Glossary of Taoist Inner Alchemy Terms
  • 28 Lunar Mansions - constellations situated along the moon's path as it rotates around the earth each month. They are called "mansions" or "lodges" because they were once understood to be resting places for the moon during its journey.


  • Acupuncture - traditional Chinese medical treatment using needles to stimulate the flow of ch'i in the body.

  • Alchemist - one who practices alchemy, a Taoist set of procedures and principles meant to prolong human life

  • Alchemy - in Taoist practice, a set of procedures and principles meant to prolong human life. In Taoism, there were two types of alchemy: Outer Alchemy consisted of the chemical production of elixirs that were meant to be swallowed; Inner Alchemy, however, relied on symbolic meditation to achieve the same end.

  • Aromatic stomacic - herbs that are aromatic and promote digestion by moving dampness

  • Attendant - one who guards, looks after, or serves an important person; a servant

  • Attribute - symbolic object which is conventionally used to identify a particular deity

  • Auspicious - pertaining to good fortune or luck


  • Bagua (or pa-kua) - the eight trigrams; the basis of divination scheme in the Book of Changes (I Ching).

  • Beidou - Lit. northern bushel; the constellation of the Big Dipper or Great Bear

  • Bianhua - transformation; the underlying principle of change within the world

  • Bigu - Abstention from grains; a Taoist longevity practice based on the notion that immortals live off the air and "soak up the dew"

  • Blood - is used as a broad term to describe the physical blood in the body that moistens the muscles, tissues, skin and hair, as well as nourishing the cells and organs

  • Blood deficiency - a lack of blood with signs of anemia, dizziness, dry skin or hair, scant or absent menstruation, fatigue, pale skin and poor memory

  • Body-minded action - In spiritual practice, this is essentially about obeying oneself first, foremost, and continuously through surrendering to one's pure intention and conscious effort. This action then represents the purest form of the integration of the body as a vehicle, the mind as conscious soul, and the spirit as the divine inspiration.

  • Bugang - pacing the net; a Taoist ritual whose choreography is based on the Big Dipper


  • Caldron - Energetic space located below the line of the Dai (Belt) meridian with the navel in the front and the pressure point for the gate of life in the back. It is in front of the adrenal glands and kidneys and above the bladder and ovary or prostate glands. The caldron or the womb is an empty space for producing the pure Self. It is also called the cooking vessel in the Lower Cinnabar Field -- the battery of life essence.

  • Calmative - has a sedative or calming effect on the mind and the nerves

  • Celestial - related to heaven or the divine

  • Celestial Worthy of the Way and Its Power - divine title of Lao Zi by the second century A.D. In this guise, Lao Zi is one of the Three Purities, the greatest Taoist gods. The name is derived from the Taoist text attributed to Lao Zi, the Classic of the Way and Its Power

  • Ch'ang - (lit. "enduring"). The permanent and eternal. This word always appears as an attribute of Tao. It is translated by "constant, lasting, eternal. It designates the permanent as opposed to the changing. In chapter 1 of Tao Te Ching it reads: "The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging [ch'ang] Tao." (Legge)

  • Chiao - (lit. "doctrine"). Religion

  • Chia - (lit. "school of transmission") Philosophy.

  • Ch'i - Life energy that flows throughout the human body and the universe. Literally translated: "air, vapors, ether, breathing, energy". At the same time it means "temperament, power, atmosphere". Ch'i is one's vital force but also the universal spiritual energy pervading all beings. {also see qi}

  • Ching - (lit. "semen"). Vital essence.

  • Chinese zodiac - organization of the calendar into 12-year cycles, each represented by an animal associated with specific personality traits. The animals include: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, cock, dog, and pig. People born in the zodiac year of a specific animal are said to possess that animal's traits.

  • Chujia - Literally "leave home"; the process of becoming a Taoist monk

  • Cinnabar - red mercury ore, or mercuric sulfide, which was highly valued and used for its color and chemical properties; a primary ingredient used in the Taoist elixirs of Outer Alchemy.In Taoist inner alchemy, there are three distinguishing places in our body: these places are called the Cinnabar Fields or Elixir Fields. The lower Cinnabar Field is the actual place for the vessel to be set, where the caldron is located. It is the center for biological manifestation. It is in this empty place, or groundless space where all the abdominal organs are unified. The middle Cinnabar Field is located in the thymus gland. It is the center for displaying both emotions and personalities. The upper Cinnabar Field is located at the central joint where the two sides of the brain split and then rejoin, between the pituitary glands and the pineal gland. It is the center for intellect and spirituality.

  • Classic of the Way and Its Power (Daode jing or TAO TE CHING) - the earliest-known text of the Taoist tradition, which is said to have been authored by the legendary figure Lao Zi. The text is actually a compilation of various writings collected over the course of generations. It may have assumed its current form by the third or fourth century B.C. The Classic of the Way and Its Power includes poetic passages, sayings, fragments of political texts, and passages intended for recitation. It served as the foundation for both philosophical and religious Taoism.

  • Cold - is the term used to describe decreased functioning of an organ system and presents as any of the following: body aches, chills, poor circulation, fatigue, lack of appetite, loose stools or diarrhea, poor digestion, pain in the joints, slow movements and speech, aversion to cold and craving for heat. Is present in all "hypo" conditions such as hypoadrenalism, hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism

  • Contrition - state of guilt or remorse resulting from wrong or evil actions

  • Cosmology; cosmological - beliefs about the origin and structure of the universe. Chinese cosmology referred not only to the structure and operation of the heavens, but also to that of the earth and human beings. Cosmology in this context implies the way that these realms work together and affect the others; of or relating to the origin and structure of the universe


  • Damp, dampness - excessive fluids in the body with symptoms of abdominal bloating, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, lack of thirst, feeling of heaviness or being sluggish, and stiff, aching or sore joints

  • Damp Heat - a condition of dampness and heat often resulting in infection (bacterial or viral).combined with symptoms of thick yellow secretions and phlegm such as jaundice, hepatitis, urinary problems, or eczema

  • Dan - Cinnabar; a mineral formed of Mercury Sulphide used in alchemy

  • Dantian - Cinnabar field; one of three locations in the body used in the practice of inner alchemy [see cinnabar]

  • Dao (or Tao) Literal translation. "way or speak"; the ultimate cosmic principle in Taoism

  • Daojia - Literal translation. "Tao-school"; a bibliographical classification used for proto-Taoist texts

  • Daojiao - Literal translation. "Tao-tradition"; the Taoist religion

  • Daoshu - Taoist arts; energy practices that may bear only a tenuous connection with Taoist religion

  • Daotan - Taoist altar; often erected temporarily to perform a ritual and then disassembled

  • Daozang (or tao-tsang) -Literal translation: "Taoist treasury"; the Taoist Canon compiled in 1445

  • De (or Te) - Literal translation. "power, virtue"; what one obtains by attaining the Dao

  • Decoction - a combination of herbs which is cooked or brewed to make a soup or medicinal tea

  • Deficiency - any weakness or insufficiency of qi, blood, yin, yang or essence

  • Deficiency heat - heat due to yin deficiency. Results in weakness and emaciation because of the lack of moistening fluids (yin)

  • Deficient Blood - Blood, one of the five essential energies of the body in Oriental Medicine. Blood is the physical manifestation of Qi and is responsible for carrying nourishment and moisture to the Organs, tissues, and muscles. Deficient blood shows a general pattern of dizziness; pale, lusterless face; pale lips; dry skin or hair; scant menses; pale Tongue material; thin Pulse.

  • Deficient Qi - Qi is the fundamental life force or energy that is found in all living things and is formed from the interaction of yin and yang energies. Deficient Qi shows general weakness; pale, bright face; shallow respiration; low or soft voice; spontaneous sweating; pale Tongue material; Empty, weak Pulse.

  • Deficient Yang - Yang is one of the two fundamental polar energies found in all living things. Yang qualities or conditions are hot, dry, excessive, on or near the surface of the body. Yang complements yin. Deficient Yang is similar to Deficient Qi but with signs of Interior Cold, including cold limbs; aversion to cold; puffy Tongue; slow Pulse.

  • Deficient Yin - Yin is one of the two fundamental polar energies found in all living things. Yin qualities or conditions are cold, damp, deficient, and found in the interior of the body. Yin complements yang. Deficient Yin is similar to Deficient Blood, but characterized by "appearance of Heat,' including agitated manner; red cheeks; warm palms and soles; night sweats; red Tongue material and rapid, thin Pulse

  • Dong (or tung) - Cave, grotto

  • Dongtian (or tung-t'ien) - Grotto-heavens; the network of caves connecting China's sacred mountains

  • Diuretic - rids the body of excess fluid

  • Dry / Dryness - characterized by dry hair, lips, mouth, nose, skin and throat, extreme thirst and constipation.


  • Eight Principles - four sets of factors commonly used to assess a person's health. Represented by internal/external, cold/heat, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang (they should all be in balance with their counterpart).

  • Elixir - in Outer Alchemy, a magical potion that bestows immortality when swallowed; in Inner Alchemy, the life-prolonging energy attained through spiritual purification

  • Emolument - money or other compensation for work that has been done

  • Empty Fire - In Excess/Heat conditions where the "Fire" often rises to the head, and there are signs such as splitting headaches; dizziness; red face and eyes; dry mouth; deafness or sudden ringing in the ears. In addition, irritability, frequent anger and insomnia may be present, as well as constipation; dark, scanty urine; red Tongue with rough, yellow moss; and a rapid and full, as well as Wiry Pulse. This pattern is often seen in Western medicine as essential hypertension, migraine headaches, bleeding of the upper digestive tract, menopausal complaints; eye diseases such as acute conjunctivitis and glaucoma; or ear disturbances such as labyrinthitis, Meniere's disease, or otitis.

  • Empty Heat - a deficiency of yin energy resulting in symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats and other changes in hormonal levels. Also known as empty fire

  • Essence - a fluid substance that provides the basis of reproduction, growth, sexual power, conception and preganancy. It is the material foundation of qi and is stored in the kidney. Also referred to as Jing

  • Excess - generally refers to too much heat, cold, damp, yin or yang

  • Excess Yang - similar to excess heat with symptoms of rapid pulse, hypertension, agressive actions, loud voice, high fever, red complexion or restlessness

  • Excess Yin - an imbalance of excessive fluids in the body with symptoms of fluid retention, a plump or swollen appearance, lethargy and overall signs of dampness - although those with excess yin may still have adequate energy levels

  • External - the location of illnesses such as fevers and skin eruptions / on the surface of the body


  • Falun gong (or fa-lun kung) Literal translation. "Dharma-wheel skill"; the form of Qi cultivation practiced by Falu Dafa, banned in China

  • Fangshi (or fang-shih) "Magico-technicians"; Han dynasty practitioners of alchemy and immortality whose methods influenced the later flourishing of Taoism

  • Fire - results from malfunction of the internal organs or from extreme mood swings. Symptoms include fever, red or bloodshot eyes, swelling, sore throat and flushed face. May also include dry mouth, bleeding or inflammed gums, and a desire for cold drinks

  • Five Elements - the five energies of wood, earth, metal, water and fire which exist in nature. Each transforms and controls one another to maintain a harmonious balance

  • Five Phases - the relationship of nature's five elements (water, wood, fire, metal, and earth) to various natural cycles and phenomena. In Taoism, each of the five elements corresponds to a time of day, direction, and season. Movement from one phase to the next occurs in defined sequences. For instance, water (night, north, winter) eventually becomes wood (morning, east, spring). The Five Phase system also includes the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac (for example, the rat and pig are water signs). The movements of the Five Phases are rooted in the cycles of yin and yang.

  • Fu - "return", concept associated with Tao. In Tao Te Ching it reads: "The movement of the Tao / By contraries proceeds..." (Legge). [For more information, see Fall 2003: Fu/Return issue of Mountain SKYLIGHT]

  • Fuguang (or fu-kuang) - Absorb the light; a Taoist energy practice

  • Fuqi (or fu-ch'I) - Absorb qi; a Taoist energy practice




  • Heat - An external or internal "climatic" imbalance or ailment characterized by fever, aversion to heat, overactivity, constipation, dehydration, sparse dark urination, and insomnia. Heat can also progress and penetrate to the interior of the body and frequently combines with damp to create internal heat-damp imbalances. Heat is Yang in character.

  • Hierarchy - a social structure in which individuals or classes of people are ranked so that some people occupy higher levels of importance than others

  • Hsien - (lit. "fluttering") The Immortals, who are described in the Chuang-tzu. Perhaps originally intended to be allegorical, the nature and abilities of these beings became a practical goal for later Taoists

  • Hsin - Heart, mind; the seat of the personality and the object of Confucian self-cultivation

  • Hsing - Inner nature; the psychological element of one's person in Complete Perfection cultivation

  • Hun hun - Heavenly soul; the soul that ascends to heaven and is venerated in the form of ancestral tablets

  • Hundun (or hun-tun) - Chaos; the state of pregnant non-being from which everything arises, and to which Taoists aim to return


  • Internal - the location of illnesses such as those that affect qi, blood, and organs inside the body

  • Immortals - in Taoism, individuals who have achieved eternal life through perfect realization of the Tao. One may become immortal through meditation or inner visualization, physical training and breathing techniques, the ingestion of elixirs, or moral behavior. Taoists believe that immortals dwell in the heavens, in caverns, on mountains, and in other magical paradises.

  • Inner Alchemy - a procedure, based on Taoist principles, designed to prolong human life, with the ultimate goal of immortality. Inner Alchemy involves meditation, which produces a symbolic elixir in the body.

  • Inner Visualization - a form of Taoist religious practice that directs the practitioner's imagination toward spiritual transformation. The process may either involve an imagined journey or the metaphoric transformation of the human body into the form of a mountain. The goal is immortality.

  • I-ching - "Book of Changes". Philosophical and divination book dated from the period when Chou Dynasty replaced Yin Dynasty. Although the I Ching has its origin in Chinese culture, the underlying truth inherent in all 64 hexagrams is the same the world over, and is found at the heart of all spiritual and wisdom teachings. The I Ching's truths are often dressed in different clothing, expressed in different words, reflecting the unique qualities of varying races and cultures. Because these truths are part of our lives, regardless of the words we read, the apparent differences in the viewing lens does not matter. The living truth in each hexagram is in its visual image: the energetic dance in the arrangement of its lines.


  • Jade Emperor - chief of the pantheon of popular gods incorporated into Taoism

  • Jiao (or chiao) - Taoist ritual of renewal; the main ritual performed by Taoist priests today

  • Jiazi (or chia-tzu) - The first year of the 60-year cycle

  • Jing (or ching) - the Substance, or Essence, that underlies all organic life and is the source of organic change. It is thought of as fluid-like, and is supportive, nutritive and is the basis of reproduction and development



  • Lao Zi (Lao Tzu) - literally, "old master" or "old child" traditionally assumed to have been born in the sixth century B.C. Also known as Lao Tan or Li Erh, he is considered the author of the earliest Taoist philosophical text, the Classic of the Way and Its Power (Daode jing). Historians now agree that Lao Zi was a legendary figure developed to provide an author for the Daode jing, which was compiled by a group of scholars in the third century B.C. During the Han dynasty, Lao Zi was deified; he remains one of the most important deities in religious Taoism.

  • Lotus - a plant of the water-lily family that grows in water or mud. Because its blossoms emerge pure and beautiful out of muddy waters, Buddhists view the lotus as a symbol of human beings' true nature, which can remain unstained by the mud of the world. The lotus may also symbolize the soul that has attained enlightenment, freed from the mire of the everyday world. The many seeds of the lotus make it also a symbol of fertility. Although it was borrowed from Buddhism, the lotus appears in many Taoist religious images.

  • Lower Warmer - Anatomical location referring to the abdominal area below the navel, especially encompassing the Kidney and Liver. (The location of the liver is related to its Meridian pathway in the lower groin.) The condition of Damp Heat in the lower Warmer may refer, for example, to an infectious process in the large intestine (dysentery) or in the bladder (urinary tract infection).

  • Lu - Register; a listing of the names of spirits possessed by those initiated into the Way of the Celestial Masters. Similar to the Christian "book of life"


  • Mandorla - an almond-shaped halo of light enclosing the whole of some sacred figures

  • Meridians - the 12 major pathways through which qi flows, supplying energy and nourishment to the body. Acupuncture needles are placed in points along these pathways to assist in correcting imbalances.

  • Microcosm - a miniature version of a larger object or entity

  • Middle Warmer - Anatomical area below the chest, but above the navel, including the Spleen and Stomach. in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the term Spleen/Stomach disharmony often refers to a variety of digestive disorders.

  • Ming - fate, destiny, life; the physiological element of one's person in Complete Reality cultivation. Also 'name'. In Chinese thought, to name something is to assign it a place in the hierarchy of the universe. The Tao is therefore nameless.

  • Mudra - mystical hand gestures common in Hinduism and Buddhism


  • Nei-dan - Inner alchemy

  • Ni-wan - Mud-pill; the cinnabar field in the head

  • Numinous - having spiritual, mysterious, or holy qualities


  • Orifices - The sense organs of the head, including eyes, ears, nose and mouth. In conditions where the orifices are "closed," there is unconsciousness

  • Organs - a major source of confusion in understanding the Traditional Chinese Medicine. Although the organ names are the same as in Western Medicine, they cover a wide range of systems and functions:

    · Heart - covers blood circulation, brain and nervous system as well as spiritual and mental health
    · Liver - includes digestion, circulation, clearing toxins from the blood, regulating the endocrine system, and creating harmony in mental and emotional states
    · Spleen - responsible for the digestive system, blood production and circulation, water metabolism and concentration
    · Lung - is in charge of respiration, water metabolism, blood circulation and some functions of the immune system
    · Kidney - includes urinary and reproductive systems, growth and development, endocrine system, hormones, brain and nervous system, metabolism, bones, hair, and respiratory functions

  • Outer Alchemy - the branch of alchemy that used elixirs, which would produce immortality when swallowed. The most important ingredients were cinnabar and gold. As Taoism developed, the belief that immortality must be achieved by ingesting an elixir was supplanted by the doctrine of Inner Alchemy.


  • Pa-kua (or bagua) - eight trigrams. The eight symbols consisting of three strokes (combinations of continuous and broken lines) which form the basic structure of I Ching.

  • Patriarch - a man who is the head of a family, group, or race

  • Phlegm - may be a visible, sticky substance such as mucus or metaphorical to indicate a disorder that causes a reduction in the flow of qi

  • Phoenix - according to Taoist tradition, a mythical bird not related to the phoenix of Western mythology, which arises from ashes. The Chinese phoenix is often paired with the dragon. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the phoenix symbolized the empress and the dragon symbolized the emperor. According to ancient Chinese lore, the appearance of the phoenix on the wutong tree was a testament to the peaceful rule of a virtuous emperor.

  • Po (or p'o) - Earthly soul; the yin soul that descends into the earth when the body is properly buried

  • Primordial - existing at or from the beginning

  • P'u - (literally, "uncarved block"). State of simplicity and true nature, as in infancy, before being shaped by knowledge, morality and other influences of society. For Lao-Tzu, this is the state of the ideal ruler.


  • Qi (or ch'I) pronounced "chee", literally "air, water, vapor, or breath"-a central concept in Taoism, Chinese medicine, philosophy, and art in general. Qi refers to the rhythmic energy that constitutes each and every thing. In Taoism, energy and matter are one and the same -- thus all people are actually qi itself. This is the vital energy or life force which flows through the meridians and is used to protect, transform and warm the body.

    Chinese thought does not distinguish between matter and energy, but Qi is considered matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy at the point of materializing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, it is often referred to as the "energy" present in the Meridians and the organs of the body. It is the fundamental life force or energy that is found in all living things and is formed from the interaction of yin and yang energies.

  • Qi deficiency - a lack of qi which is seen with symptoms of lethargy, weakness, shortness of breath, slow metabolism, frequent colds and flu with slow recovery, low or soft voice, palpitations and/or frequent urination

  • Qigong (or ch'i-kung) - Qi-skill; an energy practice that became popular in the 19th century - a set of exercises including medatative and physical movements. Used to move qi, thereby maintaining and regaining physical, emotional and spiritual health

  • Qingjing (or ch'ing-ching) - Purity and stillness; the aims of meditation in the Way of Compete Perfection

  • Quanzhen (or ch'üan-chen) - Complete Perfection; Total Reality; the monastic Taoist movement founded by Wang Zhe



  • San Jiao - Triple Warmer or Triple Burner, an "energy system" that has no equivalent in Western conventional medicine.

  • San Ching - San Ching, represents the three purity manifested from the universal Qi. The first one is Jade Purity (Yu-ching), retaining neutral state. The second one is Superior Purity (Shang-ching), the beginning manifest of visible Qi, the third one is
    Ultimate Purity (Tai-ching).

  • Seal - an impression in the form of an emblem stamped on a document, painting, or piece of calligraphy to document authorship, ownership, or general appreciation. Seals and inscriptions might also be added to a work over the course of centuries, as the work passes from collector to collector; thus, the study of seals can reveal the history of a work. Seal carving was considered to be a gentleman's pastime in China, and many modern Chinese artists still carve their own seals. The emblems themselves may be carved in stone or ivory. Impressions are always made in red ink.

  • Secular - of or relating to the worldly or temporal; not connected with religion

  • Self-cultivation - program of meditation and self-discipline that may include scripture study, restricted diet, and breathing exercises designed to bring the individual to a state of spiritual purity

  • Seven Emotions - the seven emotions are sadness, fright, fear, grief, anger, joy (extreme excitability) and pensiveness. These are all considered as potential causes of illness

  • Shangqing (or shang-ch'ing) - Highest Clarity, Supreme Purity; the classical Taoist movement

  • Shen - Spiritual consciousness, spirit; spirits; divine; the most refined form of qi

  • Six External Evils - the six external evils, like the seven emotions, are causes of illness and disease. Also known as the six climatic factors, the six excesses and the six evil qi. The six external evils are terms from nature that are used to describe the condition. These include wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness and fire. Terms are also used metaphorically to indicate the behaviour of a particular ailment or condition

  • Stagnation - a blockage or buildup of qi or blood that prevents it from flowing freely. Is a precursor of illness and disease and is frequently accompanied by pain or tingling.

  • Stagnation of Blood (or Congealed Blood) - The Blood has become obstructed and is not flowing smoothly. There is sharp, stabbing pain accompanied by tumors, cysts or swelling of the Organs (most commonly the Liver).

  • Stagnation of Qi (or Stuck Qi) - The normal movement of Qi is impaired, where it does not flow through the body in a smooth and orderly fashion. Stagnant Qi in the limbs and Meridians may be the origins of pain and aches in the body. Stagnation of Qi in the Lungs may result in coughing and dyspnea. Stagnation of Qi in the Liver may result in distension in the ribs and abdomen, or elsewhere, including breast distension.

  • Stomach heat - too much heat in the stomach is represented by bad breath, bleeding or swollen gums, burning sensation in the stomach, extreme thirst, frontal headaches and/or mouth ulcers

  • Summer Heat - overactive functioning of an organ system resulting in symtoms of thirst, aversion to heat and craving for cold, infection, inflammation, dryness, red face, sweating, irritability, dark yellow urine, restlessness, constipation and "hyper" conditions such as hypertension

  • Silk Roads - the long and arduous routes by which traders, missionaries, and others traveled between China and the ancient Middle East, so named because silk traveled to the Mediterranean along these routes. The Silk Roads stretched across northwest China into central Asia and then southward to what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and finally westward toward the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

  • Solstice - either of the two times of the year when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, marking the longest and shortest days of the year and the change of seasons

  • Stele - a stone slab erected for commemorative purposes, usually with lettering or images in relief

  • Sweet dew - fluid produced by the combination of cosmic force from above the head, and the energy coming from the spine and sky with the digestive and healing enzyme.


  • T'ai Chi - (literally, "Great Polarity.") Yin and yang. Supreme Ridgepole; the centre of the heavens; Supreme Ultimate the foundational metaphysical principle. In I Ching it reads: "Therefore in (the system of) the Yi there is the Grand Terminus [t'ai-chi], which produced the two elementary Forms. Those two Forms produced the Four emblematic Symbols, which again produced the eight Trigrams." (Legge)

  • T'ai chi chu'uan - (literally, "Great Polarity Boxing") Martial art aimed at harnessing the strength of chi. Supreme Ultimate Fist

  • Taiqing (or t'ai-ching) - Great Clarity; a Taoist alchemical movement

  • Talismans - abstract, written patterns infused with magical protective powers. In religious Taoism, Taoist priests write talismans. They often resemble a particularly strange and eccentric version of Chinese calligraphy.

  • Tao - (literally, "Way"). Unchanging principle behind the universe; unproduced producer of all that is. The Tao-te Ching describes it as "something formlessly fashioned, that existed before Heaven and Earth." Conceived as an empty void, the Tao is the powerful force capable of creating the universe. From the Tao was generated qi , the constantly moving energy found in all things, as well as the two complementary forces of yin and yang. To realize the Tao, one must live simply and virtuously, in harmony with nature.

  • Tao-te Ching (or Daode Jing) - (literally, "Book of the Way and its Power.") Foundational text of Taoism. Attributed to Lao-Tzu and probably composed in the 4th century BCE.

  • Tao-tsang - Taoist canon of authoritative texts

  • Tao-yin - Exercise for guiding the breath to different parts of the body

  • Te (or de) - (literally, "power" or "virtue"). Means through which the Tao becomes manifest and actualized.

  • Three Officials - a triad of Taoist deities in charge of heaven, earth, and the waters under the earth. The Three Officials record people's good and bad deeds and determine their life span and destiny.

  • Three Purities (Three Clarities) - the highest deities in Taoism, they reside over the three greatest heavenly realms. Their names are the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Beginning, the Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure, and the Celestial Worthy of the Way and Its Power (the divine name given to Lao Zi)

  • Tianxia (or t'ien-hsia) - All under Heaven; the empire

  • Tiger and Dragon - traditional symbols of yin (tiger) and yang (dragon). The Taiji symbol, introduced during the Song dynasty, eventually surpassed the image of the tiger and dragon as the most commonly recognized visual emblem of yin and yang.

  • Tong (or t'ung) - Communicate; go through; used as a synonym for dong

  • Tonification / Tonify - to nourish, support or strengthen the condition of qi, blood or weak organ function

  • Toxicity - applies to any inflammation, infection or severe heat disease

  • Trigrams (Eight Trigrams) - symbols of the cycle of yin and yang energy present in all things. Each of the Eight Trigrams consists of three horizontal lines that represent either yin or yang energy. Yang energy is depicted as a continuous line, and yin energy by a broken line. Each of the trigrams embodies a particular configuration of yin and yang, ranging from completely yang, with three unbroken lines, to completely yin, with three broken lines. The Eight Trigrams can appear in different orders, arranged in a circle. Not specific to Taoism, the Eight Trigrams were absorbed into Taoism as it became an organized religion.

  • Triple Warmer - Also called "Triple Burner" and San Jiao in Chinese. In Oriental Medicine, this is a yang organ or, more precisely, an "energy system" that has no equivalent in conventional medicine. The Triple Warmer is crucial to all phases of digestion and has three parts: The Upper Burner (from mouth to Stomach); the Middle Burner (from Stomach to Large Intestine); and the Lower Burner (from Small Intestine to the Rectum).

  • Triptych - a work of art composed of three panels or parts, usually a center section and one wing on each side. The three sections often share one common subject or theme.

  • Tui (or t'uei) - Extend; the process of bringing things into correlation with each other

  • Tuina - Traditional Chinese massage technique that focuses on meridians and acupoints

  • Tzu-jan - Spontaneity; unconditioned and totally itself. The Tao is characterized by tzu-jan.


  • Upper Warmer - Anatomical area including the head and chest.


  • Virgin boy, virgin girl - They represent the un-manifested, non-materialized, and non-separated state, the oneness of two opposites, or the unification between the Great Mother and Heavenly Father, before the seed of multiplication and reproduction.



  • Wai-dtan - Literally, "outer alchemy"; laboratory or operative alchemy

  • Wang - King; the one who unifies the three realms of heaven, earth and humankind

  • Way of the Celestial Masters - the first formal Taoist religious organization, founded in the late Han dynasty by Taoist master Zhang Daoling, who claimed to have received teachings from the deified Lao Zi. Members of the Celestial Masters sect addressed the spiritual needs of the community. Communal rites were performed regularly, especially during seasonal changes. The Celestial Masters sect was also responsible for healing, which required the recording of misdeeds on a paper addressed to one of the Three Officials (heaven, earth, or water). The movement remains active in China to this day.

  • Wei qi - defensive energy, the equivalent of the immune system

  • Wei Stage of Febrile Disease - The first stage of Four Stages of Febrile Disease. The Wei Qi is the protective Qi of the body. This stage develops when an 'outside pernicious influence' (OPI) is in the first depth of the body, with symptoms such as fever, a slight fear of cold, headache, coughing, slight thirst, with or without perspiration. It is often an early stage of OPI Wind-Heat syndrome, seen with the common cold or flu.

  • Wei Syndrome - Weakness and eventual wasting of the musculature, especially of the lower extremities, and the resultant impairment of motor function.

  • Wind - In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, this refers to anything that has sudden onset and movement. This may refer to sudden onset from an Outside Factor, such as the common cold or flu (OPI Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat) as seen in an infectious or contagious disease. Or, this may refer to sudden onset form the inside, such as Internal Wind (often referred to as Liver Wind), where there is dizziness, tinnitus, numbness of the limbs, tremors, convulsions and stroke (apoplexy). Because Wind is associated with movement, it is often recognized by signs that move from place to place, such as itching or skin eruptions that change location, spasms, tremors of the limbs, twitching, dizziness, joint and muscle pains that move throughout the body. Wind symptoms are sudden and acute, frequently occurring in the spring, and commonly occur in tandem with other external causes of illness, especially cold.

  • Wind-Cold - Acute, infectious disease characterized by headache, soreness due to obstructed Meridians; relatively severe chills; low fever; while, moist Tongue moss; floating, tight Pulse.

  • Wind-Heat - Acute, infectious disease similar to Wind-Cold, however the fever tends to be higher and the chills are less pronounced; the Pulse is floating and fast; the Tongue is dry and reddish, with a yellow moss.

  • Wu - Not-Being. Not synonymous with nothingness, wu is an immense void containing all potentialities. It is thus interdependent with yu, Being.

  • Wu-wei - (literally, "non-action") Actionless-action; non-assertive action; action as though non-action. The ideal for rulers as set out in the Tao te Ching.


  • Xianren (or hsien-jen) - Immortal, transcendent being; sometimes translated in popular literature as "fairy" or "wizard


  • Yang - represents heat and the body's ability to generate and maintain warmth and circulation

  • Yang deficiency - a cold condition due to lack of the heating quality of yang. Symptoms include lethargy, poor digestion, cold, lower back pain and decreased sexual drive

  • Yin - represents cool and the substance of the body, including blood and bodily fluids that nurture and moisten the organs and tissues

  • Yin deficiency - a heat condition that results in symptoms of night sweats, fever, nervous exhaustion, dry eyes and throat, dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia and a burning sensation in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the chest

  • Yin-Yang - The fundamental principle of two mutually interdependent and constantly interacting polar energies that sustain all living organisms. The interaction of Yin and Yang produces Qi. Yin is described as yielding, passive, negative, dark, and female. Yang is dynamic, assertive, positive, light, and male. The two energies are opposite and yet mutually dependent. Yin may become yang and vice versa, just as day becomes night, cold becomes hot, and the reverse. The behavior of yin and yang describes the structure of any event or thing. It may be said that their dynamic relationship describes the operation of the Tao in its cycles of creation, and that their alternating movement underlies the structure of everything in the universe.

  • Yu - Being.


  • Zangfu - describes the solid organs (zang) that store vital substances and the hollow organs (fu) which are responsible for transportation

  • Zhenren (or chen-jen) - Perfected person; a Taoist sage

  • Zhonghe - Central harmony; the ideal state attained in the Way of Great peace

  • Zhongmin: Seed-people; the name given to those who would survive the impending apocalypse foretold in the southern Celestial Masters tradition

  • Ziran: Self-so, spontaneous, natural; the basic principle that the Tao follows in its evolution; and the core value of Taoism.

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