The World Upside Down

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The World Upside Down

Essays on Taoist Internal Alchemy

Isabelle Robinet

Edited and translated by Fabrizio Pregadio


viii + 129 pp.
Golden Elixir Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9843082-6-2

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This book contains four essays on Internal Alchemy by Isabelle Robinet, originally published in French and translated here for the first time into English. The essays are concerned with:

(1) The alchemical principle of "inversion"

(2) The devices used by the alchemists to "give form to the Formless by the word, and thus manifest the authentic and absolute Dao"

(3) The symbolic function of numbers in Taoism and in Internal Alchemy

(4) The original meanings of the terms External Elixir (waidan) and Internal Elixir (neidan)

Isabelle Robinet (1932-2000) was one of the main Western scholars of Taoism. Her work dealt with several major subjects: the Laozi and the Zhuangzi with their commentaries; the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) school of Taoism; Neidan (Internal Alchemy); and Taoist thought and cosmology. Her publications in English include Taoist Meditation: The Mao-shan Tradition of Great Purity (1993) and Taoism: Growth of a Religion (1997).

Acknowledgements, vii

1. The World Upside Down in Taoist Internal Alchemy, 1
2. The Alchemical Language, or the Effort to Say the Contradictory, 17
3. Role and Meaning of Numbers in Taoist Cosmology and Alchemy, 45
4. On the Meaning of the Terms Waidan and Neidan, 75

Tables and Pictures, 103
Appendix: Works by Isabelle Robinet, 113
Glossary of Chinese Characters, 117
Works Quoted, 123


Chrome bullet Original Titles:

• "Le monde à l'envers dans l'alchimie intérieure taoïste," Revue de l'Histoire des Religions 209 (1992): 239-57. English translation published with the permission of the Collège de France. [Free online version.]

• "Mystique et rationalité: Le langage dans l'alchimie intérieure taoïste ou l'effort pour dire le contradictoire," Asiatische Studien / Études asiatiques 47 (1993): 645-62. English translation published with the permission of the Schweizerische Asiengesellschaft.

• "Le rôle et le sens des nombres dans la cosmologie et l'alchimie taoïstes," Extrême-Orient — Extrême-Occident 16 (1994): 93-120. English translation published with the permission of the Presses Universitaires de Vincennes. [Free online version.]

• "Sur le sens des termes waidan et neidan," Taoist Resources 3.1 (1991): 3-40. English translation published with the permission of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions.

Chrome bullet ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Cannot go wrong with Robinet. — Another Robinet excellent work. (A.V. - Read the original review)

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