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Great ClarityDaoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China$
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Fabrizio Pregadio

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780804751773

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804751773.001.0001

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The Early History of Chinese Alchemy and the Way of the Great Clarity

The Early History of Chinese Alchemy and the Way of the Great Clarity

Chapter:
(p.23) 1 The Early History of Chinese Alchemy and the Way of the Great Clarity
Source:
Great Clarity
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804751773.003.0002

This chapter reviews available evidence on the earliest history of alchemy in China. It considers the ambiguity of historical data on Zou Yan (ca. 350–270 bce), who is traditionally considered to be the founder of the School of Yin and Yang (yinyang jia), and the edict issued in 144 bce by Han Jingdi (r. 156–141) forbidding the counterfeiting of gold. Li Shaojun and the earliest alchemical texts are also discussed. The evidence suggests that alchemy was practiced in the imperial court from the mid-second century bce and, in that milieu, was placed under the Yellow Emperor's patronage. Its practice involved ceremonies to the stove performed in order to summon supernatural beings, and the elixirs were either ingested or used to cast tools for eating and drinking. The first known text that described the compounding of elixirs is the now-lost Arts from the Garden of Secrets of the Great Treasure (Hongbao yuanbi shu), which dated from the mid-second century bce and was used for waidan practices at court about one hundred years later.

Keywords:   Chinese alchemy, historical data, Zou Yan, Han Jingdi, waidan

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