Foundations of Internal Alchemy

The Taoist Practice of Neidan

Wang Mu


Foundations of Internal Alchemy

Edited and translated by Fabrizio Pregadio

viii + 144 pp.
Golden Elixir Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9843082-5-5

Paperback, US$ 16.95 ● € 13.95 ● GBP 10.95 (list price)
PDF, US$ 9.95 (list price)
Kindle, US$ 8.95 ● € 6.45 ● GBP 5.45 (list price)

Originally written for Chinese readers, this renowned book provides a clear description of the Taoist practice of Internal Alchemy, or Neidan. The author outlines the stages of the alchemical practice and clarifies several relevant terms and notions, including Essence, Breath, and Spirit; the Cinnabar Fields; the "Fire Phases"; and the Embryo. The book is based on the system of the Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality), one of the main sources of Internal Alchemy, and contains about two hundred quotations from original Taoist texts.

Wang Mu (1908-92) received the Longmen ordination in his youth. He taught Internal Alchemy (Neidan) and was held in high regard by both Taoist practitioners and scholars. He served as a board member of the China Taoist Association and was for some time in charge of its research activities. He is known outside China mainly for his annotated edition of the Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality), the text at the basis of the outline of Internal Alchemy that he provides in the present book.

Originally published as "Wuzhen pian danfa yaozhi" 「悟真篇」丹法要旨

PDF sample (68 pages)
Online slideshow
The Four Stages (web page)
"Laying the Foundations" (web page)
"Superior Virtue" and "Inferior Virtue" (web page)
The Three Barriers (web page)

Readers' Reviews

▶ " . . .  after reading about half of Foundations I can say I have never met a clearer and more useful book in this very difficult and intricate field." (Email from a Reader)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Excellent!!!. — I've pratice nei dan and qigong for several years, but this book change my mind and my qigong forever. Great! (C.G. de B.J. - Read the original review)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Masterwork of Alchemy and Qigong. — . . . .  I have been a practitioner of Daoist inner alchemy and Qigong for about 20 years, and this is the type of book I wish I had when I first started learning. The descriptions are very detailed and broken down clearly into the various stages of cultivation. The translation is extremely well done and the author includes the relevant key Chinese terms in pinyin romanization and original complex Chinese characters for those interested in that as a reference.. (H. McC. - Read the original review)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ This is a really interesting book on internal cultivation. I appreciate the efforts of the author to break down many of the metaphors found in internal alchemy texts and to help simplify the intellectual side of these techniques. It is also very good that he stresses the practice of neidan. This is something that must be experienced rather than read, but this book is a good start to help simplify the intellectual foundation of that practice. (F. - Read the original review)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ The best!. — There is profound scholarship behind everyone of Pregadio's books but it's his ability to make accessible these complicated and sometimes ineffable ideas that make these translations simply the best available. (T.C. - Read the original review)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Very good introduction to the theoretical side of Neidan (Daoist Alchemy). — This book will serve as a good foundation to learning about the theoretical side of Daoist Internal Alchemy. It explains key concepts from alchemical texts and has diagrams from all of Daoism's major theoretical systems in it's appendix such as different types of I Ching Hexagram arrangements and the 12 Earthly Branches and 10 Celestial Stems. (D."O". - Published on, apparently not available at present)


(For the complete Table of Contents, please download the PDF sample.)

Foreword, vii

     The Basis: Essence and Spirit, 3

     The Four Stages, 13
     "Laying the Foundations," 15
          Main Points in the Practice of "Laying the Foundations," 20
          The Functions of Essence, Breath, and Spirit, 36
          Terms Related to the "Coagulation of the Three Treasures," 52
          Conclusion of the Stage of "Laying the Foundations," 63
     "Refining Essence to Transmute it into Breath," 65
     "Refining Breath to Transmute it into Spirit," 99
     "Refining Spirit to Return to Emptiness," 109

     The "Arts of the Way," 121

Tables, 123
Glossary of Chinese Characters, 133