Taoist Meditation

The Mao-shan Tradition of Great Purity

By Isabelle Robinet
Translated by Julian F. Pas & Norman J. Girardot

Subjects: Chinese Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791413609, 316 pages, April 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413593, 316 pages, May 1993

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations and Figures

Translators' Preface

Foreword to the English Edition


Chronological Table

Chapter 1. General Perspectives

I. The Book, Cosmic Creator and the Alliance with the Gods
1. The Ching Reveals the Laws of the World
2. The Ching as the Foundation of the World
3. The Ching: a Token of Power that Certifies and Enlists Divine Protection

II. Talismans and Invocations: Summoning the Gods
Talismans and Invocations: Fu and Chu

III. Auxiliary and Preparatory Exercises

IV. The Figure of the Saint and the Spiritual Hierarchy

V. The Creative Imagination and the Intermediary World

Chapter 2. The Book of the Yellow Court

I. General Introduction

II. Visualization of the Viscera
1. Interior Vision
2. The Viscera as Living Symbols
3. The T'ai-p'ing ching as Predecessor
4. The Huang-t'ing ching: Viscera in the Book of the Yellow Court
5. The Inheritors and the Therapeutic Tendency
6. The Cosmic Dimension of the Viscera
7. The Center of the Body: The Spleen
8. The Fertile Abysses of the Body
The Kidneys and the Lower Cinnabar Field
The Gate of Destiny, Ming-men
The Origin of the Barrier, Kuan-yüan

III. The Circulation of Breath and Essence
1. Breath or Ch'i: Aerial Yang Principle of the Body
2. Essence or Ching: Moist Yin Principle of the Body
3. The Sexual Seed
4. The Nourishing Saliva

IV. Conclusion

Chapter 3. The Book of Great Profundity

I. Introduction

II. The Gods of the Body

III. Unitive Fusion through the Whirlwind
1. Unitive Fusion, Hun-ho
2. The Whirlwind, Hui-feng

Chapter 4. The One, "Preserving the One," and the Three-Ones

I. Unity: Void, Origin, and Chaos

II. Preserving the One, Shou-i

III. The Su-ling ching: The Three and the Nine
1. "Preserving the One," and the Three-Ones
2. The Nine Palaces

IV. The Tz'u-i ching (Scripture of the Feminine One) and the T'ai-tan yin-shu (Secret Book of the Supreme Cinnabar)
1. Tz'u-i, The Feminine One
2. T'ai-i, The Supreme One

Chapter 5. Overcoming Obstacles and the Certainty of the Final Outcome

I. The Embryonic Knots
II. The Promise of Immortality

Chapter 6. The Metamorphoses

I Creative Metamorphoses and the Perpetual Mutations of Life
II. The Changing Faces of Truth
III. Metamorphoses of the Gods
IV. Moving and Wandering
V. Magical Metamorphoses and Reproduction
VI. Metamorphoses of the Taoists
VII. Invisibility: Light and Darkness
VIII. Liberating Mutation and Blessed Dissolution

Chapter 7. Distant Excursions: Ranging Through the Universe

I. Mystical Flights, Fabulous Excursions, and Spiritual Quests
II. Cosmic Exhalations, Fresh Sprouts, and Essential Nourishments
III. The Penetrating Gaze; Vision of the Poles, Mountains, and Seas; and the Universe's Homage

Chapter 8. Flight to the Stars

I. The Couple Sun-Moon
1. Meditation Practices: The Sidereal March, Nourishments of Light, and Flight to the Stars
2. The Hierogamic Transposition of Attributes: Alternation and the Coincidence of Opposites
3. The Pivot and the Infinite Center
4. The Bath of Fire and Water; Sovereignty
5. The Nourishment of Light and the Fusion with the Stars

II The Planets and the Bushel
1. Description
2. Meditation Practices: The Mantle of Stars, Heavenly Couch, and the Mesh of the Network
3. The Center Above
4. The Bushel and the Supreme One, T'ai-i
5. The North: Matrix of Transformations
6. The Divided Center: North-South and Death-Life, the Hells, Order and Division
7. The Polar Darkness
8. Gateway and Step; the Dance

Afterword to the English Edition


Selected Bibliography

Texts Cited

Glossary of Chinese Terms

Glossary of Proper Names



Isabelle Robinet's Taoist Meditation is the first and only scholarly study to discuss the ancient Mao-shan Taoist tradition of visionary meditation while, at the same time, helping to clarify the little understood relationship among the early Taoist classics, the Buddhist tradition, and the later Taoist religion. Most importantly, Taoist Meditation is a pioneering study that fully and accurately describes the unique visionary cosmology, bodily symbolism, astral journeys, internal alchemy, meditational techniques, and ritual practices of the Mao-shan or Shang-chi'ing (Great Purity) movement—one of the most important foundational traditions making up the overall Taoist religion.

This English version of Robinet's work is more than a simple translation. Taoist Meditation presents a significantly expanded edition of the original French text which includes up-to-date bibliographies of Robinet's work and other Western scholarship on Taoism, additional illustrations, and a newly compiled list of textual citations.

Isabelle Robinet is Professor of Chinese History and Civilization at the University of Aix-Marseille. Julian F. Pas is Professor of Chinese Religions at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Norman J. Girardot is Professor of Comparative Religions at Lehigh University.