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The Three Treasures in their most basic definitions represent the primal and accumulated energies of the body (Ching), breath (Qi), and mind (Shen), both in the physical connotations and in the spiritual sense.

To understand these three energies, one must first know the important role played by "before heaven qi" (hsien t'ien qi) and "after heaven qi" (hou t'ien qi). Before heaven qi is the quality and quantity, so to speak, of these three energies inherited from our ancestors and parents. After heaven qi is what we accumulate from our own efforts. So we might say that people who abuse their bodies their whole lives but live a long time have a lot of before heaven qi. Whereas people who are sickly in their youth have inherited very little. However, these same sickly people who engage in the arts of nourishing life practices can accumulate enough after heaven qi to live long, healthy lives. Exercises like Qi Gong provide new energy and harmonize the body.

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