Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Way Of The Golden Elixir : A Historical Overview of Taoist Alchemy By Fabrizio Pregadio

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Chinese alchemy has a history of more than two thousand years, re- corded from the 2nd century BCE to the present day. Its two main branches, known as Waidan, or External Alchemy, and Neidan, or In- ternal Alchemy, share in part their doctrinal foundations but differ from one another in the respective practices.

Waidan (lit., “external elixir”), which arose earlier, is based on the compounding of elixirs through the manipulation of natural sub- stances and the heating of ingredients in a crucible. Its texts consist of recipes, along with descriptions of ingredients, ritual rules, and pas- sages concerned with the cosmological associations of minerals, met- als, instruments, and operations. Neidan (lit., “internal elixir”) borrows a significant part of its vocabulary and imagery from its earlier coun- terpart, but aims to produce the elixir within the alchemist’s person, using the primary components of the cosmos and the human being as ingredients. Neidan texts cover a wider spectrum of subjects compared to Waidan; at its ends are, on the one hand, spiritual teachings on the Dao (the Absolute, and the origin of the manifested world) and, on the other, descriptions of physiological practices.

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