Internal Alchemy Map – Nei Jing Tu

This version of the Nei Jing Tu, a diagram of internal pathways, is based on a late nineteenth century stele found in the White Cloud Taoist monastery in Beijing. The origins of this diagram are not clear but probably go back at least a thousand years. It was found by Liu Chengyin who perceived it’s hidden message in an instant and decided it was too precious to be hidden way from the world. He copied it  and made it available once again to all who can intuit its message.

This powerful depiction of a seated man in meditation has become popular in Taoist circles and it has become a symbol of internal alchemy in the west. Not surprising as it is clearly visually stimulating and was probably used as a visual aid during meditation. The diagram is a representation of Taoist inner alchemy theory, processes and techniques. It illustrates our connection to the natural world, by showing the human body as a microcosm of nature.

The map refers to the practice of the microcosmic orbit (the small heavenly cycle) made up of governing and conception vessels. It clearly shows the process of reversing the flow of the water of life. The Qi is pumped up the spine through 3 passes to the cranial cavity. The main energy centres, the dan tians, otherwise know as the 3 elixier fields are represented in the diagram as the ox, the cowherd and the old man. Another striking feature is the range of mountain peaks that guide down the universal energy into the centre of the brain.

Since the first time I saw this diagram it has remained in my mind like an imprint, a pattern to be decoded over years of cultivation. I remember hearing Juan li talking about Tibetan art in the Documentary “How it all began, the origins of the Universal Healing Tao” he said something along the lines that the art of Tibetan painting was to capture the essence of the practice. So that with a single glance the practice could be intuitively understood.

If you would like to find out more there is a free ebook available at Tao Directory with translations of the main characters on the map and also a short you tube video below. You may have to click the title of the post to see the video.



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