Early Literary Sources of Daoist Internal Alchemy
The following text is my proseminar research essay to Asian Studies in the University of Helsinki, corresponding to a bachelor level thesis. All the footnotes of the original essay are missing.
This essay is a preliminary overview to the early literary sources on Daoist internal alchemy. Early literary sources are here defined as dating to Tang, Song and to early Yuan period, that is, 618–ca. 1300, which corresponds roughly to late medieval Daoism in the classification of time periods in Daoist history by Louis Komjathy (2013). The subject matter is wide and complicated and its history is long and its transmission is traditionally held in secret. My aim is to give an overview on early internal alchemy literature, and outline shortly its history, mainly in terms of lineage, as well as some of its theoretical and practical aspects.
Internal alchemy, i.e. neidan is a self cultivation doctrine and methodology aiming at transcendence, and applied in all contemporary Daoist sects. Its first traces in literature appear in the eighth century and it has gained wide popularity since the Song dynasty. It is commonly separated from external alchemy (waidan), which aims to create an elixir of immortality through usage of often poisonous substances, ritual application and cosmological correspondences. Internal alchemy borrows the alchemical symbolism, but it states that its ingredients as well as the instruments of the process are to be found within the practitioner’s body, or self. In short, the aim of neidan is to transform multiplicity into unity, which is perceived as the eternal Dao. This is to be reached through an intensive work on cultivating the fine substances of the human body and being.
My personal interest on the subject and its more academic study has evolved through various interests, first through practice of taiji and reading the Daode jing (Book of the Way and its Power). Later I got interested on the meditational system called Healing Tao, taught by Mantak Chia. It is a comprehensive system of qigong, healing and meditation, and at least its meditational core practices are claimed to be internal alchemy. I have translated Chia’s popular book dealing with ”Daoist”, or Chinese, sexual practices into Finnish some years ago. Later I translated also Livia Kohn’s book Introducing Daoism, which is an overview of the Daoist tradition and its research, based on Daoist Studies. The focus of my university studies (mainly Religious Studies and Asian Studies) has been from the beginning on in Daoist Studies. During a couple of years I’ve attended two conferences on Daoist Studies and established connections to some of the leading scholars on the field.
Daoist tradition is acknowledged as one of the great world religions, and within it, neidan forms a central source of religious experience, as it counts for a considerable part of the meditative tradition within Daoism, and is the dominant meditative system since the Song dynasty. Inquiries into the neidan tradition, apart from being a wholly fascinating phenomenon, might yield insights considering the development of alchemy in general, comparative views of contemplative practices and of course understanding Chinese religion, culture and some more modern manifestations. There exists by now a fair amount of studies focusing on different aspects of neidan traditions, especially in English, French, German, Japanese, and of course, in Chinese. Many of the most relevant texts of neidan have been translated to western languages, mainly English. A serious research of the literary sources will require mastering classical Chinese.
The modern academic study of Chinese alchemical literature began after the Daoist Canon (Daozang) was reprinted and made widely available in 1926. Among the most important contributors in the study of neidan are Isabelle Robinet (1932-2000), Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein (1945-2009), and Catherine Despeux. (Pregadio 2012: 3) Among later scholars who have written extensively on neidan are Fabrizio Pregadio, Stephen Eskildsen, Louis Komjathy, Monica Esposito (1962–2011), Lowell Skar, and Elena Valussi. For a comprehensive bibliography of works published until 2009 on neidan and Chinese alchemy in general, see Pregadio (2009): Chinese Alchemy - An Annotated Bibliography of Works in Western Languages.
In this essay, I will first provide some background to locate neidan within the Daoist tradition and Chinese culture, and deal with its theoretical main principles as well as practices. Then I will draw the outline of the history of neidan. After this I will view some of the early main textual sources of neidan, based on the most important reference books, Daoism Handbook, The Taoist Canon - A Historical Companion to the Daozang, and The Encyclopedia of Taoism. Thus, this essay will take the form of an overview based on the current research literature—it should serve as a map for further research—and as such, no first hand sources are used, nor particular methods applied. The main approach will be historical. The main research questions are: What is neidan? What are the main textual sources of neidan in its earlier phases and where are they located? What is known about these texts?
2. Locating neidan
Neidan 內丹, internal elixir, or internal alchemy generally refers to a range of esoteric doctrines and practices that adepts use to transcend the individual and cosmological states of being. The term neidan, and its synonym jindan 金丹, golden elixir, more specifically point to three things: first, a coherent body of oral and written teachings; second, regimens of practices related to these teachings; and third, an inner state realized through these practices. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 464, 481) As a general term, neidan is considered by Chinese bibliographers and modern historians of Daoism as complementary to waidan 外丹, external elixir. While waidan refers to laboratory alchemy, neidan designates a new discipline which appeared within the Daoist tradition in the eighth century. Its written traces date the latest to this time. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 762; Robinet 2011: 75)
The Chinese alchemical tradition has three aspects: a doctrinal level, set out in the founding texts of Daoism, and concerning the relation between the Dao and the world of multiplicity; and two forms of practice, based on the refining of an ”outer” or an ”inner” elixir, waidan and neidan, respectively. Chinese alchemical tradition has numerous similarities with that practiced in the West, and the ultimate goal — in the West as much in China — was not just the material transmutation of one substance into another, but the attainment of perfect self-knowledge and participation in the divine through conscious and hypostatic union, and the return to primordial chaos and reversal of cosmogony. (Pregadio 2008: 551; Kohn 2009b: 18–19)
It should be noted however, that the origins of neidan are obscure and the term neidan had originally other meanings, and usages of both terms waidan and neidan differed according to times and to different authors. Both terms were also used within both laboratory alchemy and internal alchemy. At least through the Tang period, neidan indicated meditation and breathing exercises, and some Tang and later texts saw neidan and waidan as different stages or aspects of internal alchemical work. Changes in the meaning, and the fact that the associated doctrines and practices were highly syncretic parts of local traditions, make it difficult to assign neidan a definite starting place. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 464; Robinet 2011: 76)
In this work the term neidan is used as a correlative to internal alchemy, and in the above mentioned conventional way referring to a synthesis of practice and theory emerging in literature from the eighth century on, and as distinct from laboratory alchemy.
2.2 NEIDAN AND CHINESE CULTURE
Use of the term neidan became widespread only toward the beginning of the Song period, when neidan evolved into a highly complex system in both its theoretical and practical aspects. The lack of central unifying authority meant that a multiplicity of local interpretations for neidan traditions could still share common doctrinal foundations. This ensured that adepts in these traditions could relate themselves with the ideas and practices of other traditions while retaining the emphasis of their own teachers. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 481)
Among important sources of doctrines, notions and terms for neidan authors are Daoist classics like the Daode jing and the Zhuangzi (Book of Master Zhuang). Traditional Chinese ideas on the interdependence of macrocosm and microcosm, as well as medical theories based on the Huangdi neijing (Inner Scripture of the Yellow Emperor), were incorporated in various forms and with different emphases to form new systems of theory and practice. The notions of yin and yang, five phases (wuxing), essence, pneuma and spirit (jing, qi, shen) were at the basis of alchemical discourse, together with the use of the Yijing (Book of Changes) trigrams and hexagrams and with speculations concerning the Taiji tu (Diagram of the Great Ultimate). Buddhist (especially Chan) and Confucian doctrines were also often integrated within the system. In this way Neidan adepts could claim to represent the ”Three Teachings” of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, since their systems borrowed from wide array of Chinese conceptions. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 764; Pregadio & Skar 2000: 481–482)
Various earlier techniques originally belonging to yangsheng (nourishing life) traditions were incorporated in neidan with modifications, such as gymnastics (daoyin), sexual hygiene (fangzhong shu), breathing techniques (for example taixi, or embryonic breathing), absorbing the essences of the five phases in viscera and forms of meditation such as zuowang and neiguan. External alchemy gave neidan a rich stock of terms —names and secret terms of substances, instruments, and operations—and, more importantly, the binary model of alchemical process based on the conjunction of true lead and true mercury. The aim of neidan is described in Daoist terms of achieving immortality or a state of union with the Dao. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 762; Pregadio & Skar 2000: 482)
Although neidan should be seen essentially Daoist in its main orientation, in its syncretism it incorporates aspects of many traditions and all the Three Teachings.
2.3 NEIDAN WITHIN THE DAOIST TRADITION
The view on Daoist tradition discussed in this study is based on most recent academic studies dedicated to studying and understanding Daoism, i.e. Daoist Studies. The debate on what Daoism is and what it consists of is a long one, and I will cut it short. In definition I will follow Louis Komjathy (2013). Daoism, the ”tradition of the Dao”, is an indigenous Chinese religion rooted in traditional Chinese culture. It is a religious tradition in which the Dao 道, which is translatable as ”the Way” and ”a way”, is the sacred or ultimate concern. At the same time, Daoism is now a global, transnational religion characterized by cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. (Komjathy 2013: 4)
I will discuss Daoism as continuous and multifaceted religious tradition with various historical phases and more accurately to be understood as Daoisms, that is, several Daoist schools and sub-lineages that share certain common understandings, concerns, and features. A conventional distinction of Daoist tradition to so-called philosophical and so-called religious Daoism is considered out-dated, inaccurate and a misunderstanding. Classical Daoism, which is conventionally referred to as ”philosophical Daoism”, is seen as inner cultivation lineages, which also expressed religious commitments. (Komjathy 2013: 4–10)
I will also follow a historical periodization model of Daoism by Komjathy, which separates seven major periods in the history of Daoist tradition. These are: Classical Daoism (480 BCE – 9 CE), Early Daoism (25–220 CE), Early medieval Daoism (220–618), Late medieval Daoism (618–1368), Late imperial Daoism (1368–1911), Early modern Daoism (1912–1978), Late modern Daoism (1978–present). (Komjathy 2013: 10–11)
Each of these periods saw the emergence of specific communities and movements. Classical Daoism encompasses the diverse communities of inner cultivation lineages as well as what Komjathy claims as Huang-Lao dao (Way of the Yellow Emperor and Laozi). Major movements associated with early Daoism include Taiping (Great Peace) and Tianshi (Celestial Masters). Early medieval Daoism consisted of such important movements as Taiqing (Great Clarity), Shangqing (Highest Clarity), and Lingbao (Numinous Treasure). Late medieval Daoism included a variety of internal alchemy lineages, including Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) and so-called Nanzong (Southern School), as well as new deity cults and ritual movement. Late imperial Daoism was dominated by Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity i.e Tianshi) and Quanzhen, though it also saw the emergence of major lineages of the latter as well as new lineages of internal alchemy. The constituents of global Daoism are a highly complex topic. From a tradition-based and institutional perspective, however, global Daoism remains primarily a Zhengyi–Quanzhen tradition. (Komjathy 2013: 10–12)
Originally, the neidan adepts did not belong to any particular group of Daoists. They were mostly individuals who practiced the art with the help of a master or followed the instructions of certain texts. With the establishment of the Quanzhen order, this individual tradition changed. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 764) Also Quanzhen was first born outside mainstream Daoism (Goossaert 2008: 814–815). Since the Song period, all schools of Daoism, the main ones being today the Quanzhen or its Longmen branch and the Zhengyi, have adopted some from of neidan as an inner cultivation discipline (Kohn 2009: 170). Within Daoism, the ritual practice and inner cultivation are interconnected in an essential way as the power of the ritual performer is gained through internal practice. (Kirkland 2004: 192–193; Kohn 2009: 172–173)
To put this together, neidan developed its more structured form during the late medieval period of history of Daoist tradition, considered as continuum having its roots in the inner cultivation lineages of Classical Daoism. Whereas the early neidan adepts were not affiliated with particular Daoist groups, since Yuan dynasty Quanzhen became the main proponent of neidan practices, while neidan was also adopted by other Daoist sects, such as Zhengyi.
2.4 DOCTRINES AND PRACTICES
The description of neidan practices and main doctrines presented here must remain only cursive. The neidan literature uses a metaphorical language addressed to readers on different planes. The texts go into great detail in describing the alchemical process, its ingredients—such as, red cinnabar and black lead, or lead and mercury, or dragon and tiger (longhu)—and their hierogamies and phases of transmutation. Correspondences are established between the organs and their functions in the human body, the eight trigrams (bagua), the five phases (wuxing), and so forth, in various allegorical groups. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 765)
Like waidan, early neidan utilized a complex map of human personhood, wherein humans are understood as composed of diverse and disparate elements such as the ethereal soul (hun) and corporeal soul (po). The aim of neidan is to unite these elements into a single, unified entity capable of transcending physical death. Ordinary human beings are thus composite selves destined to dissipate into the cosmos, to have the various elements separate and dissolve, and post-mortem existence is not ontologically given. Early internal alchemists understood self as consisting of both biological and spiritual dimensions, which could under certain circumstances be united into a transcendent spirit and one could become an ”immortal” (xianren). However, such an accomplishment was difficult and extraordinary, and no guarantee of success was given. First it required a search of, encounter with, and acceptance by a reliable teacher. Then it required spiritual direction and intensive training under the neidan master, usually located within specific lineages. As most of the early texts are highly symbolic and esoteric, they required corresponding oral instructions. Reasons for early neidan being guarded by secrecy were varied, but two recurring themes are the dangers of practice and the potential distortion by unethical individuals who might misuse the teachings. (Komjathy 2013: 216–217)
The basic methods employed in neidan do not vary much among the different schools, and most texts explain the alchemical practice in three stages, preceded by a preliminary stage. The latter three stages have symbolic lengths of one hundred days, ten months and nine years. All agree that the ultimate objective is returning or reverting (fan, huan) to the Dao and to the Origin. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 765; Pregadio & Skar 2000: 488) The preliminary stage to the actual work is called ”laying the foundations” (zhuji). Its purpose is to replenish original essence, original breath, and original spirit so that they may be used in the following stages. The relevant methods are related, but not equivalent, to those of present-day qigong and do not involve the compounding of the elixir. The first stage is ”refining essence to transmute it into breath” (lianjing huaqi). Its purpose is to generate a breath made of the union of original essence and breath, called the external medicine (waiyao). By means of repeated breathing cycles, essence is circulated in the microcosmic orbit (xiao zhoutian) up the back of the body along the function vessel to the upper elixir field, and from there descends in the front of the body along the control vessel until it reaches the lower elixir field, where it is sealed and it coagulates. This path of circulating the essence is regulated by the system of the fire times (huohou). It inverts the ordinary tendency of the essence to flow downwards and be wasted. (Pregadio 2012: 59–60)
The second stage is ”refining breath to transmute it into spirit” (lianqi huashen). Its purpose is to generate a spirit made of the union of original breath (obtained in the previous stage) and spirit. Breath and spirit are true water in the heart (yin within yang) and the true fire in the kidneys (yang within yin). Their conjunction produces the internal medicine (neiyao), which is nourished between the lower and the middle elixir fields. At the end of this stage, essence, breath, and spirit are combined into one entity, and produce the immortal embryo (xiantai). The third and final stage is ”refining spirit to return to emptiness” (lianshen huanxu). Its purpose is to further refine the spirit obtained in the previous stage so that one may attain emptiness and non-being. This stage is described as the joining of the external and internal medicines, which results in the formation of the great medicine (dayao). (Pregadio 2012: 60) The practice ends with the adept’s return to emptiness, or the Dao, by which adepts transcend all modes of space and time. The ultimate transfiguration occurs when the adept discards the human body. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 765)
3. Early history of neidan
3.1 ORIGINS AND FIRST LITERARY NOTIONS
Neidan seems to have developed through three main phases: 1. an embryonic phase, with isolated references to notions and figures central to later traditions; 2. an early neidan phase, basically the Tang period, when neidan and cosmological forms of waidan interacted in different combinations and with varying emphases; and 3. a mature phase, from the late Tang onwards, marked by adepts’ repeated efforts to codify texts, stabilize language and elaborate standard practices and spiritual technologies in new cultural and religious circumstances. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 465)
The teachings and practices of early Daoist traditions based on meditation on the inner gods developed in the same region and at the same time as the Taiqing (Great Clarity) alchemical tradition. They are essential for understanding the origins of neidan from both doctrinal and a historical point of view. (Pregadio 2012: 12) Several early references show that by the Six Dynasties (420–589) adepts described inner meditation in terms of alchemical language and symbolism. Ge Hong’s Baopuzi neipian (Inner Chapters of the Master Who Embraces Spontaneous Nature) presents a fuller view of the context for references in the earlier works, such as Laozi ming (Inscription for Laozi). Ge Hong mentions the three dantian, or elixir fields, and describes transcendent beings, the yellow court, and other locations of the inner body that would later have significant roles in neidan. The textual foundation for these notions, obviously part of the meditational practices in fourth-century Jiangnan, was the Huangting jing (Scripture of the Yellow Court). It is a short, poetical work of the third century that describes the human body as a home to a large number of divine beings. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 465)
Certain fundamental ideas, images, and practices that characterize neidan existed centuries before the beginning of its documented history. Most important among them is the image of the infant as a representative of the ”true self”. Two essential features of neidan, however, are not present in the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) Daoism and the earlier meditation practices. These are the idea of the internal elixir, and the use of a cosmology that explains the generation process of the cosmos from the Dao and serves to frame a practice that reproduces that process in a reverse sequence. The foundations for both features mentioned above were provided by Cantong qi (Seal of the Unity of the Three), which is the main text in the history of Chinese alchemy. Under its allusive language teeming with images and symbols, the Cantong qi, traditionally attributed to Wei Boyang (second century), and almost entirely written in poetry, hides the exposition of a doctrine that has inspired a large number of commentaries and other works. (Pregadio 2012: 15–17)
3.2 ZHONG-LÜ LINEAGE
The Earliest traces of neidan in the extant literature are visible in the works of Tao Zhi, who lived in the the second half of the 8th century. The first clearly identifiable tradition of internal alchemy developed in the 9th to 10th centuries. The Zhong-Lü tradition, which is named after Zhongli Quan and Lü Dongbin, two illustrious Daoist immortals associated with multiple neidan lineages, is characterized by a focus on physiological practices, closely correlated to cosmological principles. Among its texts is the Zhong-Lü chuandao ji (Records of the Transmission of the Dao from Zhongli Quan to Lü Dongbin), which is the first important doctrinal treatise of neidan. Its practices are detailed in the Lingbao bifa (Complete Methods of the Sacred Treasure) (Pregadio 2012: 31–31)
While Zhong-Lü texts are rather disparate as to content and provenance, they share a common theoretical basis and are consistent in the use of certain technical terms. The genesis of the world in five stages, the distance between heaven and earth (calculated as 84,000 li), the interaction of yin and yang, the sequence of seasons, the annual and diurnal cycles of increase and decay, the trigrams and hexagrams of the Yijing, and so forth, are correlated with patterns in the human body. Malfunctioning of the five viscera (wuzang) is explained in terms drawn from medical texts, while psycho-physiological techniques are couched in alchemical language and imagery. The texts are also strongly imbued with Neo-Confucian speculations on qi. All accept the division of the practice into three main stages (sancheng). The Zhong-Lü methods include massage and gymnastics in the early stages of practice, as well as breathing exercises that vary according to the adept’s level of advancement. Other techniques involve the opening of the three passes (sanguan), refining and returning the essence (jing), inner observation (neiguan), and the egress of the Spirit (chushen). (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 1279
3.3 NANZONG (SOUTHERN LINEAGE)
The main text in neidan after the Cantong qi is the Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality), written by Zhang Boduan around 1075. In the 13th century Zhang was placed at the origin of Nanzong, the Southern tradition of neidan, and the Wuzhen pian became the main textual source of the lineage. Southern lineage had, at the beginning, no conventionally recognized form or structure, and was formally established as a lineage only at a later time, possibly by Bai Yuchan. (Pregadio 2012: 12–13) The formation of the Southern lineage took place almost a century later than that of the Northern lineage (Quanzhen order), and it disappeared as an independent movement in the 14th century. It was subsequently referred to as a part of Quanzhen. This, however, did not lessen the influence of its doctrinal and textual tradition. (Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 759–761)
Two main branches developed from the original lineage. The first is Pure Cultivation (Qingxiu) branch. The form of cultivation employed by this branch entailed individual practices to join the complementary principles within the human being and transmute them into the inner elixir. The second line of transmission within Nanzong is the so-called Joint Cultivation (Shuangxiu) or Yin-Yang branch. It is linked to a tantric interpretation of the practice of joint cultivation of inner nature and vital force (xing and ming), yin and yang. While the goal is the same as that of the Pure Cultivation branch, the initial stage of the practice—the union of yin and yang—requires a partner. (Ibid: 761)
The Nanzong practices can be summed up in the phrase xianming houxing (”first the vital force, then the inner nature”). It lies emphasis first on the practice of increasing the vital force through methods of self-cultivation, and then on meditation to achieve enlightenment. This is the same system as found in the Zhong-Lü texts, which the neidan practices of Nanzong follow to some extent, although their sequence differs according to individual branches and masters. (Ibid: 761–762)
3.4 BEIZONG (NORTHERN LINEAGE) OR QUANZHEN (COMPLETE PERFECTION)
The Northern lineage (Beizong) is equivalent to the earlier stages of the Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) school Daoism, founded by Wang Chongyang (Wang Zhe, 1113–70). While Quanzhen allows for different forms of individual practice, especially apophatic meditation, and also includes forms of Daoist communal ritual, its methods incorporate a brand of neidan that emphasizes the cultivation of one’s inner nature (that is, xing over ming). Quanzhen advocated also a renunciant orientation, with corresponding ascetic practices such as seclusion, celibacy, sleep deprivation, and voluntary poverty. Seven of Wang’s disciples were selected by the later hagiography as the first generation of Quanzhen masters. Originally an ascetic and alchemical movement, Quanzhen eventually became a major monastic order, which endures to the present day. (Pregadio 2012: 33–34; Goossaert 2008: 814–815; Komjathy 2013: 32)
Both Wang Chongyang and several of his disciples such as Liu Chuxuan (1147–1203) and Hao Datong (1140–1213), are ascribed with neidan works. (Pregadio 2012: 33) Quanzhen literary production of all periods is characterized by both its conservative nature, as it does not attempt to reinterpret or add to previous revelation, and its self-avowed function to spread Daoist values and practices to the laity, Quanzhen texts are pedagogical rather than doctrinal. It seems that only a small number of Quanzhen texts were added to the largest ever edition of the Daoist Canon, published in 1244, compiled by Quanzhen and burned in 1281. The present Canon (Zhengtong daozang) contains a large number of Quanzhen texts only because its editors compensated for the irretrievable losses suffered in 1281 with newer works. But these texts are not at all canonical. Quanzhen did not avail itself of any actual written revelation. The current Canon contains sixty Quanzhen works, and one can retrieve from various sources eighty-one titles of lost Quanzhen works of the Yuan period, mainly poetry as well as hagiographies, commentaries and didactic works such as rules and methods. All these texts were in general circulation and entirely exoteric. Quanzhen produced neither ritual nor neidan works in the Yuan period. (Goossaert 2008: 814–820)
3.5 OTHER LINEAGES AND BRANCHES
Two authors of neidan texts from the Yuan period deserve to be mentioned. Li Daochun (fl. 1290) is the author of the Zhongjie ji (The Harmony of the Center: An Anthology) and several other works, some of which were actually compiled by his disciples. Among the main subjects treated in these works are the principles at the basis of the three-stage neidan practice, the concepts of xing and ming, the grading of neidan and other methods, and neidan terminology. Chen Zhixu (1290–ca.1368) knew the Zhongjie ji and quotes from it. He is the author of a commentary on the Cantong qi that contains one of the best redactions of the text and is also known for a major compendium entitled Jindan dayao (Great Essentials of the Golden Elixir). His form of neidan includes sexual practices, and in later times he was associated with the Yin-Yang branch (yinyang pai). (Pregadio 2012: 34–35)
Female alchemy (nüdan) is technically a form of internal alchemy specifically for women. One of the earliest references to neidan practices for women is found in Xue Daoguang’s (1078?–1191) commentary to the Wuzhen pian (in Wuzhen pian sanzhu 悟真篇三住, DZ 142, 2.4a), but the sources for women’s alchemical practices can be traced to the texts on sexual techniques (fanzhong shu). There are some glimpses of an emerging female alchemy in the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. A neidan literature specifically devoted to women, however, developed only between the end of the Ming and the beginning of the Qing dynasties. (Komjathy 2013: 220–221; Esposito 2008: 778)
The understanding of internal alchemy is difficult due to the language of the early texts on neidan being highly symbolic and often obscure. The technical meaning of the symbolic terms often varied depending on the teacher, community, lineage, and context. They usually required clarification through direct spiritual direction and oral instructions by one’s teacher. The earliest illustrated manuals date to the Yuan dynasty. From this time on certain authors begin to provide more explanation and guidance in writing, especially in the form of commentary on earlier texts. It seems probable that clearer literary instructions including illustrations began to appear due to greater numbers of practitioners being separated by vast geographical distances. During the late imperial period, Ming and Qing dynasties, there was a greater tendency towards internal alchemy being simplified and popularized with much of its esoteric language either systematically defined or discarded. Neidan became more accessible, intelligible, and widely disseminated. (Komjathy 2013: 33; 217–219)
4. Early neidan literature
4.1 WHAT MAKES A NEIDAN TEXT?
According to Isabelle Robinet (1992), texts belonging to the current of neidan are characterized by the following features: 1) a concern for training the mind as much as the body, with the mental aspect usually predominant; 2) a tendency to synthesize various Daoist currents, certain Buddhist speculations, and specific Confucian lines of thought; 3) references to Yijing; and 4) references to chemical practices. She states that the two latter characteristics are combined, as all neidan texts use chemical terminology—speaking at least of lead and mercury, the furnace and the cauldron—and place them in relation to the trigrams of the Yijing. Further, it seems a text can never fall into the range of neidan materials if it lacks this particular trait. Without it, the text is just concerned with breathing exercises and gymnastics, that is yangsheng, the tradition nowadays known as qigong. (Robinet 1992: 301) This definition would probably require a great deal more reflection upon it. For the current purposes, anyhow, I will consider it sufficient.
4.2 DEPOSITORIES OF NEIDAN LITERATURE: THE DAOIST CANON AND OTHER COLLECTIONS
The main repository of Chinese alchemical sources is the Daoist Canon (Daozang), the largest collection of Daoist works. The current Daoist Canon is also known as Zhengtong daozang 正統道藏 (Canon of the Zhengtong Era) after the reign title of the year (1445) when it was first printed. About one fifth of its 1500 texts are closely related to various alchemical waidan and neidan traditions that developed until the mid 15th century, when the present canon was compiled and printed. (Kohn 2009: 240; Pregadio 2012: 3) It contains roughly 150 neidan writings, which are mainly either independent works dealing with doctrines and practices, or annotations of important scriptures. Collections from late imperial times, notably the Daozang xubian, the Daozang jiyao, the Daozang jinghua lu, the Daozang jinghua and the Zangwai daoshu have much higher percentages and numbers of neidan texts, suggesting a growing popularity among literati. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 472) Also historical and literary sources, including poetry, provide many relevant details for the study of neidan. (Pregadio 2012: 3)
Zhengtong daozang was later condensed into the Daozang jiyao 道藏輯要 (Essentials of the Daoist Canon, originally compiled around 1800, expanded in 1906, with portions added until 1929). Several later neidan texts are found in this collection of originally 174 texts. (Kohn 2009: 240; Pregadio 2012: 3) A recently published Catalogue of the Daozang jiyao, by Pregadio (2014), however, lists altogether 306 items. This seem to be due to the mentioned additions. The Daozang jiyao includes commentaries to the Zhouyi cantong qi and the Ruyao jing; Zhong-Lü texts and works related to Xu Xun and the Jingming dao; collections of texts attributed to Lü Dongbin; texts of the Nanzong patriarchs; texts by Bai Yuchan; texts by the Quanzhen patriarchs; various pre-Ming texts on meditations and neidan; works by Wu Shouyang and works attributed to Zhang Sanfeng; encyclopedic collections and anthologies as well as other neidan texts. It is the largest anthology of premodern Daoist texts and an indispensable source for research on Daoism in the Ming and Qing period. Daozang jiyao contains numerous texts that are not included in the Zhengtong daozang. (Esposito 2006; Pregadio 2008: 341–345; Pregadio 2014b)
Daozang xubian 道藏續編 (Supplementary Collection of the Daoist Canon) appeared in 1834. It is compiled by Min Yide (1758–1836), the eleventh patriarch of the Longmen branch of the Quanzhen school. The collection is largely devoted to neidan teachings and practices, especially those of Longmen school. The work assembles twenty-three internal alchemy works not found in the Daoist Canon and is especially important for its sources on women’s alchemy. (Esposito 2008: 347–350; Kohn 2009: 242)
Daozang jinghua lu 道藏精華錄 (Record of Essential Blossoms of the Daoist Canon) was published in 1922, by Ding Fubao. It consists of one hundred titles, ten collections of ten titles, many of which came from the original canon, and focus on internal alchemy and longevity techniques. It is an important collection for the study of Ming and Qing internal alchemy traditions and for materials written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It includes texts from the Yunji qiqian (Seven Lots from the Bookbag of the Clouds), writings of Qiu Chuji; commentaries to the Yinfu jing; scriptural teachings and discourse records ascribed to Lü Dongbin, Zhongli Quan, and Ma Yu; commentaries to the Zhouyi cantong qi; treatises on neidan, including Qing editions of texts ascribed to Zhang Boduan, Bai Yuchan, and a an anthology of verse attributed to Sun Bu’er; writings on neidan by Nanzong patriarchs, and two anthologies of Wu Shouyang; and annotated editions of the Huangting jing. (Boltz 2008: 340–341; Kohn 2009: 242)
Daozang jinghua 道藏精華 (Essential Blossoms of the Daoist Canon), compiled by Xiao Tianshi, a taiwan-based physician and scholar, was published in 1963 with later additions. It contains both texts from earlier collections as well as later and contemporary texts, focusing on self-cultivation. The most prominent authors in the collection are Lu Xixing, Wu Shouyang, Liu Yiming, Fu Jinguan, and Li Xiyue, all of whom lived in the late Ming and Qing periods. Several works are also related to Zhang Sanfeng, a neidan patron of the Ming period. (Kohn 2009: 242; Valussi 2008: 338–339)
A Collection of Daoist texts published outside the canon by Chinese mainland scholars, Zangwai Daoshu 藏外道書 (1992 and 1995), contains 991 titles of photographic reproductions in thirty-six volumes, including texts from earlier collections, works of single authors, and otherwise inaccessible contemporary materials. Only a fraction of the texts predate the Ming period. (Boltz & Goossaert 2008: 1210–1214; Kohn 2009: 243)
4.3 CLASSICAL NEIDAN TEXTS
Texts mentioned below include selected works from the Tang, Song and early Yuan period, grouped under the labels ”early classics”, ”miscellaneous early texts”, ”Zhong-Lü texts”, ”Nanzong texts”, ”compendia” and ”Quanzhen texts”, following mainly Pregadio & Skar (2000).
4.3.1 Early Classics
This label refers to canonical texts which in themselves do not yet explicitly present internal alchemy, but are foundational for the formation of the neidan doctrine.
Huangting jing 黃庭經 (Scripture of the Yellow Court) is a short, poetical work dating originally from the second century. It is the textual foundation of meditational practices in fourth-century Jiangnan (Southern Jiangsu), and one of the most popular and influential Daoist scriptures. The Huangting jing appears in two recensions: a longer Neijing jing 內景經（Scripture of Inner Effulgences, DZ 331), in 437 heptasyllabic lines divided into thirty-six sections, and a shorter Waijing jing 外景經 (Scripture of Outer Effulgences, DZ 332), in 194 heptasyllabic lines divided into three parts. Scholars agree that the ”inner” version emerged from the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) milieu, however, opinions differ on its relation to the ”outer” version and the chronological priority. The oldest copy of the present ”outer” version, which, according to Kristofer Schipper (2004), is the original Huangting jing, is by Wang Xizi, dated 337. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 465–466, 472–473; Schipper 2004: 96–97, 184–185; Robinet 2008: 511–514)
The Huangting jing is probably the earliest extant work describing the human body as a home to multitudinous divine beings. It has given rise to commentaries and further elaborations. After describing the revelation of the scripture, the text reviews the gods of the head (sect. 7 of the ”inner” version) and the viscera (sects. 8–15), giving the names and details on their physical appearance and garments to help adepts visualizing them. Most of the rest alludes to breathing and meditation techniques, such as visualization and absorption of inner light, circulation of saliva or essence (jing) and qi, visualization of astral bodies (Sun and Moon), sexual practices, and pacifying the souls and the heart-mind (xin). It also contains alchemical symbolism, mentioning the elixir fields, the refining (lian) of the primary constituents of the person, and the birth and nourishment of the inner embryo. Some descriptions of the divinities and the palaces they inhabit in the body also bear the stamp of alchemical imagery. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 465–466, 472–473; Schipper 2004: 96–97, 184–185; Robinet 2008: 511–514)
Zhouyi cantong qi 周易參同契 (The Seal of the Unity of the Three, in Accordance with the Book of Changes) is traditionally ascribed to a legendary Han immortal, Wei Boyang. It was originally part of the ”Study of the Changes” (yixue) traditions, and it may have been an apocryphon to the Yijing. The received Cantong qi is the result of several centuries of textual accretions. At the end of this process, the text rose to the status of main scripture within both the waidan and neidan traditions. It reached its present form before the eight century. Its primary received version, on which about two thirds of the extant commentaries are based, consists of four parts. More than thirty recensions of the Cantong qi in at least 120 extant editions testify to the prestige that the work enjoyed also among Neo-Confucian thinkers and Qing scholars. It set out the doctrinal foundations for much of waidan and the whole of neidan. The Daoist Canon includes six commentaries related to neidan. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 466–468, 473–474; Pregadio 2008; 1289–1292)
Written in a poetical style and in densely metaphoric and allusive language, the Cantong qi does not fully describe any waidan or neidan method. Only occasionally it refers to actual practices related to waidan or neidan. The main focus of the text is the Dao and its relation to the cosmos, explicated by means of a wide array of alchemical, cosmological and other emblems. Among the main recurrent themes are the distribution of original pneuma (yuanqi) from the center (the Northern Dipper, beidou, or Heart of Heaven, tianxin); the view of time as caused by the continuous upward and downward movement of the original pneuma; and the joining of the essences of the Sun and the Moon, or yin and yang, which occurs at the end of each time cycle and generates the next one. Borrowing from a passage in Laozi 38, the Cantong qi states that ”superior virtue (shangde) takes no action, and does not employ examining or seeking; inferior virtue (xiade) takes action, and its operation is unceasing.” Some commentators explain these sentences as referring to two ways of realization reflected in this work. The first is based on the immediate realization of the non-distinction of Dao and existence, non-Being and being. In the second one attains the Dao through the alchemical practice. While the doctrines of the Cantong qi apply to both approaches, the task of presenting actual alchemical methods based on those doctrines is left to the commentaries and to a large number of associated texts. (Pregadio 2008: 1291–1292)
4.3.2 Miscellaneous Early Texts
This label refers to short texts which do not yet belong to a consistent body of texts united by a doctrinal unity, but which became canonical for neidan adepts before the Wuzhen pian in the eleventh century.
Yinfu jing 陰符經 (Scripture of the Hidden Accordance) seems to date latest from the late sixth century, although modern scholars’ opinions vary. It became canonical in bibliographies of the time as an alleged revelation from the Yellow Emperor. The work may have originated as a military treatise. It is usually divided into three parts, said to deal with art of ”divine immortality and embracing the One,” with ”prosperity of the country and peace for humanity,” and with ”a strong army and victory in war,” respectively. The Yinfu jing presents a view of the grand cosmic order through recondite statements, and is often quoted in neidan texts. In their context it is interpreted in inner alchemical terms: the sections dealing with government and war are explained as symbolically representing the process of self-cultivation for achieving purity through expelling yin and attaining pure yang (chunyang, the state beyond the duality of yin and yang). There are two main editions. The older one consists of 300 characters and a more recent one of 400 characters. Several dozen commentaries are extant, two better known by Li Quan (8th century) and Zhu Xi. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 474–475; Robinet 2008: 1173–1174)
Ruyao jing 入藥鏡 (Mirror for Compounding the Medicine) is attributed to Cui Xifan (fl. 880–940). The dense ancient-style poem of 246 characters, divided into eighty-two three-character lines is the only one of its versions to have survived in its entirety. It lays out the basic elements of neidan, and presents a complete, but not systematic overview of its teachings in an extremely synthetic way. It is possibly the shortest neidan text. In addition, there have been versions now extant in fragments. The title ”Mirror for Compounding the Medicine” refers to mixing healing medicines, meant as a metaphor for compounding the inner elixir. Since the text began circulating, it has produced much controversy and commentary, usually focused on whether it advocates sexual practices. It is one of the earliest texts to clearly distinguish the vital energies said to exist before the phenomenal unfolding of the cosmos (xiantian) from the vital energies circulating in the phenomenal world (houtian). The now standard three-character poetic version annotated by Wang Jie (?–ca. 1380) is found in the Daoist Canon as Cui cong ruyao jing zhujie 催公入藥鏡註解 (Commentary and Explications to the Ruyao jing by Sir Cui, DZ 135). (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 475; Skar 2008: 823–824; Pregadio 2013: viii–x; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 843–845)
Qinyuan chun 沁園春 (Springtime in Qin Gardens) is the only major early work in verse ascribed to Lü Dongbin, and as such has also been considered as a part of the Zhong-Lü tradition. It is a set of lyrics (ci) which existed before the mid-eleventh century. The poem is reproduced in several collections, and differing interpretations abound. Among the main commentaries in the Daoist Canon are two from between 1260 and 1310. The neidan process described in the Qinyuan chun consists of the collection of true yang (zhenyang) at the zi hour, its union with true yin (zhenyin) to obtain the elixir seed, the purification by fire phasing (huohou), and the gestation and birth of the immortal. To achieve transfiguration and return to the Dao, the adept should first accomplish 3,000 meritorious deeds. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 475; Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 839–840, 845; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 807)
4.3.3 Zhong-Lü Texts
Zhong-Lü texts are mainly in prose, attributed to the two semi-legendary figures, and focusing on linking body practices to cosmic patterns.
Chuandao pian 傳道篇 (Chapters on Transmitting the Way; in Daoshu, DZ 1017, j. 39–41) , also called as Zhong-Lü chuandao ji 種呂傳道集 (Anthology of the Transmission of the Way from Zhongli Quan to Lü Dongbin, DZ 263, j. 14–16), is the main Zhong-Lü text. It contains eighteen systematic essays on the doctrines and practices central to this legacy. The first six essays are concerned with the cosmos, the middle six with the alchemical practice, and the final six with its purposes. It is conceived as providing the theoretical foundation to the practices of Lingbao bifa, which relation is stated in the actual text. It is attributed to Zhongli Quan and Lü Dongbin, but was transmitted by Shi Jianwu (fl. 820–35), who was considered its author since Yuan dynasty. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 475; Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 801; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 1279–1280)
Bichuan Zhengyang zhenren Lingbao bifa 秘傳正陽真人靈寶畢法 (Complete Methods of the Numinous Treasure, Secretly Transmitted by Perfected Zhongli Zhengyang; DZ 1191) is a practical text that explains techniques to attain immortality, as a continuation to Zhong-Lü chuandao ji. The Daoist Canon contains two editions of the text. The one mentioned above (DZ 1191) is an independent text, the other is an abridged version in the mid-twelfth-century Daoshu (DZ 1017, j. 42). The text is ascribed to the semilegendary Zhongli Quan. Lingbao bifa presents direct comparisons between the development of the immortal self, the elixir, and the formation of the cosmos, and draws equally upon the Yijing for the functioning of the cosmos and upon medical literature for the workings of the human body. The alchemical work is divided into three stages. The initial stage concerns breath control and gymnastics. It comprises four techniques relevant to what later became known as ”laying the foundations” (zhuji). These are union of yin and yang, breathing technique for accumulating and dispersing qi, union of dragon and tiger, and fire phasing. The second stage deals with methods of circulating qi and inner fluids. The final three methods of the third stage involve complex practices of visualization and inner concentration leading to transfiguration. They include purification of the qi of the five viscera according to season and time followed by their union (wuqi chaoyuan), inner observation, and exteriorization of the immortal self from the mortal body (chaotuo). (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 476; Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 801–802; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 669–670, 1279–1280)
Xishan qunxian huizhen ji 西山羣仙會真記 (Records of the Gathered Immortals and Assembled Perfected on the Western Hills, DZ 246) is the third main text of the Zhong-Lü corpus. It is attributed to Shi Jianwu (fl. 820–835), and compiled by his disciple Li Song, but its authorship is highly doubtful. The text contains twenty-five systematic essays (pian) on a wide range of topics, including longevity and neidan practices. The work is divided into five juan, and these into five sections. The first chapter discusses recognition (shi), i.e., the ability to recognize the right Way, method, master, season, and ingredients; second, nourishment (yang) of the vital principle, body, qi, mind, and life span; third, ”repairing ” (bu) the damage to the interior organs, qi, seminal essence, and diminished vitality, through techniques of visualization and breathing; fourth, the true alchemical ingredients; fifth, the transmutation (or refining, lian) using methods to enter the authentic Way, transformation of the body into qi, of qi into spirit, and the union of the spirit with the Dao, with a final section that underscores the importance of transmitting the doctrine only to the right disciples. The theory and practice described in the Qunxian huizhen ji are similar to those of the Zhong-Lü chuandao ji. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 476; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 1112–113; Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 804–805)
4.3.4 Nanzong Texts
The label Nanzong texts refers to the textual tradition based on Wuzhen pian.
Wuzhen pian 悟真篇 (Chapters on Awakening to Perfection) is a seminal neidan text composed by Zhang Boduan around 1075 from revelations he received in 1069. It is the most renowned collection of verses on alchemy compiled in the Northern Song, and it became central to the Nanzong heritage around Bai Yuchan. The core of the work consists of stanzas divided into sets of sixteen, sixty-four and twelve verses dealing systematically with the fundamental stages of neidan practice. Most editions add thirty-two supplementary essays and songs by Zhang Boduan to the main text on more spiritual aspects of self-cultivation related to Buddhism. None of the texts in the Daoist Canon are identical, because the text passed through independent lines of transmission in the Yuan and Ming.
(Pregadio & Skar 2000: 476– 477; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 1081–1084)
The verses teem with paradoxes, metaphors, and aphorisms, and their recondite style allows multiple interpretations. The verses are widely accepted as an elaboration of the Zhouyi cantong qi, but their philosophical basis is in the Daode jing and the Yinfu jing. Although the Wuzhen pian does not give practical instructions, it alludes to them in a symbolic way. The primary trigrams qian ☰ (pure yang) and kun ☷ (pure yin) are equated with the alchemical laboratory, while kan ☵ (yang within yin) and li ☲ (yin within yang) are the two main ingredients. The sixty-four hexagrams are used to explain the modes of macrocosmic-microcosmic change. The text also outlines the fire phasing that one should apply in the process of transformation, and refers to the alchemical principle of ”reversal” (diandao). The Wuzhen pian became widely known only from the mid-twelfth century onward. It is first mentioned in a compilation of 1154, and its earliest extant exegesis dates from 1161. Most masters of the Nanzong lineage saw clear guidelines for practice in the poems of the Wuzhen pian. Different interpretations are apparent, however, within the two main Nanzong branches. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 476– 477; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 1081–1084)
Jindan sibai zi 金丹四百字 (Four Hundred Words on the Golden Elixir, DZ 1081 and DZ 263, j.4) is another famous work ascribed to Zhang Boduan. Unlike two other works attributed to Zhang, Jindan sibai zi bears a visible affinity to Wuzhen pian in content and language. This alchemical treatise consists of twenty pentasyllabic poems with a lengthy preface without a date. Its earliest commentary dates from 1240, but was likely transmitted by Ma Ziran to Bai Yuchan before 1218. The poem describes the inner alchemical process in a way similar to the Wuzhen pian, but borrows technical language from the Zhong-Lü texts. It was first included in Bai Yuchan’s lost collection entitled Qunxian zhuyu ji, but since then several editions with commentaries have appeared. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 477; Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 828; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 558–559; Pregadio 2009: 2)
Huanyuan pian 還源篇 (Chapters for Returning to the Origin, DZ 1091, and DZ 263, 2.1a–13b), is ascribed to Shi Tai (d. 1158), and is an integral part of the Nanzong heritage. It is a collection of eighty-one alchemical poems in seven-word verse (Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 825). Although the independently circulating text has no preface, the version in the collection Xiuzhen shishu has an undated preface signed by Shi Tai. (Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 825, Pregadio & Skar 2000: 479)
Zhonghe ji 中和集 (Anthology of Medial Harmony, DZ 249) is the most renowned work containing the teachings of Li Daochun (fl. 1288–1290), whose teachings were since the eighteenth century associated with the Central branch (Zhong pai). The anthology consists of a set of treatises, dialogues, songs, and poems collected by his disciple Cai Zhiyi (fl. 1288–1306), with a preface dated 1306. The first juan and the part of the fourth deals with the basic unity and dialectical relation of pairs of complementary notions. The second juan is largely devoted to neidan, and it contains several diagrams and an exposition of the degrees of neidan practice and the three main stages of the alchemical work. Many old practices are rejected as erroneous (including sexual techniques, fangzhong shu) or inferior (such as waidan, diets, and visionary meditation). The third juan is cast in the form of answers to disciples, and several alchemical terms are defined and sentences explained. Part of j. 4, and j. 5. and j. 6, contain songs and poems. He was among the first to revere both the legacy of Zhang Boduan and the Quanzhen patriarchy. (Despeux 2004: 1174–1175; Pregadio & Skar 2000: 480; Robinet 2008: 1282–1283)
Compendia refers to early collections of neidan works and contain miscellaneous neidan works as well as texts from Zhong-Lü and Nanzong corpuses.
Da huandan zhaojian 大還丹照鑒 (Reflective mirror of the Great Cyclically-Transformed-Elixir, DZ 926) is the earliest extant compendium of neidan writings, mainly poems (with some prose) attributed to a vast array of Daoist worthies, some historical, some legendary. Its thirty-four separate sections include many early works otherwise lost, and duplicates some texts published elsewhere in the Daoist Canon. The preface is dated 962. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 477; Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 408)
Daoshu 道樞 (Pivotal Essentials of the Way, DZ 1017) is a large compendium of texts dealing with neidan and yangsheng (nourishing life) theory and techniques assembled by the Jinjiang scholar Zeng Zao (fl. 1131–1155), around 1150. It includes 108 titles of summaries, abbreviations and full texts on various aspects on self-cultivation, separated into forty-two chapters and 118 sections. The Daoshu includes many interesting Northern Song (960–1127) treatises on neidan and related subjects. These books, now lost as separate entities, are listed in many bibliographies of the Song and Yuan (1279–1368) dynasties. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 477–478; Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 780–781; Baldrian-Hussein 2008: 329–331)
Xiuzhen shishu 修真十書 (Ten Compilations on Cultivating Perfection, DZ 263) is an anonymous collection of writings subdivided into ten ”written compilations” (shu), and assembled in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries. This sixty juan compendium includes many important texts associated with Bai Yuchan (1194–1229?) and his circle. It is the largest collection of neidan teachings, and most of its texts date from two generation before Zhang Boduan (987?–1082) to two generations after Bai Yuchan. Although most of these practices involve inner cultivation and meditation, exercise and ritual also have an important place. (Pregadio & Skar 2000: 478–479; Skar 2008: 1118–1119).
4.3.6 Quanzhen Texts
Quanzhen texts here refers to texts attributable to the early Quanzhen masters as well as some works until the 13th century. According to Tao-chung Yao (2000), three works attributed to the early Quanzhen masters (i.e. the Seven Perfected) deal specifically with neidan. Of these Qingtian ge zhushi is not included here. Although two of them, Chongyang zhenren jinguan yusuo jue and Dadan zhi are systematic texts on neidan attributed to Wang Zhe and Qiu Chuji, respectively, these attributions are highly doubtful. According to Schipper (2004), the majority of Quanzhen didactic works are concerned with individual practice, but none was written during the early stage of the Quanzhen order. Only in the late thirteenth century there appears complete prose works dedicated to self-cultivation, specifically neidan. These works are Xiyi zhimi lun (DZ 276) and Shangsheng xiuzhen sanyao (DZ 267). All the other works were authored by masters from Southern China, affiliated with Quanzhen, but mostly heir to the Nanzong heritage. (Schipper 2004: 1168-1169: Tao-chung Yao 2000: 578)
Chongyang zhenren jinguan yusuo jue 重陽真人金關玉鎖訣 (Oral Instructions on the Golden Pass and Jade Lock by the Perfected Chongyang, DZ 1156), attributed to Wang Zhe, is one of the most detailed extant text on technical aspects of early Quanzhen practice principles, training regimens, and models of attainment. It employs a question and answer format to explain concepts and terminology concerning neidan cultivation. The topics are wide-ranging: from the causes and cures for various illnesses, through transformative techniques that are soteriological in intent, to discussions of the characteristics and ontological levels of alchemically-transformed and perfected beings. The contents and terminology differs somewhat from other, later writings that can be confidently attributed to Wang Zhe. The internal evidence, however, according to Komjathy (2008), suggests that the text was composed during the Song-Jin period, originates in an early Quanzhen context, and more than likely preserves some authentic teachings of Wang Zhe. The text was possibly compiled by one or more of Wang’s first generation-disciples in the late twelfth century. (Komjathy 2008: 265, 399–400; Tao-chung Yao 2000: 578; Reiter 2004: 1185)
Dadan zhizhi 大丹直指 (Straightforward Directions for the Great Elixir, DZ 244) is attributed to Qiu Chuji, and published between 1269 and 1310 It discusses the theory and practice of neidan in nine sections, each with a diagram and explanation. The techniques described in the text are based on the theory and methods of Bichuan Zhengyang zhenren lingbao bifa and Xishan qunxian huizhen ji. The procedure is divided into ten steps. Qiu explains the workings of the macrocosm and the microcosm: the qi of the Great Void, having reached extreme stillness, gave rise to movement, separated into yin and yang, and formed heaven and earth. But the qi, having once acquired motion, could not remain still, hence qi of yin and yang, sun and moon, day and night is made possible through a central axis (zhongqi), which resides in the handle of the Dipper. The embryo develops similarly; after birth, the primordial qi (yuanqi) is found in the center, that is, the navel. Through breathing exercises, this center is activated, leading to an unhampered natural circulation of the body fluids. Through the practice of these exercises, the adept acquires long life and eventually sainthood. (Baldrian-Hussein 2004: 1171; Goossaert 2008: 811; Tao-chung Yao 2000: 578)
Xiyi zhimi lun 析疑指迷論 (Discussions for Resolving Doubts and Pointing Out Errors, DZ 276) According to the preface dated by the author in 1298, the discussions were composed by Niu Daochun. Niu Daochun answers the questions of his disciple Li Zhifeng, who inquires about the principles of the Quanzhen school, the ”Secrets of the True Tao”, the meaning of xingming, and especially the methods of self-cultivation. The discussions in the second part of this work are conducted between two probably fictitious persons. These dialogues deal with definitions of technical terms and practices. They also list specific means of self-cultivation, which Niu Daochun rejects. Niu Daochun emphasizes the ”sudden enlightenment” and the recovery of the ”original face”. His fundamental attitude seems to be that ”actually there is nothing to say and nothing to transmit”, which is characteristic of the Quanzhen school. (Reiter 2004: 1178–1179)
Shangsheng xiuzhen sanyao 上乘修真三要 (The Three Principles of the Cultivation of Perfection According to the Higher Vehicle, DZ 267) is probably authored by the Quanzhen master Gao Daokuan (1195–1277), who was a disciple of the Quanzhen patriarchs Ma Danyang and Li Chongxu. The first section describes, with illustrations, the spiritual discipline of the heart (xin) and of fundamental human nature (xing) by means of the allegory of the training of a horse. It is inspired by the Chan allegory of training the ox. Each picture is followed by a poem and a short commentary, also in verse. The commentaries describe the progressive whitening of the horse, which represents the process of purification. The first ten pictures represent the horse training, the eleventh shows a circle containing a man, and the twelfth a circle containing an infant. This part of the text ends with the picture of a circle surrounding the Purple Gold Immortal, i. e. Laozi. The second section focuses on vital force (ming), and describes the neidan practice in the tradition of the Zhouyi cantong qi with several illustrations: the choice of the cauldron and the furnace, fire-phasing, the transmutation of cinnabar, the deliverance of the body, the return to the true origin and to non-action. (Despeux 2004: 1176–1177; Despeux 2008; 871–872)
Internal alchemy, or neidan, is a doctrine and methodology for the total complete transformation of the human psychophysical structure. Its final goal is explicated as immortality or unity with the Dao, that is, a transcendent state of consciousness and being. It uses language deriving from waidan alchemy, Yijing trigrams and hexagrams, and cosmological patterns to weave a theoretical network working similarly on several layers to lead the practitioner from the multiplicity of the ”ten thousand things” to the ”true yang” outside and above the dichotomy of yin and yang. Within this theoretical context it applies traditional practices of meditation and yangsheng traditions on three stages of practice, working on the original nature as well as life, transforming essence into breath, breath into spirit and uniting the spirit into the emptiness or the Dao.
Historically neidan traditions developed through seminal notions to interaction of external and internal alchemy to codified theoretical models and standard practices in the late Tang dynasty. Early practitioners were not connected to particular Daoist movements, but after Quanzhen in the twelfth century the neidan practices tended to be transmitted through lineages. At the later imperial times neidan practices became popularized and disseminated widely, at modern times also reaching to west in forms, that are often questioned among Daoist scholars.
The extant neidan literature is stored first of all in the Daoist Canon, its versions and its supplements, available for academic studies since the beginning of last century and nowadays mostly also in electronic form. There are also collections of neidan texts outside the canon. The Ming canon alone contains about 150 neidan related texts, most of which, it seems, have not been yet translated. Also, the quality of translations varies. Although popular translations are easily accessible for the public, they might contain misleading notions, incorrect information, and simply just silently pass the more problematic parts of the texts. The earlier texts brought forward in this essay seem to mostly have had a canonical status among the neidan tradition and been highly influential concerning the theory and practice of this fascinating endeavor, the two most influential being the Zhouyi cantong qi and the Wuzhen pian. A fair amount of neidan sources still lays untouched, and unstudied, within the Canon as well as outside it.
The overview presented here of the early phases of the neidan tradition serves mainly the purpose of getting in touch with the basic materials. It has not even aimed at bringing up any radically new points of view. It maps out some of the most important scholars, first hand sources and their locations in the collections, and points out the main historical developments as well as some of the theory and practice. This is done mostly through—at least what I consider as—the most dependable studies and research aids. Before I can read and understand classical Chinese well, I’ll have to deepen my understanding through secondary sources, that is, scholarly studies and accurate translations. It would be possible to some extent to study the modern Western developments related to internal alchemy. Field work might not be out of the question either.
The works marked with an asterisk * after the year have not been used as a source or mentioned in this essay. They are included here due to these scholars being particularly mentioned in the text.
1984 Procédés secrets du joyau magique: Traité d’alchimie taoïste du XIe siècle. Paris: Les Deux Océans.
1985 ”Yüeh-yang and Lü Tung-pin’s Ch’in-yüan ch’un: A Sung Alchemical Poem”. In Gert Naundorf, Karl-Heinz Pohl, and Hans-Herman Schmidt, eds., Religion und Philosophie in Ostasien. Festschrift für Hans Steininger zum 65. Geburstag, 19-31. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann.
1986* ”Lü Tung-pin in Northern Sung Literature” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie, Vol. 2, 1986, pp. 133–169.
1989 ”Inner Alchemy: Notes on the Origin and Use of the Term neidan.” Cahiers d’Extrëme-Asie, Vol. 5, 1989, pp. 163–190.
2004 entries ”Bichuan Zhengyang zhenren lingbao bifa”, ”Cui gong ruyao jing zhujie”, ”Cuixu pian”, ”Dadan zhizhi”, ”Daoshu”, ”Huandan fuming pian”,”Huanyuan pian”, ”Jindan dacheng ji”, ”Jindan sibai zi”, ”Lü Chunyang zhenren Qinyuan chun danci zhujie”, ”Xiuzhen shishu”, ”Zhong-Lü chuandao ji" in The Taoist Canon - A Historical Companion to the Daozang
2008 entries ”Daoshu”, ”Jindan sibai zi”, ”Lingbao bifa”, ”Nanzong”, ”Neidan”, ”Xishan qunxian huizhen ji”, ”Zhong-Lü”, ”Zhong-Lü chuandao ji” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
Boltz, Judith M.
2008 entry ”Daozang jinghua lu”, in the The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
Boltz, Judith M. & Vincent Goossaert
2008 entry ”Zangwai daoshu” in the The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
1979* Zhao Bichen: Traité d’Alchimie et de Physiologie taoïste (Weisheng Shenglixue Mingzhi). Paris: Les Deux Océans.
1981* Le Chemin de L’éveil: Illustré par le dressage du buffle dans le Bouddhisme Chan, le dressage du coeval dans le Taoïsme, le dressage de léléphant dans le Bouddhisme tibétain. Paris: L’Asiathèque.
1985* ”Les lectures alchimiques du Hsi-yu-chi” In Gert Naundorf, Karl-Heinz Pohl, and Hans-Herman Schmidt, eds., Religion und Philosophie in Ostasien. Festschrift für Hans Steininger zum 65. Geburstag, 61-75. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann.
1988* La Moelle du Phénix Rouge: Santé et longue vie dans la Chine du XVIe siècle. Paris: Guy Trédaniel (Éditions de la Maisnie).
1990* Immortelles de la Chine ancient: Taoïsme et alchimie féminine. Puiseaux: Pardès. (Destins de femmes.)
1994* Taoïsme et corps humain: Le Xiuzhen tu. Paris: Guy Trédaniel.
1996* “Le corps, champ spatio-temporel, souche d'identité.” L'Homme 137:87–118.
2004 entries ”Shangsheng xiuzhen sanyao”, ”Qingtian ge zhushi”, ”Zhonghe ji” in The Taoist Canon - A Historical Companion to the Daozang
2005* ”Alchimie symbolique et du corps dans la Chine du Moyen Âge (X–-XIVe siècles)”. In Claire Kappler and Suzanne Thiolier, eds., Alchimie: Orient-Occident . Paris: Dervy Livres.
2008 entries ”jing, qi, shen”, ”Shangsheng xiuzhen sanyao” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
1998* Ascetism in Early Taoist Religion. Albany: State University of New York Press.
2001* “Neidan Master Chen Pu’s Nine Stages of Transformation” Monumenta Serica 49:1–31.
2004* The Teachings and Practices of the Early Quanzhen Masters. Albany: State University of New York Press.
2006* “Emergency Death Meditations for Internal Alchemists” T’oung Pao 92: 373–409.
2009* “Neidan Methods for Opening the Gate of Heaven.” In Livia Kohn and Robin R. Wang, eds., Internal Alchemy: Self, Society, and the Quest for Immortality
1993* “La Porte du Dragon: L’Ecole Longmen du mont Jingai et ses pratiques alchimiques d’après le Daozang Xubian (Suite au Canon Taoïste)” Thèse de Doctorat, Université Paris VII.
1997* L’alchimia del soffio: La pratica della visione interiore nell’alchimia taoista [Alchemy of the Breath: The practice of inner vision in Taoist alchemy]. Roma: Ubaldini Editore.
1998* “The Different Versions of the Secret of the Golden Flower and Their Relationship with the Longmen School.” Transactions of the International Conference of Eastern Studies 43: 1-21.
2001* “Longmen Taoism in Qing China: Doctrinal Ideal and Local Reality.” Journal of Chinese Religions 29: 191-231.
2004* “The Longmen School and its Controversial History during the Qing Dynasty.” In John Lagerwey, ed., Religion and Chinese Society: The Transformation of a Field, 2: 621-98. Paris: École française d’Extrême-Orient and Chinese University of Hong Kong.
2007* “The Discovery of Jiang Yuanting’s Daozang Jiyao in Jiangnan: A Presentation of the Daoist Canon of the Qing Dynasty.” In Kunio Mugitani, ed., Kōnan dōkyō no kenkyū [Research on Daoism in Jiangnan], 79-110. Kyoto: Jinbun Kagaku Kenkyūjo.
2010 ”A Short Presentation of the Qing Daoist Canon” http://www.daozangjiyao.org/DZJY_E/Daozang_Jiyao.html (viewed 22.4.2014)
2008 entries ”Qiu Chuji”, ”Quanzhen” in the The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
1992 Taoist Meditation and Longevity Techniques. Michigan: Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan.
2004 (ed.) Daoism handbook. Brill.
2009 Introducing Daoism. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
2009b & Robin R. Wang (eds.) Internal alchemy – Self, Society, and the Quest for Immortality. Magdalena: Three Pines Press.
Kohn, Livia & Catherine Despeux
2010 Women in Daoism. Magdalena: Three Pines Press.
2004 Taoism the Enduring Tradition. New York and London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
2007 Cultivating Perfection - Mysticism and Self-Transformation in Early Quanzhen Daoism. Leiden, Boston: Brill.
2008* Handbooks for Daoist Practice. Hong Kong: The Yuen Yuen Institute.
2008* “Mapping the Daoist Body, Part 1, The Neijing tu in History”. Journal for Daoist Studies 1. Three Pines Press.
2009* “Mapping the Daoist Body, Part 2, The Text of the Neijing tu”. Journal for Daoist Studies 2. Three Pines Press.
2013 The Daoist Tradition - An Introduction. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
2014 The Way of Complete Perfection. A Quanzhen Daoist Anthology. Albany: State University of New York Press.
1983* Science Civilization in China. Vol. V, Part 5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
1995* “The Representation of Time in the Zhouyi cantong qi”. Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 8: 155-73.
2000 entry “Inner Alchemy” with Lowell Skar in the Daoism Handbook.
2002* ”The Early History of the Zhouyi cantong qi”. Journal of Chinese Religions 30 (2002): 149–76.
2004* “The Notion of ‘Form’ and the Ways of Liberation in Daoism” Cahiers d’Extrême- Asie 14: 95–130.
2005* “Alchemy: China”. In Maryanne Cline Horowitz, ed., New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 38–40. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
2006a* “Early Daoist Meditation and the Origins of Inner Alchemy” In Benjamin Penny, ed., Daoism in History: Essays in Honour of Liu Ts’un-yan, 121–58. London: Routledge.
2006b* Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
2008 (ed.) The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism,Volumes I & II. London and New York, Routledge.
2008b entries ”Daozang jiyao”, ”Jindan”, ”Zhouyi cantong qi” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
2009a Awakening to Reality: The "Regulated Verses" of the Wuzhen pian, a Taoist Classic of Internal Alchemy. Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
2009b Chinese Alchemy - An Annotated Bibliography of Works in Western Languages. Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
2011a The Seal of the Unity of the Three: A Study and Translation of the Cantong qi, the Source of the Taoist Way of the Golden Elixir. Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
2011b* The Seal of the Unity of the Three, Vol. 2. Bibliographic Studies on the Cantong qi: Commentaries, essays, and Related Works. Mountain view: Golden Elixir Press.
2012 The Way of the Golden Elixir - A Historical Overview of Taoist Alchemy. Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
2013 Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine – A Fourteenth-Century Work on Taoist Internal Alchemy By Wang Jie. Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
2014 http://www.goldenelixir.com/goldenelixir_press.html (viewed 21.4.2014)
2014b Catalogue of the Daozang jiyao. Downloaded from academia.edu
2014c* Cultivating the Tao – Taoism and Internal Alchemy. Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
Reiter, Florian C.
2004 entries ”Chongyang zhenren jinguan yusuo jue”, ”Xiyi zhimi lun” in The Taoist Canon - A Historical Companion to the Daozang
1985.* “L’unité transcendante des Trois Enseignements selon les taoïstes des Sung et des Yüan.” In Gert Naundorf, Karl-Heinz Pohl, and Hans- Herman Schmidt, eds., Religion und Philosophie in Ostasien: Festschrift für Hans Steininger zum 65. Geburstag, 103-26. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann.
1986* ”La notion de hsing dans le taoïsme et son rapport avec celle du confucianisme”
1989 ”Original Contributions of Neidan to Taoism and Chinese Thought” in Taoist Meditation and Longevity Techniques edited by Livia Kohn. Michigan: Center for Chinese Studies The University of Michigan.
1990* ”Reserche sur l’alchimie intérieure (neidan): L’école Zhenyuan”
1993* Taoist Meditation: The Mao-shan Tradition of Great Purity. Translated by Julian F. Pas and Norman J. Girardot. Albany: State University of New York Press. Originally published as Méditation taoïste (Paris: Dervy Livres, 1979).
1995* Introduction à l’alchimie intérieure taoïste: De l’unité et de la multiplicité. Avec une traduction commentée des Ver- sets de l’éveil à la Vérité. Paris: Éditions du Cerf.
1997* Taoism - Growth of a Religion. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
2008 entries ”Huangting jing”, ”Zhonghe ji” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
2011 The World Upside Down – Essays on Taoist Internal Alchemy. Contains the following essays: ”Le monde á l’envers dans l’alchimie intérieure taoïste”, ”Mystique et rationalité: Le language dans l’alchimie intérieure taoïste ou l’effort pour dire le contradictoire”, ”Le rôle et le sense des numbers dans la cosmology et l’alchimie taoîstes”,”Sur les sens des termes waidan et neidan” Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
Schipper, Kristofer & Fransicus Verellen (eds.)
2004 The Taoist Canon: A Historical Companion to the Daozang,
Vols. I, II & III. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1990* “Research on the History of Chinese Alchemy.” In Z.R.W.M. von Martels, ed., Alchemy Revisited: Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy at the University of Groningen, 17-19 April 1989, 3-20. Leiden: E.J. Brill. (Collection de travaux de l’Académie International d’Histoire des Science, 33.)
2010 ”Old and New Daoisms” Religious Studies Review, Volume 36, Number I, March 2010.
1990* “The Southern Lineage in Song China” Taoist Resources 2.2: 120-25.
2000* “Golden Elixir Alchemy: The Formation of the Southern Lineage of Taoism and the Transformation of Medieval China”. A Ph.D. dissertation to University of Pennsylvania.
2008 entries ”Ruyao jing”, ”Xiuzhen shishu” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism
2000 ”Quanzhen – Complete Perfection” in Daoism Handbook.
2003* ”Beheading the Red Dragon: A History of Female Inner Alchemy in China.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of London.
2008 entry ”Daozang jinghua” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism.
2008a* ”Female Alchemy and Paratext: How to Read nüdan in a Historical Context”. Asia Major 21.
2008b* “Men and Women in He Longxiang’s Nüdan hebian.” Nan Nü 10 (2008) 242-278
2009a* ”Blood, Tigers, Dragons: The Physiology of Transcendence for Women”. Asian Medicine 4 (2009) 46–85.
2009b* “Female Alchemy: An Introduction” in Internal Alchemy - Self, Society and the Quest for Immortality, edited by Livia Kohn & Robin R. Wang.
2011 Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan. Mountain View: Golden Elixir Press.
2000 Tao of Health, Longevity, and Immortality: The Teachings of Immortals Chung and Lu.
Beizong 北宗 — Northern lineage of neidan, i.e. Quanzhen (Complete Perfection).
chunyang 純陽— Pure yang; the state beyond the duality of yin and yang.
chushen 出神 — The egress of the Spirit; marks the achievement of the third and final stage of the neidan practice, the return of spirit to the emptiness, and birth of the immortal self through the top of the head, free to journey outside of the physical body.
dantian 丹田 — Cinnabar fields, or elixir fields; major places of elixir cultivation. Lower, middle and upper elixir fields are most commonly located in the regions of the abdomen, the heart, and the brain, but are devoid of material counterparts. The lower elixir field is the seat of essence (jing), and it is located some inches below or under the navel. The middle elixir field is usually located at the center of the chest or between the heart and the navel. It is the seat of breath (qi). The upper elixir field is located in the region of the brain, it is the seat of spirit (shen).
daoyin 導引— Guiding and stretching, healing exercises; physical stretches accompanied by deep breathing and the mental guiding of qi originally part of the medical tradition, later essential in Daoist body cultivation
fangzhong shu 房中術 — Bedroom arts; sexual practices.
hexagrams — Symbols consisting of six broken (yin) and unbroken (yang) lines in the Yijing.
huangting 黃庭 — Yellow court; located usually in the abdomen (spleen), may also be placed in the head.
huohou 火候 — Fire times; constitutes the rhythm of inner alchemical work. The term huo (fire) refers to the circulation of vital energy, or simply the power of the effort in practice, while hou (phase) denotes the sequence in which the practice is performed. Fire phasing represents the most secret part of neidan, the inner rhythm that one must find and experience.
jindan 金丹 — golden elixir, synonym to neidan.
jing 精, qi 氣, and shen 神 — Essence; breath, pneuma, or vital energy; and spirit. The three treasures in a human being, used as the raw ingredients of the internal alchemical practice. Jing refers to a form of energy that mainly derives from food and nourishes the body, especially the five viscera. This is the most usual sense of the term in the context of gymnastics and breathing techniques. In a more restricted sense, jing refers to the energy attached to sexuality, its manifestation being semen in men, menstrual blood in women. Qi refers to subtle breath, vital energy that has is positioned between essence and spirit, at the intersection of matter and mind. As jing is the carrier of life and has a nourishing function, qi is a dynamic force and has a transforming function. Shen refers to mental and spiritual aspects of the human being. To some extent, it applies to anything that exists within the cosmos but has no material aspect, such as deities and human thought.
Lingbao 靈寶— Numinous Treasure; major early medieval Daoist religious movement; first major Daoist movement to exhibit strong Buddhist influences; places emphasis on ritual and universal salvation.
Longmen 龍門 — Dragon Gate; main lineage of Complete Perfection since the Qing dynasty. Emphasis placed on lineage-based internal alchemy as well as precept study and application.
Nanzong 南宗 — Southern lineage of neidan, beginning with Zhang Boduan’s Wuzhen pian. Its patriarchs include Shi Tai (?–1158), Xue Daoguang (1078?–1191), Chen Nan (?–1213), and Bai Yuchan (1194–1229?). Its literary corpus has had a great impact on the development on neidan.
neidan 內丹 — Internal elixir, internal alchemy. Major form of Daoist meditation since the Song. A complex practice aimed at complete psychosomatic transformation and immortality. Usually involves sequential, stage-based methods utilizing various subtle and mysterious dimensions of self. First systematized during the Tang and early Song dynasties.
neiguan 內觀 — Inner observation, inner contemplation, inner vision; a meditative practice of turning one’s sight inward and seeing the interior state of one’s body and mind.
nüdan 女丹 — Women’s internal alchemy; internal alchemy designed specifically for women;
documented in texts since the eighteenth century
Qingxiu 清修 — Pure Cultivation; line of transmission within the Southern branch of neidan, which uses only individual practices to join the complementary principles within the human being and transmute them into the inner elixir.
sancheng 三成 — Three accomplishments; three levels of internal alchemical practice related to three principles constituting a human being; transmuting essence into breath, transmuting breath into spirit, and uniting the spirit with the Dao
sanguan 三關 — Three passes; in the neidan practice, barriers along the control channel in the back, marking the ascension of the qi to the upper cinnabar field.
shangde 上得 — Superior virtue; associated with direct realization and nurturing the original nature, non-doing.
Shangqing 上清— Highest Clarity; major early medieval Daoist religious movement and textual class with focus on individual realization through chanting, visualization, and ecstatic excursions
Shuangxiu 雙修 — Joint Cultivation; the second line of transmission within the Southern lineage, which interprets the cultivation of xing and ming, yin and yang in a sexual way, and applies sexual practices.
Taiping 太平— Great Peace; an early Daoist movement, known as the ’Yellow Turbans’.
Taiqing 太清— Great Clarity; a waidan alchemical tradition.
taixi 胎息 — Embryonic breathing; designates a way of breathing similar to that of the embryo in which breathing through the nose appears to stop and is replaced by breathing through the navel and the pores of the skin; or procedure performed by neidan adepts in the abdomen, and linked to the immortal embryo and the refinement and cessation of breathing.
Tianshi 天使— Celestial Masters, Heavenly Teachers; an early Daoist movement, also known as Zhengyi 正一 (Orthodox Unity), in which emphasis is placed on communal ritual activity.
trigrams — Symbols consisting of three broken (yin) and unbroken (yang) lines that signify cosmic directions and dimensions
waidan 外丹 — External elixir, external alchemy; laboratory alchemy which involves compounding and ingesting an elixir of often poisonous ingredients combined to cosmological correspondences and rituals
wuxing 五行 — Five phases; core system of Chinese cosmology incorporated into the foundational Daoist worldview, that symbolizes the changing patterns of yin and yang: wood, fire, earth, metal water associated with directions, seasons, colors, bodily organs, musical notes, emotions, senses, etc.
xiade 下得 — Inferior virtue. Associated with alchemical techniques, doing.
xiao houtian 小周天 — Small celestial circuit, microcosmic orbit; a meditative pathway of qi along the control and function channels (renmai and dumai), moving up the spine, through the head, and down along the front of the body
xing and ming 性命 — Inner nature and vital force. Two cardinal concepts in the neidan view of the human being, pertaining to one’s super individual features, and one’s individual existence. Xing denotes one’s ”inner nature”, whose properties transcend individuality and are identical to those of pure being and beyond, non-being. Ming can be defined as the imprint that each individual receives upon being generated.
xingqi 行氣 — Circulating breath.
yangsheng 養生 — Nourishing life; the traditional Chinese term for a variety of practices focusing on improving health and extending lifespan. Includes gymnastics, sexual hygiene, breathing techniques, and forms of meditation etc. It is not Daoist as such, but forms one of the streams Daoism draws upon. Yangsheng practices documented earliest in the Mawangdui texts, buried 168 BCE. A modern equivalent for the term yangsheng is qigong, a label for the traditional health exercises coined by the communist party.
Yijing 易經 — Book of Changes; Zhou-dynasty divination manual that gives advice on how to best follow the course of Heaven
Yin yang 陰陽 — Yin and yang; complementary tendencies of nature. Originally names of the shady and sunny sides of a hill, then indicating sets of dynamic movement: up and down, night and day, begin and end, and so on.
Yinyang pai 陰陽派 — Yin-Yang branch of neidan, which includes sexual practices in the first stage.
zhenyang 眞陽 — True yang. Alchemical ingredient, fire within water of the kidney.
zhenyin 眞陰 — True yin. Alchemical ingredient, water with the fire of the heart.
Zhong pai 中派 — Central branch; a branch of neidan associated with Li Daochun (fl. 1290).
zuowang 坐忘 — Sitting in oblivion; a form on meditative practice in the Zhuangzi; designates a state of deep trance or intense absorption, during which no trace of ego-identity is felt and only underlying cosmic current of the Dao is perceived as real.
COSMOGONY: shun 順 NEIDAN: ni 逆
(“going with the course”) (“inverting the course”)
Dao 道 Emptiness (xu 虛)
“The Dao generates the One” ↓ ↑ from Spirit to Emptiness
One Spirit (shen 神)
“The One generates the Two” ↓ ↑ from Breath to Spirit
Two ☰, ☷ Breath (qi 氣)
“The Two generate the Three” ↓ ↑ from Essence to Breath
Three ☵, ☲ Essence (jing 精)
“The Three generate the 10,000 things” ↓ ↑ “laying out the foundations”
10,000 things (wanwu 萬物)
On the left, the “downward” stages of cosmogony. On the right, the corresponding “upward” stages of the neidan practice. (Pregadio 2012: 50)
Neidan related texts in the Zhengtong daozang
This list is based on groupings in Schipper and Verellen’s The Taoist Canon, A Historical Companion to the Daozang. It follows the categories given, and as such may include some texts that are not neidan as such, or may exclude texts that should have been included. The list includes more than 150 items. The sources are the Companion and the Daoist Studies website’s Canon. As mentioned in chapter 4, The Zhengtong daozang is only one of the sources of Daoist internal alchemical texts.
Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties
Commentaries on the Zhouyi cantong qi and related scriptures:
Zhouyi cantong qi fenzhang tongzhen yi 周易參同契分章通真義 (Real Meaning of the Zhouyi cantong qi, with a Division into Sections, DZ 1002)
Commentaries on the Yinfu jing:
Huangdi yinfu jing zhujie 黃帝陰符經註解 (Commentaries and Explanations Concerning the Huangdi Yinfu jing, DZ114
Huangdi yinfu jing zhu 黃帝陰符經註 (Commentary on the Huangdi yinfu jing, DZ 116)
Yinfu jing sanhuang yujue 陰符經三皇玉訣 (Jade Instructions on the Yinfu jing by the Three August Ones, DZ 119)
Huangdi yinfu jing zhu 黃帝陰符經註 Commentary on the Huangdi yinfu jing, DZ 122)
Huangdi yinfu jing jiangyi 黃帝陰符經講義. (Discussion about the Huangdi yinfu jing, DZ 109)
Huangdi yinfu jing jiasong jiezhu 黃帝陰符經夾頌解註 (Commentary on the Yinfu jing, with Hyms Inserted, DZ 126)
Xiuzhen liyan chaotu 修眞歷驗鈔圖 (Copy of Diagrams Attested [Methods] for the Cultivation of Perfection, DZ 152)
Zi yuanjun shoudao chuanxin fa 紫元君授道傳心法 (The Method of Zi Yuanjun of the Transmission of the Dao through the Heart, DZ 226)
Zhen longhu jiuxian jing 眞龍虎九仙經 (Book of the Nine Immortals and of the Reald Dragon and Tiger, DZ 227)
Tao zhenren neidan fu 陶眞人內丹賦 (Ode on the Inner Elixir, DZ 259)
Jinyi huandan baiwen jue 金液還丹百問訣 (Explanations of the ’Hundred Questions’ on the Cyclically Transformed Elixir of Liquefied Gold, DZ 266)
Taishang laojun neidan jing 太上老君內丹經 (Book of Inner Alchemy of the Most High Lord Lao, DZ 643)
Wei Boyang qifan dansha jue 魏伯陽七返丹砂訣 (Wei Boyang’s Explanations of the Sevenfold Cyclically Transformed Elixir, DZ 888)
Huanjin shu 還金述 (Explanations on the Cyclically [Transformed] Gold [Elixir], DZ 922)
Zhenyuan miaodao yaolüe 真元妙道要略 (The Synopsis of the Essentials of the Mysterious Dao of the True Origin, DZ 924)
Da huandan zhaojian 大還丹照鑑 (Shining Mirror of the Cyclically Transformed Elixir, DZ 926)
Jusheng ge 巨勝歌 (Sesame Song, DZ 931)
Danlun juezhi xinjian 丹論訣旨心鑑 (Mental Mirror and Directions Regarding Discourses and Explanations on the Elixir, DZ 935)
Dahuan xinjian 大還心鑑 (Mental Mirror of Cyclical Transformation, DZ 936)
Da huandan jinhu bolong lun 大還丹金虎白龍論 (Discourse on the Golden Tiger and the White Dragon of the Great Cyclically Transformed Elixir, DZ 937)
Longhu yuanzhi 龍虎元旨 (Secret Directives on the Dragon and the Tiger, DZ 1083)
Yuanyang zi jinyi ji 元陽子金液集 (Yuanyang zi’s Collection [of Verse and Commentary] on the Gold Liquid, DZ 238)
Huandan jinyi ge zhu 還丹金液歌註 (Commentary of the Song of the Cyclical Return of Gold Liquid, DZ 239)
Song, Yüan, and Ming
Commentaries on the Zhouyi cantong qi and related scriptures:
Zhouyi cantong qi 周易參同契 (Concordance of the Three According to the Book of Changes, DZ 1001)
Zhouyi cantong qi zhu 周易參同契註 (Commentary on the Cantong qi, DZ 1000)
Zhouyi cantong qi jie 周易參同契解 (Elucidation of the Cantong qi, DZ 1007)
Zhouyi cantong qi fahui 周易參同契發揮 (Explanations of the Cantong qi, DZ 1005)
Zhouyi cantong qi zhu 周易參同契 (Commentary on the Cantong qi, DZ 1008)
Guwen longhu jing zhushu 古文龍虎經註疏 (A Commentary and a Sub-commentary to the dragon and Tiger Book in Ancient Characters, DZ 996)
Guwen longhu shangjing zhu 古文龍虎上經註 (Glosses on the Dragon and Tiger Book, DZ 997)
Du longhu jing 讀龍虎經 (How to read the Dragon and Tiger Book, DZ 998)
Longhu shoujian tu 龍虎手鑑圖 (Diagram of the Hand-Mirror of the Dragon and the Tiger, DZ 153)
Neidan and yangsheng:
Daoshu 道樞 (Pivot if the Dao, DZ 1017)