A Sweet Briar College Learning Resource

H2O - The Mystery, Art, and Science of Water

Water in Classical Chinese Religion
Professor John Goulde

Taoist Alchemy

Chinese alchemy as a technique for attaining human perfection or immortality is conceived and understood as a method for reverting the energies of the human body back to an original vital form. Since all forms of the temporal and spatial universe are products of the combination and recombination of yin and yang modal energies, they cannot persist. Forms change and are subject to depletion and alteration. If energy can be reverted back to a state in which it is no longer modal or active, a state that is thought to have existed prior to the division of energy into yin and yang, often referred as the state prior to the appearance of heaven and earth, then immortality is possible.

Taoist alchemy provided the Chinese with the techniques for reverting the energy of the five viscera: the lungs (metal), heart (fire) liver (wood) stomach (earth) and the lower abdomen (water) into increasingly finer, less modal energy states. Through the use of breathing, yoga, dietetics, meditation, gymnastics, and various rituals, the Alchemist was able send all the energies of the five viscera into the lower abdomen, considered to be the crucible of the body. One gathered into the abdomen ( mores specifically within the cinnabar field of the abdomen), these energies were refined by a fire that was generated by abdominal or fetal breathing. The abdomen itself is considered to be a watery pool which contains within it pre-natal energy which must be nourished and added to by the transmutation of other body energies. The process is referred to as the wedding of fire to water . When fire is united with water, the energy that is released is prenatal energy, the energy that emerged from the Tao prior to the appearance of specific physical forms. The joining of fire to water thus reverses the microcosm of the body back to a purer more vital state. The result is a form of pre-natal energy in the form of conscious light that is no longer subject to alteration or depletion. This body is sometime referred to as a Diamond Body or an Immortal Fetus. Once full grown it exits the physical body ( at least what's left of it ) and continues to exist in the universe without being subject to the laws of the universe.


H20 - The Mystery, Art, and Science of Water
Chris Witcombe and Sang Hwang
Sweet Briar College