Shen is the ”spirit” in Traditional Chinese Medicine (tcm) and is one of the three treasures that constitute life. The other two are Qi (life force) and Jing (essence). Shen in TCM takes in not just spirit but also emotions, mental health and consciousness. Shen is said to live in the heart where it retires to sleep at night.

During the day it lives in the blood vessels and blood deficiency can harm the shen. If shen is disturbed at night, insomnia can result. Shen can be noted during the day through the eyes – bright, alert and healthy eyes indicate a full shen. Somebody with sparkling eyes that are alive and who are aware of what is going on around them will have a strong shen. Like much of TCM, shen does not operate independently but is also affected by qi produced in the lung and spleen and Jing from the kidneys .


The shen corresponds to the heart and heaven. Anything that causes harm to our heart will also harm our shen. Excessive sadness, such as heartbreak, can produce a real disturbance in our shen and thus our zest for life. When we hear of someone dying of a ‘broken heart’, it is very possible that their emotional hurt is causing severe harm to their shen.

Qi is of the stomach, spleen and the person. Jing is of the kidneys and of the earth. A trinity of foundation for all living things is formed via shen (heaven), qi (person) and jing (earth) which are also known as the Three Treasures. A tcm practitioner is always attempting to balance these Three Treasurers – a healthy qi, jing and shen will ensure a healthy person.

A healthy shen contributes to our wisdom and understanding of issues. It reminds us the divine is essential to our well being. Severe emotions can damage our shen as can bad diet and poor strength. Acupuncture, tai qi and qi gong are all excellent exercises for a healthy shen.

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