Alchemists, Mediums, and Magicians: Stories of Taoist Mystics
Here is an introduction to the magical and mystical realm of Taoism through biographical and historical sketches of Taoist adepts over two thousand years. This panoramic view of the many faces of Taoism and its intimate connection with Chinese culture and society includes intriguing accounts of the Taoist secret societies that carried out mystical exercises and powerful consciousness-altering techniques, including sensory deprivation, incantation, visualization, and concentration.
This collection of sketches, compiled by Zhang Tianyu, a Taoist priest in the fourteenth century, and translated by renowned translator Thomas Cleary, portrays more than one hundred remarkable individuals from the eleventh century B.C.E. to the thirteenth century C.E. It introduces us to a broad and fascinating range of personalities including philosophers and scholars, magicians and mediums, alchemists and physicians, seers and soothsayers, and artists and poets, among many others.
Cleary’s expert translation and informative footnotes make this collection a lively and accessible read.
water cutting wood [combined] make [the character] Liang.”31 Then when the army of Wu of Liang32 reached Xincheng, Tao sent his disciple Dai Mengzhi to make his way through alien territory to convey a message to the emperor. Then when he heard there was discussion of abdication, the maestro drew diagrammatic prognoses according to several methods, and all of them came up Liang. So he had a disciple present this. Since the [new] emperor had already spent time with him early on, once he assumed
professorship at the Institute for Honoring Culture and had him talk with the junior mentor of the crown prince, Liu Rengui.44 Later, when the emperor was going to build the Sanctuary in Service of Heaven, he traveled to Mount Song. Youyan’s old house had already been there next to the cloister site, and the emperor gave special orders not to tear it down. He personally wrote a sign to hang over the doorway saying, “The House of the Recluse Tian Youyan.” Taoist Disposition LU HONGYI Lu
crown prince, reflecting the wisdom of stopping at sufficiency, has announced his retirement, leaving office and renouncing prosperity, aiming to go into the mountains. Considering that he has long been so inclined and now he is getting old, we therefore approve his resignation and allow him to go free. On the fifth day of the first month he is going to return to the mountains of Huiji, so we present him with a parting gift for the road east and hereby order the six ministers, department chiefs,
or for a founding figure, historical or legendary; sometimes a Way is defined in reference to a salient conceptual context or practical method. Expressions such as the Way of Nature, the Way of Humanity, the Way of Heaven, and even the Way of Demons thus emerged over time to describe different stages and schools of Chinese philosophy and practice, these terms appearing within the master works themselves as well as in descriptions by observers and analysts. A great deal of ancient Chinese
also as Legalist. The four chapters presented here are called “Inner Work,” “Mental Arts” (I and II) and “Purifying the Mind.” Generally speaking, these tracts deal with self-government as at once an analogy and a practical prerequisite for leadership. The writings are not generally believed to be original works of Guan Yiwu (725–645 B.C.E.), under whose distinguished name the large and varied body of work Guanzi has been collected. Some commentary has also been formally internalized, suggesting