Mystery of the Jade Emperor. Daoist Alchemical Tour with Jie Kong

Alquimia Travel invites you to take part in Daoist alchemical tour with Jie Kong.

Dividing the world into external and internal helps us study motion and rest. In Daoist alchemy motion is the knowledge of external transformation, while rest is the knowledge of internal transformation. And while one is the essence of the other, the delimitation of these two notions helps us study them.



We start our trip and thus initiate our interaction with the laws of motion shaping the essence of external alchemy. This fact has long motivated and still motivates all Daoists to collect the valuable essence for internal transformation that helps reinforce the internal alchemy. The Daoist doctrine is based upon the idea of transformation that culminates in the ability to reach the crystal model of existence represented by the legendary Jade Emperor Yu Di.

The doctrine of the Jade Emperor served as the foundation for one of the basic Daoist schools – the School of the Heavenly Mentor. Interestingly enough the knowledge related to this school is not found in Dao De Jing or the teachings of the ancient Daoist alchemists but in Shānhai Jīng (literally "Classic of the Mountains and Seas") written by Yu the Great.

This book of the mountains (or rather what these mountains express or represent) contains the full knowledge of the Jade Emperor. The book teaches that mountains control the Earth and its power, they are the only means for the macrocosm to communicate with the Earth (and therefore its people). This is the reason why Daoists have always sought and chosen as their abode these mountains that have a most active link to the Macrocosm.

This type of mountains were believed to be the right locations for people to attain immortality for they were believed to link the practitioner to the 36-th sky – the seat of the Jade Emperor. The jade stone itself was identified as a special crystal believed to help reveal the opportunity for reaching all 9 spaces of the Macrocosm or the 72 transformations.

The Great Miracle

We will continue our story by focusing not only on the great but also on the first. The first was the Daoist mountain called ‘The Great Miracle’. This is China’s first mountain and is located between the ancient Silk Road and the central plain. The ancient mountain terrain consists of hard conglomerate of a red-purple color. The Great Miracle mountain turned into the place of origin and development of a variety of doctrines - Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism coexisted peacefully here. The mountain is also known as the birthplace of the famous Chinese Daoist martial arts school The Great Miracle Style.

The mountain is rich in minerals and therefore provides all disciples with the opportunity to collect cinnabar. The Great Miracle is home to more than 1000 different species of plants and 300 species of animals, over 90% of the mountain terrain is covered by forest.

The legendary Yellow Emperor Huang Di visited the Great Miracle mountain on numerous occasions - usually to consult the Great guardian of the jing essence (the energy for transformation) on various problems related to the life and rule of the country.

For a long period of time the mountain served as the seat of an ancient clan that was at its peak during the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC) and was the leading clan among the leading 12 clans, including Daxia, Gudi, Xiongnong, etc.

The Great Miracle is the most famous Daoist mountain and is associated with emptiness, silence and purity of nature (Among Daoists The Great Miracle is also known as the Empty Cave).

Origin of the mountain

According to the legend the Great Miracle was created by the goddess Nu Wa, sister of Fuxi, revered in the Chinese culture as the creator of Man. This is the only place where the black crane Xuan He (玄 鹤) can be seen. Xuan He is a crane with a red head, black back, white belly and a red beak.

Legend has it that whenever the cranes are seen flying in the sky, the Great hermit is ready to take on new disciples. It is also believed that when the Great hermit practiced on the Great Miracle mountain, he was protected by two cranes. The birds loved each other very much, they also loved the beautiful mountain they lived in, therefore before going to Heaven the Great hermit decided to help them and fulfill their wish: the birds could stay and live in the mountain forever. The Daoist asked them to protect the lives of the people, to help the poor and to relate to him what was happening on Earth. This is the reason why cranes are often seen in the skies above the Great Miracle.

The most essential part of the mountain is the cave where the Great hermit collected and developed the elixir. This is a truly miraculous place related to the origins of Daoism. Here Huang Di gained access to the knowledge for the first time. This is also the place where Zhang Sanfeng collected the essence for the cinnabar.

Quotes from classical treatises
A quote from the classic Daoist treatise Eya states: "The Great Miracle is located right below the Ursa Major constellation."
Interestingly enough due to this quote not one but five Great Miracle mountains have appeared in different parts of China since the inhabitants of each location claim that they live "right below Ursa Major." However the most serious sources indicate only one way to determine the exact location of the mountain - as the true Great Miracle mountain is the place that contains the mineral used by Huang Di.

The Quiet Abode

After the Great Miracle we head to the mountain called The Quiet Abode. This mountain is like a true castle that hides numerous treasures. The Quiet Abode is one of the most ancient Daoist mountains used for attaining immortality known as the Earthly Heavens. Legend has it that tens, even hundreds of immortals came down to this mountain to greet Zhao Daoling.

According to the legend Zhao Daoling brought into this mountain the sacred fire used for heating the cinnabar (this happened back in 143 BC). This fire was hidden in the bowels of the mountain that produces the sacred essence even today. Later many Daoist schools used the mountain as their abode for their life in isolation and search for desired qualities. After the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) the mountain was the seat of the Longmen school.

The front part of the mountain range is the most commonly used part where most of the temples are located. The most significant of all the temples is Shangqing Gong, which is located at the first peak of the mountain, mere 500 meters below its highest point. This is the best location for watching the sunrise, ‘the sacred lights’ and the sea of clouds. On the right, between two rocks whose peaks reach the sky, there’s a big rock. This rock is believed to be the place where the immortals gather to amuse themselves.

Some the most significant places in these mountains are the caves where the fire of Zhao Daoling is preserved. Legend has it that the caves were used even before his time – by the Celestial Virgin of the Nine Heavens who is believed to have helped the legendary emperor Huang Di to come to power.

The Cinnabar Mountain

The Cinnabar Mountain is located in the Jiangsu province and is believed to be the first place visited by the Mao brothers. The overall area of the mountain is 71.2 square meters, and its highest peak reaches 372.5 meters. The Cinnabar mountain is comprised of 9 major peaks, 26 large caves and 19 great springs.

This is a place you can visit numerous times – the Cinnabar Mountain is well know for its beautiful scenery and its striking caves and is also recognized as an object of Daoist heritage. Daoists call the Cinnabar mountain ‘The divine land of practices and the mountain suitable for climbing to Heaven.’

The mountain is also called ‘The first Fudi’ (福地, literally ‘the seat of the Heavenly residents’) and ‘The eighth Duntiang’ ((洞天, literally ‘Heavenly mountain on Earth’). The title given to the Cinnabar mountain is: ‘Celestials Palace since the Qing dynasty, the House of Governors since the kingdom of Liang and the Tang Dynasty’ (秦汉 神仙 府, 梁 唐 宰相 家).

The landscape of the Cinnabar mountain is complex and convoluted. Because of the beautiful greenery and the exceptionally clean air, Chinese people call the mountain ‘The lungs of China’. The scenery is most beautiful in the spring, summer is the best season for feeling the energy qi, autumn is the season of the beautiful variety of colors, while winter offers a scenic picture of serenity and peace.

The area is also rich in forest fruit and a large variety of medicinal herbs, such as the sword-like root Mao Chang Shu (茅苍术), which nourishes the spleen and expels the cold and the wind from the body; the herb Taibao Huang Jing (太保黄精) used for enriching the energy and nourishing the organs, and the Mao Chang Pu (茅菖蒲), also known as calamus.


5000 years ago the legendary forefather of the Chinese, Zhan, (one of the earliest ancestors of the Chinese), practiced in the village of Yucheng located near The Cinnabar Mountain.

About 221 A.D. the temple of Yucheng was used for practices by Guo Sichao and the temple Qianyuan Temple - by Guo Siming;

About 44 A.D. during the reign of the Western Han three brothers came to the Cinnabar Mountain to practice, their names were Mao Ying, Mao Gu and Mao Zhong. The brothers used to heal people with their elixir, for which they were revered far beyond these places. They were also honored as the "creators of Daoism."

In 364 Yang Xi and Xu Yi created "The True Shangqing Treatises of The Great Cave» (Shangqing da dong zhenjing, 上 清大 洞真 经, Shang Qing), and founded a Daoist school bearing the characteristics of the southern Chinese school – the Shangqing school or the Supreme Purity school.

During the reign of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (371-420) the Paopu peak (Paopu feng, 抱朴 峰) was the place where Ge Hong practiced and wrote his books (for example "The Master Who Embraces Simplicity").

During the era of Nanchang (420-589) the Cinnabar Mountain was home to Dao Hongjing (456-536) who spent more than forty years in seclusion. Dao Hongjing acquired an extensive knowledge of the traditions of Confucianism and Buddhism; at the same time he was also considered the main successor of the Shangqing school.

One day the emperor asked him, "Why did you choose to become a hermit?". And Dao Hongjing said: "You may be surprised and wonder what it is that draws me to the Cinnabar Mountain. But all you have to do is see the white clouds in the clear blue sky. It is something that I can only feel and sense, for it is impossible to describe in words, therefore I cannot tell you".

The reign of the Tang and Song dynasties (617-1279) set forth the era of prosperity for the Cinnabar Daoist mountains. During this period the mountain was home to more than 300 temples and thousands of Daoists.

Legends of the Cinnabar Mountain

"He rushed at the opportunities of the Cinnabar mountains and missed the Quli mountain" - the locals use this phrase to refer to people who constantly change their purpose and direction.

Legend has it that during the rule of the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 24 A.D.) Liu Pu came to practice on the Cinnabar Mountain. He loved his life here until one morning while doing his practice he saw in the morning sun in the east another mountain, called Quli.

Yet after Liu Pu settled on Quli he discovered that the Cinnabar Mountain looked even more beautiful, especially at night. Liu tried to go back to the Cinnabar Mountain but he found that someone else, i.e. Mao Ying, had already settled there and was doing his practice, which meant that the mountain was already occupied. Rather upset Liu returned to Quli only to find it also occupied.

One day, seeing the frustrated and unhappy Liu Pu, who wandered at the foot of the mountains, Mao Ying expressed his sympathy, saying: "Be purposeful in your intent, be patient - this is the way of the practice. Do you understand? What have you found running from one mountain to the other? You rushed at the opportunities of the Cinnabar mountain and missed Quli, right? ".

Seeing the sincere remorse of Liu, Mao decided to help him suggesting a place where he could practice. Later Liu was able to achieve great results.

The Mountain of the Four Directions

Speaking of results affecting development we cannot omit the mountain of the Four Directions located in Eastern China. This mountain lies directly beneath the Milky Way, between the stars Niulang and Zhinu. The mountain of the Four Directions plays an important role not only in Daoism but also in Buddhism for it is believed this is the place where the Doctrine of Emptiness originated.

The significance of the mountain in the Daoist world

The Mountain of the Four Directions is traditionally considered the habitat of the immortals. Therefore, this is the best place to practice alchemy.

The list of "Daoist duntiang" ("divine or heavenly caves") includes the cave used by Ge Xuan who lived in the era of the Three Kingdoms. Here Zuo Yuanfang (左 元 放) taught him about the nine distillations of the elixir and how to prepare the golden liquid, as well as the fastest way to sanlu qipin.

The mountain of the Four Directions is also known as the practice sanctuary of Yuan Gen (袁 根), Bai Shuo (柏 硕), Wei Furen (魏夫 人), Xu Mai (许 迈) and also Zhu Boyu (褚伯玉) and Xu Ze (徐 则) of the Southern Kingdom. A number of temples were also built here during the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589).

Pink Cloud Mountain

In Daoist cosmogony this mountain is associated with Paradise. This is the sixteenth celestial grotto amidst the 36 Daoist mountains and is believed to be one of the most important mountains for practitioners of Daoist alchemy and people who work on cultivating their own spirit.

The Pink Cloud mountain is part of the world cultural and natural heritage.

Once an Immortal sent on Earth by the Jade Emperor to control all the spirits descended from the Heavens on one of the peaks of this mountain and named himself ‘the Immortal from the Pink Cloud’. Thus the mountain where he appeared was named in his honor.

It is believed that the famous holy Daoist Pengzu lived in this region. Pengzu made a major contribution to the technique called The Art of the Pure Virgin and knew how to extract female substance from the seed of men.

Every year a special festival is organized where people honor Pentszu’s legacy and pray for health, happiness and longevity. His paintings hang in homes throughout China: they are a popular birthday gift for the elderly.

During the reign of the Qing Dynasty this mountain was a temporary home to Huangtaimu (皇太 姥, 武夷 君), known also as ‘wuyi jun konghe xianren’ (控 鹤 仙人, literally ‘the Immortal who controls the cranes’).

The first Daoist who lived on the mountain permanently was Li Liangzuo. After 37 years of practicing in this area, he ascended to heaven from the Qing Xu Temple. He is considered the Daoist forefather of the mountain.

Daoism prospered greatly on the Pink Cloud mountain during the era of the Song Dynasty. The 18th volume of "The Notes from the Pink Mountain" lists the names of many Daoists who lived there during this dynasty, for example:

Xu Xichun or Song Xiing (宋熙宁) (1068-1077) who worked as a vintner. After taking the Wuhuacao elixir (五 花草, literally ‘herbs of five flowers’), given to him by a Daoist named Cai, Xu Xichun refrained from taking food and ascended to heaven from the mountain’s peak.

Xi Ning (熙宁) (1068-1077) who loved to play the iron flute. His music could penetrate the clouds and split stones. One day he simply disappeared leaving a farewell poem to be remembered by.

The Daoist named Guo (郭 道人), whose other name is ‘the person who is on the cloud’ (卧 云 子). Guo became the pupil of Ge Xingzheng, who took him to the Pink Cloud mountain. Here they practiced together (and ascended to heaven on the same day.)

The mountain was repeatedly visited by Bai Yuchan (白玉蟾) (1195-1224), who made a major contribution to the Daoist alchemy. He taught at Caiyintang (采 隐 堂, literally "The hall for collecting hidden treasures").

Bai Yuchan received from the Emperor the status of Zi Qing Ming Dao Zhenren (紫 清明 道 真人, literally "The Daoist realizing the truth through the purple refined energy"). Bai Yuchan left many written works. Most of them present a brief description or history of the Daoists who lived on the mountains, such as for example, the history of Chen Danshu, Chen Hongfan, Nun Liu Miaoqing, and others.

During the rule of the Yuan Dynasty the mountain was inhabited by representatives of the Zhang De Mao school (张德懋) (its other name is Xi Zi Wei (希 微 子)).

Another Daoist named Chen Chongsu (陈冲 素) lived here (his other name is Xu (虚 白)). He was an expert on inner alchemy. Once, drinking with a lumberjack, he suddenly fell asleep and dreamt that he was in some cave eating the green fungus Lingzhi. After this vision he stopped taking food and did not eat anything until his ascension to heaven.

Peng Rilong (彭 日 隆), also known as ‘The One Hidden in the Sky’ (隐 空), began studying Daoism as an adult but learned how to fly and move around the mountains.

Questions and Answers

Please explain your views on rituals and their following, for example, when visiting temples or other significant places. It would seem that, as a rigid organizing structure, ritual was introduced for the organization only of those who were looking for the way, so as to help them understand the orientation of the internal motion of the ritual. It was for people who knew a lot and consistently expressed their understanding and presence in the world. Or should we express our inner relationship to the forces that constantly control us only through a set of preliminarily fixed external actions? Or is the ritual just a key to a certain place of power?

My attitude to rituals in general is very serious. What kind of rituals and who participates in them is a separate issue. What is also important is the context in which the ritual occurs, also why and for whom. Of course, for the practicing person the ritualization of their actions is not important but it is a tool that can be accepted. If we discuss my participation in Daoist rituals, in these cases I simply carry out the task of the respective monastery, which requires certain activities on my side. It is important that we treat everything with understanding. The ritual is a certain space. From there on everything depends on its quality and our own.


16 october 2012

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