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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Journey to the West : Complete Process of Taoist Internal Alchemy

Vol. 25 No. 1   6/1995  


The Journey to the West Complete Process of Taoist Internal Alchemy


Richard G. Wang









Key words

Internal Alchemy, Refining Essence in Energy, Refining Energy into Spirit, Refining Spirit back to Emptiness, Merging into Reality with the Tao.


      This paper focuses on the systematic analysis and interpretation of the His-yu chiThe Journey to the West, the classic Chinese novel, from the point of view of Taoism, in particular Taoist internal alchemy. The basic principles of the Taoist internal alchemy consist of the cultivation of life and the cultivation of nature. The stages of the internal alchemy include refining essence into energy, refining energy into spirit, refining spirit back to emptiness, and finally merging into reality with the Tao to become Gold Immortal of the Ta-lo Heaven. The development of the plots and episodes to the His-yu chi exactly displays the complete process of internal alchemy. The section from Chapter 1 to Chapter 31 is a presentation of the cultivation of nature while the sections after Chapter 31 are about the cultivation of life. Within the sections of the cultivation of life, the section from Chapter 32 to Chapter 66 is the stage of refining essence into energy into energy. The section from Chapter 67 to Chapter 83 is the stage of refining energy into spirit. The section from Chapter 84 to Chapter 97 is the stage of refining spirit back to emptiness. The final section from Chapter 98 to Chapter 100 is the stage of merging into reality with the Tao and attaining the Gold Immortality of the Ta-lo Heaven. From such an analysis, we can say that the author or editor of the hundred-chapter His-yu chi systematically manifests the theme of internal alchemy in the novel. From this perspective, we might probably speculate upon the motive of the Taoists or even the author/editors of the novel in their dealing with His-yu chi. If we can read His-yu chi from this level of allegorizaton by reference to internal alchemy Taoism, we might also to certain extent deciph er many enigmas existing in the novel for today’s readers.

    The author supplements Wand Kuo-kuang’s research on the His-yu chi from internal alchemy by focusing on the section from Ch apter 67 to the end of the novel. This paper also tries to reestablish the structure of the novel in terms of Taoism. The author directly quotes a lot of materials from the Taoist scriptures in order to evince the Taoist significance of the novel. Thus the auth or believes that the interpretation from internal alchemy Taoism can offer more proper understanding to the text.



Author: Richard G. Wang
Genre: Article
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