TAOISM, IMMORTALITY AND ALCHEMY

TAOISM AND IMMORTALITY


Taoist immortal riding a dragon

Immortality is an important idea in Taoism. Because all nature is united by Tao, Taoists believe, immortality can be attained. Taoists also believe that immortality it not something that can be achieved by separating oneself from nature, like with a soul, but rather is something achieved by directing natural forces through the body, creating more durable body materials, using techniques such as breathing, focusing sexual energy and alchemy.

The immortality referred to in Taoism is physical immortality. The highest goal of many devotees of Taoism is the attainment of immortality through a total channeling of energies to reach harmony with Tao. Immortality can be viewed literally or as a symbol of spiritual liberation. The idea of a spiritual immortality like that of Christianity was alien to the Chinese until Buddhism was introduced to China.

Numerous Taoist prayers are dedicated to the spirits of immortality. Taoist painters have traditionally chosen immortally as one of their central themes. Famous Taoist painting dealing with immortality include Immortal Ascending on a Dragon, Riding a Dragon, Fungus of Immortality, Picking Herbs, and Preparing Elixirs.

In the old days, many Taoists spent their whole lives looking for elixirs of immortality. The Emperor Shi went through great lengths to try and achieve immortality. See History

Good Websites and Sources on Taoism: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu; Religion Facts Religion Facts Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org ; Stanford Education plato.stanford.edu ; Taoist Texts Chinese Text Project ; Taoism chebucto.ns.ca ; Chad Hansen’s Chinese Philisophy hku.hk/philodep

Good Websites and Sources on Religion in China: Chinese Government White Paper on Religion china-embassy.org ; United States Commission on International Religious Freedom uscirf.gov/countries/china; Articles on Religion in China forum18.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Council of Foreign Relations cfr.org ; Brooklyn College brooklyn.cuny.edu ; Religion Facts religionfacts.com; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org ; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy stanford.edu ; Academic Info academicinfo.net ; Internet Guide to Chinese Studies sino.uni-heidelberg.de

Methods for Achieving Immortality

Methods to achieve immortality fall into two basic categories: 1) religious---prayers, moral conduct, rituals and observances of commandments; and 2) physical---diets, medicines, breathing methods, chemicals and exercises. Living alone in a cave like hermits combined the two and was often see as the ideal.

The basic idea behind the Taoist diet is to nourish the body and deny food to the "three worms"---disease, old age, and death. Immortality can be achieved, Taoists have traditionally believed, by following this diet, by nourishing the enigmatic "embryonic body" force within the body and by avoiding ejaculation during sex which preserves the life-giving semen which in turn mixes with breath and nourishes the body and the brain.

The aim of the Taoist diet is to change the composition of the body from flesh into durable airy material associated with long life. In the old days, this diet often included things like jade, gold, cinnabar (ore from mercury is derived) and certain flowers. Special elixirs sometimes contained arsenic and mercury. The inventors of many potions died prematurely from taking their attempts to prolong their life.

Many Taoist believed that the best material for prolonging life was air and aimed to take in a variety of different kinds of air---from the four season, from the sea and from the mountains---often accompanied by breathing exercises. “Air eating” was believed to make people able to ride the clouds and use dragons for horses. Among the other methods that were tried were throwing oneself into a fire and attempting to achieve immortality as a flame.

A great deal of time and energy was put into concocting elixirs of immortality and finding ingredients for them. One passage on the subject from an ancient text read: “For transforming gold, melting jade, using talismans, and preparing water, efficacious recipes and marvelous formulas exist by thousands and tens of thousands, The best are said to produce feathers for flying to heaven; the next best are said to dissipate calamity and exterminate disaster."

Immortality Elixirs


White rabbit making an elixir of immortality

Fabrizio Pregadio wrote: “After the methods of making the elixirs, the Taiqing texts describe the benefits that they afford. The Taiqing alchemical medicines were valued for two main reasons. First, they granted transcendence and immortality; second, they made it possible — even with no need of ingesting them — to summon benevolent gods and expel demons and other causes of various disturbances, including illness and death. [Source: Fabrizio Pregadio is a Sinologist and a translator of Chinese language texts into English related to Taoism and Neidan (Internal Alchemy) and guest professor of Daoist Anthropology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. He is author of “Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, a book which examines extensively the religious aspects of Chinese alchemy, focusing on the relation of alchemy to the Daoist traditions of the early medieval period (3rd to 6th centuries) goldenelixir.com ]

According to the “Book of the Nine Elixirs”: “ All those who want to live a long life, but do not obtain the Divine Elixirs (shendan) and the Golden Liquor (jinye), merely bring suffering upon themselves. Practising breathing and daoyin, exhaling the old and inhaling the new breath, and ingesting medicines of herbs and plants can extend the length of one's life, but does not allow one to escape death. When a man ingests the Divine Elixirs, he becomes a divine immortal and transcends the generations [of mortals]. [Source:“Book of the Nine Elixirs” (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1; translated by Fabrizio Pregadio in “Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, Stanford University Press, 2006, p: 159-60, goldenelixir.com ==]

“If you take one ounce each of Gold Water (i.e., Golden Liquor) and Mercury Water, and drink them facing the sun, you immediately will become a Golden Man (jinren). Your body will be radiant and will grow feathers and wings. On high you will put in motion the Original Essence (yuanjing) on behalf of [the God of] the Central Yellow (Zhonghuang) and of the Great One (Taiyi).(1) If you drink half an ounce each of Gold Water [and Mercury Water], you will live a long life without end...You will travel through the air in any direction, and enter and exit the world without interruption. Nobody will be able to hold or restrain you: one moment you will be sitting, and then you will rise up and disappear. Lightly you will ascend riding the clouds, and rise to heaven. [(1) The commentary explains this saying that one becomes a "celestial spirit" (tianshen) and helps to regulate the Celestial Breath (tianqi) smoothly according to the sequence of the four seasons. [Source: Scripture of the Golden Liquor (Baopu zi shenxian jinzhuo jing, chapter 1. Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, 191] ==

According to the “Book of the Reverted Elixirs in Nine Cycles”: “Two ounces form one dose. Ingest it at dawn with fereshly drawn pure water, facing the sun. You will be able to dissolve your form becoming invisible and to fly soaring to the Great Void (taixu). An envoy of the Great Ultimate will welcome you with the Golden Elixir and the Winged-wheel [Chariot] (yulun). You will multiply your form and transform your shadow, making them into thousands of white cranes. You will rise to [the heaven] of Great Tenuity (Taiwei) and will receive the rank of a True Immortal (zhenxian). Your longevity will equal that of the Three Luminaries (i.e., the sun, the moon, and the planets); you will revert to youth and move away from old age. Your complexion will shine like jade, and in one instant you will obtain a radiant spiritual force (yaoling). Such indeed is the power of the Reverted Elixir in Nine Cycles. [Source:“Book of the Reverted Elixirs in Nine Cycles” (Jiuzhuan huandan jing yaojue). Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, 197] ==

Summoning the Gods and Expelling Demons with an Elixir


White rabbit making an elixir of immortality on the head of a dragon

According to the “Book of the Nine Elixirs”: “After you ingest this elixir for one hundred days, the divine immortals will give you their welcome. Jade Men, Jade Women, Jade Lads, the Ministers of the Mountains and the Officers of the Moorlands will become your attendants, appearing in human form. [Source: Book of the Nine Elixirs (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1. translated by Fabrizio Pregadio; “Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China” by Fabrizio Pregadio,Stanford University Press, 2006, 181-187, goldenelixir.com ==]

“In two hundred days you will rise to heaven and enter the earth, and the immortals will become your attendants. In one year the Great One (Taiyi) will welcome you in a chariot of clouds pulled by dragons and horses. The ten thousand gods will become your attendants and offer protection, and the Jade Women will be at your service. The divine immortals will welcome you, and you will rise to heaven. The hundred demons, the Gods of Soil and Grain (Sheji), the Count of the Wind (Fengbo), and the Master of Rain (Yushi) will welcome you, and you will have them at your service. Gods and demons will become your attendants and offer protection, and you will have them at your service. The Jade Women will become your attendants. The Director of Destinies (Siming) will delete your name from the records of the dead (siji) and enter it in the registers of immortality (xianlu).” ==

“Ingesting this Medicine for one hundred days, the Three Corpses (sanshi) and the Nine Worms (jiuchong) will be destroyed, and you will live a long life free from death. If you want to keep away the five sorts of weapons, you should carry [the Divine Elixir] at your belt. Divine beings will offer their protection and keep the weapons away. If you smear the eyes of a person or the walls of a city with the Reverted Elixir, the hundred demons will flee. [Source: “Book of the Nine Elixirs” (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1. Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, 177-186 ==]

“If you walk keeping in your hand one pill [of the Fixed Elixir] of the size of a date stone, the hundred demons will be exterminated..... This elixir will also keep off thieves and robbers, and even tigers and wolves will run away. If a woman who lives alone keeps one pill the size of a large bean in her hand, the hundred demons, thieves, and robbers will flee and dare not come near her. Marking the doors with the Fixed Elixir, the hundred calamities, the myriad sprites, and the chimei and wangliang demons will dare not come before you.” ==

Divine Pills and Pellets for Expelling the Demons


According to the “Book of the Reverted Elixirs in Nine Cycles”: “Take the residue of the elixir from the crucible, mix it, and pound it fifty thousand times. Add some sugar or honey to it, and make it into pills the size of kola nuts. These are the Divine Pills of the Great Ultimate for Reverting to Life. If you place two of these pills in the mouth of those who have died no more than three days earlier, and make them ingest those pills with freshly drawn water, they will come back to life. If the Divine Pills are given to those who suffer loss or injury, or who have become blind or deaf, they will revert to their previous condition. If you have an internal ailment, ingest a couple of pills; if the ailment is an outer one, pulverize two pills and apply the powder by rubbing. You will heal in a short time. One can easily heal any illness in this way. [Source:“Book of the Reverted Elixirs in Nine Cycles” (Jiuzhuan huandan jing yaojue); translated by Fabrizio Pregadio; “Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China” by Fabrizio Pregadio,Stanford University Press, 2006, p.198, goldenelixir.com ==]

According to the “Book of Great Clarity”: “Method for making the Pellet for Expelling the Demons: Take equal quantities of cinnabar, realgar, orpiment, tortoise shell, black veratrum root, peach pits, aconite tuber collected in spring, aconite tuber collected in autumn, great bulb of pinellia tuberifera, poison ivy, sulphur, croton seed, fresh rhinoceros horn, umbrella leaf, musk, spindle tree wings, and dried centipedes. Pound these seventeen ingredients and sieve them, mix them with the juice of anise follicles, and make pellets the size of the yolk of a hen's egg. When you compound the medicines of immortality, hang one pellet within the four walls [of the Chamber]. If you burn one pellet, the hundred demons will run away. If you burn another pellet, you will kill all of them. Keep this method secret, as it is very effective! [Source:“Book of Great Clarity” (Taiqing jing tianshi koujue). Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, 88 ==]

Rituals Involved in Taking Elixirs

Fabrizio Pregadio wrote: “In the Taiqing tradition, compounding an elixir is part of a larger process that consists of several stages, each of which is marked by the performance of rites and ceremonies. It is this process, and not merely heating the ingredients in the crucible, that constitutes the alchemical practice. Receiving the scriptures and the oral instructions, building the laboratory, kindling the fire, and ingesting the elixirs all require offering pledges to one's master and to the gods, observing rules on seclusion and purification, performing ceremonies to establish and protect the ritual area, and making invocations to the highest deities. Instead of being seen as mere appendages to the alchemical work, these ritual acts are deemed to be as essential to achieving an elixir as are the ingredients. [Source: Fabrizio Pregadio goldenelixir.com ++]

“Rules for the transmission: Throw a golden figurine of a man weighing nine ounces and a golden figurine of a fish weighing three ounces into an east-flowing stream, and utter an oath. Both should be provided by the one who receives this Way. Before this, undertake the purification practices and perform the ablutions. On the banks of the stream, in a place unfrequented by other people, arrange a seat for the Mysterious Woman (Xuannü).(1) Burn some incense and announce to Heaven: "I wish to transmit the Way to obtain a long life to (name of the recipient)!" Lay the Book of the Elixirs on a stand, and place the seat [for the Mysterious Woman] there. When you are ready to transmit the Way, face north and do not disclose it for one [double] hour. If the sky is clear and there is no wind, the Way can be transmitted. [Master and disciple] seal their covenant by drinking together some blood of a white chicken. Transmit the oral instructions and the essentials of the compounding of the elixirs, and throw the golden figurines of the man and the fish into the stream. This is done so that the multitudes of those who are not suited for becoming a divine immortal(2) never see this Way. ++

“(1) The Mysterious Woman is the goddess who revealed the Book of the Nine Elixirs to the Yellow Emperor. The seat is the place where the deity comes to observe the ceremony. ;(2) Literally, "those who do not have the bones of a Divine Immortal," that is, do not have an inner constitution fit to obtain immortality. [Source: Book of the Nine Elixirs (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1. Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, 161] ++


Xu Fu expedition for the elixer of life


Places to Take Elixirs

According to the “Book of the Nine Elixirs”: “When you want to compound the Divine Elixirs you should dwell in the depths of a mountain, in a wide moorland, or in a place deserted and uninhabited for endless miles. If you compound them among other people you should stay behind thick, high walls, so that nothing can be seen between the inside and the outside. Your companions should not number more than two or three. [Source: “Book of the Nine Elixirs” (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1; translated by Fabrizio Pregadio in“Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, Stanford University Press, 2006, p 161-62 and 163, goldenelixir.com ==]

“First undertake the purification practices for seven days, and increase your purity with ablutions and the five fragrances. Do not pass by filth and dirt, or by houses where mourning is being observed, or by houses inhabited by women of the age of marriage.... When you compound the Divine Medicines, beware of intercourse with common and dull people. Do not let the envious, those who talk too much, and those who do not have faith in this Way hear or know about it. If they do, the compounding of the Divine Medicines would not be successful. ==

According to the “Book of Great Clarity”: When you compound the great medicines, you should always stay in a quiet place in the mountain forests. Build the Chamber of the Great Medicines and hang four swords at its four sides. Then make the Pellet for Expelling the Demons and the Talisman for Expelling the Demons. You should affix and hang them [inside the Chamber]; if you do not do so, when the time comes to compound the great medicines their essence and pneuma (jingqi) would be inhaled by the demons. This is why you should protect the medicines by driving away noxious demons and spirits. [Source:“Book of Great Clarity” (Taiqing jing tianshi koujue). Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, p 88. ==]

Preparing Elixirs

On building a laboratory to make elixirs the “Book of the Reverted Elixirs in Nine Cycles” says: “ Build the Chamber of the Divine Stove near an east-flowing stream. The Chamber should be forty feet long, twenty feet wide, and its foundation should be four feet from the ground. First dig the earth for a few feet; if you do not find an old well or a tomb, you can raise the foundation there. The Chamber should have three doors, facing south, east, and west. Place the stove in the center, with the mouth facing west. Arrange an iron stand inside the stove and set the crucible on it, so that it is nine inches from the walls of the stove. Cover the stove with bricks plastered with fine clay. [Source: “Book of the Reverted Elixirs in Nine Cycles” (Jiuzhuan huandan jing yaojue) translated by Fabrizio Pregadio in“Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, Stanford University Press, 2006, p 95-96 goldenelixir.com ==]


medieval Chinese science instruments

According to the “Book of the Nine Elixirs”: When you start the fire you should perform a ceremony beside the crucible. Take five pints of good quality white liquor, three pounds of dried ox meat, the same amount of dried mutton, two pints of yellow millet and rice, three pints of large dates, one peck of pears, thirty cooked chicken's eggs, and three carp, each weighing three pounds. Place them on three stands, and on each stand burn incense in two cups. Pay obeisance twice, and utter the following invocation: "This petty man, (name of the officiant), verily and entirely devotes his thoughts to the Great Lord of the Dao (Da Daojun), Lord Lao (Laojun), and the Lord of the Great Harmony (Taihe jun). Alas, this petty man, (name of the officiant), covets the Medicines of Life! Lead him so that the Medicines will not volatilize and be lost, but rather be fixed by fire! Let the Medicines be good and efficacious, let the transmutations take place without hesitation, and let the Yellow and the White be entirely fixed! When he ingests the Medicines, let him fly as an immortal, have audience at the Purple Palace (Zigong), live an unending life, and become an accomplished man (zhiren)!"(1) Offer the liquor, rise, and pay obeisance two more times. Finally offer kaya nuts, mandarins and pomelos. After that, the fire may be started according to the method. (1) The Purple Palace is in the constellation of the Northern Dipper, at the center of the cosmos. [Source:“Book of the Nine Elixirs” (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1. Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, 163-64.

“To prepare the Medicines, the fifth day of the fifth month is most auspicious, followed by the seventh day of the seventh month. It is good to start on a jiazi or a dingsi day, or on a day of Opening (kai) or Removal (chu).(1) The next best are the jiashen, yisi, or yimao days. The days on which the preparation of the Medicines is forbidden are: 1) in spring, wuchen and jisi; 2) in summer, dingsi, wushen, renchen, and jiwei; 3) in autumn, wuxu, xinhai, and gengzi; 4) in winter, wuyin, jiwei, guimao, and guiyou. [Source: Book of the Nine Elixirs (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1. Translation published in Pregadio, Great Clarity, 162-63==]

“The day of the Killer of the Month (yuesha), the days in which the Branch (zhi) and the Stem (gan) are in opposition, the day of Receiving (shou) as well as the renwu, bingxu, guihai, and xinsi days in the first, second, and third month of each season, the day of the Establishment (yuejian), and those of new and full moon, are all inauspicious and cannot be used for starting the fire.(2) ==

(1) In the jianchu (Establishment and Removal) hemerological system, the days of Opening and Removal are the second and the eleventh, respectively, in the twelve-day cycle that begins on a day of Establishment. The day of Establishment is marked by the same Earthly Branch as the current month; (2) For the sentence on the Branches of Earth and the Stems of Heaven (tiangan) I follow the reading of the corresponding passage in Taiqing jinye shendan jing, 1.4a-b. The Killer of the Month is a calendrical demon active on different days according to the current month. In the eleventh month (zi) he is on the Branch wei, in the twelfth month (chou) he is on chen, in the first month (yin) he is on chou, and so forth. A day of Receiving is the tenth in the twelve-day cycle that begins on a day of Establishment. ==

Consecrating and Ingesting the Elixir


According to the “Baopu zi”: “After you achieve gold, take one hundred pounds of it and arrange a major ceremony. For the procedure there is a separate scroll, but this is not the same ceremony as the one performed for compounding [the elixirs of] the Nine Tripods. For this ceremony you separately weigh and arrange different quantities of gold. [Source: Baopu zi, chapter 4, translated by Fabrizio Pregadio in“Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, Stanford University Press, 2006, p. 98 goldenelixir.com ==]

“You offer: 1) twenty pounds to Heaven; 2) five pounds to the Sun and the Moon; 3) eight pounds to the Northern Dipper; 4) eight pounds to the Great One (Taiyi); 5) five pounds to the god of the well; 6) five pounds to the god of the stove; 7) twelve pounds to the Count of the River (Hebo); 8) five pounds to the god of the soil; 9) five pounds each to the spirits and the divinities of the doors, of the house, of the village, and to the Lord of Clarity (Qingjun); 10 ) This makes eighty-eight pounds altogether. With the remaining twelve pounds, fill a beautiful leather bag, and on an auspicious day silently leave it in a very crowded spot of the city market, in the peak hour. Then leave without turning back. ==

“When you want to ingest the Medicine, undertake the purification practices, observe the precepts, and perform the ablutions for five times seven days. At dawn, burning some incense, kneel down and pay obeisance facing east. Ingest the Medicine in pills the size of large grains of millet, or of small beans.” ==

Methods of Making Elixirs

According to the “Book of the Nine Elixirs”: The Yellow Emperor said: When you want to make the Divine Elixirs, you should always first prepare the Mysterious and Yellow (xuanhuang)... Method of the Mysterious and Yellow. Take ten pounds of quicksilver and twenty pounds of lead. Place them in an iron vessel, making the fire underneath intense. The lead and the quicksilver will breathe out their Essence and Flower (jinghua), which will be purple or like gold in color. Gather and collect it with an iron spoon. This is the Mysterious and Yellow; some call it Yellow Essence (huangjing), others Yellow Sprouts (huangya), and others Yellow and Weightless (huangqing). Place this Medicine in a bamboo cylinder, steam it one hundred times, and sublimate it with aqueous solutions of realgar and cinnabar.[Source: “Book of the Nine Elixirs” (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1translated by Fabrizio Pregadio in“Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, Stanford University Press, 2006, p. 164-65.goldenelixir.com ==]


“[The Yellow Emperor] said: You should also prepare the Mud of the Six-and-One (liuyi ni)....Method of the Mud. Use alum, Turkestan salt, lake salt, and arsenolite, heating them first for twenty days; also use left-oriented oyster shells from Donghai, [In present-day Shandong], red clay, and talc. Take the desired amount of these seven substances in equal parts, and pound them together ten thousand times until they become powder-like. Place them together in an iron vessel, and heat them for nine days and nine nights, making the fire underneath intense. When the Medicines take on a vivid scarlet color like fire, pound them again ten thousand times. Sift them through a piece of thin silk, and add them to a hundred-day Flowery Pond (huachi) [An acetic bath used to soak the ingredients before they are used], forming a mud. ==

“When you start [compounding the elixirs], use this mud to lute a scarlet earthenware crucible holding eight or nine pints, or at most one peck. Smear the crucible with the mud both inside and outside, making each layer three tenths of an inch thick, and let it dry in the sun for ten days. Then take some white lead and heat it until it becomes golden. Place it in a hundred-day Flowery Pond with an equal amount of the Mysterious and Yellow prepared earlier. Lute [again] the crucible with this compound, both inside and outside, making each layer three tenths of an inch thick. Leave the crucible in the sun for ten days so that it becomes completely dry, whereupon you use it to sublimate the Flower of Cinnabar (danhua). [The Flower of Cinnabar is the first of the Nine Elixirs] ==

Making the Elixir in Pellet (Erdan)

According to the “Book of the Nine Elixirs”: The Fifth Divine Elixir is called Elixir in Pellet (erdan). Take one pound of mercury, and put it in a crucible of the Six-and-One.(1) Then take one pound of Imperial Man (realgar), pound it until it becomes powder-like, and cover the mercury with it. Then take one pound of Leftovers of the Food of Yu (hematite), pound it until it becomes powder-like, and cover the Imperial Man with it. Close the crucible with another crucible of the Six-and-One, seal the joints luting them with the Mud of the Six-and-One, and let it dry. [(1) i.e., a crucible luted with the Mud of the Six-and-One, whose recipe is translated above] [Source: “Book of the Nine Elixirs” (Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue, chapter 1translated by Fabrizio Pregadio in“Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, Stanford University Press, 2006, p. 164-65.goldenelixir.com ==]


Place the crucible over a fire of horse manure or chaff for nine days and nine nights. Extinguish the fire, and place the crucible over a fire of charcoal for nine days and nine nights. Extinguish the fire, let the crucible cool for one day and open it. The Medicine will have entirely sublimated, and will adhere to the upper crucible. It will be similar to frost and snow. Brushing with a feather, collect it, and add to it equal quantities of Grease of Dragons, and of Celestial Male (aconite) from Mount Shaoshi. [The commentary explains that the Grease of Dragons, longgao, is usually obtained by leaving seven worms under salt in a vessel. However, says the text, since killing small creatures for one's own benefit goes against the principles of benevolence (ren) and sympathy (ceyin), the term longgao can also be understood as xilong gao (Fat of the Western Dragons), which is a secret name of the dew collected on mulberry trees. — Mount Shaoshi is in present-day Henan.]

After ingesting a speck of this elixir for thirty days, a chick will grow wings and become a flying immortal.(3) The ten thousand gods will become your attendants and offer protection, and the Jade Women will be at your service. The divine immortals will welcome you, and you will rise to heaven. The hundred demons, the Gods of Soil and Grain (Sheji), the Count of the Wind (Fengbo), and the Master of Rain (Yushi) will welcome you, and you will have them at your service. [(3) The growth of wings is a metaphor for the acquirement of immortality.]

Preparing the Elixirs of the Nine Radiances

According to the “Baopu zi”: To prepare [the Elixirs of the Nine Radiances], heat together and transmute the Five Minerals: cinnabar, realgar, alum, laminar malachite, and magnetite. Each mineral is submitted to five transmutations, and each transmutation produces five colors. There are five minerals and therefore twenty-five colors. [Source: Baopu zi, chapter 4 translated by Fabrizio Pregadio in“Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China”, Stanford University Press, 2006, p 132-33., goldenelixir.com ==]


Take one ounce of each color and place it in a separate vessel. To revive a dead person, provided that no more than three days have passed since his or her death, take a speck of the green elixir, mix it with water, and wash the dead person with it, also placing a speck in his or her mouth; that person will immediately return to life. If you want to summon the Traveling Cuisine (xingchu),(1) take a speck of the black elixir, mix it with water, and spread your left hand with it. Just name what you wish and it will appear of itself; thus you will be able to summon anything in the world. [(1) "Traveling Cuisine" denotes a banquet of supernatural foods offered to the adept by the gods.] ==

“If you want to make yourself invisible, or to know beforehand what has yet to happen, or to stop the years without getting old, ingest a speck of the yellow elixir and you will obtain a long life without death. You will see one thousand miles away while sitting, and will know good and bad luck as if everything is before your eyes; you will know the fate of other people with their well-being or failures, their longevity or early death, their riches and honors or their poverty and privation. The method for compounding [the Elixirs of the Nine Radiances] is in the second of the three scrolls of the Book of Great Clarity.” ==

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons,

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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