Zhou Yi Can Tong Qi Book Review

The Zhou Yi Can Tong Qi is one of the most important texts in the practice of Nei Dan, or Internal Alchemy. It correlates the three major classics of ancient China: The Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic), Yi Jing (I Ching or Book of Changes), and the Dao De Jing. This short text is richly layered with symbolic imagery which serves to conceal its meaning from the uninitiated. Fabrizio Pregadio presents a guide to deciphering this coded language in his The Seal of the Unity of Three: A Study and Translation of the Cantong Qi, the Source of the Taoist Way of the Golden Elixir published by Golden Elixir Press (2011). He intends the work to be useful for anyone with an interest in the study of the Golden Elixir. This includes both specialists in the field of Taoist studies and non-specialist readers.

Zhou Yi Can Tong Qi Original Scan

Zhouyi cantong qi zhujie 周易參同契注解 (Commentary and Explication of the Cantong qi), by Chen Zhixu 陳致虛 (1290-ca. 1368), composed in ca. 1330 — Jinling shufang 金陵書坊 edition, printed in 1484 — Exemplar kept at the Shanghai Library. Image courtesy of Fabrizio Pregadio. Used with permission.

Pregadio’s book consists of three major parts. The first part places the Can Tong Qi in its historical context, addresses issues of dating and authorship, and introduces concepts critical to understanding the coded language in the text. The second and most important part of the book renders a full translation of the classic text. The third part provides detailed commentary on the symbolic language and images used throughout the text. The book concludes with a few textual notes and series of useful tables and charts which summarize many of the key correspondences and symbols used in the text.

In the first part of the book, Pregadio challenges some of the long held views about composition and authorship of the text. This section of the book will be of interest to scholars and historians; however, anyone interested in the practice of Internal Alchemy would do well to read it. Readers will find that familiarity with the historical context of the classics aids greatly in understanding the text itself. He also offers a glimpse of the painstaking detective work required to produce a high quality translation. The first section concludes with an overview of the major themes and images found in the text. This section will be of special interest to those who read the text from the perspective of Internal Alchemy.

The complete book review can be found in the paper Interpreting the Ancient Codes available as a free download from TCCII.

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