Masters and Texts of Taoist Alchemy

Internal Alchemy (Neidan)

Chrome bullet   Liu Yiming (1734-1821)

Few other masters have illustrated the relation between Taoism and Internal Alchemy as clearly as Liu Yiming does in his Cultivating the Tao (original title: Xiuzhen houbian). Grafting Internal Alchemy into the teachings of the Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue) and of the later Taoist tradition, he shows how the Way of the Golden Elixir can lead to the highest state of realization according to the Taoist principles.

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

Under an allusive poetical language and thick layers of images and symbols, the Cantong qi (Seal of the Unity of the Three) hides the exposition of the teaching that gave origin to Taoist Internal Alchemy (Neidan).

Chrome bullet   Awakening to Reality (Wuzhen pian)

The Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality) is one of the most important and best-known Taoist alchemical texts. Written in the 11th century, it describes in a poetical form, and in a typically cryptic and allusive language, several facets of Neidan (Internal Alchemy).

Chrome bullet   Mirror for Compounding the Medicine (Ruyao jing)

Originally written in the 10th century, the Ruyao jing (Mirror for Compounding the Medicine) describes the foundations of Internal Alchemy in 20 short poems of four verses.

Chrome bullet   Other Masters and Texts of Internal Alchemy

Short selections from other alchemical texts:

The Dragon and the Tiger (Li Daochun)
Essence, Breath, and Spirit (Chen Zhixu)
Alchemical Metaphors (Xiao Tianzhi)
The Realized State (Weng Baoguang)
The Alchemical Embryo (Wu Shouyang)

External Alchemy (Waidan)

Chrome bullet   Rituals

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.

Chrome bullet   Methods

These selections exemplify the technical features of the early Taiqing texts, which give details on the preliminary treatment of the ingredients, the preparation of the crucible, the heating process, and the collection of the elixir.

Chrome bullet   Benefits of the Elixirs

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.