Originally, the “Three Treasures” refers to the three highest Divine in Heaven: Yuqing or Tianbao Heavenly Lord, Shangqing or Lingbao Heavenly Lord, and Taiqing or Shenbao Heavenly Lord.
Since Daoism is about learning, cultivating and practising Dao, the “Three Treasures” are also being given meanings in the following manner. For people who are in the process of learning the Dao, the “Three Treasures” means the Dao itself, the Writings of Dao, and the Teachers of Dao. One must seek refuge under these “Three Treasures” when becoming a Daoist.
For people who are in the process of cultivating the Dao, “Three Treasures” means Jing, Qi and Shen, or in other words one’s essence, vital energy, and Divine consciousness. These are the treasures within oneself that must be gathered and transformed in order to attain Dao.
For people who are in the process of performing the Dao, “Three Treasures” means compassion, frugality and humility. These are the treasures one must follow in order to stay among people and spreading the Dao. The version of the “Three Treasures” from “Dao De Jing” is “I have three treasures, they are compassion, frugality and dare-not-be-the-first”.
– Wu Dao Jun