Three Flowers Condensing onto the Head
“Three Flowers Condensing onto the Head ” ( 三花聚頂 Sanhua Juding ) is a term of Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ). In ancient times, the character “flower” was interchangeable with “splendor”, and the latter was the original form of the former. Therefore, “three flowers” is actually “three splendors”, which refer to the splendor of the Essential Matter ( 精 Jing ), the Vital Breath ( 氣 Qi ) and the spirit of a human being. By “condensing onto the head”, we mean that these three things are mixed up and gather at the Aperture of the Mysterious Gate ( 玄關一竅 Xuanguan Yiqiao ). The Compilation of the Great Achievement of the Golden Elixirs ( 金丹大成集 Jindan Dacheng Ji ) compiled by Xiao Tingzhi says, “Question: What does Three Flowers Condensing onto the Head indicate? Answer: It indicates the unification of spirit, the Vital Breath and the Essential Matter, and the aperture of them is named the Aperture of the Mysterious Gate.” In this term the “head” denotes the “the inner court of the heavenly palace”. The “heavenly palace” refers to the brain, and the “inner court” refers to the space inside the brain, with the line connecting the aperture of yintang and that of baihui as its centerline. “Three Flowers Condensing onto the Head” is a superior state of the skill of Inner Alchemy. The emergence of this state must be preceded by an orderly process of cultivation and refinement. Ancient inner alchemists used symbolic expressions for fear of divulging Heaven’s secrets and losing the great Dao, and therefore there were many variants of the name “three flowers”. Essentially speaking, the internal sense of “three flowers” is “triple Yang”, namely Yang within Yin, Yang within Yang, and Yang within Yin-Yang. “Triple Yang” is related to the conversion from the Five Agents ( 五行 Wuxing ) and Celestial Trunks ( 天干 Tiangan ). In ancient China, “water” represents the north and corresponds to rengui in terms of Celestial Trunks and kidney in human body; “fire” represents the south and corresponds to bingding and heart; “gold” represents the west and corresponds to gengxin and lung. Kidney governs the Essential Matter; heart governs spirit; and lung governs the Vital Breath. Water is situated in the north, a direction of Yin, and its corresponding Celestial Trunks are ren, which is Yang and gui, which is Yin, so what is called “Yin within Yang” refers to “ren”, one of the two Celestial Trunks representing the north. Fire is situated in the south, a direction of Yang, and its corresponding Celestial Trunks are bing, which is Yang and ding, which is Yin, so what is called “Yang within Yang” refers to “bing”, one of the two Celestial Trunks representing the south. Gold is situated in the west, a direction of Yin. It corresponds to lung, which exhales the old and inhales the new, connects the inside and the outside, hence its nature of transformation between Yin and Yang. What is called “Yang within Yin-Yang” refers to “geng”, the Celestial Trunk representing the west and lung together with xin. Inner Alchemy stresses “Refinement of Essential Matter into Vital Breath ( 煉精化氣 Lianjing Huaqi )”, i.e., removing gui but promoting ren in the water of kidney, “Refinement of Vital Breath into Spirit ( 煉氣化神 Lianqi Huashen )”, i.e. removing xin but promoting geng in the gold of lung, and “Refinement of Spirit Back to Emptiness ( 煉神還虛 Lianshen Huanxu )”, i.e., removing ding but promoting bing in the fire of heart. Ren, geng and bing singnify “triple Yang” in the Essential Matter, the Vital Breath and spirit. After fire is added, they sublime and gather in the aperture niwan. This is called “Three Flowers Condensing onto the Head”. The character “head (ding)” indicates tripod (ding). Having discarded the old and introduced the new and cast off the old self, one enters a divine state, where his body glows brilliantly. At this time the Essential Matter, the Vital Breath and spirit returns to a “unified” state from a divided state. They appear in the sky spontaneously like petals of golden flowers. This is a good outcome of internal exercise. That’s why “flower” is also “splendor”.