Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Translation of the Longmen "Lineage Poem"

Many Taoist lineages bestow "ordination names" or "lineage names" using the characters found in a specially-written poem. Each generation of disciples receives their names using in sequence one character of the poem. Thus the name of a first-generation master includes the first character; the name of a second-generation master includes the second character; and so forth. These poems are known in general as "lineage poems" (paishi).

The most famous "lineage poem" in Taoism is the one of the Longmen (Dragon Gate) lineage. Known as the "Longmen Lineage Poem" (Longmen paishi), the "Hundred-Character Lineage of Ancestor Qiu" (Qiuzu baizi pai), or in other similar ways, it is made of 20 verses of 5 characters. The 100 different characters of the poem should suffice to assign lineage names for about two and a half millennia, and perhaps even longer.

Below is a translation of the poem. Each word is translated with a different English word, and the translation retains the sequence of the words in each verse. While this results in a definitely not elegant (and possibily ungrammatical) translation, it gives a better idea of the nature and purpose of the poem.


The Dao and its Virtue pervade the mysterious quiescence,
true constancy guards the grand clarity.
The One Yang comes and returns to the root:
the united teaching is unendingly whole and bright.

The perfect principle is at the origins of sincerity and truthfulness:
venerable and lofty, it transmits the doctrine’s prosperity.
The world’s appearance is flourishing and thoroughly luxuriant,
the inaudible and imperceptible spreads and of-its-own is peaceful.

Dwell in cultivating the correct humanity and righteousness:
transcending and rising to the clouds, you will be able to ascend.
In the great subtlety the central yellow is honored:
the saintly body entirely performs its function.

In emptiness and vacuity, Qian and Kun are splendid:
Metal and Wood in their natures reciprocally meet.
In mountains and seas, Dragon and Tiger conjoin:
the lotus opens and manifests the treasure anew.

When the practice is complete, the red writ is proclaimed,
from the moon’s fullness an auspicious radiance is born.
For ten-thousand ages shall continue the immortals’ names,
and the three realms will all be akin.

Chinese Text


Related Materials

For a version containing a longer introduction and short notes to the poem, please download this PDF from the Golden Elixir website:

• The Longmen "Lineage Poem": A Translation (PDF, 4 pages)

See also the free PDF: "The Longmen Lineage: Historical Notes" (Golden Elixir Press, Occasional Papers no. 4, free download)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Longmen Lineage: Historical Notes (Free PDF)

Golden Elixir Press is pleased to announce the publication of a new occasional paper:

The Longmen Lineage: Historical Notes

(PDF, 25 pp., free download)

This essay contains a short history of the Longmen (Dragon Gate) lineage, to which many masters of Neidan (Taoist Internal Alchemy) claim affiliation. It presents the main stages of development of Longmen, and briefly describes its main branches and its main masters.

The essay is translated from the chapter "Longmen pai" (The Longmen Lineage) in Zhongguo daojiao (Chinese Taoism), ed. by Qing Xitai (4 vols; Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, 1994), vol. 1.

Click the picture or here for the download page in the Golden Elixir website.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Liu Yiming on the Internal Companions

▶ Quoted from Cultivating the Tao: Taoism and Internal Alchemy, by Liu Yiming, page 155 — Read more about this book

. . . Therefore being connected with companions who have the same mind is the most important thing in the cultivation of the Tao. However, companions who share the same mind are very difficult to discern. They have no form and no image, no sound and no color, no front and no back. Facing evil, they transform themselves into yakshas; facing goodness, they transform themselves into bodhisattvas.(1) Their transformations have no limit: they conceal or manifest themselves in unfathomable ways. Everyone has them in front of their eyes, but misses them. If you are unwilling to discern the true, day after day they increasingly separate from you.

When all of a sudden an intimate friend appears, you become of one mind with him: walking, standing, sitting, or lying, neither of you separates from the other for a single instant. . . . Those who intend to cultivate Reality might be without external companions, but should never be without internal companions.

(1) In Buddhism, a yaksha is a minor deity who protects from evil, and a bodhisattva operates for the liberation of all beings. Liu Yiming seems to say here that the “internal companions” protect one in unfavorable circumstances, as do the yakshas, and support one when the circumstances are favorable, as do the bodhisattvas.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Wu Shouyang on the Alchemical Embryo

The stage of "refining Breath to transmute it into Spirit" constitutes an advanced stage of the alchemical work, in which one's practice progresses from "doing" to "non-doing." The Great Medicine is called Embryo of Sainthood (shengtai) or Infant (ying'er). Both terms are actually metaphors for Spirit and Breath coagulating and coalescing with one another. Wu Shouyang explains the meaning of these terms saying:

"Metaphorically it is called 'embryo,' as if there is truly an embryo. In fact, however, there is no embryo. Why is it so? Because according to the principle of giving birth, one generates the embryo of a child in the womb; and according to the principle of cultivating immortality, one generates an embryo of Spirit in the Heart. The worldly people hear the word 'embryo' and say that within the womb there is truly an embryo, which then leaves and becomes 'a body outside the body' (shen wai shen). This is truly risible. Essentially, the human nature is perfectly empty and perfectly numinous; it is devoid of a form and a body." (1)

(1) Wu Shouyang (1574-1644), Xian Fo hezong yulu (Recorded Sayings on the Common Origin of the Immortals and the Buddhas), with minor omissions and changes

▶ Quoted from Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan, by Wang Mu, page 107— Read more on and from this book

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Qian and Kun, Kan and Li

▶ Quoted from 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, by Fabrizio Pregadio, pages 78-79— Read more on and from this book

Qian ☰ the firm and Kun ☷ the yielding
join and embrace one another;
Yang endows, Yin receives,
the masculine and the feminine attend
        one to the other.
Attending, they create and transform,
unfolding their Essence and Breath.

Kan ☵ and Li ☲ are at the fore:
their radiance and glow come down
        and spread out.
Mysterious and obscure, this can hardly
        be fathomed
and cannot be pictured or charted.
The sages gauged its depth;
one with it, they set forth its foundation.

These four, in indistinction,
are right within Empty Non-Being.
Sixty hexagrams revolve around them,
outspread like a chariot.
Harnessing a dragon and a mare,
the bright noble man holds the reins of time.

In harmony there are following and compliance:
the path is level and begets no evil.
Evil ways obstruct and hamper:
they endanger the kingdom.

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