Truth from The Yellow Emperor's Classic
ancient times the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, was known
to have been a child prodigy. As he grew he showed himself to be sincere, wise,
honest, and compassionate. He became very learned and developed keen powers for
observing nature. His people recognized him as a natural leader and chose him
as their emperor.
his reign, Huang Di discoursed on medicine, health,
lifestyle, nutrition, and Taoist cosmology with his ministers Qi Bo, Lei Gong,
and others. Their first discussion began with Huang Di
inquiring, "I've heard that in the days of old everyone lived one hundred
years without showing the usual signs of aging. In our time, however, people
age prematurely, living only fifty years. Is this due to a change in the
environment, or is it because people have lost the correct way of life?"
Bo replied, "In the past, people practiced the Tao, the Way of Life. They
understood the principle of balance, of yin and yang, as represented by the
transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices
such as Dao-in, an exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to
promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at
regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided overstressing their
bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They
maintained well-being of body and mind; thus, it is not surprising that they
lived over one hundred years.
days, people have changed their way of life. They drink wine as though it were
water, indulge excessively in destructive activities, drain their jing—the body's essence that is stored in the kidneys—and
deplete their qi. They do not know the secret of
conserving their energy and vitality. Seeking emotional excitement and
momentary pleasures, people disregard the natural rhythm and order of the
universe. They fail to regulate their lifestyle and diet, and sleep improperly.
So it is not surprising that they look old at fifty and die soon after.
"The accomplished ones of ancient times advised people to
guard themselves against zei fen",
disease-causing factors. On the mental level, one should remain calm and
avoid excessive desires and fantasies, recognizing and maintaining the natural
purity and clarity of the mind. When internal energies are able to circulate
smoothly and freely, and the energy of the mind is not scattered, but is
focused and concentrated, illness and disease can be avoided.
people led a calm and honest existence, detached from undue desire and
ambition; they lived with an untainted conscience and without fear. They were
active, but never depleted themselves. Because they lived simply, these
individuals knew contentment, as reflected in their diet of basic but
nourishing foods and attire that was appropriate to the season but never
luxurious. Since they were happy with their position in life, they did not feel
jealousy or greed. They had compassion for others and were helpful and honest,
free from destructive habits. They remained unshakable and unswayed
by temptations, and they were able to stay centered even when adversity arose.
They treated others justly, regardless of their level of intelligence or social
Di asked, "When one grows old, one cannot bear
children. Is this due to heredity or to the loss of one's procreative
Bo answered, "In general, the reproductive physiology of woman is such
that at seven years of age her kidney energy becomes full, her permanent teeth
come in, and her hair grows long. At fourteen years the tian
kui, or fertility essence, matures, the ren/conception and chong/vital
channels responsible for conception open, menstruation begins, and conception
is possible. At twenty-one years the kidney energy is strong and healthy, the
wisdom teeth appear, and the body is vital and flourishing. At twenty-eight
years the bones and tendons are well developed and the hair and secondary sex
characteristics are complete. This is the height of female development. At
thirty-five years the yangming/stomach and large
intestine channels that govern the major facial muscles begin to deplete, the
muscles begin to atrophy, facial wrinkles appear, and the hair begins to thin.
At forty-two all three yang channels—taiyang, shaoyang, and yangming— are
exhausted, the entire face is wrinkled, and the hair begins to turn gray. At
forty-nine years the ren and chong
channels are completely empty, and the tien kui has dried up. Hence, the flow of the menses ceases and
the woman is no longer able to conceive.
the male, at eight years of age the kidney energy becomes full, the permanent
teeth appear, and the hair becomes long. At sixteen years of age the kidney
energy is ample, the tien kui
is mature, and the jing is ripe, so procreation is
possible. At twenty-four years the kidney qi is
abundant, the bones and tendons grow strong, and the wisdom teeth come in. At
the thirty-second year the body is at the peak of strength, and functions of
the male are at their height. By forty the kidney qi
begins to wane, teeth become loose, and the hair starts to fall. At forty-eight
the yang energy of the head begins to deplete, the face becomes sallow, the
hair grays, and the teeth deteriorate. By fifty-six years the liver energy
weakens, causing the tendons to stiffen. At sixty-four the tian
kui dries up and the jing
is drained, resulting in kidney exhaustion, fatigue, and weakness. When the
energy of all the organs is full, the excess energy stored in the kidney is
excreted for the purpose of conception. But now, the organs have aged and their
energies have become depleted, the bones and tendons have become frail and
stiff, and movements are hampered. The kidney reservoir becomes empty, marking the
end of the power of conception."
Di remarked, "I notice, however, that some
people, even though they are quite elderly, can still conceive."
Bo replied, "This is because these individuals inherited an unusual
abundance of jing and also realized how to lead their
lives properly and protect their vitality. At sixty-four and forty-nine, for
males and females respectively, these individuals still have excess kidney
energy as well as qi and blood, so they still have
the capacity to procreate. However, men past the age of sixty-four and women
past forty-nine have normally lost this ability."
Di asked, "If a wise one who follows the Tao is
over one hundred years of age, can he or she still retain the ability to
Bo answered, "Yes, it is possible. If one knows how to live a correct way of life, conserve one's energy, and follow the
Tao, yes, it is possible. One could procreate at the age of one hundred
Di inquired, "I've heard of people in ancient
times, spoken of as the immortals, who knew the secrets of the universe and
held yin and yang, the world, in the palms of their hands. They extracted
essence from nature and practiced various disciplines such as Dao-in and Qi
Gong, and breathing and visualization exercises, to integrate the body, mind,
and spirit. They remained undisturbed and thus attained extraordinary levels of
accomplishment. Can you tell me about them?"
Bo responded, "The immortals kept their mental energies focused and
refined, and harmonized their bodies with the environment. Thus, they did not
show conventional signs of aging and were able to live beyond biological
so long ago there were people known as achieved beings who had true virtue,
understood the way of life, and were able to adapt to and harmonize with the
universe and the seasons. They too were able to keep their mental energy
through proper concentration.
achieved beings did not live like ordinary humans, who tended to abuse
themselves. They were able to travel freely to different times and places since
they were not governed by conventional views of time and space. Their sense
perceptions were supernormal, going far beyond the sight and hearing of
ordinary humans. They were also able
to preserve their life spans and live in full health, much as the immortals
"There was a third type of person, known
as the sage. The sages lived peacefully under heaven on earth, following the
rhythms of the planet and the universe. They adapted to society without being
swayed by cultural trends. They were free from emotional extremes and lived a
balanced, contented existence. Their outward appearance, behavior, and thinking
did not reflect the conflicting norms of society. The sages appeared busy but
were never depleted. internally they did not
overburden themselves. They abided in calmness, recognizing the empty nature of
phenomenological existence. The sages lived over one hundred years because they
did not scatter and disperse their energies.
fourth type were natural people who followed the Tao and were called
naturalists. They lived in accordance with the rhythmic patterns of the
seasons: heaven and earth, moon, sun, and stars. They aspired to follow the
ways of ancient times, choosing not to lead excessive lifestyles. They, too,
lived plainly and enjoyed long life."
From The Yellow Emperor's Classic, chap 1---