In ancient times (roughly before Tang Dynasty), Taoism evolved from popular folk mythical beliefs. Like most human cultures, Chinese culture began with folk mythical beliefs whereby everything unexplainable was signified with supernatural or divine entity. That included things in physical world (like a forest, an old tree or a piece of rock), our internal organs and our various instincts - above all our sexual instinct. These entities were imbued with energy - supernatural energy to be precise. In ancient times, Chinese folk culture embraced systems that purported to tackle or manage such power, and that would include our sexual instinct.
When Taoism evolved from mythical beliefs, ancient sages (beginning with Master Zhuang Dao Ling 张道陵, 34–156, documented as the creator of Taoism) embraced much of traditional mythical cultural practices, though with new interpretations. In the area of sexual chi kung, it was however a later Taoist master that had more to say. He was Ge Hong 葛洪 283–343 who specifically mentioned the use of physical sexual energy in his practice. Traditionally there were a number of Taoist practices for mortality (in addition to the studying of sacred Taoist texts [including Tao Te Ching]). Such practices included taking formulated drugs (external alchemy), taking special food (or no food for some) and herbal medicine (similar to traditional Chinese medicine), doing breathing exercises, visualizing spiritual empowerment, doing chi related exercises (like tai chi) and doing sexual chi kung. The last was mentioned in Ge's book Baopuzi as follows: 房中之法十餘家，或以补救劳损，或以攻治众病，或以采阴补阳，或以增年延寿，其大要在於还精补脑一事耳。”
"Sexual chi kung has more than ten schools, some focus on physical repair, some focus on curing illness, some focus on absorbing Yin to nurture Yang, some for longevity, in our practice we focus on turning energy to nurture our brain".
It is important to note that brain as mentioned in Ge's book is in the sense that the brain is the generative location for spiritual practice. It was therefore clearly stated that Ge took the physical practice of sexual chi kung for his own spiritual objective. There were other objectives of sexual chi kung (and apparently would be practiced differently from Ge's), but they had nothing to to with Ge's Taoist practice for enlightenment. Having said that, Ge did not seem to have discredited or downgraded the efficacious of folk usages of sexual chi kung.
Now the interesting question is: Why later Taoists (in particular Northern Taoists under Master Wang Cong Yang (王松阳) the founder of Quan Zhen School （全真派), now the largest and the most important Taoist school) condemned sexual chi kung?
The reason is that with the development of Neidan (内丹) or internal alchemical methods, Taoists no longer needed to take the dangerous routes of taking formulated drugs (which resulted in deaths of many practitioners including some Emperors) or doing sexual chi kung (which oftentimes [or perhaps most of the time] deviated from spiritual objectives into a sole pursuit of physical pleasure).
Another interesting question: Why then had many Taoist texts (including some from Quan Zhen school) used many terms taken from old Taoist texts dealing with physical sexual chi kung?
The reason is that Taoists liked (or needed) to create intellectual connections or linkages with forefathers of Taoist practices (like with Master Ge). Such terms were kept for such purposes. They were however used with different meanings. These terms included the explicit terms of inner copulation 内交媾 and yin-yang copulation 阴阳交媾. In modern terminology, this is called sublimation of sexual energy. Practice-wise, it signifies that the practice of Neidan can create the same energy (actually more potent and more focused, which explanation will go beyond the limitation of this little article) as previously created by sexual chi kung. In these Neidan texts, sexual arousal was explicitly addressed as unnecessary and undesirable.
Unfortunately it has created some confusion among some modern practitioners.
|The stone of Ge Hong - a tourist sight in China|