Body & Mind: A Few Definitions (精氣神; 身心; 性命; 靈)

There are several terms in Daoism naming the dynamic spectrum of body & mind – these are well worth studying and understanding if we are undertaking Daoist practice, especially if we are engaging scriptures in classical Chinese.

Below is a glossary briefly introducing a few of these terms for reference when following along with this talk: Body & Mind: A Few Definitions.  Each of these involves years of study to really appreciate, but let this be a base for your growth in understanding these concepts.


Jīng (精): essence-of-embodiment, coagulation of life-essence, tendency of qi to appear as form.

Qì (氣): movement, vitality, time, change.

Shén (神): spirit, awareness.

Jīng-qì-shén (精氣神) often appear as a triad.


Shēn (身): body, life – bundle of jing-qi.

Xīn (心): heart-mind, abode of spirit.

Shēn-xīn (身心) is the most literal translation for “body & mind”.


Xìng (性): inner-nature, spiritual-essence, character.

Mìng (命): fate-pattern, jīng-trajectory, destiny, contract with Heaven.

Xìng-mìng (性命) is a dynamic, complex concept referring to spiritual-nature & embodied life-path.

Líng (靈): spirit-potency, sometimes mistranslated as soul – the collective potency of xìng-mìng (性命).