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Daoist Meditation Lesson Eight Theory: Golden Fluid & The Micro-Cosmic Orbit

Lesson Eight of Nine Lessons on Daoist Meditation: A Theoretical Discussion of Micro-Cosmic Orbit Meditation.

Saliva: Elixir of Immortality

Saliva is a key element in Daoist meditation and internal alchemy. Swallowing saliva is a part of virtually every Daoist exercise, including many forms of Nei Gong. Hence saliva is referred to by many names in different Daoist texts:

Golden Fluid jin ye 金 液
Golden Elixir jin yi 金 酏
Jade Dew yu lu 玉 露
Jade Fluid yu ye 玉 液
Jade Juice yu zhi 玉 汁
Jade Beverage yu yin 玉 飲
Divine Juice ling zhi 靈 汁
Heavenly Dew tian lu 天 露

As we shall see in this lesson, production of saliva is one sign that the meditation is being performed correctly. When Jing is concentrated in the lower abdomen, transformed into Qi/Breath and moved upward, saliva is secreted and then descends to replenish Jing.

The tongue (known as the “red dragon”) is sometimes used to further stimulate the production of saliva, as is the action of clicking the teeth. Isabelle Robinet tells us that the center of the mouth, where the saliva accumulates, called the “Jade Pool,” is the upper-body equivalent of the lower Dantian where the sexual essence (Jing) accumulates.[1] According to Chinese medicine, saliva is made up of two basic parts. One part is more pure and refined. It is associated with the kidneys and therefore the Jing. This portion moistens and nourishes the teeth, themselves extensions of the kidneys. The other part is associated with the organs of digestion, particularly the stomach. This more turbid, less refined portion is related to digestive juices of the stomach and aids in breaking down food. Proper performance of “Reverse Breathing” and the Micro-Cosmic Orbit, which we cover in this lesson, promotes the production of a sweeter, thicker, more nourishing saliva, associated with the Jing. This “golden fluid” is then swallowed so that it can sink to Dantian.

Saliva flows from two  channels under the tongue. If it is swallowed properly it can enter the Ren Mo (conception vessel”), which runs down the center of the body to the Dantian, genitals and perineum, thereby returning to the Dantian. If not swallowed properly, it descends to the stomach. The proper method of swallowing the saliva is to have the tip of the tongue touching the upper palate. When the mouth fills with saliva (from correct practice of the micro-cosmic orbit), one must straighten the neck and swallow the saliva. [2]

Science & Saliva

Modern science has discovered that saliva has many important properties. Studies in Japan have shown that saliva contains various enzymes and hormones that help to aid digestion, maintain health and prevent disease. The digestive enzyme Ptyalin begins the process of breaking down carbohydrates. Other substances in saliva detoxify and protect against toxic substances in foods. There is some indication that saliva may even contain substances that fight cancer. Parotin, a hormone found in saliva, has been found to strengthen the activities of the muscles, maintain the blood elasticity of the vessels, maintain the elasticity of the skin and strengthen connective tissue, cartilage, bones and teeth.

Nutritionist Lino Stanchich, tells the amazing story of his father who, during WWII was taken prisoner in Greece and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. It was a work camp. His father was cold and hungry all the time and received only a slice of bread and coffee for breakfast and soup for lunch and dinner. He discovered that by chewing is food and even his water many times, it actually seemed to increase his energy. He shared his discovery with two other prisoners and the three of them all felt warmer and more energized after chewing their food an water as much as 150 times before swallowing it. In the end only these three survived. [3]

Ren and Du & The Micro-Cosmic Orbit

The Ren and Du Vessels run along the midline of the body. The Ren Mo (“conception vessel”) runs along the front midline of the body from the Perineum to the chin and mouth and the Du Mo (“governing vessel”) runs along the back midline of the body from the perineum to top of head and then down through the forehead and nose to the inside of the upper lip and upper palate. Both vessels originate in the kidneys. It is important to remember when looking at the pictures of their pathways, that Du Mo passes through the interior of the spine and Ren Mo passes through the interior of the abdomen.


Important Du Channel Acu-Points

Du 1               Chang Qiang (Wei Lu)       “Long Strong” (“Turtle Tail”)

Du 4               Ming Men                            “Life Gate”              

Du 10             Ling Tai                                “Spirit Tower”

Du 11             Shen Dao                              “Spirit Path”

Du 14             Da Zhui                                “Great Hammer

Du 16             Feng Fu                                “Wind Mansion

Du 17             Nao Hu (Yu Zhen)             “Brain Door“ (“Jade Pillow”)

Du 20             Bai Hui                                  “Hundred Meeting”

Du 24             Shen Ting                             “Spirit Court”

Extra              Yin Tang (Zhu Qiao) [4]    “Seal (chop) Hall” (Ancestral Aperture”)

Du 26               Ren Zhong                            “Human Center”

Important Ren Channel Points Acu-Points

Ren 24    Tian Chi                    “Celestial Pool”

Ren 23     She Ben                     “Tongue Root”

Ren 17     Shang Qi Hai            “Upper Sea of Qi”

Ren 12      Zhong Wan              “Central Cavity”

Ren 8        Shen Que                   “Spirit Gate”

Ren 6         Qi Hai                        “Sea of Qi”   

Ren 4          Guan Yuan              “Original Pass”

Ren 1           Hui Yin                    “Meeting of Yin”

Du Mo is the sea of all the yang vessels (meridians) in the body. It connects these vessels and ties them all together. Ren Mo is the sea of all the yin vessels. The true breath arises from the Ren and the Du and they are at the same time active expressions of the true breath.[5]

The two vessels of Ren and Du are but two branches with a single source. One travels along the front of the body and another travels along the back of the body. A person’s body has the Ren and the Du, just as heaven and earth have midday (zi) and midnight (wu), which may be perceived as divided and united. Divide them and it is apparent that their yin and yang [aspects] cannot be separated. Unite them [and] it is apparent that they are coalesced without differentiation. The singular is plural and the plural is singular. [6]

Ren Mo and Du Mo are where Kan-Water and Li-Fire intersect, where water and fire ascend and descend. Because of the relationships of these two vessels with the other meridians and their role in the transformation of water and fire, it is said that: If a person can open these two vessels than all of the hundreds of vessels can all be open.[7]

The Microcosmic Orbit, or Small Heavenly Circulation (Xiao Zhou Tian), is a method of Daoist meditation that attends to the circulation of the Qi/Breath through Ren Mo and Du Mo. In the Treatise of Affirming the Breath and Making the Soul Return, it is described as follows:

The jing transformed into qi rises up toward the heights;

If the qi is not strengthened, the jing becomes exhausted.

The qi which becomes the saliva, descends to the depths;

If the Jing does not return, the qi is altered.

It is like water which one heats in a tripod;

If at first there is no qi,

How will qi be produced?

Because it descends and cannot escape.

By rising, water becomes qi,

Qi in turn becomes water when descending.

They rise and descend in endless rotation.[8]

By gently letting the breath sink to Dantian, Qi/Breath begins to flow up the Du channel to the top of the head. Acu-points in the head allow the Qi/Breath to enter the brain and then descend down into the mouth, where saliva is produced and where there is a connection with the Ren channel. From there the Qi/Breath (and the saliva) flow downward to the Dantian and the cycle is repeated. The Qi/Breath rises with inhalation and descends with exhalation. Through this process Jing is transformed into Qi/Breath and Qi/Breath in turn nourishes the spirit (Shen). The Shen guides and harnesses the Qi/Breath to replenish the Jing. Through this process, one is reconnected with the “true breath” – the primordial yin-yang current that flows between Heaven and Earth. This not only invigorates the body by allowing the Qi/Breath, blood and Jing to enter the bone marrow, tendons, ligaments, flesh and muscle, restoring the pliability of these structures,  it also reconnects us with our own innate wisdom, thereby re-inciting the life that is within us. Francois Jullien explains the importance of these channels as follows:

The principle artery or du, which irrigates the back from bottom to top and is the vessel through which energy flows. Why does our attention, once liberated from the endlessly spendthrift thirst for knowledge, focus on this artery as  defining the line and rule of life? Because, as we have already discussed, this median artery has a regulative capacity that ensures respiratory constancy. And what is this respiration but a continual incitation not to dwell in either of two opposite positions – inhalation or exhalation? Respiration allows each to call upon the other in order to renew itself through it, thus establishing the great rhythm of the worlds evolution. Thus respiration is not only the symbol, the image or figure, but also the vector of vital nourishment.[9]

 Circulation of the Micro-Cosmic Orbit

As you inhale and the breath rises, the ribs in the back open. With the perineum (and anus) lifted, the tailbone sinking and the vertex lifting upward, the Qi/Breath is able to ascend through the spine. The chin is slightly held in, allowing the points at the base of the skull to open so that Qi/Breath does not block at these points and thus it enters the brain rises to the top of the head.

With the exhale the Qi/Breath is able to sink because the tongue tip touching the upper palate connects Ren Mo and Du Mo.  The lifting of the head, the position of the neck and the open ribs allow the Qi/Breath to drop downward to return to the Dantian. As the Qi/Breath sinks it seems to exhale not through the nose but down into the Dantian. The Dantian then naturally has a feeling of expanding  as one exhales (the reverse breathing we practiced in the previous lesson). The flow of air is continuous even and smooth like a thread being wound smoothly around a spindle.

As you inhale visualize the Qi/Breath sinking to the Dantian and then, by keeping the perineum lifted (the “lower magpie gate”), and the tail sinking, the Qi/Breath rises through the tailbone to the Ming Men (Du 4: “life gate”) and up through the  center of the back to acu-point Du 16 (Feng Fu). Here Qi/Breath enters the brain. Qi/Breath then passes through Du 17 (“Jade Pillow”) at the occipital protuberance. From there, it  continues to rise to Bai Hui (“hundred meeting”; Du 20) point at the vertex, and moves forward to Shen Ting (“spirit court“; Du 24) before beginning to descend with the exhalation.

As you exhale the Qi/Breath moves into the mouth and connects to the Ren Mo via the tongue (the “upper magpie gate”), and then passes down the front of the body. Rather than passing out the nose or mouth, the Qi/Breath descends through the throat to enter the chest behind Ren 17 (“Upper Sea of Qi”) and then down into the abdomen passing through Ren 12 (“Central Cavity”). From here the breath returns to the navel (Shen Que; “Spirit Gate”) and then to the Dantian.

Circulation of the Qi/Breath in Ren Mo and Du Mo is a bit like an electrical circuit. The two ends of the vessels must be connected for there to be an uninterrupted flow. The upper Magpie Bridge is the tongue, and the tongue touches the upper palate to link with Ren Mo and Du Mo in the upper part. The lower Magpie Bridge is in the perineum and links with the Du Vessel and Ren Vessel in the lower part. Thus, the Ren and Du are linked and the Heavenly Circle flows.

Waxing and Waning of Yin and Yang in the Micro-cosmic Orbit

Yang Qi gathers as the Qi/Breath rises up the back and Yin Qi coalesces as the Qi/Breath sinks back to Dantian. Thus on the inhalation, yang waxes and yin wanes. On the exhalation and yin waxes and yang wanes. Similarly Qian-Heaven and Kun-Earth wax and wane just as day becomes night and night becomes day in  endless cycles. In Qian there is  opening – an opening of the gates for Qi/Breath to flow and change and transformation to occur. In Kun there is reception, closing and consolidation. Inhalation is opening and exhalation is closing, like a bellows pumping. The changes and transformations, the opening and closing are a product of Heaven and Earth’s breaths, which also flow through us. The diagram below uses hexagrams from the Yi Jing (I Ching: the Book of Changes) to show this dynamic process. These twelve hexagrams are sometimes called: The Waxing and Waning Hexagrams, or the Twelve Sovereign Hexagrams They are also used to describe the waxing and waning of yin and yang over the 12 months of the year.


The hexagrams change from the bottom up, the yin lines pushing out the yang, beginning at the summer solstice and the yang lines returning at the winter solstice. During Micro-Cosmic Orbit Meditation, these same yin-yang transformations occur inside us. As we inhale, yang begins to grow rising from kidneys and the perineum, and moving up the Du vessel until yang peaks just before reaching the top of the head. Then yin returns and begins to grow at Bai Hui. Yin gathers until all the lines return to yin again at the perineum.





Drawing adapted from The Complete System of Self Healing: Internal Exercise, by Dr. Stephen T. Chang. San Francisco: Tao Publishing 1986, p. 200.

Hormones, Jing, and The Endocrine System

Modern Chinese physicians sometimes relate Jing to hormones and the endocrine system and some believe that microcosmic orbit breathing activates, stimulates and regulates the endocrine system. When Jingqi from the kidneys moves upward to nourish the brain and the spirit, it may be that it connects the adrenal glands with the hypothalamus which lies just above the brain stem. The hypothalamus has direct connections with the pituitary gland which is also located in the brain. The hypothalamus not only links the nervous system to the endocrine system, it also regulates secretions from the pituitary and co-ordinates many hormonal and behavioral circadian rhythms. Endocrine glands that signal each other in sequence to produce hormonal triggers are referred to as an “axis.” One such axis is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis which increases production and release  of corticosteroids.[10] Dr. Tian He–lu of Shanxi province in mainland China points out that the hypothalamus and pituitary are in the Upper Dan Tian and the adrenal glands and gonads whose hormonal secretion is also controlled by the pituitary) are in the Lower Dan Tian.  Furthermore, Dr. Tian feels that practice of the  micro-cosmic orbit directly effects the endocrine system, particularly the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. He attributes many of the health benefits ascribed to the Micro-Cosmic Orbit to its stimulation and regulation of the endocrine system.[11]



[1] Taoist Meditation: The Mao-Shan Tradition of Great Purity, by Isabelle Robinet, translated by Julian F. Pas and Norman J. Girardot. Albany, NY: State University of New York (SUNY) Press, 1993. Originally published in French as Meditation Taoiste (Paris: Dervy Livres, 1979), p. 91.

[2] Taoist Yoga: Alchemy and Immortality by Lu K’uan Yu (Charles Luk), Maine: Samuel Weiser Inc., 1973, pp. 10-11.

[3] Power Eating Program: You Are How You Eat, by Lino Stanchich. Asheville, NC: Healthy Products Inc. 1989, pp.3-4.

[4] Fire Pathognomy Due to Internal Injury in Chinese Medicine, by Tian He Lu translated by Huang Guo Qi.

[5] An Exposition of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels: Acupuncture, Alchemy & Herbal Medicine, by Charles Chace and Miki Shima. Seattle WA: Eastland Press, 2010, p. 70.

[6] Ibid, p. 146.

[7] Ibid, p. 70.

[8] Taoist Meditation: The Mao-Shan Tradition of Great Purity, by Isabelle Robinet, translated by Julian F. Pas and Norman J. Girardot. Albany, NY: State University of New York (SUNY) Press, 1993. Originally published in French as Meditation Taoiste (Paris: Dervy Livres, 1979), p. 87.

[9] Vital Nourishment: Departing From Happiness by Francois Jullien, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. New York: Zone Books, 2007, p. 31.


[11] Fire Pathognomy Due to Internal Injury in Chinese Medicine, by Tian He Lu translated by Huang Guo Qi.

All material © 2013. Excerpted from the upcoming book, Decoding the Dao, Nine Lessons on Daoist Meditation, by Tom Bisio. All rights reserved.