Qigong Terms for Taoist Practices and Theory

Abdominal breathing

- a form of Taoist breathing that uses the diaphragm, where the abdomen expands on inhalation and contracts on exhalation. In reverse abdominal breathing, the abdomen contracts on the inhalation and expands on the exhalation. For more information, see the blog posts on qigong breathing and following the breath


- Taoist alchemy means the internal transformation of the energy grid of the body achieved through qigong or neigong practice and/or by the use of herbal formulas.


- energetic armoring results from a subconscious desire to protect certain areas of the body and is associated with specific feelings or emotions that are fixed within the tissues or organs


- the energy point at the top of the head which is referred to as a cavity along the governing vessel, found at the point where the line going from the top of your ears meets the top of the head. It is also called the “100 meetings point.”

Ba Mai

- 八麦, see Extraordinary Vessels

Bone Marrow

- in Taoist terms, the bone marrow refers to the connection between the actual bone marrrow and the Kidney Jing, or essence.


- leading qi into a specific area of the body, like the lower dantien

Conception vessel

- see “ren mai”

Dai mai

- belt vessel, one of the eight extraordinary vessels, surround the lower dantien. The dai mai is important meridian for the cultivation and accumulation of qi.


(丹田, Tantien) – In Taoist terminology, there are three major energy centers, one located above the bridge of the nose and the yintang point (upper dantien), one located in the center of the chest (middle dantien), and another located about 1 1/2″ below the navel at the qihai point (in front of the lower dantien). All are centered within the body and if someone uses the term dantien without specifying its location, it usually means the lower dantien. A synonym for the lower dantien is the lower elixir field.

Dao Yin

- Exercises for regulating the energy between the energy reservoirs of the body. Known as “qigong” in modern times.


- (pronounced duh) personal virtue, also translated as te, as in the Tao Te Ching, a book that contains many fundamental Taoist principles. This book’s title can be translated as “The Way and It’s Virtue.”


- a meditation tool that one can use to help remove energy blockages, where one rests one’s attention on a blockage and views the energetic blockage as ice changing to water and then to vapor. This experience can be illustrated by placing one’s attention on a place of pain or tightness in the body. If you can keep your attention on that pain or tightness, then you will notice that the perception of intensity changes, which can increase and then decreases over time. If you become distracted by thoughts, return your attention to that part of the body where the original perception occurred. Keeping correct body alignments is needed to assist in the dissolving process.

Du Mai

- The ascending, yang energy meridian that starts at the Hui Yin point (between the anus and the genitals) and goes up the spine, over the head to the hard palate of the mouth. Known as the Governing Vessel.

Eight Pieces Brocade

- A qigong exercise set, also known as the Eight Pieces of Silk Brocade and other pseudonyms, with Chinese names that include Ba Duan Gin, Pal Dan Gum, Pa Tuan Tsin (Chin),and Ba Duan Jin. Ancient silk drawings show people holding the postures of this exercise. Find a video of this exercise on the page < href=”http://www.qigonghealingarts.org/what-is-qigong”>What is Qigong?

Extraordinary Vessels

- Ba Mai (eight vessels) or qi jing bai mai. Also known as strange flows by some (Donna Eden, for instance), these consist of energy flows on the right and left of the torso, inside and outside of the legs, inside and outside of each arm, up the back and down the front of the body, and around the waist. These channels connect the energy flow of the 12 primary yin and yang channels. The channels on each side of the torso are frequently called the right and left channels. The Ren and Du channels constitute the central channel.


- also spelled “kung,” meaning energy or hard work

Governing vessel

- see “du mai”


- the energy point located in the web between your thumb and forefinger. When the thumb and forefinger are pressed together, the point at which the crease stops in the hegu.


- the energy point located midway between the anus and the genitals, where the ren channel ends and the du channel begins.

Jeng qi

-the energy stored in the kidneys as a reserve source when needed.


- the body’s essence, one of the three treasures that humans have, the others being energy (qi) and spirit (shen)


- the waist, where qigong and tai chi movements should originate from. Anatomically, if one turns from the waist, one moves into the kwa, or inguinal crease that goes from the hip to the groin.


- the energy point in the center of the palm. For healing purposes, medical qigong practioners use this point as a means of connecting to another person’s energy field and causing healing to occur by various manipulations.

Macrocosmic orbit

- the energy circuit that goes up the legs from the Yong quan (K1) point on the bottom of the foot and inside the legs, then up the back, over the head, down the front of the body and then back down the outside of the legs to a point just in front of the heel of the foot. See also “microcosmic orbit.”


- channels though which vital energy circulates and along which acupuncture points are located

Microcosmic orbit

- the energy circuit that goes up the back spine from the hui yin point and over the top of the head (bai hui) and down the front of the spine to return to the hui yin. Microcosmic orbit sitting meditations are recommended by several teachers, including Master Yang, Jwing Ming. See also “macrocosmic orbit.”

Nei Gong

- inner energy work. Also known as Nei Dan or Nei Tan. Qigong is often associated with outer energy work (Wei Dan) and is characterized by coordination of breath with movement. Nei Gong, on the other hand, allows natural breathing to occur during the internal energy transformation exercises.


- the point at which the occipital bone meets the skull at the back of the neck, also known as the occipital area. Opening up this area is required during practice to facilitate movement of energy from the du meridian and over the head as part of the Microcosmic orbit (down the front of the torso and up the back). See the book recommendation to the left for more specific information.

- leading the qi out of specific areas of the body


- energy which connects spirit and matter. There are many types of qi, also written as “chi,” reflecting the English pronunciation. Qi is one of the three treasures that humans are given at birth. See the page Qi Chart.


Qi emission

- the extension of energy from a practitioner beyond the physical body


- balancing the energy between the three main energy centers (dantiens) of the body

Ren mai

- the descending Ren meridian which goes down the front of the body, beginning at the tongue and ending at the huiyin energy point. Commonly known as the “Conception Vessel.”


- being able to extend one’s energy into the earth through the feet for collecting nurturing qi and/or for getting rid of toxic, or excessive qi. Sinking, or allowing rooting to occur, is an integral part of achieving this phenomenon. “Sung” is a term that is often used to reflect relaxing into the root.


- spirit, one of the three treasures of human beings

Sound therapy

- using of healing tones by a practitioner or medical qigong doctor to produce resonations that to help remove toxic qi or tonify organs where there is deficient qi


- physical and mental relaxation, a condition for optimizing energy flow during qigong and tai chi exercises. This relaxing, or dropping of one’s tension, is also called sinking and it helps carry the momentum in movements. Standing meditation with dissolving practice helps one achieve sung.
Tai Chi

Way of the Celestial Masters
Image via Wikipedia

- Represented by the Tai Chi symbol, this principle, known as the “grand ultimate, ” is a means of explaining creation from the wuji and interplay central forces (yin and yang) that cause the manifestation of the 10,000 things. Tai Chi Chuan, which embodies these principles, is a choreographed form of qigong that can be used as a martial art or for healing.

Tan Tien

- 丹田, see Dantien


- 道, Dao, literal meaning of “path” or “way.” Taoists seek this pathway to embody being within this path, engaging in practices that allow internal transformation and alignment with the principle of wu wei. Verbalization and explanantion of the meaning of the Tao is secondary to its reality, as is mentioned in the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Books about the Tao include ones by Julius Evola and Alan Watts (Amazon link provided)

Three Treasures

- the three gifts that humans are born with, their essence (jing), energy (qi) and spirit (shen)


- adding energy to an organ or part of the body that is deficient in energy

Wei qi
-your wei qi is the superficial qi that defends one from diseases, some correlate this qi to the immune system; however, others believe is in in the soft tissues of the skin, defending one from external causes of disease.


- formless, neutral, not yet in existence, formless void

Wuji posture

- standing posture used for the beginning of Tai Chi and qigong forms. See Zhan Zhuang.

Wu Wei

- a state of no mind, thoughtlessness, doing without doing, regulating without regulating. Literal meaning is “no action,” the practice of wu wei is considered the epitome of Taoist virtue, being in a manner that is spontaneous and not contrived or forced. This virtue is found within the 38th chapter of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tze.


- pronounced “yahng,” it is a type of energy associated with the following qualities: masculine, brightness, lightness, activity, warmth, excitation, and ascendancy


- a type of energy associated with the following qualities: female, descending energy, coolness, darkness, heaviness, tranquility, receptivity, and inhibition


Yongquan or K1 energy point

- energy point at the bottom of the foot located in front of the arch and before the toes. A major point of energy transference between the body and the earth. In English, its pronunciation is more like “yong chren.”  It is the K1 acupuncture point and is also called “the bubbling well.”

Zhan Zhuang

- standing qigong meditation practice, also known as “standing like a tree,” “pole standing,” and more. There are many different postures, beginning from the wuji posture, where the hands and arms rest at the side of the body and the feet are parallel.


1. http://altmed.creighton.edu/acupuncture/principles_of_yin_and_yang.htm
2. http://www.texastcm.edu/our-program/qigong
3. http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/esb.htm4. Jayasauriya, Anton. 2001. Clinical Acupunture, Revised Edition.


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