Making Transcendents, cap.s 1-4



















p. 1 s^i-jie (‘escape by means of a simulated corpse’) in the biography of Lin S^ou-guan, according to Ge Hon Traditions of Divine Transcendents

Lin S^ou-guan "obtained a method for [making] "efflorescence of vermilion" pills. These he synthesized ... . ... Over a hundred days after his funeral and burial, someone saw Ling [alive] in Xiaohuang. This person sent a letter to Hu Gang [(n. 4 : "mentioned in Hou Han Shu 44:1504"], who, upon receiving the letter, dug up the coffin and looked inside. It was empty except for an old shoe."

p. 7 authors of books


date (Chr.E.) of author


(putatively) Liu Xian

(put. Western Han)

Lie-xian Z^uan ("Traditions of Exemplary Transcendents")

Ge Hon


S^en-xian Z^uan ("Traditions of Divine Transcendents")

Wan C^on

27- ca. 100

Lun-hen ("Arguments Weighed")

Cao Z^i


S^i-yi Lun ("Resolving Doubts")

Fan Ye


Hou Han S^u ("History of the Latter Han")

Li Dao-yuan


S^ui-jin Z^u ("Annotated Classic on Waterways")

p. 53 escape by corpse

"And methods of "escape by means of a corpse substitute" required adepts to leave their homes and flee to the mountains so as to avoid detection by the death-register-keeping spirits who otherwise would come to summon them to the underworld."

p. 63 bodily customs of peoples in directions beyond the borders, according to Li-ji Z^en-yi, section "Wan-z^i", 246-7 (Legge’s Li K^i 1:228-30)






hair unbound, body tattooed



forehead tattooed, feet turned inward



hair unbound, clad in skins



clad in feathers & furs, dwelt in caves

p. 71 description of a transcendent to Jian Wu by Jie Yu, according to Z^uan-zi, cap. 1, ll. 26-31 (Graham’s Chuang-tzu 46)

"on the distant mountain of Guyi a divine man dwells. His skin and flesh are like ice and snow. He is gentle as a virgin. He goes not eat the five grains, but rather sucks wind and drinks dew. He rides the qi of clouds and mounts dragons, roaming beyond the four seas. When the spirits in him congeal, this causes creatures to be free from plagues and the year’s grain crops to ripen."

p. 76 that which is eaten by the 3 ranks of beings who have obtained the Way, according to the Tai-pin Jin (‘Great Peace Scripture’) 716


their food


wind & qi


"medicinal sapors"



p. 77 "In other passages the Scripture provides instructions for specific methods of "eating wind and qi" to maximize advantage." (Ibid., 259 & 699-700)

p. 77 non-eating of grains for longevity’s sake

"Master Redpine ... practice gain avoidance, guiding and pulling, and lightening the body"

S^i Ji 55:2048

"Wangzi Qiao and the like, who, in not eating grains and in eating differently from ordinary people, therefore also achieved a different longevity than that of ordinary people"

Lun-hen 7:335 (Forke’s Lun-he^ng 1:347)

p. 78 statement by a woman transcendent from the Qin dynasty, who had lived, without aging, into the reign of emperor C^en of the Han dynasty, according to Traditions of Exemplary Transcendents

"I was originally a woman of the Qin palace. When I heard that invaders from the east had arrived, that the King of Qin would go out and surrender, ... I fled in fright to the mountains. ... an old man taught me to eat the resin and nuts of pines. ... They enabled me to feel neither hunger nor thirst; in winter I was not cold, in summer I was not hot."

p. 80 declaration by the 3 Transcendent Kings from the Heaven of Great Purity to the Yellow Thearch, according to the Lin-bao Wu-fu Jin (Numinous-Treasure ‘5 Talismans Scripture’) (= DZ 388) 3:21b-22a

"swallow the floriate pond without resting, and keep your qi shut within you without flagging ... . ... The Verse of Great Existence says : ‘... If you wish to live long, you must make the qi of your visceral storehouses clean and pure [by] decanting the floriate juice into your body. You will then meet heaven with the jade liquid in your mouth {allusion to the jade amulet placed into mouth of cadavers of nobility before interrment}, and you and heaven will reach the same longevity.’ "

pp. 81-82 the 3 "Worms" within one’s body

p. 81

"They were said to appear as maggots in excrements and lack organs of sight and hearing, suggestive of tapeworms, but also to ascend monthly to report to register-keeping officials of their human hosts’ misdeeds so as to hasten their deaths".

p. 82

"In ... early texts ... is ... suggested that these beings feed on grains or are a by-product of their digestion."

p. 82, fn. 73

"A passage in DZ 288 (a text probably assembled around 280 C.E.), 2:11a, states that fasting for twenty days, ingesting only a prescribed herbal preparation, will cause ... "the worms to depart." ... In yet another passage (2:23b-24b), ... we read that"

the __ of the 3 corpses

craveth __


luxury items


the 5 sapors (food)


the 5 colors

p. 92 original transmission, according to the Huan-di Jiu-din S^en-dan Jin-jue (‘Yellow-Thearch’s 9-Tripods Elixir Scripture-Instruction’) (= DZ 885) 1:1a

"the Yellow Thearch received the ultimate way of the reverted elixirs from the Mystic Woman ... . ... The Yellow Thearch synthesized and ingested [the elixirs] and thereby subsequently ascended as a transcendent. ... The Mystic Woman declared to the Yellow Thearch : "... Ingesting the divine elixirs causes one to transcend the world as a divine transcendent, coming to an end only with heaven and earth. [As such],

one shares in the radiance of sun and moon,

sees a myriad li in distance while merely sitting,

dispatches ghosts and spirits,

lifts one’s entire household to rise into the void,

flies without wings,

rides clouds and harnesses dragons [as mounts],

ascends and descends in Grand Purity (Taiqing ...),

in an instant journeys to the eight extremities without being restricted within the rivers, and

is not cowed by the hundred poisons."

p. 93 lineage of early transmission, according to the Numinous-Treasure 5-Talismans Scripture (= DZ 388) 1:7b-11a (transl. in PFF, pp. 68-9)

thearch Ku

Yu the Great "(who ... recovered his copy from another mountain cavern where it had been placed by Ku)."

the "Recluse of Mount Bao ..., who, acting as an envoy of He Lu: ..., journeys deep within a cave and recovered the scripture placed there earlier by Yu

king He Lu:, "who stored the scripture for a while in a spirit hall; later ... only to find that, although the seal of the case was unbroken, the text had vanished."

PFF = Stephen Bokenkamp : "The Peach Flower Font and the Grotto Passage". In :- J. Amer. Or. Soc. 106 (1986):65-77

p. 95 cave of Kon Yuan-fan, according to Ge Hon’s Traditions of Divine Transcendents

"Kong bored into the embankment beside a river to form a cavern chamber a little over ten square feet in area. ... In front of the cave opening there was a cypress tree; it ... hid the entrance ... . Now there came youth from the east whose name was Ping Yu. ... He watched Yuanfang, then went looking for his cave dwelling and managed to find it. Yuanfang ... bestowed on Ping Yu a silk text in two fascicles, saying : "These are the essential sayings of the Way. This text is to be transmitted to only one person in every forty-year period. ... Now that I have accomplished the transmission, I am leaving here." And so Yuanfang abandoned his wife and children and entered the Western Marchmount."

"Elsewhere we read of a similar forty-year transmission cycle in the case of the Esoteric Writings of the Three Sovereigns (Sanhuang neiwen ...) and the Charts of the Perfect Forms of the Five Marchmounts (Wuyue zhenxing tu ...) as cited by Ge Hong."

p. 96 Bo Z^on-li, also known as Bo He, according to Ge Hon’s Traditions of Divine Transcendents

"scriptures are found in all the noted mountains and the Five Marchmounts, but they are hidden inside stone chambers in inaccessible place. When one who is fit to receive the Way enters the mountain and meditates on them with utmost sincerity, the mountain spirits will respond by opening the mountain, allowing him to see them. Such was the case of Bo Zhongli ..., who obtained scriptures inside a mountain, raising an altar and surrendering silk [as pledge-offering]. Such adepts always make one copy [of the scriptures] and then depart."

"He went to Xicheng Mountain and served Lord Wang, who told him, "I will go for a period of time to the Oceanic Continent. You should remain here in this cave, carefully regarding the north wall. After a long time you will see ... written characters on the wall, and if you study these, you will attain the Way." Only after Bo he had regarded the wall for three years did he see the words of the Scripture of Grand Purity [Taiqing jing ...] ... there. He studied them and thereby obtained transcendence." {cf. the Soto Zen practice of "facing the wall"}

p. 97 blood-rite for transmission of scripture (from Yellow Thearch to his disciple the Thunder Sire), according to the Huan-di Nei-jin (‘Yellow-Thearch’s Inner-Scripture’)

"The Yellow Thearch chanted this incantation : "Today is a True Yang day. Smearing the blood I transmit the recipes. ..." Thunder Sire bowed twice and said : "The little son receives them." The Yellow Thearch then with the left hand gripped his hand and with the right hand gave him the books, saying : "Take caution, take caution. I will explain it to you.""

p. 97 tokens of oath of secrecy for transmission of scripture, according to the Huan-di Jiu-din S^en-dan Jin-jue (‘Yellow-Thearch’s 9-Tripods Elixir Scripture-Instruction’) (= DZ 885) 1:1b2-10

"a golden human figurine weighing nine ounces and a golden figurine of a fish weighing three ounces are thrown into an eastward-flowing stream.

Both figurines should be provided by the one receiving the Way. ... Beside the stream, in a place unfrequented by other people, a seat [or altar, zuo ...] for the Mystic Woman should be set up. ... Place the scripture on elixirs on a table, and place the seat next to it. ... face north and prostrate yourself for an hour. ... master and disciple together sip the blood of a white chicken as a covenant. {cf. Old Testament rite of Cutting the Covenant (bloodily), "New Testament [Covenant] of my blood"; Gnostic gem-engravings depicting Iao as chicken-headed}

p. 99 Hon-bao Z^en-z^on S^u (‘Swan’s-Jewel Esoteric Book’) [/z^en-z^on/ "(literally "in the pillow" and meaning "esoteric")" (fn. 34)] by the Prince of Huai-nan required accompanying ""oral instructions" (koujue ...)".

pp. 101-102 miraculous entry into a magic gourd, according to Ge Hon’s Traditions of Divine Transcendents

p. 101

"hagiography of Sire Gourd" : "In Runan ... a man named Fei Changfang ... noticed that the Sire ... as a merchant of medicinals ... always kept a gourd hanging about his stall, and each evening after the sun set he would jump into the gourd. ...

p. 102

The Sire then told him, "When you see me jump into the gourd, do as I do and jump in after me. ..." Changfang did as he was told, and before he even realized it, he was inside the gourd. From inside, ... you saw ... the realm of a transcendent’s palace ... .

Sire Gourd then said to Changfang, "I am a transcendent. Formerly I was in charge of a celestial office, but ... was ... banished to the human realm. You are teachable, and that is why you were able to see me.""

pp. 111-112 self-transformations, according to Ge Hon’s Traditions of Divine Transcendents

p. 111

hagiography of Jiao Xian (styled Xiao-ren, a native of Tai-yan in He-don) : "At times he would suddenly seem to age, then just as suddenly he would seem to grow young again {this facility by suddenly oscillation between apparent old age and apparent youth is found in tales by other authors, such as one by Carlos Castan~eda}, and this went on for over two hundred years."

p. 112

hagiography of Luan Ba (a native of C^en-du in S^u commandery ) : "from a seated position, he entered the wall of the room; he became like a cloud of vapor, then vanished [into it]. People on the other side of the wall were heard crying, "Tiger! Tiger!""

pp. 112-116 miracles witnessed by crowds, according to Ge Hon’s Traditions of Divine Transcendents

pp. 112-3

hagiography of Jie Xian : "He once planted an assortment of melon and vegetable seeds for the ruler, and all of them sprouted and grew immediately and were ready to be eaten." {in India, this is the "mango-trick"}

p. 114

hagiography of Ge Xuan : "He then opened his mouth and exhaled flames, which quickly filled the room. All the guests felt ... warm."

p. 115

hagiography of Sun Bo : "Bo could enter rock cliffs in the mountains or stone boulders on the ground. When he went in, one at first saw his back and ears protruding from the surface of the rock. Only after a long while would he be completely submerged in it.

He could also swallow several dozen knives and swords,

pass through walls as if there were openings in them, and

stretch mirrors out to become swords and bend swords up to become mirrors; they would remain this way until Bo himself pointed at them, at which time they would return to their original forms. ...

Whenever Sun Bo walked over a large body of water, not only did he himself not get wet but he could also cause his crowd of followers, consisting of several hundred, not to get wet either. He was capable of leading large groups of people out onto the surface of water, where they would spread out mats, drink, eat, and

p. 116

make music. He enabled the while group to dance on the water without sinking or getting set." {Petros, the disciple of Iesous, however, began to sink when walking on the sea of Galilaia.}

pp. 117-118 results from worshipping the stove-god, according to the S^i Ji (Records of the Grand Historian)

p. 117

Li S^ao-jun (Li the Youthful Lord) said :

"By sacrificing to the god of the stove, one summoned spirits;

the spirits would convert cinnabar to gold;

with the gold could be fashioned serving vessels whose use would prolong one’ s life;

having prolonged one’s life, one could visit the transcendents on the isle of Penglai ... . ...

p. 118

I met Master An Qi ... and together we ate giant jujubes as big as melons."

p. 118, fn. 82 According to the Han Wu-di Gu-s^i, item 10 (in Lu Xuan’s Gu Xiao-s^uo Gou-c^en, 340), "Li Shaojun said that the dates from the Dark Sea were as large as melons and that the plums from Mount Zhong were as large as jugs."

pp. 122-124 unsuccessful attempts to reach the 3 elixir-harboring divine mountains (of Pen-lai, Fan-z^an, and Yin-z^ou) by the physical means of voyaging by sea

p. 122

"although they are not far from China’s east shore, they are unreachable, for ... each time a boat draws near, winds arise to push it away ... . ...

Again, according to the "Basic Annals on the First Emperor of Qin," Xu Fu ... returned to say : "... we were constantly troubled by large sharks ... ."" (S^i-ji 6:263) "In the biography of the Han prince Liu An ... : ... Xu Fu ... [reported] : "I saw a great spirit in the midst of the sea, who said to me, ‘... You may see the medicine, but you may not take it with you.’ Then he led me southeastward to Mount Penglai." (S^i-ji 118:3086)

p. 124

"a certain Master Lu ... attributed his and other practitioners’ failures thus far to find "excrescences, strange medicinals, and trascendents" to the fact that courtiers and officials knew the ruler’s location. This, Lu said, ... discouraged the Perfected Persons" ... from appearing and divulging their secrets. If the ruler would travel incognito and let no one know his whereabouts, exorcising demons as he moved about, then and only then would the ‘drug of deathlessness" be obtainable." (S^i-ji 6:257) {cf. the ideal government wherein "of the highest [viz., the emperor], the people merely know that such a one exists [but are not aware of his whereabouts]" (Dao-de Jin)}

Robert Ford Campany : Making Transcendents. U of HI Pr, Honolulu, 2009.