What are Li-tien (Heaven of Truth), Qi-tien

(Heaven of Spirit) and Xiang-tien (Heaven of Matter)?


There are many ways to classify Heaven. Buddhism partitions

Heaven into three major regions: Heaven of Desire, Heaven of Image,

and Heaven of Non-Image. It further subdivides these three regions into

twenty-eight sub-regions, depending on their pureness. Heaven of

Desire has six sub-regions, Heaven of Image has eighteen, and Heaven

of Non-Image has four. Taoism partitions Heaven into thirty-six sections

because there are three-hundred and sixty degrees in a circle. Taoism

also classifies Heaven into seven levels, which correspond to the seven

levels of one’s practice, and is similar to that of Christianity and Islam.

Heaven is also commonly classified into twelve levels. Tao Te Ching

states “One gives rise to Two, Two gives rise to Three. Three gives

rise to everything.” Thus, it is sufficient to partition Heaven into

three spaces.


I Ching describes the mysticism of the creation of Heaven and Earth

with three characteristics: first, the Non-Change, which is

Wu-ji Li-tien, second, the Change, which is Tai-ji Qi-tien,

and lastly, the Interaction, which is Huang-ji Xiang-tien.

These three Heavens are described as follows:


Xiang-tien: Everything that has matter, shape, and/or form

belongs to this space, including all items that can be observed

with the human eyes. Planets, earth, mountains, rivers, humans,

animals, plants, and minerals, whether having life or not, all

exist within this space. It is the material world and the three

dimensional space.


Qi-tien: This space consists of the gaps between matters, also

commonly known as the “space” or “Heaven.” The gaps between

matters cannot be seen with the human eyes. However, it can be

felt with other sensory organs. For example, our feelings and

consciousness exist within this space.


Inside this space, the light and pure Qi belongs to yang and the

heavy and non-pure belongs to yin. Yang and Yin confront each

other. This is also called qian and kun. Thus, I Ching states

Qian is Heaven and kun Earth.” When we say “Heaven,

Earth, and all matters,” “Heaven” here actually implies Qi-tien.


Without this space, Earth will be without support; mankind cannot

live; the sun, the moon, stars, and planets would collapse; and all

matters and life cannot exist. The function of this Heaven is to

control the growth and decline of yin and yang so that their transitions

are continuous and smooth. For example, the flow of the four seasons is

smooth and continuous. This Heaven also governs the beginning and end

of all matters. Heaven and Hell, which are created by the good and evil

of human minds, exist in this space. It is the spiritual world. It is

sometimes referred to as the space with more than three dimensions.


Li-tien: This is the void. It has no form nor shape, no sound nor scent.

It is an infinite spiritual energy. It is the space of pure souls. It is

absolutely empty and still. It is so immense that It comprises

everything. It is so divine that Its existence can only be recognized

through supernatural inspiration. It is so tiny that It can be anywhere.

It can create and cultivate all lives and matters. It cannot be observed

with any scientific means nor can It be detected by any human senses.

It has no beginning or end. It always exists and is always divine.

It is the origin of both the material world and spiritual world, the

Creator of all matters and lives. When the material world and

spiritual world are present, It too is present. When the material

world and spiritual world do not exist, It is still present. The

Buddhist Sutra saying “no beginning, no end, not polluted,

not purified, cannot be increased, and cannot be decreased

refers to the essence of Li-tien. It is the Void, yet mysteriously

exists. It is what the saying “No image and image are the same.

No physical existence and physical existence are the same.”

It is the kingdom of God.


In conclusion, Li-tien is the essence of the Void, Qi-tien is the

yin and yang of Tai-ji, and Xiang-tien is the material world. In

the genesis, Li-tien created Qi-tien, which in turn created

Xiang-tien. In the destruction cycle, Xiang-tien will collapse

first, followed by Qi-tien. Li-tien will always exist. It is just

like a person who is dying of natural cause will first lose all his

senses, then his breath. However, his soul will never die; instead,

it becomes entrapped in the cycle of birth, death and rebirth and

will be reborn into another body. Therefore, in order to break away

from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, one must receive

Tien-Tao conveyed by the Enlightened Teacher with Tien-Ming

(Heavenly Decree) and practise Tao.


Confucius said, “One who awakes to Tao in the morning will

not have any regret even if he dies in the same night.” This

clearly states the importance of transcending the cycle of birth,

death and rebirth and return to Li-tien.