Cultivate both the mind and the body

Daoists are famous for advocating xing ming shuang xiu (性命雙修). Xing here means soul, mind; ming refers to the physical body. Xing Ming Shuang Xiu means to develop/cultivate both the mind and the body. Amongst Chinese philosophies/religions, this is a distinctively Daoist approach.

To us humans, what is the worst thing, the one thing we all like to avoid – Death. The killer app of all religions is eternal life. For most religions, the approach is as follows:

  • Make clear distinction between mind and body.
  • The essence of our existence is not the body, but this intangible thing called soul. The workings of our mind, which we’re conscious of, is used as evidence for existence of that intangible entity called soul.
  • We can all see the flesh is weak.
  • The soul is eternal, while the body temporary and corruptible.
  • That which does not persist, that are temporary, are but illusion.
  • Therefore we should focus on the permanent, the incorruptible.
  • It doesn’t matter when the body dies, because life = life of the soul, you are not your body.

So the body is but temporary vessel for the soul. Or as the Buddhists call it, the ‘dirty skin bag”. The implication for practice then is very clear, we should only concentrate on the soul, it’s the only thing that matters.


Daoists, who I like to think are the naughty rascals of world religion, have a completely different view. Their point is, your body is you too. So we need to cultivate it to prevent decay. Hence all the attempts at alchemy, elixirs, and more helpfully, qi gong (aka internal elixir) and other health practices. In other religions you don’t care if your body dies. Daoists don’t want the body to die to start with.


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July 2009
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