The Seal of the Unity of the Three (Cantong qi)

Commentaries and Editions (Part 5)

Fabrizio Pregadio

These materials on the The Seal of the Unity of the Three, the main text of Taoist Internal Alchemy, are selected from:

Cantong qi: The Seal of the Unity of the Three, vol. 2

The Seal of the Unity of the Three. Vol. 2 — Bibliographic Studies on the Cantong qi: Commentaries, Essays, and Related Works

Fabrizio Pregadio
Golden Elixir Press, 2011

Part 1 of this book contains a bibliographic catalogue of about 150 extant and lost commentaries, essays, and other works related to the Cantong qi, with details on authors, dates, editions, and reprints. Part 2 contains a survey of the textual tradition of the Cantong qi, focused on the composition and contents of about 40 major texts.

Chrome bullet   This page is part of a series on the Seal of the Unity of the Three. See the complete index.

NOTE: This article contains notes on 28 of the 34 extant premodern commentaries of The Seal of the Unity of the Three. Commentaries are numbered according to numeration found in The Seal of the Unity of the Three, Vol. 2.

(20) Zhu Yuanyu 朱元育 (fl. 1657-69)

Cantong qi, Commentary by Zhu Yuanyu (Daozang jiyao, original ed., ca. 1800)

Daozang jiyao, original ed.
(ca. 1800)

Cantong qi chanyou 參同契闡幽, 1669

Uncovering the Obscurities of The Seal of the Unity of the Three

Zhu Yuanyu's commentary to the Cantong qi is signed with the appellation "Disciple of the Longmen branch of the Northern Lineage."

Zhu Yuanyu rejects the arrangement of the "Ancient Text." His edition is divided into three Books (pian). Each of the first two Books is divided into three "chapters" (juan), and each chapter deals with one subject: government (i.e., the portions on cosmology that include advice to the ruler), self-cultivation, and alchemy. Book 3 combines these three subjects. Despite Zhu Yuanyu's views, these subdivisions match in principle those at the basis of the "Ancient Text."

Zhu Yuanyu appears to have known Chen Zhixu's and Zhu Xi's redactions (nos. 9 and 4 above, respectively), but his text includes several peculiarities not found in earlier works on the Cantong qi.

The commentary was first published by the Tiande tang 天德堂 in 1721. One page is reproduced here from original edition of the Daozang jiyao 道藏輯要, published ca. 1800 (exemplar preserved at the Kyōto Daigaku Jinbun Kagaku Kenkyūjo 京都大學人文科學研究, Institute for Research in the Humanities, Kyoto University).

Book IconThe Seal of the Unity of the Three, Vol. 2, pages 61-63 and 173-74

(22) Tao Susi 陶素耜 (fl. 1700)

Cantong qi, Commentary by Tao Susi (Daoyan wuzhong ed., 1915)

Daoyan wuzhong ed., 1915

Zhouyi cantong qi maiwang 周易參同契脈望, 1700

The Essence of The Seal of the Unity of the Three

Tao Susi was employed in the Qing administration as Commissioner of Salt Distribution, but was soon dismissed. While he praises Chen Zhixu's, Lu Xixing's, and Qiu Zhao'ao's commentaries, he is especially critical of Yu Yan, whom he even accuses of "not knowing the Great Medicine of the Golden Elixir."

His text is divided into three Books (pian) and 40 sections, and is mainly based on the one found in Lu Xixing's commentary (no. 10-11 above). However, Tao Susi differs from Lu Xixing in certain details.

This page is reproduced from the 1915 edition of the Daoyan wuzhong 道言五種, first published in 1700 or 1701 and republished several times. This edition contains additional notes printed on top of the page (dingpi 頂批) by Yuxi zi 玉溪子 (identity unknown).

Book IconThe Seal of the Unity of the Three, Vol. 2, pages 64-65 and 175

(23) Li Guangdi 李光地 (1642-1718)

Cantong qi, Commentary by Li Guangdi (Anxi Li Wenzhen gong jieyi sanzhong ed., 1719)

Anxi Li Wenzhen gong jieyi sanzhong
ed., 1719

Cantong qi zhangju 參同契章句, ca. 1700

The Seal of the Unity of the Three Divided into Sections and Sentences

The classicist Li Guangdi held several important offices in the Qing administration, and also served in the editorial boards for the compilation of imperially-sponsored editions of the Book of Changes and of Zhu Xi's works.

In Li Guangdi's view, the Cantong qi consists of two main parts. The first part, corresponding to Book 1, is the Cantong qi proper. The second part, corresponding to Book 2, is the San xianglei 三相類 (Three Categories). The remaining portions, corresponding to Book 3, consist of the end of the San xianglei and of the postfaces to both main parts.

Li Guangdi's text derives from Chen Zhixu's redaction (no. 9 above), but the format of Chen Zhixu's work is almost unrecognizable under the new arrangement created by Li Guangdi, which is made unique by further subdivisions, and by the relocation of several portions of the text.

This page is reproduced from the Anxi Li Wenzhen gong jieyi sanzhong 安溪李文貞公解義三種 edition (1719), reprinted in Siku quanshu cunmu congshu 四庫全書存目叢書, "Zi" 子, vol. 257 (Jinan: Qi-Lu shushe, 1995).

Book IconThe Seal of the Unity of the Three, Vol. 2, pages 65-66 and 175-77

(24) Qiu Zhao'ao 仇兆鰲 (1638-1713)

Cantong qi, Commentary by Qiu Zhao'ao (Hecheng zhai ed., 1873)

Hecheng zhai ed., 1873

Guben zhouyi cantong qi jizhu 古本周易參同契集注, 1704

Collected Commentaries on the Ancient Version of The Seal of the Unity of the Three

Qiu Zhao'ao served the Qing administration for some time as Vice Minister in the Ministry of Personnel. In addition to his own annotations, his work quotes passages from sixteen earlier commentaries.

Although Qiu Zhao'ao preserves the basic threefold subdivision of the "Ancient Text" of the Cantong qi, he disagrees with the view that "Canon" and "Commentary" are divided into three main parts, respectively devoted to cosmology, Taoism, and alchemy, and reads the whole Cantong qi as a Neidan text. Since the arrangement into three parts is irrelevant to his views, he merely subdivides both the "Canon" and the "Commentary" into 18 sections, and relocates a large number of portions of text. This disrupts the carefully crafted ordering of the "Ancient Text," and disregards its very purpose.

Qiu Zhao'ao's work was first published in 1710. This page is reproduced from the reprint of the Hecheng zhai 合成齋 (1873) edition in the series Qigong yangsheng congshu 氣功養生叢書 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1989; repr. 1990).

Book IconThe Seal of the Unity of the Three, Vol. 2, pages 66-67 and 191-93

Back: Part 4

Next: Part 6