The Three Gates are a Daoist conceptualization of how energy moves through the back from tail bone to skull. These three gates are called “San Guan” and are made up of
– the Wei Lu Gate: this runs from the tail bone to just under the kidneys and relates to the lower Dantian in the front of the body.
– the Jia Ji gate: this gate runs from the kidneys to the base of the neck and relates to the heart and middle dan tian on the front of the body.
– the Yu Zhen gate: the jade pillow gate runs from the base of the neck to the back of the skull is the entrance to the brain.
Daoists believe that in order to cultivate Qi from the lower body and cause it to enter the brain, it must first pass these three gates. The three gates also make up a major part of the Du meridian pathway, which is the meridian related to the kidneys, water, and the rise of Yang energy up a yin path.
The three gates are symbolized in Daoist imagery as being made up of three animals, a goat, a deer, and a bull. The goat is pulling a small cart full of coal, the deer is pulling a cart made of wood, and the bull is pulling a cart full of a mysterious substance.
This is a way of discussing the relationship between the strong and stable nature of the lower dan tian and wei lu, which carries the essence of the body (jing), the nimble and light middle dan tian and jia ji, which carries the Qi energy of the body, and the powerful and slow, but mysterious feeling of the yu zhen and upper dantian, which when the qi arrives there seems to take a long time to open, but when the yu zhen is open and the qi moves to the brain, produces a mysterious spiritual result.
These concepts are predicated on the idea that in order to have the energy move in the three gates, first, the lower dan tian should be developed fully. The lower Dan Tian is like a goat in that it has lots of power and can move quickly, but it stubborn and hard to tame. Meditating on the lower Dan Tian is very difficult for beginners and it is hard to harness its power,
The Deer in the Jia Ji and middle Dan Tian area represents something that is not commonly seen, since it is so fast. When the Qi moves in the Jia Ji gate, usually it moves so quickly and lightly that you won’t notice it at first (especially in the early stages of self cultivation).
The bull in the Yuzhen gate represents the very strong feeling of energy when it arrives at the back of the skull. It often feels as though the energy is pushing the posture upright and can feel very intense before the Yu Zhen opens and the Qi moves to the skull (if this happens, make sure you relax),
These three gates make up a very important part of the Daoist energy body and also the path along which energy moves and is transformed in the Du Mai meridian of the book. It is important to understand the theory deeply and not try to practice the gates independent of the lower Dan Tian, since the lower Dan Tian is really the key to accumulating strong energy to save in the body. Any of the other aspects of the energy anatomy without the lower Dan Tian are not very useful.