Think of the human body was a microcosm, a physical landscape inhabited by different spirits.  This is how Daoists think of the body.  We believe that the human soul is made up of many different spirits.  The Yang aspect of the soul is made up of the three Hun (魂) and the Yin aspect of the soul is made up of the seven Po (魄).  Learning about the Hun and Po is the key to unlocking the ancient Chinese understanding of the soul, the human body, and the afterlife.

The Three Hun (三魂)

The three Hun form a person’s spiritual soul.  The is is the Yang aspect of the soul.  The Yang soul governs the intangible parts of a person.  It is their spirit, consciousness, and intelligence. The three Hun reside in the liver.  They take the form of three gentlemen.  As formless consciousness, the Hun are able to leave the physical body.  After death, the Hun can travel to heaven or the underworld.

You Jing (幽精) “The Secret Spirit” – This part of the soul determines attraction and sexual orientation. The ancient Chinese believed that when a person’s heart was broken and they lost interest in the world around them, it was because this part of their soul was injured.  The “secret spirit” leaves the body frequently, visiting people, places, or things it is attracted to.  If this part of the soul is too strong, it is a detriment to the other Yang aspects of the soul, leading to dullness and confusion.

Tai Guang “The Light of the Fetus” (胎光) – This part of the soul is the life force in the body, the spark of life.

Shuang Ling (爽灵)  “The Bright Spirit” – This part of the soul determines a person’s intellectual ability.  The ancient Chinese associated intellectual disability with its loss or injury.  This part of the soul is believed to leave the body at night, causing dreaming.  It occasionally dissipates with old age.

The Seven Po (七魄)

The seven Po form a person’s physical soul. This is the Yin aspect of the soul. The seven Po govern the solid parts of the person. They are the body’s instincts and natural ability to survive. They take the form of bizarre animals and monsters. They are active at night when the consciousness dims. The Po are attached to the body, and remain with the corpse after death, dissolving with the body. The Po can become injured. A skilled Chinese medicine doctor can diagnose which of the seven Po are causing a patient’s symptoms.

1. Stinking Lung 臭肺

Function: Regulates breathing

Snoring and sleep apnea are a sign that this part of your soul is not healthy.WordPress is evil

2. Remover of Filth 除秽

Function: Processing

This part of the soul removes toxins from the body through urine and feces.  When children wet the bed, or when adults wake up frequently to urinate, it is because this part of the soul is weak.WordPress is evil

3. Flying Poison 飞毒

Function: Dissolving

The anti-poison regulates body temperature by dispersing areas of excessive heat and cold in the body.  If this soul is injured people experience chills or night sweats.WordPress is evil

4. Thief Swallower 吞贼

Function: Fights external pathogens

This is similar to the modern concept of immune function.

5. Yin Sparrow 雀阴

Function: Sexual ability

The health of this part of the soul determines how long a man or woman needs to recover sexual ability immediately after sexual activity.  Injury to this soul results in sexual dysfunction.

6. Hidden Arrow 伏矢

This part of the soul controls digestion while you sleep.  If you eat before bed and wake up hungry, your hidden arrow is healthy. If you wake up with no appetite or with very bad breath, you may have a problem with this part of your soul.

7. Dead Dog 尸狗

Function: Vigilance

In this soul is overactive, people are restless and wake up too easily.  If it is not active enough, you will sleep like a dead dog, blind to any dangers in your environment.

Daoist Soul Practice

Daoists believe that humans have the ability to influence the Yin and Yang souls.  For example, it is possible to call wandering or lost Hun back to the body.  When I was young, there was a child in my village who was scared very badly and went into shock.  Although the child was safe at home in bed, his family went through the village banging on pots and pans, calling the child’s name, asking him to come home.  They were calling his Hun back to his body.

It is also believed that if a person dies a violent death or dies before they have fulfilled their destiny, their soul may stay in the land of the living and perform evil dead out of spite. Daoists believe that through ritual, we can communicate with these lost spirits and send them to rest.

Some believe that the Yin soul causes our baser instincts, including the desire for sex, wealth, and food.  Daoist practice can be used to keep these needs in check, so that the body’s energy can be redirected to support the more spiritual soul, as represented by the three Hun.

The Daoist concept of the Yin and Yang souls is an ancient way to explain human consciousness and body processes.  It is very different from the modern Western scientific view of the body.  However, I hope that learning about the Hun and Po increase your understanding of Chinese culture, and maybe even contribute to your understanding of your own special soul.