Jīng 精 is the Chinese word for "essence". Along with qì and shén, it is considered one of the Three Treasures Sanbao of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
According to tradition, Jing is stored in the kidneys and is the most dense physical matter within the body (as opposed to shén which is the most volatile). It is said to be the material basis for the physical body and is yin in nature, which means it nourishes, fuels, and cools the body. As such it is an important concept in the internal martial arts. Jing is also believed by some to be the carrier of our heritage (similar to DNA). Production of semen, in the man, and menstrual blood (or pregnancy), in the woman, are believed to place the biggest strains on jing. Because of this, some even equate jing with semen, but this is inaccurate; the jing circulates through the eight extraordinary vessels and creates marrow and semen, among other functions.
Jing should not be confused with the related concept of jin (勁; power).
The characteristics which constitute signs of good Jing (e.g. facial structure, teeth, hair, strength of adrenals or kidneys) share the embryological origin of neural crest cells. These cells undergo immense and challenging cellular migrations requiring great organisation. As such, Jing may simply represent the strength of embryological self-organisation in the organism. This will be manifestated most strongly in those cells which require most organisation; that is, the neural crest cells.
One is said to be born with a fixed amount of jing (pre-natal jing, also sometimes called yuan qi) and also can acquire jing from food and various forms of stimulation (exercise, study, meditation.)
The strength of your Jing is based on the age and health of your parents when you were conceived.
Theoretically, jing is consumed continuously in life; by everyday stress, illness, fear, trauma, overwork, substance abuse, sexual intemperance, childbirth, poor diet, excessive fasting, etc
Pre-natal jing is very difficult to be renewed, and it is said it is completely consumed upon dying.
Jing is therefore considered quite important for longevity in Traditional Chinese Medicine; many disciplines related to qìgōng are devoted to the replenishment of "lost" jing by restoration of the post-natal jing. In particular, the internal martial arts (esp. T'ai chi ch'uan) and the Circle Walking of Baguazhang may be used to preserve pre-natal jing and build post-natal jing, if performed correctly.
Certain herbs are said to contain jing. These include but are not limited to he shou wu, rehmannia, goji berries, eucommia, chaga, deer antler, tongkat ali, dendrobium, schizandra, and many more. Ginseng, particularly Korean and Chinese, is said to bolster the jīng. Consumed for thousands of years as a superior herb, listed as the top major tonic in the herbal classic the Shennong Ben Cao Jing, it is one of the most widely researched of the Chinese tonics. Often referred to as the "king of herbs", it is well-known around the world for its energizing and immune modulating properties.
In the Ayurvedic system, the equivalent of Jing is called Ojas and you’ll find many of their top herbs like ashwaganda and shilajit help with it.
Jing herbs are commonly divided into two categories, yin and yang.
10 foods that nourish jing:
Eggs – Think about jing’s relation to reproduction and it becomes obvious the eggs can be a great food for this purpose. For the most nourishing you’re going to want to highest quality eggs. Factory farmed chickens will not do. Instead find eggs from birds that eat their natural diets. Get eggs from pastured birds or duck eggs and you’ll see a richer orange and much thicker yolk. Sometimes the shells are even tough to break.
Fish Eggs or Roe – But birds aren’t the only egg laying animal. Fish roe are another option. These eggs were highly prized by many indigenous people, and especially fed to young children and pregnant women (sometimes even pre-conception). In fact in the Andes, people would travel sometimes hundreds of miles to collect these eggs to bring them back for eating. Hopefully, you won’t have to travel that far. Instead, the next time you eat sushi make sure to get an order with tobiko or roe.
Nuts and Seeds – These are the reproductive parts of plants. All of them will work to some degree. One of the best is black sesame seeds. In fact, this is regarded as a great jing tonic in Chinese medicine. (One hint is that the color black, and even dark colors, are often associated with jing. Antioxidants contribute to health and aging slowly so they may be associated with jing.)
Algae and Seaweeds – The large amounts of minerals and dark colors contribute to the jing essence of these foods.
Pollens – Once again the reproductive agents in plants. The pollen is likened to the mammalian sperm and thus is highly rich in nutrients. Bee pollen is one option. And due to the strong hormonal component pine pollen is even better.
Royal Jelly – This substance is fed to the queen bee and is responsible for her becoming the queen. The workers are genetically identical to her, but do not get this food. It is what the royal jelly activates (epigenetics) that causes her to become queen.
Beans – Certain beans like kidney, black and azuki beans are thought to contribute to jing. Many argue that beans cause digestive problems so this may be up for debate. The best way to consume them is likely in fermented forms like miso, natto and tempeh.
Black Rice – At one point in time only the Chinese emperor could consume black rice. It was punishable by death for the common people to consume it. This forbidden black rice is now widely available for royalty and common folk alike. While more expensive then its white or brown counterparts, it has significantly more nutrition. Its antioxidant count is said to rival blueberries.
Organs – Jing is stored more in the organs than the muscle. Organs of all types have much higher amounts of minerals and vitamins. For more jing go to the jing organs themselves including the kidneys and brain (recall the jing is tied into the nervous system).
Bones – Jing also governs the marrow. Bone marrow was regarded as highly prized in ancient China because it is mysterious and the most hidden and tucked away in the human body. Various qi gong practices are devoted specifically to the marrow. So eating it will help you build it as well. A good quality bone broth may be one of the best jing foods out there. Some even call it the original stem cell therapy.