What is Neidan?

Neidan (内丹), also known as Internal Alchemy, is a Daoist practice that aims to cultivate the body, mind, and spirit. It is a complex system of exercises, meditations, and visualisations that change inner energies.

History of Neidan

The history of Neidan is a long and complex one. We can find the earliest records of Neidan practice in the writings of the Daoist philosopher Ge Hong (283-343 CE). Ge Hong was a prolific writer, and his works, such as the Baopuzi (The Book of the Master who Embraces Simplicity), contain a wealth of information on Neidan theory and practice.

In the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE), Neidan practice flourished. This was due in part to the influence of the Buddhist tantric tradition, which introduced new concepts and practices to Neidan. During this period, several important Neidan texts were written, including the Zhonghuangjing (The Scripture of the Golden Elixir) and the Wudan jing (The Scripture of the Five Mountains).

The Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) was another golden age for Neidan. During this period, Neidan practice became more sophisticated, and a number of new schools of Neidan emerged. The most important of these schools was the Quanzhen school, which was founded by Wang Chongyang (1113-1170 CE). Quanzhen had a major influence on Chinese culture because of its focus on moral cultivation and social engagement..

Neidan practice continued to flourish in the following dynasties, and it remains an important part of Daoist tradition today. Neidan is a complex and challenging practice, but it can offer several benefits for both physical and spiritual health.

Here are some of the key figures in the history of Neidan:

  • Ge Hong (283-343 CE): A Daoist philosopher who wrote extensively on Neidan theory and practice.
  • Li Daojun (672-735 CE): A Daoist alchemist who is credited with founding the Shangqing school of Neidan.
  • Wang Chongyang (1113-1170 CE): A Daoist master who founded the Quanzhen school of Neidan.
  • Zhang Sanfeng (12th-14th century): A Daoist master who is credited with founding the Wudang school of Neidan.

Neidan is a living tradition, and it continues to evolve today. There are a number of different schools of Neidan, and each school has its own unique approach to practice. All Neidan schools strive for spiritual enlightenment..

The Purpose of Neidan

The ultimate purpose of Neidan is to achieve immortality. However, this does not mean living forever in a physical body. Rather, it means transcending the limitations of the physical body and entering a state of pure consciousness.

In the meantime, Neidan can also help practitioners to achieve several other benefits, including:

  • Improved health and longevity
  • Increased energy and vitality
  • Enhanced mental clarity and focus
  • Improved emotional balance and well-being
  • Deeper spiritual connection

The Benefits of Neidan

The benefits of Neidan are many and varied. Some of the most commonly reported benefits include:

  • Improved health and longevity: Neidan can help to improve overall health and well-being, and it has been shown to have a number of specific health benefits, such as reducing stress, improving sleep, and boosting the immune system.
  • Increased energy and vitality: Neidan can help to increase energy levels and vitality, and it can also help to improve stamina and endurance.
  • Enhanced mental clarity and focus: Neidan can help to improve mental clarity and focus, and it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Neidan can improve emotional balance and well-being..
  • Deeper spiritual connection: Neidan can help to deepen spiritual connection, and it can also help to provide a sense of peace and tranquillity.

How to Practice Neidan

Neidan is a complex practice, and it is best to learn from a qualified instructor. However, there are some basic principles that anyone who is interested in trying Neidan can follow.

The first step is to learn about the theory of Neidan. This includes understanding the concepts of jing (essence), qi (energy), and shen (spirit), as well as the different stages of Neidan practice.

Once you have a basic understanding of the theory, you can practice the exercises. These exercises typically involve breathwork, meditation, and visualisation.

It is important to be patient and persistent when practicing Neidan. It takes time and effort to see results, but the rewards can be great.


Neidan is a powerful practice that can offer several benefits for both physical and spiritual health. If you are interested in learning more about Neidan, get in touch.