Neidan | Internal Cultivation
The term Neidan (内丹) means internal alchemy. It is the highest form of Qigong, in that it is a more refined and subtle level of internal practice. Neidan is the Daoist study and practice of internal cultivation in the pursuit of longevity. One begins by practicing Qigong (which includes both waigong (external) and neigong (internal) qi cultivation. Once a person has cultivated their Qi, their vital force, they can then begin the more advanced practice of Neidan. Another way to understand the relationship is that Qigong works with post-natal Jing, Qi and Shen, and Neidan works with pre-natal, Yuan (source energy), Jing, Qi and Shen.
Neidan, pronounced Neigh-Don, combines the two characters nei and dan (内 and 丹), denoting the concepts of “inner,” and “cinnabar” respectively. The latter of which refers to the process of alchemy, or refinement through cultivation. The terminology nei dan shares etymological significance with the terms neigong (内功) meaning internal skill, and dantian (丹田), or “cinnabar field,” which denotes places within the body where vital Qi, or energy, naturally accumulates. Neidan training, consequently, is the internal process of cultivating and working with the innate energies present within the human body. Through various physical, mental and spiritual practices, Neidan enhances personal vitality, health, and prolongs the life of the practitioner.
Neidan as a practice shares methodology found in the more esoteric forms of classical Chinese medicine, or Daoyi, through the practices of “nourishing life” (yangsheng 养生), and placing emphasis on personal cultivation.