist in front of the eyes and, as well, aching in the waist.
Lowering the needle brings a magical result.

Kunlun, Kunlun Mountain, BL-60

Kunlun Mountain, on the ankle, outside the foot, found on the upper edge of the heel-bone.
In spasms and pain in the tailbone.
Difficulty in breathing, fullness in the chest.
When unable to walk or even step out, or you move just once and immediately groan.
If you want to seek relief then at once needle this hole.

Huantiao, Jumping Circle, GB-30

The Jumping Circle lies at the hip joint, found lying on the side with one leg bent.
A lower back that feels like it's broken.
Rheumatism aggravated by cold or damp.
Pain running down from thigh to calf, so to turn on the side brings a heavy sigh.
Some needles and moxa at this point and in a short while the illness vanishes.

Yanglingquan, Yang Mound, GB-34

The Yang Mound lies beneath the knee, on the outer calf, one inch in.
For a swollen knee accompanied by numbness, rheumatic pains due to cold, one-sided.
When unable even to raise the foot, sitting or lying as someone old and weak.
A needle in six fen and it halts; something magical, mysterious, peerless.

Tongli, Penetrating Within, HT-5

Penetrating Inside behind on the side of the wrist, one inch in from the wrist.
The point for stammerers and stutterers, distress, irritation, or palpitations.
With strong symptoms the limbs go heavy and the head, face, and cheeks turn red.
With weak symptoms there is lack of appetite, they stay quiet, without expression.
A fine needle, gently, gently in, and, believe me, a truly magical result.

Lieque, Narrow Defile, LU-7

Narrow Defile is above, alongside the wrist, the first finger rests there as the hands cross.
It is splendid at healing migraine, or the whole body lifeless with wandering pains.
When phlegm incessantly blocks above or in lockjaw, when you cannot force open the teeth.
Understand how to tonify and disperse and they respond as if grasped by the hand.

APPENDIX: The Teachings of Wang Chongyang and the Quanzhen School

In modern China, there are two major Daoist sects: Quanzhen (Complete Perfection), the one founded by Wang Chongyang, and Zhengyi (Celestial Masters), the one founded by Zhang Daoling, who is also regarded as the original founder of religious Daoism during the latter part of the Han Dynasty (about 140 A.D.). Although Daoism was suppressed as part of the Cultural Revolution, with many of its temples and sacred sites destroyed, a small contingent of Daoists have persisted in their practices. Apart from classifying Daoism in these two sects, there are two groupings of Daoists based on their main activities: the wandering Daoists, of which there are estimated to be about 40,000, and the monastic Daoists, with about 15,000 members. The Quanzhen sect is monastic; the Zhengyi sect is mainly comprised of wandering Daoists, though about 1,000 are monastic, and there are numerous small sects of wandering Daoists. Aside from these dedicated Daoists who spend each day involved in special practices, there are many people who attend Daoist services or otherwise participate in some Daoist activities. There remain in China about 1,600 Daoist temples, though some of them are closed or used for very limited purposes (4).

Wang Chongyang is especially known for integrating what he considered the better aspects of the three teachings that dominated China's religions at the time-Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism-and incorporated them into the Quanzhen School. Some trace this school back to the Han Dynasty, at about the same time as Zhang Daoling formed this religious approach that included attempts at longevity or immortality and following the teaching of Laozi and Chuangzi. In that interpretation, Wang is considered the fifth patriarch of this school, which was named after two Daoists: Wang Xuanpu and his disciple Quan Zhongli. However, most authorities simply consider Wang Chongyang the founder of this school of Daoism. Buddhism, known in China as Chan (Ch'an), played a particularly strong role in Wang Chongyang's approach to Daoism, while his primary Daoist influence was from Lu Dongbin, known as one of the Eight Immortals. Confucianism played a relatively minor role.

Wang moved away from the elaborate ceremonies, the writing of talismans and use of charms (both characteristic of the Zhengyi sect), and reduced the intricate visualizations that were central to the old Daoist traditions. He put a greater emphasis on self cultivation through the practice of quiet sitting meditation. He thought that the best approach was to have companions in the endeavor, so group meditations, group study of texts, and other group activities were encouraged, hence the development of a monastic system to replace the more isolated practices that were common at the time, represented by the isolated Daoist living in a tiny hut on a remote mountain. He identified closely with the simplicity and naturalness in Laozi's Daode Jing, as well as Zhuangzi's teachings of spontaneity and non interference (wu wei), but he preferred to have formal meditation sessions in the temple managed by a Daoist master rather than wandering the mountains that was depicted as the ideal by Zhuangzi.

The elements he took from Buddhism included their concepts and terminology relating to karma and rebirth and, in particular, the teachings of the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra, the fundamental Buddhist texts. He encouraged his followers to study the Classic of Filial Piety by Confucius, to help others, and do good deeds whenever they could. He said that helping others and being clear and tranquil contributes to developing the golden elixir, the true inner nature that leads to immortality. He advised that people wishing to cultivate their true nature should not seek fame, wealth, or profit, should eliminate worry and anger, and should abstain from sex, alcohol, and strong smelling vegetables (onion, garlic, etc.). Wang also recommended the use of Chinese herbs, both to improve one's own health and to benevolently aid the health of others. Gaining knowledge of Chinese herbs was one of the fifteen instructions he promulgated to summarize the sect (5):

  1. Cloistered Residence: The monk lives in a residence where there is a good opportunity to work on freeing the mind, without there being too much physical activity that might diminish one's energy.
  2. Wandering like the Clouds: Wandering about the countryside, as commonly practiced in Daoism, can exhaust the body; it is better, Wang taught, to wander within the mind during meditation.
  3. Study of texts: Sacred books are to be studied with an effort to perceive the inner meaning, and not get caught up with the literary quality.
  4. Preparation of herbs: "Studying herbs in their essence allows you to support your inner nature and destiny….All those who study the Dao must penetrate herbal lore. If you do not do so, you have no means to support the Dao."
  5. Construction: One should live in modest reed-thatched huts, built personally. Fancy structures and precious palaces are to be found within one's own body.
  6. Companions: Daoists should have a companion who will help out, particularly in times of sickness. Strong personal attachments should not be made, but companions should be chosen to help your journey: those with an illuminated mind, deep wisdom, and strong determination.
  7. Sitting straight: Meditation practice should aim at a stable mind, with no influence from the outside world; an empty mind is the ideal.
  8. Controlling the mind: Even when not meditating, the mind should always be deep and tranquil, not superficial and active with thoughts, projections, and imagination.
  9. Refining original inner nature: It is necessary to find the middle way; harmony comes from tuning and refining the body and mind.
  10. Pairing the five energies: Through inner alchemy, practiced by guiding the mind through the depths of the inner world, the body and mind become pure and bright.
  11. Merging inner nature and destiny: "The relation of inner nature and destiny is like that of wild birds to the wind. They use it to float and soar, rising lightly. Saving their strength, they accomplish their flight with ease." One's inner nature must be tuned to the events of the world around so that one smoothly passes without encountering obstacles and becoming exhausted.
  12. The Dao of the sage: Pursue the right practices and gain merit; then, even if the body ages and dies, your spirit remains immortal.
  13. Going beyond the three worlds: The mind must let go of and forget the world of desire, the world of forms, and the world of formlessness; then it will become pure and the spirit will reside with the immortals and sages.
  14. Nourish the eternal body: Be attached to nothing and the Dao will be realized; this will nourish the eternal body. Never yearn for the life you had before nor the ordinary world.
  15. Leaving the world: "When you realize the Dao, your body will be in the sphere of the ordinary, but your mind will be in the realm of the sages." Do not seek earthly immortality of the body; set your spirit free to leave the world.

In accord with these teachings, Wang and his followers lived a very simple and ascetic life, surviving on only the bare necessities. They had intensive periods of meditation, and followed ascetic practices such as never laying down to sleep. Sometimes they would wander together from place to place, at other times they would live separately as hermits. Although the Quanzhen school adopted an organized temple lifestyle as it developed after Wang's death, the path of simplicity that he advocated still remains a strong part of the tradition. To this day it is still common for priests to spend a period of two or three years with the external form of "cloud wandering," in which they travel the countryside, visiting temples and studying with different teachers, though mostly they participate in the inner cloud wandering via sitting meditation. Those whose cultivation develops may also choose to spend time living as a hermit in one of the small shrines or caves that are found in the mountains of China.

By tradition the Quanzhen Daoist priests possess seven sacred objects: "The first object is the meditation cushion which tames the monsters of the mind. The second is the robe which subdues the mischievous mind. The third is the bowl which holds only purified (meatless) food. The fourth is a straw hat for protection against wind, rain, frost, and snow. The fifth is a horse-hair whisk or fan for sweeping away the dust of the mundane world. The sixth is a bag for carrying the sacred scriptures. The seventh is a staff for clearing the obstacles that block the clear wind and bright moon of the Tao." The priests will also apply the following cultivations in their daily life: "When walking, the gait should be like that of a crane and the body should move like an immortal floating with the winds. When sitting, the body should be still as a rock. When sleeping, it should be curved like a bow. When standing, it should be like a tall pine. The body should be as flexible as a willow in the wind and as relaxed as the petals of a lotus."

The teachings of Wang Chongyan were passed on to seven famous disciples (who became known as the Seven Immortals), each of whom developed a sect of Quanzhen Daoism. The sect of Ma Danyang, the poet and acupuncturist, is called Yuxian (Meeting the Immortals); the sect of his wife, Sun Bu'er, is called Qingjing (Clarity and Stillness; which has the meaning of chastity).

The most famous disciple of Wang Chongyan was Qiu Quji, also called Qiu Changchun; his sect is called Longmen (Dragon Gate) and is a major influence on modern practice of Taiji and Qigong. One of Qiu's greatest accomplishments, however, was that he purportedly convinced Genghis Khan to cease his killing, perhaps saving tens of thousands of lives.

Three other disciples developed sects that were named for the mountains they used as retreat centers: Liu Chuxuan, whose sect is called Suishan (Mount Sui); Hao Datong developed the Huashan (Mount Hua) sect; Wang Yuyang developed the sect called Yushan (Mount Yu).

Also, the disciple Tan Chuduan developed the sect called Nanwu (Southern Void). He became influential by adapting a teaching of Ma Danyang regarding self-cultivation in the temple, suggesting that it could be done at home as well. This popularized the Daoist tradition, by making it more accessible to those who could not live at or regularly visit a temple for meditation practice.

The main center of Quanzheng Daoism today is the Baiyunguan (White Cloud Monastery) in Beijing. The construction of this temple started in 739 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty built this temple to show his piety for Daoism and to worship Laozi. It is the biggest Daoist structure in the city of Beijing, covering an area of over 40,000 square meters (nearly 10 acres). The Qiu Zu Hall (named after Qiu Quji) is the most scared place of the Quanzhen Sect and the founding temple of the Longmen Sect. The white-marble statue of Laozi in the hall is a relic left from the Tang Dynasty and a rare Daoist work of art. Laolutang is the main hall for holding religious services, where statues of the seven Immortals of Quanzhen are worshipped, with Qiu Quji in the center.

At Baiyunguan, the temple priests offer services morning and evening. They rely on a published daily prayer book that allows the participants to recite all the prayers, which are chanted with accompaniment by bronze and wooden gongs. The services have five components (6)

The morning and evening prayers each have a different focus. The morning prayers are dedicated especially to self-development and to aiding others along this same path; the evening prayers are aimed at alleviating the suffering of the sick and dying and at addressing the spirits of those who have already passed away. In addition to these services, the resident Daoists spend much time in meditation and also in working at the monastery (sweeping the floor is the quintessential maintenance activity for monks to perform, representing the sweeping away of mundane dust of the world).

Quanzhen Daoism has had an important influence on Chinese medicine (7). Not only did the sect's founder, Wang Chongyan, recommend the use of Chinese herbs, but Ma Danyang was an acupuncturist who recommended essential points for treatment, as described above. The lifestyle of Wang's Daoists was extreme and difficult. They practiced vegetarianism and minimizing ingestion of food followed by prolonged periods of complete fasting; they minimized sleep and spent hours in meditation; and they were strictly celibate. Ma Danyang became so thin that many people approached him worried about his health, but he assured them that he was following the right path. One poem written by Ma Danyang is titled, Friends of the Dao Marvel over my Pure Thinness:

My thinness is thinness that accords with the teachings.
I am not allowing my skin to wrinkle.
The body of the crane and the shape of the pine tree,
Are the venerable elders of the woods and springs.

Although these Daoists may have believed that these practices led to a long life on earth, Wang emphasized the immortality of the spirit, not of the human body, and most of these practitioners lived no more than 60-80 years of age. But, there were stories of Daoists living for centuries; in fact, Wang Xuanpu was said to have lived through several Dynasties.

The Daoists believed that once one began on the path to purification of the body by these practices, illness would be banished unless one still failed to clear the mind. Chongyang relates a story about Ma Danyang and illness:

I took Ma Danyang with me and stayed at the Smoky Mist Grotto on Mt. Kunyu. Because his mind had not yet emptied, he became ill. He had an ache throughout his head, and the pain was unbearable. It was as though he was being hacked with an ax. I ordered him to descend from the mountain and treat his headache at his home. But the pain became even more severe. A man came up the mountain and reported Ma's condition saying, "At this moment at which I have arrived here, Mr. Ma has certainly already died. Upon hearing this I clapped my hands, laughed loudly and said, "I came to Shandong wanting to make him into an Immortal. I appreciate your telling me about his supposed death. He caught this disease because of his lack of faith."

Fortunately, Ma did recover from his illness. This story is followed by poems exchanged between the master and his disciple involving this incident. In the first poem, Wang admonishes Ma for being unfaithful and thus vulnerable to disease, telling him: "Because of your lack of faith, your whole head ached;" and "Your sweet heart continued to long for worldly comforts and thus you entered the pond of confusion." Ma, in his poem, acknowledges his failings: "I limitlessly thank you, my master, for profoundly teaching me to repent." When the fully recuperated Ma begs to return to the mountain, his master turns him down saying: "When you come to live in the mountain, I will descend from the mountain. My heart always dislikes the ignorant and the stubborn." Wang also expresses his regret over the fact that all he had taught Ma had gone to waste, by saying: "In past days I wasted one thousand mouthfuls of breath." But the two are finally reconciled after Ma persists in his pleas for re-acceptance.

In Wang's Chongyang Zhenren Jinguan Yusuo Jue, there is this dialogue:

"As for people who do not die, why is this?" Wang Chongyang answered, "As for one who does not die, his body is pure and still [celibate] without defilement, and he cherishes his perfect qi inside his Elixir Field (dantian). His essence (jing) and blood do not decline, and he does not die." "But, I often see people nowadays who are pure and still, who divorce their wives, and yet are not able to accomplish the Dao. Why?" Wang answered, "Such people, while being pure and still, have not yet accomplished the merit of true purity and stillness. Such people, while their whole body is pure and still, are not yet able to stabilize their essence and their blood and to nurture the perfect qi. As for such people, their bodies are pure, but their minds are impure. Their bodies are still, but their will is not still….According to the treatises, as for those who are truly pure and still, inside their eyes are no tears, inside their noses is no phlegm, inside their mouths is no saliva, and they do not produce large and small waste. The men nurture their essence [do not lose semen] and the women stabilize their blood [stop their menstruation]. The myriad evils return to correctness, and the myriad diseases do not arise.

Leakage of essence (e.g., by seminal emission for men or menstruation for women) was considered to be preventable if the mind was free of superfluous thoughts. In order to prevent leakage, Quanzhen adepts focused their efforts on suppressing their desires while using various methods of meditation, internal visualization, controlled breathing, and simple exercises to circulate the qi and gather it at the Elixir Field where it could be refined into perfect qi.

Wang's disciple Qiu Quji had written:

When qi goes through the eyes it becomes tears, when it goes through the nose it becomes phlegm and when it goes past the tongue it becomes saliva. When it goes outside it becomes perspiration, when it goes inside it becomes blood, when it goes through the bones it becomes marrow, and when it goes through the kidneys it becomes essence. If your qi is complete, you live. If your qi is lost, you die. If the qi is vigorous you are youthful, and when the qi declines, you age. Always cause your qi to not scatter.

The restriction on food intake led to less urination and defecation, hence less chance of losing essences that way. The Daoists performed only moderate exercises (practices like modern Taiji), which did not lead to loss of essence via sweat. Because of the low nutritional status, men were more able to restrict their sexual impulses and women would not maintain their menstrual cycle (we know now that this is due, in part, to lack of estrogen that is normally stored in the fatty tissues). The Daoists practiced "eating air" which was literally swallowing air into the stomach, relieving some of the spasms of hunger.

The need to maintain perfect qi in order to be healthy is reflected in one of Ma Danyang's poetry collections. There is a story in which Ma becomes very ill and starts to cough and vomit blood. When urged by people to take some medicine, he declines: "When a Daoist has a disease, no other people are able to cure it. I must cure myself. If I cultivate and refine the priceless treasures in my body, this disease will heal itself." Because the Quanzhen masters also saw it as their duty as saviors of all living things to be merciful towards those who were ignorant and incapable of defending themselves, they also engaged in rituals for combating the natural and demonic forces that afflicted people. Although they usually avoided the use of medicines for themselves, they were trained and knowledgeable in medicinal healing methods so that they could treat the illnesses of laymen who were incapable of the proper self-discipline.


Practitioners of Chinese medicine today who are not familiar with this Daoist culture may wonder at the frequent mention of herbs being used to treat "spermatorrhea" in their herb books. This indication is specifically a reference to attempts to prevent any loss of semen, a loss which would be a sign that the Daoist had failed at his rigorous practice. Although such losses would be normal for all other men, the practitioners of the immortality arts considered any such loss a huge setback and a threat to their potential for both the health and longevity of the body and the ability to attain immortality of the spirit.

The study of herbs was one of the fifteen instructions of Wang's school of Daoism, with a special focus on herbs that restrain the essence. Of course, herbs could also be used to treat a variety of diseases and protect the body from harmful environmental influences, but it was expected that such goals could be accomplished through meditation, while laypersons and new practitioners might need the herbs to assist them. The following are among the main herbs that are listed as helping to prevent loss of semen (8):

actinolite (yangqishi)
allium seed (congzi)
alpinia (yizhiren)
astragalus seed (shayuanzi)
cedrela (chungenbaipi)
cordyceps (dongchongxiacao)
cornus (shanzhuyu)
cuscuta (tusizi)
deer antler (lurong)
dioscorea (shanyao)
euryale (qianshi)
ficus (xuelishi)
halloysite (chishizhi)
lotus stamen (lianxu)
lycium fruit (gouqizi)
ho-shou-wu (heshouwu)
lotus seed (shilianzi)
mantis eggcase (sangpiaoxiao)
orobanche (liedang)
pomegranate rind (shiliupi)
rehmannia (dihuang)
oyster shell (muli)
rose fruit (jinyingzi)
rubus fruit (fupenzi)
schizandra (wuweizi)
terminalia (hezi)
tortoise shell (guiban) walnut (hutaoren)

In addition, one could lose essence by sweating, of special concern was uncontrolled incidents, referred to as spontaneous sweating or nocturnal sweating. Herbs that helped prevent this problem include:

astragalus (huangqi)
atractylodes (baizhu)
dragon bone (longgu)
oryza (nuomi, jingmi, nuomigen)
oyster shell (muli)
placenta (ziheche)
pseudostellaria (taizishen)
rehmannia (dihuang)
schizandra (wuweizi)
soja (heidou)
wheat (fuxiaomai)

Two of the herbs in the above lists are used for both spermatorrhea and spontaneous sweating: rehmannia and schizandra. These are key ingredients of a pill for retaining the essence, Wuzi Yanzhong Wan (Pill of Five Seeds for Extending the Ancestral Qi), comprised of rehmannia, schizandra, cuscuta, rubus, and plantago seed. Four of these five ingredients are listed among the herbs for treating spermatorrhea and that is the original use of this pill. A formula comprised of several herbs for treating spermatorrhea is Huan Shao Dan (the youth-restoring pellet), comprised of 14 herbs, including rehmannia, cornus, lycium, schizandra, morinda, dioscorea that are listed for that purpose, along with other tonics for the kidney, it is indicated for both spermatorrhea and excessive perspiration. A simplified version is Guishen Wan (Restore the Kidney Pill), which has 9 ingredients, including five in the above lists: rehmannia, dioscorea, cornus, lycium fruit, and cuscuta. These three formulas are also indicated for aching of the back due to weakness of the kidney and their modern applications include infertility and impotence. A remedy made especially for spermatorrhea is the Pill of Golden Lock (Lotus Stamen Formula, Jinsuo Gujing Wan), which has astragalus seed, euryales, lotus seed, oyster shell, dragon bone, and lotus stamen. Another formula for this application is Futu Dan (Hoelen and Cuscuta Formula), with lotus seed, dioscorea, schizandra, cuscuta, and hoelen.


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The Daoist Immortal Lu Dongbin Painting of Qiu Changchun (Qiu Quji)
Left: The Daoist Immortal Lu Dongbin, who was an inspiration for Wang Chongyan. He travels through the clouds riding on a dragon (representing the Dao). In his left hand he holds a bottle of the elixir of immortality, which he has uncorked. The elixir fragrance has wafted upward and has become another, smaller dragon (upper right). His supernatural powers are in fact quite natural because he is in perfect harmony with the Dao. Right: Painting of Qiu Changchun (Qiu Quji), most famous disciple of Wang Chongyan and the founder of the Longmen Sect of Daoism

Daoist ordination ceremony

Dragon mountain area of Daoist retreat

Daoist master teaching Taiji

Daoist teaching Bagua

Daoist in meditation

Sweeping the temple grounds at Baiyunguan

Daoist priests during ceremony at Baiyunguan

September 2004