Daoism and Sex (part 2)

talk to the hand

In my previous post I didn't get as far as discussing the history of Sex and Daoism or misunderstandings resulting from that history. Instead I focuses on what Daoism understands sex to be.

The brilliant young scholar Liu Xun has written about two person Daoist practices from the ~1600's generally undertaken by two people of the opposite sex. Unfortunately it looks like his writing on this subject remains unpublished at this time. Perhaps he will read this and correct me. My recollection is that it is often difficult to tell from textual sources whether sex of any kind was involved because most of it is written in metaphoric language. There probably were some practices involving sex and meditation, but they were by no means widespread and it is questionable whether they should be called Daoist at all. (More on this below.)

Others have tried to say something about early Celestial Master (~200 CE) sex practices, but the truth is we don't know much about them. It seems like there was a short period in which teachers would pick two people of opposite gender from among their disciples and guide them through some sort of private marriage ritual in which the teacher and the two disciples were all present. Because the practice was discontinued, I think it is fair to conjecture that it didn't produce the best results.

Judging only from the precepts followed by Celestial Masters at the time, I think it is safe to say they were not engaged in anything they thought would increase desire. Most likely they were practicing not getting excited. Or, as I describe in the previous post, perhaps they were engaged in some type of physiological awareness which had as its goal, limiting the production of jing in the form of eggs or sperm, so that it would be available for some other practice. Generally speaking, sexual desire causes our bodies to produce more sperm/semen and more warmth excitement and lubrication.

Dao zang

I have heard that some Chinese Emperor's may have practiced getting an erection with out any desire. Supposedly it is possible, through extreme discipling of the mind, to get an erection, have sex, and neither ejaculate nor feel any desire. Presumably one doesn't feel much pleasure either, but I don't know. This kind of practice makes a little sense if you are an Emperor and have 800 concubines who are bored. It is important to remember that while some Emperor's were no doubt sex addicts, each and every concubine represented a political alliance which had to be maintained. If you never had sex with them, you might cause more trouble that it was worth. I can't imagine why anyone would want to try those practices today.

Now on to the misconceptions (no pun intended). The Daozang, generally known as the Daoist Cannon, has been complied by order of various governments into different additions over the last few hundred years. It is an enormous collection of texts (≤5000). No Daoist could study or use more than a fraction of these texts in a lifetime. Which would lead one to ask, "Are there texts in the Daozang which no Daoist has ever used?" And the answer is, probably. Compared to Buddhism, and Confucianism, Daoism has been a lot more lax about condemning what other people do. Practices which were outside the norms of Confucianism or Buddhism, were openly rejected by these two traditions. But Daoists have been more likely to respond, "Maybe it is Daoist, I don't know." So there is a trend that whatever no one else wanted, got stuck with the label "Daoist" simply because Daoists didn't reject it. Daoists have generally held precepts encouraging discretion and even secrecy, so it's likely that individual Daoists would not know the details of what other Daoists were doing.

That being said, there have been lots of books written about Daoist sexual practices. For the most part these have been invented out of whole cloth, or deal with issues your average sex advice columnist could handle better. But we also have the problem that people have intentionally limited (and therefore mis-translated) the meaning of the term jing to mean simply semen. Thus, we have been treated in some books to the disgusting image of semen traveling up the spine to nourish the brain.

And yes, of course, there are Daoist precepts against wasting jing. But folks, that is meant to refer to jing before it goes into sexual reproduction. There are many ways you could interpret this precept. For instance, I would say push-ups and sit-ups are a violation of the "don't waste jing" precept because the day after you do them your body will start using jing to regenerate your injured muscles, which is a waste because push-ups and sit-ups serve no purpose (except perhaps vanity).

[Note to readers, my updated position as of 11/17 is that people should practice Maximum Vanity. There is not enough true vanity in the world.]

The crazy idea that an average Joe, like me, would get an erection, make-out for twenty minutes and then have sex and not ejaculate, is the stupidest idea ever!

Man, just shoot!

Let it out, it's too late to save it, might as well clean out those pipes.

On a slightly different note.


Over the years, many people have come to me wanting to study qigong because, in their own words, "I want more energy!" After a couple minutes of interviewing it inevitably turns out that they are deficient either because they do drugs, don't get enough sleep, work too many hours, have a poor diet, or don't exercise enough. All of these problems are solvable with out qigong, so they never stick around. (A couple of times the problem has been they exercised too much, in which case the problem was easily solved by suggesting they do less.)

However, there are some weird power accumulation exercises out there falling under the category of sexual qigong. None of these are good for your longterm health, because like taking drugs, they mess with your endocrine system (In TCM language they use up yuan qi). They are also completely unnecessary because you can get the same amount of energy from proper diet, sleep and exercise. My guess is that these practices were originally invented for people who were starving in times of famine, when such practices might have served a real purpose.