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Taoist classical texts often deal with symbolisms and abstractions. Microcosmic Orbit Meditation works by visualizing the energy channeling through different parts of the human anatomy. Hence it is of interest to find out the anatomical description of the human body from the Taoist perspective as it relates the channeling of energy or vital essence. This description is from a translation of an eleventh century manuscript written by Chang Po-tuan by Thomas Cleary.

Taoist texts speak of the 'medicinal elements' of internal alchemy, using metaphors such as 'red lead', 'black mercury', 'cinnabar', 'white snow', 'green dragon', 'white tiger', 'sun rays', and 'moon beams'. These metaphors refer to various aspects and elements of the Three Treasures - essence, energy, and spirit - which are the only real elements of internal alchemy.

The vital junctions, or 'passes', used in circulating internal energy are also given mysterious names, such as the 'Yellow Chamber', 'Red Cauldron', 'Mysterious Pass', 'Lead Furnace', 'Flower Pond', 'Dragon Lair', and 'Vermilion Palace'. These colorful names denote the invisible but highly functional points inside and along the surface of the body, where energy collects, transforms, and enters various channels for circulation. Taoist internal alchemy is actually a highly scientific method of harnessing, controlling, conserving, converting, and circulating essence and energy under the guidance of spirit in order to replace depletion with accretion, reverse disintegration with integration, and counteract degeneration with regeneration.

A term of particular importance in Taoist internal alchemy is the 'firing process', which has nothing at all to do with fire. The firing process refers to breathing, which acts as a bellows to gently fan the 'fire' of energy in the 'cauldrons' of the Elixir Fields.

Taoists believe that the human body has three posterior passes and three anterior passes. The three posterior passes are in the coccyx, at the base of the spine; in the mid-spine, where the ribs join the spine; and at the back of the brain.

The pass in the coccyx, at the bottom of the spine, connects with the channels of the genital organs. From this pass ascends the spinal cord, which is called the Zen Valley, or the Yellow River, or the Waterwheel Course, or the Mountain Range up to the Court of Heaven, or the Ladder up to Heaven.

This is the road by which positive energy ascends; it goes right up the point opposite the center of the chest, the pass of the enclosed spine, where the ribs join in back, then it goes straight up to the back of the brain, which is called the Pass of the Jade Pillow.

The three anterior passes are called the Nirvana Center, the Earth Pot, and the Ocean of Energy. The Nirvana Center is the so-called upper elixir field. It is a spherical opening 1.3 inches in diameter and is the repository of the spirit. That opening is three inches behind the center of the eyebrows, right in the middle.

The space between the eyebrows is called the Celestial Eye. The space one inch inward is called the Bright Hall. The space one inch farther in is called the Hidden Chamber. One inch farther in from that is the Nirvana Center .

The windpipe has twelve sections and is called the Multi-storied Tower; it goes to the openings in the lungs, and reaches the heart. Below the heart is an opening called the Crimson Chamber, where the dragon and tiger mate. Another 3.6 inches directly below that is what is called the Earth Pot, which is the Yellow Court, the middle elixir field.

The umbilical opening is called the Door of Life. It has seven channels connecting with the genitals. The leaking of sexual energy takes place through these channels. Behind the navel and in front of the kidneys, right in the middle, is the place called the Crescent Moon jar, or the Ocean of Energy. And 1.3 inches below that is what is called the Flower Pond, or the lower elixir field. This is where vitality is stored, and it is the place where the medicine is gathered.



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