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Author(s): Stephen Eskildsen
Source: Monumenta Serica, Vol. 49 (2001), pp. 1-31
Published by: Maney Publishing
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Serica ^ ^
49(2001): 1-31,£^



Stephen Eskildsen

Introduction 1
FirstCycle 4
SecondCycle 7
ThirdCycle 8
FourthCycle 11
FifthCycle 13
SixthCycle 15
SeventhCycle 18
EightCycle 21
NinthCycle 22
Conclusion 23
Bibliography 29
ChineseAbstract 31

This essaywill examinetheyogictheoryand regimendescribedin a Taoistinter-
nal alchemical(neidan fàft) textattributed to a ratherobscurefigurenamed
ChenPu $ttl·· This textis preservedin theDaozang ÜÜE (TaoistCanon) in two
versionsbearingdifferent titles.One versionis entitledChenxianshengneidan
jue β^ίΕΡ*]^^,1 and the otheris entitledCuixupian Igjüj^ (thusfromhere
on in mydiscussionI shall distinguish thetwo versionsby referring to theirti-
tles).2This textis of particularinterest
due to theunusualconcretenessof itsde-

1 DT 1085/7T743. The DT number

designatesthenumberunderwhichthetextis cataloguedin
Ren Jiyuiif&fà (ed.), Daozang tiyaoM.WMS:- The TT numberdesignatesthefascicleof the
Taoist Canon (Zhengtong daozang jEj&SifiÄ [Taiwan: Yiwen yinshuguan,1962 photoreprint
edition])in whichthetextis found.
2 This versionis
preservedin the seventeenth volume(juan) of the neidananthologyXiuzhen
shishui&M+ií (DT 262/1T122-131).It is notto be confusedwithan entirely different
pian (DT 1079/7T742)authoredby a muchmorefamous12thc. SouthernSong neidanmaster
namedChen Nan gjgfâj(teacherof Bai Yuchan ΟΞΕίβ). As ifto add to theconfusion,thecolo-
phonat thehead of our Cuixupian refersto itsauthoras "MasterNiwan,Chen Pu." "Niwan"
USA also happenedto be thesobriquetof Chen Nan. Thus we have twodifferent authorswith
thesame surnameand sobriquet,authoring two differentneidantextsthatbear thesame title.
One is in factled to suspectthatthecompilersof theXiuzhenshishuconfusedChen Pu with
Chen Nan, and thusmistakenly referredto himas "MasterNiwan" and entitledhis textCuixu

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2 Stephen Eskildsen

scriptionsand the uniqueness of its theoryand praxis. Chen xiansheng neidanjue

has a preface thatprovides us with our best clue for determiningthe date of the
The master'spersonalname(ming&) was Pu. His stylename{zi ψ) was Chong-
yongftyffi. He was a man of thelate Tang and earlyWudai periods(i.e., early
tenthcentury).3 Duringthe Wudai periodhe detachedhimselffromthe disorder
(thathad ensued withthecollapseof theTang Dynasty)and avoidedtheworld.He
enteredtheShu J§ region(Sichuan)and hidhimselfin Mt. Damian ^cffiUJin the
QingchengïÉf:$cmountainrange (Sichuan).4He receivedthe Tao fromMaster
ZhongliHjü; [in otherwords],he had the same teacheras did Lü Dongbin g
PX. The masterwas rareand distinguished in his talents,and was highand won-
drousin his virtuousdeeds. He accumulatedmeritformanyyears.I do notknow
how manyhundreds of yearsold he is at present.Sometimeshe comesoutintothe
world.He is of unusualpersonality, and takeshis pleasurein song and wine. In
the wuwuj%£f year (1078) of the Yuanfeng7c£ reignera he traveledto the
ZhangFangpingGong3f^ψ U (TaoistTemple)in Songcheng5fc$c,NanduIf ψ
(presentday Nanyangfgn; southof Luoyang^&Pi, HenanProvince).Due to his
advancedage he transmitted thetechniqueforconjoiningtheenergies,whichex-
tended lifespan for one ji *3 (twelveyears). He wanderedabout Nandu for
over half a year. Carryinga bottomlessearthenpot, he wanderedthe market-
places. Few peoplerecognizedwhohe was. The old rubeof Huainan#|j|i revered
and followedhim,at timestakingtutelageunderhim.The mastertookpityon him
and transmitted
due to his greatsincerity, to hima lessonon theinnerelixir.Thus,
it has been writtendown.The master'slessonon theinnerelixirpointsdirectlyat
themysterious passage. Throughninecyclesone accomplishestheTao. For each
cycle, a shortsong (duange fäfflOis firstrecited.Then its meaningis rendered
intoa "WangJiangnan"Hillf verse,in thehope thatitcan be easilyunderstood
bythosewho shallcomelaterto studytheWay ofTranscendence.5
The longevityascribedto Chen Pu here taxes our capacityforbelief,since he
wouldhave lived 200 yearsor moreif he, indeed,flourished in theearlytenth
century and was stillalive in 1078 to transmitthe textto the "rube of Huainan."
However,the"rube of Huainan" here seems to be theauthor of the prefacehim-
self,who was perhapsalso responsibleforputtingChen Pu's oral textintowrit-
ing. Thinkwhatone mayof thebaffling accountof Chen Pu's life,it seemsrea-
sonable accept 1078 or some time thereabout as thedate of thetext'sauthor-
ship. For reasonsthatshall be explainedlater,the contentsof the textare, in-
deed, suggestiveof authorship duringtheNorthern Song (960-1126), whennei-

pian. This suspicionis strengthenedby thefactthattheotherversionof our textbearsan en-

title,and does notreferto ChenPu as "MasterNiwan."
3 The datesforthe are (618-907) and (907-960).
Tang andtheWudairespectively
4 The mountains are near jsÈIP (about two hoursby bus). ActiveTaoist
Qingcheng Chengdu
monasteries can be foundthereeventoday.
5 Chen
xianshengneidanjue, Preface.

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 3

dan theoryand praxispresumably wouldhave been morelikelyto retaincharac-

of Tang and pre-TangTaoism.
The "MasterZhongli"referred to in theprefaceis undoubtedly thelegendary
Han immortal ZhongliQuan tÜHÄ·6 ^ü Dongbin(personalname,Yan §K so-
briquet,ChunyangMiPD» of course, is the much-fabled late Tang immortal.7
Various important neidan lineages - includingthe influential Quanzhen£J|
Schoolthatrose to prominence in thelate twelfthand earlythirteenth centuries-
claimedto have receivedtheirteachingsthroughthispair of immortals.Falla-
cious as one mightconsidersuchclaims,it wouldnotbe unreasonableto surmise
thatthe schoolsthatclaimedsuch provenanceshareda commonbody of theory
and praxisthattheyeach receivedthroughsome processless miraculous.One
mightthenexpectourtextto be to a largeextentconsistent withtheoriesfoundin
textssuch as Zhong-Liichuandaoji ÜSffil^,8 Lingbao bifa SA#ÍÍ>9 and
XishanqunxianhuizhenjiHLil^fllj#ÄpE10 (forsake of convenienceI shall re-
ferto thesethreetextsas the"Zhong-Lütexts")- influential textsof similardate
thatin some way or otherare thoughtto bear a connectionwiththe legacyof
ZhongliQuan and Lü Yan, and whichleftconsiderableimpacton theQuanzhen
School. However,our textdiffersgreatlyfromall such texts,particularly in its
viewson physiological processesand itsunderstanding as to whatconstitutes im-
mortality.Most notably,it claims that theadept'sentirephysical body will trans-
formintoan immortal, transgendered, fetus-like
6 he is said to have been a gov-
is a fictionalcharacter,
AlthoughZhongliQuan almostcertainly
ernment officialand militarygeneralduringtheend of theHan Dynastyand thebeginningof
theWesternJinDynasty(i.e., thirdcentury A.D.). Accountsof his lifeare foundinLishizhen-
xian tidaotongjianffitttÄilliftilÄigi» Jinlianzhengzongji&ΜΊΕπ$ΪΖ andJinlianzhengzong
7 Lü
Dongbinis probablythemostreveredTaoistimmortal fromtheSong periodonward.While
his historicity
is uncertain,hagiographical recordsindicatethathe was bornat theend of the
eighthcentury.Various internalalchemicalwritingsare supposedto have come throughhis
hands,and hagiographies are fullof his miraculousfeats.He is also an important deityamong
popularspirit-writing cults. Chunyangdijun shenhuamiaotongji ^ffi^fqttft^üaS, an
early14thc. text,recordsin detailhis conversionand tutelageunderZhongliQuan, and pre-
sentsover a hundredstoriesof his subsequentmiraclesand exploits.Accountsof his lifeare
also giveninLishizhenxiantidaotongjian,JinlianzhengzongjiandJinlianzhengzong xianyuan
xiangzhuan.Also see FarzeenBaldrian-Hussein, "Lü Tung-pinin Northern Sung Literature,"
and Paul Katz, Images of theImmortal:The CultofLU Dongbinat thePalace of EternalJoy,
pp. 52-93.
8 This textis foundin theinternal alchemicalanthology Xiuzhenshishu,vols. 14-16. It was puta-
tivelyauthoredby ZhongliQuan, compiledby Lü Yan and transmitted by theninthcentury in-
ternalalchemistShi JianwuJE/J^f.It takesthe formatof a conversation betweenthemaster
ZhongliQuan and his discipleLü Yan.
9 Full titleis Bichuan au-
Zhengyangzhenrenlingbaobifa SJ#IEPiÄASS#ft. Putatively
thoredby ZhongliQuan and transmitted by Lü Yan. FarzeenBaldrian-Hussein has translated
thisimportant textintoFrenchand analyzedit in depth(see Procédéssecretsdu joyaux magi-
que: Traited'alchimietaoïstedu Xle siècle).
10 authoredby theninthcenturyinternalalchemistShi Jianwu.However,allusionsto
Liu Cao fij^, a tenthor eleventhcentury figure,suggestthatthisascription is spurious.

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4 Stephen EsKiLDSEN

As is alludedto in thepreface,ChenPu's textis dividedintoninemajorsec-

tions(each describinga "cycle" in the yogic regimen)and each sectionis ex-
poundedin twoformsof verse(duange,and "WangJiangnan")thatset forththe
yogicmethodand processin somewhatterseterms.Fortunately, a muchmorede-
tailed and lucid descriptionis providedin the commentary attachedto the
verses,11 and particularlyin the "oral lessons" (koujue Π$0 thatappearat the
end of each sectionexceptfortheninth.It is difficult to determine how muchof
thismaterialconstitutes theoriginal"lesson" taughtby Chen Pu. It is likelythat
partsof the text- especiallythecommentary portions- werecomposedby "the
rubeof Huainan"or someotherunknown editor.
Cuixupian, undertheheading"SecretLesson on theGoldenElixirin Nine
Cycles,"enumerates as followsthebasic objectivesof theninestagesor "cycles"
of theyogicregimen:
Firstcycle;making theelixircomedown.Secondcycle;thecopulation (of the
heartandkidneys). Thirdcycle;nurturing theyang>Fourthcycle;nurturing the
yin.Fifthcycle;changing thebones.Sixthcycle;changing theflesh.Seventhcy-
cle; changingthefivevisceraand six bowels.Eighthcycle;nurturing thefire.
Ninth andascension.12
The meaningof theabove statements will becomecleareras our discussionpro-
cedes. Each cycle requiresa particularexercise of mentalconcentration and
breathcontrol.The completion of each stageadvancestheadepta stepcloserto
immortality, brings withit auspicioussignsofprogress.
Unlikeso manyneidantextsthatobscuretheactualpsycho-physiological the-
ory and praxisbeneathabstrusemetaphorsand allusions,Chen Pu's textcon-
cretelydescribesboththe exercisesand the purported transformations of mind
and body.It givesus an intimate view of boththemarvelsand rigorsexperienced
by neidanpractitioners through theirseclusion,self-disciplineand meditative ab-
sorption.We shall now proceed to examine thisprocessas it unfoldsin its nine
"cycles." In doingso we shallrelymostlyon thecommentary and "oral lesson"
portionsof Chenxianshenneidanjue and Cuixupian,

The "orallesson"forthefirstcyclestartsby stating,
Atthebeginning whenyouembark on yourtraining, needtoeatand
drinkinordertonurtureandharmonize You
yourfiveviscera. shouldneither
ve yourself 13

11 Chen aftereach lineof verse.Cuixupian providesthe

xianshengneidanjue insertscommentary
commentary aftereach poem has been presentedin full.The commentaries in thetwo versions
are largelysimilar,but not identical.Discrepanciesin thetwo versionsthatare of significant
bearinguponourdiscussionshallbe dulynoted.
12 Cuixu
pian la.
13 Chen ofCuixupian(4a) reads,"... inor-
xiansheng jue 3b. Thecorresponding
yourfiveviscera.. .

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 5

The tacitimplication seemsto be thattheadeptwill eventually beginto fast.As

we shallsee, in laterstagestheadeptis said to manifest symptoms suggestiveof
under-nourishment. Also, once he14attainshis immortal body, is said to no
longerbe in need of food. However,at the verybeginningof his training,the
adeptis advisedsimplyto eat in moderation. The "oral lesson" forthefirstcycle
further emphasizes that the beginner must be in a calm, peacefulstateof mind
thatis freeof worriesand sorrows.The yogic exerciseis to be carriedout at
night,beginning somewherearoundtheend of thesecondwatchor thebeginning
of thethirdwatch(i.e., aroundmidnight). Afterwashinghis bodyand rinsinghis
mouth,the adept entersthe meditation chamber,lightsincenseand sits cross-
legged.He closes his eyes, "preserveshis spirit"(focusesthemind),and waits
forhis breathing to becomecontrolled and even. He thenfoldshis tonguedown-
wardso thatitstippressesdownon the"twoorifices"(salivaryglands)underthe
base of thetongue.He thenproceedsto hold his breathuntilhe graduallyfeels
twocurrents of energyrunning fromtherootsof his wisdomteeth,downthrough
theleftand rightgreatyangchannels(taiyangjing^PUM )>15up to thefrontpart
of thecrownof thehead,and intotheNiwanPalace in thecranium.At thispoint
theadeptmayopen his eyes (presumably he also resumesbreathing at thispoint,
thoughthetextdoes notexplicitly say so) and takea somewhatlengthy break.Af-
terthebreakhe closes his eyes, holdshis breathand repeatstheproceduretwo
Thus, theyogicexerciseis repeatedthreetimesduringthemidnight session.
On a nightlybasis thereafter, theadeptis to continueto carryoutthreerepetitions
of theexercise.However,afteran indefinite numberof days- thiscan rangeany-
wherebetweena fewdaysto halfa month16 - thecurrent of energywill beginto
travelfurther,well beyondthe Niwan Palace. The energywill flowdown from
thebrainintothe"twelveringsof themulti-storied tower"(throat),penetrate into
the spineand go rightthroughthe tailbone.From thereit thrustsforwardand
upwardintotheheart,piercingthrough thegall bladderand thenavel. The adept
will thenhave a warmsensationin his chest,and his mindwill enjoya subtle
feelingof harmony and ease. This conditionis knownas "thedescentof thetrue
Some dayslater,as theadeptcontinueshis dailyexercise,theenergycurrent
willextenditsrouteevenfurther. The adeptwill feelwarmenergyriseup gradu-
ally fromthe back of his heart,through his throatand ontohis tongue,leavinga

14 As we shallsee
later,thetextassumesthattheadepthas a penis,i.e., is male.
Accordingto Chinesemedicaltheorythereare twelveprinciplechannelsthrough whichenergy
flowsand circulatesthroughthebody's extremities. The greatyang channelrunsthroughthe
backof thelateral(outer)side of theheadand fourlimbs.So itwouldappearherethattheadept
feelsthetwocurrents of energyrunning throughhis arms(and perhapslegs), and eventually
turning upwardto convergein his cranium.
16 Chen
xianshengneidanjue Adi.
17 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 4a. Cuixupian (4b) refersto thisconditionas "thedescentof the

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6 StephenEskildsen

slightlybittertaste.This is because he is now tastingtheenergyof the Central

Yellow (zhonghuang qi ΦϋΙΑ) thathas risenup fromhis gall bladder.18 The
commentary to the "Wang Jiangnan" verse for the firstcycle explains that this
specialenergy storedin the spleen - which is also known as the Life Energyof
the CelestialOne is "the rootof [our] natureand life (xingming f£pp; con-
sciousnessand vitality)."The tasteof thisuniversallife-bestowing energyis bit-
ter, which is why the rootsof plants also always have a bitter The "oral
lesson" goes on to statethatthisstageconstitutes the "greatharmony of yinand
yang," and that thereshallsoon be "signs of the descent of the elixir."20
Fromthispointon, whenbeginninghis nightly exercise,theadeptneedsto
have somebodyguardthedoor to his meditation chamberso thathe will notbe
startled by any intruding people, cats, dogs, etc. He shouldalso place a desk in
frontof himwhenhe sitsdown to meditate.Eventually,as he proceedsto ma-
nipulatehis energyin his now-accustomed fashion,he will suddenlyhave a surge
of energyand will startto feelhis bodygrowinglittleby little.21 His spiritwill
feel increasingly buoyant and rapturous. More and more he will begin to see
houses,buildings,people,cities,mountains, and riverscontainedinsidehis very
own body. Ultimately he feelsand sees his marvelously expandedbodyencom-
pass the the and
sky, earth, everything in between. At the same time,he loses all
feelingand awarenessof his own armsand legs. At thispoint,he shouldbrace
himselfby placinghis handson thedesk and continueto keep his eyes closed.
Suddenly,"he will see a sun-likediskof lightdescendingon to his heart."22 This
is knownas the"descending of theelixir."
Once thismarvelousresulthas been gained,theadeptshouldnotimmediately
openhis eyes. Withhis eyesstillclosedhe shouldslowlycollecthis witsand wait
forthenumbnessto leave his armsand legs (presumably at thispointhe is also
no longerholdinghis breath- thoughneitherversionof thetextexplicitlyindi-
cates this). Once he has, thus,fullyemergedfromhis trancehe may open his
eyes,drinksomeginsengsoup and go to bed. The nextmorning he mayeat some
porridge, thereby relax himself for one or two days. The descending of the
elixirmarkstheendof thefirstcycle,and fromthispointon theadeptwillbe en-
tirelyfreeof diseases.23
In sum,thesimplebutstrenuous exerciseofbreath-holding inducessensations
in thebodythatare interpreted as currents of salubriouslife-bestowing energies
thatcirculate,pervade,and heal thebody.The procedureculminates in a remark-

18 Chen
xianshengneidanjue4a. Cuixupian4b.
19 Chen
xianshengneidanjue2a. Cuixupian2b-3a.
20 Chen
xianshengneidanjueAdi.Cuixupian 4b.
21 Cuixu
pian 4b. Chenxianshengneidanjue forsome reasondoes notmentionthesurgeof en-
ergythatcomesbeforethe"growth"of thebody(4a-b).
22 Cuixu
pian 5a. Chenxianshengneidanjue (4b) simplystatesthatthe disk of lightdescends,
23 Chen
xianshengneidanjue4b. Cuixupian5a.

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 7

able tranceexperience.The trancecan perhapsbe describedas one of "ecstatic

cosmicunion,"since theadept,in an exuberantstateof mind,feelshimselfex-
pandto thepointwherehe sees thewholeuniverseinsidehimself.His ordinary
bodyof fleshbecomesnumbwhilehe takestheuniverseas his own body. The
tangiblebenefitthatis said to prevailafterthetranceis perfecthealth.

Second Cycle
As we havejust seen, thefirstcycleculminateswiththe "elixir"(also knownas
the"mysterious pearl") descendingupontheadept'sheart.Duringthesecondcy-
cle theadeptcarriesout an exercisedesignedto transfer the "elixir"downto the
regionof thekidneys.This exerciseis to be doneat highnoonon theninth,nine-
teenth,and twenty-ninth days of the month.The adept sits cross-leggedin his
meditation chamber.He closes his eyes and knockshis teethtogether ninetimes.
Once his mindhas becomestableand his energyharmonious, he beginsto hold
his breath.The "oral lesson" forthe secondcycle states,"For each closing[of
breath],takein ninebreaths;[this]constitutes one set."24The meaningof thisis
notclear,buttheidea seemsto be thattheadeptinhalesand holdsin ninebreaths
in successionwithoutexhaling.(If so, thetimeintervalbetweeneach successive
inhalation is notindicated- perhapstheadeptis supposedto tryto makethisin-
tervalas longas possible.)Afterconcludingone suchsetof nineheldbreaths,the
adeptshouldopen his eyes and takea break. He continuesto repeatthisproce-
dureuntilhe has completedninesets. The exercisegeneratesinternal bodilyheat
whichbeginsto manifest of
itselfduringthefirstcouple sets,and becomes"ex-
tremely hot"by aboutthefifth set. The culminative effectsoughtthrough theex-
erciseis as follows:
Theheartbecomeswarminsideandthefourlimbsfeelharmonious andrelaxed.
The heartspiritstirsintomotion, anda singlepathofhotenergy flowsintothe
[lower]elixirfield.Thisis theentranceoftheinnerelixirintotheelixirfield.25
Accordingto our text,thelowerelixirfieldseemsto be locatedrightby thekid-
neys- in some places thetextseemsto practically identify it withthekidneys.26
Once thistransference of the elixirfromthe heartto the elixirfield/kidneys is
complete,theadeptcan quitthisexerciseand moveon to thethirdcycle. At this
point,theadeptis also supposedto obtaina specialtypeof radianceor vision:
Whentheenergy ofthetrueelixiris sufficient,
therewillbe a divinelightemer-
gingfrom yourvisage. While sitting in
casually themiddleofthenight youcanin-

24 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 7a-b. Cuixupian 7a-b.
25 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 7b. The corresponding portionof Cuixupian (7b) reads, "... the
fourspiritsfeelharmonious..." Also thefinalsentenceof thepassage in questiondoes notap-
pearin thetextof theCuixupian.
26 The to the"Wangjiangnan"versestates,"[Whentheelixir]firstdescends,storeit
in theheartand therebynurturethetruefire.[Duringthe]secondcyclereturnitto thePalace of
theKidneys,and thereby nurturethetruewater."It also states,"The gateof thesea is theelixir
field,themansionof thekidneys**(Chenxianshengneidanjue 6b. Cuixupian 6b).

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8 StephenEskildsen

see yourfivevisceraand six bowels- distinctly

ternally andclearly,frontand
back.You willdirectly
seethemysterious in
pearl,nurtured theelixir
Thus, theadeptis said to attainthe "X-rayvision"thatcan perceivetheinternal
phenomena beingeffected by his efforts.

Third Cycle
At thispoint,our textbecomesconfusing.The "oral lesson" in thesectionallot-
tedto thethirdcycle28omitsentirely anydescription of theyogicmethodforthe
thirdcycle, and insteaddescribesthemethodof the fourthcycle. The onlyde-
scription we haveof thirdcyclemethodis thevagueone givenin thecommentary
to theduangepoem:
Whentheelixircompletes thesecondcycleit is storedin theelixirfield.When
you encounterthe sixes,carryouttheyin,andthereby nurture theenergy oftjie
trueyin,Whenthenumber oftheinner y in is sufficientyou interflowwithheaven
andearth.Thetrueelixirsuddenly flowsfromtheelixirfieldintotheleftsideof
thetorso.Perspiration willflowoutof yourfourlimbs,eliminating thecorpse
energy, andthusaccomplishing the third cycle. From here on therewillbe nomo-
re Three Corpse29spirits in
[dwelling you].30
Shortand vagueas thisdescription is, it is plausibleto speculatefromit thatthe
methodis carriedouton thesixth,sixteenth, and twenty-sixth daysof themonth
("thesixes"), probably midnight (since it is a nurturing of thetrueyinenergy).
The methodprobablyresemblesthatof thesecondcycle,entailingtheinhalation
and retention of successivebreaths,althoughthistimein sets of six ratherthan
nine. The resultultimately gained is the transferring of the "elixir" fromthe
elixirfield-kidneys to the leftside of thetorso;a phenomenon thattheadeptis
probablysupposed to be able to verify through an inner sensation. Profusesweat-
ing also occurs,which is said to purge the of
body malignant,death-bringing
spiritsknownas theThreeCorpses.
At thispoint,"theyangenergyis fulland sufficient" and thisleads to a num-
berof alarmingor remarkable results:
[Your]urine,mucus,andspittle willall be pinkin color,thusresponding to the
substanceof pureyang.Also,theradianceof theelixirwillshine from within,

27 Chen
xianshengneidanjue7a. Cuixupian7a.
28 Chen
xianshengneidanjue7b-1U* Cuixupian 7b40a.
29 The Three
Corpses- also knownas theThreeWorms- are evil spiritsthatwere believedto
dwell in the threeelixirfields(dantianfl-ffl)locatedin thehead, chestand lowerabdomen,
Theywerethought to cause thepeopletheyinhabited to be hungry,greedyand lustful,in order
to hastentheirdeaths. detailedstudy on the development of thisconceptcan be foundin
Kubo, Koshinshinkõno kenkyü.Also see Eskiltfsen, Asceticismin Early TaoistReligion,pp.
30 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 7b-8a. The corresponding portionin Cuixupian reads, "Whenthe
elixirhas completedthree(?) cycles,carryouttheyinwhenyoumeetwithHeaven(?).,, When
thenumberof theinneryin is sufficient theelixirenterstheelixirfieldand flowintotheleft

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 9

bearing theappearance of a bright pearlthatresembles a wheelof fire,beneath

your leftside.31
Thehairon yourfourlimbsandthehairon yourheadwillall fallout.It is inva-
Yangnowflourishes. Therefore, theyinturtle [penis]shrinks.
andstomach willnaturally
shrink a little.Duringa singlemonth [theoccasionsof]
yourlargeandsmallbowelmovements willnumber fewerthanten.You willhave
entered therankof Earth-bound Immortal andattained[thestateof]no outflow-
The above passages describephysicalsymptoms thatone mightordinarily con-
siderdistressful. It hereseemslogicalto deducethattheadeptmustbe radically
reducinghis intakeof foodand drink,sincehe is said to showwhatappearto be
signsof dehydration, and his bowel movementsare becomingfew and farbe-
tween.The alleged shrinking of the digestivesystemsuggeststhatthe adeptis
makinghimselfaccustomedto eatingless. Perhapsthe radicalhair loss is best
understood as a symptom of malnutrition. Harderto explainis theallegedshrink-
age of the penis. Since there seems to be no logicalmedicalexplanation forwhy
thiswouldhappen,one suspectsthatthissymptom was merelyidealizedor imag-
ined wishfully(whichcould well be the case withmuchof whatour textde-
scribes).If so, we seemto be dealingwitha tradition whereadeptspracticedceli-
bacy (or at leastdid so duringtheduration theregimen),and stroveto elimi-
natetheirsexualdesiresand impulses.The shrinking of thepenis,whether realor
imagined, was perhaps taken to indicate greatprogress in this endeavor. How-
ever,thisspeculationcannotbe fullyverified,since our textdoes notanywhere
explicitlyaddresstheissueof sexualdiscipline.
The radiantelixir,we are told,fromthispointbeginsto be vaguelyanthro-
[After]threecyclestheelixirtakeson a form.Eventhough itsFive Peaks(five
viscera;liver,heart,spleen,lungs,kidneys) are notyetcomplete, in itsexiting,

31 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 8a. Cuixupian8a.
32 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 8b-9a. Cuixupian does notmention thissymptom.
33 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 9a. The corresponding portionin Cuixupian(8b) reads,"... Gradu-
ally you entertherankof Earth[-bound Immortal(?)], and therebywill accomplishtheway of
no outflowings."The term"no outflowings" has itsoriginsin Buddhistliterature,
whereit de-
notestheremovalof thethreeoutflowings whichare 1) thecravingforsensualpleasures,2) the
cravingforexistence,and 3) ignorance.However,in thiscontextitperhapsrefersto thecessa-
tionof thedischargeof bodilywastes.A clear exampleof sucha usage of theword"outflow-
ing" (lou) in a Taoistcontextis foundin a story(set probablyin theNorthern Song period)re-
cordedin theLishi zhenxiantidao tongjian52/16b-18b. Therewe are toldaboutZhangGong,
who receivedinstructions on fastingfroman itinerant Taoistmaster.Accordingto thestory,the
Taoist mastertold him, "Whenyou eliminategrainsyou have no waste-filth, and whenyou
have no waste-filth you do nothave outflowings (bulouJ^M)·" Withintwoyears,ZhangGong
(whohad ingestedsevenjujubesgivento himby themasterand remainedcelibateas instructed)
gotto wherehe no longerate and no longerexcretedanyfecesor urine.

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10 Stephen Eskildsen

entering,and movingaboutits formis like thatof a childthreeor fourcun -ή' (1

cun = 3.072 cm) [tall].Butit is stillnotclearlyvisible...
Whenthesacredwombtakesitsform,thespiritdwellsinsideit. Exitingand ente-
ring,ithas a formresembling a baby.As you sitserenelyand holdyourbreath,it
will alwaysshow its visage and wanderplayfully withina space of one zhang j£
(about three meters)square. However, even thoughtheyangenergyis just about
sufficient, has yet to be nurtured. The sacredwombhas hun^&, butdoes
notyethavepo (Í&.34This why it is stillslow and its
in itsexitingand entering,
bodyis stillsmall.35
Here we have the beginningof a process thatis oftendescribed in neidan litera-
ture; the nurturingof an internal"baby" - an immortalinnerspirit-bodyof sorts
thatcan flyand transcendthe boundaries (spacial and chronological) of the outer
physicalbody. This "baby," as we can see in thiscase, was literallythoughtto be
visible to the adept in the formof a baby. However, at thisearly stage, thisbaby-
like formis incomplete,very small and only vaguely visible. Its powers of flight
are also very limited. The text explains thatthis is due to the fact thatthe adept
has so far lopsidedly nurturedthe yang energy. Therefore,the "baby" does not
have all the souls thata complete human being is supposed to have. The "baby"
only has hun (these are usually said to be threein number), which are the celes-
tial soul substances of yang quality. It does not yet have the chthonicpo (these
are usually said to be seven in number)which are of yin quality.
Finally, along with this vision of the immortalbody thatdwells withinhim,
the adept at the end of the thirdcycle also begins to hear marvelous sounds and
tastesweet flavors:
Heaven is in harmonyup above the nine skies. Stimulatedby this therearise
soundslike thoseof an orchestraof heavenlymusic. This is called the fluteof
people cannothear its sounds.Afterthree
heaven.The nineorificesof [ordinary]
cycles,yournineorificesbecomeacutelyperceptive,and you constantly hearthe
soundsoftheheavenlyflutedayand night.36

34 Since our conscious-

perhapsas earlyas thesixthcenturyB.C.E., theChinesehave attributed
ness and vitalityto the existence
of known
multiplespirits as hun and po. The hun (of which
thereare usuallysaid to be three)are regardedas yangand celestialin character,whilethepo
(of whichthereare usuallysaid to be seven)are regardedas yinand chthonic.Accordingto one
commontheory(theclassicexpressionof whichis foundin theLiji fêtãE[Book of Rites]),the
hunandpo wouldscatterand go theirown ways at death;theformerrisingintotheskiesand
thelatterentering thegroundwiththecorpse.The hunandpo werealso commonly thought to
lingeraboutas ghosts,wreakinghavocby harassingor possessingtheliving.The distinction be-
tweenthehunand/?0in termsof theirrespective functionsis notaltogetherclearnorconsistent
in thenumeroustextsthatmentionthem,althoughthehunmightperhapsbe seen to represent
thecognitiveintellect,whilethe/κ?represents impulsesof a morephysicalor unconscioustype.
See Mu-chouPoo, In SearchofPersonalWelfare:A ViewofAncientChineseReligion,pp. 62-
35 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 9b. Cuixupian 8b-9a.
36 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 8b. Cuixupian 8a-b.

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 11

springintheflower issues]forth
pond[there thewaterthatis
Accordingto our texttheunusualsoundsare not illusoryproductsof hallucina-
tion.The adeptcan hearthembecause his sensorycapacitieshave surpassedthe
ordinaryhumanrange.The "gurglingspringin the flowerpond" refersto the
salivaryglandsin theadept'sown mouth.The gushingforthof "sweetsaliva" in
themouthis a phenomenon widelymentionedin Taoistmeditation

In thiscycle,theadeptperforms two exercisesdesignedto transfer the "elixir"
(or the "holy womb") from his left side to his right side. These exercises also
purport to nurture the in and
y energy, thereby the
complete body and souls of the
internal "baby."
The firstof the two exercisesis performed threetimesper month,on the
sixth,sixteenth, twenty-sixth days. At midnight, afterrinsingand washing
himself,theadeptentershis meditation chamber.He sitscross-legged, knockshis
teethtogether ninetimes,concentrates his spirit,and stabilizeshis breathing. He
thencloses his eyes, inhalesa breathand holdsit. Aftersix suchinhalations and
holdingsofbreath,he openshis eyesand takesa break.He repeatsthisprocedure
fivemoretimesfora totalof six setsof six holdingsofbreath.38
The secondexercise- knownas thenurturing of fire- is carriedout on the
lastdayof themonth,also at midnight. Sittingcrossleggedwithhis eyesclosedin
his meditation chamber,theadeptrubshis headwithhis lefthandand his tailbone
withhis righthand,holdinghis breathwhiledoingso. He maytakea restwhen
the "numberhas been sufficient" (afterhe has held his breathfora sufficiently
long time?),and resume the exercise once his "breathis stabilized."He does the
exercisethreetimes,and will naturally feeltheenergiesof his heartand kidneys
mingleat his diaphragm.This stimulates the "elixirenergy"and "plugsup" the
fiveviscera.The adeptat thispointfeelsa fieryheatin his fiveviscera.39
Eventually at somepoint,as he continuesto perform theabove twoexercises
on theirappropriate days,theadeptwill feelthe"innerelixir"shakingin his left
side, causinga slightnoise. He will thenfeela current of hotenergyflowfrom
his leftside, cutthrough his elixirfieldand enterintohis rightside. He will con-
tinueto feelthehotenergyof theelixir"shaking"in his rightside fora while,
beforeitfinallycalmsdown.The fourth cycleis thuscompleted.40
The effectsthatfolloware again quitemarvelous,and are describedas fol-

37 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 10a. Cuixupian9a.
38 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 10a. Cuixupian9a-b.
39 Chen
xianshengneidanjue lOa-b. Cuixupian9b.
40 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 1Ob-lia. Cuixupian 9b-10a .

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12 Stephen Eskildsen

Whenyounurture theyangin thethirdcycle,thesacredembryoformshun.When

you nurture
the yinin thefourth cycle,thesacredembryoformspo. Whentheeli-
xir arriveswithinthe fourthcycle, thehun andpo of the sacredembryoare all
completed.Its Five Peaks (viscera[?]) and its subtlespirits(thehunandpo [?])
are identicalto one's own innerappearance.This is noneotherthanthetruebody
[bywhichone carriesout]theexitingof theSpirit.41
Afterfourcyclestheenergyofyinandyangis sufficient. As you sitproperlyand
hold yourbreath,thedivineradianceof theinner elixiremergesfromyourhead.
In theformof a brightmoondiskitenvelopsyourwholebody.Your Spirittravels
in and out, exitingand enteringwithouthindrance.While sittingin yourroom,
you know about the misfortunes and blessings[in places] more than 1000 //
Whenthespirits(hunand/?o)are sufficient in thesacredembryo,itexits[and]en-
terswithouthindrance.In themorning,it can travelto Shu in thewest(Sichuan)
and in theeveningit can entertheeasterncapital(KaifengHii). Withoutleaving
yourdoor and courtyard, you can observeall withintheseas whilesittingdown.
You can even make your Spiritcommunicate withthe spiritsin the heartsof
[other]people. [Thus,]you will be able to know Thus, it is said
thatyoupenetrate themindsof others.In otherwords,thisis thepenetration of the
mindsof others.43
The inner "baby" perceived by the adept now not only has an outwardlyhuman
shape, but also possesses the same internalanatomyand assortmentof spirits(hun
and/w) as a full-sizedhuman being. The "baby," who was previously severely
limitedin his range of flightoutside the adept's body, now can travel to remote
distances and communicatewith the spiritsthatdwell in the hearts of otherpeo-
ple. The supposed consequence forthe adept, then,is the attainmentof greatpsy-
chic powers; the abilityto know of thingsand events in remotelocations and the
abilityto read people's minds. Also, the adept's body is said to be enwrappedby
a divine radiance. The unresolved question here is whetherthis radiance is sup-
posed to be perceptibleby ordinarypeople who mightbe observing the adept.
Perhaps the authoronly means to say thatthe adept alone will see this radiance
surroundinghim, due to an enhanced vision that he alone possesses. One extra
benefitwhich occurs at this point is that "coldness and heat will not invade,"
meaning apparentlythatthe adept now becomes invulnerableto extremeweather
At this point we can say thatthe adept has attainedthe range of powers that
Taoist lore frequentlyattributesto famous neidan masters. The ability to "send
out the Spirit"45has been ascribed to numerousneidan masters, who are attrib-

41 Chen
xianshengneidanjue lia. Cuixupian10a.
42 Chen
xianshengneidanjue lib. CuixupianlOa-b.
43 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 12b.
44 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 13a. Cuixupian10b, lia.
45 The thatcontainsand
capitalizedword"Spirit"(shen#) hereis used to denotea singularentity
holdstogether all thehunmdpo (whichindividually of themselvesare "spirits").

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 13

utedwithsuchpowersbecause theyhave supposedlycreateda "baby" or Spirit

such as thatdescribedhere. In so far as it describesthe creationof the inner
"baby"and themiracleof "sendingouttheSpirit,"ourtextverymuchresembles
textssuch as Zhong-Lüchuandaoji, Lingbao bifa,and Xishanqunxianhuizhen
ji. The notionof endowingthe "baby" withitsown hurtandpo, is a uniquefea-
tureof ChenPu's text.

Duringthefifth cycle,theadeptfirstcarriesout an exercisedesignedto transfer
the"baby"fromtherightside of thetorsoto thelowerelixirfield.At midnight,
on thesixth,sixteenth, and twenty-sixth daysof themonth,theadept,afterwash-
ing and rinsing himself, enters his meditation chamber.He sits cross-legged,
closes his eyes, knockshis teethtogether thirty-sixtimes,concentrates his spirit,
and stabilizeshis breath.He thenstopshis breathing. Unlikewhatwas described
in previouscycles,he does notinhaleanybreaths,but "simplymakesit so that
no breathis exitingand entering[his] nose." While doingso, he waits forthe
"trueenergyto fillup within,"and the"elixirenergyto piercethrough theaper-
turesof the tongue(the salivaryglandsunderit)." This causes saliva to gush
forthin the "flowerpond." When the saliva has filledthe mouthto the point
whereit is aboutto overflow,the adeptslowlydrinksit and "returnsit to the
heart."The "divinewater"reachestheheartand stimulates intomotionthe "di-
vinefire."The adeptfeelsheatin his fivevisceraand beginsto sweatall overhis
body.He thenenjoysa relaxedfeelingin his fourlimbs.This processis repeated
twomoretimesfora totalof threetimesduringthemidnight session.This exer-
cise is also called "thestageof embracingand bathingthesacredfetuswithdi-
vinewaterand divinefire."Eventually at somepointas he continuesthisexercise
regularly duringitsallotedtimes,theadeptwill feela current of hotenergyrun-
ning from his leftside intohis lower elixir field,emitting a thunderous noise. At
thesame timea fierylightwill shineout fromhis nose. All thismeansthatthe
"innerelixir(the'baby') has returned to the[lower]elixirfield."46
At thispointthe inner"baby" has grownto a heightof over one chi /ζ.
(30.72 cm), and "employsspiritualpenetrations (supernormal powers)according
to itswill."47The "baby"does all itstravelling whentheadeptis awakeand con-
scious; neverwhentheadeptis asleep. The profoundsignificance of thisfactis
eloquently explainedas follows:
Ordinary peopledo notcultivate themselves inanyway.Theirsubtlespirits (Jing-
shenfjf |φ) scatterinthefourdirections,andhavenothing toadhereto.In theday-
timetheirspirits areintheirheart.Atnight theirspirits
fallasleep,theirspiritshavenothing to guard,andfurthermore no longerknow
thattheyhavea bodyanddo notknowwheretheyare.Following thehunandfol-

46 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 13a-b.Cuixupian lla-b.
47 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 13b-14a . Cuixupian 12a .

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14 Stephen Eskildsen

lowingthepo (?) theyenterintothedarkrealms,minglingwiththeghosts.48 Al-

waysduring their dreams, thereis that
nothing they[ordinary people] do not see.
When eventuallythe fourgreatelements[of the body] suddenlycrumble(i.e.,
die), thespiritsgo and followtheghosts.Accordingto theirmerits,theyare re-
bornin theCelestialHalls (heavens)or the subterranean prisons(hells). All this
[occurs]notfromtheirself(theirconscious,rationalwill),butis becausetheirspi-
ritsdo notrecognizetheirbody,and thusfollowthewaves (of theirarbitrary wan-
deringsandtheinfluences of ghosts).
[As for]peoplewhohaveattainedtheTao, [on theotherhand,]theirinnerelixiris
complete.Theirspiritsare housedin theelixir.Theirnuminousbody(the"baby,"
theelixir)accordswithitswill. In thedaytime,thespirits(housedin thenuminous
body)travel.At night,thespiritsare stable.Whenthey(peoplewhohave obtained
theTao) fallasleep, thespiritswatchovertheirbody,and things(such as ghosts)
cannottemptthem[to come out]. Herebytheirhunandpo are concealedand sub-
dued, whilethehundredevils do notharass[them].Theyno longerhave dreams
duringtheirsleep. Theyleave behindbirthand death,and can come and go accor-
dingto theirown will. Theycan send out theirspiritsverticallyand horizontally
withoutlimit.Thus, when alchemicalscripturessay, "Realized Beings have no
dreams,"thisis whattheyare speakingof.49
Here a starkcontrastis drawnbetweentheconditionof theordinary personand
thepersonwhohas "obtainedtheTao." In thedaytime,in ourwakingconscious-
ness, we live withintheconfinesand limitations of our physicalbodies,withour
thoughts, emotions,and actions
under the control of ourconsciouswill (or so we
liketo think).Whenwe are asleep,theconsciouswilldropsaway,allowingvari-
ous latentthoughtsand feelingsto surface,creatingdreams.The lost,wandering
spirits(hun andpo) describedin theabove passageseemto correspond to theun-
checked,dream-creating contentsof the mind.The "numinousbody" thatcon-
tainsand holdsthehunandpo spiritstogether can perhapsbe seen to represent
thedisciplined,enlightened mind(Spirit)thathas obtainedtheabilityto hold it-
selftogether (maintaincontroland harmony) at all times.Sucha personno longer
has dreams,sincehis latentthoughts and feelingsno longerrunwild,evenduring
However,the restof what is describedconcerningthe accomplishedadept
seemsto be beyondall suchrationalization and psychologism. The adept,in his
wakingexperience, far transcendsthe normal boundaries imposedon the con-
sciousmindby thephysicalbody.The spiritsnow travelafartogether as a singu-
lar Spiritin a "numinousbody." They are entirelyunderthe controlof the
adept's conscious,enlightened will. Ultimately, we are told,one's controlover
- -
one's "spirits" or lack thereof has consequencesbeyondthislife. The con-

48 The
meaningof thissentenceis unclear.It seemsto meanthatthemultiplespirits{hunandpo)
scatterand wanderaboutdue to theirinnatetendencyto do so whennotconsciouslymonitored.
heremaybe to interpret to ghoststhatlureaway
"hunandpo" as referring
49 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 14a-b.Cuixupian12a-b.

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 15

tinuousreincarnation and suffering50 of ordinaryfolkis due to theirlack of such

control.The accomplished adept,on theotherhand,is freefromtheroundof re-
births,and is in completecontrolofhis destiny.
Most neidanliterature will tell us thatthis"numinousbody" is whatattains
eternallifeand divinepower,and thatthe "RealizedAdept"finallycastsoffhis
body of fleshwhenthe timecomes forhim to ascend to the immortalrealms.
Chen Pu's text,quite surprisingly, does not concurwithsuch a view. Now the
adeptmustbeginto "fetchtheyinand yangof theoutside."51 The objectnow is
to transform thebones and fleshof theordinaryphysicalbody. The adeptmust
nowfeedon the"essencesof thesun" in orderto transform his bones. This exer-
cise is to be carriedoutat noonon theninth,nineteenth, and twenty-ninthdaysof
each month.The adeptsitscross-legged withhis eyes closed, facingthesun. He
waitsforhis breathing to becomestableand thenstopsbreathing. This retainsthe
"trueyang"and causes it to filltheinsideof thebody. As the "truefire"within
interacts withthe "truefire"without,theadeptfeelshis bodyturnred fromtop
to bottomwhilea radiancefillsthe room. Afteraboutfifteen to thirty
theadeptfeelsthe "truewater"of his lowerelixirfieldriseup in a cool current
and penetrateintohis heartand sit therelike a ball of crystal.The adeptthen
openshis eyes and startsbreathing again. He theninhalesthe"energy(breath)of
the sun" eightyone mouthfuls of it - throughthe nose and storesit in the
heart.52 The energyof thesunreactswiththe "truewater"thathad lodgedin the
heart.The adept "graduallyfeelsenergymove upon his heart,while the inner
elixirin theelixirfieldleaps aboutlike a fish."This exerciseshouldbe carried
out forthreeyears(or one year,accordingto a seeminglycontradictory passage
whichshall be quotedlater),afterwhichthe adeptcan pursuethe methodfor
"fetching of the moon," whichis the methodof the sixthcy-
the efflorescence

The exercisefor"fetching theefflorescenceof themoon" is carriedout at mid-
nighton the fifteenth
day of each month- in otherwords,thenightof thefull
moon. After the
washingand rinsinghimself, adeptsitsdowncross-leggedwith
his eyes closed, facingthe moon. Afterstabilizinghis breathing,he stops all
breathing throughhis nose and mouth.This keepsthe"trueenergy"fromleaking

50 The beliefin reincarnationwas widelyacceptedby Taoistsby thefifth centuryC.E. However,

thisis theonlyinstancewhereourtexttakeson sucha strongly Buddhistictone.
51 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 16a. Cuixupian 14a.
52 What
exactlythisentailsis unclear.Most likely,it is a processsimilarto theexercisesof the
secondthrough fourthcycles,wheretheidea seemsto be to inhaleand retainsuccessivebreaths
foras longas possiblewithoutexhalingin between.Because thepractitioner is facingthesun,
theair inhaledis deemedto be theenergyof the sun, and is thoughtto enterthehearteither
automaticallydue to a naturalcorrespondence (boththe heartand the sun correspondto the
agentfire),or becausetheadeptconsciouslyguidesittherethrough mentalconcentration.
53 Chen neidan 16a-b. 14a-b.
xiansheng jue Cuixupian

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16 StephenEskildsen

outside,and causes it to fillup the six bowels (gall bladder,stomach,bladder,

smallintestine, largeintestineand threeburners54). The "trueyin"of thekidneys
and "theessencesof theGreatYin"(themoon)thenintermingle, "takingand re-
ceivingwithinand without."The adept's entirebody becomes "as shinyas a
crystal,"and withinfifteento thirtyminutesthe "truewater" of the kidneys
stimulates the "heart'sfire."In a singlecurrentof hot energy,the "fireof the
heart-spirit"descendsintothelowerelixirfield.It thenreststherelike "a single
diskof fire"on "thelapis-lazuliplatter."At thispoint,theadeptmaygradually
open his eyes and startbreathing again throughthenose. Then, stillfacingthe
moon,he beginsto inhalethe "energyof themoon" and "storeit in the [lower]
elixirfield."55He inhalessixty-four breathsin such a manner.Abouthalfway
this of
through process inhaling, "the trueyinof themoon's efflorescences" will
stimulate and arousethe "truefire"thathad lodged in the lower elixir field.In
sucha way, "thewater(themoon'sefflorescences?) and fireinteract in theman-
nerof theboilingof water."Perspiration emerges from thesurface of theadept's
entirebody,whilethe "hundredvessels" inside his bodyenjoy a relaxed feeling.
Thisexerciseis to be carriedoutfortwoyears.56
Again,thepurposeforfetching the solar and lunarenergiesis to transform
thebonesand fleshrespectively. Our textexplainsas followshow thisis to hap-
Peoples'ordinary wombsandpolluted bonesareunclean intheiryinandyang,and
thus[they] cannotascend.[However, as for]RealizedPeople,aftertheelixirhas
accomplished thefourthcycle,andhas cometo thefifth cycle,theyfetch thees-
sencesofthesunandstoreitintheir elixirfield,whereitcondenses tobecomethe
yangsand.After thesunfora year(noticetheseeming
fetching discrepancy from
the"OralLesson"),thatyang[cinnabar] sandbecomespureinside,andenters into
thebonemarrow. the
[Thus,]transformingordinary bones,inside it creates the
immortal's bones.At nightone experiences perspirationcoming out like white
grease.Thisis becausetheordinary bonesare dissipating by following (coming
outwith)theperspiration. Thereforethisis called"changing theboneswiththe
After changing theirbonesduringthefifthcycle,they(RealizedPeople)arriveat
thesixthcycle.Theyfetchtheefflorescences ofthemoonandstorethemin the
elixirfield,wheretheycondense tobecometheyinpowder.After fetching theef-
florescencesofthemoonfora year,thatyinpowdertransforms insideandenters

54 sourcesdo notagreeon thelocationof thethreeburners.The Nanjing UM, a medical

to Qin YuerenHEIA of thefifth
textattributed century B.C.E., saysthatthethreeburnersare
locatedat the entranceto the stomach,the insideof the stomachand the entranceabove the
bladder(Nanjingjizhu HSUti, PP· 53-54). Accordingto Liangqiuzi's%£5:ψ (fl. ca. 710-
730 C.E.) commentary to theHuangtingneijingjingjÇÉfàAS ^a famousTaoisttextof Per"
haps theearly fourthcentury C.E.), the threeburners are theinsides of theconduitsabove the
heart,lungs,and liverrespectively(see Yunjiqiqian H^-tlS H/24b, 12/19b).
55 This
probablyentailsa proceduresimilarto whatI speculatedto be theprocedureforstoringthe
energyof thesunin theheart.See n. 52.
56 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 19b-20a. Cuixupian 16b-17b.

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Chen Pu's Nine Stages of Transformation 17

intotheflesh.[Thus,]transforming theordinaryflesh,it nurtures the immortal's

flesh.One simplyexperienceslargeand smallbowel movements thatalwayshave
purplebloodthatcomesdownwiththeenergy.57 This is becausetheordinary flesh
is secretlydissipating,while the immortal's skin and flesh are being created
within.Therefore it is said, "theyindissipatestheflesh."58
Thus the "essences" and "efflorescences"drawn fromthe sun and moon become
catalystsfor creatingan immortalbody, while the corruptiblesubstances of the
ordinarybody are sweated and excreted out of the system. In both method and
objective, we have here somethingthatseems archaic and atypical of Song inter-
nal alchemy. Methods for feedingoffthe sun and moon are frequentlydescribed
in Taoist texts of the Six Dynasties period, which also share the same ultimate
goal of heavenlyascension forthe entirebody.59
Our textfurthertells us in quite clear termsthatthe transformedflesh is sup-
posed to take on the power of flight,just like the "baby" created within:
Whengentlemen who studytheTao are able to completetheirSpirit("baby") but
have notyetchangedtheirbodies,theyare stillencumbered by theirbodies. Thus,
whentheysendouttheirSpirit,thebodydoes notmove. Whentheyattaincorpse
liberation(post-mortemimmortality), thebodydoes notleave [thegrave].60When
the elixirhas completedsix cycles, [theadept]thoroughlychangeshis ordinary
bodyand completeshis immortal substance.His bodyand Spiritare bothmarve-
lous. WherevertheSpiritgoes, thebodyalso followsit. [The Spiritand body]as-
cendtheNineSkies swiftly as a [shooting]star!61
is thatthe adept's body no
Anothersupposed symptomof the great transformation
longercasts a shadow:
Afterthefifthcycle thetrueyang is complete,and thehuntransform to become
theSpirit.Afterthesixthcyclethetrueyinis complete,thepo transform and be-
come energy.Whenthehunand/?tf are completewithinand without,you no lon-
ger have a shadowwhenyou wanderaboutduringtheday. You are one withthe

57 In the Cuixu
pian this sentence reads, "... always have blood that comes out togetherwith the
58 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 17b. Cuixupian 15a-b.
59 For of suchmethodssee Kohn, The TaoistExperience,pp. 269-271; Bokenkamp,
EarlyDaoist Scriptures, pp. 314-322; and Eskildsen,Asceticismin Early TaoistReligion,pp.
ou The term
"corpseliberation(shijierm) 1Sused in Taoisttextsto referto waysin whichTao-
istadeptswerethought to attainimmortalityin spiteof theapparentfactthattheyhad died. In
somecases, theidea coveyed is thattheadepthad in factfakedhis/her death,leavingbehinda
magicallycreatedsemblanceof a corpse.In othercases, thecorpseis indeedthought to be real,
buta miraculoustransformation or resurrectionis thoughtto occurafterburial.(See Eskildsen,
Asceticism in Early TaoistReligion,p. 93; Bokenkamp, EarlyDaoist Scriptures, pp. 359, 411;
and Kohn,The TaoistExperience,pp. 120, 217, 304, 331-332.) Here theauthor'sunderstand-
ing is thatwhena less accomplishedadeptattainscorpseliberationtheSpiritalone risesfrom
thegrave,whiletheentirebodywill resurrect and ascendin thecase of themoreaccomplished
61 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 19a. Cuixupian 16b.

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18 StephenEskildsen

Pureyangofthesun.Fromnowonghosts anddeitiescannot
of and
yin yang.Thus,youwillhave theWayof
My tentative analysisof thisstrangepassage is as follows.The body'spropensity
forcastinga shadowis apparently to thepresenceof thehurtandpo
(especially latter, one would The
think). hurtand/?oare profaneand mortalin
theirnature.It is desirablethattheytransform intoa moresublimepair,namely,
Spiritand energy.They are the profaneyang and yin(mortalconsciousnessand
vitality) need to transforminto the "true"yangandyin(immortal conscious-
ness and vitality).The profanepair is yin when comparedto the "true"pair,
whichis yang. It is probablyforthisreasonthattheadept's transformed body,
imbuedcompletely withthetrueyinand trueyang,is said to in factbe pureyang.
His pureyangbody,whenshineduponby thesun,no longercastsa shadow.

At thispoint,theadeptis toldto remotely distancehimselffromcivilization ("the
dustymarketplaces") and enterdeep intothemountains.Sittingcasuallyamidst
thecrags,he is to holdhis breathand concentrate his spirit.This causes the"true
yin" and "trueyang" mergetogether within his belly. "Usurpingthemeritof
thecreationsand transformations of Heavenand Earth,he returns it to [hisbody
withits]fourlimbs."Afterpursuingthispracticeforone thousanddays,his five
viscera(liver,heart,spleen,lungs,and kidneys)will completely transform, and
thewombenergywill transform to becomethe "bowelsof theimmortals."Dur-
ing the course of this process orificewill format the top of the head, and
black and red vaporwill issue out of it. This black and red vaporis noneother
thantheprofane"wombenergy"thatis madeto dissipate.Aftera thousanddays,
thiswill have all dissipated,and theorificeatop theadept'shead will close up.
The seventhcycleis thuscomplete.63 At thispointtheadept'sdigestivesystemis
preparedwith] smoke andfire.64
Thegrainworms dieandbecomewater.65 Fromhereonyourintestines andstom-
achwillbe full.Theywillnotaccomodate theenergy ofsmokeandfireandwill
notholdfood[thatis prepared]withsmokeandfire.Whenhungry, eatthefruit of
theimmortals.Whenthirsty drink theredgemjuice.66

62 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 17a. Cuixupian14b-15a.
63 Chen
xianshengneidanjue22b. Cuixupian19b.
64 Chen
xianshengneidanjue22b. Cuixupian19b.
65 "Grainworms"is anothernamefortheaforementioned ThreeCorpses,theinnerdemonsthat
impulses.See n. 29.
cause hunger,as well as otherharmful
66 Chen
xianshengneidanjue20b. Cuixupian 18a.

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Chen Pu's Nine Stages of Transformation 19

Afterthisyouwillbe fullinsideand willnoteat thethingsof thedustyworld,thus

proving[thatyou have attained]the Tao of carefreewandering.Whenyou reach
[thestagewhereyou] avoid grainsand do noteat, thisis trulythestrangepower
and strangeTao. Whenyou hold yourbreathfora thousanddays thedivinefire
emergeswithin.[The divinefire]washesawaythegrain-energy, and [thus]youno
longerhave anythoughtsof food.67
The above passages seem to be saying thatthe adept, throughhis breath-holding
exercise, attainsa prevailingconditionof satiation,and no longer needs any food
- at least not of the ordinarykind. This seems to be because the body provides its
own nourishment("five viscera bear fruit"), and the inner demons ("grain
worms") thattemptthe adept to desire food are exterminated.The question here
is whetherthe adept is expected to shun food altogether,or simply refrainfrom
grains and other cooked foods. Does he still eat raw non-carbohydrates(e.g.,
herbs, nuts, seeds, etc.)? Perhaps he does - and in actual practice, adepts most
certainlydid - but if so, in very small amounts. The implicationof the above pas-
sages would seem to be that the adept in this very advanced stage becomes ex-
traordinarynot only in what he eats, but in his capacity to not get hungry.As we
have seen, this decrease in the intake and need for food seems to begin already
duringthe thirdcycle, when the adept's intestinesshrink,and his bowel move-
mentsbecome few and far between. Ideally, the nourishmentthatthe adept now
takes is to be thatof an utterlysublime variety,such as the pure vital energies la-
tentin his own body (the "fruit"born in the five viscera) or the cosmic energies
(such as the "essences and efflorescencesof the sun and moon") in the air around
him. Such is what is probablydescribed above by the terms "fruitof the immor-
tals" and "red gem juice." As extreme and peculiar as our text's attitudemay
seem to be in regardto diet, this was certainlynothingnew or unusual withinthe
Taoist tradition.Similar expectationsare frequentlyconveyed in texts from the
Tang period and earlier.68Much more unusual and surprisingis the following
Aftertheinnerelixirhas completely transformed [thebody],theyin stalk(yinjing
ßfH; penis)69completely disappears,leavingonlya singleopeningknownas the
kunίφ70door,thusresembling itsyin fê (a vagina[?]). Wheneveryou meetwith
the climaxingof the fireof the divineelixir,in otherwordson the days of the
threenines(theninth,nineteenth, and twenty-ninth daysof themonth),throwyour
bodyintowater(enterintoa pond,river,lake, etc.). Transport theelixir-pearl
senditoutthrough thekundoor. Breathing [on itsown,theelixir]playsin thewa-

67 Chenxiansheneneidanme 21b. Cuixu

pian 18b-19a.
68 See in EarlyTaoistReligion,ch. 4 ("Taoist Methodsof Fasting").
69 Here I have followedtheless
ambiguoustextof the Cuixupian. The corresponding portionof
Chenxianshengneidanjue readsyinxing^J^, whichwouldliterally translate
70 The
feminine,pureyinhexagramfromtheYijing ^$& thatconsistsof six brokenlines.

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20 StephenEskildsen

terandswimsaroundfreely. Afteroneortwohourstransport theelixirandmake

itreturn totheelixircave.Thus,youcontrol theclimaxesofthefire.71
As we saw earlier,the adept's penis is supposedto beginto shrinkduringthe
thirdcycle.By theseventhcyclethisprocessculminates withthecompletedisap-
pearance of the penis. But thisis not all. It appears thatthe adeptis transgen-
dered,and now possessessomething likea vagina.Of course,one could say that
thistransgendering had longsincebeenunderway,sincetheadeptwas alreadyby
the end of the firstcycle "pregnant"withan "elixir"thathe had subsequently
nurtured intoa divine,immortal "baby." The adeptnow is periodicallysupposed
to sendthe "elixir"out of his "kundoor" and let it swim.(Whilethe "elixir"is
not describedspecificallyas a baby in thispassage, its infantile natureis sug-
gestedby how it breathes,plays,and swims.)The purposeof thisseemsto be to
guardagainstan excessiveflourishing of "fire" in the body. More concretely
speaking, problemanticipated here - I say "anticipated"because I cannotbe-
lievethatanybodyhas everactuallyattainedthistransgendered statethrough yoga
- wouldseemto be feverish bodilysensationsthatmayhave afflicted adeptswho
restricted theirdietsand practicedbreath-holding forunnaturally longperiodsof
A morecompletedescription of themethodforbathingtheelixiris givenin
the "oral lesson," whichalso mentionsyetanotherphysicaltransformation that
If at timestheelixir-fire
emerges fromwithin thefiveviscera,andfireis emitted
fromthenostrils, [youshould]enterintowaterandcloseyourbreathing through
yournose.Thereby anddivinefireexitthrough
theelixir-pearl theyin doorand
floatup ontothesurfaceof thewaterlike(in theformof [?]) a niunonghuang
^HSÏ (shinyandyellow?).72 Waituntildivinewater[wellsup]likea spring un-
derthetongue. Theelixir-fire
willthereby subside.Suckintheelixir-pearl [so it
will]enterbackthrough thekundoor.Soonyouwillarriveat theeighth cycle.
Theearth-belt (didaiife® willbe complete andyouwillhaveno morefirepoi-
son.Thus,youwillnolonger havetobathe.73
This passage suggeststhatthe concreteproblemanticipatedis highfever.The
technique used to sendthe"elixir-pearl and divinefire"outof thevagina-like ori-
fice (referred to as boththe "yindoor" and the "kundoor"), is breathholding
carriedout whilebathingin water.Whileit is fairlyclear thatat leastthelower
partof thebody is underwater,thetextis notclear as to whethertheadeptis

71 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 20b-21a. Cuixupian18a.
72 I have notbeenable to determine whatniunonghuang is, althoughone possibilityis thatit is an
alternatenameforniuhuang^ïf, a medicinalsubstancethatwas obtainedfromthegall blad-
derof diseasedcattle.It is said to resemblean egg yolkin appearance,and itglowsin thedark.
Whenput intowaterit becomeshard. It is used to treatconvulsionsand numerouschildren's
diseases.Thatobtainedfromtherhinoceros (consideredby theChineseto be bovinein itsna-
ture)was consideredparticularly valuable.If of niunonghuang
thisinterpretation is correct,our
textseemsto be sayingthatthe"elixir"willbe shinyand yellowin appearance.
73 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 22b-23a. Cuixupian19b-20a.

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 21

supposedto submergehis entirebody. The wellingup of saliva (divinewater)in

themouthis apparently supposedto be takenas an indication
excess "fire"in thebodyhas been solved,allowingthe "water"principleto as-
sertitselfonce again. The "earth-belt"
mentioned hereis an umbilicalcord that
newlyformsuponthenavelof theadept.As we shallsee, it is by usingthisum-
bilicalcordthattheadeptcan eliminatetheneed forbathingtheelixir,and once
and forall do awaywiththeproblemof "firepoison."

At thisstage,theadept,withhis newlyformedumbilicalcord,physicallyresem-
bles a fetus.It is by emulating theway in whicha fetusbreathes- or rather,the
methodby whichfetuseswerefallaciously thoughtto breathe- thattheadeptis to
ridhimselfof theproblemof "firepoison." Our textexplains:
Whena babyis in itsmother's belly,itholdsitsbreathinsidethewombandcan-
notexhale.Yet,itis notdamaged.[As forwhythisis,] itis becausethebabyhas
an umbilicalcordon itsnavelthatitclenches initsmouth.Theairthatitbreathes
comesandgoesendlessly [throughthecircuitformedbetween themouth andbelly
throughtheumbilical cord].Thisis noneotherthan[whatis knownas] "natural
womb-breathing." Thisis why[thefetus] is notdamaged.
Whenyourelixirattains theeighthcycle,youonceagainforman umbilical cord
on yournavel.You therebyresemble theformofa fetus.[Thisis] thewayofre-
Again, the problembeing dealt withhere is the physicaldiscomfort (feveror
"firepoison")thatcouldresultfromthesustainedpracticeof breath-holding. The
perception seemsto be thatbodytemperature reachesharmful levels whenair is
notexhaledfrequently enough.However,thetextherepointsto thefactthatfe-
tusesare completely unableto exhalefromthemouthor nose, and yettheyman-
age to remainunharmed.75 This, our textclaims(fallaciously),is because thefe-
tusholdsitsumbilicalcordin itsmouthand sucksair through it. Thus,air previ-
ously taken intothe chestand bellythroughthemouthdoes notjust accumulate
there(thiswouldcause "firepoison"); rather,it is drawnout through thenavel
and intotheumbilicalcordto be recycled.The adept,now thathe once againhas
an umbilicalcord (as he previouslyhad as a fetus;thushe has "returned to the
originalbeginnings"),can emulatethefetus:

74 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 23a. Cuixupian 20a-b.
Normally,to thenaivemind,themoredireproblemmightseemto be thebaby's inability to in-
hale air fromtheoutside.The moreimportant point,ifone wereto acceptthetheorypresented
here,would thenseem to be thatthe "wombbreathing"enablesthe fetusto survivecontinu-
ouslyon the same air (thathe/sheis endowedwithfromconception)as it travelsthroughthe
circuitformedbetweenthemouthand bellythrough theumbilicalcord. The authorof our text
probablydoes in facthold suchan understanding. However,herethefocusis puton theprob-
lemof exhalation,sincetheimmediate concernhereis "firepoison." Asphyxiation
is nottheis-
sue here.

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22 Stephen Eskildsen

If youmeetwiththeinternal arisingof theelixir-fire,and yourfiveviscera(liver,

heart,spleen,lungs, and kidneys) feel dry and hot,close youreyes and sit casu-
ally. Take the earth-belt(umbilicalcord) and connect it below the flowerpond
(this seems to mean to hold it in themouth). Make yourbreathing connectwiththe
inside.Carryout theway of transporting in a circuit.Afteryou have closed your
breathing (in sucha way),thetruewaterin yourelixirfieldwill growdayby day.
By theninthday thedivinewaterwill reach(itslevelwill rise)as faras thetwelve
ringsof themulti-storied tower(throat).The elixir-pearl will be submerged in the
divinewater,and [youwill have] purgedaway thefirepoison.Fromhereon you
will neversufferfromthe arisingof dryness(fever?).At midnight of the ninth
nightclose yourbreathing (by putting theumbilicalcordto yourmouth)and suck
in thedivinewater.FromyourNiwanPalace (a compartment thought to existin
thebrain)[thedivinewaterthatis suckedup there]passes downthrough thespine
and returns to theelixirfield.Thus,theexerciseis complete.76
By suckingair out of his belly throughhis umbilical cord, the adept is thoughtto
allow the amountof "divine water" (cool moisture)to increase in his torso. Even-
tually,the "fire" is purged fromhis system,and the adept completes the cooling,
moisturizingprocess by sucking the "divine water" throughthe umbilical cord
into his mouth,up to his brain and back down into his body. In otherwords, us-
ing his newly formedumbilical cord he can bathe and cool the fieryelixir inter-
nally, by generatingan abundance of "divine water" (or "truewater").

The adeptin theninthcyclehas no moreexercisesto perform, and has alreadyat-
tainedearth-bound The
immortality. remaining goal heavenlyascension,and
thisrequiresthathe perform threethousandmeritorious deeds; thismeansthathe
mustperform virtuousactionsthatbenefitfellowbeings.Thus, even thoughour
textpriorto thispointseemed to be geared entirelytowardself-absorbed re-
cluses, ultimately upholds humanitarianism as an essentialvirtue. As paragons
of thisideal itmentions twoveryfamousTaoistfigures,Xu Jingyang gftÎÉPU(Xu
Sun t^jH) and Sun Simiao îfeJSJÊ· Xu Jingyang, a wonder-working immortal of
the Jinperiod(265-419 C.E.), is mostfamousforslayinga malevolentwater
dragon.77 Sun Simiao (581-682 C.E.) was thegreatphysicianof theearlyTang
period who is creditedwithhavingcuredthediseasesand saved thelives of tens
of thousandsof people.78Our textpointsout thatbothof thesemen were re-
wardedwithheavenlyascensionfortheirgood deeds. The ultimateimmortal as-
censionof theadeptsis describedby ourtextas follows:
76 Chen
xianshengneidanjue25a-b. Cuixupian 22a.
77 A nativeof
Nanchangj^fg (Jiangxi),he is said to have beena highlylearnedmanwho served
as countymagistrate of JingyangÜßH (Hubei). He exhibitedmiraculouspowersafterbeing
transmittedthe"truetalismans"fromhis teacherWu Meng ^S. See Ren Jiyu(ed.), Daozang
tiyao,pp. 1226-1227.
78 See
Kohn,The TaoistExperience:An Anthology, pp. 319-325. [For Sun Simiao,see also Paul
U. Unschuld,"Der chinesische'Arzneikönig'Sun Simiao. Geschichte- Legende - Ikono-
graphie,"in: Monumenta Serica42 (1994), pp. 217-257. (Ed.)]

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Chen Pu's Nine Stages of Transformation 23

Afterthe threethousandmerits(good deeds) have been accomplished,the Jade

Emperorsendsdowna memorial.You willbe greetedwitha goldenelixirin order
to removeyourdustyrepugnance.Whenthegoldenelixirentersyourbelly,your
earth-belt(umbilicalcord) will fall off.You will have an audiencewiththeJade
Emperorup above, and yournamewill be recordedin theregistersof immortali-
Whenthegoldenelixirentersyourbelly,theearth-belt (umbilicalcord) naturally
fallsoff.Clouds formbeneathyourfeet.Mountedupon the feathers(the clouds
[?]) youproceedto thecelestialpalace gates.80
On theday of yourascension,celestialmusicianswill come to meetyou. Amidst
beautifulorchestralxiao f| (a wind instrument resemblingpan-pipes)melodies
you will pass throughthecelestialbarricade.In accordancewithyourmeritorious
deeds,you will be givena postwithintheimmortal ranks.You will be as everla-
stingas Heavenand Earth.81
The adept'sbody,marvelously transformed thoughit is through all theyogicex-
ercises, apparently notquitepureenoughto enterthecelestialcapitaland meet
the JadeEmperor.A goldenelixirof celestialoriginis thusdivinelyadminis-
tered,whereupon theumbilicalcordfallsoff.Up to thispointone could say that
theadepthad accomplished theobjectiveof rejuvenationto itsultimatedegreeby
reverting to the formof a fetus.Now, withhis umbilicalcord removedhe is
readyto embarkon a wholenew lifein his newbornbody.As a heavenlyimmor-
tal he is a memberof a divinebureaucracy undertheJadeEmperor,and his rank
is determined by thequantity
and qualityofhis virtuousactionson earth.

In conclusion,some comments need to be made regarding two points.First,our
textstandsat an important point of transition
in theevolutionary historyof Taoist
soteriology praxis, and its contents amply reflectthis. the
Secondly, descrip-
tionsof thevariouseffectsbroughton by theyogicexercisesseem, to a certain
extent,to be based on thestrangeand sometimesharrowing experiencesof real-
lifeadepts.However,someof thesedescriptions are mostcertainly based on fan-
tasy,and reflectcertainhopesand idealshelddearlyby Taoists.
DuringtheearlySong period,meditation methodsbased on neidantheories
were replacingmeditation methodsof the Shangqing±^f and otherschoolsof
theSix Dynastiesand Tang periods.Immortality beliefswereincreasingly focus-
ing on the conceptof an immortalinneryang Spiritor truenature(zhenxing
Αΐ£λ ratherthantheavoidanceof deathin theliteral,physicalsense. Our text
refersto itselfas a neidanlesson,and indeedbearstraitstypicalof thisgenre.It
teachesone how to createan internalimmortalentityout of the subtlecompo-
nentsof one's own mindand body,and refersto thisentityas the "elixir."The

79 Chen
xianshengneidanjue 26a.
Chenxianshengneidanjue 26b.
81 Cuixu
pian 22b.

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24 StephenEskildsen

interaction of waterand fire,and theninecyclesforrefining theelixirare con-

ceptsthatappearfrequently in neidanliterature. (However,someclassicalchemi-
cal termssuchas "lead," "mercury,""dragon"and "tiger"are conspicuously ab-
sent). Also of note here is the relative simplicity of the yogic exercises described
throughout ourtext.The exercisesinvolvelittleelse otherthanthecalmingof the
mindand theholdingof thebreath.Arduousthoughtheexercisescertainly are,
they are not extremely complicated. In this regardthey differfrom themeditative
exercisesof theShangqingSchool,forexample,whichinvolvecomplexand pre-
cise visualizations(of deities,coloredenergies/breaths, internalorgans)and in-
cantations.82 While our textcertainlydescribessome veryprecisephysiological
processesthatoccurduringtheexercises,theseare said to occuras spontaneous
reactionsto the simpleholdingof breath.The adept,at least forthemostpart,
does notconsciouslymanipulate his energiesto movetheway theydo. This rela-
tive simplicity in praxisseems fairlytypicalof neidan- althoughthispointis
hardto fullyverifysincemanyneidantextsare so abstractthatit is virtually im-
possible to determine what the actual is.
praxis (Also, it should be notedthat the
neidantheorycan be verycomplex.)
Yet, at thesame time,our textremainsin certainwaysdeeplysteepedin the
spiritof pre-SongTaoism. Certainlymostnoteworthy of all is thatit promises
heavenlyimmortality in thefull,physicalbodyto thesuccessfulpractitioner (and
endorsesthearchaicprocedureof drawingin solarand lunarenergiesas a means
of transforming themortal,earth-bound body). It is in thisrespectthatourtextis
at greatestvariancewithcontemporaneous, betterknowntextsthathad a much
greaterimpact on the subsequent development of neidan.Here I specifically have
in mindtheaforementioned threeZhong-Lütexts.Whilethesetextsby no means
rejectthepossibility of physicalimmortality, theyclaim thatthemostdesirable
andpraiseworthy formof immortality is theheavenlyimmortality achievedby the
internal yang Spirit(i.e., the "elixir" or "baby"). At the final stage,the adept
sheds his physicalbody because he disdainsits filth,and no longerwishesto
dwell in it.83(Here it is important to pointout,however,thattheliberatedyang
Spirit capable manifesting in solid,corporealform.)84
is of itself Even thoughthe

82 For of sometextsdescribing thesetypesof methods,see Kohn,The Taoist

Experience,pp. 181-219; and Bokenkamp,Early Daoist Scriptures, pp. 275-372. For an in-
depthdescription analysis of such methods (those of thehighly influentialShangqingmove-
ment),see Robinet,TaoistMeditation.
83 See Xishan
qunxianhuizhenji 5/8b-10a;Lingbao bifa 2/8b-12a;and Zhong-Lüchuandaoji
14/5a-b, 16/10b-16a.
84 This in factwas to be whatmadetheaccomplished Taoistsuperiorto theaccomplished
Buddhist,whoupondeathbecomesnothing morethana yinspiritthatis entirely invisibleto or-
dinary visionand devoid of This
solidity. belief is clearly reflectedin Chunyang dijunshenhua
miaotongji,an earlyfourteenth centuryanthology of talesconcerning theexploitsof Lü Dong-
bin. There (3/lla-12a [18thepisode]) we are told of an episode whereLü Dongbinand the
spiritof a prominent deceasedBuddhistmonkvisita homewherea vegetarianfeastis being
held. Lü Dongbinis fed immediately by thehostsbut has to ask foranotherservingforthe

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Chen Pu's Nine Stages of Transformation 25

adept is fullycapable of living foreverin the world in his physical body, he opts
not to. Of course, one could scepticallyview this as an expedientrationalization
for the inabilityof neidan mastersto avoid physical death. The widely influential
Quanzhen School thatemerged roughlya centurylaterheld a view very similarto
the Zhong-Lü textsas far as the liberationand ascension of the yang Spirit was
concerned.85However, the Quanzhen School was apparentlymuch more ready to
concede thatphysical immortality was, alas, impossible. Most noteworthyhere is
the following statementby Quanzhen School founder Wang Zhe I|· (1113-
[As forwhenI speak of] leavingtheordinaryworld,[I do notmeanto say that]
the body leaves. [In such cases I] speak of one's stateof mind (lit., "mind's
ground").The body is like the lotusrootsand themindis like the lotusflower.
The rootsare in themudwhilethefloweris in emptyspace. As forpeople who
have attainedtheTao, theirbodies are in theordinary[world]buttheirmindsare
in theSacredRealm. People nowadayswho desireto be everdeathlessand depart
fromtheordinaryworldare greatfoolswho have notfathomed theTao's princi-
Thus, it appears thatin Wang Zhe' s view the human body can neitherascend to
the heavens nor evade death. Equally noteworthyhere is thatin a spiritualsense
the adept already dwells in the heavens. The joy of heavenly immortalitycan be
experiencedhere and now, and one need not await the death of the body and lib-
erationof the yang Spirit. Elsewhere in Wang Zhe's writingswe can find state-
mentssuch as the following:
Amidstillnessfathomthecauses fortheFive Agents(wood, fire,earth,metal,and
Herebyyou will be able to abandonthebodyof thefourfalse [elements](earth,
water,fire,and wind).
Look backuponyouroriginaltruevisage.
Peacefullymounted uponthecloudsis a singledivineimmortal.87
Your originaltruenatureis thegoldenelixir.
The [bodymade of] thefourfalse [elements](earth,water,fire,and wind)is the
furnacein whichyouconcoctthepill.
and withoutthinking,
Withoutgettingdefiled(by impurethoughts) eliminateyour
outand enterthealtarof theimmortals.88

Buddhistspirit,whomthe hostsare unable to see. Lü Dongbinends up eatingbothservings

sincetheBuddhistspiritis incapableof eatinghis (he can onlysuckon air).
85 The clearestevidenceof thisis foundin theDadan zhenzhi
j^fl-Mía* a QuanzhenSchool nei-
dan manualcompiledbetween1269 and 1310, and attributed to thefamous5thQuanzhanPatri-
archQiu ChujiEWtk (1148-1227).
Chongyang lijiao shiwulun5b-6a.
Chongyang quanzhenji 2/14b.

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26 StephenEskildsen

In thesepoems we see a clear contrastmade betweenthe True Natureand the

"fake"bodyof flesh.Extremely significanthereis thattheimmortal TrueNature
is describedby theadjective"originar(benchutflty], or benlai τΜΟ, implying
thatit has existedeternally, priorto theformation of themortalbody. Through
thecultivation of innerpurityand serenity one comesto enjoyand partakein an
eternallifethatone has unknowingly possessedall along.As WangZhe's disciple
Hao Datong$$λϋΙ (1140-1213) succinctly stated,"A day of serenityis a dayof
Our textattributedto ChenPu, however,makesno rationalizations or conces-
sions towardthepredictableobjectionsof sceptics- even thoughit mosteasily
couldhave. It developsin intricate detaila theoryon how a new, immortal body
is createdinside the body, to the extraordinary extentof describinghow the
"baby" is graduallyendowedwithinternalorgansand souls (hunandpo) - not
even the Zhong-Lütextsdescribethematuration of the "baby" withthismuch
care. Yet, our textrefusesto say thatthehighestimmortality is hereinattained,
or thattheordinary body should be abandoned. The entirephysicalbodymustbe
transformed and rejuvenated untilit finallyformsan umbilicalcord,thusrevert-
ing to the conditionof the fetusor newborn.Hereon the adept mustperform
manyvirtuous deeds,afterwhichhe achievesheavenlyascensionin his fullbody.
Interestingly,in so faras it deemsvirtuousactionsessentialforthehighestim-
mortality, textagreeswiththeZhong-Lütextsand theQuanzhenSchool- al-
thoughin thesetraditions thegreatimmortals (mostnotablyLü Dongbin)are said
to perform manyof theirheroicand compassionate deeds aftertheliberationof
The mostintriguing questionswe are leftwithpertainto themysticalexperi-
ences and physicalsymptoms thatthe textdescribes.It is not unreasonableto
thinkthatsome of thismaterialdescribesthingsthatreal adeptsexperienced,if
purelyat thesubjectivelevel. The marvelousvisionsand auditionsattestedto in
ourtextcouldbe plausiblyattributed to hallucinationsinducedthrough meditative
absorption, and
breath-holding, fasting. Some of the physicalsymptoms suchas
the discoloration of the urine,the decreasein appetite,the radicaldecreasein
largeand smallbowelmovements and perhapseventhehairloss couldbe realef-
fectsbroughton by therigorousregimen.These descriptions of mysticalexperi-
encesand physicalsymptoms in facttendto complement and corroborate similar
testimony in textsof theZhong-Lü,Quanzhen,and otherneidantraditions.91 Ap-
Chongyang quanzhenji 211b.
89 Zhenxianzhizhi
90 See Xishan
qunxianhuizJhen ji 5/10b; Zhong-Lüchuandaoji 14/5a-b;Zhenxianzhizhiyulu
l/15a; and Chongyang zhenren jinguanyusuojue 13a.
91 of thiskind is found in particularabundancein threeanonymousessays, "Jindan
zhengyan"az^SixR, "Lim baguanjie"gtABf15 (whichreplicatesa portionof "Jindanzheng-
yan"), and "Lun liutongjue" |ftÄiJlt&foundin Zhuzhenneidanjiyao ΐΒϊΧΛ^ίΚϊο a col-
lectionof miscellaneous internal alchemicalwritingscompiledby a certainXuanquanzi~£&ψ
(fl. ca. 1300).

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 27

parently, thingsof thisnaturetendedto occurwhenneidanpractitioners pursued

theirregimensat fullestvigor.The fewand thebravewho had trainedso hardas
to inducesucheffectswouldthenrelatetheirexperiencesto theirdisciples.
However,scepticallyspeaking,one tendsto wonderwhethertherecould be
so muchconformity in themysticalexperiencesof adepts,sinceindividualadepts
certainly would have varied in theirpsychologicalmakeupand subconscious
memories.It is particularly hardto believethattheywouldall developtheability
to view theirinneranatomyand the "baby" thatdwellsand growswithin.There
is perhapsa certaindegreeof wishfulthinking at workhere;viz., thewishto see
evidencefullyconfirming thatprecisetransformative processesoccur in human
beings which make them into immortals. Similarly based on wishfulthinking, one
would think,are notionsthatthe intestines the
shrink, penis shrinks and disap-
pears, an openingresemblinga vagina takes the place of the penis, the body
ceases to cast a shadow,and an umbilicalcord formson thenavel. All of these
fantasized physicaltransformations are, of course,meantto signifythatthebody
is becomingsuperhuman and indestructible. But whytheseparticular transforma-
The shrinking of theintestines was probablydeemeddesirablebecause it was
thought to indicatethattheadeptwas becomingless and less relianton thefood
thatmortalseat. The body's not castinga shadowmeant,as we saw, thatthe
adept'sbodyhad been renderedpureyang(celestial,immortal).The newumbili-
cal cord,again, wouldseem to signifycompleteand totalrejuvenation and a re-
birthof sorts.But whythegenitalatrophyand apparentsex change?The notion
thatthepenisshrinksaway is consistent withan observation thatKristofer Schip-
perhas made; viz., Taoistadeptswho nourishtheprincipleof immortality within
are in effectmothers,and are consequently expectedto adopta feminine person-
ality.92Schipperfurther mentioned Taoist exercisesin moderntextsthatpurport
to shrinkthepenisor makeit retractable likethatof a horse.Our evidencecomes
froma mucholder source. Furthermore, in thiscase theloss of externalsexual
function is complete,whichseemsto represent thefulfillmentof an endeavorto
relinquish all worldlysexuality.Whileour textdoes notexplicitly prescribeceli-
bacy (nordoes it even addresstheissue of sexualconduct),one wouldthinkthat
onlyan adeptswornto celibacywoulddesirethetransformation describedhere.
Scant,yetprovocativeevidencefromthissame generalperiodsuggeststhat
femaleadeptssimilarly weresupposedto undergoa transgendering and desexual-
izing of sorts. Quanzhen founder Wang Zhe's Chongyang zhenren jinguanyusuo
jue AilJlÀ^li3i§Iifc has a passagethatstates,
Thethird[method] is calledthewoman'stransporting ofthetreasures. Place[and
burn(?)] frankincense (ruxiang ?L#; lit.,"milkfragrance")93beforeyouandfre-

92 See
Schipper,TheTaoistBody,pp. 126-128;and id., uTheTaoistBody,"pp. 364-365.
93 The termtranslatedhere as "frankincense" may actuallyreferto the woman's breasts.This
in lightof theinformation
givenin thenextquotedpassage (from

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28 Stephen Eskildsen

quentlyadvancethetruefire.94Carryingout theexerciselike thiscan in one year

cause a womanto becomelikea youngboy.95
A similar trainingmethodfor women is described as follows in a shortdiscourse
by JinDaocheng WiUßSc*an obscure figureof perhaps ca. 1100 whose teachings
seem to have influencedthe early Quanzhen movement:
Womenshouldconcentrate theirminds,notletting[theirmentalconcentration]de-
tachfromtheinsideof theirbreasts,theinsideof thefloatingflesh(apparently a
description of swollenshapeof thebosom). In a yearyou will have fullyaugmen-
tedyourtrueenergy,andyourmeritwillbe thesameas thatof a maleperson.96
From the above two passages it would appear thatfemale adepts were taughtto
concentratetheirmind on theirbreasts, for the purpose of mobilizing and utiliz-
ing the vital energies thoughtto be stored in them. Whereas in the case of male
adepts much emphasis was put from ancient times on retainingand recycling
seminal essence, it would appear that women were thoughtto possess a corre-
sponding store of vital energy in theirswollen bosoms. If drawn upon, this en-
ergy was supposed to augment the female adept's bodily energy to the point
where it lacked nothingin comparisonto thatof the male adept. Wang Zhe states
thatthe woman's body becomes like thatof a young boy. A hintas to what spe-
cificallyhe may have meant is provided in a hagiographicalaccount of the life of
a Song period male adept named Wang Quan j£a|. There we are told thatWang
Quan saw a rusticwoman eatinga melon, and noticedthat"her breastswere even
withher belly." From thishe realized thatshe mustbe an "extraordinaryperson"
(yiren HA)· When he asked her her name she replied thatit was Xiao Sanniang
If Ξ$|, and offeredhim a bite of her melon. When Wang Quan accepted unhesi-
tatingly(and thus showed no revulsion for the "filth" of a countrybumpkin),
Xiao Sanniang deemed him "teachable," and broughthim to the renownedim-
mortal Liu Haichan fiJ^$S for instruction.97 If the phrase, "her breasts were
even with her belly" means to say thather breasts did not stick out any further
thandid her belly (i.e., she was flat-chested),thisperhaps is also what Wang Zhe
was referringto by the phrase, "like a young boy." If so, there seems to have
been the notionthatan accomplishedfemale neidan adept draws vital energiesout

94 This
probablymeansto concentrate themindon a particular place (thebreast)and/orto holdthe
Chongyang zhenrenjinguanyusuojue 8a.
96 similarities
"Chongzhenpian" Zeng Zao ©fis (comp.),Daoshu Jffl|. 19thvolume.Striking
betweenportionsof this "Chongzhenpian" and anothertextknownas Jinzhenrenyuluhint
strongly thatJinDaochengwas thesame True Man Jinwhoseteachingsinfluenced theQuan-
97 Zhao tidaotongjian52/2a-3b.Liu Haichan(Liu Cao), muchlikeZhongli
Quan and Lü Dongbin,was a famous,semi-legendary immortalreveredby the Quanzhen
Schooland otherneidanmovements. He is said to have been a wealthygovernment officialun-
der theKhitanLiao dynasty(937-1135) beforeundergoing a religiousconversionat thehands
of ZhongliQuan. Accountsof his lifeare foundinLishizhenxiantidaotongjian,Jinlianzheng-
zongji, andJinlianzhengzongxianyuanxiangzhuan.

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ChenPu's NineStages of Transformation 29

ofherbreastsand intotherestof herbody,and in doingso loses themostpromi-

nentexternalsymbolof her femininity. This wouldbe a phenomenon analogous
to whatis said to happento themale adeptin ChenPu' s discourse.
In sum,ChenPu' s neidandiscourseservesas striking testimonyto tenacity
theTaoisttradition in itsyearningto stretchthelimitsof whatis humanlyfeasi-
ble. It conveysboththeextremerigorwithwhichadeptspursuedimmortality, as
well as a remarkable for - if
propensity imaginative perhaps wishful- thinking.


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Chen Pu's Nine Stages of Transformation 31

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