Once upon a time, there was a remarkably young-looking – but extremely old man — whose name is Peng Zu.
Believe it or not! Pengzu’s lifespan crossed a few Chinese dynasties, and by the time when he was seen during the Zhou Dynasty, he was already at the ripe old age of 800 years old.
Many were curious about – and eager to know — how Peng attained the longevity. The old man was generous about his advice, and shared his secret of long life.
To him, the most important thing one needed to do to live a long and healthy life was conservation. In Chinese, conservation is known as ‘yang’ (养), which may also be translated as nurturing.
There are three aspects of conservation. They are jing, qi, and shen 精、气、神 — known as the Three Treasures of longevity.
The three Chinese words are not easy to be translated into English. My attempt is to describe them as essence of life, chi energy and mind and spirit.
- Essence of life: Jing had been part of us before we were born, and ought to be maintained and replenished to a certain extent through our diets and physical exercises after we were born. It is the source of energy for our vitality and reproduction.
- Chi energy: Qi or chi is the life-force energy. It is the energy that animates our bodies and keeps us alive and active. We need to keep our chi energy strong and ensure that it circulates smoothly in our body through the 12 meridians.
- Mind and spirit: Shen is the commander of our body. It regulates the jing and qi energies mentioned above and their conservation. The impact goes the other way around as well. When the jing and qi energies are strong, our mind and spirit are strengthened, and we can be emotionally more stable and physically stronger.
In a nutshell, when we cultivate our jing, we strengthen our qi. The strong flow of qi would keep our shen robust. For the same token, if we can keep our shen balanced and lively, we can enhance the vitality through the workings of Jing and qi.
Do not worry if you cannot grasp the idea instantly. There are two things that you can do immediately to start you conservation. First, avoid anything excessive. Eat right and sleep well. Second, stay mentally balanced — knowing what is enough, and happy with what you have.
“There is no greater misfortune
than not knowing enough.
There is no greater flaw
than wanting more and more.
Whoever knows contentment
is blissful at all times.”
Tao Te Ching quotes, Verse 46