The secrets of Taoist Internal Alchemy often elude those grasping for their meanings in such ancient classics as the Zhou Yi Canton Qi or the Wu Zhen Pian. Without direct transmission from a lineage teacher, progress for these seekers is nearly impossible. Even among those dedicated disciples studying the closely guarded oral teachings, rare is the one who will truly understand the key concepts and principles of the practice.
Liu Yiming (1734-1821) must have had great sympathy for his students when he wrote the Xiuzhen Houbian (ca. 1798) for he explains in relatively plain language the most important principles and [...]
“Studying the classic Taoist texts is important for every serious student of Nei Dan. Our teachers transmit the methods of cultivating Ming (命) or Life, but it is up to us to cultivate our own Xing (性) or Nature. The classics not only connect us to our lineage, their richly layered imagery, symbolism, and seeming inherent contradictions assist us in cultivating both Xing and Ming. Through our efforts in personal transformation and diligent practice of the cultivation methods of our schools we transcend the mundane and progress ever closer to immortality (仙, Xian).”
Interpreting the Ancient Codes Back Cover
Fabrizio Pregadio, one of the foremost translators of Taoist Alchemy classics, answers several question about his work translating some of the most important texts of Nei Dan. Here is a selection of questions and his answers from the interview. The full interview can be found in the paper Interpreting the Ancient Codes available as a free download from TCCII.
Q: How did you become interested in Taoism and Taoist alchemy?
A: I was, and I still am, delighted by how Taoism represents the relation between the absolute principle (the Dao) and its manifestation in the world in which we live, [...]
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 [...]
Turtle and Snake, symbols of Wudang Mountain Taoism. From TCCII Journey to China
Today our group began their studies with Master Wang Li Sheng, a Longmen Daoist Priest and Xin Yi master who lives on Wu Dang Shan (武當山). He taught the original Wudang Daoist version of the Eight Pieces of Brocade called Shen Gong Ba Duan Jin. He taught the internal aspects of it well as it relevance to Yang Sheng (Life nourishing). Throughout the day he discussed Taoist beliefs, practices and history.
Lunch at our hotel was fabulous. The food was very simple, but all the ingredients [...]
Bai Yun Guan, or White Cloud Temple (白云观) is one of the most important Taoist temples in China. This temple is the seat of the Long Men sect of Daoism. Our teacher, Chen Yang guided the group through the temple providing details on history and Taoism. The group was very interested in the philosophy and approach of Taoist cultivation, particularly the concept of Taoist Immortality (仙). Dr. Chen joined us on the way to the airport for an interesting Q&A session which compared Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity.
Our flight to Xian was uneventful, except that four of our party [...]
Question: What are the major schools of Internal Alchemy?
A: There are many different lineages of Nei Dan which are generally grouped in a few categories: The major Nei Dan (內丹) schools include the Southern (南派, Nan Pai), Northern (北派, Bei Pai), Eastern (東派, Dong Pai), Western (西派, Xi Pai), Yin Xian (隱仙派) and the Yin-Yang (阴阳派).
Although the general principles utilized by the various schools and lineages are similar, there is often quite a bit of variation in the specific practices. This is because the specific techniques are often tailored to the needs of an individual student.
Question: I’ve read the theory of Internal Alchemy and Immortality. How can anyone prove it?
Internal Alchemy does not rely on the theory-proof model as it is commonly understood in the West. It is accepted by its serious practitioners that the methods and practices of Nei Dan were empirically validated by previous masters. For this reason, the teacher’s role is not to prove, but rather to transmit. It is the student’s responsibility to validate the training for himself. That is, you are not required to believe it to be true, but to practice the methods and experience them for [...]