Main Chinese Alchemical Scripture

Main Chinese Alchemical Scripture Cover The Zhouyi cantong qi (Token for Joining the Three in Accordance with the Book of Changes) is the main Chinese alchemical scripture. According to the traditional account, the legendary Han immortal from Guiji (in present-day Zhejiang), Wei Boyang, wrote it in the second century CE after reading the Longhu jing (Scripture of the Dragon and Tiger). Later he transmitted it to Xu Congshi, who appended a commentary, and to Chunyu Shutong, who first circulated it in the world. While some features of this account provide significant details -- especially about the reputed date of the text, and about its formation having taken place in stages -- the received Cantong qi actually is not the product of a single generation of authors, but the result of several centuries of textual accretions. At the end of this process, the text rose to the status of main scripture within both the waidan ("external alchemy") and neidan ("internal alchemy") traditions. More than thirty Commentaries of the Cantong qi are extant in at least 120 editions, not including reprints. This testifies to the prestige that the work enjoyed not only within the alchemical traditions, but also among Neo-Confucian thinkers and scholars. Its primary received version, on which about two thirds of the extant commentaries are based, consists of four parts: 1. The main text, in four- or five-character sentences (mostly in rhymes) 2. A section usually entitled "The Five Categories" ("Wu xianglei") or "Filling Lacunae" ("Busai yituo"), deemed to address matters not accounted for in the main text 3. The "Song of the Tripod" ("Dingqi ge"), a poem in three-character lines 4. A "Eulogium" ("Zanxu"), not found in all editions, which some commentators regard as a synopsis of the Cantong qi, and others as the postface to an early commentary Doctrines. Written in a poetical style and in a densely metaphoric and allusive language, the Cantong qi does not fully describe any waidan or neidan method, and only occasionally refers to actual practices related to waidan or neidan. Nevertheless, the Cantong qi has been the only scripture cherished within both forms of Chinese alchemy, and the influence it has exerted on their history from the Tang period onward is not matched by any other work. The main focus of the text is the Dao and its relation to the cosmos, explicated by means of a wide array of alchemical, cosmological and other emblems. Among the main recurrent themes are the distribution of Original Breath (yuanqi) from the center (the Norther Dipper, beidou, or Heart of Heaven, tianxin); the view of time as caused by the continuous upward and downward movement of Original Breath; and the joining of the essences of the Sun and Moon, or Yin and Yang, which occurs at the end of each time cycle and generates the next one. Both space and time are thus seen as essential vehicles for the circulation of the "essence" (jing) originally issued by the Dao in the cosmos. Borrowing from a passage in the Daode jing, the Cantong qi states that "Superior virtue (shangde) has no doing: it does not use examining and seeking. Inferior virtue (xiade) does: its operation does not rest." Some commentators explain these sentences as referring to two ways of realization that are reflected in this work. The first, also known as "entering from Non-being into Being" (cong wu ru you), is based on the immediate realization of the non-distinction of Dao and existence, Non-being and Being. In the second, also known as "using Being to enter Non-being" (yi you ru wu), one attains to the Dao through the alchemical practice. While the doctrines of the Cantong qi apply to both approaches, the text does not focus on either waidan or neidan. The task of presenting alchemical methods based on those doctrines is left to the commentaries and to a large number of associated texts. Early history. Chunyu Shutong's relation to divination, as well as some passages in the received text, suggest that the original version of the Cantong qi was closely related to the so-called "apochryphal" texts of the Han dynasty. According to some scholars, the received text faithfully reproduces the original version; according to others, the original version was lost after the Han, and the received text was entirely fabricated in the early Tang period. There are reasons, however, to assume that the text was expanded during the Six Dynasties, and that no major break in transmission took place at that time. Quotations or mentions of the Cantong qi in works by Jiang Yan (444-505), Tao Hongjing (456-536), and Yan Zhitui (531-91), all of whom came from or lived in the Jiangnan region, show that the Cantong qi circulated in southeastern China after the end of the Han. It appears likely that the text was transmitted there by the lineage of the Later Han cosmologist Yu Fan (164-233), who also came from Guiji and whose cosmological doctrines are reflected in the Cantong qi (Yu Fan is attributed with a lost commentary to the text). Further evidence for the circulation of the Cantong qi in Jiangnan during the Six Dynasties, and for the existence of a textual layer dating from that time, is provided by several dozens of terms and expressions shared with the Scripture of the Yellow Court (Huangting jing) and the Central Scripture of Laozi (Laozi zhongjing), two texts whose meditation and Visualization methods are nonetheless criticized in the Cantong qi Together With physiological practices. A poem by Jiang Yan attests, on the other hand, that the Cantong qi was used in association with the compounding of elixirs by 500 CE. We know nothing about the lineages that created or transmitted the alchemical version of the scripture, but one of two extant Tang waidan commentaries on it, the anonymous Zhouyi cantong qi zhu (CT 1004), appears to be related to the legacy of Hugang zi. Dating from ca. 700 ce, this commentary -- the latter half of which is lost -- is contemporary with another extant Tang exegesis, entitled Zhouyi cantong qi (CT 999) and attributed to the immortal Yin Changsheng. From around that time, mentions and quotations of the Cantong qi in other texts begin to multiply. In the mid-eighth century, moreover, Liu Zhigu wrote his Riyue xuanshu lun (Essay on the Mysterious Pivot, the Sun and Moon), which is the first of a series of short essays on the Cantong qi.

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