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Sun Xi Kun On Daoism Part III: Method of Quiet Sitting – Oral Instruction

Part 3: The Method of Quiet Sitting – Oral Instruction

Following Part 1 (Authentic Cultivation of Daoism) and Part 2 (True Formula of the Dao Elixir Secret Treasure), we continue with Sun Xi Kun on Daoism with the “The Method of Quiet Sitting.” These articles on Daoism are excerpted from The True Transmission of Ba Gua Zhang 八卦拳真传 Ba Gua Zhang Zhen Chuan  by Sun Xi Kun 孙锡 堃

Sit silently and burn incense to stop distracting thoughts. Letting go of emotions and intention, the spirit becomes lively. Sit on a thick cushion and loosen the belt and clothing. At the time of Zhi Shi (first Earthly Branch: 11pm to 1 am), sit cross-legged facing east. Hold the body straight and the back upright with the lips and teeth closed and the tongue touching the palate. Stop up the mouth and ears so as to invert listening. [1] Open the eyes slightly, with eyelids drooping down in order to brighten the Shen. That is, so that the light reflects back [and inward] from the Yuan Gong (Original Palace) to below the navel.

Sitting in a quiet room without disturbance or noise and burning incense, with honesty and sincerity, it is possible to connect to the mysterious Qi. Stop distracting thoughts. Extinguish all rash thinking. If even a few scattered thoughts exist, the spirit is not pure yang. One who forgets emotion becomes unconscious of the boundary between oneself and the external world. Forgetting emotion one’s forgotten nature is recovered, the mind becomes bright and sharp. Close the heart (heart-mind) and use the breath to forget the heart (heart-mind) and to enliven the Shen, so that the heart (heart-mind) is sharp and clear. Sitting on a thick cushion keeps the body from tiring. Loosening clothing and belts, allows the Qi to flow freely. The time of the first earthly branch is the moment yang energy emerges and grows.

A person should start each day like this, facing east, sitting cross-legged, gathering and enlivening the Qi and gathering and consolidating the spirit. Hold the fist so that the thumbs pinch the crease of the third finger [in the palm] and with the four fingers holding the thumb. Hold the body level and the back straight, so that Qi can flow smoothly without obstruction. Closing together the lips and teeth. Lifting (propping up) the tongue to touch the palate enables the throat to be without disease. [2] The mouth is an aperture of Qi. [3] If the mouth opens, Qi is dispersed. Therefore it must be closed. The ears are also blocked so as to reverse the hearing. The ear is an aperture for the Jing (essence). Listening to sounds consumes Jing. Therefore, make the ear deaf to sounds. Opening the eyes slightly means not to sit under the dark earth. Moreover, the eyes are the aperture of the spirit. If the eyes are look around at colors, the spirit will disperse. If the eyes open widely, the spirit is expressed (revealed) and if closed completely, the spirit is hidden (can also mean “dim”). Therefore, the eyes should be open halfway. This also prevents dizziness. The vision from Yuan Gong (Original Palace), reflects back to below the navel. The second lunar month belongs to yang, just as the light of the sun and moon give birth to all living things.

By regulating the breath continuously day and night, gong (achievement-skill) will be pure, and [one] will collect a little bit of true yang from the kidney. From this the heart and kidney will connect and interchange, joining so that Shenqi promotes fire. Through reflecting light back, a little bit of True Yang from the kidney will go up and join together with the heart-Shen. Self-cultivation of the breath is one exhalation and one inhalation. This breath is Qi. When intention and breathing are interdependent, true water and fire are reinforced and supported, creating a continuous return to the root; Ming returning [4] so as to nourish Shenqi, causing warm Qi to extend and link. If this is interrupted, nurturing and transformation will be difficult to achieve. In practicing this skill, a warm sensation rises, gradually gushing upward from the abdomen. If this happens, it is the motion of the true Yang Qi. Ordinary Qi in the middle of the body is Yin Qi. When Yin Qi is refined to the utmost, Zhen Qi (True Qi) is created. Control its mechanism of excited upward movement. Then it is transported through the Wei Lu (Tail Gate), [5] the twin Jia Ji Guan [6] and upward to the Ni Wan (Mud Ball), [7] to join and communicate with the spirit (Shen). After this joining, [True Qi and Shen] are transformed into sweet dew (Gan Lu) [8] from the Magpie Bridge (Que Qiao) [9] which goes downward to the throat and then to the heart and to the Zong Gong (Central Palace). [10] One rises, one falls, mingling at the Mysterious Pass (Xuang Guan) for transformation.

Except to bathe at Earthly Branches four and ten, it is vitally important that the refining be continuous and uninterrupted. Otherwise, the medicines are consumed and squandered and the firing time (ie: the critical moment) is missed, so the elixir cannot be formed. Du Mo in the center of the back comes upward and belongs to Zi (First Earthly Branch). Ren Mo in the front goes down and belongs to Wu (7th Earthly Branch). The withdrawal and addition (ie: the regulation) of Zi and Wu (of the Ren and Du) represents the Heavenly Circulation (Zhou Tian) fire times. Fire times implies fire and water in the body, one ascending and one descending. Ascending means promoting fire to withdraw (extract) lead (Qian). Descending means to give back the tally and add mercury (Gong). Lead is the True Yang Qi of the kidneys. Mercury is the True Yin Essence of the heart. The marvel lies in [their] natural withdrawal and addition, advance and retreat. So, essence, Qi and spirit can gradually concentrate and can migrate and reside. [11] Sitting and lying down in concentration is like a baby hiding in its mother’s belly following inhalation and exhalation. By swallowing the tranquil empty Qi of great harmony, there is Gong (achievement/skill) in ten months.

When yin and yang connect and interchange and fetal breathing is sufficient, Xuan Zhu (the Mysterious Pearl) [12] is formed, becomes the sage fetus, and transforms into true spirit. Through careful and sufficient regulation of the spirit for three years, form and spirit become wonderful and subtle and can change and transform at will. One becomes a sage and returns to the origin, transcending the worldly and attaining the Dao. By refining again to return to the void, one rises another level.

These are all the methods of training the Gong. [13] In a hundred days the foundation is built. It is called the Xiao Zhou Tian (Small Heavenly Circulation; Micro-Cosmic Orbit). The yang time period rules advancing. Only by inhaling and exhaling for 36 yin time periods, ruling return, withdrawal and storing for the 24 periods of the year in which Shenqi is consumed, [14] can the Pre-Heaven Qi be sufficient and the Shen vigorous enough for the Da Zhou Tian (Large Heavenly Circulation; Macro-Cosmic Orbit). After the Small Heavenly Circulation is fully actualized, opening and closing are performed day and night for seven days, following close behind the fire time (i.e.: the critical moment) of the Large Heavenly Circulation.


[1] Listen to the inside of the body rather than to outside sounds.

[2] The throat is referred to here as a building. In the Daoist conception of the internal landscape as in the Nei Jing Tu (chart of the Internal Circulation) the trachea and throat are sometimes depicted as a many storied pagoda.  If the mouth is closed, pathogens cannot enter the throat.

[3] Qiao 窍: This word is frequently used in Chinese medicine. In English, it means a hole, aperture. In fact, it implies a close relationship between the internal organ and external physiological or pathological signs. In Chinese medicine there is saying: 心开窍于舌(Xin Kai Qiao Yu She). Literally, this sentence can be translated into “The heart opens an aperture into the tongue”. Actually, it means the tongue is a window to see the condition of the heart. In common Chinese, it also implies an enlightenment of the wisdom.

[4] This is 復 Fu:  Returning; return to normal or to the original state. This again references the Fu Hexagram in the Yi Jing, in which the return is symbolized by the single yang line which appears at the bottom. Yang returning again after the ascendance of yin.

In Daoist meditation, this can also represent yang beginning to grow, as breath is regulated and Jing is transformed by Qi to move upward through the body to connect and transform into Shen. 

[5] The Wei Lu 尾闾: is the first of the three gates or barriers (San Guan 三 關) that the True Qi must pass through as it ascends up the Du channel. Sometimes it is simply translated as tailbone.

[6] Jia Ji Guan 夹脊: Backbone gate, the area behind the heart and the second of the San Guan.

[7] Ni Wan 泥丸: “Mud Ball”; “Clay Pellet” – ie: the brain.

[8] Gan Lu 甘露: “Sweet Dew” – Saliva.

[9] Que Qiao 鹊桥: ”Magpie Bridge” – This “bridge” is the connection of the tongue to the upper palate which connects Ren Mo and Du Mo so that they make a circuit. The “Lower Magpie Bridge” is created by lifting and gathering the perineum so that True Qi does not leak out through the anus (“Grain Duct”).

[10] It is unclear if the reference to Zong Gong 中宫 (Middle Palace) here means the area in the middle under the heart, or if the term is being used an alternative way of referring to the lower Dantian. In this context, it seems to refer to lower Dantian.

[11] Daoists often employ alchemical terms to describe the internal interactions of the body and mind during meditation. Hence, Daoist meditation is sometimes referred to as “Inner Alchemy”. Using alchemical metaphors, yang in the Dantian is often referred to as the “furnace” (Lu) and the yin as the “reaction vessel” (Ting). The “True Mercury” extracted from cinnabar is the True Yin associated with Fire and the heart and liver. It is the True Yin Essence of the heart. It is also the conscious, discerning mind. The “True Lead” extracted from the unprocessed lead ore is associated with Water, the lungs and kidneys. It is the True Yang Qi of the kidneys. It is also true, intuitive knowledge or wisdom. When mercury and lead come together, when True Essence unite (the conscious mind) and Qi (intuitive wisdom) unite through the refining process of meditation, then body is regenerated, the Three Treasures combine and unify and consciousness is also unified.

[12] The Mysterious Pearl 玄珠: can refer to the Dao itself and to the idea of transformation and change contained in Daoist thought. The phrase may also refer to the Records of the Mysterious Pearl (Xuan Zhu Lu) or the Mysterious Pearl Mirror of the Mind (Xan Zhu Xin Jing), two teachings in the Daoist Cannon. (The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism Volume II: M-Z, edited by Fabrizio Pregadio, London and New York: Routledge, 2008, pp. 1142-3).

[13] Ability or achievement.

[14] In this passage, Sun seems to be referring to reversion of the cycle of nature and the progression of the seasons. Rather than Shenqi being consumed through the natural cycle of life (the 24 periods of a year and their natural fluctuations of yin and yang) it is stored and withdrawn (returned) so that the vital substances and energies of the body are not consumed, but are transformed stored and increased, leading to long life, wisdom and the immortality of the sage.