Important Events
Important Religions
Important Links Major Religions & Spiritual Beliefs
Home: Religion: Taoism: Ethics and Sexual Practices of Taoists.

Taoism and Ethics

The Three Jewels are compassion, moderation, and humility.


More Taoism books and reviews

The Joining of the Essences

From a Western perspective, the Taoist view of sexuality is considerably more at ease. The body is not viewed as a dangerous source of evil temptation, but rather as a positive asset. Taoism rejects Western mind-body dualism; mind and body are not set in contrast or opposition with each other. Sex is treated as a vital component to romantic love, however Taoism emphasizes the need for self-control and moderation. Complete abstinence is frequently treated as equally dangerous as excessive sexual indulgence.

The sexual vitality of men is portrayed as limited, while the sexual energy of women is viewed as boundless. Men are encouraged to control ejaculation to preserve this vital energy, but women are encouraged to reach orgasm without restriction. Taoists believe that a man may increase and nourish his own vitality by bringing a woman to orgasm, thereby "activating" her energy and attuning it with himself. This is considered to be of benefit to both partners.

Taoism and Ethics: The Sexual Practices of Taoists

"Joining Energy" or "The Joining of the Essences", is the philosophy of traditional Taoist based sex. Practitioners believed that by performing these sexual arts, one could stay in good health, and eventually, with some other spiritual or alchemical practices, attain immortality.

Some Taoist sects during Han Dynasty performed sexual intercourse as a spiritual practice, called "HeQi" ("Joining Energy"). The first sexual texts that survive today are those found at the Mawangdui tombs. While Taoism had not yet fully evolved as a philosophy at this time, these texts shared some remarkable similarities with later Tang dynasty texts, such as the Ishinpō.

The sexual arts arguably reached their peak between the end of the Han dynasty and the end of the Tang dynasty. After 1000 A.D. [CE], Confucian puritanism became stronger and stronger, so that by the advent of the Qing dynasty, sex was a taboo topic in public life. These Confucians alleged that the separation of genders in most social activities existed two thousand years ago, and suppressed the sexual arts.

Because of the taboo surrounding sex, there was much censoring done during the Qing in literature, and the sexual arts disappeared in public life. As a result, some of the texts survived only in Japan, and most scholars had no idea that such a different concept of sex existed in early China.

Ancient and Medieval Practices

Qi and Jing (Lifeforce and Essence)

The basis of all Taoist thinking is that qi is part of everything that exists. It is related to another energetic substance contained in the human body known as jing, and once all this has been expended, you will die. Jing could be lost from the body in a variety of ways, most notably the bodily fluids. Taoists would use practices to stimulate/increase and conserve their bodily fluids to great extents, and some reportedly recycled and composted their own fecal matter. The fluid that contained the most Jing was male semen. Therefore the Taoists believed that men should decrease the frequency or totally avoid ejaculation in order to conserve their life essence.

Control of Vital Life Force

Many Taoist practitioners link the loss of ejaculatory fluids to the loss of vital life force: where excessive fluid loss results in premature aging, disease, and general fatigue. While some Taoists contend that one should never ejaculate, others provide a specific formula to determine the maximum amount of regular ejaculations in order to maintain health. The general idea is to limit the loss of fluids as much as possible to the level of your desired practice. As these sexual practices were passed down over the centuries, some practitioners have given less importance to the limiting of ejaculation. Nevertheless, the "retention of the semen" is one of the foundational tenets of Taoist sexual practice.

There are different methods to control ejaculation prescribed by the Taoists. In order to avoid ejaculation, the man could do one of two things. He could pull out immediately before orgasm, a method which Joseph Needham termed "coitus conservatus". The second method involved the man applying pressure on perineum, thus retaining the sperm. While, if done incorrectly can cause a retrograde ejaculation, the Taoists believed that the semen traveled up into the head and "nourished the brain." This method is referred to by some Taoist scholars as "The Million Dollar Point" (reference Mantak Chia), regarding it as either a cheap lesson for income or a backup method, believing that it somehow lessened the loss of "jing" from a full ejaculation. Some modern teachers have come to the conclusion that the method should not be used because of potential dangers.

Another method involves the Taoist to train himself to separate the impulses of ejaculation and orgasmic contraction (the contraction of the pelvic muscles that "pump" the prostate and the ejaculate). By separating these impulses, at the point of orgasm, the man can halt penetration but remain inside his partner, and forcibly clench his pelvic floor ("stunting" the initial prostate contractions), while simultaneously adopting a meditation like "intention" that these Taoists believe redirect not the physical sperm, but the life energy it contains up the back and to the center of the brain. This way the man will still have orgasm, but will not ejaculate, and most importantly will not lose his erection. This formula prescribes the man to climb a "ladder" of escalating orgasms in conjunction with the meditation like "intention", in order to cultivate and store massive amounts of "jing". If performed successfully the male should have no stagnating pain in the testes, and should have no semen in his urine, as well as the health benefits expected by practitioners. Those that practice this method believe that it is one of the keys to immortality.

Jing (Sexual energy)

Another important concept of "The Joining of the Essences" was that the union of a man and a woman would result in the creation of jing, a type of sexual energy. When in the act of lovemaking, jing would form, and the man could transform some of this jing into qi, and replenish his lifeforce. By having as much sex as possible, men had the opportunity to transform more and more jing, and as a result would see many health benefits.


The concept of Yin and yang is important in Taoism, and consequently also holds special importance in sex. Yang usually referred to the male gender, whereas Yin could refer to the female gender. Man and Woman were the equivalent of heaven and earth, but became disconnected. Therefore while heaven and earth are eternal, man and woman suffer a premature death. Every interaction between Yin and Yang had significance. Because of this significance, every position and action in lovemaking had importance. Taoist texts described a large number of special sexual positions that served to cure or prevent illness.

Importance of Women

Women were considered to be a means for men to extend men's lives. Many of the ancient texts were dedicated explanation of how a man could use sex to extend his own life. But, his life was extended only through the absorption of the woman's vital energies (jing and qi). Some Taoists called the act of sex “The battle of stealing and strengthening.” These sexual methods could be correlated with Taoist military methods. Instead of storming the gates, the battle was a series of feints and maneuvers that would sap the enemy's resistance.

Links and Resources


Parts of the above article are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from Wikipedia. Images courtesy FCIT

Copyright ©. All rights reserved.