Refinement of Essential Matter into Vital Breath
This was another important concept in Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ). In Daoism, the Refinement of Essential Matter ( 精 Jing ), Vital Breath ( 氣 Qi ) and Spirit ( 神 Shen ) was regarded as the gateway to longevity and immortality. Daoist scholars argued that at the moment of a man’s birth, his Essential Matter, Vital Breath and Spirit were totally mixed into an inseparable entity, a state dominated his whole infancy, which was hailed as the period closest to Dao. When he grew up, unfortunately, the Essential Matter, Vital Breath and Spirit fell apart. During his span of life, the division became worse on daily basis, a trend that led to his death. In order to prevent it from happening, Daoist scholars invented some ways to reverse the trend. They claimed that a man could return to his infancy by Cultivation, which would reassemble the divided Essential Matter, Vital Breath and Spirit. To achieve the goal, as the first step, a man ought to Refine Essential Matter into Vital Breath, namely Transforming Three into Two. In this case, “Three” stood for Essential Matter, Vital Breath and Spirit, and “Two” for Vital Breath and Spirit. As a result, “Essential Matter” would be refined into “Vital Breath” in this phase, which allegedly lasted about a hundred days. For this reason, this phase was known as the “One Hundred Day Pass” ( 百日關 Bairi Guan ). Sometimes, it was also called the “Initial Pass” ( 初關 Chuguan ), which featured its elementary nature in a total process of refinement. In terms of the refinement process, the Refinement of Essential Matter into Vital Breath was regarded as the “Phase of Interfering Action”, a term highlighting a series of technical activities such as the “Collection of Medicinal Herbs” ( 采藥 Caiyao ), “Storage” ( 封固 Fenggu ), “Refinement” ( 烹煉 Penglian ), and “Extinguishment of Fire” ( 止火 Zhihuo ). Obviously borrowed from Outer Alchemy, these terms were used to describe the process of Refinement of Inner Alchemy: “Vital Breath of Anterior Heaven” initiated by mediation was channeled into the “Lower Elixir Field” for storage and mixing with Essential Matter; the function of a man’s “Mind” would lead to refinement of “Essential Matter” into “Vital Breath”; the circulation of “Vital Breath” around the Ren and Du channels would lead to a condensation and combination of Spirit and Vital Breath; this stage ought to end with the “Extinguishment of Fire”. In Daoism, the whole process was called the Refinement of Essential Matter into Vital Breath.