Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Lovely Maid and the Yellow Sprout (from the Cantong qi)

This passage of the Cantong qi is reproduced from Fabrizio Pregadio, The Seal of the Unity of the Three: A Study and Translation of the Cantong qi, the Source of the Way of the Golden Elixir (Golden Elixir Press, 2011).

The Golden Elixir website contains an extended collection of of free translations, essays, and other materials on the Cantong qi reproduced from this book.


Book 2, Section 68: The Lovely Maid and the Yellow Sprout

1-4The Lovely Maid of the River
is numinous and supremely divine:
when she finds Fire she flies away,
leaving behind not a speck of dust.
5-8Like a demon she hides, like a dragon she conceals:
nobody knows her whereabouts.
If you want to control her,
the Yellow Sprout is the root.



The Lovely Maid of the River (heshang chanü) is True Mercury; she is the Yin line within Li , referred to as the "second daughter" in the terminology of the Book of Changes. Aroused by fire, she escapes and flies away. Only the Yellow Sprout (huangya), which is True Lead, can hold her. When they meet, they join and generate the Elixir.

The argument poetically expressed in these verses resounds at different levels and can be understood in different ways. From the perspective of the Cantong qi, all of them are instances of one and the same principle. In a material sense, the Lovely Maid of the River can be mercury, which escapes (volatilizes) when it is heated by fire. In a spiritual sense, referred to the human being, the Lovely Maid can refer to sentiments and passions. When one's own Fire is used to stimulate those sentiments and passions, they escape and run uncontrolled. When they are presided over by one's own True Nature (Lead, the Yellow Sprout), they turn into qualities — instincts, intuitions, propensities — that express one's Nature.
© Fabrizio Pregadio and Golden Elixir Press

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Translation of the Main Text of Taoist Alchemy

Golden Elixir Press is pleased to announce the publication of The Seal of the Unity of the Three, by Fabrizio Pregadio.

"The Cantong qi is the forefather of the scriptures on the Elixir of all times. Its words are ancient and profound, arcane and subtle. No one can fathom their meaning." Thus begins a preface found in one of the commentaries to the Cantong qi (The Seal of the Unity of the Three). These words express several significant features of the work translated in the present book: the charm of its verses, the depth of its discourse, its enigmatic language, and its intimate relation to the Taoist alchemical traditions.

Under an allusive poetical language and thick layers of images and symbols, the Cantong qi hides the exposition of a doctrine that inspired a large number of commentaries and other works, and attracted the attention not only of Taoist masters and adepts, but also of philosophers, cosmologists, poets, literati, calligraphers, philologists, and bibliophiles.

As shown by its title, the Cantong qi is concerned with three major subjects, namely Cosmology (the relation of the world to the Dao), Taoism (the way of "non-doing"), and Alchemy, and joins them to one another into a unique doctrine, known as the Way of the Golden Elixir. In addition to a complete translation of the text, this book contains explanations of each of its sections, notes on many of its verses, and a detailed introduction to its history and doctrines.

The book is offered with a 20% early publication discount until October 23, 2011. Please see below for this offer.

Visit the Web page on this book.

Publication Data

Fabrizio Pregadio
The Seal of the Unity of the Three:
A Study and Translation of the Cantong qi,
the Source of the Taoist Way of the Golden Elixir

Golden Elixir Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9843082-8-6
324 pp., paperback, US$ 24.95 (list price)

Early publication price: US$ 19.96 (20% discount)
Buy from CreateSpace.com — Enter discount code XK73HZN5 at checkout
This offer is valid until October 23, 2011 (*)

Preview and Samples

For a preview of the book (PDF, 28 pp.) and other online samples, see this page.

(*) By the time your read this, Amazon.com and other online bookstores may sell this book with a discount even higher than 20%. Except for CreateSpace — the online shop of the company that prints this book — Golden Elixir Press has no way to activate or influence any discount offered by online bookstores. You may want to check your favorite online bookstore's price before using this offer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autumn 2011 Catalogue — 10% discount on all PDF editions

The Autumn 2011 catalogue is now available. Click the picture or the link below to access the download page:

The catalogue includes a code for a 10% discount on all PDF editions. This offer is valid until the end of autumn (December 21, 2011).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Li Daochun on the Dragon and the Tiger

This passage from Li Daochun's most important work is quoted in Isabelle Robinet, The World Upside Down: Essays on Taoist Internal Alchemy (Golden Elixir Press, 2011)

The image of the Dragon-Tiger undergoes a thousand transformations and ten thousand changes, and its transcendence (liao) is divine and unfathomable. This is why we use it to represent the ingredients, we establish it as Tripod and Furnace, and we move it with the Fire regime. By analogy, it is Kan and Li; by substitution (jia), it is Metal and Fire; by naming, it is the boy and the girl; by conjoining, it is the husband and the wife.

All these different names constitute the wondrous function (yong) of the Dragon and the Tiger. By virtue of their divine animation (ling gan), we call them ingredients; because they bring things to achievement, we call them Tripod and Furnace; by virtue of their transformations, we call them Fire regime; because they cross each other and join to one another, we call them Kan and Li; because they are firm and straight, we call them Metal and Wood; because they ascend and descend, we call them boy and girl; because they wondrously harmonize with one another, we call them husband and wife.

Li Daochun (late 13th century)
Zhonghe ji (Anthology of Central Harmony), chapter 4

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Isabelle Robinet, The World Upside Down: Essays on Taoist Internal Alchemy

Golden Elixir Press is pleased to announce the publication of The World Upside Down: Essays on Taoist Internal Alchemy, by Isabelle Robinet, in paperback and PDF editions.

The World Upside Down contains four essays on Internal Alchemy (Neidan), originally published in French and translated here for the first time into English. The essays are concerned with the alchemical principle of "inversion"; the devices used by the alchemists to "give form to the Formless by the word, and thus manifest the authentic and absolute Dao"; the symbolic function of numbers in Taoism and in Internal Alchemy; and the original meanings of the terms "External Elixir" (waidan) and "Internal Elixir" (neidan).

Visit the Web page.

About the Author

Isabelle Robinet (1932-2000) was one of the most important Western scholars of Taoism. Her work dealt with several major topics: the Laozi and the Zhuangzi with their commentaries; the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) school of Taoism; Neidan (Internal Alchemy); and Taoist thought and cosmology. Her publications in English include Taoist Meditation: The Mao-shan Tradition of Great Purity (1993) and Taoism: Growth of a Religion (1997).

Publication Data

Isabelle Robinet, The World Upside Down: Essays on Taoist Internal Alchemy
Edited and translated by Fabrizio Pregadio
Golden Elixir Press, 2011
viii + 129 pp.
ISBN 978-0-9843082-6-2
Paperback, US$ 15.95 (list price)
PDF, US$ 9.95 (list price)

Free Online Samples

PDF sample (62 pages)
Yin and Yang in Internal Alchemy (web page)
"Reversal" in Internal Alchemy (web page)
The Language of Internal Alchemy (web page)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nourishing Inner Nature

This is one of the poems in the Cantong qi (The Seal of the Unity of the Three), the main text of Taoist Internal Alchemy (Neidan).

Innerly nourish yourself,
serene and quiescent in Empty Non-Being.
Going back to the fundament conceal your light,
and innerly illuminate your body.

"Shut the openings"
and raise and strengthen the Numinous Trunk;
as the three luminaries sink into the ground,
warmly nourish the Pearl.

"Watching, you do not see it" —
it is nearby and easy to seek.

For comments and notes on this poem, see this page

Reproduced form Fabrizio Pregadio, The Seal of the Unity of the Three: A Study and Translation of the Cantong qi, the Source of the Way of the Golden Elixir (© Golden Elixir Press, forthcoming).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Li Daochun on the "Mysterious Barrier"

This short passage is translated from the Zhonghe ji (Anthology of Central Harmony), a work containing writings by Li Daochun, who was active at the end of the 13th century. The passage is part of a conversation between Li Daochun and one his disciples.

The scriptures on the Elixir say that the wonder of the practice essentially lies in the Mysterious Barrier (xuanguan). I don't know where exactly is the Mysterious Barrier.

Li Daochun said: The Mysterious Barrier is an utterly mysterious and wondrous function. How could it have a fixed position? If it is situated in the body, this is not correct. If it is separated from this body and is searched outside of it, this too is not correct. Those who are mired in the body situate it in the physical shape; those who are mired in the outward situate it in the external things. In any case, the Mysterious Barrier is the place where the Four Elements and the Five Agents do not cling.

(The Four Elements of Buddhism are Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind. The Five Agents of the Chinese tradition are Wood, Fire, Soil, Metal, and Water.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer 2011 Catalogue — 10% discount on all PDF editions

The Summer 2011 catalogue is now available. Click the picture or the link below to access the download page:

• Summer 2011 catalogue

The catalogue includes a code for a 10% discount on all PDF editions. This offer is valid until the end of summer (September 22, 2011).

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Book of the Nine Elixirs

The Book of the Nine Elixirs (Jiudan jing) is the main extant text of the Great Clarity (Taiqing), the earliest identifiable tradition in the history of Chinese alchemy. In its original form, this work dates from about 200 CE. It describes the preparation of nine elixirs, paying particular attention to the ritual context of the alchemical practice.

The main stages of the process are the ceremony of transmission from master to disciple, the establishment of the ritual area, the choice of an auspicious time, the compounding of the elixir, its offering to the gods, and its ingestion. It is this entire process, and not only the actual compounding of the elixirs, that constitutes the alchemical practice.

On the other hand, neither the Book of the Nine Elixirs, nor any other Great Clarity source, describes the alchemical process using the patterns, imagery, and language of Chinese cosmology and its system of correspondences. These features of the cosmological system become important in the history of Chinese alchemy only from the Tang period onward (approximately from the 7th century). They were first used in Waidan (External Alchemy), and paved the way for the emergence of Neidan (Internal Alchemy, documented from the 8th century).

When these new forms of alchemy became widespread, the Great Clarity tradition declined. No original text belonging to this tradition was composed in the Tang period or later. The Book of the Nine Elixirs is one of the few sources that provide glimpses into the earliest stages of the Chinese alchemical tradition.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Internal Alchemy and the Daode jing

In the Western world, those who are interested in Neidan (Internal Alchemy) sometimes claim that the Daode jing (Scripture of the Way and Its Virtue) is a Neidan text.

This view deserves attention, because it is in some respects similar to the traditional view held by Neidan masters and adepts in China. However, it also requires some comments.

While Neidan needs the Daode jing, the Daode jing does not need Neidan. The Daode jing is an integral statement of Taoist doctrine. Being complete and self-contained, it does not demand or await anything outside itself. Its doctrine, however, can be applied, to varying extents, to different practices, arts, and sciences. The Daode jing itself pays much attention to one particular application of its own doctrine: the art of government.

Since some fundamental principles of Neidan are based on the doctrine of the Daode jing, a Neidan practitioner might claim that the Daode jing is a Neidan text. But for a similar reason, an army general who practices the "art of war" might claim that the Daode jing is a text about making war.

Then, is the Daode jing about Neidan or about war? It is neither about Neidan nor about war — but its teachings can be applied to an indefinite number of fields. Neidan is one of those fields.

In other words, the Daode jing contains the main statement of doctrines that are fundamental in Neidan, but is not "a Neidan text" of its own.

Consider, for example, the famous passage found in section 42, which describes the relation of the Dao to the cosmos using a sequence of stages: "The Dao generates the One, the One generates the Two, the Two generate the Three, the Three generate the ten thousand things". Neidan masters of all times have applied these words to the Neidan practice, which goes through that sequence in reverse in order to "return to the Dao". Does this mean that the Daode jing describes the Neidan practice?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

9 Taoist Books on the Elixir

Golden Elixir Press has started the Occasional Papers series. This series will contain short articles, translations, reference works, or similar publications, distributed either for free or at a very low price. The Occasional Papers will be available only in PDF format.

The first publication in the series is:

Fabrizio Pregadio
9 Taoist Books on the Elixir: A Short Bibliography
23 pp., Golden Elixir Press, 2011
Web page

Please visit the Web page to download the bibliography for free.

This bibliography contains the main data on nine important original texts of Taoist alchemy. It includes two texts on Waidan (External Alchemy) and seven texts on Neidan (Internal Alchemy). In addition to their importance and renown, the selections concern texts for which at least one translation in a Western language is available.

Each entry contains: Title in Chinese, and translation; Information on author and date; A synthetic description; References to print editions of the Chinese text; Links to online versions of the Chinese text; Translations into Western languages (with links to relevant Web pages, if available); Main reference materials, both in print and online.

Most entries also include short translations, to provide at least a glimpse of the content of each text.

An appendix contains the titles of nine selected Western-language works on Taoist alchemy, with short notes on their content.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Equinox Sale — 50% off all PDFs (until March 21, 2011)

Golden Elixir Press celebrates the forthcoming Spring Equinox with a 50% discount on all PDF editions.

This year's Spring Equinox is on Sunday, March 20, 23:21 UTC. The sale is currently open, and will end on Monday, March 21, 23:20 UTC. (Depending on your location, the sale may end as early as Monday, 12:20, or as late as Tuesday, 16:20, local time.)

To use the 50% discount, please visit this web page:
Golden Elixir Spring Equinox Sale

Titles and Discounts

Wang Mu, Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan
US$  9.95  > 4.98

Fabrizio Pregadio, Awakening to Reality: A Taoist Classic of Internal Alchemy
US$  9.95  > 4.98

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism
US$  8.95  > 4.48

Jami, Flashes of Light: A Treatise on Sufism
US$  4.99  > 2.50

Shaikh Sharfuddin Maneri, Letters from a Sufi Teacher
US$  5.99  > 3.00

Fabrizio Pregadio, Chinese Alchemy: An Annotated Bibliography
US$  5.00  > 2.50

Fabrizio Pregadio, Index of Zhonghua Daozang
US$  9.95  > 4.98

Fabrizio Pregadio, Index of Zhengtong Daozang
Free download

Golden Elixir Press wishes everyone a Happy Spring!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan, by Wang Mu

Golden Elixir Press is pleased to announce the publication of Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan, by Wang Mu.

Originally written for Chinese readers, this book provides a clear description of the Taoist practice of Internal Alchemy, or Neidan. The author describes the stages of the practice and clarifies several relevant terms and notions, including Essence, Breath, and Spirit; the Cinnabar Fields; the "Fire Times"; and the Embryo. The book is based on the system of the Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality), one of the main sources of Internal Alchemy, and contains about two hundred quotations from this and other Taoist texts.

Wang Mu (1908–92) received the Longmen ordination in his youth. He taught Internal Alchemy (Neidan) and was held in high regard by both Taoist practitioners and scholars. He served as a board member of the China Taoist Association and was for some time in charge of its research activities. He is known outside China mainly for his annotated edition of the Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality), the text at the basis of the outline of Internal Alchemy that he provides in Foundations of Internal Alchemy.

Foundations of Internal Alchemy is available in paperback and PDF editions.

Visit the Web pageDownload PDF sample (68 pp.)

Publication details:

Wang Mu
Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan
Edited and translated by Fabrizio Pregadio
viii + 144 pp., Golden Elixir Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0984308255

Paperback, US$ 16.95
PDF, US$ 9.95

Friday, February 18, 2011

PDFs and Free Book

All Golden Elixir books are now available as PDFs for immediate download. The PDFs are not protected and text can be selected, copied, and printed.

To celebrate the event, "Flashes of Light: A Treatise on Sufism" can be downloaded for free until the end of February, 2011.

If you are interested, here is what to do:

The price will change to 0.00. Click Checkout, enter the required information, and you will receive an email with the download link within a few minutes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism (20% discount)

Golden Elixir Press is pleased to announce the publication of a new edition of Hinduism and Buddhism, by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy.

This is the only English-language edition that includes all the additions and changes that the Author contributed, shortly before his death, to the French translation of his work.

For the first two weeks you can order the book with a 20% discount (US$11.16 instead of US$13.95, approximately corresponding to €8.15 instead of €10.20). The offer is valid until February 6, 2011.

To use this offer, go to http://www.createspace.com/3551156. At checkout, enter the following discount code, exactly as shown here: LSN5TBFB.

See a PDF sample of this book (two chapters from the Hinduism section and two chapters from the Buddhism section).

Publication details:

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy
Hinduism and Buddhism
x + 112 pp., Golden Elixir Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9843082-3-1
Paperback, US$ 13.95 (list price)

First published in 1943, this outstanding book represents in many ways the most complete achievement of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), one of the main modern representatives of the Hindu tradition. Displaying an unequaled mastery of Sanskrit, Pali, Greek, Latin, and medieval German and Italian sources, Coomaraswamy shows that "the Indian tradition is one of the forms of the Philosophia Perennis, and as such, embodies those universal truths to which no one people or age can make exclusive claim."

This is the only English-language edition that includes all the additions and changes that the Author contributed, shortly before his death, to the French translation of his work.

Visit the Web page on this book.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Golden Elixir Books Available from Google eBookstore

Just a short note to announce that four books by Golden Elixir Press are now available in digital versions from Google eBookstore:
Please use the links above to access these titles. As of today, three of the four books cannot yet be found using the search field in the eBookstore home page.

As fas as I understand, the PDF files of all four books can be read only on the free Adobe Digital Editions reader.

"Bibliography of Chinese Alchemy" and "Letters from a Sufi Teacher" can also be downloaded as EPUB files. The EPUB versions can be read on the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and many other ebook readers, but not on the the Amazon Kindle (if you use a Kindle, see this page).

In addition, any purchased book can be read online with your usual Web browser.

Prices shown above are correct as of today. Please note that the eBookstore is currently available only in the Unites States.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jami, Flashes of Light: A Treatise on Sufism

Golden Elixir Press is pleased to announce the publication of Flashes of Light: A Treatise on Sufism, by Jami ('Abd al-Rahman al-Jami).

The book is available only in a digital version, in two formats: PDF and EPUB. Both versions are priced at US$ 4.99. A Kindle version should be available in a few days from Amazon.com.

Web page
20-page preview (PDF)

Publication details

Flashes of Light: A Treatise on Sufism
Golden Elixir Press, 2010
ISBN 978-0-9843082-2-4 (ebook)
x+72 pp., US$ 4.99 (PDF or EPUB)

The renowned Persian thinker and poet 'Abd al-Rahman al-Jami (1414-92 CE) wrote his Flashes of Light (Lawa'ih) to explain "the intuitions and verities displayed on the pages of the hearts and minds of men of insight and divine knowledge." Each section of his work consists of a discussion in prose and a portion in verses. Jami provides one of the best, synthetic introductions to Sufi spirituality.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chinese Alchemy in the Persée Portal

Persée is a free collection of journal articles published in France. It contains at present about 90,000 articles, mostly in French, but also in English and other languages. It is in some ways the French response to JSTOR, with the important difference that access is free and open to everybody: "Anyone and everyone may search, browse, and consult the documents dissiminated via the Persée portal, without restrictions, free of charge."

The collection contains these articles on Chinese alchemy:

• "Inner Alchemy: Notes on the Origin and Use of the Term Neidan," Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein

• "Taoist Beliefs in Literary Circles of the Sung Dynasty: Su Shi (1037-1101) and his Techniques of Survival," Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein

• "Lü Tung-pin in Northern Sung Literature," Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein

• "Le corps, champ spatio-temporel, souche d'identité," Catherine Despeux (in my opinion, the best survey of the Chinese and Taoist views of the human body)

• "L'alchimie intérieure réhabilitée?," Vincent Goossaert (review of Isabelle Robinet, Introduction à l'alchimie intérieure taoïste)

• "L'alchimie en Chine: Pratique et théorie," Joseph Needham

• "The Representation of Time in the Zhouyi cantong qi," Fabrizio Pregadio

• "Le monde à l'envers dans l'alchimie intérieure taoïste," Isabelle Robinet

• "Le rôle et le sens des nombres dans la cosmologie et l'alchimie taoïstes," Isabelle Robinet

• "Recherche sur l'alchimie intérieure (neidan): L'école Zhenyuan," Isabelle Robinet

• "L'alchimie interne dans le taoïsme," Isabelle Robinet [Review of Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein, Procédés Secrets du Joyau Magique—Traité d'Alchimie Taoïste du Xle siècle]

The Persée website is here: