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Roaming Into the Beyond: Representations of Xian Immortality in Early Medieval Chinese Verse
 9004311564, 9789004311565

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i Roaming into the Beyond

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004313699_001

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Sinica Leidensia Edited by Barend J. ter Haar Maghiel van Crevel In co-operation with P.K. Bol, D.R. Knechtges, E.S. Rawski, W.L. Idema, H.T. Zurndorfer

VOLUME 129

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/sinl

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Roaming into the Beyond: Representations of Xian Immortality in Early Medieval Chinese Verse

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By

Zornica Kirkova

LEIDEN | BOSTON

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iv This book was written within the Program for the Development of Fields of Study at Charles University in Prague, No. P13 Rationality in Human Sciences, sub-program Cultures as Metaphors of the World. Cover image: A cloud chariot driven by a winged immortal soars among the stars toward the Celestial City. Detail from a first-century tomb mural excavated in Jingbian 靖边 County, Shaanxi. Courtesy of Mr. Ma Mingzhi 马明志 of the Shaanxi Archaeological Research Institute.

Want or need Open Access? Brill Open offers you the choice to make your research freely accessible online in exchange for a publication charge. Review your various options on brill.com/brill-open. Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/brill-typeface. issn 0169-9563 isbn 978-90-04-31156-5 (hardback) isbn 978-90-04-31369-9 (e-book) Copyright 2016 by Koninklijke Brill nv, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi and Hotei Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill nv provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, ma 01923, usa. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

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Contents Contents

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Contents Acknowledgments vii Abbreviations and Conventions x Introduction 1 1 Religious and Literary Background 14 The Ideal of Xian-ship 14 A Historical Survey of Immortality Cults 15 Methods of Achieving Immortality 20 Prose Accounts of Immortality 24 Poetry on Immortality 28 Literary Criticism on Youxian Verse 38 2 The Dramatis Personae 43 Xi Wangmu 43 The Yellow Emperor 52 Laozi 57 Wangzi Qiao, Master Redpine, and Other Immortals 64 Transformations of the Pantheon 68 3 A Phenomenology of Immortals 77 Images of Immortals from the Han to the Eastern Jin 77 Transformation and Transcendence 77 The Visual Image of Immortals 90 The Far-Off Journey 95 Levitation and Fantastic Steeds 98 Spontaneity and Swiftness 104 Immortals’ Feasts 108 The Hidden Immortal 116 Celestial Splendor and Courtly Refinement: The Southern  Dynasties 132 Images of Eternity 148 4 The World of the Immortals 160 Topography 162 Cosmic Mountains and Paradise Gardens 171 The Lands of the Shangqing Revelations 179

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Paradise on Earth 187 The Court Dulcification of Otherworldly Nature 198 5 The Way to Immortality 203 Journeys to Other Worlds 203 The “Yuanyou” Poem of the Chuci 203 The Distant Journey in the Han Fu 209 The Journey Theme in the Yuefu Tradition 213 The Distant Journey as a State of Mind 220 Sun Chuo’s Visionary Ascent of the Tiantai Mountains 227 The Elixir Way 241 Alchemical Formulas and Sacred Scriptures 257 6 Immortality in the Context of the Human World 262 The Juxtaposition of the Two Realms in the Chuci Tradition 262 Melancholy and Yearning for Immortality during the Third and Fourth  Centuries 268 Social Engagement, Hedonism, or Immortality Seeking? 286 Honoring the Immortals 298 Feasting Songs 305 Tableaus of Higher Realms 311 The Earth Below Is Out of Sight 320 Poetry on Immortality and Personal Religious Pursuits 329 Youxian Poetry and Daoist Ritual Hymns 333 Conclusion 350 Appendix Extant Classical and Early Medieval Verse Treating the Theme of  Immortality 357 Bibliography 371 Index 401

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Acknowledgments Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments This book draws on research conducted during my Ph.D. studies at Charles University in Prague; the earliest version of it was defended as a doctoral dissertation in 2007. This project would not have been successfully completed without the support of many individuals and institutions. Though I cannot possibly name all those who deserve thanks here, I extend my deepest gratitude to everyone whose intellectual input, encouragement, and, above all, friendship accompanied me through my research and various endeavors. My greatest debt is to my mentor, Olga Lomová of Charles University in Prague. Many years ago she opened the world of Chinese poetry and literature up to me and has ever since been showing me how to navigate its complexities. Her intellectual audacity, critical rigor, patient guidance, and support have had a profound impact on the formation of my academic orientation, my present knowledge, and my views, an impact that extends far beyond this book. I offer my heartfelt gratitude to Zlata Černá of the Náprstek Museum of Asian, African, and American Cultures in Prague, from whom I heard the word xian for the first time. During the two decades thereafter, I was fortunate to have her as a teacher, as a colleague at the Náprstek Museum, as a cordial host, and, above all, as a friend. Her noble mind, wisdom, kindness, and humor inspire and lead me through life. My research is indebted in multiple ways to Alexander Matoušek, whose encyclopedic erudition and discerning mind have enlightened me throughout my studies. He has taught me how to consider the narrow topics of my research within the broader framework of intellectual history and the phenomenology of religion. I am also grateful to his colleagues at the Center for Theoretical Studies in Prague, whose hard and thought-provoking questions during interdisciplinary seminars opened up new perspectives on topics of Chinese religion to me. Achim Mittag meticulously perused the earliest, much flawed draft of this work, and in addition to offering extensive comments and suggestions, he urged me to transform the dissertation into a book. I am grateful to Charles Hartman, who generously offered his time and expertise to read and comment on a part of the manuscript and provided assistance and support in many ways. Discussions of my research with Lee Fengmao and Stephen Bokenkamp emboldened me to venture further beyond the conventional discourse. I wish to thank Peng Yi, Mei Jialing, Marina Kravcova, Michael Day, Věna Hrdličková, and Katarina Feriančiková, who offered their assistance, comments, and suggestions at various stages of this project.

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I would like to thank Lee Fengmao, Lin Fushi, Peng Yi, Barend ter Haar, and Stephan Bumbacher, who kindly shared valuable materials in the early days of my research, when access to electronic databases and publications was limited. I am very much indebted to the anonymous reader for Brill’s Sinica Leidensia series for his or her perceptive critique and astute suggestions, which facilitated the refinement of my arguments and certainly made them better. I offer my sincerest gratitude to Nicholas Orsillo, who invested extraordinary time, effort, and care into meticulously copy editing and improving the manuscript. Many errors surely remain—I am solely responsible for them. I extend special thanks to Albert Hoffstädt of Brill for his positive reception of my proposal and to Patricia Radder, whose editorial assistance and support were crucial in all stages of preparation for publication. I am grateful to Ma Mingzhi of the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology for kindly supplying the tomb mural image that adorns the cover of this book and for granting the permission to reproduce it. Special thanks are also due to Aysima Mirsultan and Guo Yanli, who facilitated this contact. It hardly would have been possible to initiate and carry out this project without two major grants: a Soros Supplementary Grant from the Soros Foundation and a Ph.D. Dissertation Fellowship from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, which generously supported my postgraduate studies and research between 1999 and 2004. An EACS Library Travel Grant enabled me to explore the resources of the East Asian Library of Leiden University, while a grant from the Ministry of Education – R.O.C. on Taiwan made possible visits to the National Taiwan University, Academia Sinica, and the National Central Library in Taipei. I am thankful to the Program for the Development of Fields of Study at Charles University and to the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation’s International Sinological Center in Prague for funding the English copy editing of this book. My indebtness to the CCKF International Sinological Center in Prague extends, however, far beyond concrete financial assistence. All aspects of my work have benefited enormously from the extraordinarily vibrant and intellectualy stimulating atmosphere created by the Center that enabled me to conduct fundamental research in a truly international environment. I wish to thank the team of the East Asian Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin for their dedicated work in maintaining and expanding the CrossAsia virtual library. Without ready access to the excellent online resources it offers this book would not have been completed yet. Special thanks are due to Harald Rasch and to my wonderful colleagues at the “Aquarium”—for their support, kindness and friendship. My deepest gratitude belongs to my parents for their upbringing and encouragement in all my pursuits, which ultimately led me away to distant lands and

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times. Most of all, I thank my husband Volker, who was all too often left amidst the dust of household chores and childcare, while I rambled into higher realms. His love and unflagging support carried me through all the ups and downs of my journey. The years during which this book was taking form were marked by the departure of my father and the birth of my two daughters—events that transposed the existential quest of the early medieval Chinese poet to a very personal plane. I dedicate this book to the memory of my father Nikola and to Sarah and Nora, who know how to roam freely.

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List of Abbreviations

List Of Abbreviations

Abbreviations and Conventions DZ

Lu Qinli T

refers to the number of a text from the Ming-era Daoist canon (Zhengtong Daozang 正統道藏, completed 1446, supplemented 1607) according to the sequential numbering in Kristofer M. Schipper and Franciscus Verellen, eds. The Taoist Canon: A Historical Companion to the Daozang. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004. refers to the Xian Qin Han Wei Jin Nanbeichao shi 先秦漢魏晉南北 朝詩. Edited by Lu Qinli 逯欽立. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983. refers to texts in the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō 大正新脩大藏經 (Taishō Revised Tripitaka). Edited by Takakusu Junjirō (1866–1945) and Watanabe Kaigyoku (1872–1932).

All translations in this book are mine, unless otherwise specified. Pinyin romanization is used for transliteration of Chinese, with the exception of established proper names (i.e., Taipei) and names of certain authors. For the sake of consistency, when quoting English translations that employ WadeGiles transliteration, I have converted them to pinyin, although I have not altered the titles of these works.

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Introduction Introduction

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Introduction Among the twenty-three subgenres that Xiao Tong 蕭統 (501–531) distinguishes in his great anthology Wenxuan 文選 (Selections of Refined Literature) as thematic variations of lyrical poetry (shi 詩), there is a category named “Youxian” 遊仙, or “Roaming into Immortality.”1 The Wenxuan section on youxian poetry is not particularly extensive. It contains works by two Jin 晉 (265–420) dynasty poets—one poem by He Shao 何劭 (236–301) and seven poems by Guo Pu 郭璞 (276–324). These texts are but a small fragment of the much richer poetry on the search for Daoist xian 仙 immortality that was composed by early medieval scholars, officials, courtiers, and even by princes and emperors. The youxian poems open up worlds different from the mundane reality of their authors and their ordinary experiences. They concern higher realms of nature inhabited by sublime figures possessed of divine powers and replete with paradisial marvels and ecstatic cosmic flights. The protagonists of this verse—the xian immortals—were perfected beings, who enjoyed an enduring life of purity, freedom, and bliss. Having once shared the lot of ordinary men, they managed to transform the components of their bodies into a more ethereal and more durable form and ascended to a higher level of being in the hierarchical continuum of the Chinese universe. Although poetry on immortality was written by the leading early medieval poets, today it still remains very much deprecated in the literary history of the Six Dynasties. Its undeniable religious inspiration meant that it was consequently marginalized by generations of traditional critics and commentators, who did not consider descriptions of fantastic vistas and mystical explorations to be serious, justifiable poetic subjects. On the other hand, this poetry was composed by secular authors whose works are not contained in the Daoist canon, and therefore it has not attracted serious attention from modern scholars of Daoist religion. And yet, considerations of this verse not only reveal another more imaginative and mystic side of Chinese poetic vision but also allow us to make significant additions to and reevaluate traditional notions of poetic developments and the meaning of poetry in early medieval China.



1 The Wenxuan (completed between the years 526 and 531) is the oldest surviving anthology of Chinese literature arranged by genre and the primary source of pre-Tang literature. It contains 761 compositions in prose and verse by 130 writers, covering the period from the Warring States (476–361) through the Liang 梁 (502–557). A good introduction to the content, scholarship, and editions of the Wenxuan is provided by David Knechtges in Wen Xuan or Selections of Refined Literature, vol. 1, 21–70. © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004313699_002

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This book explores representations of xian immortality in Chinese literature written in verse from the earliest extant treatments of the theme during the Western Han (206 BC–9 AD) until the end of the Six Dynasties (222–589), that is, from the second century BC to the late sixth century AD.2 Most of the compositions considered here were created during the three and a half centuries of disunion after the fall of the Han Empire in 220 AD, a period commonly designated in Western historiography as early medieval China. Although frequently dismissed as an era of “disorder and decadence” bridging the two great empires of Han and Tang, it was one of the most complex, creative, and transformative periods in Chinese history and culture. Despite political instability, existential uncertainty, and omnipresent death (many leading thinkers and poets suffered untimely, violent demises), new trends in virtually all intellectual fields—philosophy, aesthetics, arts, literature, and literary theory—emerged and determined the subsequent development of Chinese thought and culture over the next millennium. The Six Dynasties also witnessed a fundamental innovation in poetic form: lyrical poetry in five-syllable line (wuyan shi 五言詩) and all of its major themes evolved and matured, while the increasing attention to literary craft led to the formulation of prosodic principles of regulated verse during the Qi and Liang dynasties.

2 The terminology employed for the periodization of the early medieval era is far from consistent. Chinese historians generally speak of Wei Jin Nanbei chao 魏晉南北朝, that is, Wei, [Western and Eastern] Jin, and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (220–589). In Western historiography the term “Period of Disunity” is commonly used for the centuries after the fall of the Han dynasty, when China was first divided into the Three Kingdoms of Wei 魏 (220– 265), Wu 吳 (222–280), and Shu 蜀 (221–263), and later into the “barbaric” North, ruled by non-Chinese, and the Chinese South. Alternative terms are the Six Dynasties or Southern Dynasties, applied to all dynastic houses that took Jiankang 建康 (present day Nanjing) as their capital: Wu, Eastern Jin 東晉 (317–420), Liu-Song 劉宋 (420–479), Southern Qi 南齊 (479–502), Liang 梁 (502–557), and Southern Chen 南陳 (557–589). At times, however, the term “Six Dynasties” is used to denote the six successive Chinese dynasties from the Western Jin 西晉 (265–317) to the Southern Chen, thus excluding the Wu kingdom from the list. The term “Six Dynasties” can even be extended to cover the whole period from the Western Jin up to the Tang 唐 dynasty (265–618). This particular convention is followed, for example, by Yan Kejun in his Quan Shanggu Sandai Qin Han Sanguo Liuchao wen and by Lu Kanru and Feng Yuanjun in their Zhongguo shishi, 279. In literary criticism the term “Southern Dynasties” is commonly used to designate the four dynasties following the fall of the Eastern Jin in 420: Liu-Song, Qi, Liang, and Chen, that is, the period from 420 to 589 (Nienhauser, The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, vol. 1, xliii). In the following chapters I tentatively adopt the latter meaning of the “Southern Dynasties” for the period from the Liu-Song through the Chen.

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The political turmoil during the succession of ephemeral dynasties contributed to the burgeoning growth of Buddhism and Daoism, which, on their part, fueled many of the newly emerging intellectual currents. Immortality cults and messianic movements proliferated through all strata of society, and members of the gentry became personally involved in the pursuit of immortality arts, including drug consumption and alchemy. The traumatic historical changes also brought a heightened concern with the inner private life of the individual, in place of the former interest in the objective order of the universe and the perception of man in his social relations above all. Reflections on the passage of time, sorrow from separation, and meditations on human mortality and on the possibility of persistence beyond death established themselves as important themes in literature from the second century AD onward. Delimiting the scope of material for this study presents certain problems that touch upon on our very understanding of the literary developments of the period. As a title the expression youxian is earliest documented in a poem by Cao Zhi 曹植 (192–232) from the early third century. Approximately fifty poems or fragments of poems with this title, “Youxian,” from the third to sixth centuries are extant, predominantly in the relatively new pentasyllabic form. The Wenxuan anthology, which defined the standards of literature for the next millennium, distinguished youxian as a thematic category of lyrical poetry in five-syllable line. Chinese literary criticism on youxian tends, therefore, to focus exclusively on shi and yuefu 樂府 poetry and to discuss these genres in isolation from the rest of contemporary literary production. The narrow perception of the subject is reflected in the very terminology used—the studies revolve around youxian shi 遊仙詩, with the theme being thus implicitly bound to a particular genre. Western accounts of early medieval poetry similarly speak of a “youxian genre,” “youxian subgenre,” or of the somewhat vague “youxian mode.”3 Such assessments create the impression of the existence of a discrete youxian genre connected with a specific verse form and possessing distinct generic conventions and a social function. This assumption is symptomatic of a major problem in the study of early Chinese poetry, namely, the narrow limitation of genres on the basis of concrete themes and forms, whereby the connections between the various genres are largely neglected. This approach, deeply rooted in traditional Chinese literary history, does not allow us to perceive a specific poetic text in the wider context of different “genres” identified by their form and social usage. 3 Holzman, “Immortality-Seeking in Early Chinese Poetry,” 116; Wu Fusheng in “From Protest to Eulogy” alternatingly uses the terms “genre” and “poetic mode.” Edward Schafer prefers the term “youxian mode,” while at times he also uses “genre” (Pacing the Void, 243).

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The number of surviving poems dealing with the theme of immortality is, actually, much higher than those titled “Youxian.” Among them are compositions with titles that are explicit in terms of content, such as “Shenxian” 神仙 (Divine Immortals), “Shengtian” 升天 (Ascending to Heaven), “Shengxian” 升仙 (Ascending to Immortality), “Xianke” 仙客 (Immortal Guest), and so on. The theme of immortality is also treated in a large number of yuefu songs with conventionalized titles, such as “Qiuhu xing” 秋胡行 (Ballad of Qiuhu), “Moshang sang” 陌上桑 (Mulberries along the Path), and “Huansheng ge” 緩聲歌 (Song of Languid Music), to name but a few. Furthermore, we find representations of immortality in many poems that bear different titles and are traditionally anthologized under other thematic categories, such as “Singing of One’s Feelings” (yonghuai 詠懷) or “Sightseeing” (youlan 遊覽). Our choice of youxian compositions is even more complicated by the fact that the splendid Daoist imagery pervaded a broad range of poetry in the Six Dynasties and was adopted as a conventional metaphor for describing earthly landscapes, court excursions and feasts, and even objects (yongwu 詠物). By the same token, poems bearing the title “Youxian” may often comprise topics and imagery pertaining to the themes of reclusion or sightseeing. Therefore, in order to elucidate the major features and manifold meanings representations of immortality possessed in the context of early medieval Chinese literature, we should trace the presence and transformations of this theme in a much wider range of poetry than traditional categorizations suggest. Many of the compositions that are considered in this book actually cut across thematic categories. Instead of attempting to define a certain youxian poetic corpus, the book addresses the fluidity of the youxian theme and focuses on the mutual influences and interconnections between depictions of immortality and other related themes in contemporary poetry, such as life in reclusion, sightseeing, mountains and rivers, court feasts, and journeying. In addition to including poetry traditionally anthologized under a variety of thematic categories, I also widen the scope of relevant material to other forms of literature written in verse, such as fu 賦 (“rhapsody,” “poetic exposition”), song 頌 (“eulogia”), and zan 贊 (“encomia”). Being classified in late imperial times among the prose writings (wen 文, not to be confused with the early medieval notion of wen as belle-lettres per se), these genres have been until recently generally excluded from the discourse on early medieval Chinese poetry.4 This neglect not only does them injustice, since they are well-developed 4 Most instrumental in this respect are Yao Nai’s 姚鼐 (1732–1815) Guwenci leizuan 古文辭 類纂 (Classified Compendium of Refined Phrases in the Ancient Style) of 1799, which defined the subsequent arrangement and understanding of traditional prose genres, and Yan Kejun’s 嚴可均 (1762–1843) monumental Quan Shanggu Sandai Qin Han Sanguo Liuchao wen of ca. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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phenomena with an important position in the literature of the period, but it also means that interesting interplays and interconnections with the thencontemporary youxian shi, which are important for the general evaluation of the literary developments of the Six Dynasties, have never been explored. In fact, the earliest extant representations of immortality were connected not with lyrical poetry but with the poetic tradition of the Chuci 楚辭 and with forms like sao 騷 (“elegy”) and fu, the latter of which held a dominant position in early medieval poetry.5 Not only did early Chinese discourse on literature associate the origins of fu with the ancient Shijing songs, that is “poetry,” or shi, strictly speaking,6 but well into the Tang fu was regarded as the grand form of “refined literature”—a notion that is also reflected in the ordering of genres in the Wenxuan, where fu is placed first, followed by lyrical poetry. While fu certainly differ from shorter lyrical poems in many ways, in early medieval times the two genres often shared similar themes and imagery and conformed to common poetic conventions and aesthetic values.7 Instead of drawing rigid division lines between them, we should instead consider the two genres within a single framework with regard to their continuous interchange and mutual influences. The necessity of a more integrated approach applies not only to “lyrical” and “descriptive” poetry but also to the two closely related panegyric genres of 1835. A more integrated historical approach underlies The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, a recent publication edited by Kang-i Sun Chang and Stephen Owen that strives to avoid the standard genre-based organizational schemes and explores different forms of literature in a given period as part of a cohesive historical whole. 5 During the early Han dynasty, no clear distinction was made between the fu and the sao forms. The fu was partly derived from the latter, and thus sao were often retrospectively referred to as fu. See Watson, Early Chinese Literature, 254. 6 For instance, Ban Gu’s 班固 (32–92) preface to his Liangdu fu 兩都賦 (Fu on the Two Capitals, Wenxuan 1.1), Liu Xie 劉勰 (ca. 467–ca. 522) in Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍 (Wenxin diaolong yizheng 2.274), and Xiao Tong in his preface to the Wenxuan. 7 In the “Wenfu” 文賦 (Fu on Literature) Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303) voices the principle that the function of shi poetry is to express while that of fu is to describe. He defines lyrical poetry according to its generic differences from other forms, particularly from fu: “Poetry follows from the affections and is sensuously intricate; fu gives the normative forms of things and is clear and bright” 詩緣情而綺靡,賦體物而瀏亮 (Wenxuan 17.766, based on the translation in Owen, Readings in Chinese Literary Thought, 130; for a discussion of the terms qing 情 and tiwu 體物, see ibid., 130–131). This division is, however, rather arbitrary. Already during the Eastern Han, fu existed in two equally mature and well developed forms—long descriptive compositions and shorter, more lyrical fu of personal expression. In addition, in the course of the Western Jin the relatively short “fu on things” (yongwu fu 詠物賦) came into their own. After the fifth century the expressive function of poetry was largely replaced with the descriptive function of the fu in Palace Style poetry (gongti shi 宮體詩). 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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eulogy and encomia, which were widely practiced by Six Dynasties authors. There is no clear distinction between these two genres, which generally use the four-syllable form with even lines rhyming; they lay somewhere between poetry and prose. Some of the eulogies and encomia written in early medieval times are actually very close to shi poetry in form, and at times the encomia even adopt the five-syllable line.8 The permeability of genres is reflected in the inconsistency of later attempts at classification—in different anthologies the same composition might be variously classified either as an encomium, a yuefu song, or a lyrical poem.9 Examining representations of immortality in a broader range of versed literature will allow us to reach beyond some of the later-conceived artificial boundaries of genre and to explore the complex interactions between different genres and themes in early medieval China. Another major focus of this book is the relation between the verse on immortality and the development of Daoist religion and Daoist literature, particularly religious verse, of the period. Although the works studied in this book were written by court poets, statesmen, and aristocrats and are considered “secular” poetry, they prove to have been inspired by religion to a much greater extent than traditional interpretation would credit them with. The various aspects of the state of immortality and the techniques of its achievement, the regimen and fare of the immortals and their activities, and the vocabulary used are all rooted in Daoist texts. Hence, poetry on immortality should also be regarded in the light of its religious background—that is, in the context of religious beliefs, cults, hagiographies, comparable religious literature, and especially Daoist verse. Yet with the exception of Li Fengmao’s revealing studies, the connections of these poems to the development of Daoist religion has been largely neglected.10 8

9 10

Pentasyllabic encomia include Zhi Dun’s 支遁 (314–366) eleven encomia on Buddhas and bodhisattvas, two encomia by Xie Lingyun 謝靈運 (385–443), one of which is on the immortal Wangzi Jin 王子晉, an encomium on the Yellow Emperor (“Huangdi zan” 黃帝贊) by the fourth-century author Cao Pi 曹毗 (fl. 327–361), and a set of four encomia on a painting of mountains by Jiang Yan 江淹 (444–505). Such is the case with Cao Pi’s “Huangdi zan” and Jiang Yan’s “Wang Taizi Qiao zan” 王太 子喬贊, which will be discussed later in this book. See especially his “Liuchao yuefu yu xiandao zhuanshuo” and “Liuchao daojiao yu youxian shi de fazhan.” Considerations of the interaction between literature and religion in early medieval China mainly revolve around the impact of Buddhist thought. The influence of Buddhism on the landscape poetry of Xie Lingyun is well studied. See, for instance, the extensive bibliography in Knechtges, Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, 1606–1612. In addition, an increasing amount of studies

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In this book I attempt to assess the presence of Daoist ideas in a large portion of early medieval Chinese verse and focus on the ways poetry reflected the evolution and transformation of concepts connected with immortality in Daoist religious traditions. In addition, I consider the ways religious meanings were modified to conform to the expressive and aesthetic concerns of poetry. Especially significant in this regard is the interrelation between the court poetry of the Southern Dynasties and the exalted “celestial” verse contained in the records of the Shangqing 上清 and Lingbao 靈寶 Daoist revelations of the late fourth century. The impact of these revelations on literary developments prior to the high Tang has not been sufficiently explored. The possible religious convictions of the particular authors are not of much relevance to my study, for I focus on poetic texts and their language. My discussion revolves around issues such as which Daoist texts did secular authors probably know and draw from, what religious topics and imagery did they adopt in their poetic repertoire, and to what degree did they retain some of the initial scriptural connotations in their poetry. A close reading of the individual poems in the light of Daoist religious texts not only renders a better grasp of the meaning of many previously neglected or misapprehended works but might also yield a richer understanding of the place of Daoist religious thought in the intellectual life and literature of the period. The public context of the creation and performance of poetry during the Southern Dynasties presumes that the religious imagery and the references to Daoist scriptures were meant to be understood by the intended audience—the fellow members of literary salons and courts. In this respect the poetic evidence indicates the degree to which certain esoteric knowledge had become a part of a broader cultural repertoire shared by the cultural and political elite of the day. I also depart from the periodization applied in standard accounts of Chinese literature. Chinese critics traditionally classify the poetry of this period on the basis of the successive dynasties, no matter how short-lived they were, and speak accordingly about the poetry of the Western Han, Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Liu-Song, Southern Qi, Liang, Southern Chen, and so on. Literary developments are often more narrowly outlined by reign period; Jian’an 建安 (196–220), Zhengshi 正始 (240–249), or Taikang 太康 (280–290) poetry are examples. Such narrow periodization, however, is not adequate for the needs address the Buddhist influence on the poetry of the late Southern Dynasties, among which the excellent explorations by Xiaofei Tian deserve to be mentioned. See especially her “Illusion and Illumination: A New Poetics of Seeing in Liang Dynasty Court Literature” and “Seeing with the Mind’s Eye: The Eastern Jin Discourse of Visualization and Imagination.”

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of the present book since the developments in poetry that I trace are much slower and transcend dynastic changes. In addition, traditional periodization might inadvertently lead us to thinking in terms of disruptions in literary history instead of reflecting on the continuities across dynastic boundaries, that is, continuities within the narrow strata of the elite that produced and consumed poetry, and in terms of textual traditions, among other things. On the basis of my analysis, three major periods in the development and application of the youxian theme emerge. These periods, however, are distinguished on the basis of the transformations of themes and imagery rather than external political factors, and they do not strictly correspond to dynastic changes. Although throughout the book I generally resort to using dynastic terms, they are employed merely as temporal indicators, and Western chronology is often used instead.



Instead of conducting a chronological overview of youxian verse as a whole, I examine representations of immortality in terms of plots, imagery, and poetic conventions as well as the transformations and fluctuations of these elements across literary genres. My analysis is based on some major topics and motifs recurrent in the verse on immortality. Working with these narrower subjects makes it possible to demonstrate more clearly both the transformations that took place within representations of immortality and the interplay between poetic themes and genres where the same or comparable motifs and conventions occur. In addition, such an approach more readily allows us to turn the focus of our attention away from biographical and historical determinism and sets us free from vexed controversies over the religious faith and psychology of individual authors. With the exception of the introductory chapter 1, each chapter is devoted to one rather broad theme from the poetic repertoire of “roaming into immortality.” Every major theme is further subdivided into narrower topics and particular motifs, with a view toward tracing their origins, evolution, and continuous transformation during the period in question. Chapter 1 provides a more extended introduction as well as the background for the main arguments of the study. It presents a general outline of Daoist traditions and cults of immortality as well as surviving textual sources. In addition, it provides a historical survey of the poetry on immortality. The first chapter also includes a synopsis of traditional and modern literary criticism on youxian verse, which, for the sake of brevity, is absent from the present introduction. At the conclusion of the chapter, I suggest alternative methodologies

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that might contribute to avoiding some of the drawbacks of traditional scholarship. The reader already familiar with early medieval Daoist and literary traditions may want to proceed directly to chapter 2. Chapter 2 presents an overview of the immortal personages that appear in early medieval poetry. It surveys the various xian immortals that became popular in the poetry of different periods and the transformations the image of several key divinities, such as the Queen Mother of the West and the Yellow Emperor, underwent in Six Dynasties verse. Here, I also focus on the relationships between the immortality theme and ancient myths, particularly on phenomena such as the assimilation of ancient divine figures into youxian poetry and the emancipation of the immortals from the earlier mythic lore. In addition, I identify the hagiographic traditions from which the poets drew and outline the significant shift that took place during the fifth century, when the poets of the Southern Dynasties turned to different traditions of immortality seekers. Chapter 3 explores various aspects of the image of the xian immortals in poetry. It examines the evolving perceptions of both their spiritual aspects and visual images, and discusses the transformations of some recurrent topics connected with immortality, such as cosmic journeys, music and feasts in paradise, and eternity. The changing relationship between the images of the xian immortals and Daoist recluses, the protagonists of eremitic poetry, is also discussed here, with a special focus on the extant poetry from the late third century to the fourth century, when the representation of the immortals was deeply colored by the ideal of high-minded disengagement. A separate section is devoted to a major shift that took place during the Qi and Liang, when the earlier spiritual and transcendental aspects of immortality were replaced by dazzling visions of celestial splendor and grandeur. These transformations are discussed in the light of the respective intellectual and religious backgrounds of the periods in question as well as the social context in which poetry was composed and performed, and more general literary trends. Chapter 4 describes the idealized, beautiful world of the immortals. I start by outlining the changing topography of the realms of paradise as well as some enduring features of paradise descriptions in poetry. I further discuss the “naturalization” of paradise scenery during the Eastern Jin, which paralleled the confluence of the images of immortals and earthly recluses during this period. In addition, I dwell here on the expansion of the divine realm in the texts of the Shangqing revelations and the impact these scriptures had on the vocabulary of the Southern Dynasties poets. The last section of this chapter surveys the merging of paradise vistas with the refined and artful court ambiance of the gentry during the late Southern Dynasties. This chapter also draws attention

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to, on the one hand, the religious significance of these depictions of paradise and, on the other, to their aimed aesthetic impact as highly artificial, decorative scenes. Chapter 5 focuses on the ways in which the poets imagined that the realm (or rather state) of immortality could be reached. Two major, albeit closely related, approaches are distinguished: transporting oneself to a paradisial realm by undertaking a distant journey and transforming oneself into an immortal through physiological and alchemical practices. In regard to the former theme—the “journey into immortality”—I trace the transformation of the Chuci-type cosmic journey into mystical exploration of distant Daoist paradises on the one hand and into visionary excursions to the much closer world of the terrestrial mountains on the other. The second theme—that of consuming immortality elixirs—is discussed against the religious background of the period and the actual alchemical pursuits of the southern gentry. The final chapter deals with a rather broad range of issues that can be subsumed under the general topic of the changing relations between the human world of the poet and the realm of the immortals. Here I take a closer look at the ways in which the poets exploited the theme of immortality as a means of reflecting sociopolitical, philosophical, and existential concerns. A different approach to representing immortality is discerned in the laudatory verse and feasting songs. I also briefly discuss the interplay between lyrical poetry and panegyric genres such as eulogies and encomia. Some other realizations of the youxian theme during the Southern Dynasties are surveyed here as well: in the form of independent vignettes of higher realms, highly decorative depictions of court occasions, or expressions of personal religious pursuits. The last section addresses both the interconnections and dissimilarities between the “religious” and “secular” poetry of the Southern Dynasties through a study of Daoist liturgical hymns and their imitations written at court. This analysis aims to elucidate the changing meanings “roaming into immortality” acquired in different periods and in different social and intellectual milieus through considering its complex interplay with other related themes in contemporary poetry on the one hand and the developments of Daoist religion and Daoist literature, particularly religious verse, on the other. While each of the six chapters forms a self-contained unit, there are also a number of cross-references. The close interdependence between the examined themes and topics means that the transformation of one topic in a certain period is paralleled by a similar and synchronous transformation in others, that are, however, the subject of different chapters. In addition, some key compositions are examined from different perspectives in more than one chapter. Reading this book is more like turning a kaleidoscope than following a linear, historical

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narrative. In each chapter, familiar pieces blend anew to highlight different facets of the poetic world of immortality.



A brief note on the terminology used is necessary here. Throughout the book I tentatively adopt the traditional rendition of xian as “immortality” or “immortals.” This established translation is imprecise and may even be misleading. Immortality in the sense of non-dying is merely one aspect of the state of xianship; moreover, some methods of attaining xian-ship comprise the event of death and a subsequent postmortem refinement of the spiritual-corporeal complex. An alternative translation, which has gained currency in the last two decades, is “transcendence” or “transcendents.” It emphasizes the exalted status of this class of beings but has the disadvantage of being imbued with Western implications of a radical metaphysical gap with the world of man. In the Chinese universe, organized into a hierarchical continuum that unites all levels of being, from mortal men to the supreme divinities, the xian have simply ascended to a level higher than ordinary humans.11 Although aware of the shortcomings of the term “immortals,” I am led in my choice by two main considerations. In early medieval poetry the theme of xian is often treated in the context of human transience, whereby aspects of longevity, endurance, and “existence equal with that of sun and moon” (if not eternity) receive much emphasis. Even more important is the fact that, as is demonstrated throughout this book, the state of xian, although much more sublime, is nevertheless continuous with human experience and with the human world. This salient aspect would be obliterated if we adopt the more fashionable rendition of “transcendence.” The term youxian shi is commonly rendered in English as “poetry of wandering immortals,”12 “roaming immortal,”13 “roaming as an immortal,”14 or 11

12

13 14

See the discussions of the term in Bokenkamp, Early Taoist Scriptures, 21–23 and in Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 4–5. Campany suggests in passing an alternative rendering as “ascendants.” Although this translation conveys best the connotations of the term xian, it might be rather unwieldy for poetic texts. Lin Wen-yueh, “The Decline and Revival of Feng-ku” and Kang-I Sun Chang, “Description of Landscape in Early Six Dynasties Poetry,” both in The Vitality of the Lyric Voice, eds. Shuen-fu Lin and Stephen Owen; Donald Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals” and “Immortality-Seeking in Early Chinese Poetry.” Ronald C. Miao in Lin Wu-chi and Irving Yucheng Lo, Sunflower Splendor, 48. Xiaofei Tian, “From the Eastern Jin through the Early Tang (317–649),” in The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, 216.

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“poems on roaming with immortals.”15 However, such translations often do not correspond to the actual content of the poems bearing this conventionalized title. Cosmic excursions are indeed an important topic in youxian poetry, but in many instances, as this book shows, the journey theme is absent and more static scenes in paradise are depicted instead. Sometimes a poem with the title “Youxian” presents no immortals or scenes of immortal life but merely voices the poet’s wish to attain a perfected state. The subject of such poems also varies—it might be the xian immortals described from an observer’s point of view or the very persona of the author, who pictures himself as a blissful immortal. Therefore, I understand the word xian in the conventionalized title “Youxian” as denoting not a persona but a state of being—xian-ship (immortality, transcendence, or ascendency)—and construe the expression as a verb-object with the broader meaning of “roaming into immortality” or “roaming to the realm of the immortals.”16 In relation to poetry I expand the meaning of the verb you 遊, which has general connotations of leisurely, easy, and playful roaming, beyond concrete depictions of celestial journeys, either those of the immortals or of the poet, and understand it to refer to mental and spiritual journeys in general, that is, to the wanderings of the authors’ thoughts and aspirations into the higher realms of the xian immortals. Although I generally follow scholarly conventions when translating Chinese terms, in certain cases the poetic nature of the texts calls for alternative renditions. One such case is the term zhi 芝, for which I adopt the established translation of “magic mushrooms” or simply “mushrooms,” although the substances in question might often be something quite different. However, the more precise “polypore,” “exudation,” or even a mere romanization of the term would be highly obtrusive in, for instance, an early yuefu and would disrupt the colloquial, smooth-flowing diction of the song. Out of similar stylistic considerations I translate the Daoist term jing 景—bright celestial bodies or their counterparts in the body—simply as “lights” (or “bright lights,” “sky lights”), instead of the well-established “effulgences,” “luminants,” or “phosphors.” The present work could have been much longer, but I yielded to more moderate ambitions. The scope of the study is limited to poetry written by secular authors—scholar-officials, statesmen, aristocrats—and transmitted through anthologies, leishu 類書 (collectanea), and collected works. Although this book considers the influences the revealed Daoist verse exerted on the imagery and 15 16

Wai-lim Yip, Chinese Poetry, 143. Edward Schafer and Paul W. Kroll provide similar translations of youxian as “saunters in sylphdom” and “roaming to transcendence,” respectively (Schafer, Pacing the Void, 242–43 and “Wu Yun’s Stanzas on ‘Saunters in Sylphdom’”; Kroll, “On ‘Far Roaming,’” 655).

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Introduction

vocabulary of contemporary court poets, the poems from the Daoist scriptures are not its prime focus.17 This is not to say that a strict division between “secular” and “religious” poetry should and could be drawn. Though closely related, the two nevertheless differ in their general purpose and in the identity of their speakers. As is demonstrated in the following chapters, the poetry under consideration has in most cases other goals than conveying religious ideas, presenting instructions, or recording authentic religious visions. Representations of immortality in it intimately interweave with other concerns and contemporary themes in poetry. A detailed parallel study of both Daoist poetry and its “secular” counterparts in early medieval China calls for more attention than the present volume can offer. Here I make but a modest effort in focusing attention on the intricate interrelation of early medieval poetry and Daoism in the hope of providing a ready point of departure for further research. 17

Good introductions to the Daoist poetry of early medieval China are provided by Zhan Shichuang in Daojiao wenxue shi and by Li Fengmao in “Xianshi, xiange yu songzan lingzhang.”

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Chapter 1

Religious and Literary Background The Ideal of Xian-ship Although the hope of longevity and avoidance of death has been an integral part of Chinese culture since early times,1 the concept of xian immortality was developed consistently and theoretically grounded within the context of Daoist religion from the late Han dynasty onward. The concept of xian involved a specific notion of eternal life in which not only the spiritual components of man survive but the physical body as well—albeit, in a purified and sublimated form achieved through a successive course of various alchemical, physiological, and ritual practices. It was believed that xian immortality could be attained during a man’s lifetime without an inevitable passage through death. The adept who rose to the state of a xian could ascend into the ranks of the heavenly bureaucracy as a perfected immortal or choose a terrestrial life among picturesque earthly landscapes. Liberated from the anxieties of old age, death, and dissolution, he could enjoy a finer, eternal life that still included all the pleasures of human existence.2 In the philosophical and religious context of ancient China, such notion of corporeal immortality presented the only possible solution to the problem of everlasting life. Before the arrival of Buddhism, it was generally held that man lives in this world but once. Even though opinions as to what happens to the spiritual components of a person after death differed, all Chinese thinkers agreed that a rebirth (fusheng 復生 or zaisheng 再生) was not possible. Moreover, the notion of the survival of the individual self and hence the concept of eternal life was intimately bound to the preservation of the body. The soul was never perceived as an invisible spiritual counterpart to a visible, corporeal body. Both soul and body were simply aspects of the same primordial breath, or qi 氣 (translated also as “pneuma,” “vital breath,” or “vital energy”), con1 The wish that death might be avoided altogether was expressed in bronze inscriptions from the eighth century BC onward. See Yu Yingshi, “Life and Immortality in the Mind of Han China,” 87. 2 For overviews of xian immortality, see the excellent survey in Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 18–97; Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 2, 139–154; and Penny, “Immortality and Transcendence,” in Daoism Handbook, ed. Livia Kohn. On pre-Han and Han concepts of immortality, see Yu Yingshi, “Life and Immortality.”

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004313699_003

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densed to different degrees. Furthermore, every person possessed not one but many souls, or more precisely, spiritual components, roughly divided into two groups—hun 魂 and po 魄—which scattered at death. It was the physical body that held the numerous souls and spirits together, like a thread holding beads, and provided them with a habitat, thereby ensuring the individual personality of every human being. Hence, only through preservation of the body could one achieve an everlasting continuation of the living personality without allowing it to disintegrate into fragments with existences of their own. Immortality in the sense of “not passing away” (busi 不死) is, however, only one aspect of the xian state, which more fundamentally involved a transformation of the psycho-spiritual complex of the individual and thereby a change in the very mode of his being. Many Daoist texts explicitly emphasize the distinction between xian and mere longevity or non-dying.3 The achievement of longevity might be conceived as a preliminary stage of attaining xian-ship, or these two states might be presented as separate options altogether. In fact, the term xian designates a variety of different beings, from “earthbound xian” (dixian 地仙), existing on the terrestrial plane or under it in the grotto-heavens, to celestial beings proper. Stephan Bokenkamp aptly summarizes this aspect of Daoism: One quality these beings share is that they have been “transferred” … from the common human state to a more subtilized form of existence, closer to the nature of the Dao. There is thus not a single chasm between mortals and immortals, but a chain of being, extending from non-sentient forms of life that also experience growth and decay to the highest reaches of the empyrean.4 A Historical Survey of Immortality Cults Although the roots of the immortality cult are still the subject of much controversy, scholars agree that it was formed at the end of the fourth century BC in the eastern Chinese states of Qi 齊 and Yan 燕. In general, it can be said that the cult comprised traditional longevity concerns, traditions of ecstatic shamanism, and philosophic-meditative currents. This complex also incorporated cosmological, astrological, and medical theories that had developed independently but were absorbed into immortality teachings early on. 3 E.g., Zhen’gao 12.3a (Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 381). 4 Bokenkamp, Early Taoist Scriptures, 22–23.

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The arts of immortality fell within the competence of the fangshi 方士 (literally “masters of recipes” or “masters of techniques,” but commonly translated as “magicians”). The members of this heterogeneous class variously specialized in a broad range of cosmological and esoteric practices, including astrology, divination, numerology, geomancy, healing, and techniques for achieving immortality.5 The princes and lords of the coastal regions showed special enthusiasm for the pursuit of longevity and immortality and widely employed the services of the fangshi.6 With the unification of the empire in the third century BC, the originally local cult was warmly welcomed at the imperial court. The search for immortality received fervent patronage from the emperors, and a tight link with the imperial court remained a hallmark of the xian cult until the end of the Han dynasty. Both the First Emperor of Qin, Qin Shi Huangdi 秦始皇帝 (r. 221–210 BC) and Emperor Wu of Han, Han Wudi 漢武帝 (r. 141–87 BC), were notorious patrons of fangshi and ardent seekers of eternal life. Both rulers are known to have sent large-scale maritime expeditions to search for the isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea—Penglai 蓬萊, Fangzhang 方丈, and Yingzhou 瀛洲—in the hope of communicating with the immortals who dwelled there. In addition, Emperor Wu extended his search westward—toward the mythic Mount Kunlun 崑崙, the legendary abode of the queen of immortals, Xi Wangmu 西王母. The preoccupation of emperors with prolonging their lives provoked much criticism from the rational-minded scholars of the Eastern Han, who condemned it both as a vain waste of state resources and as an activity that diverted the ruler from the much more important affairs of the state.7 The practices of the imperial court, about which historical records provide a fairly comprehensive picture, were apparently only one aspect of the quest for immortality during the Han dynasty. The data preserved on cults of immortality on a more popular level are, however, extremely scanty. Immortality teachings inspired salvation peasant cults, such as the one dedicated to the Queen Mother of the West that swept across China’s northeastern provinces in

5 The various practices in which the fangshi specialized are classified in the bibliographic chapter of the Han shu (Han shu 30.1763–1780). 6 Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 145–ca. 85 BC) provides information about their pursuits in many places in the Shiji 史記 (Records of the Historian). 7 Wang Chong 王充 (27–ca. 100), for instance, devotes the seventh chapter of his treatise Lunheng 論衡 (Discourses Weighed) to criticism of the immortality aspirations of Emperor Wu and wittily argues that immortality in the sense of the transformation of the body and transcendence is not possible.

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the early years AD.8 Some recent studies of epigraphic sources have brought new insights into local cults connected with immortal figures.9 The textual and pictorial material found in tombs also reveals that besides the classical notion of immortality there existed a concept of a certain “post-mortem” immortality achieved after death through the preservation of the body and proper rituals.10 The plethora of late Han pictorial representations of xian immortals indicates how widespread their cult was. Images of immortals, depicted as winged, feathered beings, adorn tomb paintings, stone reliefs, bronze mirrors, and lacquerware dating from the first centuries AD and later.11 Many beliefs connected with immortality during the Eastern Han period are reflected in the surviving text of the Taiping jing 太平經 (Scripture of Great Peace), parts of which probably date from the second century AD. This work presents the realm of immortals as an extension of the human world—a ninefold hierarchy of spiritual advancement connects lower mortal men with the most accomplished celestial beings, with the xian immortals relegated to the sixth level. The scripture contains many features present in later immortality teachings, such as instructions on nourishment, breathing techniques, meditation, and drug intake, all with a strong emphasis on moral behavior.12 At the end of the Eastern Han period, the first organized Daoist ecclesia was formed—the Way of the Celestial Masters (Tianshi dao 天士道). In the tradi8

9

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The activities of this cult are recorded in three separate entries in the Han shu: in the “Annals of Emperor Ai 哀 (r. 7–1 BC)” (Han shu 11.342), in the “Monograph on Celestial Patterns” (Han shu 26.1311–1312), and in the “Monograph on the Five Phases” (Han shu 27.1476. See also Dubs, “An Ancient Chinese Mystery Cult”; Loewe, Ways to Paradise, 98–101. See, for instance, Holzman, “The Wang Ziqiao Stele”; Schipper, “Le culte de l’immortel Tang Gongfang” on the Tang Gongfang Stele (Tang Gongfang bei 唐公訪碑) and “Une stèle taoïste des Han orientaux récemment découverte” on the Fei Zhi Stele (Fei Zhi bei 肥致碑) of 169 AD. The Fei Zhi Stele and the Tang Gongfang Stele have been recently translated into English and studied by Gil Raz in The Emergence of Daoism, 48–80. See especially Seidel, “Tokens of Immortality in Han Graves,” “Traces of Han Religion in Funeral Texts,” and “Post-mortem Immortality or the Taoist Resurrection of the Body”; Brashier, “Longevity Like Metal and Stone.” Numerous examples are gathered by Käte Finsterbusch in her Verzeichnis und Motivindex der Han-Darstellungen. See especially the categories “Hsien” and “Geflügeltes menschliches Wesen” in the indexes to the four volumes. On the notions of longevity and immortality in the Taiping jing, see Lin Fushi, “The Idea of Immortality in the T’ai-p’ing ching,” and Kaltenmark, “The Ideology of the T’ai-p’ing Ching,” 41–44. Parts of the scripture are translated by Barbara Hendrischke, who also discusses in detail the origins and composition of the text (see her The Scripture on Great Peace).

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tion of the Celestial Masters, who emphasized communal liturgical and ethical structures, eternal life was conceived as a reward bestowed by the gods exclusively upon persons of exceptional merit for their moral endeavors. Along with the hierarchically organized and highly centralized ecclesia of the Celestial Masters, numerous traditions of more individualistic practitioners existed, particularly in southern China. Their teachings were transmitted in small circles consisting of a master and his disciples. These lineages, largely independent of one another, carried on and further developed the legacy of the Han fangshi. A comparatively coherent picture of the immortality theories within one such line of transmission is provided by the aristocratic scholar-official and religious practitioner Ge Hong 葛洪 (284–364) in his treatise Baopuzi neipian 抱朴子內篇 (The Master who Embraces Simplicity, Inner Chapters).13 This work is the first extant text to discuss at length and in detail immortality and methods of its attainment in the general context of Daoist religion. Ge Hong extensively quotes, summarizes, and alludes to numerous older Daoist texts that he collected during his frequent travels throughout China, many of which have since perished. He outlines a hierarchy of xian transcendent beings, which consists of three distinct classes—celestial xian (tianxian 天仙), who abide in the highest hitherto known heaven of the Grand Purity (Taiqing 太清); earthbound xian (dixian 地仙), who, although having the power for heavenly ascent, still dwell on earth; and corpse-liberated xian (shijie xian 尸解仙), who have undergone a false death. He argues that immortality can be attained through personal effort and practice, and also provides numerous instructions on dietetics, breath cultivation, proper rituals, plant and mineral medicaments, and, above all, alchemy, which he considered to be the highest and most efficient art of immortality. Shortly after Ge Hong, a new Daoist movement known as the Shangqing 上清 (Supreme Purity) tradition developed in southeastern China in the milieu

13

Ge Hong was a member of an important clan in the southeastern state of Wu. “Master who Embraces Simplicity” (Baopuzi) was his sobriquet. His treatise consists of “Inner Chapters” dealing with esoteric matters, considered by him the most fundamental part of human knowledge, and “Outer Chapters” (waipian 外篇) devoted to exoteric issues concerning society and Confucian thought. A complete Russian translation of the “Inner Chapters” is provided by Torchinov (Baopu-tszy); in English Ware’s somewhat outdated translation is available (Alchemy, Medicine and Religion in the China of AD 320). From the rich secondary literature on the Baopuzi, the monographic studies by Hu Fuchen, Wei Jin shenxian daojiao, and Franz-Rudolf Schmidt, Die magische Rüstung, should be mentioned.

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of the local gentry.14 It was based on a series of revelations granted between 363 and 370 to the visionary Yang Xi 楊羲 (330–386) by Daoist divinities who called themselves zhenren 真人 (“True” or “Perfected Ones”). Although the True Ones had also been human at an earlier point, they were by far more subtle and spiritual beings than the older xian. In night visitations they dictated to Yang Xi a series of texts and instructions, as well as a number of poems, addressed to his patrons, Xu Mi 許謐 (303–373) and his son Xu Hui 許翽 (341– ca. 370).15 This new movement claimed to be on a higher level than its forerunners—the revelations emanated from the loftiest, hitherto unknown heavenly spheres and came from the hands of the highest gods. Shangqing was in fact a synthesis of the local southern ecstatic traditions, the late Zhou and Han traditions of immortality seekers, and the religion of the Celestial Masters, imbued with some concepts borrowed from Buddhism. Being addressed to an aristocratic audience with sophisticated literary tastes, the revelations infused Daoist practice with elements of high literary traditions. A large portion of these revelations were in the form of exquisite verse and described landscapes of the highest heavens and breathtaking cosmic journeys. The outstanding literary qualities of this heavenly poetry, and the remarkable calligraphy in which Yang Xi transcribed the divine words, helped them gain the attention of the highly erudite gentry of the period.16 At the beginning of the fifth century, the texts transcribed by Yang Xi began to spread among other southern gentry families, becoming so successful that forgeries soon started to appear. During the fifth century several eminent Daoists attempted to reassemble the original corpus of revealed texts. The most renowned among them was the scholar and Daoist master Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 (456–536). During his early secular career he held several appointments 14

15 16

An alternative translation of “Shangqing” adopted by Edward Schafer and Stephen Bokenkamp is “Upper Clarity.” However, as pointed out by Robert Campany, in Daoist contexts the primary sense of qing 清 is “purity,” or lack of defilement, “always connoting proximity to the original conditions of things as they emanate from the Dao” (To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 7, n. 13). The adjective shang 上 refers to the relation of the Shangqing heaven to other celestial realms—it is the second of a series of Three Pure Heavens (sanqing 三清) and is located above the Grand Purity (Taiqing) known to Ge Hong and below the Jade Purity (Yuqing 玉清). The Xu family was originally from the north but had emigrated to the south by around 185 AD. They were originally affiliated with the Way of the Celestial Masters. Of the numerous studies in Western languages concerning the Shangqing Daoist tradition, see especially Robinet, La révélation du Shangqing dans l‘histoire du taoïsme and Strickmann, Le taoïsme du Mao Chan, as well as his “The Mao Shan Revelations: Taoism and the Aristocracy.”

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at the Liu-Song and Qi courts and was a personal friend to many aristocrats, Buddhist thinkers, and even the Emperor Wu of Liang. In 492 Tao Hongjing left his official post and retired to Mount Mao 茅 (southeast of present day Nanjing), where, working under direct imperial protection, he led a community of Daoists and devoted himself to the collection and compilation of original Shangqing manuscripts. His editorial efforts resulted in two major works: the partially surviving Dengzhen yinjue 登真隱訣 (Esoteric Instructions for Ascent to Perfection) and the Zhen’gao 真告 (Declarations of the True Ones), which was presented to the Southern Qi throne in 499. The latter work consists of a retelling of Yang Xi’s visions, transcripts of the incantations of divinities, miscellaneous instructions, revelations, and descriptions of esoteric geography dictated by the deities of the Shangqing heaven. The book was intended for broader circulation, with the aim of introducing both the literary brilliance and the religious message of the True Ones to a wider cultivated public. At the turn of the fifth century, thirty years after the Shangqing revelations and no doubt inspired by their success, Ge Chaofu 葛巢甫 (fl. 402), a grandnephew of Ge Hong, circulated a new corpus of revelations—the so-called Lingbao 靈寶 (Numinous Treasure) scriptures.17 They represented a conscious attempt to synthesize Daoist and Buddhist ideas, whereby the new ideal of universal cosmo-political salvation substituted the individual’s quest for immortality. The goal of earlier pursuits, that is, the avoidance of physical death, was replaced by a belief in the post-mortem purification and restitution of the body through a process of smelting in the netherworldly realm of the Grand Yin (Taiyin 太陰). Although emanating from the same southern gentry milieu as the Shangqing teachings, the Lingbao dispensations formed the base of what was much more a communal religion. Lingbao adherents developed a more institutionalized clergy, codes of morality and practice, collective liturgies, and rituals for the state, which to a large degree replaced the individualistic longevity practices of meditation and alchemy. Methods of Achieving Immortality The adepts’ striving for the metamorphosis of the mortal body was directed both to making it immune to the physical disintegration caused by death and to purifying and lightening it to the utmost. A single, unified prescription on how to achieve these goals never existed. The techniques employed vary 17

On the Lingbao tradition, see especially Bokenkamp, “Sources of the Ling-pao Scriptures,” “Death and Ascent in Ling-pao Taoism,” and “Stages of Transcendence.”

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greatly—not only by time and author but also with regard to the individuals who managed to attain immortality. Certain traditions emphasized individual self-cultivation, while others stressed communal rituals and prayers; some gave priority to physiological practices and others attributed importance to mental images. All of these traditions shared in common the cultivation of qi in one or another form—ranging from the purification and circulation of one’s own qi to the absorption of the pure qi of certain plant and mineral substances and cosmic exudations. They also emphasized, as a prerequisite for the successful pursuit of immortality, the need for behaving morally, withdrawing from the corrupting influence of the world, and maintaining tranquility and purity. Various breathing exercises—xingqi 行氣 (“circulating the breath”), tuna 吐納 (“expelling and absorbing”), and taixi 胎息 (embryonic breathing)— which date back to deep antiquity, were considered to be very important. The natural processes leading to death were believed to be caused by the loss of qi. It was therefore essential to keep pure qi within the body and to learn how to circulate it and bring forth its condensation and intensification so that it could nourish the body from within. The modification of qi inside the human body was also achieved through sexual practices that focused on the preservation and regulated circulation of the seminal essence (jing 精)—the most concentrated and powerful, yet immensely refined, form of qi within man.18 Besides the refining of one’s own qi, absorption of the pure, concentrated qi of various objects—especially plants and minerals—was also very important. First, however, the adept had to keep to a certain diet, which involved abstinence from grains.19 Ordinary food had to be replaced with a diet of various herbs, mushrooms, and minerals, the efficacy of which was cosmologically or

18

19

On Daoist breathing techniques and gymnastics, see Maspero, Taoism and Chinese Religion, 443–553, and Despaux, “Gymnastics: The Ancient Tradition”; on breathing and sexual practices in early texts, see Harper, Early Chinese Medical Literature. The practice of “cutting off grains” (duangu 斷榖) was related to the notion of the powers of physical corruption and death abiding within the body. The Three Worms (sanchong 三蟲) or the Three Cadavers (sanshi 三尸), which cause decay and death, dwell within the three cinnabar fields and feed on cereals. Abstinence from grains would thus weaken them to a point where they could easily be eliminated with the help of certain drugs. Moreover, in the context of Chinese society, which linked the rise of culture with the origins of agriculture, the alternative immortality diet implied a critique of corrupting culture and a return to the primordial state of nature and society. On the different aspects and connotations of Daoist diet in early medieval China, see especially Campany, “Ingesting the Marvelous” and “The Meanings of Cuisines of Transcendence in Late Classical and Early Medieval China.”

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mythically grounded. The final objective was to subsist solely on the purest forms of qi—breath, light, morning dew, and astral radiance. The human body should be not only purified to the utmost but also made invulnerable to decay through the absorption of different mineral substances. It was believed that only stones and ore that never corrode were able to confer their durability on the body. Much more effective than natural minerals and ores, however, were alchemically produced elixirs that contained the qi of their ingredients in purer and more concentrated form. Chinese alchemy, throughout its history, always strove for the transmutation of immortality elixirs, which were exempt from the universal cycle of changes and allowed the adept who ingested them to return to the perfect primordial state of nondifferentiation and timelessness.20 In addition to the methods based on qi modification, a wide range of practices can be subsumed under what Robert Campany calls “the bureaucratic idiom.”21 Through various apotropaic techniques and spirit-deceiving subterfuges, the adept could command, petition, or manipulate the administrative officials of the divine world to take action for his benefit—for example, by deleting his name from the registers of mortal men and inscribing it into the books of immortality. Although consistent with the notions of immortality outlined above, the Shangqing tradition enriched these ideas with a more mystical and cosmic dimension. The elite background of these adepts expressed itself in a new emphasis on meditation and visionary communication with an entirely new pantheon consisting mostly of stellar divinities. Central to Shangqing practice were the visualization and invocation of gods, the absorption of astral radiance (not merely qi) and the nourishment of pure light, ecstatic wanderings amid the stars, and visits to various heavenly paradises where the adepts could taste the fruits and juices of immortality. Through visualization the adept could also cause the gods to descend into his meditation chamber and body, where they nourished him with cosmic ethers.22 What happened to the adept after his body had been etherealized and made incorruptible by taking alchemical substances or by following other proce20

21 22

Of the numerous studies on Chinese alchemy, see especially Sivin, “Chinese Alchemy and the Manipulation of Time” and “The Theoretical Background of Elixir Alchemy”; on the alchemical tradition of the Grand Purity, see especially Pregadio, “The Book of the Nine Elixirs” and Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China; also see Campany’s good summary in To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 31–47. Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 47. On Shangqing meditation techniques, see especially Robinet, “Visualization and Ecstatic Flight in Shangqing Taoism” and Taoist Meditation.

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dures? The transition from mortal life on earth to the enduring, perfected mode of being was generally conceived as an ascent to heaven. There were different ways to effect this. Fully accomplished immortals succeeded in sufficiently refining their form during their lifetime; they rose into the heavens in a perfect body without passing through death. The highest goal was to soar up in broad daylight in a celestial chariot or on a dragon’s back. By the time of Ge Hong, these celestial immortals were imagined as a part of an extended bureaucracy that governed the divine world. They served in an administrative system paralleling the one on earth, had their respective titles, ranks, and duties, and were subject to the benefits of promotion or the threat of demotion. Less advanced adepts, who had not succeeded in rendering their bones and flesh immortal, “who had not enough qi, but too much flesh,”23 had to carry out the final transformation by means of a faked death. This method is known as shijie 尸解 (“corpse deliverance” or “deliverance by the means of false corpse”). This procedure is probably one of the most complex and baffling aspects of the immortality arts, and has provoked differing interpretations and misunderstandings ever since the Han dynasty.24 The adept who availed himself of shijie seemingly succumbed to death, but what appeared to be his corpse was later replaced by a bamboo staff, a sword, or a pair of sandals. During the Six Dynasties period the most popular method of corpse deliverance was by means of alchemical elixirs, which often were highly poisonous. Michel Strickmann suggests that in certain cases shijie could have been a ritual suicide to escape periods of troubles or external conditions that did not allow the adept smooth progress in his practices.25 Such adepts would become immortals of an inferior grade, abiding in the mountains or in the underworld, where they could peacefully continue their spiritual pursuits and gradually advance in the heavenly hierarchy. The xian immortals did not remain in the distant celestial heights forever inaccessible to the common man. Not only the earthbound immortals, who still dwelled in the mountains of this world, but also their celestial counterparts often descended to earth and entered into contact with ordinary men.26 23 24

25 26

Yunji qiqian 109.10b. For a review of the differing explanations and a stimulating new interpretation of the notion and practices of shijie, see Cedzich, “Corpse Deliverance, Substitute Bodies, Name Change and Feigned Death.” On shijie in the context of the Shangqing tradition, see also Robinet, “Metamorphosis and Deliverance from the Corpse in Taoism.” Strickmann, “On the Alchemy of T’ao Hung-ching,” 132–33. A stimulating study of the social roles of immortality adepts and the features of the “cultural repertoire” that constituted xian roles is provided by Campany in Making Transcendents.

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Even when the immortals mingled among mortals for a certain time, their extraordinary powers and minds set them apart from the human crowd. They could change their looks at will, appearing as old men, young boys, or alluring beauties, or taking on the semblance of trees, stones, water, animals, and so on. They could accelerate natural processes of change and transform other objects at will. They also possessed the art of “dividing the form” (fenxing 分形) and could therefore be simultaneously present in many different places. The xian immortal was liberated from any temporal-spatial limitations—he was able to travel thousands of miles in an instant, fly like a bird to the furthest reaches of the cosmos, and pace the void at will. Immortals had also mastered the art of invisibility—they could vanish or appear at will, freely fading away and then making themselves visible once again. The stories of their extraordinary exploits among men were a favorite subject in many “accounts on strange phenomena” (zhiguai 志怪) that circulated widely from the Eastern Jin onward. Prose Accounts of Immortality The surviving scriptural evidence on the origins and early developments of the immortality cult is sparse and fragmentary.27 The earliest textual layers of the Zhuangzi 莊子, the “Inner Chapters” dating back to the late fourth century BC, already contain descriptions of perfected beings in possession of the Dao who are variously called “divine men” (shenren 神人), “accomplished men” (zhiren 至人), or “true or genuine” men (zhenren 真人). They subsist on cosmic exhalations, ascend to heaven, freely roam through the cosmos invulnerable to calamities and decay, and exert a beneficial influence on all existence. None of these accounts, however, appears in the context of discussing immortality or advocates the pursuit of longevity. Instead, they rhetorically serve as examples of perfect freedom and distant wonders beyond the grasp of ordinary human mind. Nevertheless, the remarkable properties of these transcendent beings were later assimilated into the classic image of the xian immortal that developed in the subsequent centuries. One of the earliest theories of spiritual and physical self-cultivation aimed at health, longevity, and attainment of metaphysical knowledge was developed in three of the oldest chapters of the Guanzi 管子, a text belonging to the Huang-Lao 黃老 tradition of the Jixia 稷下 Academy in the state of Qi, datable

27

The bibliographic chapter of the Han shu refers to ten shenxian 神仙 authors and 205 juan of shenxian literature, none of which is extant (Han shu 30.1779).

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to the fourth century BC.28 These methods were further elaborated in one of the manuscripts discovered at Mawangdui, a text called the Shiwen 十問 (Ten Questions), which, according to Donald Harper, was written between 180 and 168 BC.29 More numerous and extensive passages on mental and physical selfcultivation leading to perfection are found in the Huainanzi 淮南子—a text compiled at the court of Liu An 劉安 (180?–122 BC), the second king of the state of Huainan 淮南 in the old Chu 楚 region, and presented in 139 BC to his nephew, Emperor Wu of Han. This compendium, the apogee of the Huang-Lao Daoist synthesis of the Han dynasty, introduced a broad spectrum of esoteric knowledge in a highly developed cosmological framework.30 Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 145–ca. 85 BC) in the Shiji (Records of the Historian) provides a wealth of information about the activities of the fangshi and the pursuit of immortality at the late Warring States, Qin, and early Han courts. The Shanhai jing 山海經 (The Classic on Mountains and Seas), which probably dates from the fourth century BC, is another early source relevant for the study of poetry on immortality.31 It describes the mythical geography of the ancient world, which extends outward from the known realm to increasingly remote and fantastic lands. The book systematically presents regions and their landmarks, mythical animals, peoples, and spirits, along with various plants and drugs and their uses as cures and portents. Although reflecting ancient layers of myths and beliefs that long precede the formation of the immortality cult, the text is an indispensable source for the present study, for it provides the 28 29 30

31

Harold D. Roth studies these chapters in “Psychology and Self-Cultivation in Early Taoistic Thought,” “The Inner Cultivation Tradition of Early Daoism,” and Original Tao. Early Chinese Medical Literature, 28–29. The “Ten Questions” are translated and studied on pp. 385–411. Huang-Lao is commonly explained as the philosophy of Huangdi and Laozi, representing a synthesis of Legalist and Daoist ideas. It was, however, more encompassing than that, including also cosmology, self-cultivation, immortality ideas, and Confucian ethics. In the second century BC it was promoted as the government’s official ideology. For early Han scholars such as Sima Tan 司馬談 (d. ca. 110 BC) and Sima Qian, Huang-Lao stood for Daoist thought (daojia 道家) in general. The present edition is accompanied by a preface by Liu Xin 劉歆 (d. 23 BC) stating that he edited the text in eighteen chapters (pian 篇). The Shanhai jing is mentioned by Sima Qian in Shiji 123.3179 and is listed in the bibliographic chapter of the Han shu with thirteen pian under xingfa 形法 (geomancy), a categorization that suggests it was used for divination (Han shu 30.1774–75). Modern scholars have identified several textual layers dating from the early fourth century until the beginning of the Han dynasty and have concluded that this source originated in the southern Chinese region of Chu. See Yuan Ke, “Shanhai jing xuezuo de shidi ji pianmu kao” and “Lüelun Shanhai jing de shenhua”; Mathieu, Etude sur la mythologie et la ethnologie de la Chine ancienne.

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earliest descriptions of many lands, deities, and fantastic flora and fauna that were later absorbed into the immortality teachings, such as the figure of Xi Wangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, and her abode—Mount Kunlun. The earliest extant commentary on the Shanhai jing, written by Guo Pu in the early fourth century AD, in fact testifies to the assimilation of this archaic lore into the later repertoire of immortality. Another early source, which was later related to the quest for immortality, is the Mu tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳 (Biography of Mu, the Son of Heaven), a considerable part of which might date back to the fourth century BC.32 It recounts the travels of King Mu 穆 of Zhou (r. 956–918 BC) through the world and an episode in which he meets the Queen Mother of the West that revolves around the attainment of deathlessness. After the text’s discovery in 279/280 AD, it was edited by Xun Xu 荀勗 (d. 289) and other scholars and likewise engaged the attention of Guo Pu, who supplied it with a commentary. In the first centuries AD numerous texts circulated about the lives, achievements, and exploits of xian immortals, many of which have since been lost. The earliest extant collection of xian biographies, Liexian zhuan 列仙傳 (Biographies of Arrayed Immortals), is ascribed to Liu Xiang 劉向 (77–8 BC), but it might well be of a slightly later date.33 It contains the lives of seventy immortals and ranges chronologically from deepest antiquity to the more recent personages of fangshi active at the Han courts. The accounts are very terse and laconic, presenting basic data rather than consistent life stories. The major extant source on the beliefs and practices connected with immortality in southern China during the fourth century AD is the treatise Baopuzi neipian by Ge Hong, already mentioned earlier. Ge Hong is also credited with the authorship of Shenxian zhuan 神仙傳 (Biographies of Divine Immortals)— a hagiographical collection that contains the most extensive material on immortals in early medieval China.34 The more than one hundred biographies 32

33 34

The manuscript on bamboo slips, along with other ancient works, was discovered by robbers in the tomb of King Xiang of Wei 魏襄王 (r. 318–296 BC) in the fall/winter of 279–280 AD. Remi Mathieu dates the text to the beginning of the fourth century BC (Le Mu tianzi zhuan). On the other hand, Susan Cahill considers the text to be a late third-century AD work that incorporates earlier materials (Transcendence and Divine Passion, 49). The first three chapters are most probably close to the original version; the fourth chapter seems to be an early interpolation before the text’s burial, while the last two chapters were probably composed after the discovery of the text in the late third century AD. See also Nienhauser, The Indiana Companion, vol. 1, 632–633; Loewe, Early Chinese Texts, 342–343. Translated and studied by Max Kaltenmark in Le Lie-sien tchouan. The attribution to Liu Xiang is not certain, but most scholars agree that it is a work of the Eastern Han period. Translated and studied by Campany in To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth. All the extant

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included in the Shenxian zhuan present much longer, complex narratives with structured plotlines and often describe several different episodes in the lives of certain immortals. These texts offer an unusually lively and multifaceted picture of Daoist immortals, including their powers, activities, relations with humans, and methods of achieving immortality. Miracles and magical exploits on the part of immortals fell into the category of stories of strange and anomalous phenomena that during the Jin dynasty were widely circulated and gathered by scholar-officials interested in the “broad learning” (boxue 博學) beyond the orthodoxy of the Confucian canon. Accounts of various immortals were included in the early medieval collections of extraordinary phenomena and events (zhiguai), including the Bowuzhi 博物志 (Treatise on Broad Array of Phenomena) by the eminent statesman Zhang Hua 張華 (232–300), the Soushen ji 搜神記 (Records of an Inquest into the Spirit-Realm) by the historian Gan Bao 干寶 (d. 336), the Shiyi ji 拾遺記 (Records of Neglected Matters) by the recluse Wang Jia 王嘉 (d. ca. 386), and the Yiyuan 異苑 (Garden of Anomalies) by the Liu-Song official Liu Jingshu 劉敬叔 (d. ca. 468), to name but a few.35 Information on adepts and immortals is also contained in some of the collective biographies and treatises in the Hou Han shu 後漢書 (History of the Later Han), compiled by Fan Ye 范曄 (398–445). Li Daoyuan’s 酈道元 (d. 527) Shuijing zhu 水經注 (Commentary on the Classic of Waterways) preserves a great deal of data on cult sites associated with immortals. The Shangqing revelations of the second half of the fourth century move into spheres much higher than those of the xian immortals. Among the numerous religious texts belonging to the Shangqing tradition, several are relevant to early medieval youxian poetry. First and foremost is the Zhen’gao, compiled by Tao Hongjing in 499. Especially important for the purposes of this study are the poems that it contains, which were dictated to Yang Xi by Shangqing

35

versions of the text are in fact late Ming reconstructions undertaken after the destruction of the Song Daoist canon. On questions of authorship, sources, textual versions, and dating, see pp.  118–128. Robert F. Campany has concluded that the material pertaining to eighty-seven immortals is reliably attested to in pre-Tang and Tang texts. Although according Campany’s estimate nearly 80 percent of the original contents of the zhiguai has been lost, several thousand relatively short textual items survive, which provide us with insight into the nature and functions of the genre. The zhiguai genre is relatively well studied, and numerous translations of zhiguai texts are available. The most comprehensive Western study of the zhiguai genre remains Campany’s Strange Writing. Studies and translations of the Soushen ji include Mathieu, Démons et merveilles; deWoskin, In Search of the Supernatural; and Menshikov, Gan Bao: Zapiski o poiskakh dukhov.

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divinities.36 An important source on Daoist mythical geography of the period is the Shizhou ji 十洲記 (Records of the Ten Island Continents)—a text traditionally ascribed to Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (fl. 140–130 BC) but which evidently originated in the milieu of the Shangqing tradition in the fifth–sixth centuries AD.37 It consists of detailed and colorful descriptions of ten paradisiacal regions at the ends of the human world where immortals abide, with additional accounts of four islands of immortals and the mythical Mount Kunlun. This text had originally been part of a longer work that included two other compositions that are now preserved as separate works: the Han Wudi neizhuan 漢武 帝內傳 (Inner Biography of Emperor Wu of the Han) and the Han Wudi waizhuan 漢武帝外傳 (Extraneous Biography of Emperor Wu of the Han). They relate Xi Wangmu’s legendary visit to Emperor Wu as well as the biographies of several immortals. The literature of the late Six Dynasties and Tang periods often refers to these two works. Poetry on Immortality Although poems on immortality were written by the leading men of letters of the Six Dynasties, not much has survived. Many youxian shi have been preserved as mere fragments, while poem titles indicating poetic exchange and scattered remarks in various anthologies give us a tantalizing idea about the amount of texts that have been irrecoverably lost. What we have at our disposal today is, as all pre-Tang literature in general, merely a fraction of a much larger manuscript tradition that was dispersed and lost through warfare and the serial destruction of the imperial libraries.38 In addition to sheer con36

37

38

On the poetry of the Zhen’gao, see Lin Shiyue, Gu Shangqing jingpai jingdian zhong shige zhi yanjiu and Russel, Songs of the Immortals: The Poetry of the Chen-kao. A well-annotated translation of the first four juan of the Zhen’gao has been recently published by Thomas E. Smith in Declarations of the Perfected. For Western studies and partial translations of the poetry included there, the reader might refer to Paul W. Kroll’s “The Seduction Songs of One of the Perfected,” “The Divine Songs of the Lady of Purple Tenuity,” and “Daoist Verse and the Quest of the Divine”; Stephen Bokenkamp’s “Declarations of the Perfected”; or Elizabeth Watts Hyland’s unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Oracles of the True Ones: Scroll One. DZ 598. For a modern annotated edition, see Wang Guoliang, Hainei shizhou ji yanjiu. It has been rendered into English by Thomas E. Smith in “Record of the Ten Continents” and studied by Li Fengmao in Liuchao Sui Tang xiandao lei xiaoshuo yanjiu, 123–185. In a memorial presented to Emperor Wen 文 of Sui (r. 581–604) in ca. 583, Niu Hong 牛弘 (545–610) listed five major book catastrophes prior to his time. The “five disasters” (wuwei

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tingency, the survival of the texts we know today is the result of the interest of later scholars in their transmission. As Glen Dudbridge poignantly remarks, “Books survive through time when later generations have reason to copy and hand them on.”39 When considering these surviving vestiges, we should also keep in mind the texts that have been lost and the possible meanings and values entailed in them that have been superseded in later periods. Our picture of early medieval literature is distorted not only by the sheer amount of loss but also by the ways in which surviving texts were preserved and transmitted in the manuscript culture of the age.40 What we read today are by no means timeless compositions that have come down to us precisely in the form their authors made them and intended them. These texts have travelled along lengthy and twisted paths of circulation and transmission, during which they were copied, recopied, corrected, amended, revised, and adjusted to meet the values and tastes of later scholars. In addition to the original author, many generations of scribes, editors, and compilers actively participated in the very process of creating the texts that we read today. To complicate matters further, much of the early poetry, especially in the musical tradition, also circulated orally before it was transcribed. It is impossible to distinguish what changes occurred at the different stages of transmission, which include oral transmission, the transcription of oral texts, and the reproduction of manuscripts. In the following discussion of early medieval youxian poetry, we should keep in mind that what we have today is a selective and modified fragment of what

39 40

五厄) included the Qin book burning of 213 BC, the destruction by fire of the usurping ruler Wang Mang’s 王莽 palace in 23 AD, the loss of more than seventy cartloads of books in 190 AD during the flight of the court to the western capital, the sack of Luoyang during the fall of the Western Jin in 311, and the burning of the Liang library collection by Emperor Yuan 元 of Liang in 555 (Sui shu 49.1298–1299). In the aftermath of each disaster, efforts were made to reassemble the collection from other sources. Nonetheless, Song scholars in the twelfth century estimated that merely 1 or 2 percent of the books from the past had survived (Tongzhi 通志 71.2a; Dudbridge, Lost Books of Medieval China, 8). Dudbridge, Lost Books of Medieval China, 18. Several recent studies address these important issues. In Manifest in Words, Written on Paper Stephen Nugent explores the material context of poetic production and circulation in the manuscript culture of the Tang. His findings are also relevant for the early medieval period. In The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry Stephen Owen discusses how the scholars in the fifth and sixth centuries “made” the poetry of the third century by editing received manuscripts, “fixing” texts, assigning authorship, and creating a chronological historical narrative. Xiaofei Tian studies the poetry of Tao Yuanming in the light of the manuscript culture in Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture, while chapter 2 of her Beacon Fire and Shooting Star deals with textual production and transmission in addition to book collecting during the Liang.

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once existed. The preservation of these particular fragments might reflect the different values and concerns of later anthologists and editors. Our starting source is Xiao Tong’s Wenxuan anthology, which in addition to eight youxian poems includes poems and fu in other thematic categories that also deal (at least partially) with the theme of immortality. The Wenxuan, which reflects the Liang consensus regarding the literary past, exerted an immense influence ever since the early Tang. However, it was one of many anthologies produced during the Liang.41 We do not possess sufficient knowledge of the contents of other such works to judge what youxian poems they might have comprised and whether their compilers may have made different selections than Xiao Tong. Besides in the Wenxuan, youxian poetry has been preserved primarily as excerpts in Tang leishu collectanea. Most relevant to our theme are the Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 (Categorized Compendium of Arts and Letters) in 100 juan, compiled under the direction of Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢 (557–641) in the early seventh century, and the Chuxue ji 初學記 (Records for Early Learning), compiled around 700 by Xu Jian 徐堅 (659–729). Juan 78 of the Yiwen leiju is devoted to the “Way of Immortality” (xiandao 仙道), while sections of juan 23 of the Chuxue ji are focused on immortality (xian) and Daoists (daoshi 道士); still, much relevant material is included in other categories as well. The compilers of these collectanea still had access to older manuscript traditions, including materials surviving in northern China, and preserved many texts not contained elsewhere. However, because they aimed to provide pertinent examples and quotations for the needs of composition and commentary, they often merely extracted passages from longer compositions. An important source for early yuefu is the “Yuezhi” 樂志 (Monograph on Music) of the Song shu 宋書, compiled by Shen Yue 沈約 (441–513) in the early sixth century. It was primarily intended to conserve court musical traditions, and therefore the lyrics were not edited and adapted to meet contemporary literary tastes as was commonly done with other anthologies and collections comprising older poetry. The great compendium of Guo Maoqian 郭茂倩 (ca. 1046–1099), the Yuefu shiji 樂府詩集 (Collection of Yuefu Poetry), compiled at the turn of the twelfth century, is our primary source for most of the yuefu songs that deal with the theme of immortality. Guo Maoqian drew heavily on older, no longer extant 41

Various general anthologies compiled during the Liang are listed in Sui shu 35.1082–1084. For an overview of anthologies, literary collections, and leishu produced in this period, see Xiaofei Tian, Beacon Fire and Shooting Star, 96–110. On the Wenxuan anthology, see also Knechtges, “Culling the Weeds and Selecting Prime Blossoms.”

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yuefu collections, the earliest of which was the Gujin yuelu 古今樂錄 (Music Records of Past and Present) from 568. Modern scholars have argued that the songs contained there had already undergone editing and adaptation to the tastes of the sixth-century readership.42 The earliest surviving poetic works that treat the theme of immortality are contained in the ancient anthology Chuci 楚辭 (Verses of Chu), which was compiled in its present form and provided with its most influential commentary by Wang Yi 王逸 (d. 158 AD). This anthology comprises poetry in the form of sao (elegy) composed between the third century BC and the second century AD, which was connected with the poetic tradition of the southern Chu kingdom and the name of Qu Yuan 屈原 (340?–278 BC). The youxian theme is not present in the earliest layers; we do not find it in the “Jiuge” 九歌 (Nine Songs) cycle, which was inspired by shamanistic chants, nor in the long poem “Lisao” 離騷 (Encountering Sorrow), which is traditionally ascribed to Qu Yuan.43 Although the mythological figures and motifs that appear in these compositions are part of earlier, pre-Daoist beliefs, these poems are extremely important for the subsequent representations of immortality. They employ a whole range of topics, imagery, and poetic conventions that were later adopted by early medieval poets. In addition, the “Lisao” exerted far-reaching influence of a more general kind on later poetry. The ancient theme of a cosmic journey, which is probably of shamanistic origin, was transformed here into a political allegory of the search for a virtuous lord. This kind of allegorism provided a precedent and model for many later applications of the “roaming into immortality” theme, as well as for the prevalent figurative interpretations of the verse on immortality in general among the traditional critics. The earliest extant poem that elaborately treats the quest for xian transcendence is the “Yuanyou” 遠遊 (Distant Journey), which dates back to the second half of the second century BC.44 The “Yuanyou” is often characterized as the Daoist answer to the “Lisao.” Lacking the elaborate symbolism and political 42 43

44

Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry. See especially pp. 319–326 for a comparison of the Song shu and Yuefu shiji versions of one song. A stimulating reinterpretation of the “Lisao” in the cultural and religious context of the late Warring States with a new translation of both the “Lisao” and the “Jiuge” is provided by Gopal Sukhu in The Shaman and the Heresiarch. This poem had been traditionally considered to be an authentic work by Qu Yuan. David Hawkes, however, ascribes its authorship to the circle of poets and philosophers at the court of Liu An, which combined Daoist mysticism with an enthusiasm for Chu poetry and which also produced the first edition of the Chuci. See Hawkes, The Songs of the South, 191. He also provides the classic rendition of the “Yuanyou” in English (pp. 191–203). More recently, Paul W. Kroll has produced a new, annotated translation with an introduc-

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allegory of the “Lisao,” this work describes a Daoist adept who embarks on a mystical journey through all quarters of the cosmos. His travels take him away from the sorrows and afflictions of earthbound human life and end in ecstatic oneness with the Dao itself. The themes of immortals, the search for them, and description of the joys of immortal life appear in many other compositions in the Chuci, including the “Xishi” 惜誓 (Sorrow for the Oath Betrayed, second half of the second century BC); the “Zibei” 自悲 (Grieving for Myself) from the cycle “Qijian” 七諫 (Seven Remonstrances, second half of the second century BC); the “Ai shiming” 哀時命 (Lamenting Time’s Fate) by Zhuang Ji 莊忌 (fl. 154 BC); the “Jiuhuai” 九懷 (Nine Regrets) by Wang Bao 王褒 (ca. 84–ca. 53 BC); and the “Jiutan” 九歎 (Nine Laments) by Liu Xiang. The present book considers Chuci poems as seminal texts that stood at the origins of the youxian theme. My aim here is not, however, to analyze the Chuci phenomena as such but to elucidate the origins of various common topics and motifs and the ways in which they were adopted and transformed in the subsequent treatments of the “roaming into immortality” theme. Although Chuci poems receive much attention in the following pages, they are always discussed from the perspective of later poetic developments and their contributions to early medieval poetry on immortality. With the rise of the fu as an imperially centered genre designed to entertain and dazzle the listener with ornate and extravagant descriptions, fantastic cosmic journeys naturally became one of the themes of this type of verse. Sima Xiangru 司馬相如 (179–117 BC) at the court of Emperor Wu responded to his patron’s obsession with the pursuit of immortality by creating the “Daren fu” 大人賦 (Fu on the Great Man). Consciously modeled on the “Yuanyou,”45 this fu takes as its subject not a Daoist adept or a frustrated official but the emperor, the Great Man himself, who triumphantly travels to the larger otherworld of the gods and immortals. Not many fu from the Han dynasty containing more extensive representations of immortality have survived; extant works of this kind include the “Xian fu” 仙賦 (Fu on the Immortals) by the scholar and

45

tory study, which focuses above all on the religious meaning of the poem and its connections with then-contemporary Daoist ideas. See Kroll, “On ‘Far Roaming.’” The apparent linguistic similarities between the two poems have generated a discussion among scholars about the relationship between them. Guo Moruo suggested that the “Yuanyou” is Sima Xiangru’s earlier draft of the “Daren fu.” Others believed that the “Daren fu” was the original poem, and the author of the “Yuanyou” borrowed a great deal from it, as well as from the “Lisao.” Most scholars agree, however, that the “Yuanyou,” written at the beginning of the Western Han, was the original poem and that the “Daren fu” was written in imitation of it. See the discussion in Hervouet, Un Poète de cour sous les Han, 288 ff.

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official Huan Tan 桓譚 (23 BC–56 AD), the “Lanhai fu” 覽海賦 (Fu on Viewing the Sea) by the historian Ban Biao 班彪 (3–54), and the “Sixuan fu” 思玄賦 (Fu on Pondering the Mystery) by the astronomer and scientist Zhang Heng 張衡 (78–139). During the late Han-Wei period, the theme of immortality also appears in the musical tradition: it can be found in yuefu, the majority of which are considered to be literary imitations of folk songs. In topic, imagery, and style, the yuefu songs form a literary tradition distinct from that of the sao and fu. Their imagery is less exotic and ornate and their language is much plainer, even colloquial. In imagery and diction they exhibit a close link with the inscriptions on bronze mirrors from 50 BC–250 AD, many of which describe scenes from the life of immortals.46 The decline of the Han did not simply mean the passing of yet another dynasty; it involved a crisis on more fundamental philosophical and cosmological levels. The collapse of the unified Han empire shattered the confidence in the Confucian values that had provided the ideological basis of the Han state. This dramatic intellectual change brought a novel concern with man’s fate as an individual in place of the former prevailing interest in state, politics, and the objective order of the universe. Toward the end of the Han dynasty, immortality seeking became a subject of reflection in the light of the intensified perception of human mortality, as indicated by the group of anonymous poems in five-syllable line preserved in the Wenxuan and known as the “Gushi shijiu shou” 古詩十九首 (Nineteen Old Poems).47 The theme of immortality features in the yuefu poetry of Cao Cao 曹操 (155–220), the founder of the Wei dynasty, and his two sons, Cao Pi 曹丕 (187–226) and Cao Zhi 曹植 (192–233), who were the most important poets of the early third century. Seven songs by 46 47

On late Han bronze mirrors, see Loewe, Ways to Paradise, 60–85; Zhang Jinyi, Hanjing suo fanying de shenhua shuo yu shenxian sixiang. The “Nineteen Old Poems” were traditionally ascribed to various poets from the Western and Eastern Han, but modern scholars generally agree that they are of Eastern Han date. Nonetheless, this consensus does not mean the poems actually existed as fixed texts in the Eastern Han. Judging from late third-century imitations of particular “old poems,” Stephen Owen concludes that the present versions of these old poems were certainly in circulation by the late third century AD. (Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 24. See also pp. 33–66 for a more detailed account of the process of canonization of the “old poems” and the problems of dating). There were originally more “old poems” than the Wenxuan selection. In the Shipin 詩品 (Gradings of Poetry) Zhong Rong 鍾嶸 (467? –519) writes about fifty-nine pieces altogether (Zhong Rong Shipin jianzheng gao, 129). A new interpretation of the social context of their origin and performance is provided by Hsieh in “The Origin and Nature of the ‘Nineteen Old Poems.’”

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Cao Cao that treat the theme of immortality are extant: the “Qichu chang” 氣 出唱 (Song on Vital Breath Exhaled, three songs), the “Qiuhu xing” 秋胡行 (Ballad of Qiuhu, two songs), the “Moshang sang” 陌上桑 (Mulberries along the Path), and the “Jinglie” 精列 (Dissolution of the Essence). Cao Zhi devoted ten songs to immortals—almost one quarter of his extant yuefu compositions. He is, moreover, the first author known to have used the expression youxian as the title of a poetic composition.48 The foremost Qi-Liang literary critic, Liu Xie, notes in Wenxin diaolong that “during the reign of Zhengshi (240–248) of the Wei the trend was to explain Dao and poetry of this period contains elements of the cult of immortality” 乃正始明道,詩雜仙心.49 The Jian’an and Zhengshi periods can indeed be considered a turning point in the treatment of the immortality theme in poetry. In comparison with the composers of earlier verse, the poets at this time employed the theme less formally and less allegorically, and transformed it into a means of exploring existential dilemmas. Over one-quarter of Ruan Ji’s 阮籍 (210–263) eighty-two “Yonghuai shi” 詠懷詩 (Poems on Singing of My Feelings) feature immortality as their main theme. Xi Kang 嵇康 (224–263) also produced a number of poems dealing with the theme of immortality—besides a poem explicitly titled “Youxian,” immortality appears in approximately ten of his extant poems. During the late third and early fourth centuries, xian immortality established itself as an autonomous poetic theme. Important authors of the period, such as Chenggong Sui 成公綏 (231–273), Zhang Hua, Zhang Xie 張協 (ca. 255–ca. 310), and Yu Chan 庾闡 (ca. 286–ca. 347), all wrote poems on “roaming into immortality.” Guo Pu’s poems, seven of which are included in the Wenxuan anthology, are generally conceded to represent exemplary masterpieces of youxian verse.50 Later critics praised 48

49 50

The first part of the yuefu song “Zhe yangliu xing” 折楊柳行 by his brother Cao Pi, which treats the theme of immortality, also appears in Yiwen leiju 78 with the title “Youxian shi”. The question of which of the two brothers was the first to use the title is, however, irrelevant to our discussion. Wenxin diaolong yizheng 2.199; Shih, The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, 35–36. Guo Pu’s biography is contained in Jin shu 72.1899–1910. He was one of the most learned men of the Six Dynasties and was well-grounded in both classical scholarship and the occult arts. He wrote commentaries to the Shanhai jing, the Erya 爾雅, the Mu tianzi zhuan, the Fang yan 方言, and the Chuci, in addition to Sima Xiangru’s “Zixu fu” 子虛賦 (Fu on Sir Vacuous) and “Shanglin fu” 上林賦 (Fu on the Imperial Park). He was also a prolific writer of fu. Guo Pu held several posts as a military adviser and as a gentleman of the secretariat, but he was mostly renowned as an outstanding diviner. His ability to explain various portents also brought about his demise—he was executed by the rebellious strongman Wang Dun 王敦 (266–324) after foretelling that the latter would fail to

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Guo Pu’s compositions for their balance of lyrical self-expression, vivid landscape description, and bold flights of fantasy. After the fall of the Han dynasty, the theme of immortality was also widely treated in fu. Only two fu exclusively devoted to immortality survive from this period: the “Liexian fu” 列仙賦 (Fu on Arrayed Immortals) and the “Lingxiao fu” 陵霄賦 (Fu on Skimming the Empyrean), both by one of the most important writers of the period, Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303). However, representations of immortality commonly appear in fu on other themes. These subjects include recounting journeys (Sun Chuo’s 孫綽 [314–371] “You Tiantai shan fu” 遊天台 山賦 [Fu on Roaming the Celestial Terrace Mountains]), fantastic cosmic wanderings (Zhi Yu’s 摯虞 [d. 311] “Siyou fu” 思遊賦 [Fu on Pondering a Journey]), describing rivers and seas (Mu Hua’s 木華 [fl. ca. 290] “Hai fu” 海賦 [Fu on the Sea]), and so on. Legendary immortals, especially those included in the Liexian zhuan, were also a popular object of praise in eulogies and encomia. There are approximately one hundred extant eulogies and encomia, but apparently many more once existed. Surviving examples include two encomia by Sun Chuo on immortals from the Liexian zhuan, which were probably part of a larger series (“Liexian zhuan zan” 列仙傳贊); a series of twenty-two eulogies on various immortals by Lu Yun 陸雲 (262–303) under the title “Dengxia song” 登遐頌 (Eulogies on Climbing the Distant); a series of seventy encomia written to accompany the hagiographies of the Liexian zhuan by the little-known fourthcentury author Guo Yuanzu 郭元祖, and some single preserved pieces by Qian Xiu 牽秀 (?–305) and Lu Ji. Guo Pu’s poems are generally considered to represent not only the high point in the development of youxian poetry but also a dead end. Poetry on immortality written in the centuries after Guo Pu is often still dismissed today; it is deemed to represent the decline and weakening of the genre, which degenerated into mere “imitation” “lacking any new developments.”51 The collapse of the Western Jin in 317 and the relocation of the court to Jiankang south of Yangzi did indeed exert profound changes in the whole range of poetry

51

usurp the Jin throne. Although Guo Pu is known more as a literary figure and a master of esoterica than as a practitioner of the arts of immortality, the Daoist tradition elevated him to the status of xian. His hagiographies are attested from the tenth century on—the earliest are contained in the Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (completed 978) and the Sandong qunxian lu 三洞群仙錄 (completed 1154). Only ten of Guo Pu’s “Youxian” poems are extant in their complete form; seven of them are included in the Wenxuan. Lu Qinli presents fragments of nine more “Youxian shi” in Xian Qin Han Wei Jin Nanbeichao shi, 867. See, respectively, Zhu Guangqian 朱光潛, “Youxian shi,” 9; Lin Wenyue, Shanshui yu gudian, 13.

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and literary life. One of my purposes in this book is to offer a reevaluation of the immortality verse of the Southern Dynasties period and demonstrate the innovative turns it took that were crucial for its subsequent flowering during the Tang dynasty. During the late fifth and sixth centuries, poetical activities were closely linked to, and shaped by, the flourishing court culture in southern China.52 During the Southern Qi, Liang, and Chen dynasties, youxian poetry was composed within, and consumed by, narrow elite circles in the courts and literary salons presided over by imperial princes and emperors. Most prominent during the Yongming 永明 era (483–493) of the Qi dynasty was the literary circle hosted by Xiao Ziliang 蕭子良 (d. 494), Prince of Jingling, second son of Emperor Wu. He gathered the most talented and erudite men of letters of his day at his palace. Royal patronage brought scholars and poets from diverse backgrounds together—native southerners, who in preceding dynasties had been considered inferior to northerners and were excluded from receiving official appointments, northern émigré clansmen, members of the lower gentry, and Buddhist monks.53 Besides composing poetry and parallel prose, the courtiers compiled anthologies and leishu, copied classics, and actively engaged in debates over literary theory, Buddhism, philosophy, classics, history, calligraphy, and many other current topics.54 They formed a close-knit society with strong personal affections and shared literary values. The founding emperor of the Liang Dynasty, Xiao Yan 蕭衍 (464–549), was himself a former associate of Xiao Ziliang’s salon. He went far beyond any of his imperial predecessors in fostering literary patronage and in being personally committed to literary and scholarly pursuits. In addition to imperial sponsorship of large-scale literary projects, Emperor Wu 武 of Liang (i.e., Xiao Yan) exercised decisive influence on contemporary poetic developments both as an accomplished writer and as a foremost arbiter of taste. Under his rule 52

53

54

On the poetry of the Yongming period of the Qi dynasty, see Lomova, “Yongming Style Poetry.” The social context of poetry composition is discussed by Thomas Jansen in Höfische Öffentlichkeit im frühmittelalterlichen China. On the court culture of the Liang, see Xiaofei Tian, Beacon Fire and Shooting Star; Ping Wang, The Age of Courtly Writing. Thomas Jansen estimates that the inner circle of Xiao Ziliang’s salon comprised thirty-six members, most of whom also served as officials. In addition, there were twenty-five Buddhist monks and approximately a further thirty-three people, who, although not explicitly named as members, belonged to the broader circle of associates. Jansen also provides a list of the official posts held by the salon guests (binke 宾客) and surveys them in terms of their social background and region of origin. See Jansen, Höfische Öffentlichkeit im frühmittelalterlichen China, 57–69. Nan Qi shu 40.694–8.

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literary accomplishments became important means of social and political advancement and helped to define the new cultural elite. Many of the poets appreciated and promoted to high posts by the emperor on the basis of their literary talent belonged to the previously marginalized lower gentry and native southerners. Other important literary centers during the Liang were the courts of the Crown Prince Xiao Tong and of Emperor Wu’s younger sons, Xiao Gang 蕭綱 (502–551), also known as Emperor Jianwen 建文, and Xiao Yi 蕭繹 (508– 555), the later Emperor Yuan 元. Surviving poems on immortality came from the brushes of the most renowned poets associated with the southern courts and salons, such as Shen Yue, Wang Rong 王融 (468–494), Jiang Yan 江淹 (444–505), Wu Jun 吳均 (469– 520), Yu Jianwu 庾肩吾 (ca. 487–551) and his son Yu Xin 庾信 (513–581), Wang Bao 王褒 (ca. 511–ca. 575), Yan Zhitui 顏之推 (531–after 590), and Zhang Zhengxian 張正見 (ca. 528–ca. 576).55 Among the authors of youxian verse, we even find emperors and princes, such as Emperor Wu himself and Xiao Gang, the later Emperor Jianwen. Their poems on “roaming into immortality” were generally created in the context of group composition and poetic exchange— as “matching” (he 和) compositions harmonizing with poems on the same theme by other authors, as answers (da 答 or chou 酬) to their literary friends and patrons. Many were extemporized at specific events—particularly during outings, visits to Daoist temples, and court feasts. On the basis of the scarce extant sources, it seems that at the northern courts youxian poetry was composed on similar occasions and had a similar social function as in the South. Zheng Daozhao 鄭道昭 (455?–516), an eminent official at the Northern Wei court, wrote landscape poems replete with xian imagery during his excursions in the mountains; he had them inscribed on mountain boulders. The Northern Qi courtier Lu Sidao 盧思道 (535–586) composed imitations of older yuefu on immortality, while Yuwen Zhao 宇文招 (d. 580), a younger brother of Emperor Ming 明 of the Northern Zhou (534–560) and a patron of Yu Xin, exchanged matching youxian poems (no longer extant) with Yu Xin. The authors of poetry on Daoist themes include poets otherwise known as devoted Buddhists, such as Wang Rong or even Emperor Wu of Liang, who has gone down in history as an ardent patron of Buddhism. Princes and courtiers were in close contact with both Buddhist and Daoist masters, knew their teachings quite well, and, moreover, often took a personal interest in the quest 55

Although some Liang poets, such as Yu Xin and Wang Bao who spent their later years as captives at the court of the Northern Zhou, are traditionally classified as Northern Dynasties poets, their verse reflects the features and aesthetic concerns of Southern Dynasties court poetry, and so they should properly be considered among the southern poets.

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for eternal life. In addition, by the fifth and sixth centuries the southern aristocracy was familiar with the records of the Shangqing revelations and the exalted, consummate verse they contained.56 Songs inspired by Daoist hymns were also composed at court—for example, a cycle attributed to Emperor Wu titled “Shangyun yue” 上雲樂 (Music of the Supreme Clouds) and Yu Xin’s “Daoshi buxu ci” 道士步虛辭 (Stanzas on Pacing the Void of a Daoist Master) written at the court of Northern Zhou in imitation of Lingbao ritual chants. Literary Criticism on Youxian Verse The youxian theme remained on the periphery of Chinese literary criticism for centuries, being ignored, denigrated, or misinterpreted by traditional commentators. Orthodox critics felt the need to validate the composition of such verse by denying its possible religious undertones and interpreting it as an allegory of the poets’ political frustrations, a theme far removed from the pursuit of immortality as such. As early as the second century AD, Wang Yi, in his preface to the Chuci, denies that there was any expression of religious experience in the “Yuanyou” and claims that the “distant journey” in the poem is only an allegory similar to that of the “Lisao,” which expresses the grief of a rejected courtier. He attributes authorship to Qu Yuan and reads the poem through his tragic biography: Although he still wanted to save the world, he felt frustrated in his heart and, expanding colorful words, set forth his marvelous thoughts. He pretended to accompany the immortals in their playful wanderings, travelling through the entire universe, visiting every corner. But he kept his native country of Chu in his heart and thought longingly of his old friends and relatives: he was truly loyal, thoroughly good and righteous. 思欲濟世,則意中憤然,文采鋪發,遂敘妙思,託配仙人,與俱遊 戲,周歷天地,無所不到。然猶懷念楚國,思慕舊故,忠信之篤,仁 義之厚也。57

56

57

On the circulation of the Shangqing texts among the southern aristocratic families, see Strickmann, “The Mao Shan Revelations,” especially his translation of Tao Hongjing’s account of the diffusion of the original manuscripts (p. 41 ff.). Chuci buzhu 5.163.

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Like Wang Yi, subsequent critics have been much concerned with proving the “political correctness” of a type of verse, which, although written by socially involved statesmen and officials, undeniably possesses religious undertones. Much critical ink has been spilled over the last millennium to purge the images of Cao Cao and Cao Zhi of what was perceived by the Confucianists as a dangerous and irresponsible penchant for the supernatural and to demonstrate that the interest in immortality expressed in their poetry was purely allegorical.58 Even the poetry of Guo Pu, the acclaimed master of youxian verse, has been the subject of continuous controversy. One of the earliest comments on Guo Pu comes from early fifth-century critic Tan Daoluan 檀道鸞, who outlines in his Xu Jin yangqiu 續晉陽秋 (Sequel to [Sun Sheng’s] Annals of the Jin) the poetical developments from the Jian’an period till his own day: During the Zhengshi era, Wang Bi (226–249) and He Yan (?–249) had favored mysterious and transcendent conversations about Zhuangzi and Laozi, and after that the world set great store by them. But at the time of the crossing of the Yangzi River (307–312) Buddhist doctrines [amended to Li Chong] became especially flourishing. So Guo Pu in his five-word poems began gathering together the words of Daoists and setting them to rhyme. 正始中,王弼,何晏好莊,老玄勝之談,而世遂貴焉。至過江佛理尤 盛 [至江左李充尤盛] 。故郭璞五言始會合道家之言而韻之。59

Tan Daoluan perceives Daoist religious content as the most salient feature of Guo Pu’s poetry. In the Wenxin diaolong Liu Xie, although focusing more on the literary qualities of Guo Pu’s verse, seems to recognize mystic exaltation as such when he comments that Guo Pu’s verse is “floating and soaring, skimming the clouds” 飄飄而凌雲矣, characterizing his poetry with a phrase that conventionally pertains to descriptions of ecstatic heavenly journeys.60

58 59

60

For a detailed discussion of the various interpretations of Cao Zhi’s youxian verse, see Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals.” Cited in the commentary to the Shishuo xinyu, 4.85 (Shishuo xinyu jianshu, 262) trans. Mather, Shih-shuo Hsin-yu, 136–137. See also Tan Daoluan, Xu Jin yangqiu, 10, contained in Huangshi yishu kao 5.401. For amending foli 佛理 (Buddhist doctrines) to Li Chong 李充, see Yu Jiaxi’s comments in Shishuo xinyu jianshu, 264–265. Wenxin diaolong yizheng 10.1824.

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However, the sixth-century critic Zhong Rong denies Guo Pu’s Daoist sentiments in his Shipin (Gradings of Poetry): But even though [Guo Pu’s] compositions on “Roaming into Immortality” have words highly charged with emotion, they are inconsistent with and removed from the mystical tradition. When he says, “What use in the fine figure of the tiger and leopard” and “I fold my wings and perch in thickets and thorns” [n.b. neither of these lines is found in Guo Pu’s extant corpus], this is none other than singing his feelings out of frustration, and has nothing to do with any interest in immortals. 但遊仙之作,辭多慷慨,乖遠玄宗,其云「奈何虎豹姿」又云「戢翼 棲榛梗」乃是坎壈詠懷,非列仙之趣也。61

Ming- and Qing-dynasty scholars such as Lu Shiyong 陸時雍 (fl. 1633), Chen Zuoming 陳祚明 (1623–1674), He Zhuo 何焯 (1661–1722), and Shen Deqian 沈德潛 (1673–1769) subscribed to this opinion and interpreted the representations of immortality in Guo Pu’s works as a form of solace and a means of voicing his sorrows.62 The critics who admit intrinsic mystic value in Guo Pu’s poetry are much less numerous. Some later critics such as Zhang Yugu 張玉榖 (1721–1780) suggested that Guo Pu’s youxian shi do not merely vent his feelings but express a genuine interest in immortality.63 Over the past few decades a number of Chinese and Western scholars have turned their attention to the poetry on immortality. In addition to articles on individual poets, several surveys of the development of youxian shi—from the Six Dynasties through the Tang to the Qing—have appeared.64 These studies 61 62

63

64

Zhong Rong Shipin jianzheng gao, 247. Lu Shiyong, Gushi jing 古詩鏡 9.18; Chen Zuoming, Caishu tang gushi xuan 采菽堂古 詩選 12.23; He Zhuo, Yimen dushu ji 義門讀書記 46.14; Shen Deqian, Gushi yuan 古詩源, 179. Gushi shangxi 古詩賞析 12.2–6. The debate over the meaning of Guo Pu’s poems on immortality has not yet been unanimously resolved. Cheng Qianfan (Gushi kaosuo, 299), You Guo’en (Zhongguo wenxue shi, 239), and Ye Jiaying (Han Wei Liuchao shi jianglu, 534), for instance, hold the orthodox opinion that Guo Pu borrows the theme of roaming into immortality to express his dissatisfaction with the world and to voice his anguish and protest. On the other hand, Lin Wenyue recognizes genuine attraction to immortality (Shanshui yu gudian, 10–11). These include Li Fengmao, “Liuchao daojiao yu youxian shi de fazhan”; Hong Shunlong, Liuchao shi lun, Zhu Guangqian, “Youxian shi”; Tang Yizhang, “Shenxian sixiang yu youxian shi yanjiu”; Xiong Xiaoyan, Zhongguo youxian shi gailun.

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are limited in scope to the narrowly defined youxian subgenre of lyrical poetry and discuss it neither in its broader literary context nor, with the notable exception of Li Fengmao, in its religious context. Zhang Hong, in his recent book-length study of youxian shi during the Qin, Han, Wei, and Jin periods, is the first, to my knowledge, to include a discussion of the immortality theme in the fu of the Han dynasty and a survey of the Daoist poetry in the Zhen’gao.65 Among Western scholars Donald Holzman has published articles on the youxian poetry of the late Han and Wei dynasties, elucidating some of the ways in which the theme of immortality was employed in the first centuries AD.66 In addition, many valuable insights have been provided in studies of particular poets.67 The biographical focus of these accounts, however, means that they treat poems as windows into the poet’s life and personality and say little of the features and development of the youxian theme in a wider literary context. On the other hand, discussions of the historical evolution of youxian poetry are overly general and are not backed by close readings of particular works that can reveal the evolving poetic configurations and their complex meaning. As Chinese critics adhering to the “expressive theory” of poetry68, as termed by James J.Y. Liu, take the sincerity and depth of the authors’ feelings as a prime criterion for the poetic values of a poem, they focus on poets like Cao Zhi, Ruan Ji, and Guo Pu, who employed the youxian theme as a medium for the exploration of personal emotional conflicts. Conventional accounts revolve around their works, which are considered to be exemplary of the “youxian genre,” while the subtleties of the larger picture remain largely obscured. Today the discourse on youxian shi still remains deeply embedded in the exegetical tradition of reading youxian poems as allegories of disaffection with political life. The majority of the scholarly inquiries center on the perennial question of the supposed authorial intent and regard these poems as political statements or as evidence of “escapist” tendencies, while eschewing the poems’ possible religious meanings. When the authorial intent becomes the starting point and the very focus of scholarly discussion, we ultimately reach a dead end whereby identical evidence can produce contradictory conclusions. Indeed, the few recent studies that attempt to rehabilitate early medieval 65 66 67 68

Zhang Hong, Qin Han Wei Jin youxian shi de yuanyuan liubian lunlüe. Holzman, “From Scepticism to Belief in Third Century China” and “Immortality-Seeking in Early Chinese Poetry.” E.g., Holzman, Poetry and Politics: the Life and Works of Juan Chi and “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals”; Mather, The Poet Shen Yueh. For a discussion of expressive theories of literature, which dominated traditional Chinese poetics, see James J.Y. Liu, Chinese Theories of Literature, 67–87.

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Daoist literature use the very same works as evidence to indiscriminately prove the Daoist faith of their authors.69 Two recent studies point to possible ways to circumvent these vexed issues. In The Making of Early Chinese Poetry Stephen Owen argues that in discussing the informal poetry of the elite written during the third century we should set aside issues of authorship and genre and view it in terms of themes, topics, and sequences of exposition. He perceives concrete works as different realizations of a shared poetic repertoire and common compositional practices. One of the themes he addresses to illustrate his arguments is that of immortals in the yuefu songs of the late Han and Wei periods. The present book, although pursuing different objectives and considering a much wider scope of verse over a longer and very diverse period, is indebted to his insights in more ways than one. In an inspiring study of the Daoist term biluo 碧落 in Tang poetry, Stephen Bokenkamp proposes a methodology for approaching Daoist influences on secular poetry of relevance to the present inquiry.70 In discussing Daoist elements in secular Chinese verse, he adopts the three categories established by Erik Zürcher for studying Buddhist lexical borrowings in Daoist scriptures: “formal borrowing,” when a certain term simply enhances the “verbal and stylistic presentation of the message”; “conceptual borrowing,” when the term retains some of the original scriptural associations; and “borrowed complexes,” which denote the “absorption of a coherent cluster of ideas … taken over … as a complex in which at least part of the constituent elements are maintained.”71 It will be useful to keep these three categories in mind when we discuss Daoist imagery in the poems considered in this work. We will most likely be unable to discern whether a particular author was a Daoist or not, but we will discover more about the poems, their language, and possibly the degree to which the author and his audience were acquainted with certain Daoist texts and traditions. 69 70 71

E.g., Zhang Songhui, Han Wei Liuchao daojiao yu wenxue. Bokenkamp, “Taoism and Literature,” 71–72. Zürcher, “Buddhist Influences on Early Taoism,” 86–87.

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The Dramatis Personae

Chapter 2

The Dramatis Personae Although a mere fragment of the once-rich Daoist hagiographic literature of early medieval China has been preserved, it nevertheless provides us with some idea about the large numbers of people deemed to have attained immortality. The vitae of seventy immortals are contained in the received version of the Liexian zhuan, more than one hundred additional practitioners of immortality arts are recorded in the Shenxian zhuan, and stories of various other adepts are scattered throughout historiographic sources, such as the Shiji, the Hou Han shu, and records of strange phenomena (zhiguai). Not all successful immortality seekers, however, became protagonists of the poetry written by scholar-officials and courtiers. Only a few of the xian immortals who were often referred to in prose sources appeared regularly in poetry as well, while some of the important Daoist personalities were never adopted in secular verse and thus remained in the narrower domain of religious cults. Our discussion will start with an overview of the major figures connected with immortality who achieved popularity in early poetic narratives. Xi Wangmu Written and pictorial records testify that by far the most venerated deity connected with immortality in early medieval China was Xi Wangmu 西王母, the Queen Mother of the West.1 Her image as the queen of the immortals evolved from several different traditions that had probably existed independently 1 The image of Xi Wangmu in early religious thought and pictorial arts has been thoroughly studied. For a comprehensive overview, see Loewe, Ways to Paradise, 86–126. Homer Dubs in “An Ancient Chinese Mystery Cult” and Riccardo Fracasso in “Holy Mothers of Ancient China” focus on textual descriptions of the goddess in pre-Han and Han sources, while iconographic material from Han funerary art is discussed by Wu Hung in “Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West” and Jean M. James in “An Iconographic Study of Xiwangmu during the Han Dynasty.” Susan Cahill in Transcendence and Divine Passion explores the Queen Mother’s image in Tang Daoism and poetry, while the first chapter of the book provides a good introduction to the beliefs and cults associated with the Queen Mother in classical and early medieval China. For a discussion of the images of Xi Wangmu and her partner Dong Wanggong 東王公 with a focus on the Shangqing tradition, see Li Fengmao, “Duomian Wangmu, Wanggong yu Kunlun, Donghua shengjing.”

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004313699_004

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during the Warring States and early Han. Two passages in the Shanhai jing describe the Queen Mother as a therianthropic ancient goddess who dwells in a cave and presides over heavenly epidemics.2 According to Mu tianzi zhuan 3.15, she is a divine sovereign who lives in the west on Mount Kunlun and meets with human kings. In contrast, the Zhuangzi speaks of her as an eternal being that has attained the Dao, while in the Huainanzi she emerges as a regulator of cosmic order and conferrer of immortality.3 In the course of the Han dynasty, these heterogeneous aspects gradually fused into the well-known image of the Queen Mother as a beautiful and youthful divine lady dwelling in the paradise of Kunlun who presided over and bestowed immortality. Her numerous images, current from the late Western Han onward, predominantly appeared in funerary contexts—in tombs and in ancestral shrines—thus expressing hopes for an immortal afterlife in paradise. The Queen Mother was often depicted along with her male counterpart, Dong Wanggong, the King and Sire of the East, whose image was established during the Eastern Han period.4 During the Han dynasty the Queen Mother was not only worshipped by the elite, as her numerous representations in tombs attest, but also became the savior of a messianic peasant cult, which arose in China’s northeastern provinces in the early years AD.5 Preparing for the coming of the Queen Mother, the cult followers engaged in fervent and passionate religious activities. Regarding themselves as her envoys and servants, they claimed that the goddess would bestow immortality upon the faithful and bring death to unbelievers. The Queen Mother remained neglected in the texts of the early Celestial Masters, probably because of her association with the popular cults so condemned by this Daoist school, but in the Shangqing Daoist tradition she rose

2 Shanhai jing jiaozhu 2.15 and 16.407. 3 Zhuangzi jishi 6.247; Huainan honglie jijie zhu 6.211 and 6.217. Riccardo Fracasso provides a chronological arrangement and a critical discussion of the earliest sources on Xi Wangmu. He distinguishes three early traditions current between the fifth and third centuries BC, each associated with a specific area: the northern tradition, reflected in the Mu tianzi zhuan, the southern tradition, associated with the Zhuangzi, and the western or southwestern tradition, possibly of Tibetan origin, which had entered China via the states of Shu, Ba, and Chu and is reflected in the Shanhai jing. (See Fracasso’s “Holy Mothers of Ancient China.”) 4 Also called Dong Wangfu 東王父, King Father of the East. Käte Finsterbusch has gathered rich pictorial material from Han tombs on Xi Wangmu and her partner in Verzeichnis und Motivindex der Han-Darstellungen (see the entries “Hsi-wang-mu” and “Hsi-wang-mu und Tung-wang-kung” in the indexes to the volumes). 5 Han shu 11.26–27. See also Dubs, “An Ancient Chinese Mystery Cult”; Loewe, Ways to Paradise, 98–101.

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as a leading female divinity, secondary only to the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Commencement, Yuanshi tianzun 元始天尊, and reigned supreme over most of the other deities of the Supreme Purity heaven. Known under her official Daoist title of The Ninefold Numinous Grand and True Primal Ruler of the Purple Tenuity from the White Jade Tortoise Terrace (Ziwei yuanling baiyu guitai jiuling taizhen yuanjun 紫微元靈白玉龜臺九靈太真元君),6 she appeared from the end of the fourth century onward as a teacher to Daoist masters and a bestower of divine scriptures to both gods and humans, as a controller of access to immortality, and as a divine matchmaker between men and celestials.7 The image of Xi Wangmu started to appear in poetry from the Western Han onward. The earliest extant portrayal of the Queen Mother by Sima Xiangru is, however, rather unflattering. In the “Daren fu” he describes the sight perceived by the Son of Heaven at the westernmost point of his cosmic flight: 暠然白首戴勝而穴處兮 With her hair of silvery white, crowned with a headdress, living in a cave! 亦幸有三足鳥為之使 Fortunately she has her three-legged crow as her messenger. 必長生若此而不死兮 Yet if she must live in this state forever, never dying, 雖濟萬世不足以喜 Though it be for ten thousand ages, what joy can she find?8 Xiangru conceives of the Queen Mother as a white-haired elderly goddess in possession of everlasting life. The details of this description—her sheng 勝 headdress, the bird messenger, and the cave dwelling at the edge of the world— match the description of the goddess in the Shanhai jing.9 In this fu the Shanhai jing tradition interweaves with the theme of a human sovereign paying a visit to the Queen Mother that is developed in the Mu tianzi zhuan and related texts and with the motif of eternal life reflected in the accounts in the Zhuangzi and the Huainanzi. The somewhat mocking portrayal of Xi Wangmu served the 6 This is the title given in Tao Hongjing’s Dongxuan lingbao zhenling weiye tu 洞玄靈寶真靈 位業圖 5b (DZ 167). 7 See Cahill, Transcendence and Divine Passion, especially chapter 1. 8 Shiji 117.3060; Han shu 57B.2596; Quan Han fu, 92. Based on the translation by Burton Watson in Records of the Grand Historian, vol. 2, 299, with slight alterations. French translation in Hervouet, Le Chapitre 117 du Che-ki, 200. 9 Shanhai jing jiaozhu 12.306 and 16.407.

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particular task of the court poet, who wrote the fu as a celebration of his patron, Emperor Wu of Han, and depicted him here as a heavenly immortal. According to Sima Qian, “Xiangru felt that the traditional picture of the immortals, dwelling amidst mountains or marshes, their bodies emaciated with fasting, did not correspond to the royal idea of immortals, and his “Daren fu” was written to suit the requirements of the latter.”10 It was not the ascetic, restricted, albeit endless, life of some immortals that attracted the emperor but the aspects of glory and splendor associated with xian immortality. In the context of the fu, the description of Xi Wangmu, conceived in the “ascetic” vein, glorifies through contrast the all-mighty emperor—the very queen of the immortals does not match his majesty, freedom, and cosmic potency.11 Subsequent poets, whose aims were other than praising a royal patron, never again took up the motif of the constrained existence of the queen of the immortals. In the course of the Eastern Han, the wilder “mountainous” aspects of her image disappeared, and the goddess took on her distinct image as a timeless and young divine lady. From all the ancient lore surrounding the Queen Mother, late classical and early medieval poets adopted almost exclusively one particular role for her to play—she is the deity visited and paid respect to by the protagonist in the course of his cosmic journey. During their meeting she might entertain the poetic hero with a feast featuring music and dance, or she might bestow upon him paradisial food and immortality elixirs at the culmination of his journey. The visit to the goddess described by Zhang Heng in his “Sixuan fu” differs considerably from what Sima Xiangru had written more than two centuries earlier: 聘王母於銀臺兮 羞玉芝以療飢 戴勝憖其既歡兮 又誚余之行遲 載太華之玉女兮 召洛浦之宓妃

(ll. 261–266) 10 11

12

I am invited to the silver terrace of the Queen Mother; She offers jade mushrooms to allay my hunger. Wearing a headdress, smiling her pleasure, She teases me for arriving late. She sends a carriage for the Jade Maiden of Taihua, Summons Consort Fu from the Luo River banks.12

Shiji 117.3056. David Knechtges suggests that this unflattering portrait was intended as a reprimand to the emperor, who indulged in pursuing immortality elixirs and in searching for immortals (The Han Rhapsody, 39), but I believe that these lines are in full accord with the story of the presentation of the “Daren fu” cited earlier. Sima Xiangru diminishes the ascetic path of immortality seekers and creates instead a picture of immortality that appeals to a glorious emperor. Wenxuan 15.669; trans. Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 3, 127–128. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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The Queen Mother no longer dwells in a cave but on a sumptuous terrace made of silver, a proper residence for immortals and gods.13 The sheng headdress remains one of her attributes, but she assumes a more youthful and charming appearance. The theme of entertainment in the Queen Mother’s palace is also common in the yuefu tradition and in lyrical poetry. In the “Qichu chang” #2 Cao Cao visualizes a banquet scene at Kunlun, where the Queen Mother feasts in the company of immortals in premises of gold and jade; a similar festive scene is described in Zhang Hua’s “Youxian” #1. Both poems are translated and discussed in the next chapter. Although the image of the Queen Mother appears to be extremely common in poetry, we find no extant poems, fu, or eulogies from before the fifth century wholly dedicated to her. In addition, the authors rarely dwell on her transcendental qualities at length. Often the Queen Mother is merely mentioned, sometimes in a pair with Dong Wanggong as an inhabitant of the divine lands reached by a traveler seeking immortality.14 The Queen Mother’s accompanying animals—the hare and the azure bird—also appear in poetry, either alongside the goddess or as allusions to her.15 Expressions such as the “Queen Mother’s tower” (Wangmu tai 王母臺), the “Queen Mother’s lodge” (Wangmu lu 王母盧), and the “Queen Mother’s hall” (Wangmu tang 王母堂) are frequently employed to evoke the immortals’ paradise at Kunlun.16 Xi Wangmu’s male counterpart, Dong Wanggong, appears in poetry from the Wei period onward, either as an evocation of the eastern paradise on Penglai or of the eternal life of the immortals.17 From the late fourth century onward, the image of the Queen Mother acquired some novel aspects and enjoyed greater popularity in poetry. The poets from the Southern Dynasties seemed to be especially inspired by the complex of legends concerning King Mu 穆 of Zhou (r. 956–918 BC), as developed in the Mu tianzi zhuan and in the third chapter of the Liezi

13 14 15

16 17

For instance, Sima Qian describes the three isles of the immortals in the Eastern Sea as having palaces and pylons of yellow gold and silver (Shiji 28.1370). See, for instance, Ban Biao’s “Lanhai fu,” the anonymous yuefu “Buchu Xiamen xing” 步出 夏門行 (Going Out of the Xia Gate), and Cao Cao’s yuefu song “Moshang sang.” For example, in Sima Xiangru’s “Daren fu,” the anonymous yuefu “Dongtao xing” 董逃行 (Dongtao Ballad), Ruan Ji’s “Yonghuai shi” #22, and Tao Yuanming’s “Du Shanhai jing shi” 讀山海經詩 (On Reading the Classic of Mountains and Seas) #5. These expressions come from Cao Cao’s “Qichu chang” #3, Cao Zhi’s “Xianren pian” 仙人篇 (Immortals), and Zhang Hua’s “Youxian shi” #2, respectively. See, for example, Cao Zhi’s “Yuanyou pian” 遠遊篇 (Distant Roaming) and “Pingling dong” 平陵東 (East of Pingling), respectively. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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列子 (probably third century AD). In his travels King Mu reaches Mount

Kunlun, where he pays a ceremonial visit to the Queen Mother beside the Azure-gem Pond (Yaochi 瑤池).18 They toast each other with wine and exchange promises and melancholy poems. Because these poems are often evoked by later poets they deserve to be cited here in full: On the yizhou day, the Son of Heaven toasted the Queen Mother of the West beside the Azure-gem Pond. The Queen Mother composed a ballad for the Son of Heaven: 乙丑,天子觴西王母于瑤池之上。西王母為天子謠曰 白雲在天 丘陵自出 道里悠遠 山川間之 將子無死 尚能复来

White clouds are in the heavens; Hills and mounds emerge of their own accord. Our roads are far and distant; Mountains and rivers lie between them. If I make you deathless, Perhaps you will be able to come again.

The Son of Heaven replied to her: 天子答之曰 予歸東土 和治諸夏 萬民平均 吾顧見汝 比及三年 將复而野

I will return to the eastern land, To harmonize and set in order the Chinese states. When the myriad people are appeased, I will turn back to see you. Three years from now, I will come back to this wild place.

The Queen Mother of the West chanted again for the Son of Heaven: 西王母又為天子吟曰 徂彼西土 爰居其野 虎豹為群 於鹊與处 嘉命不遷 我惟帝女 彼何世民 18

I am going off to that western land, Where I reside in the wild. Tigers and leopards are my pride; With ravens and magpies I share my lodging. This blessed fate cannot be changed, I alone am the Lord’s daughter. Who are these people of the world,

Yao 瑤 is the name of an archaic gem, probably turquoise or malachite.

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The Dramatis Personae 又將去子 吹笙鼓簧 中心翔翔 世民之子 惟天之望

Who can make you depart? Blow the pipes and sound the reeds! My heart is soaring and wheeling! Oh, son of the worldly people— You are what is looked at from afar in heaven!”19

The king unwillingly has to return to his earthly duties without attaining immortality, and, despite his promise, he never comes back again. It was not by chance that out of all the lore surrounding the Queen Mother this particular story captured the imagination of the literary elite. It centers around time-honored themes in Chinese poetry—the quest of the goddess, well developed in the Chuci tradition; fleeting romantic encounters between mortals and divine women, rhapsodized in Song Yu’s 宋玉 (ca. 290–ca. 223 BC) “Gaotang fu” 高堂賦 (Fu on the Gaotang Shrine) and Cao Zhi’s “Luoshen fu” 洛神賦 (Fu on the Luo River Goddess); and finally the pursuit of immortality. The theme of man’s brief meeting with the divine and the ultimate impossibility of transcending his human condition, moreover, constantly recurs in the early verse on immortality as we will see later on in the book. One important feature of King Mu’s story is the “humanization” and refinement the image of the goddess underwent in it. Even though the Queen Mother is an immortal, transcendent deity, she is pictured as possessing human emotions and engaging in human activities: she drinks wine, composes and chants poetry, falls in love, and promises to reveal her immortality arts to the man she loves. In the guise of a human woman she is much more accessible and appealing to the poetic imagination than as an almighty cosmic deity. Moreover, she could easily be associated by the poets with the image of the lonely woman—a theme that appeared at the end of the Han dynasty in the “Nineteen Old Poems” and became extremely popular in the court culture of the Southern Dynasties. Although the motif of visiting the Queen Mother, which is common in Han and Wei poetry, might be perceived as an echo of the legends of her meeting with King Mu, unambiguous allusions to this story started to appear in poetry from the end of third century on, that is, shortly after the discovery of the Mu

19

Mu tianzi zhuan 3.15–16. For a textual variant see, Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 15. My understanding of the poems is indebted to the translation by Susan Cahill in Transcendence and Divine Passion, 50–51. For a French translation, see Mathieu, Le Mu tianzi zhuan, 44–49. Allan Chan understands the Queen Mother’s second song as an invitation addressed to King Mu: “Come to this western land / And live in the wild.” (“Goddesses in Chinese Religion,” 30–31).

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tianzi zhuan text in 279–280 AD. An early reference to this legendary encounter is provided by Lu Yun in his “Xiji fu” 喜霽賦 (Fu on Rejoicing at the Rain Clearing): 望王母於弱水兮 咏白雲之清歌

(ll. 65–66)

I would watch the Queen Mother at the Weak Waters, And chant the clear song of the White Clouds.20

Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365–427) not only mentions this story repeatedly in his poetical cycle “Du Shanhai jing shi” 讀山海經詩 (On Reading the Classic of Mountains and Seas) but, probably for the first time, makes the Queen Mother the sole subject of a poem. In the second poem of the cycle, he visualizes the goddess in her sky-piercing tower:

4

8

玉堂凌霞秀 王母怡妙顏 天地共俱生 不知幾何年 靈化無窮已 館宇非一山 高酣發新謠 寧效俗中言

Where Jade Tower rises up, skimming the auroras, The Queen Mother’s wondrous face is pleased. She was born together with Heaven and Earth, I do not know how many years ago. Her numinous transformations have no limit, Her lodging and shelter no single mountain. High and tipsy she puts forth a new chant; How could one liken it to the words of the worldly crowd?21

Tao Yuanming’s description does not draw on accounts of the goddess in the Shanhai jing, as the title of the set might suggest, but almost exclusively on the story of King Mu. His perception of the goddess foreshadowed the image she would acquire in the Shangqing Daoist scriptures—she is a transcendental deity, co-eternal with the cosmos, and an omnipresent mistress of ceaseless transformations. At the same time she is a beautiful woman, taking delight in poetry and wine and communicating with mortal men. During the Southern Qi dynasty, Wang Rong elaborates on the story of King Mu’s encounter with the Queen Mother: 20

21

Quan Jin wen 100.4a. The Weak River (Ruoshui 弱水) is a dangerous barrier lying on the way to Kunlun that is described in the Shanhai jing. In its waters even a hair sinks immediately. Lu Qinli, 1010. Alternative translations are contained in Cahill, Transcendence and Divine Passion, 52; Xiaofei Tian, Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture, 151–152; Davies, T’ao Yüanming, vol. 1, 154–155; Hightower, The Poetry of Ta’o Ch’ien, 231.

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4

遊仙詩 #3

Roaming into Immortality #3

命駕瑤池隈 過息嬴女臺

I command my coach to a cove of Azure-gem Pond, Crossing over, I rest at the Terrace of the Ying maiden.22 Long sleeves—such grace and beauty, Flutes and pipes—both clear and sad. From the jade gates a cold moon rises, In the pearl hall the autumn wind whirls. The Azure bird surges on soaring wings, The Queen Mother stops the jade goblet. Raising hands, we part for now, In a thousand years I will come again.23

長袖何靡靡 簫管清且哀 璧門涼月舉 珠殿秋風迴 青鳥騖高羽 王母停玉杯 舉手暫為別 千年將復來

8

The encounter at the Azure-gem Pond here takes the form of a lavish feast entrancing the guest with dance and music. The delicate splendor of the divine precincts contrasts with the images of the cold moon and the autumn wind— conventional metaphors for the passing of time—which draw a veil of melancholy over the blissful scene. The sadness at the inevitable separation is mitigated by the promise of a return expressed in the last two lines. The conclusion of the poem might be interpreted as a melancholy sigh at the impossible fulfilment of the love between the goddess and the mortal. Another reading is also possible, however, especially in light of the particular title of the poem, “Youxian” (Roaming into Immortality). While King Mu fails to attain immortality and to return to his divine lover, Wang Rong’s hero experiences time like an immortal, for whom a thousand-year separation is but a brief parting. Regardless of which reading one prefers, this poem demonstrates the new interweaving of several initially separate poetic themes: the youxian theme, the ancient theme of the quest of the goddess, the theme of separation, and the theme of the lonely woman pining for her absent lover, which was conventional in court culture.

22

23

The Ying maiden, Yingnü 嬴女, is the immortal Nong Yu 弄玉, whose story appears in the Liexian zhuan. She was the daughter of Duke Mu 穆 of Qin 秦 (r. 659–621 BC) and wife of the immortal Flute Master, Xiaoshi 蕭史. She flew away together with her husband on the back of a pair of phoenixes (Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 80–84; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 125–26). Lu Qinli, 1398. This poem from the group of five “Youxian shi” is also included in Yuefu shiji 64.924 under the title “Shenxian pian” 神仙篇 (Divine Immortals).

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The Yellow Emperor From the middle of the second century BC on, immortality teachings were intimately associated with the name of the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi 黃帝, the very first man believed to have become a xian immortal.24 There is hardly any other member of the Chinese pantheon to whom such a large amount of heterogeneous lore has been attached. Sources from the late Warring States and early Han variously portray him as a royal ancestor and one of the Five Emperors, as a victorious warrior and conqueror of barbarian tribes, as an ideal ruler, and as the founder of various cultural institutions. The “Inner Chapters” of the Zhuangzi contain probably the earliest mention of him as an immortal being—he is included in the list of personages who “obtained the Dao,” ascending thereafter to the cloudy empyrean.25 A more elaborate version of the Yellow Emperor’s celestial ascent is provided by Sima Qian in the Shiji: after Huangdi cast a tripod at the foot of Mount Jing 荊, a dragon with a long trailing beard descended to welcome him and the Yellow Emperor rose into the heavens on its back together with more than seventy members of his entourage.26 This scene was adopted in nearly unaltered form in the Liexian zhuan and became the paragon of ascending to immortality for successful adepts.27 In a recent study Robert F. Campany emphasizes an important facet of the Yellow Emperor’s legend—he is the only ancient ruler figure who managed to become, as ruler, a xian immortal and to bridge thereby the roles of an emperor and an immortal.28 In addition, already during the early Han the Yellow Emperor was credited with the first human reception of divine revelations and scriptures, and was associated with a variety of esoteric arts, including healing, divination, sexual 24

25 26

27

28

Of the ten works classified under the category “School of Immortality” (shenxian jia 神僊家) in the bibliographic treatise of the Han shu, four bear the name of the Yellow Emperor (Han shu 30.1790). His name is also associated with all the schools in which the fangshi were involved, such as the Daoist school (道家), the Yinyang school (陰陽家), the Schools of the Five Phases (五行家), of Divination (雜占家), of Medicine (醫經家), of Recipes (經方家), and of Sexual Techniques (房中家). Zhuangzi jishi 6.247. Shiji 12.465 and 28.1394. According to modern scholars, the legend of the Yellow Emperor’s ascension to heaven originated at the time of Emperor Wu of Han. See Yu Yingshi, “Life and Immortality in the Mind of Han China,” 104–105. Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 9. In retelling the story of Huangdi’s celestial ascent, the Liexian zhuan refers to a certain Xianshu 仙書 (Book on Immortals), which might be either a concrete title or a generic term, i.e., “a book or books on immortality.” Campany, Making Transcendents, 202–203.

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and macrobiotic hygiene, and alchemy. The importance attached to the Yellow Emperor by the fangshi at the Han courts makes it rather surprising that the Yellow Emperor seldom appears in Han verse in the role of a xian immortal or a master of esoteric knowledge. Although he is briefly mentioned in connection with immortality in the “Yuanyou” in the Chuci anthology, in subsequent fu compositions he still appears in the traditional form of a sage sovereign of the past who invents sacred music and leads mythical battles. A rare reference to the Yellow Emperor in the context of immortality is found in the “Xijing fu” 西京賦 (Fu on the Western Metropolis) written by Zhang Heng in the early second century AD. However, Zhang Heng alludes to Huangdi’s ascension to heaven only in order to emphasize the futility of Han Emperor Wu’s efforts to achieve eternal life and “to mount a dragon on Cauldron Lake” 想升龍於鼎湖 as Huangdi had done before (Wenxuan 2.60). The immortal aspect of the Yellow Emperor figures more prominently in the poetry of Cao Zhi, who often turns to him as a model of emulation. In the “Youxian,” for instance, he expresses his wish to rise as an immortal from the Cauldron Lake like the Yellow Emperor: 意欲奮六翮 排霧陵紫虛 蟬蛻同松喬 翻跡登鼎湖

(ll. 3–6)

I wish to spread my six wings, Push aside the mists and skim the Purple Void. Like Redpine and Wang Qiao, slough off my old shell. Rising out of tracks, climb up from the Cauldron Lake.29

In the “Xianren pian” 仙人篇 (Immortals) Cao Zhi also describes the celestial ascent of the Yellow Emperor and his companionship with him: 不見馯轅氏 乘龍出鼎湖 排徊九天上 與爾長相須

(ll. 27–30)

29 30

I do not see the Yellow Emperor, Mounted on a dragon, emerging from the Cauldron Lake. I pace back and forth above the Nine Heavens, Forever waiting for you.30

Lu Qinli, 456. Lu Qinli, 434. The different possible readings of the last couplet are discussed in chapter 6.

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In “Quche pian” 驅車篇 (Speeding My Carriage) Cao Zhi depicts Huangdi’s apotheosis at length: 軒皇元獨靈 餐霞漱沆瀣 毛羽被身形 發舉蹈虛廓 徑庭升窈冥 同壽東父年 曠代永長生

(ll. 22–28)

But Xuan the August was the primary, unmatched numen.31 He partook of the aurorae, rinsed his mouth with Drifting Flow,32 And fur and feathers then mantled the form of his person. Rising up and away, he trod the outskirts of emptiness; Aloof and high he ascended to sequestered tenebrity. Equal in span of years to the Father in the East, He spends the ages now in perpetual prolongation of life.33

Cao Zhi departs from the Han tradition of the ascension of Huangdi as recorded in the Shiji and the Liexian zhuan, where the means to transcendence is the casting of a tripod. Instead he portrays the legendary ruler as a practitioner of macrobiotic and physiological cultivation, who partakes of the ethereal fare of auroras and cosmic essences, similarly to the protagonist of the “Yuanyou” (see chapter 5). While in the classical version of Huangdi’s legend his transition to the celestial realm is always by means of a divine dragon, in Cao Zhi’s poem he makes his final ascent totally unaided, carried by his own wings. He undergoes a bodily transformation into a winged and feathered being, becoming one of those “bird immortals,” whose images embellish late Han mirrors and tombs. Moreover, the place of his apotheosis is identified here not as the usual Mount Jing in Henan but as Mount Tai 泰山—the sacred mountain of the east, the abode of Daoist divinities, and the site of xian transformations in post-Han poetry. In the centuries after Cao Zhi, the Yellow Emperor seldom appears in the poetry on immortality with the exception of laudatory verse. From the fourth century onward, there are several extant eulogies and encomia by Qian Xiu, by 31 32 33

The given name of Huangdi was Xuanyuan 軒轅 (Shiji 1.1). Medieval authors often respectfully altered it to Xuanhuang 軒皇, Xuan the August. Drifting Flow (hangxie 沆瀣) is the cosmic essence of the north and of midnight. Lu Qinli, 435; based on the translation by Kroll in “Verses from on High,” 238, with slight modifications.

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the Eastern Jin writer Cao Pi as well as by Guo Yuanzu (within the cycle of encomia on the immortals from the Liexian zhuan). These compositions follow the legend of Huangdi’s ascent to heaven as described in the Shiji and in the Liexian zhuan, and additionally refer to techniques of Daoist cultivation current at the time. Early medieval religious traditions further enriched the image of the Yellow Emperor with some novel aspects. In the early fourth century, Ge Hong in the Baopuzi repeatedly tells of the Yellow Emperor’s journeys around the world in order to attain various transcendence arts and obtain scriptures from multiple teachers.34 Ge Hong also reinterprets the tripod-casting legend in accordance with his interests in alchemy. The purpose of casting the tripod, according to him, was to make an alchemical elixir, which was the primary means of heavenly ascension—it was only after the Yellow Emperor imbibed the elixir that the dragon descended.35 An encomium by Yu Xin illustrates the new dimensions with which the figure of the Yellow Emperor was endowed in some early medieval Daoist traditions. Thematically this work is devoted to the famous meeting between the Yellow Emperor and Guang Chengzi 廣成子 as described in the Zhuangzi:36

34 35 36

37

38

黃帝見廣成子贊

An Encomium on the Yellow Emperor Meeting Guan Chengzi37

治身紫府 問政青丘

Ruling the body at the Purple Prefecture, Inquiring about government at the Green Mound.38

Baopuzi neipian 13.241, 18.323–324. Baopuzi neipian 13.241. Zhuangzi jishi 11.379–384; Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, 118–23; Graham, Chuang-tzu, 177–179. The passage is analyzed in Roth, “The Yellow Emperor’s Guru.” Guang Chengzi lived to the age of 1,200 by closing himself off to the outside world, thereby preventing the scattering of his vital energies. He postulates ecstatic merging with the Dao and expanding oneself to become one with the universe as a way to achieve ultimate immortality. “Huangdi jian Guang Chengzi zan” from the series of twenty seven encomia “Zigu shengdi mingxian hua zan” 自古聖帝名賢畫讚 (Encomia on the paintings of sage emperors and famous worthies from antiquity on). Quan Hou Zhou wen 11.1a. The toponym Qingqiu 青丘 (Green Mound) appears in Sima Xiangru’s “Zixu fu” (Fu on Sir Vacuous) as the name of a land in the Eastern Sea. In Daoist mythical geography it was identified with Zhangzhou 長洲, one of the ten paradise island continents as described in the Shizhou ji.

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8

Chapter 2 龍湖鼎沒 丹竈珠流 疏雲即雨 落木先秋 至道須極 長生可求

At the Dragon Lake the cauldron has disappeared,39 In the cinnabar furnace pearls flow. Sparse clouds, nevertheless it rains, The trees shed before the autumn. The ultimate Way should [first] be attained, Long life [then] can be pursued.

The plot of the Zhuangzi’s narrative, a shortened version of which also appears in the Shenxian zhuan, is as follows: After ruling the empire for nineteen years, the Yellow Emperor goes to visit the sage master Guang Chengzi on Mount Kongtong 空同 and enquires about the essentials of the ultimate Dao so that he can use them to nurture the people. Guan Chengzi rebukes him, for the deliberate attempt of the emperor to manage the world has brought the cosmic patterns out of harmony. The Yellow Emperor then withdraws and, after purifying himself in seclusion for three months, comes for a second, more formal audience with the master. This time he asks how he should cultivate his body in order to attain long life. Guang Chengzi then bestows his instructions upon him for achieving the utmost Way—cultivate the self, close oneself to the outside world, reduce perception and knowledge, preserve the spirit shen 神 within the form xing 形, and ultimately merge with the Dao. Yu Xin adopts many expressions from the original Zhuangzi account— Guang Chengzi’s instructions revolve around the notions of “ruling [or cultivating] the body” (zhishen 治身), the attainment of the Ultimate Way (zhidao 至道), and long life (changsheng 長生). The third couplet of Yu Xin’s encomium is even a paraphrase of Guang Chengzi’s words recorded in the Zhuangzi: Ever since you have been ruling the empire, it has rained before the clouds even gathered, the plants and trees have shed their leaves before they were even yellow, the light of sun and moon has got dimmer and dimmer. You of shallow fawner’s heart, why should you deserve to be told about the ultimate Way? 自而治天下,雲氣不待族而雨,草木不待黃而落,日月之光益以荒 矣。而佞人之心翦翦者,又奚足以語至道。40 39

40

The Yellow Emperor ascended at the Cauldron Lake (Dinghu 鼎湖), where a dragon bore him up into the heavens. I suspect that the word sequence in this line is corrupt; the line would make more sense as 鼎湖龍沒 (“At the Cauldron Lake the dragon has disappeared”). Zhuangzi jishi 11.380; trans. Graham, Chuang-tzu, 17. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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While verbally Yu Xin closely follows the story as presented in the Zhuangzi, he infuses it with early medieval Daoist lore. By referring to the toponyms Green Mound and Purple Prefecture, the first couplet alludes to Huangdi’s circuit of the world as described in Baopuzi 18, whereby he obtained the most sacred Daoist scriptures. The Green Mound is associated with the Yellow Emperor’s reception of the Sanhuang neiwen 三皇內文 (The Inner Writ of the Three Sovereigns), one of the most powerful texts (or rather set of talismans) in early medieval Daoism.41 In addition, the tripod, initially a symbol of the Heavenly Mandate, which, according to the Shiji account, the Yellow Emperor had cast before his heavenly ascent, is associated here with the art of alchemy. The “cinnabar furnace” (danlu 丹竈) in the next line is the furnace of an alchemist, and the “flowing pearl” (liuzhu 流珠, inverted in this encomium as “pearls flow”) is a covert name for mercury, one of the major alchemical ingredients. Ge Hong mentions in the Baopuzi that when the Yellow Emperor reached the Cauldron Lake he “sublimated the flowing pearl [mercury]” 飛流珠.42 The Yellow Emperor, who in the Zhuangzi account is a student of Daoist mysticism and inner meditation, is pictured in Yu Xin’s encomium as a religious adept, who receives celestial revelations and masters the art of alchemy. Laozi In early China multiple images of Laozi existed, which were connected with different traditions and adopted by different social groups. Late Warring States and early Han texts depict him as a court official and human sage, whose wisdom qualified him to instruct even Confucius and who composed and transmitted the Daode jing on his way to the west.43 Already during the Eastern Han, Laozi also became associated with the immortality arts. The Liexian zhuan includes a hagiography of Laozi among the hagiographies of other immortals. For the most part the text recapitulates the information provided 41

42 43

The association of the Yellow Emperor with the Green Mound is found in Baopuzi neipian 18.323: “In the east the Yellow Emperor reached the Green Mound, met the Sire of the Purple Prefecture (Zifu xiansheng 紫府先生) [cf. the first line of Yu Xin’s encomium, where the Purple Prefecture (Zifu 紫府) is mentioned], and received the ‘Inner Writ of the Three Sovereigns’ to control the ten thousand spirits.” For Ge Hong this text and its complement, Wuyue zhenxing tu 五岳真形圖 (Chart of the True Form of the Five Marchmounts), were the most potent of all Daoist talismans (Baopuzi neipian 19.336). Baopuzi neipian 13.241. Various stories about the meeting between Laozi and Confucius are found in many places in the Zhuangzi as well as in Shiji 63.2139–2140 and 47.1909. In “The Origins of the Legend of Lao Tan” Angus C. Graham discusses all early textual material about Laozi. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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by Sima Qian in Shiji 63, but it also makes Laozi an exemplary practitioner of the arts of self-cultivation: He was fond of nourishing his essence and his qi, and valued acquiring [them] without letting [them] disperse. 好養精氣,貴接而不施。44

The famous rationalistic philosopher Wang Chong writes of a similar perception of Laozi as a patron of physiological practices and an instructor of immortality arts: Some believe that the Dao of Laozi allows one to transcend the world. This Dao consists of tranquility and lack of desires, nurturing the essence and loving the qi. That is why a man attains longevity by the means of essence and spirit: If essence and spirit are not harmed, one will live long and will not die. 世或以老子之道為可以度世,恬淡無欲,養精愛氣。夫人以精神為壽 命,精神不傷,則壽命長而不死。45

During the reign of Emperor Huan 桓 (r. 146–168), Laozi became the object of an imperial cult and was worshiped as the personification of the Dao alongside the Yellow Emperor and Buddha. The “Laozi ming” 老子銘 (Inscription on Laozi), composed by chancellor Bian Shao 邊韶 to commemorate the imperial sacrifices to Laozi in 165 AD, testifies to both his deification and to his intimate association with the immortality arts at the end of the Han.46

44

45

46

Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 18–20; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 60–65. Kaltenmark notes that the terminology here points to the tradition of sexual arts. Gil Raz understands the second part of the passage similarly as “valued intercourse and did not ejaculate” (see Raz, The Emergence of Daoism, 42, n. 11). For Sima Qian’s account, see Shiji 63.2139–2143; for an annotated translation, see ed. Nienhauser, The Grand Scribe’s Records, vol. 7, 21–23. Lunheng 7.332. The term dushi 度世, for which I adopt here the established translation “to transcend the world,” can also be understood as “to cross over generations,” i.e., to live past the limits of the standard human lifespan. Quan Hou Han wen 62.3a–4a. For a study of the text, see Seidel, La Divinisation de Lao Tseu dans le taoïsme des Han, where a translation is also provided (pp. 121–128). A recent English rendition is included in Csikszentmihalyi, Readings in Han Chinese Thought, 105–112. While Anne Seidel focuses on the early stages of the deification of Laozi, Livia Kohn

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Laozi in his deified aspect as Laojun 老君, Lord Lao, was a key figure in the pantheon of the Celestial Masters, who venerated him as a divine embodiment of the Dao and a cosmic deity who periodically descended through the ages. Nevertheless, his other image as a xian immortal and a prototype of all immortality seekers also continued to persist among early medieval Daoist lineages that were outside the Celestial Masters communities. Ge Hong, for instance, argues that Laozi was not originally a divine, celestial being and pictures him as a once-human seeker of immortality, who was particularly advanced in the practice of esoteric arts, and whose example can be followed by every adept: If you maintain that Laozi was someone who attained the Dao, then people will exert all efforts to imitate him. If you claim that he was a deity or numen, belonging to different species of being, then his example is not one that could be emulated. 若謂老子是得道者,則人必勉力競慕。若謂是神靈異類,則非可學 也。47

In the cases of Pengzu and Lao they were still human beings; it is not the case that they achieved unique longevity by virtue of belonging to different species of being. 至於彭老猶是人耳,非異類而壽獨長者。48

Considering the pivotal place of Laozi in all Daoist traditions, it is rather striking that he rarely appears in the early medieval verse on immortality in either of his aspects—as an exemplary immortal or as a cosmic deity. References to self-cultivation techniques propagated in the Daode jing abound in the poetry of the Wei and Jin periods. Identical phrasing is frequently used; however, the name and persona of Laozi, with rare exceptions, appear neither in fu nor in lyrical poetry or yuefu songs.49 On the other hand, during the Wei and Jin periods many literati wrote eulogies and encomia on Laozi. There are surviving

47 48 49

examines the historical development of the deified Laozi and his various roles in a variety of sources from the Han to the fifteenth century (God of the Dao). Taiping guangji 1.2. Baopuzi neipian 3.46. Laozi is mentioned on one occasion by Xi Kang, who in his “Youxian shi” speaks of the Hanging Gardens of Kunlun, where “the ways of Laozi and the Yellow Emperor meet” (Lu Qinli, 488). This reference is not, however, to Laozi per se but to the techniques of inner cultivation associated with him.

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laudatory verses on Laozi by Ruan Ji, Qian Xiu, Zhan Fangsheng 湛方生 (fl. 386), and Sun Chuo. A variant text of the latter composition is also among Guo Yuanzu’s encomia on the immortals from the Liexian zhuan. These compositions generally depict Laozi as a xian immortal and give prominent place to the methods of inner cultivation associated with him, thereby drawing on the ideas and language of fourth-century xuanyan 玄言 thought as well. Sun Chuo’s encomium on Laozi, once part of a longer set of encomia on the Liexian zhuan, is a good example:

4

李老無為 而無不為 道一堯孔 跡又靈奇

8

塞關內境 冥神絕涯 永合元氣 長契兩儀

Li Lao is non-active, And yet is universally active. His Way is identical with that of Yao and Confucius, His manifested traces are still more numinous and extraordinary.50 Blocking up the passages to his internal realm,51 Obscuring his spirit at the detached shore. He forever merges with the primordial qi, Eternally matches the Two Principles.52

Sun Chuo reverts to the Daoist terminology of the Daode jing and Zhuangzi as modified in the xuanyan discussions of his time. He employs concepts such as the Dao, “non-action” (wuwei 無為), “manifested traces” (ji 跡), and “primordial qi” (yuanqi 元氣). The first two lines allude to the text of Daode jing 3: “Acting through non-activity, nothing would be without control” 為無為,則無不治. This couplet also repeats almost verbatim Sima Tan’s 司馬談 (ca. 190–110 BC) characterization of the Daoist school (daojia 道家) cited in the postface to the Shiji: “The Daoists are non-active, but it is also said that they are universally active” (道家無為,又曰無不為).53 The “blocking up the passages” (saiguan 塞關) in line 5 refers to Daode jing 52, where one is advised to “block up the holes, shut up the doors! And until the end of life there will be no toil” 塞其 50

51 52 53

In third-century xuanxue thought, the term ji 跡 denotes “manifested traces”—the outward activities that are the manifestations of the inner nature. The commentary to the Zhuangzi by Xiang Xiu 向秀 (ca. 223–ca. 275) and Guo Xiang 郭象 (d. 312) at many instances distinguishes and elaborates on the difference between ji, the manifested traces of the Sage, and suo yi ji 所以跡, the inner nature that causes these traces (Zürcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, 91 and 133). The version contained in Chuxue ji 23.549 gives the character jing 鏡 (“mirror”) for 境. Quan Jin wen 61.8a. In Chuxue ji 23.549 the last line reads 契長兩儀. The “Two Principles” (liangyi 兩儀) are the two cosmic forces yin and yang. Shiji 130.3292.

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兌,閉其門,終身不勤. This encomium moreover bears evidence to the syn-

cretic thought of Sun Chuo, who in all his work strove toward a reconciliation of Buddhist, Daoist, and traditional Chinese ideas. The same words used here to characterize Laozi are in fact applied to Buddha in Sun Chuo’s treatise “Yudao lun” 喻道論 (A Clarification of the Way): [Buddha] is sympathetically responsive to, and in perfect communion with, all things: one who is not involved in action yet is universally active. Because he is not involved in action, he is empty and quiescent, naturally-so. Because he is universally active he transforms in a miraculous fashion all beings. 應 感 順 通 無 為 而 無 不 為 者 也 。 無 為 故 虛 寂 自 然 。 無 不 為 故 神 化 萬物。54

The impact of Buddhist thought is evident in line 6 of the encomium, where the state of inner concentration and detachment is described in terms of Buddha’s Nirvana. The expression mingshen 冥神 (to “obscure” or “obliterate the spirit”) gained currency in Buddhist circles during the fourth and fifth centuries, where it was connected with overcoming the cycle of birth and death.55 Shortly after Sun Chuo, Master Huiyuan 慧遠 (334–416) uses the expression to describe the state of Nirvana in his essay “Shamen bujing wangzhe lun” 沙門不 敬王者論 (A Monk Does Not Bow before a King): If their spirits are not entangled in life, then their spirits can be obscured, and obscuring the spirit in the detached realm is what we call Nirvana. 不以生累其神則神可冥。冥神絕境。故謂之泥洹。56

In fact Huiyuan’s definition of Nirvana is an almost verbatim repetition of Sun Chuo’s line, whereby the phrase jueya 絕涯 is replaced with the synonymous juejing 絕境, which in Buddhist thought describes the highest spheres 54

55

56

Hongming ji 3, T52.2102.16b.20–21; Quan Jin wen 62.1b. The treatise is translated and discussed by Link and Lee in “Sun Ch’o’s ‘Yü-tao-lun’”; see also Zürcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, 132–134. Sun Chuo’s friend and mentor in Buddhist thought, Zhi Dun, for instance, writes in his “Daxiao pin duibi yaochao xu” 大小品對比要抄序 (Preface to a Synoptic Extract of the Larger and Smaller Versions [of the Prajnaparamita]): “Nirvana is not enough to obscure the spirit” 寂不足以冥神 (Chu sanzang ji ji 出三藏記集 8, T55.2145.55.b02). T52.2108.449c18.

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of spiritual pursuit. Sun Chuo’s encomium introduces an additional, Buddhist dimension to the image of Laozi and testifies to his identification with Buddha in fourth-century xuanxue thought. Laozi in his deified form as Laojun, Lord Lao, makes a rare appearance in the extant secular poetry only toward the end of the Six Dynasties. In a poem composed to the yuefu title “Shengtian xing” 升天行 (Ascending to Heaven), the Northern Qi poet Lu Sidao writes: 玉山侯王母 珠庭謁老君

(ll. 3–4)

At the Jade Mountain call on the Queen Mother,57 At the Pearl Courtyard pay respect to Lord Lao.58

Laojun is uniquely paired with the ancient Queen Mother of the West in the parallel lines of this couplet. It was not until the Tang dynasty that Du Guangting 杜光庭 (850–933) mentions for the first time an encounter between the Queen Mother and Laozi in his hagiography of Xi Wangmu.59 Such an episode is not attested to in earlier literature. It could be possible that Lu Sidao drew on earlier, no longer extant texts that had developed this story or a similar one. It is even more plausible that Lu Sidao was driven by the inertia of the established topics and line templates in the older poetry and thus did not necessarily seek to convey a specific religious meaning. He adopted a conventional topic in Han-Wei poetry: of saluting the Queen Mother and her royal consort, together with the typical grammatical pattern. Here is, for instance, an excerpt from a yuefu by Cao Cao titled “Moshang sang” (Mulberries along the Path):

57 58

59

Jade Mountain (Yushan 玉山) in the far west is the residence of Xi Wangmu. See, for example, Shanhai jing jiaozhu 2.50. Lu Qinli, 2629. The expression Zhuting 珠庭 (“pearl courtyard”) denotes the palaces of immortals. Pearls commonly figure in Daoist depictions of divine architecture. It is very likely that Zhuting figures here as a specific toponym. The phrase also occurs in Shen Yue’s “Liangfu yin” 梁甫吟 (A Liangfu Chant): “The Pearl Courtyard cannot be reached” 珠庭 不可臨. Richard Mather suggests that in Shen Yue’s poem the character zhu 珠 (“pearl”) should be amended for shu 殊 (“special”) (The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 1, 38). The Special Courtyard (Shuting 殊庭) is a palace of immortals on Penglai. On Shuting, see the discussion of Shen Yue’s two poems “He Liu zhongshu xianshi” in chapter 6. “Jinmu yuanjun” 金母元君 in Yongcheng jixian lu 墉城集仙錄 (DZ 783); translated and discussed in Cahill, Transcendence and Divine Passion, 119–123. Suzan Cahill has identified one single poem within the whole Tang poetic corpus that treats the theme of the meeting between Xi Wangmu and Laozi.

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(ll. 4–6)

I crossed over the Heavenly River, I reached Kunlun. I met the Queen Mother of the West and paid respect to the Lord of the East.60

In chapter 5 it is demonstrated how the poets of the late Southern Dynasties frequently paired a traditional land of immortality with some of the new paradise lands from the Shangqing revelations within a parallel couplet. In a similar manner Lu Sidao here pairs the time-honored goddess with the lofty figure of Laojun, fitting his name into an established template line to replace her older partner, Dongjun, the Lord of the East. This poetic devise, which became popular during the sixth century, breathes originality into the treatment of an old topic and results in an unexpected twist. In addition, it elevates the general tenor of the poem to a loftier religious register.



From the concise overview above it becomes apparent that in early medieval poetry the place occupied by deities connected with immortality is not commensurate with their significance in religious thought and cults. It seems that the poets adopted a certain personage to the degree he or she could be assimilated into well-established literary themes and narrative schemes. The gravity surrounding the image of Laozi as an embodiment of the Dao rendered him rather unyielding to poetic adaptation. On the other hand, the female goddess Xi Wangmu could easily be adapted to various narratives. She could be connected with the Chuci themes of the quest of the goddess or of divine feasts presided over by female divinities and ultimately, as Wang Rong’s poem demonstrates, even with the then-popular theme of the lonely woman. The Yellow Emperor, in the form of a xian immortal, is prominent only in the poetry of Cao Zhi. Taking into consideration that Huangdi is the sole ancient personage who successfully bridged the roles of emperor and immortal, we might speculate whether Cao Zhi’s choice of the Yellow Emperor as a role model might reflect his frustrated political ambitions that interweaved with his interest in immortality.

60

Lu Qinli, 348.

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Wangzi Qiao, Master Redpine, and Other Immortals Mortal men from the distant or more recent past who had achieved a state of xian-ship appealed more to the poetic imagination than the high celestial gods. Having once shared the human condition and, according to the legends about them, still appearing to mortals as their initiators and instructors, they seemed much closer and approachable than distant transcendental deities. They, rather than the exalted divinities, embodied the ideal of the perfected being and the possibility of “ascendance” being open to adepts. The protagonist of the “Yuanyou” puts it poignantly: 軒轅不可攀援兮 吾將從王喬而娛戲

(ll. 53–54)

Xuanyuan may not be caught up and equaled— I shall follow, then, Wang Qiao for my pleasure and amusement.61

The immortals who are evoked in the “Yuanyou” are Chisongzi 赤松子 (Master Redpine), Wangzi Qiao 王子喬, Fu Yue 傅說, and Han Zhong 韓眾. Among them, the figures of Wangzi Qiao and Redpine enjoyed the greatest popularity in Han and Wei poetry. According to the tradition recorded in the Liexian zhuan, Redpine was the Rain Master (yushi 雨師) at the time of the mythical ruler Shennong 神農 (trad. dating 2838–2698 BC). He consumed a solution of jade (shuiyu 水玉) and taught this diet to Shennong. He could enter fire and burn himself down and could ascend and descend on the wind and rain. He often travelled to Mount Kunlun where he resided in the stone chamber of the Queen Mother of the West.62 Wangzi Qiao (also known as Wang Jin 王晉 or Wangzi Jin 王子晉) was the heir apparent to King Ling 靈 of Chu (r. 571–545 BC). He played masterfully on the mouth organ (sheng 笙) and could imitate the call of the phoenix. After roaming in the region between the Yin 伊 and Luo 落 Rivers, he followed the Daoist master Fu Qiu 浮丘 (Floating Hill) and retreated for thirty years to Mount Song 嵩 (the Central Marchmount). At the end of his earthly sojourn, he invited his family to witness his apotheosis and ascended in broad daylight to heaven, mounting a white crane.63

61 62 63

Chuci buzhu 5.166. Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 1; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 35–42. Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 65; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 109–114. The image and cults associated with Wangzi Qiao are studied in Bujard, “Le culte de Wangzi Qiao ou la longue carrière d’un immortel.”

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It seems that the early xian cult also attributed its macrobiotic and respiratory traditions to Wangzi Qiao and Redpine. According to Sima Qian, the distinguished statesman Zhang Liang 張良 (d. 187 BC) wished to “abandon affairs among men to wander with Master Redpine”; this desire led him to study the “avoidance of grain” (bigu 辟榖), “guiding and pulling” (daoyin 道引), that is, Daoist gymnastics, and “body lightening” (qingshen 輕身).64 Later in the Six Dynasties, two sets of gymnastic exercises were attributed to Master Redpine and Wangzi Qiao, which, when performed properly, could make the practitioner live as long as heaven and earth.65 The preface to Huan Tan’s “Xian fu” (Fu on the Immortals) testifies that already at the time of Emperor Wu of Han these two immortals had become objects of imperial cults.66 The epigraphic evidence also indicates that toward the end of the Eastern Han Wangzi Qiao was fervently venerated both by the common people and the imperial court. A stele inscription from 165 AD attributed to Cai Yong 蔡邕 (133?–192)67 commemorates the unofficial and official ceremonies that took place at Wangzi Qiao’s family tomb north of the city of Meng 蒙 in Henan. In 137 AD he appeared at his ancestors’ tomb during the La 臘 festival (New Year’s Day). After Wangzi Qiao’s reappearance, the tomb became the site of passionate religious activities: And then those who took delight in the Dao came from distant places to assemble there. Some strummed zithers and sang of the Grand Monad; others practiced meditation to visit their Cinnabar Fields. Those who were sick or crippled and who silently bowed and prayed for good fortune were granted it immediately, but those who failed to show proper respect were struck down at once. 于是好道之儔,自遠來集,或絃琴以歌太一,或譚思以歷丹丘 [田] 。 其疾病尪瘵者,靜躬祈福即獲祚。若不虔恪輒顛踣。68

64 65 66 67

68

Shiji 55.2048. Taiqing daoyin yangsheng jing 太清導引養生經 DZ 818; see also Maspero, Taoism and Chinese Religion, 543–548, and Despaux, “Gymnastics: The Ancient Tradition,” 230. Quan Hou Han wen 12.7b; Quan Han fu, 248. Translated and discussed in chapter 3. Cai Yong was considered to be the greatest of the early writers of stele inscriptions. Thirty inscriptions attributed to him are still extant (Quan Hou Han wen, juan 75–79), of which two are included in the Wenxuan 58.2500–2507. Quan Hou Han wen 75.3a. A complete translation is provided by Donald Holzman, “The Wang Ziqiao Stele”; the inscription is discussed by Gil Raz in The Emergence of Daoism, 82–85.

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The emperor himself sent an envoy in 165 AD to offer a sacrifice and perform a ritual, and the stele was set up “to commemorate and glorify the great acts of the past and for the inspection of those men who have set their hearts on the Dao.”69 The few compositions in the Chuci anthology that deal with the theme of immortality refer almost exclusively to Wangzi Qiao and Redpine.70 Likewise, the two immortals are often mentioned in Han fu—for instance, in the “Sixuan fu” and the “Qibian” 七辯 (Seven Arguments) by Zhang Heng and in the “Lanhai fu” by Ban Biao. Moreover, whole compositions are devoted solely to these two, including Huan Tan’s “Xian fu” and several yuefu songs bearing the title “Wangzi Qiao.” Besides this venerated pair of immortals from the distant past, historical figures from more recent times were adopted in Han-dynasty poetry. These personages were famous fangshi magicians connected with the imperial pursuit of eternal life: Han Zhong, Xianmen Gao 羨門高, Zheng Boqiao 正伯僑, and An Qisheng 安期生. Not all of them appear in the Liexian zhuan, at least not in the received version, but each of them is mentioned in the Shiji.71 Xianmen Gao and Zheng Boqiao, fangshi masters from the state of Yan 燕 at the end of the Warring States, knew how to “break up, dissolve, and transform their form.”72 Later, the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, dispatched missions to search for Xianmen Gao.73 Han Zhong was one of the fangshi whom the First Emperor sent to sea in 215 BC to look for the drug of immortality (busi zhi yao 不死之藥). Having “departed and never reported back,” he was assumed to have found the drug and consumed it, thus becoming an immortal.74 Half a century after his departure, Han Zhong already appears as an honored immortal in the “Yuanyou” poem of the Chuci (l.30). In the “Zibei” (Grieving for Myself), which dates from the

69 70 71

72 73 74

Ibid., 81. The “Xishi,” the “Ai shiming,” and Liu Xiang’s “Yuanyou.” The received version of the Liexian zhuan contains the hagiography of An Qisheng. A vita of Xianmen Gao might have also been included in the collection as suggested by the Qing scholar Wang Zhaoyuan 王照圓 (1763–1851) in her Liexian zhuan jiaozheng 列仙傳校正 (Liexian zhuan jiaojian. Xu 序, 5). However, this biography is no longer extant in the received Liexian zhuan. Shiji 28.1368–69. Shiji 6.251. He is mentioned twice in the Shiji: in the “Basic Annals of Qin Shi Huangdi” under the years 215 BC and 212 BC, respectively (Shiji 6.252 and 6.258).

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second century BC, Han Zhong even assumes the role of the initiating master and instructs the hero on the Heaven’s Dao.75 According to modern scholars, An Qisheng was probably a fangshi from the state of Qi 齊 during the third century BC who was versed in the Huang-Lao teachings as well.76 At the time of Emperor Wu of Han, he was raised to the status of a xian immortal by the fangshi from Qi active at the imperial court. His name appears in the Shiji in connection with the expeditions of Emperor Wu of Han in search of the isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea.77 The vita of An Qisheng in the Liexian zhuan, on the other hand, connects him with the immortality pursuits of the First Emperor of Qin.78 The immortals that appear in Han poetry are mostly personages worshiped by the imperial court, such as Master Redpine and Wangzi Qiao, or fangshi who were elevated to the status of immortals. These were above all figures with whom the court associated its pursuits of immortality and who were at the center of imperial ceremonies and sacrifices. Another historical figure of the then-recent past became popular in late Han poetry—namely Liu An 劉安, King of Huainan 淮南王 (d. 122 BC), who was known as a great patron of fangshi. He was forced to commit suicide after being accused of plotting a rebellion against Emperor Wu of Han. After his death a legend arose that he had not really died but ascended to heaven as an immortal. Allegedly, he had been visited by eight immortals disguised as old men, who presented him with the elixir of immortality. His entire household, “together with his dogs and cocks,” were said to have followed him to heaven as a result of consuming the rest of the elixir.79 The rebellious King of Huainan is never mentioned in the fu poetry composed at the Han courts, but he is often referred to in anonymous yuefu songs from the late Han-Wei period, such as

75 76

77 78 79

Chuci buzhu 13.250. See Wen Yiduo, Shenhua yu shi, 185–86, n. 12. In Shiji 80.2436 the name of An Qisheng appears in a long lineage of masters and disciples involved in the transmission of the Huang-Lao teachings. An Qi is the disciple of the patriarch of this school, Heshang Zhangfu 河上丈夫 (identified as Heshang gong 河上公 [River-Dwelling Sire], the author of the first extant “religious” commentary to the Daode jing). In Gaoshi zhuan 高士傳 (Biographies of Eminent Masters) juan 2 by Huangfu Mi 皇甫謐 (215–282), the RiverDwelling Elder (Heshang zhangren 河上丈人) is said to have transmitted his work to Master An Qi, who thus became a progenitor of the “Daoist lineage” (daojia zhi zong 道家 之宗). Shiji 12.455. Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 70. Lunheng jiaoshi 7.317; Forke, Lun-heng, part 1, 335.

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the “Huainan wang” 淮南王 (The King of Huainan), “Bagong cao” 八公操 (The Tune of the Eight Sires), and “Shanzai xing” 善哉行 (How Wonderful!). Transformations of the Pantheon In Chuci poetry and Han fu, xian immortals are depicted side by side with the older figures of mythical emperors and ancient deities of directions and natural phenomena. For instance, in the “Daren fu” Sima Xiangru includes in the celestial entourage of Emperor Wu immortals such as Lingyang Ziming 陵陽 子明, Zheng Boqiao, and Xianmen Gao, as well as ancient deities such as the Lord of the Five Directions (Wu Di 五帝), the Grand Monad (Taiyi 大壹), Xuan Ming 玄冥 (the attendant spirit of the god of the north and director of water), Qianlei 黔雷 (according to the commentators, a “creator spirit”), Zhu Rong 祝融 (fire god and guardian spirit of the south), and many others.80 However, in the course of the Han dynasty, ancient mythical gods gradually disappeared from the immortal throngs. The establishment of xian immortals as independent poetic subjects is most obvious in late Han yuefu dealing with the theme of immortality. Only immortal personages such as the King of Huainan or Master Redpine are mentioned in them. Moreover, during the Eastern Han entire compositions—both fu and yuefu—began to be dedicated to a particular immortal (such as the “Xian fu” by Huan Tan and the anonymous songs “Huainan wang” and “Wangzi Qiao”). In post-Han poetry the ancient deities connected with natural phenomena and compass directions recede, and only the occasional imitations of the “Yuanyou” exhibit the Han syncretic tendency.81 Not only did the immortals gradually part company with the ancient gods but more and more of these deities of antiquity were reinterpreted by early medieval poets and transformed into immortal figures. The poetry of this period reflects an ongoing process in the religious thought of the era, in the course of which, for instance, the Yellow Emperor and the Queen Mother of the West became to be perceived as immortals. A good illustration of the reinterpretation of ancient mythology after the fall of the Han is Guo Pu’s commentary on the Shanhai jing, in which archaic mythical images are frequently transformed into part of the lore of immortality cults. Guo Pu also wrote a set of encomia on the illustrations of the Shanhai jing (“Shanhai jing tu 80 81

Shiji 117.3058; Quan Han fu, 91–96. An illustrative example of this anachronistic current is Zhi Yu’s “Siyou fu” (Fu on Pondering a Journey).

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zan” 山海經圖贊), which are based on his commentary and reflect the new perception of the ancient myths. The encomium on god Lu Wu 陸吾 illustrates the flexibility with which ancient zoomorphic deities could be transformed into Daoist figures:

4

神陸吾

The Deity Lu Wu

肩吾得一 以處昆侖 開明是對 司帝之門 吐納靈氣 熊熊魂魂

Jian Wu attained the One, And abides on Kunlun. He faces the Opener of Light, And presides over the Gates of the Thearch. Exhaling and inhaling numinous breath, Dazzling, dazzling, blazing, blazing.82

The deity Lu Wu as depicted in Shanhai jing 2.47 is not remotely linked to Daoism or xian immortality. He has a tiger’s body with nine tails, a human face, and tiger claws. He presides over Kunlun and manages the nine heavenly regions and the Garden of the Seasons of the Lord. However, Guo Puo in his commentary identifies Lu Wu with Jian Wu 肩吾, who in the Zhuangzi is the friend of Jie Yu 接輿, the madman from Chu.83 Guo Pu refers to a passage from Zhuangzi 6 which says that “Jian Wu attained it [the Dao] and abides on Mount Tai” 肩吾得之 [道] ,以處太山.84 The opening two lines of Guo Pu’s encomium refer to this very sentence from the Zhuangzi—only he replaces Mount Tai with Kunlun so as to conform to the text of the Shanhai jing. Having transformed Lu Wu into a Daoist sage, Guo Pu pictures him engaged in breath cultivation typical of immortality adepts. The reinterpretation of ancient deities is especially obvious in the figures of the female companions of the immortals, who serve and entertain with music and dance at divine banquets. The ancient goddess of the Xiang River, Xiang E 湘娥 (Xiang Beauty), was transformed from a shamanistic female deity into an immortal woman accompanying the immortals at their feasts.85 In the 82 83 84 85

Quan Jin wen 122.6a. Zhuangzi jishi 1.26–27, 7.289–291. Zhuangzi jishi 6.247. One of the two daughters of the mythical ruler Yao 堯 (trad. dating 2333–2234 BC) and a wife of Shun 舜 (trad. dating 2233–2184 BC), she drowned together with her sister in the Xiang River after Shun’s death. These two sisters then became river divinities. While originally there was probably one Xiang goddess, some Han sources relate that there were two divinities. Two of the hymns of the “Jiuge” cycle of the Chuci—“Xiangjun” 湘君 and “Xiang furen” 湘夫人—are presumably devoted to one or both of them.

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“Xianren pian” 仙人篇 (Immortals) by Cao Zhi, she, together with the female immortal Nong Yu 弄玉, entertains the gathered immortals on the slopes of Mount Tai. In Zhang Hua’s “Youxian shi” #2, she appears in a banquet scene at the palace of the Queen Mother of the West, performing music for her immortal companions with the two maidens of the Han 漢 River. The transformation of the ancient moon goddess Heng E 姮娥 also demonstrates this phenomenon. According to one of the first extant versions of the legend of Heng E (also known as Chang E 常娥), she was the wife of the archer Yi 羿, the mythical hero who shot down the nine suns. After Yi obtained the elixir of immortality from the Queen Mother of the West, Heng E stole it and fled to the moon, where she turned into a toad and became the spirit of the moon.86 After the end of Han, however, she often figures as an immortal. Thus, the third-century AD commentary of Gao You 高誘 (d. 212) to the Huainanzi explains: Heng E is the wife of archer Yi. Yi requested the elixir of immortality from the Queen Mother of the West. However, before he could eat it, Heng E stole it and consumed it by herself. She attained immortality (dexian 得仙) and fled to the moon where she became the moon essence (yuejing 月精).87 Her image in the poetry of the period reflects a similar perception. In a poem by Xi Kang, Heng E even becomes the immortal who bestows the elixir of immortality upon the hero.88 In “Youxian shi” #6 Guo Pu pictures her as a beautiful immortal lady dwelling on Penglai and participating in a divine concert there. In the centuries after the fall of Han dynasty, an increasingly larger number of immortal personages appear in poetry. During the third and fourth centuries AD, they are mostly immortals from the traditions recorded in the Liexian zhuan, such as the Flute Master, Master Floating Hill (Fu Qiu), Qiong Shu 卭疏, Ning Fengzi 甯封子, and Qin Gao 琴高, in addition to the well-established figures of Wangzi Qiao and Master Redpine. Furthermore, the poets often write about certain immortals by referring to the specific attributes or actions of that immortal as recorded in the Liexian zhuan and using similar phrasing. The 86

87 88

The transformation of Chang E into a toad is found in a citation from the Huainanzi missing in the present version of the text but preserved in Chuxue ji 1. The ancient mythology of the moon goddess Chang E is studied in Allan, The Shape of the Turtle, 33–34. Huainan honglie jijie 6.217. “Wuyan shi” 五言詩 (Five-Syllable Poem) #3, in Lu Qinli, 489.

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inspiration that the legends from the Liexian zhuan provided to the Jin poets is evident, for instance, in the ten “Youxian” poems by Yu Chan. Here is a quatrain from his “Youxian shi” #3: 卭疏鍊石髓 赤松漱水玉 憑煙眇封子 流浪揮玄俗

Qiong Shu smelts stone marrow, Redpine rinses his mouth with liquid jade. Master Feng recedes, reclining on smoke, Xuan Su sweeps along the surging waves.89

The Liexian zhuan says of Qiong Shu that he could circulate his qi and smelt his form (lianxing 鍊形) and that he boiled and consumed “stone marrow” (shisui 石髓 [stalagmites]). The “liquid jade” (shuiyu) with which Master Redpine rinses his mouth is also one of his specific attributes in the Liexian zhuan; it is his special immortal fare. Yu Chan also speaks of the self-combustion of the immortal Ning Fengzi as described in the Liexian zhuan: “Ning Fengzi was gathering fire and burning himself and he ascended and descended along the smoke. When one looked at the ashes, only the bones were left among them.”90 The immortals Redpine and Ning Fengzi also appear in the sixth poem of the group, where they are once again depicted according to the Liexian zhuan tradition: 赤松遊霞乘煙 封子鍊骨凌仙

Redpine travels on clouds and rides on mist, Master Feng smelts his bones and rises as an immortal.91

Yu Chan again refers to Ning Fengzi’s “smelting” (lian 鍊), or refining his bones through fire. In the case of Redpine, Yu Chan chooses another specific detail of his hagiography: his ability to ascend and descend on the wind and rain. Listing references to various immortals according to the accounts in the Liexian zhuan was in fact a common rhetoric device in Wei-Jin debates on immortality and has many parallels in the prose texts of the period. For instance, Xi Kang in his “Da nan yangsheng lun” 答難養生論 (Answer to [Xiang Xiu’s] Refutation of [My] Essay on Nourishing Life) briefly depicts eight immortals in words similar to those used in the Liexian zhuan: 89

90 91

Lu Qinli, 875. Xuan Su 玄俗 was a Han-dynasty fangshi who specialized in concocting herbal medicines that he sold at marketplaces. For his hagiography, see Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 165; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 191–193. Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 4. Lu Qinli, 875.

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Thus Chi Fu developed red hair from [eating] refined cinnabar, Master Juan lived a long time by eating the essence of mountain thistle; Wo Quan got square eyes from eating the fruit of the pine [pine cones?]; Chisong[zi] could ride mists from drinking liquid jade; Wu Guang lengthened his ears from eating sweet flag and leek [roots]; Qiong Shu from stone marrow was able to halt his years; Fang Hui by eating mica was able to transform; and Chang Rong from eating bramble [roots] altered her appearance. 故赤斧以練丹赬發,涓子以術精久延。偓佺以松實方目,赤松以水玉 乘煙。務光以蒲韭長耳,邛疏以石髓駐年。方回以云母變化,昌容以 蓬虆易顏。92

The acclaim enjoyed by the Liexian zhuan during the third and fourth centuries as a major source of immortality lore is also attested by the laudatory verse on the immortals from the Liexian zhuan. Sun Chuo wrote a series of encomia on the Liexian zhuan, from which only those on Shang Qiuzi 商丘子 and Laozi survive. Another set of eight-lined encomia on each of the immortals from the Liexian zhuan was written by Guo Yuanzu. They numbered seventy in total and accompanied the edition of the Liexian zhuan that was incorporated into the Song-dynasty Daoist canon, Da Song tiangong baozang 大宋天宮寶藏 of 1019.93 While Wei and Western Jin poets generally drew on legends recorded in Han prose sources such as the Liexian zhuan and the Shiji, during the late Southern Dynasties poets began to allude to personages from more recent accounts of extraordinary phenomena such as the Bowuzhi, the Soushen ji, and, above all, Ge Hong’s hagiographic collection the Shenxian zhuan. Thus, the Chen poet Zhang Zhengxian in his “Shenxian pian” 神仙篇 (Divine Immortals) refers to Fei Changfang 費長房, who appears in the Shenxian zhuan, the Hou Han shu, the Baopuzi, and the Soushen ji, and to Feng Junda 封君達, who is mentioned in the Bowuzhi, the Hou Han shu, and the Shenxian zhuan. In his youxian poems Yu Xin enumerates immortals whose traditions were recorded in the Shenxian zhuan, such as Chen Anshi 陳安世, Li Yiqi 李意期, Master Whitestone 92

93

Xi Kang ji 4.67; trans. Henricks, Philosophy and Argumentation in Third-century China, 58–59, with modifications. For a French translation, see Holzman, La Vie et la Pensée de Hi K’ang, 112f. The relevant passages are compared in Bumbacher, The Fragments of the Daoxue zhuan, 565. According to Sui shu 33.979, the encomia written by Sun Chuo accompanied a three-juan edition of the Liexian zhuan that is no longer extant, whereas the encomia of Guo Yuanzu were added to the two-juan edition of the Liexian zhuan, which corresponds to the present work.

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(Baishi xiansheng 白石先生), Wang Lie 王烈, and Yin Gui 尹軌.94 At times a well-known immortal from antiquity is referred to using topoi recorded no earlier than in the fourth century. Thus, when the southern poet Yin Keng 陰鏗 (fl. 540s–560s) alludes to Wangzi Qiao, he draws not on the Liexian zhuan account but on another tradition that was recorded much later: 聊持履成燕 戲以石為羊

(ll. 5–6)

Changing for amusement sandals into swallows, Transforming, in a play, stones into sheep.95 (“Fuyong de shenxian shi” 賦詠得神仙詩)

The story of Wangzi Qiao’s sandals flying away as swallows is not found in the Liexian zhuan but appears in the fourth-century Soushen ji 1.9 and 1.17. The transformation of stones into sheep, on the other hand, alludes to the immortal Huang Chuping 皇初平, whose life is recorded in the Shenxian zhuan—he used to transform the sheep he was tending into stones so as not to be disturbed in his study of the Dao.96 Although during the fifth and sixth centuries the southern gentry was familiar with some of the Shangqing texts, True Ones or divine personae disclosed in the revelations seldom appear in the court poetry of the time. A rare exception is the set of chants “Shangyun yue” (Music of the Supreme Clouds) ascribed to Emperor Wu of Liang, which mentions True Ones (zhen) on several occasions. Wangzi Qiao, who is the subject of the second song, is likewise not referred to by name, as in the earlier poetry, but by his new Shangqing title— the True One of Mount Tongbo (Tongbo zhenren 桐柏真人).97 New Shangqing personages manifest themselves more prominently in the preserved poetry of Tao Hongjing, the collator of the Shangqing texts. For instance, the ninth quatrain of his set “Huayang song” 華陽頌 (Eulogies on 94

95 96 97

Some of the immortals whose hagiographies are included in the Shenxian zhuan had appeared already toward the turn of the fourth century as subjects of eulogies by Lu Yun in his set “Dengxia song” (Eulogies on Climbing the Distant). Among them are Li Shaojun 李少君, Zuo Ci 左慈, Liu Gen 劉根, Fei Changfang, and Jiao Xian 焦先. However, only during the sixth century did such immortals start to figure prominently in lyrical poetry (or at least in the fraction of it that is extant). Lu Qinli, 2456. Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 2.41; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 309. Zhengao 1.2b gives his full title as “Wangzi Qiao, Attendant at Divine Rulers’ Dawn, Director of the Five Marchmounts, Regal Commander, Right Straightener, True One of Mount Tongbo” 桐柏眞人右弼王領五嶽司侍帝晨王子喬. Mount Tongbo in Henan province was one of the sacred realms in Shangqing lore and was believed to contain the Golden Court Palace (Jinting gong 金庭宮).

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Huayang) refers to the meeting of the Queen Mother of the West and the Azure Lad, one of the high divinities of the Shangqing heaven: 降轡龜山客 解駕青華童

(ll. 1–2)

The guest from the Turtle Mountain drops the reigns,98 The Lad of Azure Florescence loosens the harness.99

The full title of the god, commonly known in medieval Daoism as the Azure Lad (Qingtong 青童), is Lord Little Lad of Azure Florescence, King of the Eastern Sea, Master of the Lofty Dawn, Great Supervisor of Destinies, Supreme Minister of the Golden Pylons, Jade Conservator King of the Grand Perfection of Ninefold Tenuity (Jiuwei taizhen yu baowang jinjue shangxiang da siming gaochen shi donghai wang qinghua xiaotong jun 九微太真玉保王金闕上相大 司命高晨師東海王青華小童君).100 This divinity is associated with the east, where he dwells on the paradise island of Fangzhu 方諸 and rules over elixirs of immortality and the transmission of divine knowledge. His image evolved as a projection of the older Dong Wangfu, the Royal Father of the East, and his pairing with Xi Wangmu in the parallel lines of the couplet echoes the HanWei representations of the two divine partners. The image of the Azure Lad appears again more than hundred years later in the first of the “Daoshi buxu ci” (Stanzas on the Daoist Master Pacing the Void) by Yu Xin amidst an apocalyptic vision of the ending of a cosmic kalpa; it is discussed in the last chapter of this book. During the Southern Dynasties, with the expansion of Daoist traditions, an increasing number of contemporary Daoist masters and recluses came to be praised in laudatory verse as immortals. Two eulogies on Shan Daokai 單道開 (d. after 359), whose biography is found in the collection Xuanpin lu 玄品錄, are good examples.101 After his death his body was found uncorrupted in his cave on Mount Luofu 羅浮; thus, he was considered to have become 98 99 100 101

The “guest from the Turtle Mountain” is Xi Wangmu. Tao Hongjing ji jiaozhu, 48. Tao Hongjing’s Tongxuan lingbao zhenling weiye tu 3b. Xuanpin lu 4.71–72. Shan Daokai was originally from Dunhuang and led a reclusive life in the mountains. He is famous for his dispute with the Buddhist monk Fotucheng 佛圖澄, during which the Buddhist master recognized his wisdom. After 359 Shan Daokai withdrew to Mount Luofu near Canton and departed as an immortal when he was over a hundred years old. (See also Bumbacher, The Fragments of the Daoxue zhuan, 416–420.) His biography is also included in Buddhist disguise in Gaoseng zhuan 高僧傳 (Biographies of Eminent Monks) 9.387b from the first half of the sixth century.

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an immortal, liberated from the corpse. Very soon after his death he was celebrated as an immortal in encomia by Yuan Hong 袁宏 (328–376)102 and by a certain Kang Hong 康泓 (fourth century). The death of Tao Hongjing in 536 was commemorated on at least three steles attributed to members of the imperial family of the Liang dynasty.103 The concluding inscriptions (ming 銘) of these epitaphs praise Tao Hongjing as a xian immortal. Earlier on, Shen Yue, an ardent admirer of Tao Hongjing, had addressed a number of poems rich in immortality lore to his Daoist friend.104 In them, Tao Hongjing is celebrated as a heavenly immortal who ascends to the sky in a cloud chariot and who “descries in the distance the trees on the Green Mound and looking back beholds the sun on the Fusang tree” 眇識青丘樹,迴 見扶桑日.105 Fan Yun, who was like Shen Yue also a member of the literary circle of Xiao Ziliang, wrote a poem in response to Tao Hongjing (“Da Gouqu Tao xiansheng shi” 答句曲陶先生詩), in which he depicts him as one of the True Ones (zhenshi 真士) who ascends the sky and roams through the Milky Way. Not only Daoist masters but also prominent scholar-officials succeeded in constructing alternative identities as Daoist immortals in and through their poetry. Zheng Daozhao, Regional Inspector (cishi 刺史) of Guangzhou 光州 in Shandong during the Northern Wei, used to roam the mountains around the modern city of Laizhou 萊州, discuss Daoist classics with his companions, and on these occasions compose poems replete with immortality lore. His poems and inscriptions were carved on mountain rocks and boulders, whereby real sites were transformed into mystic paradise realms.106 A poem with the title 102 103

104

105 106

Yuan Hong is known above all as a historian for having edited the Hou Han ji 后漢記 (Records of the Latter Han). These include the “Huayang Tao xiansheng muzhi ming” 華陽陶先生墓志銘 by Xiao Gang (sometimes wrongly attributed to Xiao Tong): Quan Liang wen 13.11b–12b; “Yinju xiansheng Tao Hongjing bei” 隱居先生陶弘景碑 by Xiao Yi: Quan Liang wen 18.4b–5a.; “Yinju zhenbai xiansheng Tao jun bei” 隱居貞白先生陶軍碑 by Xiao Lun 蕭綸, Prince of Shaoling 邵陵王 (ca. 507–551): Quan Liang wen 22.12a–14b. See especially “Huayang Tao xiansheng denglou bufu xia” 華陽陶先生登樓不復下 (Master Tao of Huayang Has Climbed His Loft Never to Come Down Again), translated and discussed below, and “Feng Huayang wang waibing shi” 奉華陽王外兵詩 (Respectfully Offered to [General of] Outer Troops Wang of Huayang). Lu Qinli, 1638. The poems are penetratingly analyzed in their natural setting in Harrist, “Writing, Landscape and Representation in Sixth-Century China” and The Landscape of Words. Robert E. Harrist argues that Zheng Daozhao’s interest in Daoism was deeper than that of a mere connoisseur, as indicated by his construction of Daoist altars on the mountain.

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“Yong feixian shi shi” 詠飛仙室詩 (Singing of the Chamber of the Flying Immortal), which was composed and inscribed in a natural stone chamber on Cloud Peak Mountain, probably by one of his followers, is dedicated to Zheng Daozhao: 巖堂隱星霄 遥檐架雲飛 鄭公乘煙至 道士披霞歸

The cliff-side hall is hidden in the starry sky, Remote eaves frame clouds in flight. The honorable Zheng riding the mist arrives, The Daoist Master cloaked in rosy clouds returns.107

Robert E. Harrist speculates that the cave in question might have been actually used by Zheng Daozhao for meditation. The Northern Wei official is here depicted as a Daoist master, robed in auroras, who roams freely through the skies. Thus, not only ancient divinities but also seekers of transcendence from the past and present, and even engaged state officials, could put on the immortals’ garb and mount the empyrean by virtue of poetry.

107

Wang Sili, Yunfeng keshi diaocha yu yanjiu, 17–18. A photo of the site and a rubbing of the inscription are also provided here.

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Chapter 3

A Phenomenology of Immortals Images of Immortals from the Han to the Eastern Jin Transformation and Transcendence One of the earliest extant descriptions of immortals in poetry is contained in the early Han composition “Yuanyou” (Distant Journey) included in the Chuci anthology. The cultivation practices leading to immortality that are described in this poem will be subjected to closer scrutiny at a later point in our discussion. Here it is sufficient to examine a passage from this poem that introduces famous immortals from the past and their remarkable qualities. It reads: I honored the perfected Power of the True Ones,1 I praised those of past ages who had ascended to immortality. 與化去而不見兮 Along the transformations they departed, no longer to be seen, 名聲著而日延 Their fame and renown increasing daily. 奇傅說之託辰星兮 I marveled how Fu Yue lived on a star,2 羨韓眾之得一 I admired Han Zhong for attaining the One. 形穆穆以浸遠兮 Their forms, dim and obscure, gradually receded,3 離人群而遁逸 They left the human throng behind and withdrew themselves. 因氣變而遂曾舉兮 Adapting to the qi’s permutations, they rose even higher upwards, 貴真人之休德兮 美往世之登仙

1 De 德, translated here as “Power,” in Daoist thought denotes the inner potency in man that arises from the presence of the Dao within him—it is a “concrete manifestation” of the ineffable Dao inside man. Roth, “Psychology and Self-Cultivation in Early Taoistic Thought,” 614. 2 According to tradition, Fu Yue, originally a convict laborer, appeared in a dream to King Wu Ding 武丁 of the Shang 商 dynasty (trad. r. 1324–1266 BC) as a sage assisting him with government. The king discovered the man from his dream and made him his counselor (Shiji 3.102). In Zhuangzi 6.247, Fu Yue is included, along with the Yellow Emperor and the Queen Mother of the West, in a list of personages who have attained the Dao: Fu Yue attained it [the Dao] and became a minister to Wu Ding; He rides the East Corner and straddles Sagittarius and Scorpio, a neighbor to all the constellated stars. 傅說得之,以相武丁,奄有天下,乘東維,騎箕尾,而比於列星。 3 In translating the expression mumu 穆穆 as “dim and obscure,” I follow Tang Bingzheng’s gloss in Chuci jinzhu, 183. © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004313699_005

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Chapter 3 忽神奔而鬼怪 時髣彿以遙見兮 精皎皎以往來 絕氛埃而淑尤兮 終不反其故都 免眾患而不懼兮 世莫知其所如

(ll. 25–40)

Sudden, with godlike swiftness, marvelous like demons. At times it seems as if they are glimpsed afar, As their essences, clear and bright, now come forth, now go. Leaving the dust behind, they cleansed their impurities,4 Never to return again to their old homes. Escaping all troubles they fear no more, But no one in the world knows where they went to.5

The term used here for perfected immortals is zhenren (“True Ones” or “Real Ones”).6 This expression goes back to the Zhuangzi, where it denotes the ideal personality of one who has returned to the Dao. The True Ones of old “slept without dreaming and woke without cares, […] did not know how to rejoice at life, did not know how to hate death” 古之真人,其寢不夢,其覺无憂 […] 不 知說生,不知惡死.7 Calm, indifferent, and absolutely pure, they have reverted to spontaneity and surrendered to the flow of natural transformations. The image of the True Ones is further elaborated in the Huainanzi, in a long passage contained in chapter 7, which describes those who are united with the Dao—that is, those who “merge their essence with the foundation of Grand Purity and roam freely beyond the boundless” 同精於太清之本,而游於忽區 4 Wang Yi glosses this line as “Going beyond grime and filth, they surpass their forefathers.” I follow the explanation of Zhu Jihai who equates 淑 with 滌 and reads the phrase as “washing away their faults.” See Chuci jiegu, 159. 5 Chuci buzhu, 5.164–165. For other English renditions, see Hawkes, The Songs of the South, 194; and the more recent annotated translation by Kroll in “On ‘Far Roaming,’” 660–661, to which my understanding of the text is highly indebted. 6 Alternative renditions of zhenren as “Perfected Ones” (or “Perfected Persons,” “the Perfected”) and “Realized Ones” (“Realized Persons,” “the Realized”) are common in Western works on Daoism. As Stephen Bokenkamp points out, these expressions might be misleading in relation to the real connotations of the term zhenren. “The Realized” implies mental realization, whereas Daoist perfection is always both mental and physical. “The Perfected,” on the other hand, fails to convey the idea that the perfection attained is, in fact, a return to the original state of unity with the Dao. See Bokenkamp, Early Taoist Scriptures, 27, n. 30. “True Men,” or the similar term “Genuine Men” used by Daniel Coyle in “On the Zhenren,” carries the least amount of Western philosophical implications. 7 Zhuangzi jishi 6.226–235. The image of the zhenren in the Zhuangzi is discussed by Coyle in “On the Zhenren.”

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之旁.8 Similarly to the accounts in the Zhuangzi and the Huainanzi, the depic-

tion of the True Ones in the “Yuanyou” centers on such qualities as the attainment of the Dao, purity, spontaneity, ultimate freedom, and unrestrained flight through space. The True Ones have disengaged themselves from the human throng and withdrawn themselves so that they are no longer bound by any of the concerns of this world. However, in the “Yuanyou” we can observe a subtle shift in the meaning of the term zhenren—whereas in the Huainanzi the True Ones “take life and death to be a single transformation” 以死生為一化,9 here they are equated with those who “ascended to xian immortality” (dengxian 登仙) (l. 26). The “Yuanyou” in fact imbues the concept of the True Ones with the connotations it acquired later in the Han dynasty in connection with immortality cults. The image of the True Ones presented in the poem echoes the definition of the term zhen given in Xu Shen’s 許慎 (ca. 55–149) dictionary Shuowen jiezi 說文解字: “a xian immortal, who transforms his form and ascends to heaven” 僊人變形而登天也.10 I discuss the notion of eternal existence reflected in the “Yuanyou” at a later point in this chapter; nevertheless, it is important to emphasize at the very beginning that the particular type of xian immortality depicted in the poem is not synonymous with the endless prolongation of life—it is a transformation (hua 化) of the self and, above all, a new, transcendental mode of existence. The immortals “depart along with the transformations” and accord with the transmutations of the cosmic qi; they transcend the human condition and attain a spirit-like body. Another early depiction of immortals is found in the “Xian fu” (Fu on the Immortals) by Huan Tan.11 This short fu was written between 14 BC and 9 BC, when Huan Tan served as a Gentleman (lang 郎) at the court of Emperor Cheng 成 (r. 32–7 BC) and accompanied the great imperial processions to the Ganquan 甘泉 (Sweet Springs) Palace and Hedong 河東 commandery organized by the emperor.12 Prompted by his desire to be blessed with an heir, 8 9 10 11

12

Huainan honglie jijie 7.227–230; translated in Roth, “The Inner Cultivation Tradition of Early Daoism,” 146–148. Huainan honglie jijie 7.229. Shuowen jiezi jiaojian, 343. The text is contained in Yiwen leiju 78.16b. The preface to the fu is also found in Beitang shuchao 102.4a. In both these collectanea and in Yan Kejun, Quan Hou Han wen 12.7b, the title is given as “Xian fu” 仙賦. Alternative titles of the fu are “Wangxian fu” 望仙賦 and “Jiling fu” 集靈賦, the latter being mentioned in the Wenxin diaolong (Wenxin diaolong yizheng 10.1781; Shih, The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, 253). The “Annals of Emperor Cheng” in the Han shu record four such processions in the years 13 BC, 11 BC, 9 BC and 7 BC. On the problems connected with the dating of the specific

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Emperor Cheng imitated the processions and sacrifices performed by his great predecessor Emperor Wu of Han at Ganquan. The fu was written on one of these occasions, when the imperial procession stopped at the Palace of Assembled Spirits (Jiling gong 集靈宮) established by Emperor Wu of Han at Huayin 華陰, close to Mount Hua 華山. In the preface to the fu, Huan Tan informs us that The Emperor [Wu] wanted to remember the assembled immortals like Wang Qiao and Master Redpine, and therefore he named a hall as the [Hall for] Visualizing Immortals. The upright gate facing the mountain from the south was named Gate of Looking at the Immortals. 欲以懷集仙者王喬赤松子,故名殿為存仙。端門南向山,署曰望仙 門。13

Huan Tan dwelt there, and, with “lofty and subtle aspirations,” he inscribed on the wall “a small fu to eulogize and praise (songmei 頌美).” This composition did not receive the acclaim of later critics such as Liu Xie, who observed that “judged on the basis of his ‘Fu on the Assembled Spirits’ [i.e., the ‘Xian fu’] and other fu, [Huan Tan] is definitely shallow and lacking in talent” 而集靈諸賦,偏淺無才.14 Despite the poor critical opinion of Huan Tan’s fu, which might account for its absence both from literary anthologies and from Huan Tan’s biography in Hou Han shu 28, this work is very significant to the present discussion, for it is the earliest extant fu devoted solely to xian immortals. It reads:

4

13 14 15

夫王喬赤松 呼則出故 翕則納新 夭矯經引 積氣關元

Oh, Wang Qiao and Redpine! You exhaled and blew out the old [qi], You inhaled and drew in the fresh [qi] into you; You bent and stretched, hanged down and pulled,15 Amassed the qi and conserved the Primordial.

event, see Pokora, “Huan Tan’s ‘Fu on Looking for the Immortals,’” 359–360. He suggests the years 14 BC or 13 BC as possible dates for this particular procession and for the composition of the fu. David Knechtges, on the other hand, dates it to 11 BC (Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature, part 1, 390). Quan Han fu, 248. Wenxin diaolong yizheng 10.1781; Shih, The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, 253. I understand jing 經 to refer to xiongjing 熊經, “bear-hanging,” i.e., a gymnastic exercise mentioned already in the Zhuangzi (Zhuangzi jishi 15.535). Yin 引 probably refers to daoyin 道引, “guiding and pulling,” i.e., gymnastic exercises.

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Your essence and spirit cycle everywhere, Reaching through every hindrance, flow and circulate.16 乘凌虛無 You mounted and skimmed the empty void, 洞達幽明 And penetrated both the obscure and the bright. 諸物皆見 Everything was visible for you, 玉女在旁 The Jade Maiden waited upon you.17 仙道既成 When your Way to immortality was already accomplished, 神靈攸迎 Spirits and numinous beings hastened to welcome you. 乃驂駕青龍赤騰 Now you drove azure dragons and crimson steeds, 為歷躇玄厲之擢嶵 And came over the tall-towering [Mystic Gardens].18 有似乎鸞鳳之翔飛 You hovered high, resembling phoenix and simurgh, 集乎膠葛之宇 And assembled in the far and infinite expanse, 精神周洽 鬲塞流通

8

12

16

16

17

18

According to the “Neiye” 內業, or “Inward Training,” chapter (fourth century BC) of the Guanzi treatise, the essence jing 精 is a highly concentrated form of the qi residing in the heart: “The essence jing is the essence of the qi” (精也者,氣之精也). The spirit shen 神, likewise a highly refined form of qi, is the numinous power within the heart-mind. It is the basic conscious power within man, the deepest level of consciousness. For a discussion of the concepts of qi, jing, and shen, see Roth, “The Inner Cultivation Tradition,” 123–128. In his analysis of relevant passages in the Guanzi and the Huainanzi, Harold D. Roth sees a subordinate relation between the terms jing and shen and translates the expression jingshen as “numen-as-vital essence.” See Roth, “Psychology and Self-Cultivation,” 605; Original Tao, 23ff. According to Li Shan’s commentary to the “Sixuan fu,” the Jade Maiden is a Daoist deity presumably identical to the Hairy Maiden (Maonü 毛女), a female immortal from the Liexian zhuan, who lived on Mount Hua and whose sobriquet was Jade Lady (Yu Jiang 玉姜). Wenxuan 15.669; Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 132–133; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 159–161. Most likely the Jade Maiden was a goddess of Mount Hua. The expression “Jade Maiden(s)” is also a collective appellation in Daoism for attendant female deities who escort an accomplished adept. Known also as Jade Flowers (Yuhua 玉華), these are underlings of the Queen Mother of the West. On Jade Flowers and Jade Maidens, see also Timothy Chan, “Jade Flower and the Motif of Mystic Excursion in Early Religious Daoist Poetry,” 171–173. The expression xuanli 玄厲 occurs in Sima Xiangru’s “Zixu fu” in a long list of marvellous stones and minerals gathered in Yunmeng 雲夢 Park and is explained by commentators as a stone used for polishing. On the other hand, in the Baopuzi waipian the expression xuanli designates an evil demon (Baopuzi waipian jiaojian 5.223). None of these meanings, however, accords with what is described in Huan Tan’s fu. I suspect that li 厲 here is an errant character for pu 圃, and the expression denotes the Xuanpu 玄圃, the Mystic Gardens of the Queen Mother on Mount Kunlun.

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20

出宇宙與雲浮 洒輕霧濟傾崖 觀倉川而升天門 24

馳白鹿而從麒麟 周覽八極 還崦華壇 氾氾乎濫濫 隨天轉琁 容容無為 壽极乾坤

28

At the terrace of Mount Tai. You sipped jade fluid and ate efflorescent mushrooms,19 You rinsed your mouth with jade liquor and drank the golden brew.20 You left the universe and floated together with the clouds, Sprinkling light mists, you crossed over sloping cliffs. Observing vast streams you rose to the Gate of Heaven, Riding on white deer, accompanied by unicorns. Everywhere you inspected the Eight Limits, And returned to the splendorous altar on Mount Yan.21 Oh, how unsettled you were, how overflowing! Together with Heaven you revolved, Drifting without acting. Your longevity reaches that of Heaven and Earth.22

In the previous chapter I have already summarized the lives of Wangzi Qiao and Master Redpine as recorded in the Liexian zhuan, which was compiled in Huan Tan’s time or shortly thereafter. The depiction of the two immortals in this fu, however, differs greatly from hagiographic accounts. Here we find neither anecdotal details of their life nor any references to their attributes. Huan Tan focuses instead on the spiritual aspects of xian immortality— withdrawal

19

20

21

22

I was not able to locate the alliterative binome zhuozui 擢嶵 elsewhere. Zui generally conveys a sense of highness, and therefore I freely translate the expression as “tall-towering.” The jade fluid (yuye 玉液) is explained by Wang Yi as the purest, essential qi (jingqi 精氣) of the rose-gem flower stamens (qiongrui 瓊蕊). See commentary to the “Jishi” 疾世 poem from the “Jiusi” 九思 series, Chuci buzhu 17.319. The jade liquor (yujiang 玉漿) appears frequently in the poetry of the third and fourth century as a drink of immortals. According to Guo Pu, the Jade Maiden of the Bright Star (Mingxing yunü 明星玉女) on Mount Hua is in possession of this elixir. If one consumes it, one will become a xian immortal (Shanhai jing jiaozhu 2.22). Mount Yan is the mythical Yanzi 崦嵫 Mountain, behind which, according to some traditions, the sun sets. It appears, for instance, in Shanhai jing 2.65 and in the “Lisao” (Chuci buzhu 1.27). Quan Han fu, 248. For an alternative English rendition, see Pokora, “Huan Tan’s ‘Fu on Looking for the Immortals,’” 363–364.

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from the world, purity, simplicity, the return to the Dao, and unrestrained flight through the cosmos. These are the same features that were earlier celebrated in the “Yuanyou.” Huan Tan also adds a specific program of physiological selfcultivation. At the beginning of the fu he describes a system of gymnastics, breathing exercises, and spiritual training connected with Wangzi Qiao and Redpine. The exhaling of the old and the inhaling of the new qi (chu gu na xin 出故納新) was a popular method of breath cultivation referred to already in Zhuangzi: To blow, to puff, to exhale and inhale, to spit out the old breath and draw in the new, practicing bear-hangings and bird-stretchings, longevity his only concern – this is what delights the scholar who practices gymnastics, the man who nourishes his bodily form, the one who equals Pengzu in his longevity. 吹呴呼吸,吐故納新,熊經鳥申,為壽而已矣;此道引之士,養形之 人,彭祖壽考者之所好也。23

Whereas in the Zhuangzi these physical techniques are considered to nourish merely the bodily form (yangxing 養形) and lead to nothing but longevity, in the Huainanzi they become associated with nurturing nature (yangxing 養性) and ultimately with the attainment of the Dao and immortality. Two passages in the Huainanzi evoke the immortals Wangzi Qiao and Redpine as masters at breath cultivation: Now Wangzi Qiao and Master Redpine blew, puffed, exhaled and inhaled, spat out the old and took in the new, they abandoned their bodily form and rejected wisdom, embraced plainness and returned to the True. They thereby roamed through the mystic and subtle and ascended to penetrate the cloudy heavens. 今王喬,赤誦子,吹嘔呼吸,吐故內新,遺形去智,抱素反真,以游 玄眇,上通雲天。24

Wang Qiao and Redpine abandoned the realm of dust and parted from the noxious whirl of the crowd. They inhaled the harmony of yin and yang, consumed the essence of Heaven and Earth, exhaled, expelling the 23 24

Zhuangzi jishu 15.535. Huainan honglie jijie 11.361.

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old and inhaled, taking in the new. Treading the void, they rose with lightened bodies, mounted the clouds and roamed on mists. They might be called nurtures of their nature, but they may not be called filial sons. 王喬赤松去塵埃之間,離群慝之紛,吸陰陽之和,食天地之精,呼而 出故,吸而入新,蹀虛輕舉,乘雲游霧。可謂養性矣,而未可謂孝子 也。25

These two accounts revolve around cultivating the breath, absorbing the most subtle cosmic essences, lightening the body and abandoning its solid, physical form (yixing 遺形), ascending to heaven on clouds and mists, and unrestrained roaming through the cosmos. In his fu Huan Tan expounds the same ideas in verse form, using very similar vocabulary to that in the Huainanzi. The physiological and spiritual cultivation of the two protagonists leads to the attainment of mystical cognition, which transcends time and space: the two immortals are able to perceive everything and to grasp both the obscure and the bright (yin and yang, life and death). Their cultivation culminates in their ascension to heaven in a carriage pulled by azure dragons. While the first part of the fu draws heavily on the vocabulary and ideas explicated in treatises such as the Huainanzi, the second half, which develops the theme of the magic journey, is in the vein of the Chuci poetic tradition. In the highest reaches of the cosmos, the immortals consume divine food—jade fluid, efflorescent mushrooms, jade liquor, and golden brew. Strengthened by this divine diet, they rise even higher, above the universe, reach the Gate of Heaven, inspect the eight extremities of the cosmos, and ultimately become coequals of Heaven and Earth, not dying. The fu interweaves the syncretic cultivation program reflected in the Huainanzi with Chuci poetics and with certain ideas from xian cults. The interest in the spiritual aspects of xian immortals and in various methods of “nurturing life” (yangsheng 養生) remained a major feature of representations of immortality from the Han throughout the Western Jin period. The following fu by the distinguished late third-century statesman and writer Lu Ji demonstrates well the continuity of themes, images, and vocabulary in poetic treatments of the theme of immortality:

25

列仙賦

Fu on the Arrayed Immortals

夫何列仙玄妙 超攝生乎世表

Oh, how mysterious, how subtle the immortals are! Excelling in nurturing life, they are far beyond this world.

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 因自然以為基 仰造化而聞道

4

性沖虛以易足 年緬邈其難老 爾乃呼翕九陽 抱一含元 引新吐故 雲飲露餐 違品物以長盻

8

12

妙群生而為言 爾其嘉會之仇 息宴遊栖 則昌客弄玉 洛宓江妃 觀百化於神區

16

覲天皇於紫微 過太華以息駕 越流沙而來歸

20

26

27

28

29

30

Adapting to the Naturally-so as their basis,26 They gaze up to the creative transformations and listen to the Dao. With nature calm and empty, they are easily content, Advanced in years, never getting old. Thus, they breathe in and out the ninefold sunlight, Embrace the One, contain the Primordial. Draw in the new and spit the old, Clouds provide their drink, dew is their repast. Distanced from the things, they are forever looked up to, Surpassing all existence, they give rise to talks. And thus, mates in a wonderful assembly, Resting and feasting, roaming and nesting, Like Chang Rong, Nong Yu,27 Lady Fu of River Luo, the Consorts from Yangzi.28 They observe the hundred transformations from the divine precincts, Visit the Celestial Sovereign at the Purple Tenuity.29 Cross the Grand Mount Hua and rest their carriage, Traverse the Flowing Sands and come back.30

Ziran 自然 (“what-is-so-by-itself,” “Naturally-so”) became a key concept in third-century xuanxue thought. In Guo Xiang’s commentary on the Zhuangzi it was extolled as the fundamental power and principle of being. The story of Chang Rong is included in the Liexian zhuan (Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 122–24; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 152–53). She was a Daoist from Mount Chang 常 and claimed to be the daughter of a Yin-dynasty king. At an age of more than two hundred years she still had the looks of a twenty-year-old girl. She could procure groomwell (zicao 紫草, Lithospermum officinale) and sold it to be used as a dye. She donated the money thus obtained to orphans and the poor for many generations. Her worshippers numbered tens of thousands. On Nong Yu, see chapter 2, n. 22. The story of the two goddesses from the Yangzi River is also included in the Liexian zhuan (Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 52–57; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 96–101). A certain man named Jiao Fu 交甫 met them and took a fancy in them. Not being aware that they were immortals, he begged for their pendants. He was granted this present, but before he managed to take a few steps, both the pendants and the girls disappeared. The Purple Tenuity is a great circumpolar constellation consisting of a part of the Draco constellation between the Big and the Little Dippers and many other smaller stars. It includes the Pole Star and is the residence of the deity Taiyi 太一 (the Grand Monad). “Liexian fu,” Quan Jin wen 97.5b. The Flowing Sands in the far west are one of the formidable barriers on the way to Kunlun. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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In structure, this fu resembles Huan Tan’s “Xian fu.” It also commences with an extolment of the immortals’ remarkable spiritual qualities followed by the appearance of female consorts and concludes with a short account of cosmic roaming. The immortals here are likewise conceived in purely transcendental terms; they are “far beyond this world”, distanced from all beings and surpassing all existence. The stock phrases used to characterize the immortals similarly draw on early Daoist texts like the Daode jing, the Zhuangzi, and the Huananzi. The practices of spiritual self-cultivation mentioned—“embracing the One” (baoyi 抱一), “containing the Primordial” (hanyuan 含元), and stilling and quieting—are already familiar to us from the “Yuanyou” and the “Xian fu.” Lu Ji combines meditation practices tending the mind and spirit, abstract philosophical notions, and physiological cultivation techniques, such as “drawing in the new and spitting out the old” (yin xin tu gu 引新吐故), ingesting clouds and dew, and absorbing the sun essence (huxi jiuyang 呼翕九陽). Similarly to Huan Tan’s fu, the account of self-cultivation is here followed by a concise description of the immortals’ unrestrained flight through the cosmos to the stars of the Purple Tenuity and to the paradise of Kunlun in the furthest west. The immortals are also accompanied by female mates—Chang Rong and Nong Yu, as well as the goddesses of the Luo and Yangzi Rivers. The female deities, once the object of a frustrated quest in Chuci poetry, are now partners of the immortals in their roaming and amusements. Despite the temporal gap, the content and vocabulary of Lu Ji’s fu exhibit close connections to that of the poetic accounts of the immortals in the “Yuanyou” and Huan Tan’s “Xian fu.” The ideas and vocabulary of self-transformation and transcendence that we have observed until now in sao and fu poetry from the Han, Wei, and Western Jin periods are shared by a wide range of compositions in other genres as well—yuefu songs, lyrical poetry, and laudatory verse. The notion of the immortals’ detachment from the human throng is one of the recurrent themes in all texts of the period. Xian immortals are consistently depicted as remote, obscure, and withdrawn from the human world. The motif of “abandoning,” or “cutting off traces” (duanji 斷跡), is frequently used to express the discarding of all human ties and forgetting one’s earthly identity. The words ji and cong 蹤, both meaning “traces,” denote the manifested acts that tie one to the phenomenal world. For instance, Cao Zhi in his poem “Youxian” writes: 蟬蛻同松喬

Like Redpine and Wang Qiao I’ll slough off my old shell,

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(ll. 5–6)

Rising out of tracks, I’ll climb up from the Cauldron Lake.31

At the end of the third century, Lu Ji similarly writes in his “Lingxiao fu” 陵霄賦 (Fu on Skimming the Empyrean): 削陋跡于介丘 省游仙而投軌

(ll. 5–6)

I cut off my vulgar traces at a great mountain, To visit the roaming immortals I throw off the ruts.32

In the couplet by Cao Zhi cited above, we meet with another frequent image associated with the achievement of xian immortality, that is, the cicada leaving behind its shell (chantui 蟬蛻). The locus classicus for this metaphor might be found in the Huainanzi: Those people [the Accomplished Ones] embrace plainness and preserve their essence. Like cicadas leaving their shells or snakes separating [themselves from their skin], they wander off into the Grand Purity; rising up with lightened bodies, they depart alone and suddenly enter the obscure. 若此人者 [至人] ,抱素守精,蟬蛻蛇解,遊於太青,輕舉獨往,忽然 入冥。33

During the Han the cicada metaphor was commonly associated with the attainment of immortality through shijie (corpse deliverance). The process of ridding the adept’s body of all corrupt and degradable dross was often compared to a molting cicada shedding off its shell or a snake slipping out of its old skin.34 31 32 33 34

Lu Qinli, 456. Quan Jin wen 97.5b–6a. Huainan honglie jijie 7.235. In the Lunheng Wang Chong wittily analyzes the internal contradictions entailed in the notion of immortality as a form of a “cicada shedding its shell” in order to prove that “postmortem immortality” is impossible. (Lunheng jiaoshi 7.329–332; Forke Lun-heng, vol. 1, 345). For a critical discussion of the cicada image in connection with shijie and the problems involved, see Cedzich, “Corpse Deliverance,” 12–17.

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In poetry the image of a cicada emerging from its shell is applied regardless of the method of achieving immortality. Even Laozi in the “Inscription on Laozi” from 165 AD is said to have passed through such a transformation: 道成身化 蟬蛻渡世

When he accomplished the Dao and his body has transformed, he sloughs off his old shell and transcends the world.35

In this couplet the term chantui conveys the idea of metamorphosis into an immortal being that transcends the world. These two implications of the cicada image, namely transformation and transcendence, are also apparent in a poem by the late Eastern Han political thinker and writer Zhongchang Tong 仲長統 (180–220): [見志詩] #1

Revealing My Aims

飛鳥遺跡 蟬蛻亡殼 騰蛇弃鱗 神龍喪角 至人能變 達士拔俗

Birds in flight leave their tracks behind, The shedding cicada abandons its shell, The ascendant serpent casts off its scales, And the divine dragon loses its horns. Thus the Accomplished man is able to transform,36 And the penetrating gentleman is detached from the common. He rides the clouds without reins, And gallops on the wind without the need of feet.37

乘雲無轡 騁風無足

(ll. 1–8)

In addition to the shedding cicada, the four parallel lines of the first quatrain refer to analogous images of flying birds abandoning their tracks and of reptiles casting off their skin and horns. These natural phenomena are synonymous metaphors for the transformation of the body and mind, whereby worldly grime and pollution are discarded and all traces of the old self are left behind. 35 36

37

Quan Hou Han wen 62.3b. Similarly to the term zhenren, in early Daoist texts such as the Zhuangzi, the Huainanzi, and the Liezi the term zhiren 至 人, commonly rendered as “Accomplished Man,” “Perfect Man,” and “Highest Man,” denotes one who has united with the Dao. Lu Qinli, 205. Contained in Zhongchang Tong’s biography in Hou Han shu 49.1645. This poem, together with the one following it, is translated in Balazs, Chinese Civilisation and Bureaucracy, 217–218. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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In the poetry of the third and fourth centuries withdrawal from the world is pictured not only as a discarding of worldly concerns and attachments but also as a retreat from one’s senses, above all sight and hearing. The poets often refer to inner contemplative practices, which are given prominence in early texts like the Zhuangzi and in parts of the Guanzi. The influence of the Zhuangzi is especially apparent in the “Yonghuai” poems by Ruan Ji. In poem #41, for instance, Ruan Ji describes the immortals as indifferent and calm; they have no attachments, no hatred, and no strivings: 飄颻雲日間 邈與世路殊 榮名非己寶 聲色焉足娱

(ll. 9–12)

Whirling and swirling between the sun and clouds, Distant, they keep apart from the worldly ways. Glory and fame are not their treasures, How could sounds and sights provide them pleasure?38

In poem #28 he writes: 豈若遺耳目 升遐去殷優

(ll. 17–18)

It is so much better to discard hearing and sight, And to ascend the distant, far from myriad sorrows.39

The phrase “discard hearing and sight” (yi ermu 遺耳目) appears in Zhuangzi 6.268. It echoes other concepts from Zhuangzi teachings, such as “fasting of the heart-mind” (xinzhai 心齋)40 or “sitting in forgetfulness” (zuowang 坐忘), whereby one “abandons his body and its parts, rejects perceptual sharpness, leaves his form, drives away his knowledge, and becomes one with the Universal Greatness.”41 Guang Chengzi also gave similar advice to the Yellow Emperor: Do not look, do not listen; embrace your spirits in quietude, and your body will be correct of its own accord … If your eyes see nothing, if your ears hear nothing, if your heart-mind knows nothing, your spirits will preserve your body, and your body will live long.

38 39 40 41

Lu Qinli, 504. Lu Qinli, 502. On xinzhai, see Zhuangzi jishi 4.147: “Do not listen with your ears but with your heartmind; do not listen with your heart but with your qi.” Zhuangzi jishi 6.284. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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Chapter 3 无視无聽,抱神以靜,形將自正…目无所見,耳无所聞,心无所知, 女神將守形,形乃長生。42

Shutting out the exterior world—that is, the world of senses—means the closing of the narrow world of the individual—the world limited by his sensual perceptions, desires, and thoughts. The Visual Image of Immortals While in poetry from the Han through Western Jin periods the authors elaborate on the spiritual qualities of the immortals and their activities, they rarely dwell at length on their physical features. Distant from the world and subtle to the utmost degree, the true appearance of the immortals remains forever imperceptible to the eyes of mortal men, those “walking corpses” (xingshi zhi ren 行尸之人).43 To profane eyes they often reveal themselves as dazzling entities of pure light. In Cao Cao’s “Qichu chang” #1, for instance, the immortal Redpine appears in a blaze of light: 玉闕下 引見得入 赤松相對 四面顧望 視正焜煌

Below the jade pylons I am shown where to enter— And face Redpine. I look around to all sides And behold a dazzling blaze.44

In “Yimin fu” 逸民賦 (Fu on Disengaged Men), Lu Yun likewise describes the immortal Master Vast Cliff (Hongya xiansheng 洪崖先生)45 surrounded by brilliant glow: 瞻洪崖兮清輝 紛容與兮雲際

42 43 44 45

46

I gaze at Vast Cliff in pure radiance, Utterly free and easy at the rim of clouds.46

Zhuangzi jishi 11.381. Baopuzi neipian 2.15. Lu Qinli, 345. Master Vast Cliff is briefly mentioned in the Shenxian zhuan in the vita of Wei Shuqing 衛 叔卿 (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 58; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 273) and in Zhen’gao 14.16a (Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 459), where he is said to have departed after consuming the langgan 琅玕 elixir. A later hagiography is found in Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian 4 from the Yuan-dynasty period. Quan Jin wen 100.6b.

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Luminous brightness is a quality xian immortals share with the ancient celestial deities celebrated in the “Jiuge” from the Chuci anthology: 靈連蜷兮既留 爛昭昭兮未央 謇將憺兮壽宮 與日月兮齊光

(ll. 3–6)

The god, sinuously swirling, has halted, Splendidly shining with endless radiance. He is going to rest in the Hall of Longevity, Like the sun and the moon—equaling their light. (“Yunzhong jun” 雲中君)47

This divine radiance remained a permanent feature of poetic depictions of immortals. Similarly to heavenly deities, immortals often dazzle like the sun and the moon: 沐浴丹淵中 炤燿日月光

(ll. 9–10)

They bathe in the Cinnabar Depths, And brightly blaze like the rays of the sun and the moon. (Ruan Ji, “Yonghuai shi” #23)48

The ability to emanate light is characteristically attributed to immortals in the prose accounts of the Zhuangzi, the Baopuzi, and popular hagiographies. According to Ge Hong, one of the immortality arts allows the adept to “extend his light ten thousand feet, illuminating dark spaces by himself” 放光萬丈,冥 室自明.49 At the end of the fourth century, bright luminosity was held out as a promise to Shangqing adepts. Many Shangqing texts describe methods for meditating and visualizing the celestial bodies, during which the whole adept is set ablaze to the point that he becomes light himself.50 The motif of concealing one’s light and shining internally, which appears in poetry from the Han dynasty onward, is connected with the ability to emit radiance. In the “Wangzi Qiao Stele” inscription from 165 AD, Cai Yong writes that the immortal “holds his bright radiance within” (han guangyao 含光耀).51 According to the “Inscription on Laozi” from the same period, Laozi “holds his light within and hides his physical form” (hanjing ruoxing 含景匿形).52 In a 47 48 49 50 51 52

Chuci buzhu 2.58. Lu Qinli, 218. Baopuzi neipian 19.337. See, for example, Robinet, Taoist Meditation, 197 ff. On the features of light and shadow, mirroring and radiating, see Robinet, “The Taoist Immortal.” Quan Hou Han wen 75.3b. Quan Hou Han wen 62.4a.

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late third-century eulogy on Pengzu 彭祖 from the brush of Qian Xiu, we read that Pengzu “hid his light, concealed his radiance” (taoguang yinyao 韜光隱 曜);53 Lu Yun writes about Wangzi Qiao that the immortal “following his will, submerged his radiance” (suizhi jianhui 遂志潛輝).54 Hiding or interiorizing light was, in fact, an important esoteric practice in Six Dynasties Daoism that was often referred to in religious texts. In a list of Daoist scriptures in the Baopuzi neipian, for instance, Ge Hong mentions a certain “Scripture on Interiorizing the Light” (Hanjing jing 含景經).55 Section 24 of the Taishang huangting neijing yujing 太上黃庭內景玉經 (Precious Book of the Interior Landscape of the Yellow Court) from the Eastern Jin period also discusses the art of “concealing the light and hiding the form” (yinjing cangxing 隱景藏形).56 In the words of Isabelle Robinet, this is a method by which the adept turns “the light inside by his inner vision, neizhao 內照, thus casting light on his internal organs … He absorbs the light of the celestial bodies and interiorizes the light of his eyes, the stars of his own body, and shines inside.”57 Anonymous yuefu songs dating from the late Han and Wei periods describe the appearance of immortals in yet another way. These songs represent a tradition separate from Chuci poetry and court fu, and in their accounts of immortals they draw on more popular imagery: 仙人騎白鹿 發短耳何長 導我上太華 攬芝獲赤幢

(ll. 1–4)

53 54 55 56

57 58

The immortal rides a white deer, His hair is short and ears so long. He leads me up the grand Mount Hua, I pluck the magic mushroom, obtain a crimson insignia streamer.58 (“Changge xing” 長歌行)

Quan Jin wen 84.7b. Quan Jin wen 103.9b. Baopuzi neipian 19.333. Another scripture belonging to the Shangqing tradition, the fourth-century Shangqing taishang dijun jiuzhen zhongjing 上清太上帝君九真中經 9b–10b (DZ 1376), describes a method of achieving “corpse deliverance,” whereby the adept “conceals his light” (yijing 翳景), takes on a common appearance, and abruptly enters the realm of the Grand Yin (Taiyin). The expression “hiding one’s light and concealing one’s brilliance” 匿景藏光 is very similar and is connected to the art of invisibility. This expression is contained in the Dongzhen shangqing shenzhou qizhuan qibian wutian jing 洞真上清神州七轉七變舞 天經 (DZ 1331) from the Six Dynasties. Robinet, “The Taoist Immortal,” 92. Yuefu shiji 30, 442.

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The scene involving immortals that Cao Zhi beholds on the slopes of Mount Tai is similar: 忽逢二童 顏色鮮好 乘彼白鹿 手翳芝草

(ll. 3–6)

Suddenly I meet two youths, Of fresh and fair features. Riding white deer, Holding magic mushrooms for a shade.59 (“Feilong pian” 飛龍篇)

The image of the immortals in these two songs is much more casual and downto-earth, lacking the transcendental aura of the celestial travelers described in the Chuci or in Han fu. They appear riding on white deer—a favored steed of the Daoist immortals when they roam on earth—and holding the magical herb of immortality. Although generally the immortals are directly approached by the human protagonist, such accounts provide few details of the immortals’ appearance. The authors highlight—as the most remarkable corporeal signs of the immortals—long ears or fresh and beautiful faces, which allude to the possession of eternal youth.60 The youthful appearance of the immortals is, paradoxically, also an indication of their extreme age. This is how Guo Pu perceives them in his “Youxian shi” #6: 奇齡邁五龍 千歲方嬰孩

Wondrous in age they surpass the Five Dragons, Of thousand years—just newborn babes.61

The semblance of extreme youth is not a sign of frailty but reflects the unspoiled energy and potential of a newly born life. In other cases the immortals might take on the external appearance of old age—for example, in Cao Cao’s “Qiuhu xing” #1 and in Cao Zhi’s “Kusi xing” 苦思行 (Bitter Thoughts) they appear as sage and venerable Daoist masters. One of the most important features of the visual image of xian immortals, ubiquitous in literary texts and pictorial depictions, is their association with winged birds. These portrayals succinctly manifest the ideas of transformation 59 60

61

Lu Qinli, 421–22. Extraordinary big, animal-like ears also mark the immortals in the Han tomb reliefs. Beautiful examples include an immortal from an Eastern Han tomb in Beizhai 北寨 village, Yinan 沂南 County in Shandong, and another one on a pictorial brick from Pengzhou 彭州 County, Sichuan, both reproduced in He Xilin, “Handai yishu zhong de yuren ji qi xiangzheng yiyi,” fig. 8 and fig. 10. Lu Qinli, 866.

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and transcendence that are at the core of the early poetic descriptions of immortality. During the Han period general belief held that through appropriate practices the body of the adept could grow feathers and his arms could be transformed into wings. It is hard to establish the origin of this notion, but apparently it was already current in the time of Emperor Wu of Han, for the notorious fangshi Luan Da 欒大 (d. 112 BC) wore robes made out of feathers to show his kinship with the winged immortals.62 Late Han tomb carvings and bronze mirrors depict the immortals as fantastic, winged beings.63 In hagiographic stories they are often covered with feathers; their sandals, which appear in their coffins in place of their bodies, turn into birds, and their swords or staffs—their alter egos—fly away. The affinity between xian immortals and birds remained a permanent feature of the depiction of immortals in poetic texts as well. The “Yuanyou” contains an early reference to winged immortals: 仍羽人於丹丘兮 留不死之舊鄉

(ll. 77–78)

I went to the plumed men on the Cinnabar Hill, I loitered in the ancient land of No-death.64

Cao Zhi, in many of his songs, likewise portrays immortals as beings endowed with avian features. Such a scene is described, for instance, in the “Kusi xing”: 下有兩真人 舉翅翻高飛

(ll. 3–4) 62

63

64 65

Below there are two True Ones, Who raise their wings and soar on high.65

Shiji 28.1391. Max Kaltenmark suggests that the notion of feathered immortals was directly inherited from ancient religious concepts regarding the eastern barbarians, the Yi 夷, who were considered to look like birds. These “birdlike” barbarians inhabited the eastern coast of China—the region where belief in the isles of immortals arose and from where most of the early Han fangshi came (Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 13–17). The concept of winged immortals is also linked to the ecstatic traditions that played a key part in the formation of the immortality cult. All over the ancient world feathers and wings are the mark of a shaman and a symbol of his ability to transcend the world and communicate freely between the cosmic spheres. The image of winged immortals in Han art is studied by He Xilin in “Handai yishu zhong de yuren ji qi xiangzheng yiyi”; a plethora of pictorial material is collected in Finsterbusch, Verzeichnis und Motivindex der Han-Darstellungen (see “Geflügeltes Wesen” in the indexes). Chuci buzhu 5.167. Lu Qinli, 439.

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In the “Quche pian” he diverges from the traditional account of the Yellow Emperor’s ascent into heaven on the back of a dragon and pictures him undergoing a zoomorphic transformation instead: 餐霞漱沆瀣 毛羽被身形

(ll. 23–24)

He partook of the aurorae, rinsed his mouth with Drifting Flow, And fur and feathers then mantled the form of his body.66

The immortals on Penglai described in Mu Hua’s “Hai fu” (Fu on the Sea) likewise appear dressed in “plumes and pinions, dangling and drooping” 被羽翮之 襂纚.67 The late third-century author Qian Xiu in his eulogy on Wangzi Qiao and Master Redpine pictures the two immortals in abstract philosophical terms but nevertheless endows them with wings to carry them to the celestial heights: 乃翔靈墳 鳥象人聲

(ll. 9–10)

And now they hover above the Numinous Mound, With bird features and human voices.68 (“Wang Qiao Chisong song” 王喬赤松頌)

Throughout early medieval poetry, plumes and wings remained a hallmark of the immortals’ appearance. Feathers, which facilitate and symbolize flight, also commonly figure in the dress of the immortals and in the canopies and banners surrounding their chariots, of which more is be said below. The Far-Off Journey The transformation into a higher, transcendental immortal being is generally depicted in poetry as a flight into the higher reaches of the universe. As indicated by the name of the youxian category in the Wenxuan, roaming (you), with general connotations of leisurely, easy and playful wandering, was considered to be the hallmark of immortality poetry. Indeed, besides the title “Youxian,” verse dealing with the subject of immortality often bears titles indicative of cosmic travels, such as “Yuanyou,” or “Distant Journey,” (two sao poems contained in the Chuci and one song by Cao Zhi), “Wuyou” 五遊, or “Fivefold Roaming” (a song by Cao Zhi); “Shengtian” 升天, or “Ascending to 66 67 68

Lu Qinli, 435. Wenxuan 12.551. Quan Jin wen 84.7b.

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Heaven” (songs by Cao Zhi, Bao Zhao, the sixth-century poet Liu Xiaosheng 劉 孝勝, and Lu Sidao); “Lingxiao” 凌霄, or “Skimming the Empyrean” (a fu by Lu Ji); “Dengxia” 登遐, or “Climbing the Distant” (a cycle of eulogies by Lu Yun); “Qingju” 輕舉, or “Rising Lightened” (a poem by the sixth century poet Wang Bao); and “Shengxian” 昇仙, or “Rising to Immortality” (a poem by Xiao Gang). The attainment of immortality is commonly designated in poetry by expressions such as dengxian 登仙 (“climb to immortality”), dengtian 登天 (“climb to heaven”), and shengxia 升遐 (“ascend the distant”), which indicate upward movement from earth to higher heavenly zones. The descriptions of the unrestrained cosmic wanderings in early Daoist texts such as the Zhuangzi and the Huainanzi served as one of the major sources of the poets. The term “free and easy roaming” (xiaoyao you 逍遙遊) appears time and again in these earlier works as a hallmark of the ideal Daoist personality. To cite but two examples: He [the Accomplished Man, zhiren] drives on clouds and qi, rides astride sun and moon and roams beyond the four seas. 乘雲氣,騎日月,而遊乎四海之外。69

Lightning is his lash, thunder makes the wheels of his chariot. Above he roams in the wilds of the vast empyrean, below he emerges from the gates of the boundless. 電以為鞭策,雷以為車輪,上游於霄雿之野,下出於無垠之門。70

The unrestrained flight through the universe here epitomizes ultimate freedom, spontaneity, and cosmic potency. Of equal, if not more crucial, importance to representations of immortality are the descriptions of distant celestial journeys developed in the poetry of the Chuci anthology. Accounts of cosmic journeys, which David Hawkes calls itineraria, were one of the major themes in the Chuci poetical tradition.71 In basic form the itineraria involve a magical flight through the sky in a chariot drawn by flying dragons or a phoenix, accompanied by a retinue of gods and spirits that the traveler commands at will. This theme is well developed in the most ancient poems of the Chuci anthology—in the “Jiuge”—which are believed to 69 70 71

Zhuangzi jishi 2.96. Huainanzi 1.9. Hawkes, “The Quest of the Goddess.”

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have been designed to accompany an invocation ritual, perhaps a religious dance or pantomime.72 The magic journey in these chants is intimately connected with their major theme—namely the shaman’s quest for the deity. The cosmic journey, which had originally been associated with ecstatic cults, easily lent itself to being adopted and modified to very different purposes in subsequent poetry. For instance, the “Lisao” took over and further developed this theme, along with the theme of the quest of a “Fair One” (meiren 美人). In Qu Yuan’s long autobiographical poem, the theme of celestial travel is no longer primarily connected with a religious ceremony; rather, it has been partly secularized and transformed into an allegorical expression of the poet’s resentments and sorrows, of his “flight from a corrupt society and a foolish and faithless prince.”73 In the “Yuanyou” the celestial flight becomes associated with xian immortality and is further transformed into a cosmic circuit undertaken by a Daoist adept that leads to his ecstatic merging with the Dao. In the court milieu of the Han emperors, the heavenly journey theme, which often interweaves with the theme of immortality, was further elaborated and adopted for the flattery and delectation of rulers, depicting them as omnipotent masters of the cosmos who moved through it with utmost ease, surrounded by splendid retinues and numerous deities. Much of the verse on immortality from the Wei and Jin periods consciously draws on the Chuci poetic idiom, but limited by the more concise shi or yuefu forms, the poets adopt and develop only a single motif from the cosmic journey. A popular topos is the description of the hero’s splendid celestial entourage. A poem on the theme of immortality by Xi Kang represents a variation on such a fantastic journey, adapting it to the more austere poetics of the archaistic four-syllable form:

4

72 73

四言詩十一首

Four-Syllable Poems, Eleven Poems #10

羽化華岳 超遊清霄 雲蓋習習 六龍飄飄 左配椒桂 右綴蘭苕

I grow feathers on Mount Hua, And journey through the clear heavens. The cloud canopy softly rustles, My six dragons whirl and soar. To the left I match pepper and cassia flowers, To the right I hang thoroughwort and trumpet creepers.

Hawkes, The Songs of the South, 95–97; Peng Yi, Chuci quanwei ji, 187 ff. Hawkes, “The Quest of the Goddess,” 87.

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8

12

Lingyang leads the way,74 Wangzi escorts my chariot. Affection for the great mountains, This is the essential for the True One. Take things as equal, nurture life, Roam at one with the Dao, free and easy.75

This poem combines Chuci imagery and diction with more philosophical ideas in the last two couplets, which are drawn from the Zhuangzi. The metamorphosis into a winged being on Mount Hua described in the first line and the immortal personages of Lingyang Ziming and Wangzi Qiao mentioned later in the poem associate the celestial procession with the theme of xian immortality. The rich imagery, which includes cloud canopies, harnessed dragons, aromatic plants, and a divine entourage, all go back to the Chuci. The left-right formula in the third couplet recurs in the Chuci and in Han fu as a standard device for orderly enumeration and positioning in space. Xi Kang however transposes the Chuci-like description of celestial wanderings onto four-syllable shi form, and his account is much more condensed. Levitation and Fantastic Steeds The immortals’ ascension to heaven could be achieved in various ways. Very often the immortals soar up in the distant void totally unaided, lifted by their own wings or by their mastery of esoteric techniques. In a poem on immortality by Xi Kang, from which two couplets are cited below, conventional bird imagery interweaves with Daoist methods of levitation: 輕舉翔區外 濯翼扶桑津

(ll. 7–8) 毛羽翕光新 一縱發開陽

(ll. 15–16)

74 75 76

Lightened I rise, soar beyond the world, And wash my wings in the Fusang ford. Smoothing down and feathers, fresh and glossy, I beat them and dash off to the Kaiyang star.76 (“Wuyan shi sanshou” 五言詩三首 #3)

Lingyang 淩陽 is the immortal Lingyang Ziming 陵陽子明, whose life is included in the Liexian zhuan (Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 158; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 183–187). “Siyan shi shiyi shou,” Lu Qinli, 485. Lu Qinli, 489. Kaiyang 開陽 is the sixth star of the Dipper.

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The expression qingju 輕舉 (“to rise lightened”) in the first couplet cited here recurs in early medieval descriptions of the flight of the immortals. It already appeared at the beginning of the “Yuanyou,” where the hero states his wish to “rise lightened and roam afar …” (yuan qingju er yuanyou 願輕舉而遠遊).77 This phrase is not merely a poetic figure of speech but a technical term for a specific type of levitation. In Daoist texts it denotes a certain technique of lightening the body, which enables the adept to float through the air. In the Baopuzi neipian the effects of the Cold Elixir (handan 寒丹) of immortality are described as follows: Take one spatula a day for one hundred days and you will become an immortal. Immortal boys and girls will come to wait upon you, you will fly and rise lightened without using wings.78 服一刀圭,百日仙也。仙童仙女來侍,飛行輕舉,不用羽翼。

Numerous examples are found throughout early medieval verse, where the act of qingju typically leads to roaming into otherworldly spheres: 萬里不足步 輕舉凌太虛

(ll. 11–12) 獻酬既已周 輕舉乘紫霞

(ll. 15–16) 輕舉觀滄海 眇邈去瀛洲

(ll. 5–6)

Ten thousand miles don’t match one step of mine, Rising lightened, I skim the Grand Void.79 (Cao Zhi, “Xianren pian”) When toasting each other went around, Lightened they soar, mount the purple auroras.80 (Lu Ji, “Qian huansheng ge” 前緩聲歌) Rising lightened, I survey the grey-green sea, Far-off I travel to the isle of Yingzhou.81 (Yu Chan, “Youxian shi” #4)

Another common way for the protagonist to go beyond the human world is through the method of chengqiao 乘蹻, translated freely below as “with soaring steps”: 77 78 79 80 81

Chuci buzhu 5.163. Baopuzi neipian jiaoshi 4.75. Lu Qinli, 434. Lu Qinli, 665. Lu Qinli, 875.

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乘蹻萬里之外 去留隨意所欲存

(ll. 13–14) 不凡陽侯 乘蹻絕往

(ll. 201– 202)

With soaring steps beyond ten thousand miles, Stay or leave at will, whatever we wish becomes actual.82 (Cao Zhi, “Guizhi shu xing” 桂之樹行) Without drifting on Lord Yang’s billows, One may break away with soaring steps.83 (Mu Hua, “Hai fu”)

The phrase chengqiao (lit. “mount the sandals”) has been interpreted in varying ways. Most commentators agree that the qiao (alternative reading jue, lit. “straw sandals,” “clogs”) are a kind of magic sandals, or “seven-league” boots, that carry one over great distances in no time. Consequently, the phrase chengqiao is commonly translated as “mount the magic stilts.”84 On the other hand, Ge Hong describes the method of chengqiao as a kind of levitation resulting from mental concentration, which allows the adept to cover great distances in a single day and night without being hindered by mountains or rivers. The passage in question reads: The one who masters chengqiao could go around all under Heaven, not being obstructed by mountains or rivers. There are altogether three kinds of the art of chengqiao: the first is called dragon qiao, the second tiger qiao, and the third deer qiao. If talismans fu are consumed and the thoughts are purified, and you want to pass one thousand miles, you should concentrate upon it for one watch. If you keep the concentration for all the twelve watches of a day and a night, you could pass in one day and night twelve thousand miles. You cannot go further than this distance. If you want to go further, you should repeat the concentration as described above. 若能乘蹻者,可以周流天下,不拘山河。凡乘蹻道有三法:一曰龍 蹻,二曰虎蹻,三曰鹿盧蹻。或服符精思,若欲行千里,則以一時思 之。若晝夜十二時思之,則可以一日一夕行萬二千里,亦不能過此, 過此當更思之,如前法。85 82 83 84 85

Lu Qinli, 437–438. In Daoism the verb cun 存 technically means “to visualize,” or more precisely “to actualize through concentrated visualization.” Wenxuan 12.551. Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 46–47 and 111–14, and Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals,” 39, follow this interpretation. Baopuzi neipian jiaoshi 15.275 and 15.282, n. 63. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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This passage makes it clear that the art of chengqiao does not involve wearing any sort of magic sandals or stilts, but the ingestion of talismans, purification of the mind, and concentrative meditation (si 思) instead. When the ascent to heaven is effected by more tangible means, it is commonly dragons (long 龍 or the female hornless dragon qi 螭) that carry the immortals away: [淮南八公] 參駕六龍 遊戲雲端

(ll. 23–24) 王喬棄我去 乘雲駕六龍

(ll. 7–8) 齊駕飛龍驂赤螭 逍遙五岳間

(ll. 31–32)

[The King of Huainan and the eight sires] Driving a carriage of six dragons, They rove and play at the end of clouds.86 (“Shanzai xing”) Wang Qiao abandoned me and took his leave, Mounting the clouds with six dragons.87 (Xi Kang, “Youxian shi”) Together, we harness flying male dragons, drive crimson female dragons, Roam and ramble among the Five Marchmounts.88 (Fu Xuan, “Yunzhong Bai Zigao xing” 雲中白子高行)

Such heavenly ascent on dragons had been accomplished by the Yellow Emperor, who soared as an immortal into the sky on the back of a dragon.89 The dragon-drawn equipage is also a common image in the poetry and religious beliefs of ancient Chu. A carriage harnessed with flying dragons is the usual means of transportation for the deities and shamans in the “Jiuge” and for the celestial travelers on their magic-making journeys in the rest of the Chuci anthology.90 Dragon mounts seem to be typical for the Chuci tradition; they hardly appear at all in the Zhuangzi or the Huainanzi. Besides dragons, in poetry we often encounter cranes (he 鶴) as a favored steed of immortals. The image of the crane was adopted from Han hagiographic sources. The white crane is generally an attribute of Wangzi Qiao—according 86 87 88 89 90

Yuefu shiji 36.535–36. Lu Qinli, 488. Lu Qinli, 564. Shiji 12.465 and 28.1394. The Lord within the Clouds (Yunzhong jun 雲中君), the Greater Master of Fate (Da Siming 大司命), the Lord of the East (Dongjun 東君), the Earl of the Yellow River (Hebo 河 伯), and the shaman looking for the princess of Xiang—they all soar and wander around the sky in dragon-drawn cars.

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to the Liexian zhuan, he ascended to heaven on the back of such a bird.91 Quite naturally, the crane is often associated with him in poetry: 乘螭龍 載鶴輧

He would ride on a hornless dragon, Or drive in a car pulled by a crane.92 (Cai Yong, “Wangzi Qiao bei”)

Wang Can 王粲 (177–217), one of the most distinguished poets of the Jian’an period, devotes a fu to the white crane (“Baihe fu” 白鶴賦), surrounding the bird with immortality lore and praising its transcendental nature. Only six lines are extant: 白翎稟靈龜之脩壽 資儀鳳之純精 接王喬於湯谷 駕赤松於扶桑 餐靈岳之瓊蘂 吸雲表之露漿

Its white plumes received the longevity of the numinous turtle, and are endowed with the pure essence of the noble phoenix. It meets Wang Qiao at the Dawn Valley, And carries Redpine to the Fusang tree. It eats rose-gem stamens from the Numinous Mount, Drinks dew liquor from beyond the clouds.93

In early medieval poetry the immortals are commonly depicted as riding more ethereal forces as well—whirling clouds, mists, haze, and auroras. All are potent forms of cosmic qi. When consumed as supreme nourishment, they transform the adept’s body; when mounted as steeds, their numinous energies carry him into the spheres beyond:

91 92 93 94 95

乘雲去中夏 隨風濟江湘

Mounting clouds, I leave the Central land, On the wind I cross the Xiang and Yangzi rivers.94 (Zhang Hua, “Youxian shi” #3)

乘彼六氣渺茫 輜駕赤水崑陽

Here I mount the six breaths into the Infinite, My carriage drives to the Crimson Stream, at the southern slope of Kunlun.95 (Yu Chan, “Youxian shi” #7)

Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 65. Quan Hou Han wen 75.3b. Quan Han fu, 678; Yiwen leiju 90. Lu Qinli, 621. Lu Qinli, 875. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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These accounts from the late third century resemble the atmospheric steeds of the divine men described in the Zhuangzi and the Huainanzi. The celestial deities in the oldest Chuci poems likewise moved on clouds, whirlwinds, and thunder. Take, for instance, the heavenly progress of the Greater Master of Fate (Da Siming 大司命): 廣開兮天門 紛吾乘兮玄雲 令飄風兮先驅 使涷雨兮灑塵

(ll. 1–4)

Open wide the Gates of Heaven! I mount a dark cloud in a flurry, Bidding the whirlwind to charge ahead, Commanding the rainstorm to sprinkle the dust.96

The xian immortals customarily ride on auspiciously colored clouds and mists in all hues of red, which are all forms of solar yang energy. Cao Cao depicts his ascent into the heavens in the following terms: 駕虹蜺 乘赤雲

(ll. 1–2)

I harness both colored and pale rainbows, And ride on crimson clouds.97 (“Moshang sang”)

The image of the rainbow in the first line suggests the prismatic colors that symbolize totality in all its aspects. The crimson color of the clouds is associated with the potent yang energies of the sun. Purple-hued atmospheric phenomena are also favored steeds of immortals: 獻酬既已周 輕舉乘紫霞

(ll. 15–16) 赤松臨上遊 駕鴻乘紫煙

(ll. 9–10) 96 97

98 99

When toasting each other went around, Lightened they soar, mount the purple auroras.98 (Lu Ji, “Qian huansheng ge”) Redpine oversees his ramble upwards. Riding a swan, he mounts the purple mist.99 (Guo Pu, “Youxian shi” #3)

Chuci buzhu 2.68. Lu Qinli, 348. Compare with similar passages in the Chuci, for example, Wang Bao’s “Jiuhuai” #9: 乘虹驂蜺兮 I mount a male rainbow, harness a female rainbow, 載雲變化 Supported by clouds, I transform. (Chuci buzhu 15.279) Lu Qinli, 665. Lu Qinli, 865. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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Purple (zi 紫) in Daoist literature is the color of the zenith, which represents the merging of the two cosmic principles—yin and yang—and thus symbolizes “cosmic totality and wholeness” and spiritual fulfilment.100 “Purple auroras” (zixia 紫霞) are visually perceptible yang emanations, streaming from the source of sunlight in the eastern sky, while “purple mist” (ziyan 紫煙) is a pure emanation of the celestial pole of the Purple Tenuity. Spontaneity and Swiftness An aspect of the state of immortality that is incessantly emphasized by early medieval poets is the absolute freedom of movement that transcends all spatial confinements. The journeys of the immortals are typically perceived in the spirit of the “free and easy wandering” (xiaoyao you 逍遙遊) described in the Zhuangzi: 遨遊八極 乃到崑崙之山

(ll. 18–19) 遺物棄鄙累 逍遙遊太和

(ll. 19–20)

Over the Eight Limits we roam and ramble, Until we reach Mount Kunlun.101 (Cao Cao, “Qichu chang” #2) Discard the things, reject the worldly tethers, Wander free and easy in the Grand Harmony.102 (Xi Kang, “Da Er Guo” 答二郭 #2)

The expression xiaoyao 逍遥, also written 消搖, is commonly translated as “free and easy” or “footloose and fancy-free.” It carries connotations of being “directionless” or “random,” as in the Huainanzi: “In ten thousand directions, with a hundred changes, wandering [without direction] (xiaoyao), without a place to settle” 萬方百變,消搖而無所定.103 Such spontaneous and unpredictable motion appears everywhere in the Zhuangzi as the epitome of purposeless action, wuwei.104 It is without intent or direction, retaining therefore infinite unrealized possibilities. 100

101 102 103 104

Kroll, “Li Po’s Purple Haze,” 36; “The Light of Heaven,” 6. On the symbolism of the color purple in ancient China, see also Porkert, “Untersuchungen einiger philosophisch-wissenschaftlicher Grundbegriffe,” 439–441. Lu Qinli, 345. Lu Qinli, 487. The Grand Harmony (Taihe) is the original state of undifferentiated yin and yang. Huainan honglie jijie 1.34. For instance: “The Accomplished Ones of old … travelled through the void of xiaoyao … Xiaoyao is Non-action, wuwei” 古之至人,… 以遊逍遙之虛, … 逍遙, 無為也。 (Zhuangzi jishi 14.519).

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The free and spontaneous character of these wanderings is reflected in the two-syllable verbal compounds commonly used to describe the movement of the immortals. They generally convey a sense of soaring, whirling movement, drifting along the wind (piaopiao 飄飄, piaoyao 飄颻), or floating along water (liulang 流浪). Similar connotations are also carried by the verb 浮, “to float.” These verbs indicate a kind of movement that takes place without conscious intention or effort and in accord with the natural flow of the cosmos: 飄颻雲日间 邈與世路殊

(ll. 9–10) 豈若遺世物 登明遂飄颻

(ll. 9–10) 飄飄靈仙 兹焉遊集

(ll. 5–6)

Whirling and swirling between the sun and the clouds, Distant, they keep apart from the worldly ways.105 (Ruan Ji, “Yonghuai shi” #41) Isn’t it better to discard the things of this world And mount in brightness, whirling and swirling about.106 (Ruan Ji, “Yonghuai shi” #81) He soared and drifted as a numinous immortal, Thereupon he roams and rests.107 (Yuan Hong, “Shan Daokai zan” 單道開贊)

At the same time the flight of the immortals is depicted in poetry as wild and dizzying, imbued with extreme dynamic charge. The expression shuhu 倏忽 (“in a blink, in a flash, instantly”) is often used to convey the abrupt and instantaneous nature of their movement through the cosmic levels: 輕舉乘浮雲 倏忽行萬億

(ll. 9–10) 曜靈未移景 倏忽造昊蒼

(ll. 9–10) 105 106 107 108 109

Lightened you’ll soar, mount the floating clouds, In a blink you’ll travel millions of miles.108 (Cao Pi, “Zhe yangliu xing”) The blazing numen has not moved its rays yet, As instantly we reach the grey-green sky.109 (Cao Zhi, “Wuyou yong” 五遊詠)

Lu Qinli, 504. Lu Qinli, 510. Quan Jin wen 57.7a. Lu Qinli, 393. Lu Qinli, 433–434.

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煉形去人俗 飄忽乘雲遊

Smelting my form I discard the profanity of men, In an instant I mount the clouds and roam.110 (Yu Chan, “Shi” 詩)

The ability to travel great distances in a short time is a primary sign of the immortals’ mastery over space and time and is an important topos in their hagiographies. Moreover, in ancient Chinese poetry it pertains to the numinous in general. Such unexpected, sudden movement also characterized the deities in Chuci poetry: 靈皇皇兮既降 猋遠舉兮雲中

(ll. 9–10)

The numen has just descended in august splendor, As off in the whirlwind he soars, far into the clouds.111 (“Yunzhong jun” from the “Jiuge”)

The extreme dynamism of the immortals’ flights is expressed through the image of splitting asunder everything in their way—they “scatter the light mists” (sa qingwu 洒輕霧) and “scatter the everlasting wind” (sa changfeng 灑長風).112 In particular, the verb pai 排 (‘to push apart,” “to push aside,” or “to push open”) is frequently used to indicate the passage from one level of the universe to another: 意欲奮六翮 排霧陵紫虛

(ll. 3–4) 神僊排雲出 但見金銀臺

(ll. 5–6) 松子排煙去

110 111 112 113 114

I wish to spread my six wings, Push the mists apart and skim the Purple Void.113 (Cao Zhi, “Youxian”) Divine immortals push the clouds apart and come forth, Suddenly I behold terraces of gold and silver.114 (Guo Pu “Youxian shi” #6) Master Redpine pushed the haze apart and took his leave,

Lu Qinli, 876. Chuci buzhu 2.58. For these expressions, see Huan Tan’s “Xian fu” and Cao Pi’s “Huangdi zan,” respectively. Lu Qinli, 456. Lu Qinli, 866.

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 英靈眇難測

(ll. 1–2)

His brilliant numen, distant, can hardly be fathomed.115 (Shen Yue, “Chisongzi jian” 赤松子澗)

The swift flight of the immortals enables them to traverse freely the cosmic zones and communicate between the levels of existence, between the worlds of man and gods. Their voyage carries them to the most distant quarters of the world and to the mythical places described in the Shanhai jing and the Chuci: 東觀扶桑曜 西臨弱水流 北極登玄渚 南翔陟丹邱

(ll. 9–12)

In the east I’ll watch the blaze of the Fusang tree,116 In the west approach the Weak Water’s stream. Advancing in the north, climb the Dark Islet,117 Soaring in the south, ascend the Cinnabar Hill.118 (Cao Zhi, “Youxian”)

The poet, picturing himself as an immortal, freely traverses a symmetrical cosmos schematically defined by the landmarks of its cardinal directions. His visit, in due order, of the four directions is modelled on the cosmic journeys described in the “Yuanyou” of the Chuci and in Zhang Heng’s “Sixuan fu.” In “Yonghuai shi” #73 Ruan Ji similarly depicts an immortal as an unrestrained master of space: 朝起瀛洲野 日夕宿明光

115 116

117

118 119 120

At dawn he rises from the Yingzhou wilds,119 And at evening he lodges in the Luminous Rays.120

Lu Qinli, 1639. Fusang 扶桑 is the mythical mulberry tree in the east, on the branches of which the ten suns perch and from which a sun rises every morning. For descriptions, see Shanhai jing jiaozhu 9.260 and 14.354; Huainan honglie jijie 3.108 and 4.149. The Dark Islet, Xuanzhu 玄渚, had previously appeared in Zhang Heng’s “Xijing fu” 西京賦 (Fu on the Western Capital) among the mythical haunts of the immortals (Wenxuan 2.60). Lu Qinli, 456. The Cinnabar Hill (Danqiu 丹邱) is, according to the “Yuanyou” of the Chuci, situated in the far south and is the home of winged immortals. One of the three isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea. The mythical place called Luminous Rays (Mingguang 明光) appears earlier in the “Tonglu” 通路 poem of the “Jiuhuai” cycle from the Chuci, where it is glossed as being located at the “Cinnabar peak of the farthest east” 東極之丹巒 (Chuci buzhu 15.270). Wang Yi’s commentary on the “Yuanyou” identifies it with the Cinnabar Hill, home of the winged immortals (ibid., 5.167).

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Chapter 3

再撫四海外 羽翼自飛揚

(ll. 3–6)

Twice he skims beyond the four seas,121 On his own wings flying high above.122

Ruan Ji here adopts the Zhuangzi’s description of the swiftness of the human mind to convey the instantaneous and unrestricted movement of the immortals. The immortal crosses the surface of the whole earth twice in a single day, skimming the four seas, encircling the world, and visiting the mythical landmarks of the east and southeast. Immortals’ Feasts In a fragmentary poem on “Roaming in Immortality,” the late third-century author Zhang Hua depicts a scene that differs considerably from the visions of immortality I have discussed until now:

4

遊仙詩 #2

Roaming into Immortality #2

玉佩連浮星 輕冠結朝霞 列坐王母堂 豔體飡瑤華

Jade pendants are stringed of floating stars, Light headdresses are braided from dawn auroras. In ranks we sit in Queen Mother’s hall, To beautify our bodies we feast on azure-gem blossoms.123 The Xiang Consort chants the “Crossing of the River,”124 The Han Maiden plays the “Southern Bank.”125

湘妃詠涉江 漢女奏陽阿 121

122 123 124

125

This is a quote from Zhuangzi 11.371: “It [man’s heart-mind, renxin 人心] is so swift that between a glance up and a glance down it has twice brushed against the four seas and beyond” 其疾俛仰之間而再撫四海之外. Lu Qinli, 509. In Yiwen leiju 78 the line reads 豔飡瓊瑤華, “Our splendid fare is azure- and rose-gem blossoms.” On Xiangfei, the Consort from River Xiang, see chapter 2, n. 85. “Crossing of the River” (“Shejiang” 涉江) is the name of a melody from the ancient kingdom of Chu. It is mentioned in the “Zhaohun” 招魂 (Summons of the Soul, dated by D. Hawkes to between 277 BC and 248 BC) as one of the “latest songs,” which were sung by girl musicians at a lively party. “Shejiang” is also the title of a poem from the “Jiuzhang” 九章 cycle of the Chuci, probably composed by a poet a generation younger than Qu Yuan. Lu Qinli, 621. “Southern Bank” (“Yang’e” 陽阿) is a Chu melody, which is listed together with the “Crossing of the River” in the “Zhaohun” poem of the Chuci anthology. There the variant 揚荷 is used.

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The immortals are pictured here neither as incessant celestial travelers nor as withdrawn mystics, but as merry participants in a splendid feast and concert in the Queen Mother’s paradise. Bedecked in precious jewels—stars and auroras—and accompanied by goddesses, they enjoy divine food and enchanting musical performances. The last couplet goes back to the Chuci tradition—both goddesses and the melodies they perform belong to ancient Chu lore. Zhang Hua’s poem is a typical example of yet another portrayal of immortality prominent in early medieval texts. The state of xian immortality can also be envisioned as a blissful feast in one of the paradise lands at the ends of the world—Kunlun or Penglai—which unfailingly includes music and dance. Festive scenes involving music and song performed by female attendants also figure in prose accounts of meetings between female divinities and mortal men—such as the Queen Mother’s visit to Emperor Wu of Han, as described in the Han Wudi neizhuan.126 Early Chinese texts give evidence to the central importance of music in ritual and court ceremonies as a means of establishing contact with the cosmic spirits and divinities and of celebrating and reaffirming this communication.127 The association of music with divine presence is also attested to in the earliest layers of the Chuci anthology, specifically in the chants from the “Jiuge” cycle. The first of these songs describes a religious ceremony devoted to the god Taiyi, the Grand Monad, which comprises a ritual banquet with food offerings and libations of wine, music performed on pipes and zithers, and the song and dance of priestesses, all to please this deity. An evocative scene of ecstatic dance and song that induce the spirits to descend is also pictured in the seventh song from the cycle, which is devoted to the ancient sun god of Chu, the Lord of the East (Dongjun): 緪瑟兮交鼓 簫鍾兮瑤廪 鳴䶵兮吹竽 思靈保兮賢姱 翾飛兮翠曾 展詩兮會舞 應律兮合節

126 127

Tighten the zither’s strings and smite them in unison! Strike the bells until the bell-stand rocks! Let the flutes sound! Blow the pan-pipes! See the priestesses, how skilled and lovely, Whirling and dipping like birds in flight, Unfolding the words in time to dancing, Pitch and beat all in perfect accord!

Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 142–143. For a comprehensive discussion of musical thought in early China, see deWoskin, A Song for One or Two. More specific aspects are discussed by Brindley in “Music, Cosmos, and the Development of Psychology in Early China” and Sterckx in “Transforming the Beasts.”

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Chapter 3 靈之來兮蔽日

(ll. 11–18)

The spirits, descending, darken the sky.128

Banquet scenes with music and dance form an integral part of longer descriptions of celestial journeys in other compositions included in the Chuci anthology and in Han fu. An early account of a divine musical performance is found in the “Yuanyou”: As Zhu Rong admonished me, I turned the yoke around— 騰告鸞鳥迎宓妃 Then send word to a simurgh to invite Consort Fu. 使湘靈鼓瑟兮 I bid the numen of Xiang to strike the zither, 令海若舞馮夷 And ordered Hai Ruo to dance with Ping Yi.129 張咸池奏承雲兮 The “All Encompassing Pond” was set forth, “Receiving the Clouds” performed,130 二女御九韶歌 The Two Maidens presented the Nine Shao Songs.131 玄螭蟲象並出進兮 A dark hornless dragon and a water wyvern emerged together and advanced,132 祝融戒而還衡兮

128 129

130

131

132

Chuci buzhu 2.75; trans. Hawkes, The Songs of the South, 113. Hai Ruo 海若 is the god of the Northern Sea. Ping Yi 馮夷 is traditionally identified with Hebo, the Earl of the Yellow River (Gao You’s commentary to Huainanzi 11.362). Shanhai jing 12.316 gives his name as Bing Yi 冰夷 and depicts him with a human face and riding two dragons. The “Xianchi” 咸池 (alternative reading “Xianshi,” All Encompassing Pond) melody is variously identified as the music of the Yellow Emperor or of Emperor Yao. According to Zheng Xuan’s 鄭玄 commentary to Shiji 24.1199, the Yellow Emperor invented it and Yao revised it. It is considered to be the “perfect” music, beiyue 備樂 or zhiyue 至樂. A splendid early description of Xianchi music is found in Zhuangzi jishi 14.501–508 (trans. Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, 156–158), where it is equated with the music of the cosmos and the flux of changes. A melody entitled “Chengyun” 承雲 (Receiving the Clouds) is associated with the Yellow Emperor. The Two Maidens are E Huang 娥媓 and Nü Ying 女英, the two daughters of Yao and wives to Shun, who became goddesses of the Xiang River. The “Jiushao” 九韶 is the dance music attributed to Shun. In the text of the “Yuanyou” the sequence of the second and third couplets is reversed. I follow the emendation of Wen Yiduo, who first suggested that the couplets should be transposed due to considerations of rhyme (Chuci jiaobu 楚辭 校補 in Wen Yiduo quanji, vol. 2, 440). D. Hawkes (The Songs of the South, 198) and P. Kroll (“On ‘Far Roaming,’” 663) in their respective translations also comply with this proposition. Wang Yi equates chongxiang 蟲象 with the mythical animal wangxiang 罔象, which is a water monster mentioned, for instance, in Guoyu 5.201 and Huainan honglie jijie 13.458.

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Their forms coiling and curling, sinuously snaking. The female rainbow wheeled and reeled in multifold vaults, 鸞鳥軒翥而翔飛 Simurghs smoothly soared, hovering in flight. 音樂博衍無終極兮 The music swelled and spread, beyond limits, beyond end, 焉乃逝㠯俳佪 Upon which I departed to wander hither and thither.133 (ll. 149–160) 形蟉虬而逶蛇 雌蜺便娟㠯增撓兮

The concert and dance are here performed by river divinities—the goddesses of the Luo and Xiang Rivers, the gods of the Yellow River and of the Northern Sea, and the water monster chongxiang. The melodies played are the most hallowed ancient music associated with the Yellow Emperor and with the sage Emperors Yao and Shun. The music draws divine creatures of the water and air to join the dance—dark dragons, rainbows, and auspicious luan birds. The musical performance described in the “Yuanyou” is conceived as one of the stages on the protagonist’s path towards immortality: it takes place toward the end of his cosmic circuit, immediately before the hero is transported to the realm of the north, from which he then further travels beyond all bounds, shapes, and sounds into the mystic zone of the Grand Primordium (Taichu 太初) at the cosmic origins. Paul Kroll has noted the special place of this musical interlude in the narrative structure of the poem. He links the euphoria produced by the concert with the ecstasy achieved through the dance of the shaman and emphasizes the ability of music to exalt the listener to zones beyond linguistic or rational distinction.134 The abrupt, intuitive breakthrough to the primordial origins at the culmination of the heavenly journey is, in his view, facilitated by the rapture caused by music. In fact, the Taiping jing, partially dating from the late Han, explicitly lists music as a technique for attaining immortality, alongside other methods such as living morally, meditating, and using drugs and talismans. Music ultimately allows one to achieve transcendence: “When raising the music, the one who has attained its supreme significance will be able to transcend the world” 故舉 樂,得其上意者,可以度世.135 133 134 135

Chuci buzhu 5.172–173. Kroll, “On ‘Far Roaming,’” 658. Taiping jing hejiao, 634. A similar idea is also expressed in Taiping jing hejiao, 588. The notion of music as a longevity practice in the Taiping jing is briefly discussed in Kaltenmark, “The Ideology of the T’ai-p’ing ching,” 44.

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Scenes depicting feasts in the presence of immortals and divinities, similar to the one described in the “Yuanyou,” commonly occur in other Chuci compositions and in Han fu within depictions of cosmic journeys, and they often are connected with the theme of immortality. Similarly to the “Yuanyou,” they typically take place at the narrative’s turning point. In Zhang Heng’s “Sixuan fu,” for example, after a celestial concert in the Rose-gem Palace (Qionggong 瓊宮) of the Celestial Sovereign, the protagonist is able to soar up to the last and highest stage of his journey to complete a circuit of the heavenly constellations and stars. Music-induced rapture might not only lift the protagonist even higher but might also cause a dramatic return from the celestial heights back to the human world. An example of the latter narrative plot is contained in the anonymous “Xishi” (Sorrow for the Oath Betrayed) poem from the Chuci anthology, which is probably of a slightly later date than the “Yuanyou.” The first part describes an exhilarating flight through the whole cosmos. In the wilds of Shaoyuan 少原 the protagonist meets the two immortals Wangzi Qiao and Redpine and sings to their accompaniment: And then we reached the wilds of Shaoyuan: Redpine and Wang Qiao both stood at my side. The two Masters held their zithers, harmoniously tuned, 余因稱乎清商 I then performed the clear shang air. 澹然而自樂兮 Calm and serene, I filled with inner joy, 吸眾氣而翱翔 Inhaling all the breaths, I soared on high. 念我長生而久僊兮 But then I thought that this eternal life, forever immortal, 不如反余之故鄉 Does not equal returning to my home of old.136 (ll. 27–34) 乃至少原之壄兮 赤松王喬皆在旁 二子擁瑟而調均兮

The second part of the poem enfolds down on earth, in the realm of corruption- and evil-afflicted worldly politics. The abrupt descent from the celestial heights back to the social concerns of the poet takes place during the enjoyment of music and song. As seen from the few examples cited above, the inclusion of music and dance is an essential feature of early medieval depictions of immortal feasts. The banquet itself—with rare delicacies, divine wines, and precious implements—may, or may not, be described, but music, song, and dance are unfailingly present. Music, in fact, can be regarded as an important attribute of 136

Chuci buzhu 11.229.

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the immortals, just like their plumed attire and precious stones. Most commonly, the poems depict immortals performing on string instruments such as the five-stringed zither (qin 琴) and a larger zither (se 瑟), as well as on wind instruments, especially the panpipes (xiao 簫) and the mouth organ (yu 竽). The opposite sex is ubiquitously integrated in accounts of entertainment of the immortals. Female goddesses associated with Chu lore appear most often, especially the goddesses of the Xiang River and Consort Fu (Fufei 宓妃)—the goddess of the Luo River. The immortal Nong Yu was another prominent female entertainer. Being the wife of the Flute Master Xiaoshi, she was naturally associated with music. Similarly to the “Yuanyou,” the female deities in subsequent poetry on immortality are no longer the object of a frustrated quest but partners in eternal bliss. In “Yonghuai shi” #23 Ruan Ji more explicitly pictures his immortals as “taking their ease in an orchid chamber” (xiaoyao yan lanfang 逍遥晏蘭房)—that is, practicing bedroom arts to maintain the proper equilibrium of their yin and yang elements. In the “Daren xiansheng zhuan” 大人先生傳 (Biography of Master Great Man), he describes at length such an amorous meeting at the end of a feast at the Purple Tenuity Palace: I will sweep out the Purple Palace and spread out the mats,137 坐帝室而忽會酬 Sit in the emperor’s chamber and … pledge him with wine. 萃眾音而奏樂兮 An orchestra is assembled to perform music, 聲驚渺而悠悠 And a voice, startling and immense, reverberates in the distance. 五帝舞而再屬兮 The Five Emperors dance and then assemble together; 六神歌而代週 The Six Spirits sing in alternating stanzas. 樂啾啾肅肅 The music is like the sound of cicadas or of the flapping of bird wings, 洞心達神 Going to the deepest parts of the heart and spirit. 超遙茫茫 It passes over far into the vast distance: 心往而忘返 The heart goes out to it and forgets to return. 慮大而志矜 The thousand thoughts expand and the ambitions swell with pride. 粵大人微而弗復兮 Then [I], the Great Man, become subtle and do not return; 揚雲氣而上陳 I raise cloud vapor and spread it above. 掃紫宮而陳席兮

137

The Purple Tenuity is also known as the Purple Palace (Zigong 紫宮).

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Chapter 3 召大幽之玉女兮 接上王之美人 體雲氣之逌暢兮 服太清之淑貞 合歡情而微授兮 先豔溢其若神

I summon the Jade Maiden of Great Darkness. And meet the Beauty of the King Above. Their bodies are as soft and pliant as cloud vapors, And their clothes, the chaste truth of Grand Purity. We unite our happy passions and communicate subtly; In an overflow of voluptuousness we become like spirits.138

The scene described in this passage is, similarly to the Chuci-type heavenly flights, an episode within the long celestial journey of the Great Man. His elated state comprises not only the rapture of music but also sexual ecstasy. Although more overtly erotic, this amorous scene is analogous to the feast attended by female deities described in the “Yuanyou.”139 From the end of the Han onward, the topic of the immortals’ feasts is also extensively treated in yuefu songs and lyrical poetry. Cao Zhi, for example, opens a song entitled “Xianren pian” with a blissful scene of feasting and gambling immortals: 仙人攬六著 對博太山隅 湘娥拊琴瑟 秦女吹笙竽 玉樽盈桂酒 河伯獻神魚 四海一何局 138 139 140

141

Immortals grasp six game-slats, They gamble amongst each other on the slopes of Mount Tai.140 The Xiang Beauty strums the zithers, The Qin Maiden blows the mouth organ.141 Jade goblets brim with cassia wine, The River Earl presents a divine fish. How much do the Four Seas confine!

Quan Sanguo wen 46.9b; trans. Holzman, Poetry and Politics, 201, here with minor terminological modifications. The amorous element is familiar from earlier compositions, such as Song Yu’s “Gaotang fu,” which revolves around a fleeting love encounter between a human and a divine lady. The game referred to is liubo 六博, current in China from the Warring States period until the Six Dynasties. It was played with dice and sticks on a special board. An account of the game occurs in the “Zhaohun” poem of the Chuci. Han immortals showed a special inclination toward this game. Representations of winged and feathered immortals playing it occur in many Han tombs and on bronze mirrors. See Käte Finsterbusch, Verzeichnis und Motivindex der Han-Darstellungen, under “Liu-po-Spiel” and “Hsien” (Genien beim Liupo-Spiel). For a description of the game, see L. S. Yang, “A Note on the So-Called TLV Mirrors and the Game Liu-po” and “An Additional Note on the Ancient Game of Liu-po.” The Qin Maiden (Qinnü 秦女) is the immortal Nong Yu, wife of the Flute Master, Xiaoshi.

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 九州安所如

(ll. 1–8)

Where to go in the Nine Lands?142

The scene described in this poem resembles depictions on late Han stone reliefs of immortals playing liubo. Here they are accompanied by divine beauties—the ancient Chu goddess of the Xiang River (here referred to as Xiang E, the Xiang Beauty) and the immortal Nong Yu—who play on string and wind instruments. The merriment includes the delights of wine and divine food presented by the god of the Yellow River himself. The feast of the immortals suddenly awakens the poet to the realization of his own human confinement and transience. Such an abrupt turn in the middle of the feast is similar to the narrative structure of some sao compositions mentioned above. From the late Han onward, many songs performed during banquets take as their theme immortality and often transpose the festive occasion into the paradise of immortals. An example is Cao Cao’s song “Qichu chang” #2: 華陰山自以為大 高百丈浮云為之蓋 仙人欲來 出隨風列之雨 吹我洞簫鼓瑟琴 何誾誾 酒與歌戲 今日相樂誠為樂 玉女起 起儛移數時 鼓吹一 何嘈嘈 從西北來時 仙道多駕煙 乘雲駕龍 鬱何蓩蓩 遨遊八極 乃到崑崙之山 西王母側 神仙金止玉亭

4

8

12

16

20

來者為誰 142

Mount Huayin is naturally considered grand, Hundred zhang in height, cloaked in drifting clouds. Immortals approach, Coming along the wind, in ranks like rain. Let us blow our panpipes! Strike the zithers! How soft and sweet! We revel with wine and song! Today we rejoice together—how joyful indeed! Jade maidens rise, Rise to dance, turning again and again. Drums and pipes mingle— How resonant, resounding! As they arrive from the northwest, Along the Way of Immortals, many ride on mists, Mount the clouds and ride on dragons. How densely they throng! Over the Eight Limits we roam and ramble, Until we reach Mount Kunlun. Beside the Queen Mother of the West The golden rests, the jade pavilions of the divine immortals. Who are those arriving?

Lu Qinli, 434.

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Chapter 3 赤松王喬 乃德旋之門 樂共飲食到黃昏 多駕合坐 萬歲長 宜子孫

24

Redpine and Wang Qiao. Then, at the Gate to the stars of Virtue and Jewel,143 In merry company we eat and drink till dusk. In swarms we ride, we sit together. For ten thousand years, forever, May you have sons and grandsons.144

The first part of the song takes place at the sacred Mount Hua, where the immortal multitudes gather to enjoy a feast with music and dance. The music exalts them to even higher spheres, to a journey to Kunlun, the residence of Xi Wangmu. A new feast is prepared, this time at the gates to the stars. It is attended by the immortals Redpine and Wangzi Qiao and lasts into eternity. The conventional felicitation at the end identifies this ballad as a song performed during a banquet, through which a blessing to the host or to the guests is addressed. Similar analogies between court banquets and feasts of the immortals are common in early medieval poetry, such as in several yuefu songs with the title “Huansheng ge” 緩聲歌 (Songs of Languid Music) or in the poetry of the Southern Dynasties, which I examine shortly hereafter. Immortality lore that also corresponds to a ruler’s desire for longevity, power, and grandeur seems to be particularly suitable for such occasions. Images of blissful merrymaking in the realm of the immortals thus became an elegant expression of flattery, gratitude, and good wishes to the convivial company relatively early on. The Hidden Immortal We have seen in the preceding chapter that sources from the Han, Wei, and Jin periods generally depict xian immortals as distant and secluded figures who reject the grime of the profane world, “cut off traces,” and sever their human 143

144

According to Zhu Jiazheng 朱嘉徵 (1602–1684), the expression dexuan 德旋 (“virtue circle”) means perfect virtue, endless in itself (Yuefu guangxu 8.6). Von den Steinen in “Poems of Ts’ao Ts’ao” speculates that this is the name of a hall (p. 172). On the other hand, Huang Jie suggests that De 德, Xuan 旋, and Men 門 are names of stars (Wei Wudi, 4). “De” is the Dexing 德星, Star of Virtue, which designates Saturn but might be applied to other stars as well. Xuan 旋 is equal to Xuan 璇, the second star of the Big Dipper—Merak. “Men” stands for the Nanmen xing 南門星, which consists of two stars—the Alpha and Gamma Centauri (Needham, Science and Civilisation, vol. 3, 238). Indeed, various stars often figure in descriptions of heavenly journeys. Due to the particle zhi, I do not translate “gate” (men) as the name of a star. Lu Qinli, 345–346. In a lengthy discussion of the phrase yi zisun 宜子孫, von den Steinen surveys its various connotations and proposes an alternative translation of the last line as “in concord with sons and grandsons” (von den Steinen, “Poems of Ts’ao Ts’ao,” 172–73).

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ties. Moreover, the necessity of leading a “reclusive life in absolute contemplation” far from the dust and din of the mundane world is emphasized by most texts on Daoist self-cultivation as a basic prerequisite of achieving immortality.145 Daoist-motivated reclusion flourished during the Wei and Jin periods, but already earlier, during the Han dynasty, the pursuit of longevity and immortality arts might have been an important factor for withdrawing from society.146 How then did early medieval poets describe the state of immortality as related to life in reclusion? I do not focus here on the connections between actual hermits and immortality arts as recorded in historical and hagiographical sources but on the relation between the literary, fictive images of the immortal and the recluse as fashioned in the poetry of the period. Although immortals in early Han poetry were depicted as being far beyond the human crowd, they were seldom conceived as hermits dwelling in solitude in remote mountains. Reclusion in the mind of Han poets had connotations different from those that it would acquire during the Jin dynasty, when poetry written in praise of life in reclusion (zhaoyin 招隱, “beckoning the recluse”) achieved prominence.147 The titular precursor of the zhaoyin poetry is a composition called “Zhao yinshi” 招隱士 (Summoning the Gentleman in Hiding) contained in the Chuci anthology. In this poem written around the middle of the second century BC and attributed to the circle of Liu An, mountains are pictured as hostile zones of sacred horror, full of perils and unsuitable for 145 146

147

It is discussed, for instance, by Ge Hong in the Baopuzi neipian, especially in chapter 2. On the practice and rationale of reclusion in early and early-medieval China, see especially Vervoorn, Men of the Cliffs and Caves and Berkowitz, Patterns of Disengagement. Aat Vervoorn notes the scanty number of hermits from the Eastern Han referred to in historical texts as practicing Daoist arts and explains the scarcity of records with an essentially Confucian perspective of the historiographic sources (pp.  187 and 300, n. 129). On the other hand, many adepts from the Han dynasty who lived as recluses are mentioned in sources from the Daoist canon, such as the Shenxian zhuan, the Zheng’gao, the Yunji qiqian, and the Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian. The title “Zhaoyin” has been translated in various ways: “Summons to a Retired Gentleman” (Richard Mather) and “Summoning the Recluse” (John D. Frodsham); or “Seeking the Recluse” (David Knechtges), “Seeking the Hermit” (Donald Holzman), and “Invitation to Hiding” (B. Watson). The difference in renditions is caused not so much by an inherent ambiguity of the expression zhaoyin but rather by a change of its connotations during the first three centuries AD. While in the Chuci source it originally meant “calling, summoning back the recluse,” in Western Jin poetry it acquired the sense of “calling to life in reclusion.” The translations of Mather and Frodsham reflect the older meaning while those of Knechtges, Holzman, and Watson draw from the later meaning. More neutral translations are suggested by Stephen Owen and Alan Berkowitz: “Calling to the Recluse” and “Beckoning the Recluse,” respectively.

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human beings. The prince who has gone there (it is not clear whether he is in reclusion of his own free will or in exile) is called to return home to the welcoming and civilized mundane realm: 王孫兮歸來 山中兮不可以久留

Oh Prince, come back! In the mountains—one should not stay there long.148

During the Han dynasty the state of mystical withdrawal and detachment from the world, although much emphasized in poetry, is never described as an actual hermitage spent in the mountains and forests. In the extant fragment of Han poetry connected with the imperial courts, we occasionally glimpse references to ascetic recluses who pursue immortality in far-off wildernesses, but their austere path is rejected in favor of more glorious and appealing alternatives. Two such modes of xian immortality—what we might call the “ascetic” and the “imperial”—are presented, for instance, by Sima Xiangru in his “Daren fu,” which has already been mentioned in other connections. Xiangru explains in the preface that he finds the traditional, emaciated image of the immortals who dwell amidst mountains and marshes not fitting the royal idea of immortality; hence, he wrote his fu to suit the requirements of his patron, Emperor Wu of Han. It was not quiet withdrawal and mystical insight—hallmarks of transcendental figures as described in the Zhuangzi, the Huainanzi, and the “Yuanyou”—that appealed to a mighty ruler but the promise of such benefits as eternal blissful life and omnipotence. Later in the fu the Queen Mother of the West appears as a white-haired crone who dwells in a cave, where she is waited upon by a single crow. Her constricted, though eternal, life is rejected in favor of a far more luxuriant vision of transcendence that is fully compatible with rulership and courtly glory. A similar juxtaposition between an eremitic and immortal existence can be observed in a composition written almost two centuries later by Zhang Heng entitled “Qibian” 七辯 (Seven Arguments). This work belongs to the qi 七, or “sevens,” genre, which emerged during the Western Han.149 As in most “sevens” 148 149

Chuci buzhu 12.232–234. The name “sevens” refers to the seven enticements presented by eloquent speakers in order to cure a sick prince or convince a recluse to pursue a career as an official. The sensory pleasures evoked in the various poems of this genre are rather similar, e.g., food, hunting, pretty women, music, gardens and palaces, excursions, precious weapons, etc. The person to whom they are addressed varies from piece to piece. While in the earliest of the “sevens” poems—the “Qifa” 七發 (Seven Stimuli) by Mei Sheng 枚乘 (?–140 BC) and in a few Han-dynasty compositions—the addressee is an ailing prince, in other Han-Western Jin pieces the persuaders attempt to “convert” a Daoist recluse to a social

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compositions from the second and third centuries, the protagonist is here a recluse who has withdrawn from the dusty world and devoted himself to Daoist self-cultivation. Zhang Heng presents the arguments of seven eloquent persuaders who aim to summon the recluse back to social involvement and officialdom. The introduction reads: Master Non-action emulated the immortals. Turning his back to the world and distanced from the profane, he did nothing but recite Daoist texts. His form emptied, and his age brought decrepitude; his aspirations nonetheless did not wither. And then seven persuaders talked him over. They said: “Master Non-action lingers on obscure shores, muffling [his] sound, concealing [his] light. Obliterating his traces, he lives in poverty. Trying to compel him didn’t work. Why not go and persuade him? 無為先生,祖述列仙。背世絕俗,唯誦道篇。形虛年衰,志猶不遷。 於是七辯謀焉,曰: 無為先生,淹在幽隅。 藏聲隱景,剗跡窮居。抑 其不韙,盍往辯諸。150

Aiming to lure the hermit away from his reclusive existence, the seven orators then evoke, one after the other, the various amenities of a cultured, luxurious life: lofty and rich mansions, exquisite meals and wine, music and songs, enchanting female beauty, and magnificent chariots. Following the depictions of these sensuous pleasures, the sixth persuader paradoxically unfolds to the recluse a vision of the delights enjoyed by xian immortals: 依衛子曰: 若夫赤松王喬羨門安期 噓吸沆瀣 飲醴茹芝 駕應龍 戴行雲 桴弱水

150

Yi Weizi said: Like Redpine and Wang Qiao, Xianmen and An Qi, Inhaling and exhaling Drifting Flow, Drinking mead, eating magic mushrooms. They harness flying dragons, Raise a floating cloud. They sail the Weak Waters,

life. Examples of the latter type include Fu Yi’s 傅毅 (?–ca. 90) “Qiji” 七激 (Seven Pressures), Zhang Heng’s “Qibian,” Wang Can’s “Qishi” 七釋 (Seven Explanations), Cao Zhi’s “Qiqi” 七啟 (Seven Communications), and Zhang Xie’s “Qiming” 七命 (Seven Commands). The last two are included in Wenxuan 34–35. On the generic conventions of “sevens” verse, see Knechtges and Swanson, “Seven Stimuli for the Prince.” Quan Hou Han wen 55.1a.

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Chapter 3 越炎氛 覽八極 度天垠 上游紫宮 下棲崑崙 此神仙之麗也 子盍行而求之

And cross the fiery fog.151 Surveying the Eight Limits, They ford the shores of heaven. Above they roam in the Purple Tenuity, Below they nest on Kunlun. This exquisiteness of the divine immortals, Why don’t you come and pursue it?

The master then rose and said: How wonderful, indeed! Your instruction, my dear Sir, is as peaceful as a fresh breeze. It opens up wonderful plans and truly soothes my mind. Lifting my head and gazing up, I cast a slanting look at the Mystic Gardens. I raise my arms and unfold my wings; I wish to soar, but cannot rise up from the ground. 先生乃興而言曰: 吁美哉 ! 吾子之誨,穆如清風,啟乃嘉猷,實慰我 心。矯然仰首,邪睨玄圃。軒臂矯翼,將飛未舉。152

Although this description of immortality succeeds in stirring the recluse more than any of the preceding accounts, Master Non-action admits his lack of power to follow the heavenly immortals in their glorious roaming. In tune with the conventions of the “sevens” genre, it is only the argument of the seventh persuader—here a description of the enlightened rule of the current emperor—that shatters the hermit’s resolve and turns him on to classical learning and sets him on the path of officialdom. Zhang Heng describes a mode of immortality that differs from Daoist reclusion and is meant to lead the ascetic away from his life of non-action. The persuader leaves out the more mystical aspects and dwells on the conventional features of immortal life—partaking of subtle essences and magical mushrooms, flying in dragon-drawn equipages, and moving with unrestrained freedom across the cosmos. That vision of immortality not only contrasts Master Non-action’s contemplative and secluded existence but even fits into the series of worldly delights described by the previous speakers. Like Sima Xiangru before him, Zhang Heng rejects not the pursuit of immortality per se but the ascetic path chosen by Master Non-action and gives preference to a 151

152

The Weak River, Ruoshui, and the (Blazing) Fire Mountain (Yan)huo shan (炎) 火山, are some of the hazards to be faced on the way to Kunlun (see, for instance, Shanhai jing jiaozhu 16.407). In the Weak River even a hair sinks immediately, while the Fire Mountain scorches every single being. Quan Hou Han wen 55.2a.

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mode of immortality which, in the textual context of the “Qibian,” is regarded as being compatible with social commitment. It might be relevant to note in connection to this attempt to bridge immortality and worldly involvement that in his official career Zhang Heng sought a similar compromise between Confucian engagement and inner detachment, advocating the idea of “court reclusion” (chaoyin 朝隱).153 This concept, which gained currency towards the end of the Western Han and attracted many scholar-officials, propagated eremitism as a state of mind whereby one could maintain an inner detachment from worldly concerns without the renunciation of a role in officialdom that these ideals ordinarily precluded. While in early Han compositions such as “Zhao yinshi” and “Daren fu” reclusion is equated with privation and solitude in the wilderness, in the course of the first and second centuries AD descriptions of the delights of living in retirement away from court began to appear in literature and poetry. The Eastern Han period witnessed the intelligentsia’s growing disaffection with ancient Confucian values, which brought a turning away from active commitment to public service toward the sphere of private life.154 In the early years of the Eastern Han, the scholar-official Feng Yan 馮衍 (ca. 20 BC–ca. 60 AD), who spent his later years in forced retirement and poverty, already combined appreciation for rustic life with mystical religious aspirations in one of the earliest autobiographical rhapsodies, “Xianzhi fu” 顯志賦 (Fu on Making Clear my Aspiration).155 Toward the end of the Eastern Han period, Zhongchang Tong, whose poem on transformation and transcendence we have already encountered, depicts the life in retirement he aspired to in a short essay, which is sometimes referred to as the “Lezhi lun” 樂志論, or “Discourse on the Aspiration for Happiness”:156

153 154

155 156

On the notion of “court reclusion,” see Vervoorn, Men of the Cliffs and Caves, 203–227. Zhang Heng’s attitude is discussed on p. 216. For comprehensive accounts of the intellectual background during the Easter Han, see ed. Twitchett and Loewe, The Cambridge History of China, vol. 1, especially chapters 15 and 16. Contained in Hou Han shu 28B.987–100 and Yiwen leiju 26. Punctuated edition in the Quan Han fu, 258–264. Contained in his biography in Hou Han shu 49.1644. See trans. Hightower, “The Fu of T’ao Ch’ien,” 216–218; trans. Balazs, Chinese Civilisation and Bureaucracy, 215–216. The translation here, while following that of James Hightower, omits the stanzaic form and in the second part adopts a more literal rendition of the terms in order to comply with the terminology used throughout this book.

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If I might have for my dwelling: A spacious house and fertile fields, backed by hills and verging on a stream, surrounded by waterways and ponds, dotted with bamboo and trees, threshing floor tamped in front, fruit orchard planted behind; with boat and carriage to save me the trouble of walking and wading, with servants to spare me the toil of my four limbs. 使居有良田廣宅,背山臨流,溝池環帀,竹木周布,場圃築前,果園 樹後。舟車足以代步涉之艱,使令足以息四體之役。

After describing the various rustic pastimes of a gentleman, Zhongchang Tong continues: Or I would compose my spirits in the interior [women’s] apartments, meditate on Laozi’s mysterious void; exhaling and inhaling a harmony of essences, I would seek to become an Accomplished Man; or with enlightened friends I would discuss the Dao and explain books, upwards and downwards contemplate Heaven and Earth, consider the human state. I would pluck the elegant melody of the Southern Wind, play the marvelous tune of clear shang; I would roam free and easy above the world, looking with detachment on all between Heaven and Earth. Untouched by the censure of my fellows, I will forever preserve my span of life. In this way, I would skim the Empyrean River, emerge beyond the universe. Why then should I desire to enter the gates of emperors and kings? 安神閨房,思老氏之玄虛;呼吸精和,求至人之仿佛。與達者數子, 論道講書,俯仰二儀,錯綜人物。彈南風之雅操,發清商之妙曲。消 搖一世之上,睥睨天地之閒。不受當時之責,永保性命之期。如是, 則可以陵霄漢,出宇宙之外矣。豈羨夫入帝王之門哉 !

Zhongchang Tong’s essay is permeated by a novel appreciation of nature and private life, which is symptomatic of the change in the intellectual attitude of the scholar-officials at the end of the Han. Daoist self-cultivation, which includes meditation, breathing, and sexual practices aimed at prolonging life and attaining mystical insight, forms an integral part of his idealized retirement. The topos of idealized reclusion reflected in Zhongchang Tong’s essay became firmly established in third-century eremitic poetry, which expresses the poets’ yearning for quietist disengagement from the entanglements of the temporal world. Mountains were no longer regarded as unwelcoming and

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dangerous locales, as in the early Chuci poem “Zhao yinshi,” but as wondrous realms of purity and peace to which the noble mind, disgusted with the vulgarity of the mundane world, naturally inclined. Although it is possible to single out typical poems on reclusion and typical poems on journeys into immortality, no clear-cut boundary exists between the two, and both were colored by the ideas and language of xuanyan poetry. It was above all the setting that determined the thematic category under which a poem was later classified in traditional nomenclature, as can be seen in the Wenxuan anthology. While zhaoyin poetry describes the alluring wilderness of remote mountains, youxian verse is generally set in higher otherworldly realms. Both themes—youxian and zhaoyin—however, offered poetic stylizations of idealized worlds set in contrast to the mundane realm. In the poetry from the end of the Western Jin, the immortals, who had formerly traversed the cosmos in all its directions, often descended to earth to partake of the attractive nature of the zhaoyin recluses. For a proper understanding of the novel developments in the representation of immortality during the third and, especially, fourth centuries, it is important to note that the very ideal of xian-ship had undergone a significant change by that time. Ge Hong, for instance, distinguishes a category of earthbound immortals (dixian) who lingered in absolute freedom and everlasting life among the great mountains and rivers of this world instead of rising at once to the heavens. Although in the divine hierarchy they belonged to an inferior grade compared to the celestial immortals (tianxian), they enjoyed more freedom and bliss than their heavenly counterparts, who were burdened by a number of tedious bureaucratic duties. Ge Hong reports that once Pengzu said that “in the heavens there are numerous respected high-ranking deities; therefore the new immortals can only receive low positions. Their duties are various and often are far more difficult and burdensome than those they had on earth.”157 Therefore, Pengzu did not strive to ascend to heaven and lived on earth for more than 800 years. The attitude of Master Whitestone (Baishi xiansheng) was similar. After spending 2,000 years on earth, he was still not willing to cultivate the Way of rising into the heavens but just wanted to be immortal as such; he did not intend to dispense with the joys and delights of life among men. When Pengzu asked him why he did not take the drug that could make him ascend to the heavens, he reputedly replied: “Can one amuse oneself on high in the heavens more than in the human realm? I wish only to avoid growing old and dying. In the heavens above there are many venerable ones to be honored, and to serve them there would be harder than to remain in the human 157

Baopuzi neipian 3.52.

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realm.”158 The immortals who chose to remain on earth, evading celestial service, were, in fact, the recluses of the divine spheres, and they took the same attitude towards heavenly administration that the social recluses took toward terrestrial bureaucracy. Quite naturally, Western Jin poets, who perceived xian immortality not simply as eternal life but above all as a symbol of unrestrained freedom and release from human cares, also voiced this new ideal. In the poetry of the period, the images of the transcendental immortal and the Daoist recluse, who shared the same attitude toward “mandated” service, often merge together. Modern literary critics unanimously credit the early fourth-century poet Guo Pu, the most renowned author of youxian poetry, with bringing the immortals down from the celestial heights into the human world. However, a closer look at the poetic sources from the Wei and Western Jin periods reveals that a gradual transformation in the treatment of the immortality theme had been taking place since the end of the Han dynasty under the influence of eremitic thought. Cao Cao, for instance, in the first of his yuefu songs entitled “Qiuhu xing” describes a True One (zhenren) from Kunlun who appears to the protagonist in the wild landscape of the Sanguan 散關 Mountains under the guise of a “thriceaged sire” (sanlao gong 三老公).159 In his admonition this transcendent personage equates the roads of immortality and reclusion: 道深有可得 名山歷觀 遨遊八極

158

159

160

Profound is the Way—yet it can be achieved.160 Ascend and survey the great mountains, Rove and ramble to the Eight Limits!

Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 34; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 294. It is interesting that the sobriquet of Master Whitestone was Concealed Immortal (yindun xian 隱遁仙). This expression explicitly connects his attitude to that of men in reclusion, who are commonly called yinshi 隱士, yinzhe 隱者, or yinren 隱人 (Concealed Ones). Different critics and translators see in this expression either “three old sires” or one “thrice-aged” gentleman. Sanlao is also a title in Han-period local bureaucracy meaning “Elder” or “Triply Venerable,” that is, a man over fifty of good character, who could provide moral leadership and resolve disputes. The title was also appropriated by some Eastern Han popular movements, such as the Scarlet Eyebrows (Chimei 赤眉). Ding Fubao points out that you 有 (“to have”) in this line is probably in the sense of you 猶 (“still,” “nonetheless”) (Quan Han Sanguo Jin Nanbeichao shi 1.123).

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(ll. 29–32)

Let your pillow be of stones, your bath—in streams, let springs provide your drink!161

In “Kusi xing” Cao Zhi similarly connects within a single poem the images of heavenly immortals with that of the recluse teaching Zhuangzi’s wisdom: 綠蘿緣玉樹 光曜粲相暉 下有兩真人 舉翅翻高飛 我心何踊躍 思欲攀雲追 鬱鬱西岳顛

4

8

石室青葱與天連 中有耆年一隱士 鬚髮皆皓然 策杖從吾遊 教我要忘言

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162 163

164

Green vines entwine jade trees, Their brilliance illuminates each other. Below there are two True Ones, Who raise their wings and soar on high. How my heart leaps! I wish to mount the clouds and pursue them. So lush and verdant, the summit of the Western Marchmount,162 A dark stone chamber connects to heaven.163 In it there is an ancient recluse, His beard and hair of shining white. Leaning on his staff, he follows as I wander, And teaches me I should forget words.164

Lu Qinli, 350. The last passage has been interpreted in various ways. Von den Steinen (“Poems of Ts’ao Ts’ao,” 155) and Paul Kroll (Portraits of Ts’ao Ts’ao, 258) understand these words as referring to the immortal himself; their respective translations are as follows: “I crossed and looked at the great mountains …” and “I have crossed over and gazed afar from fabled mountains …” In this poem we encounter, in fact, a common topos in early poetry—that of meeting a master and receiving instructions from him on immortality, such as the teaching received from Wangzi Qiao in the “Yuanyou.” I believe, therefore, that the words of the immortal might be directed as an instruction towards the hero—“in order to attain the Way you should do so and so.” The sacred Mount Hua 華. The stone chamber (shishi 石室) is a cave. In traditional China caves were perceived not simply as enclosed, dark subterranean spaces, but as passageways to heavenly realms and places of rebirth in particular. Caves were also places where Daoist adepts met with immortals and found elixir ingredients, elixirs, and revealed texts. For a discussion of the symbolic significance of caves in ancient China, see Bauer, China und die Hoffnung auf Glück, 265–272. Lu Qinli, 439. This line echoes a citation from the Zhuangzi: “Words are there to preserve meaning; when you get the meaning, you must forget the words” 言者所以在意,得意 而忘言 (Zhuangzi jishi 26. 944).

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This song consists of two distinct parts: the first is a fantastic vision of eternal jade vegetation, amidst which winged immortals (True Ones) soar to the heavens, while the second half depicts a white-haired recluse dwelling in a cave on Mount Hua. The shift of the location and protagonists is also accompanied by a change of rhyme. Like most of Cao Zhi’s other poems on the topic of immortality, this song is traditionally interpreted as an allegory of Cao Zhi’s frustrated political aspirations. The first two lines are usually understood as a metaphor (xing 興) derived from poem 217 of the Shijing, where the creeper symbolizes “a sovereign’s brothers or close relatives who cling to him as the luo (creeper) clings to the pine tree,” and thus hint at the joy of fraternal union.165 The Zhuangzi’s lesson about “forgetting the words” contained in the last line should, according to this reading, mean “learning to keep one’s mouth shut to avoid calamity.” It should also express the poet’s bitter disappointment in politics. The two segments of the song, each of them with a different rhyme, can in fact stand independently. The first part ends with a wish to follow the immortals, a standard conclusion in many youxian poems during the Wei and Jin periods. The opening line of the second part—describing the protagonist gazing from afar at a mountain summit—is, on the other hand, a conventional opening in many yuefu songs. Therefore, this composition, like many other early yuefu, might be an instance of “compound yuefu,” where “formally distinct segments” were combined and recombined “into a longer text” during poetic performance.166 The song, thus, may be read as a poetic medley that combines thematically different segments rather than presenting a consistent argument. In the song as it is preserved, the two familiar topoi of heavenly immortals and of the ascetic recluse are connected in a novel way. The two modes of transcendence—quietist withdrawal and celestial glory—that are juxtaposed in both the “Daren fu” and the “Qibian” are here presented on par as equally valid paths. The tendency to transpose the transcendental realm of the immortals onto the world of the hermit gradually developed in poetry since the end of Han, reaching its peak in the early fourth-century poetry of Guo Pu. Although some of Guo Pu’s “Youxian” poems describe paradise scenery and distant journeys (for example, poems #6, #9, and #10), many of the pieces take as their locus “mountains and forests” (shanlin 山林). In the following poem the hero is not a 165 166

Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals,” 37–38. Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 20–21, where he discusses the practice of “segmentary composition” as a typical feature of early Chinese poetry.

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celestial immortal quartering the cosmos but a recluse quietly practicing the Dao in his wondrous mountain surroundings:

4

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遊仙詩 #2

Roaming into Immortality #2

青谿千餘仞 中有一道士 雲生梁棟間 風出窻戶裏 借問此何誰 云是鬼谷子 翹迹企潁陽

The Green Gorge—over eight thousand feet deep,167 A Daoist master dwells within. Clouds are born amid the beams and ridgepoles, Wind issues from his windows. May I ask who he could be? They say he is the Master of the Ghost Valley. His steps aloft, he strives towards the south bank of River Ying, Beside the stream he wants to rinse his ears.168 [Wind from] the Heavenly Gates comes from the southwest, From deep within the waves glittering scales rise up. The Magic Consort looks at me and laughs,169 Revealing a smile of jade. In times when the Lame Beauty is not present170 Who can be sent to ask for her?171

臨河思洗耳 閶闔西南來 潛波涣鱗起 靈妃顧我笑 粲然啟玉齒 蹇修時不存 要之將誰使

12

167

168

169 170

171

The location of the Green Gorge is problematic. In his commentary to the poem, Li Shan cites the Jingzhou ji 荆州記 (Records of Jingzhou) by Yu Zhongyong 庾仲擁 (fifth century?), which situates the Green Gorge Mountain in the Linju 臨沮 district (in the present Dangyang 當陽 district in Hubei province). Zhongwen da cidian 9.43517–522 enumerates several other Green Gorges in different locations. Further in the poem the Master of the Ghost Valley (Guiguzi 鬼谷子), said to live in the Valley of Ghosts, appears, whereby this particular Green Gorge becomes associated with the Ghost Valley. For a discussion of the various locations of the Ghost Valley, see Declercq, Writing Against the State, 252–53, n. 13. This line alludes to the famous ancient recluse Xu You 許由. When Emperor Yao wanted to cede the empire to him, Xu You fled and hid on the sunny side of the Ying 潁 River. When Yao called upon him again to become Chief of the Nine Divisions, Xu You rinsed his ears on the river banks. For a succinct account of Xu You and his image in third-century literature, see Declercq, Writing Against the State, 393–396. Ling Fei 靈妃, the Magic Consort, is Fufei, the goddess of the Luo River. Jian Xiu 蹇修, the Lame Beauty, is a divine matchmaker mentioned in the “Lisao.” Her name appears only there. In The Songs of the South David Hawkes identifies this goddess with Nüwa, who founded the institution of marriage and was the first go-between (p. 91). Lu Qinli, 865.

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The protagonist of this poem—the Master of the Ghost Valley, Guiguzi—is a rather enigmatic figure, whose name is variously given as Wang Li 王利 or Wang Xu 王詡. He was believed to have lived in the fourth century BC and to have been the teacher of Warring States diplomats Su Qin 蘇秦 (d. 284 BC) and Zhang Yi 張儀 (d. 310 BC).172 He is said to have lived for several hundred years in the Ghost Valley. Later Daoist tradition pictures Master Guigu as an earthbound immortal. According to Du Guangting’s Xianzhuan shiyi 仙傳拾遺, “the master concentrated his spirit and guarded the One. He lived in simplicity, did not show himself, and remained in the world for several hundred years. It is not known where he went thereafter” 先生凝神守一,朴而不露。在人間數 百歲,後不知所之.173 From the vast panoramic view of the Green Gorge in the first line, the poet’s focus then narrows down to the Daoist master Guigu, who is introduced by the stereotyped phrase zhong you 中有 (lit. “amidst there is,” translated here as “dwells within”). In the second couplet his modest mountainous hermitage acquires almost cosmic dimensions, becoming a wellspring of life-giving cosmic qi, bearing forth wind and clouds.174 The fourth-couplet motifs of the south bank of the Ying River and of washing one’s ears allude to the ancient recluse Xu You, who twice declined to take rule of the empire. These allusions imbue the image of the Daoist earthbound immortal with political implications as well. They convey the idea of withdrawal motivated not only for reasons of inner cultivation but also as a rejection of high office on moral grounds. 172 173

174

Shiji 69.2241 and 70.2279, respectively. Xianzhuan shiyi 1.8, contained in Daojiao yanjiu ciliao, vol. 1. According to the Shizhou ji, Master Guigu identified at the behest of Qin Shi Huangdi a certain grass that grows on the divine continent Zuzhou 祖州 as the herb of immortality (busi zhi cao 不死之草) (Wang Guoliang, Hainei shizhou ji, 60–61; Smith, “Record of the Ten Continents,” 91). Guiguzi also appears in Tao Hongjing’s Zhenling weiye tu, and in the Maoshan zhi he is said to be the teacher of Mao Meng 茅蒙, an ancestor of the three Mao brothers who were the originators of the Shangqing tradition. Guo Pu had previously mentioned Master Guigu in his early “Deng baichi lou fu” 登百尺楼賦, or “Fu on Ascending the Tower of a Hundred Feet” (Quan Jin wen 120.6a). Mountainous valleys are generally regarded as generators of mist and clouds, but in Daoist lore the Ghost Valley is particularly associated with the bearing of clouds. The hagiographic compendium from the Yuan dynasty Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian, juan 20, tells of a certain Han-dynasty immortal, Wang Daozhen 王道真, who has attained the Dao on the Old Cypress Terrace 古柏臺 located in the Ghost Valley of the Green Gorge. The terrace often emits white clouds, which from afar resemble towers one hundred feet in height. Wang ascends on these clouds to reach the mountain and returns on them in the evening. After he descends, the clouds enter back into the Terrace.

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In the next couplet Guo Pu leaves the seemingly concrete locale of the Green Gorge and enters the mythical universe of Chuci songs. The Magic Consort, Ling Fei 靈妃, is Fufei, the goddess of the Luo River. In the “Lisao” she is one of the fickle female deities whom the protagonist unsuccessfully attempts to woo.175 The Lame Beauty (Jian Xiu) is a divine matchmaker sent by the protagonist as a go-between to Fufei. The failed attempts at wooing divine women in the “Lisao” are traditionally interpreted as an allegory of Qu Yuan’s futile search for an enlightened and appreciating ruler. Guo Pu’s youxian poem, which adopts the imagery of the “Lisao,” is generally read in a similar allegorical fashion as an expression of his disillusionment and frustration. Most commentators and critics agree that this poem was written in Guo Pu’s later years, when he served under the military strongman Wang Dun, who led a revolt in early 322 with the aim of usurping the throne.176 According to the figurative interpretation of the poem, Guo Pu sought to “rinse his ears,” similarly to Xu You, after receiving an appointment from the rebellious Wang Dun and thereby preserve his integrity. His way to the divine lady, who symbolizes here an enlightened ruler or a certain ideal, is, however, blocked, and lacking a go-between, Guo Pu cannot attain his aspiration.177 More relevant to our discussion than the purported intent of the poem is the original way in which Guo Pu smoothly blends imagery and diction belonging to very different traditions. In this poem, entitled “Youxian,” eremitic topoi interweave with Chuci lore, while reclusion entails Daoist self-cultivation and pursuit of immortality, as well as Confucian concerns. In the third poem of Guo Pu’s “Youxian” cycle, the shift from the heavens of the immortals to the hermits’ earthly realm is even more remarkable. The protagonist of this poem is a Daoist recluse hiding himself away in a beautiful mountainous landscape, who is at the same time a companion of the celestial immortals, soaring with them beyond the clouds:

175 176

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Chuci buzhu 1.31. On the basis of the presumed location of the Green Gorge in the Linju district in the Jingzhou 荆州 region, Li Shan concludes that Guo Pu knew this locality well and assumes that this poem was written in his later years (Wenxuan 21.1019–1020). Most critics assign the larger part of Guo Pu’s “Youxian” poems, especially those in the tradition of yonghuai that express frustration, to the last years of his life but speculate that his “purely” youxian works might have been written earlier (Li Fengmao, “Guo Pu Youxian shi bianchuang shuo tichu ji qi yiyi,” 138–139; Xu Gongchi, Wei Jin wenxue shi, 484). Such allegorical interpretation is provided, for instance, by the modern critic You Xinli in “Guo Pu youxian shi de yanjiu,” 109–110, who, in addition, identifies the Magic Consort with the young Emperor Ming 明 (r. 323–325).

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遊仙詩 #3

Roaming into Immortality #3

翡翠戲蘭苕 容色更相鮮 綠蘿結高林 蒙籠蓋一山 中有冥寂士 靜嘯撫清絃 放情凌霄外 嚼蕊挹飛泉

Halcyon kingfishers play among the thoroughwort, Shapes and colors brightening each other. Green vines entwine tall trees, A dense profusion covering an entire mountain. Amidst all this, a man—obscure and quiet, Softly whistling, he strums clear strings. Feelings unleashed, he skims beyond the empyrean. He chews flower stamens, drinks from the Flying Spring. Redpine oversees his ramble upwards. Riding a swan, he mounts the purple mist. To his left he pulls at the sleeve of Floating Hill,178 To his right he slaps the shoulder of Vast Cliff.179 May I ask the mayfly’s kind, How could you know of the years of turtles and cranes?180

赤松臨上遊 駕鴻乘紫煙 左挹浮丘袖 右拍洪崖肩 借問蜉蝣輩 寧知龜鶴年

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The seemingly mimetic depiction of landscape at the beginning has prompted modern critics to consider this poem one of the earliest harbingers of landscape poetry (shanshui 山水).181 Indeed, the merging of the topoi of the recluse and the immortal in Jin poetry has a parallel in a certain “naturalization” of the fantastic paradise scenes described in youxian poetry, which is discussed in greater detail in the next chapter. The transformations of the poetic image of immortality that took place during the third century become more apparent when we compare this poem with the earlier “Kusi xing” song by Cao Zhi, discussed above. Although in “Kusi xing” the images of the immortals and the hermit are, either on purpose or by chance, closely linked, they still remain two separate entities, each within its distinct realm—the winged immortals among the jade trees, soaring to heaven, and the ancient hermit in his dark cave, teaching the principles of Zhuangzi.

178 179 180 181

Master Floating Hill, Fu Qiu, was the Daoist master of the immortal Wangzi Qiao (Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 65). On the immortal Hongya, Vast Cliff, see n. 45 of the present chapter. Lu Qinli, 865. Lin Wenyue, Shanshui yu gudian, 11–12.

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In Guo Pu’s poem motifs and imagery that in the “Kusi xing” belong to two different segments blend together smoothly. Guo Pu’s first four lines recall Cao Zhi’s opening couplet, using almost identical formulations: compare “green vines entwine tall trees” 綠蘿結高樹 with “green vines entwine jade trees” 綠蘿緣玉樹 and “shapes and colors brightening each other” 溶色更相鮮 with “their brilliance illuminates each other” 光曜粲相暉. Guo Pu, however, uses simpler diction and replaces the supernatural aura of Cao Zhi’s lines, conjured up by the image of the jade trees, with sensuous description of a mountainous landscape. Its seeming naturalness is, however, pregnant with figurative meaning. The thoroughwort (lan 蘭) was firmly established since the “Lisao” as an emblem of virtue and purity. The image of the kingfisher in early medieval poetry is associated with qualities such as beauty, preciousness, and uniqueness.182 Here these birds and plants are set amidst unsullied mountainous scenery and are thus additionally connected with the idea of reclusion. The symbolic connotations of both the thoroughwort and the kingfisher are, moreover, metaphorically transferred to the figure of the hermit (the hero from the second part of the “Kusi xing”), who appears in the next lines of Guo Pu’s poem. An identical phrase introduces the recluse in both poems: zhongyou (“amidst it there is”). Guo Pu’s recluse is engaged in activities that had already become conventional tropes for eremitic life—consuming flowers, drinking from springs, whistling, and strumming strings. The expression “flying spring” (feiquan 飛泉) is, however, ambiguous since it might refer to an actual cascading font as well as a mythical location on Kunlun, known from the Chuci.183 The chewing of “flower stamens” (huarui 華蕊) also reminds one of the “rose-gem stamens” (qiongrui 瓊蕊) on which the immortals love to feast. In addition, “whistling” (xiao 嘯) is not an innocent pastime but in fact an important Daoist technique of breath cultivation. Initially associated with the Queen Mother of the West, in the post-Han period the mastery of “whistling” was believed to give the practitioner magical powers, especially over atmospheric phenomena such as wind and rain.184 Finally, in the fourth couplet, Guo Pu abolishes the 182

183

184

The image of the kingfisher is studied by Kroll in “The Image of the Halcyon Kingfisher in Medieval Chinese Poetry.” Paul W. Kroll recognizes another cautionary aspect of this bird, which appears in an encomium on the kingfisher by Guo Pu and becomes prominent in Tang poetry: its extraordinary beauty attracts man’s attention, and then the fowler’s nets, thus bringing sure destruction (ibid., 244–246). In his commentary to the “Yuanyou” Hong Xingzu 洪興祖 (1070–1135) cites the lexicographer Zhang Yi 張揖 (fl. 227–232), who had identified the Flying Spring with the Flying Gorge (Feigu 飛谷), situated in the southwestern part of Kunlun (Chuci buzhu 5. 168). Whistling lore is discussed, for instance, by deWoskin in A Song for One or Two, 162–166. The mastery of whistling is at the core of the famous story of the encounter between Ruan

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distinction between the immortals and the recluse—personages who in the “Kusi xing” belong to two discrete segments of the song. Like Cao Zhi’s immortals, the hermit soars on high—here in an even loftier fashion, carried by a swan—and accompanies immortals like Redpine, Floating Hill, and Vast Cliff. Guo Pu does not simply replace Cao Zhi’s paradise vista with an “actual” landscape: he conjures up scenery in which the two worlds interweave in a complex relationship, and which is charged with additional figurative meaning. In the verdant thickets of this pristine realm one can glimpse both the silhouettes of Cao Zhi’s jade trees and the moral self of its master—the Daoist recluse. Celestial Splendor and Courtly Refinement: The Southern Dynasties Toward the end of the fifth century, Wang Rong, one of the leading poets of the Yongming era of Qi, composed five poems entitled “Youxian shi.” The following is the second poem:

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遊仙詩 #2

Roaming into Immortality #2

獻歲和風起 日出東南隅 鳳旍亂煙道 龍駕溢雲區 結賞自員嶠

With the new year a mild breeze springs up,185 The sun rises in the southeast corner.186 Phoenix flags clutter on the hazy path, Dragon chariots overflow the cloudy realm. [The place] to share our delight is naturally the Rounded Peak,

Ji and Sun Deng 孫登—a True One (zhenren) from Mount Sumen 蘇門—as recorded, for example, in Shishuo xinyu C, sec. 18 (Shishuo xinyu jianshu, 647). Chenggong Sui 成公綏 (231–273) wrote a “Fu on Whistling” (“Xiao fu” 嘯賦), which is contained in Wenxuan 18. Xiansui 獻歲, “Presentation of the Year,” is the first day of the New Year. According to “Rites of Zhou” (Zhouli 周裡) 3.17b, “on the first day of the first month the weather starts to grow mild” (正月之吉,始和). The whole line is a traditional yuefu title. Songs with this title are preserved in Yuefu shiji 28.419–423.

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 移讌乃方壺 金巵浮水翠 玉斝挹泉珠 徒用霜露改 終然天地俱

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[The place] to move the banquet is surely the Square Pitcher.187 Golden cups float on liquid halcyon,188 Jade goblets scoop up pearls from the spring. In vain are the changes of frost and dew, In the end I will be one with Heaven and Earth.189

Although treating the same theme and bearing the same title as Guo Pu’s “Youxian” poems, this composition reflects a very different vision of immortality. The solitary immortal from Guo Pu’s poetry, hidden away in mountainous recesses, is here replaced by the glamor and bustle of a magnificent procession of dragon chariots galloping through the heavens with fluttering banners made of phoenix plumes. The celestial journey of the immortals is one of pure pleasure—it is a delightful outing to the paradise isles of immortals where they admire the scenery and participate in a splendid feast. Similarly to refined earthly aristocrats, they engage in elegant drinking and poetic games, sending cups of wine along a stream—not unlike Wang Xizhi and his companions on their celebrated outing to the Orchid Pavilion. The exclusion of personal reflections and feelings, which were so prominent in the poetry of the Wei-Jin periods, makes it hard to determine from the text alone whether the poem conveys a religious vision or a metaphorical description of a court gathering. This poem is illustrative of a shift in the perception of immortality that took place in the course of the Southern Dynasties. In the compositions of court poets such as Wang Rong and Shen Yue, the spiritual aspects of immortality recede into the background to be replaced almost exclusively by more static visions of bliss and splendor in paradise—by ornate and suggestive descriptions of the immortals’ celestial processions and feasts. Accounts of spiritual 187

188

189

The Rounded Peak (Yuanqiao 員嶠) and the Square Pitcher (Fanghu 方壺) are two of the five isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea described in the Liezi (Liezi jishi 5.151–52; see also Graham, The Book of Lieh-Tzu, 97). Fanghu is better known under its later attested name of Fangzhang. This line probably refers to the practice of drinking beside a stream and sending cups of wine along the water, whereby the companions take turns in composing poems. This pastime is traditionally associated with Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (303–361), who immortalized it in his “Lanting xu” 蘭亭序 (Preface to the Orchid Pavilion). A different interpretation and translation is provided by Richard Mather, who speculates that the expressions shuicui 水翠 and quanzhu 泉珠 from the next line denote alchemical elixirs (The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 2, 373). However, I was not able to locate elixirs with these names elsewhere. The two expressions might be here artful metaphors for water. Lu Qinli, 1398.

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cultivation in the vein of the Zhuangzi and the Huainanzi, of breath control and gymnastics commonly found in earlier poetry, gradually diminish. Abstract philosophical terms also disappear from the poetic vocabulary and are replaced by more concrete, tangible, and splendid images. The change in the poetic depiction of immortality during the Qi and Liang is related to various social, cultural, and religious factors, including the aristocratic milieu and the public context in which poetry was composed, general aesthetic pursuits in the literary salons, and then-recent developments in Daoist thought. Let us start with the transformation of the idea of immortality within Daoist religion. In the late fourth century, the Shangqing revelations brought forth a much loftier vision of transcendence. The True Ones inhabited far higher heavenly spheres than hitherto known and were much more subtle celestial beings than the older xian immortals. In the revelations the True Ones are surrounded with all the splendors befitting their exalted rank. Carrying precious paraphernalia, they traveled in chariots of clouds and light, enveloped by a colored haze, while accompanied by celestial guards, fantastical horsemen, and divine lads. This is how Lady Right Bloom of the Palace of Cloud Forest (Yunlin gong Youying furen 雲林宮右英夫人, or simply Lady Right Bloom), the thirteenth daughter of the Queen Mother of the West, depicts her progress through the heavens in a poem that she dictated to Yang Xi on the third day of the ninth month of 365: 騰躍雲景轅 浮觀霞上空 霄輧縱横儛 紫蓋託靈方 朱煙纏旌旄 羽帔扇香風

(ll. 1–6)

Bounding upwards in a chariot of clouds and lights, I drift and survey the Void above the auroras. Empyrean carriages dance to and fro, Purple canopies tarry in the numinous realms. Vermilion haze envelops banners and pennants, Feathered cloaks fan the scented breeze.190

In a poem presented to Yang Xi on the night of the seventeenth day of the twelfth month of 365, the Right Lady of the Mystic Purity of the Grand Tenuity (Taiwei xuanqing you furen 太微玄清左夫人) even directly contrasts the two grades of immortality: the older earthbound immortals (dixian) and the True

190

Zhen’gao 3.5a; Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 90. For an alternative translation see Smith, Declarations of the Perfected, 174.

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Ones of the Shangqing heavens.191 The poem describes the heavenly exploits of the goddess in mystic celestial regions and concludes with a telling passage: 超輓竦明刃 下盻使我惋 顧哀地仙輩 何爲樓林澗

(ll. 27–30)

In the soaring chariot I brandish my bright blade,192 A look down makes me grieve. I gaze back in sadness at the ranks of the earthbound immortals, Why do they nest amidst forests and streams?193

Glimpsing the world below from the celestial heights was a common trope in the depiction of heavenly journeys in the Chuci tradition and is discussed in the last chapter of this book. Here, however, looking down on earth induces neither nostalgia for the protagonist’s old home (as in the “Lisao”) nor grief for mortal men (as in the “Yuanyou”) but pity for the lowly earthbound immortals, who are not accomplished enough to experience the bliss of the True Ones. In addition to being much more exalted and glamorous than previously known xian immortals, the True Ones demonstrated literary and aesthetic sensitivity that resonated with the sophisticated tastes of the southern gentry. The informal life of the True Ones, which can be glimpsed on many occasions in the Zhen’gao, in many respects mirrored the refined pastimes of the Eastern Jin gentry. In addition to feasts featuring music and dance, the True Ones also engaged in the group composition of poetry on set topics, such as one recorded poetic exchange during a celestial gathering between ten of the True Ones on the themes of youdai 有待 (“with reliance” or “having to depend on”) and wudai 無待 (“without reliance” or “having nothing to depend on”), which was not unlike the xuanyan poetic dialogues popular among their contemporaries on earth.194 Other poetic games enjoyed by the True Ones included the composition of palindrome poems (huiwen 回文) and anagram verse (lihe 離合), which 191

192

193 194

The song was reputedly chanted in the inner chambers of the Palace of the Azure Lad. It was presented to Yang Xi by the Master of Destiny, the True One of the Grand Origin (Taiyuan zhenren Siming jun 太元真人司命君). I understand the verb su 竦 here in the sense it often has in the Chuci: “to hold.” Cf. 竦長 劍兮擁幼艾, “He brandishes his long sword, protecting young and old” (“Shao Siming”); 竦余劍兮干將 “I stretch out my Ganjiang sword” (the “Jiuhuai” from the “Tonglu” cycle). Zhen’gao 3.16a; Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 118. The complete poem is translated by Smith, Declarations of the Perfected, 223–225. Translated in Smith, Declarations of the Perfected, 159–173 and in Russel, Songs of the Immortals, 276–277 and 350–356. Several of these poems are also translated and discussed

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were fashionable among the gentry of this world as well.195 Not only were the True Ones accomplished poets who chose verse as their major means of communicating with mortals, but they also preferred pentasyllabic meter, which was gaining increased favor among the Eastern Jin literati. As the revealed texts dispersed among the southern gentry, the novel vision of transcendental life they contained captured the imagination of court literary circles. The individualistic earthbound immortals, who shunned celestial service, could not withstand the appeal of the refined and mannered magnificence that surrounded the Shangqing True Ones. The ideal of utmost freedom and spontaneity, which had determined the Jin perception of immortality, was replaced by a vision in which transcendental majesty and courtly decorum blended. The immortals were no longer footloose and carefree celestial wanderers or remote recluses but are instead often depicted as solemn courtiers who take part in grand celestial ceremonies and court audiences. The following is the fourth song of the yuefu set “Shangyun yue” (Music of the Supreme Clouds) by Emperor Wu of Liang, which was probably composed in 512:196

195

196

197

方諸曲

Tune of Fangzhu

方諸上 上雲人

On Fangzhu197 Men from the supreme clouds,

in Kroll, “The Divine Songs of the Lady of Purple Tenuity,” 172–74 and “Daoist Verse and the Quest of the Divine,” 970–971. Anagram poetry in classical China is extensively studied by John Marney in Chinese Anagrams and Anagram Verse. He also translates and analyzes anagrams dictated to Yang Xi by the True Ones and contained in the Zhen’gao (pp. 48–52). Contained in Yuefu shiji 51. The character 樂 in the title might mean either “music” or “joy.” According to the Gujin yuelu, “In the eleventh year of the Tianjian 天監 era [512 AD], Emperor Wu transformed the Western tune (Xiqu 西曲) and made ‘Jiangnan nong’ 江南弄, ‘Shangyun yue,’ altogether fourteen pieces” (cited in Yuefu shiji 51.726). The Tang encyclopedic history Tongdian 通典 145.1495 ascribes the composition of the music for the “Jiangnan” and “Shangyun yue” cycles to Wu Antai 吳安泰, who was at the time the Grand Director of Music (yueling 樂令). The form of the seven “Jiangnan nong” pieces, comprising lines of irregular length, is similar to that of the “Shangyun yue” cycle. However, in content this set is very different—it deals with beautiful women rather than Daoist immortals. In addition to the set of seven songs by Liang Wudi, Yuefu shiji 51 contains three other songs with the title “Shangyun yue” by Zhou She 周捨 (469–524), Li Bai, and Li He 李賀 (791–817). Fangzhu is one of the mythical paradise lands connected with the Shangqing revelations. It is the home of the Azure Lad, the Lord of the East. Fangzhu is described, for example, in Zhen’gao 9.20–21b (Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 299).

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 業守仁 摐金集瑤池 步光禮玉晨 霞蓋容長肅 清虛伍列真

Engage in guarding benevolence. Striking gongs, they gather by the Azure-gem Pond, Treading on light, they worship the Jade Dawn.198 Auroral canopies appear so profuse and grand, In the pure void the True Ones are ranged.199

Emperor Wu pictures the immortals as dignified courtiers worshiping supreme cosmic deities at Kunlun. In the seventh song of his “Shangyun yue” cycle, the immortals likewise appear as mighty celestial bureaucrats: 揖玉板 登金門

(ll. 5–6)

Holding their jade tablets, They ascend through the Golden Gates.200 (“Jinling qu” 金陵曲)

The jade tablets ceremoniously held by the immortals as they advance to their audience through the celestial Golden Gates indicate their mystic ranks and heavenly positions. No longer shunning celestial service, the immortals become celestial counterparts of imperial officials on earth. In the verse of the period even actual Daoist masters and recluses were endowed with the splendor of the celestial immortals. The use of somewhat overblown Daoist imagery was adopted as a standard descriptive mode in poems addressed to Daoist friends and in encomia and inscriptions on Daoist masters. The poetical “immortalization” of contemporary recluses is especially pronounced in poems devoted to Tao Hongjing—the foremost Daoist of the period and a personal friend of many court poets and Emperor Wu of Liang himself. Fan Yun, one of the leading poets from the literary circle of Xiao Ziliang, addressed the following poem as an answer to Tao Hongjing: 答句曲陶先生詩

In Response to Master Tao of Gouqu

終朝吐祥霧 薄晚孕奇煙

All morning spewing out auspicious mists, In the approaching evening it is pregnant with wondrous haze.

198

199 200

Edward Schafer points out that the expression “Jade Dawn” (yuchen 玉晨 occurs in the titles of very high deities, with the implication of “seated at the very source of creative power” (“Wu Yun’s ‘Cantos on Pacing the Void,’” 403), such as The Great Dao Lord of Mystic Glory at the Jade Dawn (Yuchen Xuanhuang Dadao jun 玉晨玄皇大道君). See Tao Hongjing’s Tongxuan lingbao zhenling weiye tu 2a. Lu Qinli, 1525. Lu Qinli, 1526.

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洞澗生芝草 重崖出醴泉 中有懷真士 被褐守沖玄 石戶栖十祕 金壇謁九仙

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乘鵷方履漢 轡鶴上騰天

The grotto stream bears magic mushrooms, The layered cliffs pour out sweet springs. Amidst there is nurtured a True Man, Robed in coarse cloth he keeps the profound mystery. In the stone grotto he nests within the Ten secrets, At the Golden Altar201 he pays a visit to the Nine Immortals.202 Mounting a phoenix, he is about to stride the Milky Way, Reining in cranes he leaps upwards to the heaven.203

The first half of the poem describes the numinous landscape of Mount Gouqu (alternative reading “Juqu”), the old name of Mount Mao, on the western slope of which Tao Hongjing built his Huayang hermitage (Huayang guan 華陽館). It was also the site of one of the ten major grotto-heavens, the Jindan Huayang 金壇華陽 (Huayang Golden Altar) Heaven.204 The poem adopts a structure common in the eremitic poetry of the third and fourth centuries—at first it describes the natural setting and then presents a recluse’s dwelling located in 201

202

203 204

The term “Golden Altar” 金壇 probably refers to the grotto-heaven hidden within Mount Gouqu 句曲. Known as the Huayang Golden Altar Heaven (Jintan huayang tian 金壇華 陽天), it is one of the ten great grotto-heavens (Dongtian fudi yuedu mingshan ji 3b–4b; see also Verellen, “The Beyond Within,” 289). According to Zhen’gao 11.2b, within it there was a golden altar one hundred feet in height (Zhen’gao jiaozhu 11.346). The expression “nine immortals” (jiuxian 九仙), common in texts of the Shangqing and Lingbao traditions, starts to appear in poetry from the late fifth century onward. It might refer to the nine classes of immortals inhabiting the Taiqing heaven. In Yunji qiqian 3.6b/6–8 they are listed in ascending order of perfection as follows: (1) supreme immortals (shangxian 上仙) (2) eminent immortals (gaoxian 高仙) (3) great immortals (daxian 大仙) (4) mystic immortals (xuanxian 玄仙) (5) celestial immortals (tianxian 天仙) (6) perfected immortals (zhenxian 眞仙) (7) divine immortals (shenxian 神仙) (8) numinous immortals (lingxian 靈仙), and (9) ultimate immortals (zhixian 至仙). On the other hand, the expression “nine immortals” often appears in contexts suggesting that it refers to concrete personages rather than classes of beings. For instance, the Chen poet Lu Yu 陸瑜 (ca. 540–ca. 582) in his poem “Xianren lan liuzhu pian” 仙人覽六箸篇 (Immortals Grasp Six Game-Slats) depicts nine immortals playing the game of liubo in a scene resembling the opening of Cao Zhi’s “Xianren pian.” In one of the poems inscribed at Cloud Peak Mountain at the beginning of the sixth century, Zheng Daozhao also writes of the “nine immortals.” There are names of nine immortals inscribed by him on the boulders on the top of the same mountain, which are probably those that the poem refers to (Harrist, “Writing, Landscape and Representation,” 554–556 and The Landscape of Words, 140–143). Lu Qinli, 1545. I discuss the concept of grotto-heavens (dongtian) in more detail in chapter 4. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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this landscape using the standard phrase zhongyou (“amidst there is”). The described setting, however, is not an idyllic landscape but a highly numinous realm, pregnant with potent mists and bearing mushrooms and springs of immortality. The Daoist master, although cloaked in coarse robes like a hermit, is seen as paying ceremonial visits to heavenly immortals at the golden altar within the grotto-heaven. In the last two lines he is depicted as one of the celestial immortals, riding phoenixes and cranes and treading the Milky Way. A poem by Shen Yue commemorating Tao Hongjing’s retreat from the world after 499 even more explicitly glorifies the Daoist master: 華陽陶先生登 樓不復下

Master Tao of Huayang Climbs the Loft Never to Come Back

側聞上士說 尺木乃騰霄

I hear rumors of the lofty gentleman, That with chimu topknots you have mounted the empyrean.205 Your cloud chariot will roll no more on earth; Your transcendent lodge has many splendid towers. Recumbent, you await the triple mushroom bloom, And seated, face the hundred-spirit court. The one who brings you letters in his beak must be the Azure Bird,206 Your handsome guest would truly [drive] a dragon steed.207 Not only will the magic peach bear fruit,208 But you will see the great cedrela209 wither away.210

雲軿不展地 仙居多麗譙 臥待三芝秀 坐對百神朝 銜書必青鳥

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嘉客信龍鑣 非止靈桃實 方見大椿凋

205 206 207

208

209 210

The chimu 尺木 is the flame-like topknot on the cap of a Daoist priest, which is said to symbolize the paradise isles of immortals. It enables its bearer to ascend into the heavens. The Azure Bird (qingniao 青鳥) is the messenger of the Queen Mother of the West. The expression longbiao 龍鑣 (lit. “dragon bit”) denotes the dragon steeds of the immortals. It is also a metonymy for the emperor, who drives a “dragon-drawn” carriage. Richard Mather speculates that here it probably refers to Emperor Wu of Liang, who patronized Tao Hongjing, and in addition alludes to Emperor Wu of Han, who was visited by the Queen Mother of the West (The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 1, 271). This line alludes to the magic peach trees of the Queen Mother of the West, which bear fruit once every 3,000 years. The Queen Mother presented them to Emperor Wu of Han (Han Wudi neizhuan 1 in Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 142). The great cedrela (dachun 大椿) is mentioned in Zhuangzi 1.11. It “takes 8,000 years for its spring and 8,000 years for its autumn.” “Huayang Tao xiansheng denglou bufu xia,” Lu Qinli, 1638. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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In 499 Tao Hongjing withdrew into a tower he had built at his Huayang hermitage at Mount Mao, with the intention of severing all superfluous mundane relations. In Jin poetry such an occasion was likely to be celebrated by a poem on the zhaoyin theme that praised and idealized reclusion. Shen Yue, however, pictures Tao Hongjing’s retreat from the world as a triumphal ascent into immortality; he mounts to the sky in a cloud chariot to dwell in the heavenly mansions, where he—the recluse!—ceremonially attends divine courts. The Daoist recluse becomes a companion of the Queen Mother; he is served by her Azure Bird and participates in her meetings with Emperor Wu of Han. More than five centuries earlier, the court poet Sima Xiangru in his “Daren fu” had replaced the reclusive, “emaciated from fasting” immortals with grand visions of celestial corteges and cosmic roaming in a bold attempt to bridge the images of the earthly emperor and the immortals. During the Qi and Liang dynasties, a similar shift in the poetic representation of immortality can be observed. This time it was induced both by the conventions of court decorum and by the new, more sublime perception of immortals and True Ones in the Daoist religion itself. These two factors are closely connected, for the texts of the Shangqing revelations were themselves designed to appeal to the refined tastes of their aristocratic audience. A major factor in the transformation of the image of immortality in the late fifth century was the social context in which these poems were composed, namely the literary salons and the courts of the ruling families of the Qi and Liang. During this period, poetry was primarily a public, social practice, which was conducted according to set rules and conventions. Poetry was mainly composed in salons, where literary games, especially group poetry improvisation, played a significant role. Courtiers would be called upon to extemporize on assigned topics—which could range from yuefu titles to everyday objects through rhyme categories—or to participate in the composition of “linked verse” (lianju 連句) together with their peers.211 Composing poetry was not merely a delightful pastime and means of refined social intercourse; it had significant social and political connotations as well. Especially during the rule of Emperor Wu of Liang, the art of poetry became an important means of competing for cultural prestige. At court gatherings and banquets the emperor would invariably ask the present courtiers to compose poems and rewarded the best with gifts of gold and silver or even promotions

211

For a survey of the different types of poetic games practiced in the Liang courts, see Morino Shigeo, “Ryō no bungaku no yūgisei.”

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to high offices.212 The ready, erudite, and witty display of poetic skill at court could thus enable social and political advancement and was an important factor in the constitution of the new southern cultural elite in the first half of the sixth century. Even a brief look at the titles of extant poems on immortality, which are listed in the appendix, demonstrates the shifts in their nature and function during the late Southern Dynasties. The majority of the youxian poems from the Qi and Liang were composed as companion pieces that “match” (he 和), or “respectfully match” (fenghe 奉和), an earlier poem by a patron or friends. Poems written “in response” (da 答, chou 酬, or fengchou 奉酬) to someone who had previously “presented” (zeng 贈) the author with a verse letter or a poem also abound. Examples include the poems addressed by Fan Yun and Shen Yue to Tao Hongjing that are discussed above. The title of a poem by Yin Keng 陰鏗 (fl. 540s–560s), “Fuyong de shenxian shi” 賦詠得神仙詩 (Being Assigned the Title Divine Immortality), indicates that it was improvised during a group composition session on a set topic. A large proportion of poems were composed based on assigned older yuefu titles; the titles “Shengtian xing” 升天 行 and “Shenxian pian” 神仙篇 were especially popular. Others were based on lines from earlier youxian poems; such examples include Liu Shan’s 劉刪 (late sixth century) “Caiyao you mingshan” 採藥遊名山 (Picking Drugs, I Roam the Great Mountains), which is named after the first line of Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #9, and “Xianren lan liuzhu pian” (Immortals Grasp Six Game-Slats) by Lu Yu, which is based on the first line of Cao Zhi’s “Xianren pian.” At least one extant poem was extemporized on imperial command (yingzhao 應詔): “Zhi Laozi miao yingzhao shi” 至老子廟應詔詩 (Reaching the Temple of Laozi: Written on Imperial Command) by Yu Xin. Composing poems utilizing the precious imagery and striking figures of Daoism provided a superb occasion to display one’s poetic skill and cleverness in the highly competitive court environment. In addition, writing such verse was the perfect means for hyperbolically flattering patrons or companions. Similarly to some third-century feasting songs, such poems often transposed an elegant mundane event onto the sphere of the divine in order to compliment refined companions. Two “Youxian” poems by Shen Yue, harmonizing with a poem on the same theme by his patron Xiao Ziliang, Prince of Jingling, may have been composed in this context:

212

See, for instance, Liang shu 40.685–86. See also Nan shi 55.1356, which contains the story of the promotion of the military commander Cao Jingzong 曹景宗 (457–508) on the basis of his demonstration of unexpected poetic talent during a banquet.

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和竟陵王遊 仙詩二首

Two Poems Matching a Poem on Roaming into Immortality by Prince of Jingling

夭矯承絳仙 螭衣方陸離 玉鑾隱雲霧 溶溶紛上馳 瑤臺風不息 赤水正漣漪 崢嶸玄圃上 聊攀瓊樹枝

In whirls and twirls ride the scarlet immortals,213 Their dragon robes—so brilliant and bright. Jade bells are muffled in mists and clouds, Surging smoothly upward in majestic multitudes. On the Azure-gem Terrace winds never cease,214 Crimson Stream is rippling gently by.215 At the craggy heights above the Mystic Gardens, Leisurely [we] [I] pluck the rose-gem boughs.216

朝上閶闔宮 暮宴清都闕

In the morning we ascend the palace of Changhe, By nightfall we feast within the pylons of the Pure City. Flying canopies shade the rushing stars, The lower harness-bells evade the coursing moon. The hosts of Jiuyi swarming come along, Rainbow banners rise and fall asudden. Azure birds fly off and then return, At Gaotang clouds never cease. By the Ruo flowers remains lingering glow,217

騰蓋隱奔星 低鸞避行月 九疑紛相從 虹族乍升沒 青鳥去復還 高唐雲不歇 若華有餘照

In Yiwen leiju 78 and Guanwen xuan 9 the phrase yaojiao 夭矯 is given as tianqiao 天蹻. The term jiang 絳 refers to a hue between scarlet and orange. Also defined as the “color of the emerging sun,” this flame-like color repeatedly appears in Daoist poetry and scriptures and figures in the dress of the highest deities. According to Edward Schafer, jiang “represents, in the symbolic language of the religion … the visible energy of the solar energy yang” (“Wu Yun’s ‘Cantos on Pacing the Void,’” 402). The Azure-gem Terrace is located at Mount Kunlun. The Crimson Stream (Chishui 赤水) flows down the southeast slope of Kunlun. There are no personal pronouns to indicate whether the poet is describing his own actions or speaks in the plural “we.” Therefore, both possible readings of “I” and “we” are provided. The flowers of the Ruo Tree (ruohua 若華) represent the sunset. Shanhai jing jiaozhu 17.437: “In the midst of the Great Wilderness (Dahuang 大荒) are Flat Rock Mountain (Hengshi shan 衡石山), Nine Shadows Mountain (Jiuyin shan 九陰山), and Cavernous Wilds Mountain (Dongye shan 洞野山). Growing on the summits of these mountains are red trees with azure leaves and red flowers called Ruo trees (Ruoshu 若樹).” Guo Pu’s commentary explains: “The Ruo Tree grows on the farthest western part of the Kunlun range. The light of the flowers is red and shines downward” 共華光赤下照. In other sources it is also conceived as the “place where the sun sets down” 日之所入處 (commentary to “Yue fu” 月賦, Wenxuan 13.600). 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 淹留且睎髮

Where [we][I] still dally and dry [our][my] hair.218

The first poem takes place at Kunlun, as indicated by toponyms such as the Azure-gem Terrace (Yaotai 瑤臺), the Crimson Stream (Chishui 赤水), and the Mystic Gardens (Xuanpu 玄圃) of the Queen Mother. Although the title, imagery, and vocabulary can be loosely labeled “Daoist,” the poem does not display any of the new religious elements connected with the Shangqing tradition. The employed motifs and language betray the influence of Chuci descriptions of celestial journeys and divine processions. The second poem echoes the “Yuanyou” poem of the Chuci in its diction and topography. The first couplet employs the Chuci morning-evening formula as a way of describing a sequence of events. The divine sites mentioned—the Changhe Gate, the Pure City (Qingdu 清都), the Ruo Tree of the sunset—all go back to the “Lisao” and the “Yuanyou.”219 The expression “host of Mount Jiuyi” (Jiuyi fen 九疑紛) is again borrowed from the Chuci.220 Lines 7 and 8, on the other hand, subtly allude to royal encounters with divinities. The azure birds are the messengers of the Queen Mother of the West, which she sent to the 218 219





220



Lu Qinli, 1636–1637. Previous trans. Mather, The Age of Eternal Brilliance, 259–261. See the “Yuanyou”: 集重陽入帝宮兮 I gathered layered sunlight and entered the Thearch’s Palace, 造旬始而觀清都 I reached the xunshi star and gazed on the Pure City. (ll. 97–98) (Chuci buzhu 5.169) For the Ruo Tree, see, for example, the “Lisao”: 折若木以拂日兮 I broke a Ruo Tree sprig to strike the sun with: 聊逍遙以相羊 For a while I would roam around at ease. (ll. 195–9) (Chuci buzhu 1.28) The motif of drying one’s hair goes back to the “Shao Siming” poem of the “Jiuge”: 與女沐兮咸池 I shall wash your hair in the All-Encompassing Pond, 晞女髮兮陽之阿 You shall dry your hair on the Bank of Sunlight. (ll. 17–18) (Chuci buzhu 2.93) See also the “Yuanyou”: 朝濯髮於湯谷兮 In the morning I washed my hair in the Dawn Valley, 夕晞余身兮九陽 In the evening dried my body in the ninefold sunlight. (ll. 79–80) (Chuci buzhu 5.167) See, for example, “Xiang Furen” from the “Jiuge”: 九嶷繽兮並迎 The host of Mount Jiuyi comes crowding to welcome, 靈之來兮如雲 The numina arrive, like a flock of clouds. (Chuci buzhu 2.68) An almost identical line appears in the “Lisao”: 百神翳其備降兮 The spirits swarmed, like a vast screen descending, 九疑繽其並迎 The host of Mount Jiuyi came crowding to welcome. (ll. 281–82) (Chuci buzhu 1.37) 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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Emperor Wu of Han. Line 8 refers to the amorous encounter between King Huai 懷 of Chu (r. 328–299 BC) and the Goddess of Mount Wu 巫 described in Song Yu’s “Gaotang fu.” Before departing, the goddess makes a promise: “In the morning I will come as morning clouds; in the evening I will be evening rain.”221 The title identifies these two poems as occasional pieces written to match a now lost “Youxian” poem by the Prince of Jingling. Moreover, the Ming anthology Gushi ji 83.8 contains a note that on the same occasion Wang Rong and Fan Yun, two of the “Eight Companions of the Prince of Jingling” (Jingling bayou 竟陵八友, as the most illustrious poets of his salon were known) also submitted their own matching poems, which are, however, no longer extant.222 Rather than being regarded as testimony of religious vision, this work should be seen as a composition on a set theme written in response to a noble patron and for the appreciation of literary friends. The particular occasion on which it was created is open to speculation. It might have been composed at a poetry gathering held at the Western Villa (Xidi 西邸) of the Prince of Jingling, northwest of the palace in Jiankang, between 487 and 494. Or it could have been written during an outing to a park or private estate, an event that was celebrated in verse as “the roaming of immortals.” We might even speculate that the “scarlet immortals” are none other than the prince and his suite, while excursion grounds are extolled as paradise lands. Poems on “roaming into immortality” composed at the late Six Dynasties’ courts thus come close to some Handynasty fu, which applied similar imagery to flatter the royal patron and provide amusement and delectation. In addition, poems on themes very different from Daoist immortality freely employ religious imagery as a trope for courtly elegance and glory. A poem by Yu Xin entitled “Mengci jiu” 蒙賜酒 (Being Honored with Wine) demonstrates the degree to which immortality lore had become a part of the court decorum: 金膏下帝臺 221 222

223

Golden oil pours down the Thearch’s terrace,223

Wenxuan 19.875–76. It is possible that one or more of the five extant “Youxian” poems by Wang Rong, the second of which was translated at the beginning of this section, were composed during the same occasion. The golden oil (jingao 金膏) is a certain elixir of immortality. It is mentioned by Guo Pu in his preface to the Shanhai jing as one of the treasures acquired by King Mu from the Queen Mother of the West (Shanhai jing jiaozhu, 478). The expression “Ditai” 帝臺 (Thearch’s terrace) occurs several times in the Shanhai jing (Shanhai jing jiaozhu 5.141, 142, and 167). According to Guo Pu, it is the name of a divinity. Shanhai jing 5.167 mentions a certain liquor of Ditai (Ditai jiang 帝臺漿), the consumption of which disperses heartache. In Yu Xin’s poem, however, the expression “Ditai” is juxtaposed to “Penglai” in the next line of the parallel couplet and is apparently meant as a toponym.

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4

玉曆在蓬萊 仙人一遇飲 分得兩三杯 忽聞桑葉落 正值菊花開

8

阮籍披衣進 王戎含笑來 從今覓仙藥 不假向瑤臺

Jade wine is at Penglai.224 The immortals, when chancing to drink, Each gets two or three goblets. Suddenly I hear mulberry leaves falling,225 Just now come upon chrysanthemum blossoms opening.226 Ruan Ji, lifting his skirts, enters, Wang Rong with a smile arrives.227 From now on when I search for the immortals drug, I won’t have to face the Azure-gem Terrace.228

Like Han and Wei “feasting songs” that employ immortality lore (see, for example, Cao Cao’s “Qichu chang” #2, cited above), Yu Xin celebrates his merry company as a blissful feast of immortals. Moreover, he compares his elegant circle to the gatherings of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, who since the end of the fourth century became symbols of cultivated gentlemen and like-minded companions. During the late fifth century, the Seven Sages were depicted in royal tombs, side by side with immortals. This imagery suggests that they might have also been associated with the idea of immortality, as well as with royalty and power.229 The third couplet of the poem contains a clever 224

225 226

227

228 229

In Daoism “Jade Calendar” (yuli 玉曆) is a term for records of the names of immortals. On the other hand the phrase “yuli” 玉曆 in this particular poem most probably should be read as 玉瀝 (“jade wine”). In his commentary Ni Fan identifies it with the “[white] jade oil” ([bai]yu gao 白玉膏) described in Shanhai jing 2.41 (Yu Zishan jizhu, 286). According to Guo Pu, the jade oil confers immortality (Shanghai jing jiaozhu 2.42 and 5.146). This is a play on words. Sangluo 桑落 (“mulberry [leaves] falling”) is a kind of wine brewed by a certain Liu Duo 劉墮 (Shuijing zhu 4). This is a reference to chrysanthemum wine (juhua jiu 菊花酒), which according to Xijing zaji 3 was traditionally drunk on the ninth day of the ninth month to bring longevity. Chrysanthemum flowers were mixed with millet and left to ferment for one year (Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 98). Ruan Ji and Wang Rong were two of the celebrated third-century writers and scholars known as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (Zhulin qixian 竹林七賢). They were much admired as an unconstrained company of refined, talented, and self-possessed gentlemen. Lu Qinli, 2378. See, for example, the relief murals in the imperial tombs of the Xiao 蕭 family in Wujia cun 吳家村 and Jinjia cun 金家村, present-day Danyang 丹陽 County, Jiangsu, built between 493 and 502. They all include portraits of the Seven Sages together with the ancient recluse Rong Qiqi 榮啟期 beside murals of winged immortals followed by a tiger or a dragon. Good images of the murals are included in Yao Qian and Gu Bing, Liuchao

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play on words of a type that is common in Yu Xin’s poetry. By using the names of famous wines—sangluo, “Mulberry falling,” and jiuhua, “Chrysanthemum blooms”—in a literal way, Yu Xin creates a double meaning. The lines simultaneously apply both to rare wines and to natural scenery, and involve multiple sensory perceptions—including hearing and sight. In the last couplet the wine he is offered by his patron is extolled as an elixir from the paradise of immortals. Thus, through the employed immortality imagery, Yu Xin expresses his gratitude for the wine in a playful, witty, and flattering manner. The poetic representations of immortals during the fifth and sixth centuries generally reflect a convergence of novel religious notions with the features and aesthetic concerns of southern court poetry.230 The sophisticated milieu of the salons called for the selection of other aspects from the repertoire of immortality than those that had determined the treatment of the theme during the Eastern Jin dynasty. Being themselves preoccupied with the pursuit of harmony and beauty, the court poets seem to focus on those aspects of transcendent life that are immediately connected with aesthetic experience. The immortals, who during the third century had discarded “eyes and hearing” (yi ermu 遺耳目),231 closing themselves off from the limiting world of the senses, now indulged in delightful pastimes like song and dance. In the poetry of the Southern Dynasties, accounts of celestial journeys not only become rarer and more condensed, but a significant shift in poetic focus can be observed as well. The southern court poets no longer emphasized such aspects of immortality as omnipresence and unrestrained freedom but the splendor and grandeur of celestial processions. Like their aristocratic counterparts on earth, the immortals did not travel alone but were escorted by numerous retinues in richly decorated carriages, accompanied by music. During the late fifth and sixth centuries, these dazzling sights, deeply indebted to Chuci poetics, became a constant feature in the representation of immortality and a major descriptive device, as can be seen in Wang Rong’s “Youxian shi” translated at the beginning of this section. Whereas in earlier poetry the transcendental character of the immortals was mainly revealed through their spiritual accomplishments and was often cast in abstract philosophical language, in southern court poetry it is

230

231

yishu, plates 183–198 and 213–223, respectively. The iconic depiction of the Seven Sages is discussed by Spiro in Contemplating the Ancients; for insightful analysis of the Danyang murals, see pp. 138–152, as well as her “How Light and Airy.” A good survey of the new poetic language and its relation to the social context of creating poetry is provided in Lomova, “Yongming Style Poetry.” On Yongming poetics in the context of courtier culture, see also Goh, Sound and Sight. Ruan Ji, “Yonghuai shi” #28 in Lu Qinli, 218.

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conveyed through sensuous depictions of divine clothing and paraphernalia. The immortals are no longer depicted as hybrid, birdlike creatures; now they wear plumed robes in lieu of actually growing feathers on their bodies like the immortals of old. Furthermore, their robes and ornaments are identified with elements of the cosmic domain, such as stars, mists, and auroras. For example, in two poems on immortality, Shen Yue conveys the elevated status of the immortals by decorously draping them in atmospheric elements and lights: 霓裳拂流電 雲車委輕霰

(ll. 5–6) 霞衣不待縫 雲錦不須織

(ll. 3–4)

Rainbow skirts brush the floating lightning, Cloud chariots trail light hail.232 (“He Liu Zhongshu xianshi ershou” 和劉中書仙詩二 首 #1) Auroral robes need no stitching, Cloud brocades require no weaving. (“He Liu Zhongshu xianshi ershou” #2)

The cosmic dimension of the immortals is here also emphasized by their close interaction with celestial phenomena—their robes brush the lightning and their chariots are hung with hail pendants.233 Even elusive atmospheric phenomena are often “tamed” and given more tangible and concrete form in the court poetry of the Southern Dynasties. From the late fifth century onward the images of riding in cloud chariots and on wind wagons in lieu of simply travelling on clouds and wind become preponderant in immortality verse. The image of a cloud chariot (yunche 雲車) constantly recurs throughout Shen Yue’s verse on immortality. Xiao Gang similarly transforms atmospheric imagery into chariots and horses: 雲車了無轍 風馬詎須鞭

(ll. 5–6)

232 233

234

A cloud chariot leaves no tracks, Wind horses need no lash.234 (“Shengxian pian” 昇仙篇)

Lu Qinli, 1660. These lines go back to descriptions of celestial deities in the Chuci, where the divinities had been similarly garbed in rainbow skirts and cloud coats, surrounded by cloud banners—for instance, the Lord of the East as depicted in the “Jiuge” cycle. While fully availing themselves of Chuci imagery, poets during the Southern Dynasties strove for increasingly sensuous and visually powerful images. Lu Qinli, 1916.

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The same images appear also in northern poetry, as in the following poem by Lu Sidao: 雲軒遊紫府 風駟上丹梯

(ll. 3–4)

The cloud chariot roams in the Purple Prefecture, The wind quadriga ascends the cinnabar stairs.235 (“Shenxian pian” 神仙篇)

Images of cloud chariots and wind horses had occasionally appeared as early as the Han dynasty; however, the sheer number of their occurrence in the late Six Dynasties indicates a more general tendency in the court poetry on Daoist themes.236 In their representation of immortality the southern poets tended toward what might be called “court realism,” whereby the divine scenes become celestial counterparts of elite life in the mundane realm. The aristocratization of poetical representations of immortals is paralleled by similar transformations of their image in the visual arts, as can be seen, for instance, in the murals decorating the tombs of the Xiao family from the Southern Qi discovered in Danyang county, Jiangsu.237 The winged, feathered, often zoomorphic figures common in Eastern Han reliefs are replaced here by elegant floating xian immortals and celestials (tianren 天人) so refined and weightless that they no longer require wings. They assume more dignified poses than the prancing of their Han predecessors and glide with mannered gestures amidst the clouds, draped in flowing robes. Similarly to verbal depictions, iconic representations of xian immortals fully comply with the new decorum of the southern courts. Images of Eternity A special relationship to time has always been the most salient feature of the xian immortals. What exactly is the temporal frame of the xian as distinguished from our human time? It is by no means equivalent to an endless prolongation of life as my tentative translation of xian as “immortal” might wrongly suggest. 235 236

237

Lu Qinli, 2629. The image of a cloud chariot can be traced back at least to Huainanzi 1.5, where Feng Yi 馮夷 (identified with the Earl of the Yellow River, Hebo) is said to “mount a cloud chariot, enter the clouds and rainbows, travel through the light mists” 乘雲車,入雲 蜺,遊微霧. They are studied by Spiro in Contemplating the Ancients, 138–152, and in “How Light and Airy.” Rubbings of the reliefs are provided in Yao Qian and Gu Bing, Liuchao yishu, plates 180–181, 189–198, and 213–214.

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As already pointed out in the introduction, longevity or everlasting life in various Daoist sources is either conceived as a preliminary stage on the way to xian-ship or as a separate option altogether. An in-depth exploration of this theme would take us away from secular poetic sources into the field of Daoist thought and would require the study of Daoist cosmogonic and cosmological theories, particularly conceptualizations of time and the ways it can be manipulated.238 While bearing in mind the complexities involved, I here necessarily limit myself strictly to the concept of time associated with xian immortality as depicted in early medieval verse. Even in the relatively narrow field of poetry, several different notions of the temporal aspects of xian-ship can be discerned. Let us start with the image of eternity as presented in the “Yuanyou” of the Chuci anthology, which I have already cited as a source of many later depictions of immortality. This poem does not explicitly mention the attainment of eternal life as a goal; however, it is implied by the protagonist’s union with the undifferentiated Dao at the conclusion of his celestial journey: 上至列缺兮 降望大壑 下崢嶸而無地兮 上蓼廓而無天 視儵忽而無見兮 聽惝怳而無聞 超無為吕至清兮 與太初而為鄰

(ll. 170–178)

238

239

240

I ascended even to the rifted fissures— Descended to view the great strath.239 In the sheer steepness below, earth was no more— In unending infinity above, heaven was no more. As I beheld the flickering instant, there was nothing to be seen— Giving ear to the humming hush, there was nothing to be heard. Gone beyond doing nothing, and into utmost clarity, Sharing in the Grand Primordium, I now became its neighbor.240

Of the numerous studies that touch upon various aspects of Daoist concepts of time, I find Fabrizio Pregadio’s investigation of concepts of death and “liberation” in Daoist cosmological and anthropological ideas particularly inspiring (“The Notion of ‘Form’ and the Ways of Liberation in Daoism”); Kristofer Schipper and Wang Hsiu-huei’s study of temporal cycles in Daoist rituals and alchemy has also influenced me (“Progressive and Regressive Time Cycles in Taoist Ritual”). The “rifted fissures” (lieque 列缺) are cracks in the sky through which lightning flashes. The “great strath” (or Great Abyss, Dahe 大壑) is a bottomless ravine far beyond the Eastern Sea, into which all the waters of the world, including the Sky River, ultimately pour (Liezi jishi 5.151). Chuci buzhu 5.174–175; trans. Kroll, “On ‘Far Roaming,’” 663.

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In Daoist cosmology the term Taichu 太初 (Grand Primordium) denotes a cosmogonic stage prior to phenomenal differentiation, prior to the inception of forms (xing 形) and matter (zhi 質), and prior to the emergence of the categories of time and space.241 Ultimately, the protagonist enters the mystic void of the pre-beginnings, where the distinct categories of time and space, of self and the other, are abolished. In the formlessness of universal creation, he attains a timeless and spaceless state of being. In the “Yuanyou” this state of ultimate transcendence is described not merely as a mental state of mystic insight or a temporal (or rather pretemporal) stage of the evolution of phenomena but rather as a realm situated in space. The conclusion of the poem presents a typical example of the fluid boundary between temporal and spatial notions in Daoist texts. The names of cosmogonic phases in many cases do not merely denote temporal stages from the primordial past but also cosmic regions or heavens. Some later compositions modelled on the “Yuanyou” reflect a similar notion of the state of immortality as a regression to the primordial unity before the inception of time and space. Thus, in the conclusion of the “Daren fu,” Sima Xiangru repeats almost verbatim the grand finale of the “Yuanyou” and pictures Emperor Wu as entering the paradoxical totality that stands beyond all dualities:242 下崢嶸而無地兮 上蓼廓而無天

241

242



In the sheer steepness below, earth was no more— In unending infinity above, heaven was no more.

Daoist cosmology perceives the movement from the undifferentiated Dao to the multiplicity of the world as a sequential process consisting of several cosmogonic stages. A comprehensive list of cosmogonic periods is provided in Liezi 1.6, with Taichu being the second: Taiyi 太易 (Grand Change), Taichu 太初 (Grand Primordium), Taishi 太始 (Grand Inception), and Taisu 太素 (Grand Simplicity). During the Taiyi period “qi was not yet visible” (wei jian qi 未見氣). Taichu, the second period, is defined as the “inception of qi” (qi zhi shi 氣之始), whereas Taishi is the “inception of forms” (xing zhi shi 形之始) and Taisu the “inception of matter” (zhi zhi shi 質之始). This same list had, in fact, appeared in the Qianzuo du 乾鑿度 (Chiseling Out the Laws of Qian), an apocryphon on the Yijing from the first or second century AD. On Taichu, see also Zhuangzi jishi 12.424. These lines became in later poetry templates and were repeated in other contexts, such as depictions of death. For instance, in Lu Ji’s “Damu fu” 大暮賦 (Fu on the Great Dusk) they were adopted to describe a postmortem journey of the spirit: 仰寥廓而無見 In the unending infinity I see nothing when looking upwards, 俯寂寞而無聲 In silence and serenity I hear nothing when looking downwards. (Quan Jin wen 96.9a)

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 視眩眠而無見兮 聽惝恍而無聞 乘虛無而上假兮 超無友而獨存

Gazing into the obscure vagueness, there was nothing to be seen— Giving ear to the humming hush, there was nothing to be heard. Mounting the empty void, he soars up into the distant, Transcendent, without a companion, he alone will remain.243

The theme is further developed by Ruan Ji in the “Daren xiansheng zhuan” (Biography of Master Great Man). Toward the end of the composition, Ruan Ji creates an exalted depiction of the infinite roaming of the Great Man, not blocked by space or time, freely frolicking in the pre-beginnings of the universe: From Non-actuality he comes into existence and coalesces in an instant; dispersing again, he aggregates high up; suddenly splitting, he leaves without restraint; flowing and spreading, surging and swelling, he swirls up like a whirlwind and floats on clouds, reaching the Wavering Light star of the Dipper. Then straightway he speeds to the midst of the Grand Primordium and rests in the Palace of Non-activity. What is the Grand Primordium like? It has neither “after” nor “before”: no one can probe its farthest reaches. Who could know its roots? Vast and far, it stretches on and on until it returns to where the great Dao exists. No one can penetrate its limits. Who could understand its roots? He opens the Nine Numina [Hall] and searches: how could this suffice to exalt himself? He scales the ten thousand heavens and looks around, penetrating everywhere; bathing in the balmy breeze of the Grand Inception, he freely drifts at ease, roaming afar, following the great road without an end. He neglects the Grand Monad, and does not serve him; ascends heaven and earth and wanders at will; leaping over the Vast Obscurity, he sets his traces far away. On his left is broad and boundless, without a shore; on his right, dark and distant, without direction. Above, he casts his hearing afar, but there is no sound; below he gazes into the distance, but there is nothing to be seen. He sets up that which is without actuality and there lodges his spirit; maintaining Grand Purity, he soars and hovers therein. 243

Shiji 117. 3062. A complete translation of the fu is provided in Watson, Records of the Grand Historian, vol. 2, 296–299. In the last line there is an echo of the words of Guang Chengzi in Zhuangzi jishi 11.384: “Men will all die and I alone will remain (ducun 獨存).”

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Chapter 3 無存忽合,散而上臻。霍分離蕩,漾漾洋洋,飆湧雲浮,達於搖光。 直馳騖乎太初之中,而休息乎無為之宮。太初何如?無後無先。莫究 其極,誰識其根。邈渺綿綿,乃反復乎大道之所存。莫暢其究,誰曉 其根。辟九靈而求索,曾何足以自隆?登其萬天而通觀,浴太始之和 風。漂逍遙以遠遊,遵大路之無窮。遺太乙而弗使,陵天地而徑行。 超鴻濛而遠跡,左蕩莽而無涯,右幽悠而無方,上遥聽而無聲,下修 視而無章。施無有而宅神,永太清乎敖翔。244

Like the protagonist of the “Yuanyou,” Master Great Man has gone beyond the manifested world, which is governed by impermanence and change, and moves at will across the various stages of genesis. Likewise, this phenomenon is described as a journey through space, and the depiction of the chaotic unity beyond forms, sensual perceptions, time, and space is modelled on the “Yuanyou.” A similar notion of eternal life as the state of being one with the eternal Dao also permeates the xuanyan poetry of the fourth century and some longer fu compositions in the vein of the “Yuanyou,” such as Sun Chuo’s “You Tiantai shan fu” (Fu on Roaming the Celestial Terrace Mountains), which receives special attention in chapter 5. Apart from these compositions in the “Yuanyou” tradition of mystic journeys, eternal life as a regression towards the original state of undifferentiated unity is seldom depicted in later poetry. Loss of conscious identity and existence beyond all sensory phenomena, though eternal, seem to provide little stimuli to the poetic imagination. In addition, in early medieval poetry the theme of immortality commonly appears in the context of the transience of life. Although Daoist texts emphasize the distinction between xian immortality and mere longevity or non-dying, it is exactly the aspects of endurance and avoidance of death that gained prominence in the poetry of the Wei-Jin period. The eternity of the xian immortals is often envisioned as an endless prolongation of life and is generally conveyed by stereotypical, straightforward expressions: 服食享遐紀 延壽保無疆

(ll. 19–20)

244 245

If I consume them [the elixirs], I will enjoy long years, Prolonging life, ensuring no end.245 (Cao Zhi, “Wuyou yong”)

Ruan Ji ji jiaozhu,188–189. A complete translation of this text is provided by Donald Holzman in Poetry and Politics, 192–205; I have consulted his rendition. Lu Qinli, 434.

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A Phenomenology of Immortals 消遙天衢 千載長生

(ll. 9–10)

At the Crossroads of Heaven I roam and ramble,246 For thousands of years, alive forever.247 (Xi Kang, “Dai Qiuhu ge shi” 代秋胡歌詩 #7)

The lifespan of the immortals is also frequently compared with the lifetime of the most durable cosmic phenomena: metal and stone, the Southern Mountain (Nanshan 南山), and Heaven and Earth. In a composition included in the Chuci anthology and also titled “Yuanyou,” Liu Xiang voices his aspirations for eternal life in the following words: 欲與天地參壽兮 與日月而比榮

(ll. 7–8)

I wish my years to equal those of Heaven and Earth, My splendor to be like that of the sun and moon.248

Cao Zhi writes in a similar vein: 寿同金石 永世难老

(ll. 15–16)

My lifespan will be the same as metal and stone, Never aging for eternity.249 (“Feilong pian”)

These formulaic expressions might be traced back to the felicitation formulas of the late Zhou bronze inscriptions and of the odes contained in the Shijing. The odes often addressed blessings to kings and lords: 如月之恆 如日之升 如南山之壽 不騫不崩 如松柏之茂 無不爾或承 246

247 248 249 250

Like the moon advancing to full, Like the sun ascending the heavens, Like the age of the Southern Mountain, Never waning, never falling. Like the luxuriance of the fir and cypress, May such be thy succeeding line!250

Although the term tianqu 天衢 (“crossroads of heaven”) might be used here mainly for its figurative value, it also has a particular astronomical meaning. Tianqu is an asterism, consisting of “four stars in Scorpio, situated in the belly of the Dragon, whose horns are Spica and Arcturus, and whose heart is Antares. The crossroads are the ancient intersection of the celestial equator and the ecliptic, that is, the spring quinox of antiquity” (Schafer, “Wu Yun’s Stanzas on ‘Saunters in Sylphdom,’” 334). Lu Qinli, 480. Chuci buzhu 16.309. Lu Qinli, 422. Xiaoya I. 6, Mao 166 “Tianbao”; trans. Legge, The She King, 257–58.

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The Shijing pronouncements, which initially voiced wishes for long life and continuation of the family line through numerous descendants, are in later poetry transformed into expressions of physical immortality for one single person, rather than “immortality” achieved through generations to come. The concluding felicitation formulas of many Wei-Jin poems are also close in phrasing and diction to the inscriptions on late Han bronze mirrors that wish for happiness, longevity, and prosperity: Great joy, glory and wealth, and may you find your heart’s desire, 千秋萬歲延年益壽 A thousand autumns, ten thousand seasons be yours, with the years of your life prolonged forever and a day.251 大樂貴富得所好

壽如金石為國保 長樂未央宜侯王

Long life be yours, like that of metal or stone, and may you be protector of the land; Eternal joy without end, as is fit for nobleman or king.252

In Wei and Jin poetry the immortals’ triumph over time is depicted not only as an eternal prolongation of their physical life but also as the ability to stop, or rather control, the flow of time. Common tropes in the third and fourth centuries include harnessing the sun and moon, whose movements cause day to change into night, and controlling the forces of yin and yang, the two cosmic aspects whose successive waxing and waning bring forth the succession of seasons. These images go back to the descriptions of fantastic heavenly journeys in the Chuci, where the hero commands the spirits of natural phenomena (wind, thunder, stars) that are in his retinue. A popular motif, adopted from the Chuci, is the stopping, or turning back, of the sun charioteer Xi He 羲和.253 At the conclusion of the “Shengtian xing” #2 (Ascending to Heaven) Cao Zhi voices his transcendental yearnings through his wish to 251 252 253



Loewe, Ways to Paradise, 192, inscription B0002. Ibid., 198, inscription C4102. As early as in a Shang-period solar mythology variant, the sun was thought of as a glowing chariot driven across the sky by a female charioteer, Xi He. For Chuci images of stopping Xi He, see, for example, “Lisao”: 吾令羲和弭節兮 I ordered Xi He to slow the swift gallop, 望崦嵫而勿迫 To keep an eye on Yanzi mountains, but not go near. (ll. 189–90) (Chuci buzhu 1.27)

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(ll. 7–8)

Tug on the reins of the sun, Veer it back, make it race to the East.254

Guo Pu’s triumphal rise as an immortal culminates in his stopping the sun chariot altogether, in a way that recalls the poetic hero of the “Lisao”: 手頓羲和轡 足蹈閶闔開

(ll. 9–10)

My hands pull back Xi He’s reins, My feet stamp for the Changhe Gate to open.255 (“Youxian shi” #9)

Both types of eternity metaphors that we have distinguished—namely, the endless prolongation of one’s life and the stopping of time—convey the notion of static linear endurance that eludes the temporal cycles of the cosmos. During the Southern Dynasties the motif of eternal life along with blissful existence became a major topic in court poetry on immortality, often replacing the former emphasis on spiritual purity, freedom, and unrestrained cosmic flight. A changed perception of the immortals’ relationship to time can be observed as well: the stress was not so much on the static incorruptibility of the immortals or on stopping time altogether as it was on the radically different meaning of time for the xian immortals. As the divine world was increasingly merging with the court surroundings of the poets, achieving immortality came to be perceived not as transitioning to other spatial realms but rather as transitioning to other temporal dimensions that parallel ordinary human time. In these poems xian immortals dwell in parallel realms of space and time with orders of their own. The poets focus on the disparity between human time and xian time and through various metaphors juxtapose the two in order to

254

255

Lu Qinli, 433. Donald Holzman observes in connection with this poem that the wish to turn back the sun, and thus altering its natural course, is not fitting for a true Daoist immortality seeker because his immortality comes from living in harmony with nature. As an explanation of these lines he adopts the interpretation suggested by Zhao Youwen: Cao Zhi wanted to turn back the sun (and time) because he “felt the times were against him” (Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 267). He follows the traditional reading of the poem as a lament for the “lack of success in the world of politics” (Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals,” 39). Although Holzman is right in pointing out that the attempt to stop the sun might not be motivated by religious feelings, I believe that it should not be necessarily interpreted as an allegory of Cao Zhi’s political aspirations. The motif of stopping the sun chariot had become a conventional trope by the time of Cao Zhi. Lu Qinli, 866. Unlike in the “Lisao,” here the hero is admitted through the Changhe Gate.

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demonstrate that time for the immortals is protracted and passes much more slowly than for humans. One of the favorite metaphors for xian time, measured in eons, became the image of the magical peaches of the Queen Mother of the West, which ripen once in a thousand years. According to a story first recorded in the Han Wudi gushi 漢武帝古事 (Precedents of Emperor Wu of Han), probably from the third century, and in Zhang Hua’s Bowuzhi, the Queen Mother brought the peaches to Emperor Wu of Han. When the emperor retained the stones with the intention of planting them, the goddess told him with a laugh that they bear fruit once every three thousand years.256 Although in later poetry the peaches of immortality became a clichéd image, for the Liang poets this allusion was still novel and original. The authors emphasize not the peaches’ magical properties but the long amount of time needed for the peaches to grow, which is but a brief moment for the eternal immortals. In a poem entitled “Xianke shi” 仙客詩 (Immortal Guest), Xiao Gang writes: 酒闌時節久 桃生歲月稀

(ll. 9–10)

The time to drink our full is forever, The years and months for the peaches to grow are but a few.257

The conclusion of Shen Yue’s poem addressed to Tao Hongjing, which is cited in entirety above, bears strong similarities: 非止靈桃實 方見大椿凋

(ll. 9–10)

Not only will the magic peach bear fruit, But you will see the great cedrela wither away.258 (“Huayang Tao xiansheng denglou bufu xia”)

The great cedrela, the dachun, mentioned in the Zhuangzi, which “takes 8,000 years for its spring and 8,000 years for its autumn,” is another metaphor for the protracted span of xian time.259 The story of the female immortal Ma Gu 麻姑, recorded in the Shenxian zhuan, who saw the Eastern Sea turn into mulberry fields and back again three

256 257 258 259

These two texts offer the earliest association of the Queen Mother with the peaches of immortality, which were a separate auspicious and protective symbol during the Han. Lu Qinli, 1934. Lu Qinli, 1638. Zhuangzi jishi 1.11.

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times, also captured the imagination of the poets.260 At the turn of the sixth century, images of the “fields of the Eastern Sea” (donghai tian 東海田) and of either the sea or the mountains of immortals turning into dust became favorite metaphors for conveying the disparity between temporal realms: 試取西山藥 來觀東海田

Attempting to get the elixir from the Western Mountain, Coming to survey the fields of the Eastern Sea.261 (Yu Jianwu, “Daoguan shi” 道館詩)

蓬莱暂近别 海水遂成塵

For a while take my leave from Penglai, The seawater thereafter will turn into dust.262 (Yu Xin, “Xianshan shi ershou” 仙山詩二首 #2)

海無三尺水 山成數寸塵

The sea contains less than three feet of water, The mountain became few inches of dust.263 (Yu Xin, “Daoshi buxu ci” #5)

(ll. 11–12)

In prose sources from the fourth century AD onward, a new type of plot emerged, which played with the disparity in the passage of time within the mundane world and paradise. In it an ordinary man by chance, or even unknowingly, comes into the world of the immortals. When he re-enters the mortal realm, he discovers that a vast amount of time, sometimes even generations, has elapsed. In the late Six Dynasties, poets began to employ allusions to the story of a certain Wang Zhi 王質, who comes upon a cave while gathering wood in the Xin’an 信安 Mountains. Wang Zhi enters it and sees two immortal lads playing liubo. He watches the game for some time, but when he turns around, he discovers that his axe has rotten. Upon returning to his village, he

260

261 262 263

The Shenxian zhuan tells of a meeting between the immortal Wang Fangping 王方平 (Wang Yuan 王遠) and Ma Gu. Upon being summoned by Wang to a party at Cai Jing’s 蔡經 house, Ma Gu informs him: “Since I entered your service, I have seen the Eastern Sea turn to mulberry fields three times. As one proceeded across to Penglai, the water came only up to one’s waist. I wonder whether it will turn to dry land once again.” Wang answers with a sigh, “Oh, the sages all say that the Eastern Sea will once again become blowing dust” (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 94; trans. Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 262). Lu Qinli, 2001. Lu Qinli, 2403. Lu Qinli, 2349.

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finds that it no longer exists.264 In “Qingju pian” (Rising Lightened) the sixthcentury poet Wang Bao alludes to this story in order to dramatize the contrast between the “non-elapsing” time of the immortals and the devastation caused meanwhile in the human world: 看棊城邑改 辭家墟巷空

(ll. 9–10)

While watching a game of chess cities have changed, Since I parted from my family villages have emptied.265

The sixth-century poet Zhou Hongzheng 周弘正 (496–574) composed a matching poem, responding to a poem by Yu Jianwu on entering a Daoist temple, from which a couplet was cited above. In his poem Zhou strings together allusions to various stories in order to demonstrate the different temporal dimension of the immortals:

4

和庾肩吾入道館

Matching a Poem on Entering a Daoist Temple by Yu Jianwu

石橋有舊路 靈室儼眾仙 菊潭溜餘水

Along the stone bridge there is an old road, In the numinous halls immortal crowds line up. In the Chrysanthemum Lake abundant waters issue,266 From the cinnabar furnace residual smoke rises.267 The peach flowers often bear fruit, The sea waters become fields over and over again. In anticipation of grief I return to the old village, To inquire the age of the wood-axe.268

8

丹竈起殘煙 桃花經作實 海水屢成田 逆愁歸舊里 追問斧柯年 264

265 266

267 268

An early source for this story is the Zhilin xinshu 志林新書 by Yu Xi 虞喜 (307–338) from the beginning of the Eastern Jin dynasty. It is recorded somewhat later in Shuyi ji 述異記 10 by Ren Fang 任昉 (460–508) and in Shuijing zhu 10. The two later versions enrich the basic plot with the motif of Wang Zhi’s consumption of divine jujubes given to him by the immortals. See also Li Fengmao, Wuru yu zhejiang, 110 ff. Lu Qinli, 2331. The Chrysanthemum Lake (Jutan 菊潭) is an ancient name of a district in the presentday Henan province. There flows the Chrysanthemum River (Jushui 菊水), the waters of which are sweet and bring longevity. The cinnabar furnace (danzao 丹竈) is the furnace of the alchemist, in which elixirs (dan 丹) of immortality are produced. Lu Qinli, 2462.

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The Daoist temple is extolled as a paradise land of the immortals, where magic waters bestowing longevity issue and where the alchemical elixir of immortality is already completed. The rhythm of time there is different, too, and the aristocratic visitor to the temple compares himself with Wang Zhi in the cave of the immortals. The thousands of years needed for the magic peaches to ripen, the Eastern Sea to turn into fields, and the generations to have elapsed in the village of Wang Zhi are to the “immortal crowds” (i.e., the Daoist adepts in the temple) no more than the passing of a brief moment.

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Chapter 4

The World of the Immortals While descriptions of xian immortals and cosmic journeys were prominent in Han-dynasty poetry, accounts of the paradise realms in which these immortals lingered occurred seldom in period verse. Chuci compositions generally focus on the actions, movements, and attributes of the hero, while the divine realms he visits are merely enumerated as defining points of the universe. No scenery is ever described and no details about places or personages visited are provided in the accounts of cosmic journeys. On the other hand, Chuci poems abound in natural and magical imagery—but the various aromatic plants, gem trees, and divine waters they describe are mostly not presented as elements of one single landscape.1 Reduced to their magical or symbolical aspects, they are subject to the ritualized actions of the protagonist: he breaks a rose-gem branch, adorns himself with thoroughwort, sips water from the Flying Spring, and so on. The extraordinary and fantastic figure prominently in the imperially centered Han fu, but here they do not pertain to some distant, inaccessible otherworld of the immortals. Having as their goal the glorification and delectation of the ruler, the poets of the Han incorporated the wonders of paradise into the imperial domain and subjected them to the Son of Heaven. The imperial gardens, hunting grounds, and capitals and their verbal replicas in fu form were conceived primarily as pictures of the cosmos in its entirety and profusion—including the exotic, precious, and fantastic. The emperor was extolled as an omnipotent cosmic master, a lord of worldly and otherworldly realms that included deities, paradise lands, and innumerable miracles.2 Some of the earliest descriptions of the isles of immortals Penglai, Yingzhou, and Fangzhang—are in fact found in the grand fu on the capital Chang’an 長安, such as Ban Gu’s 班固 (32–92) “Xidu fu” 西都賦 (Fu on the Western 1 Some of the “Jiuge” songs are exceptions. In the “Xiang furen” 湘夫人 (Lady of the Xiang) the shaman depicts the halls he will build out of aromatic plants for the goddess (Chuci buzhu 2.66–67). In the “Hebo” 河伯 (River Earl), the water palace of the river god is concisely described (ibid., 2.77). 2 There is yet another type of fu that incorporates fantastic imagery—namely fu depicting imaginary journeys of the scholar-official through the universe, such as Zhang Heng’s “Sixuan fu.” These, however, follow the Chuci itineraria model, simply enumerating but not describing mythical paradises and personages.

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Capital) and Zhang Heng’s “Xijing fu” 西京賦 (Fu on the Western Metropolis).3 However, these are not imaginary visions of the elusive paradises in the Eastern Sea but descriptions of actual sights: earthly simulacrums of the islands constructed by Emperor Wu in 104 BC near his Jianzhang Palace 建章宮.4 After the expeditions of earlier rulers in search of the islands of the immortals had failed, Emperor Wu built an artificial lake with replicas of these fairy isles, fitting them with sculptures of exotic birds and beasts, in the hope of attracting the immortals to come to his palace. The poetic descriptions of the lake likewise transformed its scenery into a paradise of immortals. Descriptions of paradisal landscapes often appear as parts of broader themes in the fu written during and after the Han. Otherworldly vistas were naturally incorporated into fu describing the sea, for it encompassed the elusive islands of the immortals that inspired the hopes of immortality seekers and the imagination of the poets.5 Some fu on travels, such as Sun Chuo’s “You Tiantai shan fu” (Fu on Roaming the Celestial Terrace Mountains), also contain depictions of immortals’ paradises hidden in the recesses of the mountains. The early yuefu often incorporate brief glimpses of higher realms within the broader framework of a journey; examples include the songs “Dongtao xing” (Dongtao Ballad) and “Buchu Xiamen xing” (Going Out of the Xia Gate). In songs on immortality by Cao Cao and Cao Zhi, brief depictions of divine vistas frequently appear as couplets or quatrains, squeezed into the account of the cosmic journey. In Cao Cao’s and Cao Zhi’s songs, however, dreams of eternal life are more commonly evoked through scenes involving the immortal inhabitants of these locations and the feasts taking place there rather than through a description of their scenery. From the fourth century onward, cosmic flight gradually lost its importance as a hallmark of immortality, and the journey theme receded into the background as the previous chapter demonstrates. Many of the poems titled “Roaming into Immortality” (“Youxian”) no longer present the poet’s imaginary flight after the immortals but splendid, festive scenes in paradise, which often comprise longer accounts of otherworldly landscapes. Descriptions of the divine lands became more extended, more detailed, and visually powerful.

3 Wenxuan, juan 1 and 2; trans. Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 1, 99–145 and 181–242. 4 Shiji 12.482 and 28.402. 5 The only completely preserved sea fu is Mu Hua’s “Hai fu”; the others survive mostly in fragments contained in Yiwen leiju 8.152–54.

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Early examples of such vivid visions of paradise appear in the preserved fragments of Zhang Xie’s 張協 (ca. 255–ca. 310) and Yu Chan’s “Youxian” poems.6 Paradise imagery is also found in eulogies and encomia extolling the numinous qualities of certain sacred mountains. These panegyrics disclose the real form and the true landscape of terrestrial mountains, which are conceived as divine paradises accommodating numerous wonders and the abodes of immortals and deities. Topography The early treatments of the celestial journey theme in Han poetry generally lack a specific topography pertaining to immortality lore. The poetry written in the Chuci tradition constructed the divine realm according to ancient mythical geography as recorded in the Shanhai jing and the Huainanzi. In the “Yuanyou” the remote quarters successively traversed by the traveler are not the mythical lands of immortality but the significant points that defined the universe in the cosmographical speculations of the time. These locations, moreover, are not even directly named but simply evoked by their presiding deities—the gods Tai Hao 太皓 and Gou Mang 句芒, who rule over the realm of the east; Xi Huang 西皇 and the deity Ru Shou 蓐收, who preside over the west; the Fiery God 炎神 and Zhu Rong of the south; and Zhuan Xu 顓頊 and Xuan Ming 玄冥 of the north. The pairs of presiding gods and tutelary spirits are the same as those given in the Huainanzi—a treatise originating approximately from the same period and probably from the same circle of scholars as the “Yuanyou.”7 The only land of immortality specifically mentioned is the Cinnabar Hill (Danqiu 丹丘), the home of the plumed men (yuren 羽人) in the south, where

6 Since the complete poems are not extant, it is, however, hard to decide to what degree Yu Chan’s and Zhang Xie’s descriptions were parts of a longer narrative. 7 The guarding divinities of the four directions first appear in texts dating from the Warring States period. The Shanhai jing describes the four gods residing at the edges of the world: Zhu Rong in the south, Ru Shou in the west, Yu Qiang 禺彊 in the north, and Gou Mang in the east (Shanhai jing jiaozhu 6.206, 7.227, 8.248, and 9.265). The same group of gods also appears in the Lushi chunqiu, where they are incorporated into a cosmological system, with each of the spirits belonging to a certain emperor (Di 帝) and season, among a variety of elements corresponding to each direction. In the Huainanzi the system of the four guardian divinities is adapted to the standard theory of the five phases (wuxing 五行) and the god of the center has been added: the Yellow Emperor, along with his assistant deity Hou Tu 后土, the Sovereign of the Soil (Huainanzi 3.88 and 5.185–186).

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the hero purifies and strengthens his body for the forthcoming cosmic journey. In the course of the Han dynasty, more sites linked to immortality became incorporated into the ancient mythical scheme of the cosmos. Already in Ban Biao’s “Lanhai fu” (Fu on Viewing the Sea), the imaginary journey takes place within a cosmos of pure immortality lore in which none of the ancient mythical sites or their guardian spirits appear. The space in which the hero moves is defined solely by the isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea, the celestial realm of Grand Purity (Taiqing), the Changhe Gate, and the Purple Palace (Zigong), seat of the Grand Monad in the highest reaches of the sky. Unlike in Chuci-type cosmic journeys, Ban Biao here combines the theme of imaginary travels with an extended account of the visited lands, the fairy isles of immortals: 指日月以為表 索方瀛與壺梁 曜金璆以為闕 次玉石而為堂 蓂芝列於階路 涌醴漸於中唐 朱紫彩爛 明珠夜光 松喬坐於東序 王母處於西箱

(ll. 11–20)

Pointing to the sun and moon to be my compass, I search for Fangzhang, Yingzhou, and Huliang. Of scintillating gold and gems are the pylons, Of storied jade the halls. Calendar bean and magic mushroom grow along the steps,8 Bubbling sweet-waters stream in the central yard. Vermeil and purple splendidly shine, Luminous pearls glow at night.9 Redpine and Wang Qiao sit in the eastern chambers, The Queen Mother resides in the western wing.10

The immortals’ paradise is depicted as a place of precious gems and pure gold, lush with supernatural plants and watered by sweet springs. It is a region of eternal light, lit up by the sacred hues of vermilion and purple. At night it is illuminated by bright pearls, embodiments of the lunar essence. By depicting the Queen Mother, a resident of the west, as dwelling in the western chambers of the immortals’ palace in the Eastern Sea, Ban Biao abolishes the limitations 8 9

10

Ming 蓂 (translated here as “calendar bean”) is mingjia 蓂莢, a mythical tree found in the palace of Emperor Yao, which grew leaves according to the days of the lunar month. Luminous pearls (mingzhu 明珠) are also known as the “Luminous Moon” (mingyue 明月) or the “Pearl of the Marquis of Sui” (Suihou zhi zhu 隨侯之珠). According to a story recorded in Gao You’s commentary to the Huainanzi, the Marquis of Sui, a descendant of the Zhou clan, once cured an injured snake. Later, the snake repaid his kindness by presenting him with a large pearl, which glowed in the dark (Huainanzi 17.582). Quan Han fu, 252.

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of space—the paradisal land here seems to encompass the whole cosmos from the remotest eastern islands to the furthest west. In the poetry of the Later Han we can witness the gradual establishment of a specific “universe of immortality,” the prime landmarks of which are the isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea and Mount Kunlun in the west, home of Xi Wangmu. Thus, in Zhang Heng’s “Sixuan fu” in the east the hero visits not only the traditional sites of solar mythology—the Fusang tree and the Dawn Valley—but also Penglai and Yingzhou, and in the west he attends a banquet at the silver terrace of Xi Wangmu at Kunlun. Certain sacred mountains, above all Mount Tai and Mount Hua—the Eastern and the Western Marchmounts—also came to be regarded as the mystical haunts of immortals during the Han period. In Han mirror inscriptions these two mountains were often mentioned as lands of the immortals: If you climb Mount Tai, you may see the immortal beings. They feed on jade blossoms, they drink from sweet springs. They yoke scaly dragons to their carriage, they mount the floating clouds. 上泰山,見神人,食玉英,飲醴泉,駕蜚龍,乘浮雲 …

If you climb Mount Hua, phoenixes and simurghs gather; you may see the divine immortals. 上華山,鳳凰集,見神仙 …11

While these two mountains seldom appear as lands of immortality in fu and sao poetry, in the early yuefu songs it is these two sites, rather than the distant paradises of Penglai and Kunlun, that almost exclusively host immortals. In the anonymous “Buchu Xiamen xing,” the hero, on his way to heaven, visits the Royal Father and Mother (Wang fumu 王父母, i.e., Dong Wangfu and Xi Wangmu) at their joint dwelling on the slopes of Mount Tai, and there he meets the immortal Redpine who escorts him up to heaven. In “Changge xing” (Long Song Ballad) an immortal leads the hero up the great Mount Hua to obtain the divine drug. Cao Cao in “Qichu chang” #1 describes a scene on Mount Tai, which is very close in imagery and language to the late Han mirror inscriptions:

11

Zhang Jinyi, Hanjing suo fanying de shenhua shuo yu shenxian sixiang, 70–71.

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The World of the Immortals 行四海外 東到泰山 仙人玉女 下來翱游 驂駕六龍 飲玉漿

(ll. 8–13)

Roaming beyond the Four Seas, In the east I reach Mount Tai. Immortals and jade maidens, Descending, soaring, Harnessing teams of six dragons, Sipping jade liquor.12

The protagonist is then given a draught of the jade liquor, which strengthens him for his subsequent journey to Penglai and eventually to the Gates of Heaven. In the second song of the “Qichu chang” cycle, a similar scene is set on the slopes of Mount Hua. Mount Tai appears time and again in the poetry of Cao Zhi. In “Xianren pian,” for instance, he beholds feasting and gambling immortals there—in a scene that resembles many Han pictorial representations of immortals: 仙人攬六著 對博太山隅

(ll. 1–2)

Immortals grasp six game-slats, They gamble amongst each other on the slopes of Mount Tai.13

Mount Tai is also where the protagonist of Cao Zhi’s “Feilong pian” (Flying Dragon) meets two True Ones (zhenren), who initiate him in the teachings of the Dao.14 Finally, in the “Quche pian” (Speeding My Chariot), the Yellow Emperor ascends to heaven from Mount Tai; it is his last point of contact with the human world. In early medieval poetry on immortality, Mount Tai and Mount Hua generally figure as abodes of Daoist divinities and sacred zones, where immortals reveal themselves to humans, where men are initiated in the immortality arts, and whence they can venture into higher realms of the divine.15 Beside the isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea, Mount Kunlun, and the sacred Mounts Tai and Hua, various other sites of immortality occasionally 12 13 14 15

Lu Qinli, 345. Lu Qinli, 434. A very similar encounter with two immortal lads in Cao Pi’s “Zhe yangliu xing” (Snapping a Willow Branch) takes place on Mount Hua. On the image of Mount Tai in pre-Tang Chinese poetry, see Kroll, “Verses from on High.” Kroll also provides a synopsis of the ancient religious ideas connected with the roles of Mount Tai—as a protector of the state, an intermediary between the emperor and Heaven, a presider over the transmutations of life and death, and an arbiter of fate.

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appear in poetry although they never achieve a dominant position. For example, Ruan Ji in two “Yonghuai” poems (#23 and #78) places the immortals on distant Mount Guye 姑射—the abode of the Divine Men (shenren) described in the Zhuangzi:16 東南有射山 汾水出其陽 六龍服氣輿 雲蓋切天綱

(ll. 1–4)

In the southeast is Mount Ye, And the River Fen issues from its southern slope. Six dragons there draw a chariot of breath, Its cloud canopy approaches the Guideline of Heaven.17

From the Jin dynasty onward, prose sources describe an increasing number of immortal lands. Many of them are also mentioned in period poetry. For example, Guo Pu in “Youxian shi” #7 writes: 圓丘有奇草 鍾山出靈液

(ll. 9–10)

16

17

18

On the Round Hill grow wondrous herbs, The Bell-Mount issues numinous fluid.18

“Far away on Mount Guye there live Divine Men (shenren). Their flesh and skin are like ice and snow, their manners—elegant and graceful as that of a maiden. They do not eat any of the five grains but inhale the wind and drink the dew, ride on clouds, drive flying dragons, and roam beyond the four seas … [If Yao] had gone to the distant Mount Guye, to the sunny side of the Fen 汾 River, and seen the four men, he would have dropped the state affairs at once” (Zhuangzi jishi 1.28–31). “Yonghuai” #23. Lu Qinli, 501. The reading of the last line is problematic. The character qie 切 (lit. “to cut”) is here explained as to “be near to” (Ruan Ji ji jiaozhu, 290). In some editions, however, it is replaced by the character fu 覆, “to cover” (see Ruan Ji ji jiaozhu, 289). The word gang 綱 originally means “the guiding rope of a net,” and the expression tiangang 天綱 signifies the naturally established system of social relations and conduct. Donald Holzman thus reads the line as “whose cloud canopy covers the Law of Heaven” and understands it as implying that “the immortals live ‘beyond the bounds’ not only of human laws and customs, but of natural or temporal transformations” (Poetry and Politics, 175). On the other hand, the term tiangang (variant 罡) has an astronomical meaning as well—it signifies the Dipper, more specifically, the stars in its handle. For a discussion of the term gang, see Andersen, “The Practice of Bugang,” 25–26. The latter meaning fits better the type of imagery pertaining to representations of immortals. Two readings are possible, depending on whether the verb is qie or fu: the cloud canopy “is close to the Guideline of Heaven (i.e., to the Dipper),” or “covers” it. Lu Qinli, 866.

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Mount Bell (Zhongshan 鍾山) had previously appeared in the “Youxian shi” by Xi Kang as a site where divine herbs could be found and humans could be transformed into immortals. The somewhat later Shizhou ji situates it to the north of the Northern Sea. A mountain of immense height (13,000 li), it is the Celestial Lord Emperor’s 天帝君 seat of government where more than forty kinds of jade mushrooms and divine herbs abound. It also contains golden terraces and jade gate towers, which store up the primordial qi.19 The other location in Guo Pu’s poem, the Round Hill (Yuanqiu 圓丘), is described in Zhang Hua’s Bowuzhi: On the Round Hill there is the tree of no-death; when one eats it, he will be long-lived. There is the Crimson Spring; when one drinks from it, he will never grow old. 員丘山上有不死樹,食之乃壽。有赤泉,飲之不老。20

This very passage was quoted by Guo Pu in his commentary on the Non-dying People (busi min 不死民) described in Shanhai jing 6.196–197. Tao Yuanming in “Du Shanhai jing shi” #8 directly draws from Guo Pu’s commentary (and on the Bowuzhi) saying: 赤泉給我飲 員丘足我糧

(ll. 5–6)

The Crimson Spring provides my drink, The Round Hill supplies my food.21

Post-Han poetry assimilated many of the mythical sites described in the Shanhai jing, which reflects much older lore, into the realm of immortality’s topography. This process parallels the transformation of ancient, zoomorphic deities into immortals in the course of which, for example, the monster Lu Wu became an immortal in Guo Pu’s encomium from the “Shanhai jing tu zan” cycle (see chapter 2). In “Youxian” #10 Guo Pu describes divine landmarks from this ancient geographical work:

19 20

21

Wang Guoliang, Hainei shizhou ji, 88. Bowuzhi quanyi, 36. Li Shan’s commentary to Wenxuan 21.1024 and 31.1479 attributes this passage to the Han-dynasty work Waiguo tu 外國圖 (Maps of Foreign States), which has survived only in quotations. Lu Qinli, 1011.

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璇臺冠崑嶺 西海濱招搖 瓊林籠藻映 碧樹疏英翹 丹泉漂朱沫 黑水鼓玄濤

(ll. 1–6)

The Gem Terrace crowns the peak of Kunlun, The Western Sea borders on Mount Zhaoyao. The rose-gem forest is veiled in iridescent shimmer, Cyan trees shed blossom plumes.22 The Cinnabar Spring raises vermeil foam, The Black River swells with inky billows.23

Mount Zhaoyao 招搖, bordering on the Western Sea, is the very first site described in the Shanhai jing.24 The book enumerates the wondrous things found on it—cassia, gold and jade, a strange plant, a strange tree, and a strange beast; however, none of these wonders is linked to long life or xian immortality. Cinnabar 丹 and Black 黑 rivers appear at many points in the Shanhai jing; a certain Black River is explicitly associated with Mount Kunlun.25 Guo Pu’s poem echoes the Shanhai jing not only in topography but also in structure. The descriptive sequence here is, in fact, based on the order of the entries in the Shanhai jing; the mountain’s name is first listed, followed by the animals, plants, and minerals found on it, and finally the rivers issuing from the mountain are described. Many poems from Tao Yuanming’s “Du Shanhai jing shi” cycle also describe the mythic locations from the Shanhai jing and closely follow Guo Pu’s commentary and encomia. Sites associated with ancient solar mythology—the Dawn Valley, Tanggu 湯谷, and the Fusang 扶桑 tree—were incorporated into the realm of immortality very early on. The Dawn Valley is the bathhouse of the sun, from the waters of which the sun emerges renewed every morning, while Fusang is the mythic Mulberry tree, from which the sun rises and on the branches of which the sun roosts.26 In “Baihe fu” (Fu on a White Crane) Wang Can, for instance, writes: 22

23 24 25 26

Bi 碧, which I translate here as “cyan” denotes a kind of jade. In medieval poetry this term is most commonly used as a color word, rendering deep shades of green-blue, and is frequently applied to waters and depths of space (Schafer, “The Transcendent Vitamin,” 31). In this parallel couplet bi is set against another mineral word, qiong, and retains much of its original mineral meaning. Thus, “trees of jade” would be another possible translation here of the expression bishu 碧樹. Lu Qinli, 866. Shanhai jing jiaozhu 1.1. Shanhai jing jiaozhu 11.297 and 15.369 (Guo Pu’s commentary). Tang 湯 has the meaning of “hot water.” Variant names are the homophones Yanggu 暘谷 and Yanggu 陽谷. Fusang, the Mulberry tree in the East, is often described in ancient Chinese sources. See especially the accounts in Shanhai jing jiaozhu 9.260 and 14.354;

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[The white crane] meets Wang Qiao at the Dawn Valley, And carries Redpine to the Fusang tree.27

Lu Ji similarly places the immortals in the eastern lands, from where the sun emerges every day renewed: 揔轡扶桑枝 濯足湯谷波

(ll. 17–18)

They tie the reigns up to a branch of the Fusang tree, And wash their feet in the waves of the Dawn Valley.28 (“Qian huansheng ge”)

The mythic dawn lands were a favorite destination of the cosmic travelers of the Chuci, but in the context of immortality the ancient solar lore acquired new significance. The east was generally considered to be the source of nascent life, the cardinal direction of inception and animation for all living beings. The sun, moreover, was the utmost concentration of yang energy, which bestowed life on all existence. In addition, the image of the sun, lifting itself daily from its subterranean chamber, refreshed and renewed, might have provided a parallel to the adepts’ own transition to eternity, which according to certain methods involved a passage through the dark and formless realm of the Grand Yin (Taiyin).29 The image of the dawning sun often appears in poetry on immortality as embodying the mysterium of eternal regeneration and everlasting life. 南海納朱濤 玄波灑北溟

27 28 29

The Southern Sea swells with vermeil billows, Inky waves splash over the Northern Ocean.

Huainanzi 3.108 and 4.149. The mythology of the Fusang is discussed in Allan, The Shape of the Turtle, 27 ff. Quan Han fu, 678. Lu Qinli, 665. See the Xiang’er 相爾 commentary (second century AD) to the Daode jing, sec. 16: “Their bodies obliterated, they do not die.” It explains that the worthy who had accumulated the Dao seemingly die like ordinary mortals, but in fact they are transferred to the realm of the Grand Yin in the northernmost reaches of the universe, where they are purified and come to life again: “When there is no place for them to stay in the world, the worthy withdraw and, feigning death, pass through Grand Yin to have their images (xiang 象) reborn on the other side. This is to be ‘obliterated without perishing’” (Laozi Xiang’er zhu jiaozheng, 22; trans. Bokenkamp, Early Taoist Scriptures, 102).

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仰盼燭龍曜 俯步朝廣庭

I gaze up at the brilliance of the Torch Dragon,30 And step down into the wide hall of dawn.31 (Yu Chan, “Youxian shi” #2)

Entering the hall of sunrise is stepping into the wellspring of cosmic life, whence the adept will emerge purified, refined, and eternal. The domain of the xian immortals is not only in the remote lands at the ends of the human world but also in the mystic heights, far above the heavens: 翱翔九天上 騁轡遠行遊

(ll. 7–8)

Hover above the Nine Heavens, Loose the reins and wander afar.32 (Cao Zhi, “Youxian”)

Some poets more specifically place the immortals in the lofty heights of the Grand Purity (Taiqing), the highest known heaven in the Daoist tradition preceding the Shangqing revelations: 譬若王僑之乘雲兮 載赤霄而凌太清

(ll. 5–6) 翔雲霄 浮太清

Like Wang Qiao mounting the clouds, Charioting the crimson empyrean, skimming the Grand Purity.33 (Liu Xiang, “Yuanyou” from the “Jiutan”) Soaring in the cloudy empyrean, Drifting in the Grand Purity.34 (Cai Yong, “Wangzi Qiao bei”)

The starry palace of the Purple Tenuity (Ziwei) also appears in poetry as the haunt of the immortals: 30

31 32 33 34

Zhulong 燭龍, the Torch Dragon, is described in the Shanhai jing as a deity with a human head and a serpent body. When its eyes are closed, there is darkness; when it opens them, there is light again (Shanhai jing jiaozhu 17.438). I write pan 盼 (“to look, gaze”) for the character xi 盻 (“to glare”), which is given in Yiwen leiju 76. The variant pan, more appropriate in the context of this poem, is found in the versions of Gushi ji 42.12a and Yuding yuanjian leihan 318.53a. Lu Qinli, 875. Lu Qinli, 456. Chuci buzhu 16.309. Quan Hou Han wen 75.3b.

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The World of the Immortals 上游紫宮 下棲崐崙

Above they roam in the Purple Palace, Below they nest on Kunlun.35 (Zhang Heng, “Qibian”)

遂升紫庭 逍遙天衢

I rise up to the Purple Court. At the Crossroads of Heaven I rove and ramble.36 (Xi Kang, “Dai Qiuhu ge shi” #7)

(ll. 8–9) 乘雲倏忽 飄颻紫微

(ll. 3–4)

Mounting the clouds in an instant, He whirls and swirls in the Purple Tenuity.37 (Lu Ji, “Wangzi Qiao zan” 王子喬贊)

The constellation of the Purple Tenuity, also known as the Purple Palace (Zigong), where the deity Taiyi (Grand Monad) resides, was already discussed in chapter 3. It is the heavenly region into which Changhe Gate—the final barrier for all cosmic travelers—ultimately opens.38 Cosmic Mountains and Paradise Gardens Regardless of its location, the paradise of the immortals is always conceived as a mountain of immense height, the axis mundi, the communicator between the cosmic zones. The poetic descriptions of the realm of immortality often emphasize the height and loftiness of such mountains. The employed metaphors do not simply convey physical altitude but present the mythical and spiritual aspects of these realms as intermediaries between the cosmic spheres. The late sixth-century poet Zhang Zhengxian envisages the loftiness and remoteness of the eastern and western paradises in the following terms: 瀛洲分渤澥 閬苑隔虹蜺

(ll. 1–2) 35 36 37 38

39

Yingzhou divides the gulf of Bo The Lang Gardens cut through the rainbows.39 (“Shenxian pian”)

Quan Hou Han wen 55.2a. Lu Qinli, 480. On tianqu, Crossroads of Heaven, see chap. 3, n. 246. Quan Jin wen 98.7a. Purple is the ritual color of the zenith and in Daoist texts often connotes the “celestial,” “otherworldly,” or “sacred.” On the Purple Tenuity, see Schafer, Pacing the Void, 47; Schafer Sinological Papers 5, 5–6. Lu Qinli, 2482. The Lang Gardens denote the highest peak of Mount Kunlun—Langfeng 閬風.

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The phrase translated here as “rainbows” in the Chinese original reads hongni 虹蜺: hong is the more conspicuous, colorful rainbow, conceived of as “male,” while ni is its paler, “female” counterpart. The two were regarded together as “the embryonic essences of yang and yin, and their mating produced rain, snow, frost, thunder, and lightning.”40 The image of Langfeng Peak of the Kunlun Mountains thus acquires cosmological significance—it is transformed into a division line between the two cosmic powers. As scholars of religion have demonstrated, it is a universal phenomenon that the archetypal image of a cosmic mountain, the center and pillar of the world, tends to multiply and be identified with features in the real landscape.41 Not only mythical lands at the ends of the world but also real mountains are envisioned in Chinese poetry as cosmic mountains. This is how Shen Yue pictures Mount Jinhua 金華 (Golden Floriate Mountain): 天倪臨紫闕 地道通丹竅

(ll. 3–4)

From the Celestial Bourne it looks down on the Purple Pylons, Its subterranean passages reach caves of cinnabar.42 (“You Jinhua shan” 遊金華山)

Shen Yue presents the mountain as rising through the Purple Pylons (zique 紫闕) of the Purple Tenuity and reaching the Celestial Bourne (tianni 天倪), where all opposites blend together.43 The mountain penetrates downward into subterranean grottoes, which in ancient China were conceived of as embodying the primeval undifferentiated mode of being. Moreover, these mystical grottoes are all of cinnabar—of a highly concentrated form of life-conferring yang energy. Thus, Mount Jinhua rises from the mystic source of life in the primordial chaos and reaches the point where all entities merge again in unity. It is not only an axis mundi, which vertically connects all three cosmic spheres, but also an axis starting from and ending in primordial non-differentiation, thus completing in itself the cosmic cycle. 40 41 42

43

Schafer, Pacing the Void, 86. See especially Eliade, Traite d’historie des religions, ch. 10; Images et symboles, ch. 1; Das Heilige und das Profane, ch. 1. Lu Qinli, 1633. Mount Jinhua in Zhejiang province was one of the sacred Daoist mountains. It is associated with the immortal Redpine, who practiced immortality arts there. Its caves were included in the network of thirty-six grotto-heavens under the name of Primordial Grotto-Heaven of the Golden Floriate Grottoes (Jinhua dong yuan dongtian 金華洞元洞天). Zhuangzi jishi 2.52.

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This mythical cosmic mountain is moreover conceived as a magical garden. Kunlun itself is commonly referred to as the Hanging Gardens (Xuanpu 懸圃) or the Mystic Gardens (Xuanpu 玄圃). The wonderful groves of paradise contain beautiful, aromatic plants, such as thoroughwort, cassia, and artemisia, which in the Chuci bedeck divinities. Blooming forever, they provide a nesting place for sacred birds like cranes and phoenixes: 靈液飛素波 蘭桂上參天 玄豹游其下 翔鵾戲其巔

(ll. 3–6)

The numinous fluid flies in white waves, Magnolia and cassia pierce the sky.44 Black leopards roam beneath, Soaring cranes frolic on their crown.45 (Cao Zhi, “Shengtian xing” #1)

Even the magnificent image of the starry heaven could be transformed into a garden landscape. This is what the hero of the anonymous song “Buchu Xiamen xing” beholds when the immortal Redpine leads him up into the sky: 天上何所有 歷歷種白榆 桂樹夾道生 青龍對伏趺

(ll. 11–15)

Up in heaven what is there? White elms planted in neat array. Cassia trees grow alongside the road, Green dragons face each other as they crouch.46

This early yuefu song contains a humorous play on words: “white elms” (baiyu 白榆), “cassia” (gui 桂), and “green dragon” (qinglong 青龍) are also names of constellations in the sky. The pun produces a landscape on two simultaneous levels—both terrestrial and cosmic. The wonderland of the immortals is always covered with lush, evergreen vegetation consisting of magical herbs and mushrooms and incorruptible jewels, which is irrigated by sweet springs (liquan). Both its plants and waters bestow eternal life. One peculiar feature of the descriptions of these lands are trees made of gold or jewels that bear gem fruits and flowers. Precious metals and stones, which are immaculate, luminous, changeless, and endless, are proper symbols of incorruptibility and imperishableness. Moreover, in the 44

45 46

Although the word lan denotes plants of the species Eupatorium japonica (thoroughwort), here, in conjunction with the cassia (gui 桂) tree, it might refer to mulan 木蘭— magnolia. Lu Qinli, 433. Yuefu shiji 37.545.

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images of jewel trees living and nonliving nature merge together. Endowed both with the eternity of the inorganic realm and with the life and regeneration potential of the organic world, they become symbols of totality and perfection. The immortals’ paradise, as described in poetry, is not a pristine wilderness but a garden of pleasures carefully molded by human (or rather superhuman) hand; it houses splendid, exquisitely carved and decorated palaces and lodges. These castles might be placed high in the ether, floating on the banks of clouds and mists, as in the “Yunzhong Bai Zigao xing” (“Baizi Gao among the Clouds”), a song by the Western Jin poet Fu Xuan 傅玄 (217–278): 閶闔闢 見紫微絳闕 紫宮崔嵬 高殿嵯峨 雙闕萬丈 玉樹羅

(ll. 6–11)

The Changhe Gate opens wide: I behold the scarlet pylons of the Purple Tenuity, Purple palaces, tall and towering, High halls, precipitously poised. Paired pylons soar hundred thousand feet, Jade trees align in rows.47

Paradise not only hosts gem trees but is itself a land of jade, gold, and silver. Its terraces and palaces are usually constructed from precious metals and stones. This is how the late Southern Dynasties poet Yin Keng, in a poem titled “Fuyong de shenxian shi” (Being Assigned [the Title] Divine Immortality), depicts the sacred realms of Mount Luofu and the Yingzhou isle: 羅浮銀是殿 瀛洲玉作堂

(ll. 1–2)

On Luofu silver builds up pavilions, On Yingzhou jade makes halls.48

Similarly, in “Youxian shi” #3, which is translated in chapter 2, Wang Rong pictures jade gates and pearl halls at the Azure-gem Pond, and the sixth-century poet Dai Gao 戴暠 in his poem “Shenxian pian” 神仙篇 (Divine Immortals) writes of quiet chambers of gold and a dewy altar of silver.49 Daoist paradise is depicted in early medieval poetry as a wondrous, paradoxical realm that defies human categories. Its colors and light are unusual— there are cinnabar clouds, crimson billows, and vermilion foam. The favorite 47 48 49

Lu Qinli, 564. Lu Qinli, 2456. Lu Qinli, 1398 and 2099, respectively.

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color is purple (zi), the Daoist color of the zenith, which I discussed briefly in chapter 2. This is a place where the natural characteristics of the phenomena turn into their opposites—at Penglai Mu Hua pictures yang ice that never melts and yin fire that burns underwater.50 The entities that constitute the otherworldly scenery present a striking straddling of taxonomic divisions. It has already been pointed out that in the image of plants and trees of jewels, living and nonliving nature paradoxically blend together. The free-flowing springs and rivers of paradise are commonly also made of gems—there are azure-gem ponds, springs, and waves, as well as springs of jade and cinnabar. Not only are vegetation and waters more solid than their earthly counterparts, but conversely minerals can be endowed with qualities of growth, fluidity, and vitality. In a poem titled “Caiyao shi” 採藥詩 (Gathering Herbs), Yu Chan animates a petrified, purely mineral world: 採藥靈山㟽 結駕登九嶷 懸巖溜石髓 芳谷挺丹芝 泠泠雲珠落 漼漼石蜜滋

(ll. 1–6)

I gather herbs on the ridge of the Numinous Mount, I harness my chariot and scale Jiuyi. From the overhanging cliffs stone marrow flows, Cinnabar mushrooms sprout in the Fragrant Gorge. Softly jingling, cloud pearls fall, Abundant, ample, stone honey grows.51

Yu Chan replaces the organic elements of landscape with ores and stones. Instead of streams of water, he refers to “stone marrow” (shisui) flowing down from the cliffs. The only kind of flora seen are the cinnabar mushrooms of immortality (danzhi 丹芝), which themselves are on the border between the mineral and plant realms. The scene chimes with the jingling of “cloudy pearls” (yunzhu 雲珠) raining down and shines with the gloss of “stone honey” (shimi 石蜜), an especially potent type of stone exudation called shimi zhi 石蜜芝. This stony landscape is solely made up of precious natural substances, which are sought after by immortality seekers in the great mountains: stalagmites (stone marrow), mica (cloudy pearls), and magic mushrooms.52 Despite the

50 51 52

Hai fu, ll. 165–166 in Wenxuan 12.549. Lu Qinli, 874. Ge Hong discusses these natural drugs at length in Baopuzi 11, where he describes them and discloses where they can be found, how they can be used, and what effects they have. I examine these substances in more detail in chapter 5.

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purely mineral imagery, this surreal paradise is not rigid and frozen. Ores and stones become endowed with a life of their own; they grow, flow, and fall down. The otherworldly landscapes described in the poetry on immortality have mythical and religious roots—gem vegetation and mineral waters were a major feature of divine lands already in the Shanhai jing. Moreover, many of these miraculous plants and elixir waters figured in the pharmacopoeia of the early alchemists and immortality seekers and were believed to impart eternal life.53 The poets not only further develop the symbolic connotations of incorruptibility, eternity, and perfection these wondrous substances have but also constantly emphasize the way they are endowed with growth and vitality. The combination of the durability of the mineral world with the movement, life, and growth of the organic world is in itself a symbolic expression of the fullness and totality of being. In addition, this fusion accords with the early medieval poets’ penchant for blurring rational distinctions, for inverting the natural qualities of phenomena to reflect the paradoxical world order of paradise. This inversion of human categorizations often results in striking and beautiful imagery, in which the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms blend together, such as in Guo Pu’s image of “cyan trees shedding blossom plumes” 碧樹疏英翹 in “Youxian shi” #10. Besides its religious and symbolic connotations, the gem imagery of the immortal lands has an important aesthetic function. The gems of Daoist paradise are smoothly polished, opaque, and colored semi-precious stones— including varieties of jade, agate, turquoise, cinnabar, and pearls. These chromatic stones, together with precious metals, bestow striking coloration and vivid radiance on paradise vistas. In the poems we often encounter the enigmatic names of archaic gems, whose specific identity has been forgotten since the Han. The most common such references are to qiong 瓊 (translated here as “rose-gem”) and yao 瑤 (rendered as “azure-gem”), which have already been mentioned several times above. Although the precise referents of these two names have been lost, their chromatic associations were retained in postHan poetry. The qiong gem was a favored material for the fruits and flowers of paradise, while the yao was reserved for grasses and waters. In descriptions of divine gardens, these gems not only serve to suggest their glittering, colorful luster but also surround them with an archaic and mysterious aura. The scenery of paradise consists of physically harder materials than a mundane landscape and exists in a timeless dimension, but it is never rigid; descriptions are filled with movement, sounds, and aromas. Although the 53

See Baopuzi neipian 11.

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landscape of paradise is more “solid” than its earthly counterpart, the poets suggestively blur its contours in shimmering light or evanescent mists: 瓊林籠藻映 碧樹疏英翹

(ll. 3–4) 朱霞拂綺樹 白雲照金楹

(ll. 5–6)

The rose-gem forest is veiled in iridescent shimmer, Cyan trees shed blossom plumes.54 (Guo Pu, “Youxian shi” #10) Vermeil aurora strikes damask trees, White clouds shine on golden pillars.55 (Wang Rong, “Youxian shi” #4)

Light and atmospheric imagery contribute to the sense of liveliness—elusive mists, auroras, and breezes bring random, fleeting movement to the scene: 白日三重階 黃金九層路 采煙拂紫甍 芳風搖碧樹

The white sun—threefold stairs, Yellow gold—the ninefold road. Hued mists brush purple eaves, A fragrant breeze sways cyan trees.56 (Yuan Tuan, “Youxian shi” #2)

The absence of verbs in the first couplet and the artful balance of words and images in the parallel lines freeze this charming vignette into a timeless and harmonic stasis. At the same time the rigid pattern allows for graceful inner movement introduced by atmospheric phenomena: breeze and mist. These couplets, moreover, betray the merging of aesthetic and religious sentiments in the scenery of paradise. Mists and auroras not only enliven and soften the landscape but are themselves imbued with a high degree of numinosity; they were thought to be mystic emanations from the sacred mountains, their very quintessence: Mists are the efflorescence of mountains and marshes, lakes and fires, and the excess qi of metals and rocks. If you consume them for a long time, you can disperse your material form to enter the emptiness and attain the body of clouds and mists.

54 55 56

Lu Qinli, 867. Lu Qinli, 1398. Lu Qinli, 1471.

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Chapter 4 霧是山澤水火之華,金石盈氣。久服之,能散形入空,與雲霧合 體。57

Shimmering with reflected light, the heavy mineral and metal objects are made ethereal. This paradoxical merging of opposing qualities seems to be an effect specifically sought in many poetic descriptions. Similarly, the paradoxical convergence of the qualities of weight and weightlessness can be perceived in the antinomy “hill standing on clouds,” which is a common image in depictions of paradise mountains: 神岳竦丹霄 玉堂臨雪嶺

The divine mount stands on cinnabar clouds, Jade halls look down to snowy ridges.58 (Yu Chan, “Youxian shi” #1)

石梁雲外立 蓬丘霧裏迷

Stone ridgepoles stand beyond the clouds, The Peng Hill is hidden inside the mist.59 (Zhang Zhengxian, “Shenxian pian”)

(ll. 5–6)

Sturdy and stable, the divine mountains simultaneously appear to be afloat above the mists and clouds. While in the majority of poems vistas of paradise gardens and palaces are sharply defined with details meticulously outlined, on certain occasions these visions might be vaguely revealed through mystic mists and colored smoke. In “Hai fu” Mu Hua provides a dim visualization of the isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea: 若乃 雲錦散文於沙汭之際 綾羅被光於螺蚌之節 繁采揚華 萬色隱鮮 陽冰不冶 陰火潛然 熺炭重燔 吹炯九泉 57 58 59

And now, A cloudy brocade spreads a pattern along sandy shores, A gauzy gossamer casts luster over the seams of mussels and snails, Manifold colors brandish their splendor, A myriad hues conceal their brilliance: Sunlit ice that does not melt, Shadowy fires burning underwater; Glowing coals that rekindle themselves, Casting their fulgor into the Nine Springs;

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(ll. 161–170)

Vermilion flames, green smoke, Dark and dense, curling and swirling upward.60

The description centers exclusively on different aspects of light and color; the viewer does not perceive the concrete details of lofty buildings, vegetation, or fauna. In fact, all details seem to dissolve in an eerie vision of brilliant flames, mists, and colored smoke. Mu Hua explains: 且希世之所聞 惡審其名 ? 故可仿像其色 靉霼其形

(ll. 143–146)

Moreover, for things rarely heard of in this world, How can one discern their names? Thus, one can only vaguely visualize their features, Dimly depict their forms.61

Mu Hua’s “impressionistic” mode of description, which is rather uncommon in poetic accounts of paradise, evocatively conveys the elusive apparitions of the numinous islands that are partly revealed to profane eyes over expanses of water and mists. Early medieval Chinese poets envision Daoist paradise as an autonomous, self-enclosed world, which is total and timeless with a paradoxical order of its own. At the same time they utilize elusive light, movement, and growth to animate its crystalline perfection. The scenery they create embodies not only the Daoist-rooted dream of eternal life but also the poets’ ideal of beauty and harmony, which was conceived as a highly artificial, ornate, and patterned elegance. The striving for sensuous appeal, for luminous and colorful depiction, and for original formulations and formal perfection gradually increases from the Eastern Jin onward. The Lands of the Shangqing Revelations Before turning to further developments in the depiction of immortal paradise in Southern Dynasties court poetry, we should consider how the Shangqing revelations expanded the divine realm in the second half of the fourth century. 60 61

Wenxuan 12.549; trans. Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 2, 315. Wenxuan 12.548; trans. Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 2, 315. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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The True Ones who appeared to Yang Xi were much more sublime celestial residents than the older xian immortals. They disclosed to earthly men higher, hitherto unknown heavenly zones and provided lengthy accounts of their true appearance. Of some seventy poems recorded by Yang Xi and later included in the Zhen’gao, almost all refer to or describe Shangqing paradises. The overwhelming majority of these poems are set in the highest reaches of the empyrean. Most frequently the opening lines describe celestial vistas, providing a background for the instructions that follow in the later sections of the text. These mystic visions radically dispense with all mundane features—esoteric Daoist names and paradoxical figures, which defy human categories, abound. The celestial landscapes of the True Ones are viewed from an allembracing panoramic perspective and teem with motion, color, radiance, sound, and fragrance. One of the most remarkable features of such landscapes is the pure, blazing light in all its variety that not only envelops the celestial vista but becomes the very building material of paradise. Heavenly vistas are frequently rendered solely through intangible radiance and colors. This is how Lady Right Bloom (Youying furen) describes her lofty domain in two poems she dictated to Yang Xi in October 365: 二景秀鬱玄 霄映朗八方 丹雲浮高晨 逍遥任靈風 鼓翮乘素飆 竦眄瓊臺中

(ll. 1–6) 絳景浮玄晨 紫軒乘煙征 仰超緑闕内 俯眄朱火城 東霞啓廣暉

62 63

The two skylights arise above the tangled mystery, Empyrean glow illuminates the eight regions. Cinnabar clouds float on the Lofty Dawn, We drift free and easy on the numinous wind. Beating our wings, we mount the pure whirlwind, And gaze down from the rose-gem terrace.62 Scarlet skylights float in the mystic dawn, Purple chariots move on, borne on haze. Above, I pass beyond the Green Pylons, Below, I behold the City of Vermilion Fire.63 Eastern auroras unfold an ample radiance,

Zhen’gao 3.7b, Zhen’gao jiaozhu 3.92. Alternative translation in Smith, Declarations of the Perfected, 190. The Palace of Vermilion Fire (Zhuhuo gong 朱火宮), here referred to as the City of Vermilion Fire (Zhuhuo cheng 朱火城) is the place where the form (xing) of certain adepts is refined (lian 煉) to make them immortal. See Zhen’gao 16.1, Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 492.

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(ll. 1–6)

Divine light enkindles the Seven Numina.64

Detailed and colorful descriptions of ten paradise realms at the ends of the human world also appear in the Shizhou ji (Records of the Ten Continents), which apparently originated during the fifth–sixth centuries AD in the milieu of the Shangqing tradition. From the late fifth century onward, some of these new paradise realms also start to appear in court poetry. The poets often refer to divine sites that are almost exclusively connected with the Shangqing tradition, such as the seamount Fangzhu, the Mystic Continent (Xuanzhou 玄洲), the Purple Prefecture (Zifu), and so on.65 Often the new Daoist realms are paired with a time-honored paradise in the parallel lines of a couplet: 清旦發玄洲 日暮宿丹丘

(ll. 1–2)

At clear dawn we set out from the Mystic Continent, At sunset spend the night at the Cinnabar Hill.66 (Shen Yue, “He Liu zhongshu xianshi ershou” #1)

The Cinnabar Hill (Danqiu) appeared as early as the second century BC as the home of plumed immortals in the “Yuanyou.” The Mystic Continent, on the other hand, is one of the high-ranking paradises of the immortals in the Shangqing tradition. The Shizhou ji locates it in the Northern Sea: On this continent there are many mansions of the immortal officials of the Grand Mystery; each palace and chamber is unique. There is an abundance of golden magic mushrooms and jade herbs. 上多太玄仙官宮室,宮室各異。饒金芝玉草。67

In “Shenxian pian” the sixth-century poet Dai Gao similarly alludes to the sacred topography described in the Shizhou ji: 64 65

66 67

Zhen’gao 3.8a, Zhen’gao jiaozhu 3.92. Alternative translation in Smith, Declarations of the Perfected, 192. The Seven Numina are the seven visible stars of the Dipper. These sites are not mentioned in earlier mythical geographies but figure prominently in the Zhen’gao and Shizhou ji. Terrence Russel speculates that these lands belonged to the mythology indigenous to the lower Yangzi region and only became widely known through their Shangqing adaptations (Songs of the Immortals, 30). Lu Qinli, 1660. Wang Guoliang, Hainei shizhou ji, 62.

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玄都宴晚集 紫府事朝看

(ll. 17–18)

At the Mystic Metropolis we meet for an evening feast, At the Purple Prefecture we look at the morning audience.68

The Mystic Metropolis (Xuandu 玄都) might be the Grand Mystic Metropolis (Taixuan du 太玄都) situated on the Mystic Continent.69 A certain Palace of the Purple Prefecture (Zifu gong 紫府宮) is mentioned in the Shizhou ji as situated on the Zhangzhou 長洲 continent in the Southern Sea—where heavenly perfected beings and immortal maidens frolicked.70 In the aftermath of the Shangqing revelations the Daoist notion of grottoheavens (dongtian 洞天) and blissful lands (fudi 福地) also entered the southern poetry. They were perfect worlds in miniature contained within certain sacred mountains, places of eternal light and evergreen vegetation exempt from calamities, wars, old age, and death. The immortals roamed for pleasure in these subterranean paradises, but only a few initiated mortals could locate and enter their elusive passageways. The original late fourth-century texts of the Shangqing revelations refer to a system of thirty-six grotto-heavens, which are interconnected by underground passages.71 One of the earliest extant references in poetry to the grotto-heavens is found in Xie Lingyun’s 謝靈運 (385–433) “Luofu shan fu” 羅浮山賦 (Fu on Mount Luofu), which was written around 427.72 In the preface Xie Lingyun describes the circumstances of its composition:

68 69

70 71

72

Lu Qinli, 2099. On the other hand, the Lingbao Daoist tradition situates the Mystic Metropolis in the highest heaven of Grand Veil (Daluo tian 大羅天). Called the Mystic Metropolis on Jade Capitoline Mountain (Yujing xuandu 玉京玄都), it is the residence of the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Commencement (Yuanshi tianzun 元始天尊). Wang Guoliang, Hainei shizhou ji, 65. Zhen’gao 11.5b, Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 355. The concept of grotto-heavens was advanced within the Shangqing revelations although the roots of this notion can be traced back to the Han chenwei 讖緯 apocrypha. The system of the grotto-heavens and blissful lands was fully systematized during the Tang period. In Tiandi gongfu tu 天地宮府圖 (Chart of the Palaces and Bureaus of the [Grotto-]Heavens and the [Blissful] Lands), compiled in the early eighth century, Sima Chengzhen 司馬承禎 (647–735) presents a series of ten major grotto-heavens, thirty-six minor grotto-heavens, and seventy-two blissful lands. Chen Zumei, Xie Lingyun nianpu huibian, 152. Mount Luofu is situated in the modern Guangdong province.

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One night while travelling I saw in a dream Mount Mao at Yanling southeast of the capital. In the morning I obtained a “Grotto Scripture,” which recorded information about Mount Luofu. It stated that Mount Mao stands at the entrance of a grotto court73 that connects to the south with Mount Luofu. This accorded with what I saw in my dream. Thus, I was moved to write “Fu on Mount Luofu.” 客夜夢見延陵茅山,在京之東南,明旦得洞經所載羅浮山事,云茅山 是洞庭口,南通羅浮,正與夢中意相會,遂感而作羅浮山賦。

In the preserved passage of the fu, Xie Lingyun cites the words of Sire Mao (Maogong 茅公): 1

若乃茅公之說 神化是悉 數非億度 道單悒憰 洞四有九 此惟其七 潜夜引輝 幽境朗日 故曰朱明之陽宫

5

9

耀真之陰室 洞穴之寶衢 海靈之雲術

As Sire Mao said: Divine transformations can be understood, Ordained fate cannot be assessed. The Dao deems one sorrow and deceit.74 Of all thirty-six grottoes This is the seventh. Light shines even in the darkest night, A sun illuminates the obscure realm. Therefore it is called the Yang Palace of Vermilion Brightness, The Yin Chamber of Shining Truth, The precious crossroad of grottos and caves, The cloudy way of the sea numina.75

Xie Lingyun’s account draws extensively on Shangqing texts and religious concepts. He records a dream vision of the sacred Mount Mao in present-day Jiangsu, the center of Shangqing Daoism and the location of the eighth grottoheaven. The Grotto Scripture (Dongjing 洞經) that he obtained might refer to a 73

74 75

The expression dongting 洞庭 (lit. “grotto court”) is ambiguous. There is a Lake Dongting near Changsha in modern Hunan, which was an important ancient cultic center. The name “Dongting” also became associated with Lake Tai 太湖 and Mount Bao 包山 in modern Jiangsu. The term dongting also appears in Shangqing texts as a technical term for the central space in a grotto-heaven. The various connotations of the term dongting are discussed in Gil Raz, “Daoist Sacred Geography,” 1433–1434. A reference to the Zhuangzi: “Things crafty and things strange, the Dao deems them all one” 恢恑憰怪,道通為一 (Zhuangzi jishi 2.70). Quan Song wen 30.1b.

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text associated with the central scripture of the Shangqing revelations, the Dadong zhenjing 大洞真經 (Authentic Scripture of the Great Grotto).76 Sire Mao, whom Xie Lingyun cites, is Mao Ying 茅盈, better known as Maojun 茅君, one of the founding divinities of Shangqing Daoism. According to traditional hagiographies, he lived during the Western Han dynasty and moved to Mount Gouqu with his two younger brothers, Mao Gu 茅固 and Mao Zhong 茅衷, to practice the Dao. After they ascended as immortals, Mount Gouqu was renamed as Mount Mao. Xue Lingyun’s account of the grotto-heaven is remarkably consistent with the Shangqing scriptures. Maojun zhuan 茅君傳 (Life of Lord Mao), one of the Shangqing revelation texts, speaks about thirty-six grotto-heavens within the earth and lists Mount Luofu as the seventh, referring to it as “Zhuming yaozhen” 朱明耀真 (Vermilion Brightness Shining Truth). Xie Lingyun divides this name in the parallel lines 9 and 10 cited above. The underground passageways connecting the grotto-heavens of Mount Mao and Mount Luofu mentioned in the preface are described in Zhen’gao 11.7a.77 Finally, the motif of eternal light featured in lines 7 and 8 is a permanent feature in accounts of subterranean paradises, such as in the following passage taken from the description of Mount Mao in Zhen’gao 11.6a: Inside there is a shadowy light that shines during the night and the root of the solar essence. They illuminate the interior of the void, and their light matches that of the sun and moon [of the outer world]. 其內有陰暉夜光日精之根,照此空內,明並日月矣。78

The surviving fragment of Xie Lingyun’s fu presents a coherent complex of religious ideas and terms connected with the Shangqing revelations: it refers to Shangqing sacred scripture and to a central divinity (Lord Mao), as well as Shangqing esoteric topography and its distinctive features. In 512 Emperor Wu of Liang composed a set of seven yuefu titled “Shangyun yue” (Music of the Supreme Clouds), which has already been mentioned in other connections above. With the exception of the sixth song, which is devoted to alchemy, they all describe divine paradises of Shangqing Daoism 76

77 78

The Dadong zhenjing, also known as the Sanshi jiu zhang 三十九章 (the Thirty-Nine Stanzas), survives in several editions contained in the Daozang (the major versions are found in DZ 5, DZ 6, DZ 7), all of which date from the Song or Yuan periods. The term Dadong 大洞 in the title, translated here as “Great Grotto,” also means “Great Profundity.” Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 357. Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 356. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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and assemblies of divinities and immortals taking place there. They are named after Daoist sacred sites: Phoenix Terrace (Fengtai 鳳臺), Mount Tongbo, Fangzhang Island, Fangzhu Island, Mount Yugui 玉龜 (the Jade Turtle Mountain), and Mount Jinling 金陵 (Golden Peak). Some of these are explicitly associated with Shangqing lore. Mount Tongbo located in Henan province is one of the Shangqing blissful lands (fudi). It contains the Golden Court Palace (Jinting gong) and is home of the immortal Wangzi Qiao. Fangzhu is the home of the Azure Lad (Qingtong), the Shangqing lord of the East.79 The grotto-heaven below Mount Mao mentioned by Xie Lingyun in his fu is the locale of the seventh song of the “Shangyun yue” cycle, “Jinling qu” (Tune of the Golden Peak), from which a couplet was already cited in the preceding chapter: 句曲仙 長樂遊 洞天巡 會跡六門 揖玉板 登金門 鳳泉迴肆 鷺羽降尋雲 鷺羽一流 芳芬鬱氛氳

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8

The immortals of Gouqu Roam in eternal joy. They inspect the grotto-heaven, And their tracks meet at the six gates. Holding their jade tablets, They ascend through the Golden Gates. The Phoenix Spring spins and spreads, Egret wings descend along the clouds. Egret wings stream, Sweet smells flow, pungent and profuse.80

Gouqu, mentioned in the first line of the song, is the old name for Mount Mao. Although the name Jinling (Golden Peak) was historically applied to another mountain near the capital Jiankang, in the Shangqing tradition it was appropriated to denote Mount Gouqu.81 It is described in the Zhen’gao as “a blissful realm for nurturing the True Ones, a numinous mound for transforming into spirit” 養真之福境,成神之靈墟.82 The Huayang Golden Altar grotto-heaven expands below its surface. The Zhen’gao provides a detailed description and records some of its history and lore.83

79 80 81 82 83

For a description of Mount Tongbo, see Zhen’gao 14.19a, Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 465. Fangzhu is described, for instance, in Zhen’gao 9.20–21b, Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 299. Lu Qinli, 1526. See Raz, “Daoist Sacred Geography,” 1434–35. Zhen’gao 11.5b, Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 345–349. Zhen’gao jiaozhu, chapter 11. Excerpts are translated by Gil Raz in Wendy Swartz et al., Early Medieval China, 664–674. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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The late Six Dynasties poets not only increasingly referred to new paradise realms at the ends of the world and in the mountains but occasionally also offered a glance into the mystic regions of the highest heavens. Some compositions speak of journeys through transcendental realms that were recently disclosed by the Shangqing divinities: 迎九玄於金闕 謁三素於玉清

(ll. 93–94)

Greet the Nine Mysteries at the Golden Pylons,84 Pay respect to the Three Immaculates in the Jade Purity.85 (Tao Hongjing, “Shuixian fu” 水仙賦)

The Jade Purity (Yuqing 玉清) is the highest of the Three Pure Heavens (sanqing 三清) known to the Maoshan Daoists.86 It is the ultimate celestial zone, inhabited by divine beings who never endured life on earth in a corruptible body. The Golden Pylons (Jinque 金闕) are the ceremonial gateway to the Jade Capital (Yujing 玉京), the supreme celestial city of the Shangqing gods. A ceremonial visit to the palace of the highest deities was an occasional perquisite for the True Ones. The Daoist adept depicted by Yu Xin similarly soars up into the remote regions of unbounded light of the Shangqing divinities: 寂絕乘丹氣 玄明上玉虚

(ll. 3–4)

In utter silence mount cinnabar breath, In mystic luminosity rise to the Jade Void.87 (“Daoshi buxu ci” #6)

The Jade Void (Yuxu 玉虚) represents the vast reaches on the rim of the Jade Purity.88 Daoist texts associate it with total, eternal luminosity. 84

85

86

87 88

The Nine Mysteries (jiuxuan 九玄) are the nine stars of the esoteric Dipper, including two stars visible only to the eyes of the initiated. The expression may also refer to the goddesses who inhabit these stars. Quan Liang wen 46.2a. The Three Immaculates (sansu 三素) are three pure and fine essences, partly visible as the soft colors of the morning sky in spring, usually thought of as white, yellow, and purple pastels. They were personified as three celestial sisters, who could be approached by the Daoist adept to nourish his inner self. See Schafer Sinological Papers 5, 3–4. They are as follows: the highest, Jade Purity heaven; the middle, Supreme Purity (Shangqing), reserved for the True Ones; and the lowest, Grand Purity (Taiqing 太清), abode of the xian immortals. Lu Qinli, 2349. Schafer Sinological Papers 5, 7.

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When assessing the Shangqing infusion of esoteric topography into the poetry of the Southern Dynasties, an important difference should be emphasized between religious poetry and secular poetry exploiting motifs and imagery from Daoist sources. While many of the poems collected in the Zhen’gao describe at length and in detail the ethereal sceneries of the highest heavens, the court poets in the fifth and the sixth centuries never attempted to render these mystic visions. Even when Tao Hongjing and Yu Xin write verses about journeys through these transcendental realms, they simply enumerate the mystic reaches in a manner reminiscent of the Chuci-type celestial journeys as the major “sky-marks” of their pilgrimage, but never dwell on their luminous scenery. As we have seen above, descriptions of paradise sceneries are very common in the court poetry, but these are divine sites located on the horizontal plane of earth and typically pertain to a paradise mountain or a garden. In addition, the paradises of immortals that the mundane poets describe and which we considered above, for all their otherness, remained much more substantial and tangible than the immaterial visions of condensed light and color disclosed by the divinities. The paradise landscapes connected with the youxian theme were observed from a much closer and slower-moving perspective than the accelerated cosmic visions of the True Ones. None of the southern poets attained the transcendental diction and the mystic rapture of the revealed verse, and none exploited in such detail the spectrum of celestial light and color; even poems that show Shangqing influences, such as those from Liang Wudi’s cycle “Shangyun yue,” remain in comparison much subdued despite their splendid imagery. Paradise on Earth At the time when the True Ones of the Shangqing heaven were disclosing to Yang Xi the sublime “sky-scapes” of the highest empyrean, the poets of this world were turning their attention in the opposite direction—toward landscapes on earth. During the late third century, poetry written in praise of living in reclusion (zhaoyin shi) had achieved prominence side by side with the theme of youxian, and in the course of the fourth century, as already pointed out in the previous chapter, the rather artificial borderline between the two themes became increasingly blurred. A plot typical for the early yuefu songs and poems on immortality involves meeting an immortal on one of the sacred mountains of China—primarily Mount Tai or Mount Hua—who subsequently leads the hero into a paradise

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beyond this world: Kunlun, Penglai, or the heavens. In the late Western Jin period, however, this plot was often transformed; the poet follows the immortals not to the far reaches of the world, but into the sacred mountains of China. Such is the extant opening of a poem by the fourth-century poet Lu Chen 盧諶 (285–351): 遐舉遊名山 松喬共相追 層崖成崇館 巖阿結重闈

Ascending far off, I roam the famous mountains, Following Redpine and Wangzi Qiao. Layered cliffs make storied mansions, Stern slopes interweave in manifold-halls.89 (“Shi” 詩)

The mountains are not merely the starting point for traveling toward the immortal realm, that is, a place of transition and transformation; they become the very goal of the voyager and are identified with the lands of immortality. The second couplet goes even further in merging the world of paradise and the world of nature. The magnificent palaces of the immortals—hallmarks of paradise—are not manmade constructions of gold and gems but “natural” formations made by the elements of the wild alpine landscape—cliffs and rocks. The replacement of human edifices with natural features is a conventional poetic device in the eremitic poetry of the period as, for instance, a fragmentary surviving “Zhaoyin” poem by the fourth-century poet Wang Kangju 王康琚 demonstrates: 華條當圜室 翠葉代綺窗

Floriate branches make an enclosed residence, Halcyon leaves replace a latticed window.90

In the preceding chapter I discuss the growing tendency in Jin poetry to merge the images of transcendental immortals and Daoist hermits, which culminated in the verse of Guo Pu. Simultaneously, the landscapes of the immortal realm increasingly converged with the mountainous surroundings of the Daoist recluses. A preserved fragment from Zhang Xie’s later third-century poem titled “Youxian,” which describes the Hanging Gardens of Kunlun, illustrates this point: 崢嶸玄圃深 嵯峨天嶺峭 89 90

Sky high—the Mystic Garden’s thickets, The Heaven Ridge towers, steep and tall.

Lu Qinli, 885. Lu Qinli, 953.

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4

蘭葩蓋嶺披 清風綠隟嘯

Pavilions and lodges, structures cloaked in clouds, And the three heavenly radiances float among the lengthy beams. Thoroughwort blossoms blanket ridges, Gentle breezes whistle in green clefts.91

The hyperbolic descriptions in the opening quatrain are typical of youxian verse: panoramic vistas of mountain ridges piercing the sky and sumptuous edifices so lofty that the sun, moon, and stars cycle under their roofs. Thereafter, the poet’s sight descends abruptly from the distant heights to focus on concrete, closely observed details. However, he focuses not on paradisial wonders of gems and gold but on tangible and audible elements of earthly nature: thoroughwort, green clefts, and the whistling breeze, which are all standard images in the eremitic poetry of the period. Guo Pu’s poetry expressed this trend even more intensely. Although some of his preserved “Youxian” poems describe the scenery of paradise and distant journeys, such as poems #6, #9, and #10, many of the pieces included in the Wenxuan take place amidst “mountains and forests” (shanlin 山林). “Youxian shi” #1 is a typical example: 京華游俠窟 山林隱遯棲 朱門何足榮 未若託蓬萊 臨源挹清波 陵岡掇丹荑 靈谿可潛盤 安事登雲梯

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The capital is a cave for wandering knights-errant, Mountains and forests are nests for the concealed recluses. The Vermilion Gates—how can they be splendid enough? They are no equal to a sojourn on Penglai By a spring scooping up clear waters, On a ridge gathering cinnabar buds. The Numinous Gorge is fitting for withdrawal, What need to climb the cloud-ladder?92 …

In the first couplet the capital (jinghua 京華)—the arena of mundane vainglory—is juxtaposed with the mountains and forests—places where recluses lead a quiet life of integrity. The next couplet reinforces this contrast: the Vermilion Gates (Zhumen 朱門), a symbol of power and wealth, are set in opposition to Penglai, the traditional abode of the immortals. The capital and 91 92

Lu Qinli, 748. Lu Qinli, 865.

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the Vermilion Gates both refer to the mundane world and its vanity and corruption, and one is led to believe that their respective counterparts—the mountains and forests, and Penglai, the residence of the divine immortals— signify the same location. Lines 5 and 6 describe the ideal life one leads in this pure realm, far away from worldly profanity. Guo Pu dispenses with the mythical lore of immortality—cosmic flights, transcendental beings, and gemmy elixirs—and refers instead to conventional activities described in eremitic poetry: drinking from clear springs and gathering herbs. The herbs in question, however, still retain a double meaning as natural plants and magical elixirs: cinnabar (dan 丹) might simply refer to the red color of the young herbs, but at the same time this term implies an association with immortality elixirs. After picturing the simple life he might enjoy amidst the mountains, Guo Pu announces its sufficiency. According to the Wenxuan commentator Li Shan, the Numinous Gorge (Lingxi 靈谿) is the name of an actual site, whereas the expression to “climb the cloud-ladder” (deng yunti 登雲梯) refers to the search for xian immortality. Such an interpretation would mean that Guo Pu, in a poem titled “Youxian,” in fact renounces the necessity of youxian—of distant roaming in search of the immortals. This paradoxical clash with the title of the poem has caused much uneasiness in modern literary history. Yuan Qing, for example, tries to avoid this discrepancy and argues that the phrase “cloud-ladder” should be a metaphor for political advancement, which would make the fourth couplet synonymous to the opening of the poem.93 Li Shan’s interpretation, however, is not as incompatible with the title as it might seem at first glance. In fact, Guo Pu’s statement becomes perfectly consistent when one reads it in light of the changes that the concept of immortality underwent during the fourth century. In the previous chapter we already encountered the image of the earthbound immortal (dixian) who prefers the free, eternal life amid terrestrial mountains to bureaucratic advancement in the celestial hierarchy. Furthermore, in the presently analyzed poem, Guo Pu equates the distant lands of paradise with the natural setting of the hermit. When the temporal aspect of eternal life is favored over the spatial aspect of celestial flight and, moreover, when the world beyond is contained in the very mountains and forests, what need is there to ascend into the far-off empyrean to seek immortality? Similar, even more explicit passages found in fourth-century verse reinforce such an interpretation. At the beginning of “You Tiantai shan fu” (Fu on 93

Han Wei Liuchao shi jianshang cidian, 439–441. Wolfgang Kubin adopts the same interpretation and translates the line in question freely as “Wozu nach Rang und Namen streben?” (Der durchsichtige Berg, 171).

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Roaming the Celestial Terrace Mountains), Sun Chuo, for example, establishes the Tiantai 天台 Mountains, or the Celestial Terrace Mountains, as a realm of the sacred par excellence, a counterpart of the divine isles of immortals:94 The Celestial Terrace Mountains indeed are the divine eminence of all mountains and peaks. Cross the sea and there will be Fangzhang and Penglai. Climb the land and there will be the Four Luminaries and Celestial Terrace [ranges]. All are places where mystic sages roam and transform themselves, where numinous immortals dwell in caves. 天台山者,蓋山嶽之神秀者也。涉海則有方丈蓬萊,登陸則有四明天 台。皆玄聖之所遊化,靈仙之所窟宅。95

Access to their sacred realm is not granted to everyone: Unless one is a man who abandons the world to “play with the Dao,” who cuts off grains to dine on magic mushrooms, how could he rise lightened in order to dwell in them? 非夫遺世翫道,絕粒茹芝者,烏能輕舉而宅 ?96

A few decades earlier Guo Pu had replaced the immortals from far-off imaginary realms with hermits abiding among terrestrial mountains. Sun Chuo goes even further than Guo Pu in recognizing the metaphysical dimension of nature. For him the natural world is not simply the surroundings of the “Men of the Way” but becomes the physical expression of the Dao itself: 太虛遼廓而無閡 94

95 96 97

The Grand Void, infinitely vast, unhindered,97

The Tiantai Mountains situated in eastern Zhejiang extended through five prefectures of the Guiji 會稽 commandery: Yuyao 餘姚, Yin 鄞, Juzhang 句章, Shan 剡, and Shining 始寧. In the first half of the fourth century, the area became an important Buddhist and Daoist center, and Ge Hong included it in his list of twenty-eight sacred mountains suitable for meditating and preparing the immortality elixir. He writes that these sacred mountains were all inhabited by real spirits and terrestrial immortals and that on their slopes grew potent herbs and magic mushrooms (Baopuzi neipian 4.85). Wenxuan 11.493; for translations of the complete fu see Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 2, 243– 253 and Mather, “The Mystical Ascent of the T’ien-t’ai Mountains.” Ibid. The Grand Void (Taixu 太虛) is the undifferentiated state of the universe before the emergence of forms. Miaoyou 妙有 (“subtle Actuality”) designates the latent actuality

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運自然之妙有 融而為川瀆 結而為山阜

(ll. 1–4)

Sets the subtle Actuality of the Naturally-so into motion. Melting, it forms streams and rivers, Congealing, it forms mountains and mounds.98

In the following chapter the spiritual journey undertaken by Sun Chuo through the Tiantai Mountains is discussed in more detail. It is nevertheless relevant to our topic here to make a preliminary mention of his travels, for they take the poet not far off into the distance, as in the older mystic journeys, but deep beyond the concrete features of the physical world. Beginning with a depiction of vivid naturalistic details, he then proceeds through the paradise realm contained within the mountains, which defies human categories and distinctions. From there the poet voyages further beyond the world of images into the realm of pure ideation, entering a sphere of abstract philosophical concepts. Sun Chuo’s mystic journey demonstrates that in fourth-century poetry the land of paradise is no longer inevitably situated at the ultimate points of the cosmos; instead, it could be discerned by the initiated eye in the sacred landscape of the terrestrial mountains. One has only to be attuned to the “true topography” of the great mountains in order to discover the immortal land within them. He poses a question similar to that of Guo Pu: 茍台嶺之可攀 亦何羨於層城

(ll. 27–28)

As long as the Terrace range can be climbed, Why yearn for the Storied City?99

This rhetorical question is echoed throughout Eastern Jin poetry. For example, the late fourth-century poet Zhan Fangsheng 湛方生 asks at end of his “Lingxiu shan ming” 靈秀山銘 (Inscription on Mount Lingxiu):



98 99

that is contained in non-actuality (wu 無). Li Shan’s commentary explains: One wishes to speak of Actuality but cannot see its form. Since it is not [true] Actuality, one calls it subtle. One wishes to speak of the things being born by it. Since it is not Non-actuality, one calls it Actuality. This is none other than Actuality within Nonactuality, one calls it subtle Actuality. 欲言有,不見其形,則非有,故謂之妙;欲言其物由之以生,則非無,故 謂之有也。斯乃無中之有,謂之妙有也。 (Wenxuan 11.495) Wenxuan 11.494–95. Wenxuan 11.496. The Storied City (Cengcheng 層城) designates Kunlun.

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(ll. 17–20)

One can nurture his nature, One can dwell and soar. Long life forever— Why should it be in the immortal realm?100

Zhan Fangshen here similarly gives preference to eternal life in this earthly paradise over celestial flights to worlds beyond. Despite the seemingly natural settings of many Eastern Jin poems on immortality, they do not depict actual scenery undergoing temporal changes but retain the sacred features of paradise. In representations of immortality that are set in mountainous landscapes, temporal and seasonal imagery are generally excluded. This is a major difference from the landscape poetry of the period, to which time and its passing are of central importance. If natural (or supernatural) details of paradise scenery bring any temporal information at all, their lushness and freshness suggest eternal spring and everlasting light. Temporal adverbs such as jian 漸 (“gradually”), wei 未 (“not yet”), yi 已 (“already”), which in landscape poetry typically indicate temporal processes and change, are also absent. The temporal adverbs that do occasionally appear instead convey repetition and endless duration: 九莖日反照 三葉長生花

(ll. 3–4)

The nine stalks daily reflect the light, The triple leaves forever bear blooms.101 (Wu Jun, “Caiyao Dabu shan shi” 採藥大布山詩)

Mountains were revered since ancient times as phenomena endowed with magical-spiritual power, but now they are additionally charged with Daoist arcana. The famous mountains are not regarded merely as natural formations but are rhapsodized as numinous realms beyond time, abodes of Daoist divinities, places of encounters with immortals, and sites of Daoist transformation. One such supernatural encounter is recorded in Zhan Fangsheng’s preface to his “Lushan shenxian shi” 廬山神仙詩 (Poem on the Immortal from Mount Lu). Dated 386, this preface is a fine example of early landscape parallel prose, written fifteen years earlier than the famous “You Shimen shi bing xu” 游石門 100 101

Quan Jin wen 140.8a. Lu Qinli, 1739. The expression jiujing 九莖 probably designates angelica. The triple leaves (sanye 三葉) might refer to Capsulla bursa-pastoris (shepherd’s purse) or to the similar species of Thlaspi arvense and Draba nemoralis.

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詩並序 (Preface to Poems about Roaming Stone Gate) from the Buddhist circle

of Master Huiyuan. The preface, much longer than the rather conventional quatrain that follows, extols the mystic qualities of Mount Lu. The alpine setting is considered an appropriate stage for an epiphany of the divine: In the Xunyang district there is a Mount Lu. Its foothills twist to the west of Pengji Marsh. Soaring peaks, steep and lofty, divide the light of sun and moon. Hidden streams, deep and limpid, gather purity for hundreds of feet. And then: abrupt crags, sharp and sheer, with no trace of men’s travels. Sombrous and secluded, dark and deep, it forever holds auroras and gathers qi. It can truly be called a realm of luminous spirits (shenming), a park of True Ones. In the eleventh year of the era Grand Origin, a wood gatherer was on its southern slope. And then fresh aurora rose in the forest, and slanting rays lit the peak. He saw a monk cloaked in Buddhist robe alone on the cliffs. In a short while the monk shook his skirts and waved his staff. He flew straight up the cliff and, parting the cinnabar clouds, rose lightened. He rose up nine hands and a thumb, so he could mount the white clouds. How could the Land of God be too far off for him? The wood-gatherer stared intensely into the blue as the monk grew indistinct and all trace of him vanished. The poem reads: I inhale wind from the Mystic Gardens, And drink dew from cinnabar clouds. Dwelling among the Five Marchmounts, I befriend Redpine and Wangzi Qiao. 尋陽有廬山者。盤基彭蠡之西。其崇標峻極。辰光隔輝。幽澗澄深。 積清百仞。若乃絕阻重險。非人跡之所遊。窈窕沖深。常含霞而貯 氣。真可謂神明之區域。列真之苑囿矣。太元十一年。有樵採之陽 者。于時鮮霞褰林。傾暉映岫。見一沙門。披法服獨在巖中。俄頃振 裳揮錫。凌崖直上。排丹霄而輕舉。起九折而一指。既白云之可乘。 何帝鄉之足遠哉?窮目蒼蒼。翳然滅跡。 詩曰: 吸風玄圃。飲露丹 霄。室宅五岳。賓友松喬。102

Similarly to Zhan Fangsheng, when early medieval poets describe mountain landscapes in the context of immortality, they stress the sacred, mystic qualities inherent in the scenery and focus on elements that possess a highly numinous charge, such as rivers, heavenly bodies, magic herbs and ores, potent 102

Lu Qinli, 943.

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mists, and auroral emanations. Mountains contain natural drugs of immortality—powerful herbs, magic mushrooms, and minerals, such as those described in Yu Chan’s “Caiyao shi,” which was cited earlier in this chapter. They are also the locus of the revelation of transcendental knowledge and celestial texts that were of central importance to the Shangqing Daoist tradition. An encomium probably composed by Emperor Xiaowu 孝武 of Song (r. 453–464) on an outing to Gushu 姑孰 (modern Dangtu 當涂, Anhui) transforms the scenery into a Daoist paradise and generator of sacred scriptures:103

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洞井贊

Encomium on the Grotto Well

絳紀山瑞 紫志川靈 金膏溢曜 玉樹含英 端巖毓泉 挹祥吐禎 彪彬仙牒 揮翕詭經

Scarlet records—mountain felicities, Purple chronicles—stream numina. Golden oil sprays brilliance, Jade trees bosom blooms. Sublime cliffs nurture springs, Scooping auspiciousness, emitting bliss. Bright and blazing, the immortals’ tablets, Spreading and folding, extraordinary scriptures.104

Although composed during a court excursion, this encomium does not describe the surrounding scenery but evokes a numinous landscape, which with its trees of jade and springs of golden oil resembles the distant paradises of Penglai and Kunlun. The mountain itself is charged with sacred powers that engender auspicious signs and bring forth divine writings of the highest rank. From the late fifth century onward, the border between the landscapes of otherworldly realms and the mountains becomes increasingly less distinct. Accounts of actual travels in the mountains often incorporate the fantastic imagery of paradise as demonstrated, for example, in Jiang Yan’s poem “Cong guanjun Jianping wang deng Lushan Xianglu feng” 從冠軍建平王登盧山香爐

103

104

Yiwen leiju 78 lists this encomium as written by Emperor Xiaowu of Song. The biography of Xie Fei 謝朏 (441–506) in Liang shu 15.261, however, relates the story of the young Xie Fei composing an encomium with this title, “Dongjing zan,” on the command of Emperor Xiaowu during an excursion in the Gushu. The emperor was so impressed that he exclaimed, “Although so young, he is a wondrous lad!” Quan Song wen 6.10b. I suppose that the first two characters in the last line might be corrupted. Hui 揮 most likely is hui 煇 (“shining”), and the line probably refers to the luminosity of the scriptures.

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峯 (Accompanying the General Commander of the Troops, the Prince of

Jianping, I Ascend the Incense-Burner Peak of Mount Lu):105 廣成愛神鼎 淮南好丹經 此山具鸞鶴 往來盡仙靈

4

瑤草正翕赩 玉樹信蔥青 絳氣下縈薄 白雲上杳冥 中坐瞰蜿虹 俛伏視流星 不尋遐怪極 則知耳目驚 日落長沙渚 曾陰萬里生

8

12

藉蘭素多意 16

臨風默含情 方學松柏隱 羞逐市井名 幸承光誦末 伏思託後旍

20

Guang Cheng cherished the divine tripod, The King of Huainan was fond of cinnabar scriptures. This mountain is full of simurghs and cranes, Those coming and leaving are all immortals and spirits. Azure-gem grass so lush and luxuriant, Jade trees of such lavish luster. Scarlet vapors fall upon coiling thickets, White clouds rise into inscrutable faintness. Sitting here, I look down at a twisting rainbow; Crouching with lowered eyes, I behold a floating star. No need to pursue the limits of distant wonders, I know already what startles sight and hearing. The sun sets over Changsha Island, Layered shadows are born from within ten thousand miles. Cushioned by thoroughwort, I purify my myriad thoughts, Facing the wind, I quiet down my cherished feelings. I will emulate cypress and pine reclusion, Ashamed to pursue marketplace renown. Being graced to receive your illustrious verse, I entrust my hidden thoughts to the rear chariot.106

The last couplet indicates that this poem was probably written to match a no longer extant poem by Liu Jingsu. The extensive title explicitly specifies the location and circumstances of the excursion, but the description that follows at once suppresses all realistic features of an earthly landscape. The first couplet immediately transports the reader into the realm of immortality seekers and alchemy adepts. Religiously significant elements of the scenery draw the 105

106

The Prince of Jianping is Liu Jingsu 劉景素 (452–476), great-grandson of Emperor Wen 文 of Song (r. 424–453). Jiang Yan joined his entourage in 466. This poem was written in 470, when Liu Jingsu became governor of Xiang 湘 province and Jiang Yan accompanied him on his assignment. Wenxuan 22.1058.

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attention of the poet: divine birds, spirits, gemmy herbs and trees, potent scarlet vapors, and clouds. The poet is present within the landscape, but in a paradoxical situation of looking down at a rainbow and a comet below him. This act does not merely serve as a metaphor for the extreme altitude of his mountain lookout; such blurring of spatial distinctions is typical of the way one perceives within the realm of paradise. In the zone beyond rational human differentiation, conventional patterns of perception are transcended as well.107 As in Zhan Fangsheng’s “Lingxiu shan ming,” the poet, Jiang Yan, questions the necessity of striving after distant mythical paradises, for the divine world can be much closer, discernible in the mountainous landscape itself. Many Southern Dynasties poems follow a similar structure: the vivid mountainous scenery in which the poet roams calls up reminiscences of immortals who had cultivated life on the mountain in question or still linger there. For example, in Yu Xin’s “He Yuwen neishi chunri youshan” 和宇文內史春日遊山 (Matching a Poem on Roaming on a Spring Day in the Mountains by Inner Secretary Yuwen), a lively description of an alpine landscape is followed by recollections of the Daoist Feng Junda 封君達 and the immortal Ding Lingwei 丁令威, who “on this place boiled the elixir, naturally refusing to return.” 煮丹於此地。居然未肯歸.108 Furthermore, evocations of Daoist paradises are commonly integrated into poems describing visits to Daoist temples, a novel theme that appears in the poetry of the late fifth–sixth centuries. The temples are transformed into Daoist blissful lands (fudi) full of paradisal wonders, and the priests dwelling there are praised as celestial immortals. Examples include Shen Yue’s “You 107



108

The deliberate blurring of spatial distinctions is also found at many points in Xie Lingyun’s mountainous worlds. Although critics attempt to provide realistic interpretations of this feature, it might reflect the paradoxical air of sacred otherworldly sceneries. In “Shanju fu” 山居賦 (Fu on Dwelling in the Mountains), Xie Lingyun writes, similarly to Jiang Yan, of looking down at shooting stars from his lodge (Quan Song wen 31.8a). Even more pronounced is the abolition of spatial directions achieved through a play on the conventional formula of looking up and down: 俛視喬木杪 Below I see the tips of towering trees; 仰聆大壑淙 Looking up I hear the great valley’s roar. (ll. 7–8) (“Yu Nanshan wang Beishan jing huzhong zhantiao” 於南山往北山經湖中瞻眺, Lu Qinli, 1172) Elsewhere Xie Lingyun disorients the reader through inverting the east-west axis: 眷西謂初月 I look west—there’s supposed to be the rising moon; 顧東疑落日 Then turn east, wondering about the setting sun. (ll. 9–10) (“Deng Yongjia Lüzhang shan” 登永嘉綠嶂山, Lu Qinli, 1163) Lu Qinli, 2355.

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Shen Daoshi guan” 遊沈道士館 (Roaming to the Temple of the Daoist Priest Shen); Yu Jianwu’s “Daoguan” 道館 (Daoist Temple); Zhou Hongzheng’s “He Yu Jianwu ru daoguan” 和庾肩吾入道館 (Matching a Poem by Yu Jianwu on Entering a Daoist Temple), which was translated in the previous chapter; Yu Xin’s “Ru daoguan” 入道館 (Entering a Daoist Temple); and Yin Keng’s “You Shixing daoguan shi” 遊始興道館詩 (Roaming in the Temple of Original Establishment). The Court Dulcification of Otherworldly Nature While in Southern Dynasties poetry nature was frequently endowed with numinous powers, representations of the higher realms increasingly transformed into delightful mountainous vistas. The fading borderline between terrestrial and paradise nature at the end of the Southern Dynasties is evident in the poetry of Yu Xin. One of his poems, which is set in the Hanging Gardens of Kunlun, describes a vivid mountainous landscape instead of a fantastic vision of golden towers and jewel trees:

4

8

聊登玄圃殿 更上增城山 不知高幾里 低頭看世間 唱歌雲欲聚 彈琴鶴欲舞 澗底百重花 山根一片雨 婉婉藤倒垂 亭亭松直豎

I casually ascend the Mystic Garden halls, Further climb the Storied City Mount. I do not know how many miles it is high, Lowering my head I look into the world. As I chant a song, clouds start to gather, As I strum a zither, cranes start to dance. At the stream bottom—hundred-tiered flowers, At the mountain roots—a single patch of rain. Curling and coiling, creepers hang down in cascades; Lofty towering, pines stand upright.109

Wu Zhaoyi 吳兆宜 (active 1672) includes this poem under the title “Youxian” 遊 仙 (Roaming into Immortality) in his edition of Yu Xin’s works. However, in other editions it bears the title “Youshan” 遊山 (Roaming in the Mountains).110 Only the first couplet points to the otherworldly location of the scenery 109 110

Ibid. Yu Kaifu ji jianzhu 4. The title “Youshan” is found in Gushi ji 125, Wenyuan yinghua 159, Gushi jing 28, and Han Wei Liuchao baisan jia ji 112, among others. These sources commonly contain a remark that the poem is also known under the alternative title of “Youxian.”

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described—the Hanging Gardens and the Storied City of Kunlun. Not only is the journey to these sites lacking but the poet ascends them “casually” (liao 聊), at a pace more suitable for a pleasant excursion into the mountains than for the treacherous road to Kunlun. The second part of the poem evocatively describes the alluring mountain landscape instead of a paradise land of gold and precious stones. The parallel lines of the fourth couplet elegantly bring together the images of flowers and the rain, paradoxically viewed from above. Not only is the divine land transformed into a natural setting but this scenery is elegant and harmonious, a source of aesthetic delight above all. The ambiguous relationship between the poem’s title and content indicate that its actual theme might not even be the paradise of Kunlun but the mountainous scenery itself, which is celebrated through its oblique equation with the land of immortality. Indeed, by the fifth century parallels between real landscapes and Mount Kunlun had become a common figure in landscape poetry. For example, in his preface to the “You xiechuan” 游斜川 (Excursion to the Meandering Stream), Tao Yuanming looks to the hills of the Storied Walls in the distance and associates them with Mount Kunlun.111 In “Deng jiangzhong guyu” 登江中孤嶼 (Climbing a Solitary Islet in the River), Xie Lingyun likewise relates a lonely island to Mount Kunlun but paradoxically reverses the relation, stating that it is Kunlun which looks like the earthly hill: 想像昆山姿 緬邈區中緣

I imagine the beauty of Mount Kun, Its forms come from the world of men.112

Another of Yu Xin’s poems, “Xun Zhou chushi Hongran shi” 尋周處士弘讓詩 (Looking for the Recluse Zhou Hongrang),113 illustrates the reevaluation and interweaving of several poetical themes in the late Southern Dynasties, including “roaming into immortality” and “beckoning the recluse,” as well as landscape poetry:

111 112 113

Lu Qinli, 975. Lu Qinli, 1162. Zhou Hongrang 周弘讓 (fl. 530–560) was a younger brother of Zhou Hongzheng, a poem of whom is translated in chap. 3. He lived in retirement, refusing official appointments. Later in life he accepted an office from the usurper Hou Jing 侯景 (d. 552) as vice director of the secretariat. There are two poems in Yu Xin’s collected works that are addressed to him.

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試遂赤松遊 披林對一丘 梨紅大谷晚 桂白小山秋

4

石鏡菱花發 桐門琴曲愁 泉飛疑度雨 雲積似重樓 王孫若不去 山中定可留

8

I try to voyage after Redpine, Parting the forest, I face a hill. The red of pears—night falls in the deep valley, The white of cassia—autumn comes to the small mountain. A stone mirror blooms with water chestnuts, Within paulownia gates the tune of the zither saddens, The spring shoots up—like a passing rain, Clouds heap—like storied towers. O Prince, do not leave! In the mountains you can stay.114

The title of the poem connects it with eremitic themes. However, it commences in typical youxian manner with a journey after an immortal. While in earlier poetry the immortal master would lead the hero into a paradise realm beyond our world, here Master Redpine opens up a beautiful and harmonious mountainous landscape. Unlike the earlier tradition in which otherworldly scenery was suspended in timeless stasis, Yu Xin introduces in the second couplet a temporal dimension—the time of day, suggested by the reddened pear trees, and the early autumn season, indicated by the white blooms of the cassia. Here, however, the references to autumn and evening, which are conventional metaphors for the decline of life, do not bring frustrated reflections on the ephemerality of being. The prevailing mood is delectation at the beauty of the scene, mingled with a slight touch of elegant melancholy. This couplet, moreover, contains subtle intertextual references. The pears in the Great Gorge (Dagu 大谷) refer to certain unique pears of Sire Zhang 張公 from the Great Gorge, which had appeared earlier in Pan Yue’s 潘岳 (247–300) Luoyang ji 洛陽 記 (Luoyang Records) and “Xianju fu” 閒居賦 (Fu on Living in Idleness). The expression xiaoshan 小山 (“small mountain”) in line 4 brings to mind the name of Huainan Xiaoshan 淮南小山—the alleged author of the poem “Zhao yinshi” in the Chuci. The refined play of words and allusions simultaneously creates an evocative picture of autumn twilight and links the verse to older compositions on living in the mountains, such as the “Xianju fu” and “Zhao yinshi.”115

114 115

Lu Qinli, 1988. In Yiwen leiju 36 this poem is attributed to Yu Xin’s father, the poet Yu Jianwu. Yu Xin infuses his allusion to the Chuci’s “Zhao yinshi” poem with the meaning that the notion of zhaoyin had acquired in the Western Jin poetry—a call for retreat to the mountainous realms of purity and peace. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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The third couplet faintly echoes lines from Xie Lingyun’s “Ru Pengli hukou” 入彭蠡湖口 (Entering the Mouth of Pengli Lake): 攀崖照石鏡 牽葉入松門

(ll. 11–12)

Climbing cliffs, I viewed myself in the stone mirror, Holding myself to leaves, I entered the Pine Gates.116

The stone mirror in line 5 of Yu Xin’s poem is explained in earlier records as a round stone found on Mount Stone Mirror (Shijing shan 石鏡山), which reflects the human image like a mirror.117 Water chestnut (linghua 菱花) is a common epithet for mirrors, which were frequently decorated with or shaped like water chestnut flower. In Yu Xin’s polished image natural and man-made realms merge together—an element of nature is transformed into an elegant human object, while retaining its natural endowment of growth and blooming. The second line of the couplet is a playful elaboration of the image of the qin zither: made of paulownia wood, this musical instrument is traditionally associated with the paulownia (wutong 梧桐). At the same time the phrase “paulownia gates” (tongmen 桐門) corresponds to Xie Lingyun’s “pine gates” (songmen 松門). The last couplet turns back to the “Zhao yinshi” poem of the Chuci but completely reverses its meaning. While the Chuci poet summons the exile back into the human world, calling “O Prince, return! In the mountains—one should not stay there long!” 王孫兮歸來, 山中兮不可以久留, Yu Xin urges the recluse to remain forever in his alpine realm and calls for withdrawal to the mountains. The world that the immortal Redpine opens up is no longer the frightful, inhuman realm of the Chuci poem. Nor is it the awe-inspiring sacred realm of the earlier mountainous abodes of the immortals. It is also not the eremitic world of purity and simplicity that the title seemingly suggests. Here nature is cultivated, turned into precious man-made objects—mountain stones become mirrors carved with flowers and paulownia trees are made into zithers. The tendency to transform nature and natural phenomena into elegant human products is typical for the poetry of Qi and Liang in general. Entities of the divine realm might be similarly remolded, as in the following couplet from a youxian poem by Yu Xin: 116 117



Wenxuan 26, 1249. Zhang Sengjian’s 張僧鍳 (n.d.) Xunyang ji 尋陽記, cited by Li Shan (Wenxuan 26.1249). It seems that by the Liang dynasty the image of the stone mirror had already entered the poetical vocabulary of the court poets. See, for example, “Xing yushan ming” 行雨山銘 (Inscription on Traveling in the Rainy Mountain) by Xiao Gang: 芸香馥逕 Rue fragrance perfumes paths, 石鏡臨墀 Stone mirrors look down at platforms. (Quan Liang wen 13.7a) 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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石紋如碎錦 藤苗似亂絲

(ll. 11–12)

Stone patterns like patches of brocade, Creepers sprout like silk in disarray.118 (“Fenghe Zhaowang youxian shi” 奉和趙王遊仙詩)

The merging of paradise vistas with the refined court ambiance we observe in the last two poems by Yu Xin can to a large degree be explained by the poetic developments from the Qi dynasty onward, which are associated with the Yongming style (Yongming ti 永明體).119 The Qi-Liang poets turned from the dramatic mountainous nature of Xie Lingyun’s poetry to the elegant, manmade scenery of the private garden, in which aristocrats embodied their vision of harmony and beauty. In this poetry on intimate landscapes, description is directed toward the outer charm of nature without being necessarily a means of philosophical reflection or emotional outpouring. The poet assumes the part of an outside observer who tries to discover unusual, sensually appealing details or surprising relations between the familiar elements of nature. As evidenced by Yu Xin’s poems, in late Southern Dynasties court poetry both earthly nature and paradise scenery underwent significant changes. They became, one might say, less “natural” and less numinous; they were refined and tamed, turned into exquisite products of courtly elegance that above all provided aesthetic delight.

118 119

Lu Qinli, 2362. On Yongming style, see Lomova, “Yongming Style Poetry” and Goh, Sound and Sight.

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Chapter 5

The Way to Immortality As we have seen in the previous chapter, in the poetry from the Han until the Eastern Jin the worlds of immortals and of humans were represented as two distinct realms distant from one another. The most easily conceivable way to overcome the gap between the two was, therefore, to embark on a long journey through space. In early poetry the process of attaining immortality was described as a journey to a far-away place, during which the hero was lifted from the ordinary mortal world and transported to a land of paradise. In the first chapter I considered the cosmic journey as a major attribute of the state of immortality. In this chapter I return to the same theme but regard it from a somewhat different perspective—as a “way” into immortality, as a method to become a xian immortal. Journeys to Other Worlds The “Yuanyou” Poem of the Chuci The earliest and most influential poetical treatment of the cosmic journey theme in connection to the quest for immortality is found in the “Yuanyou” from the Chuci anthology. Many of the topics, images, and ideas contained in this composition have been discussed at various points above. Now we should take a closer look at the narrative frame that brings the various topoi together and imbues them with significance as sequential stages of a single process leading to immortality. In general plot, imagery, and diction the “Yuanyou” is closely connected to the somewhat older “Lisao,” attributed to Qu Yuan. This long autobiographical poem narrates how the hero, slandered by his political enemies and banished from court, undertakes a fantastic journey through the skies in search of a virtuous lord. In the “Yuanyou,” however, the poet no longer employs the cosmic flight theme to convey a political allegory but transforms it into the mystical journey of a Daoist adept. The heavenly exploits of the poet, narrated in the first person, are aimed at achieving immortality, perceived here as the absolute transcendence of the phenomenal world. His way to ultimate fulfilment consists of a successful course of various techniques of inner cultivation, encounters with immortals and deities, and successive peregrination through the universe in all the cardinal directions.1 1 For a general overview of the quest and distant journey themes in the Chuci, see the pioneering article by David Hawkes, “The Quest of the Goddess.” © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004313699_007

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In a manner typical of the sao tradition the cosmic travels in the “Yuanyou” are intimately linked with the protagonist’s afflictions in the human world, which provide an immediate stimulus for seeking out an escape into the realms beyond. The poet apprehends the corruption of the present world, feels isolated from his contemporaries, and is aware of the continuing advance of time and approaching death. As an alternative to the restrictions of human existence, he recollects famous immortals of past ages, such as Fu Yue and Han Zhong, and declares his determination to follow their example. Thus, the beginning of the poem juxtaposes two distinct modes of being and presents two separate conflicting worlds. Thereafter the poem delineates the successive stages by which the adept perfects himself in order to leave the world of men and set off on a cosmic journey. The plot superficially resembles the “Lisao,” where the poet also undergoes a process of self-cultivation before embarking on his celestial travels. The protagonist of the “Lisao,” however, cultivates his moral virtues and in no way aims to overcome his human, physical nature. This process, moreover, is expressed through allegories and plant symbolism, which point to moral values. In contrast, the “Yuanyou” describes actual methods of self-cultivation current in the period: concentration and self-reflection, absorption of cosmic exudations, and respiratory exercises. 餐六氣而飲沆瀣兮 漱正陽而含朝霞 保神明之清澄兮

I dined on the six breaths and drank the Drifting Flow, Rinsed my mouth with the Truest Yang and imbibed Dawn Aurora.2 I preserved the clear purity of spirit-lights,3

2 The six breaths (liuqi 六氣) mentioned here as a class are, according to one explanation, the essences of the four divisions of the day and of Heaven and Earth (Lingyang Ziming jing 陵 陽子明經, cited by Wang Yi, Chuci buzhu, 166). The three mentioned qi—Drifting Flow, True Yang, and Dawn Aurora—are types of the six breaths, the beneficial qi of midnight, midday, and dawn, respectively. 3 Shenming 神明 is a vexing term. While it generally refers to macrocosmic spirits, in many early texts that describe the workings of the human self (the Neiye, some passages of the Xunzi 荀子 and the Huainanzi), the shenming are situated within the body. In this case the expression shenming is generally understood to denote a mental faculty, or “metaphysical knowledge,” such as precognition and intuition, occurring without rational input (Roth, “Psychology and Self-Cultivation,” 641). It has been translated as “daemonic-and-clear seeing” (Graham, Disputers of the Tao, 252), “spirit-like intelligence” (Knoblock, Xunzi, vol. 3, 297), and “spiritual illumination” (Harper, Early Chinese Medical Literature). For a debate about the division between the two meanings and about the equation of shenming with intelligence, see the discus-

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(ll. 55–58)

As essence and breath enter in, dirt and filth are expelled.4

As a result of these practices the hero ultimately becomes able to visit the great immortal Wangzi Qiao in the south and to hear from him instructions on nurturing and unifying the qi. After this initiation the poet is capable of reaching the lands of the immortals and meeting the plumed men on Cinnabar Hill. He then wanders to the mythical lands of sunrise and sunset, appropriating the animating energy of the sun, which further strengthens his essence and spirit: 精醇粹而始壯 質銷鑠以汋約兮 神要眇以淫放

(ll. 84–86)

My essence, unmixed and pure, began to strengthen, My substance, smelted and fused, became tender and supple, My spirit, profound and subtle, overflew to roam afar.5

Michael Puett reads this passage as depicting liberation of the spirit from the body.6 Paul W. Kroll’s translation implies a similar understanding: “As body, weakening and wasting, turned tender and listless / Spirit, growing fine and subtle, was released, unrestrained.”7 I see, however, no implications of dualism between spirit and body in these lines. The body, or rather, the “matter,” or the “substance” (zhi 質), is here presented not as something that withers and is simply cast away but as the subject of a quasi-metallurgical process of smelting and refinement. As a result it acquires the quality of the “divine men” (shenren), who are characterized in the Zhuangzi as being as “tender and supple as maidens” 綽約若處子8 (note the identical adjectives zhuoyue 汋約 and chuoyue 綽約). The expression yanfang 淫放 similarly does not necessarily imply release (one of the meanings of fang 放) of the spirit from the body. Wang Yi

4 5 6 7 8

sion in Bokenkamp, “What Taoist Body?,” 144–147. It seems to me that the expression shenming might be read here in the plural form as “microcosmic spirits.” Chuci buzhu 5.166. Probably a reference to the respiratory practice known as chu gu na xin (“breathing out the old and breathing in the new”), which was discussed in chapter 3. Chuci buzhu 5.168. Puett, To Become a God, 219. Kroll, “On ‘Far Roaming,’” 661. Zhuangzi jizhu 1.28.

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glosses it “to roam afar,” and in the same sense it is used in the context of a cosmic journey, for instance, in Zhang Heng’s “Sixuan fu.” The poet’s reflections and the account of his esoteric training resonate with the ideas found in early Daoist texts and self-cultivation literature. The expressions describing the poet’s aims and inner cultivation are familiar from the Zhuangzi, the Daode jing, and the Huainanzi—zhengqi 正氣 (“the primal/true qi”), xujing 虛靜 (“emptiness and stillness”), tianyu 恬愉 (“serenity”), wuwei 無 為 (“non-action”), zide 自得 (“true satisfaction”), and deyi 得一 (“attain the One”). The poem also exhibits close parallels with some of the ideas and terminology of the “Neiye” (Inward Training) and “Xinshu” 心術 (Arts of the Heart) chapters of the Guanzi, and with the Shiwen (Ten Questions) medical manuscript, especially with the notions regarding the qi and jing (essence).9 The process of inner training, as well as the oral instructions of Wangzi Qiao, is based on directly working with various forms of qi: by absorbing a variety of cosmic qi and accumulating and concentrating jing and shen (spirit)—the most refined forms of qi—within one’s body, one can, among other things, refine the corporeal parts. Purified and etherealized to the utmost, the hero leaves his southern homeland and is transported to the higher realms of nature. He rises on a floating cloud to the Changhe Gate and beyond to the Grand Tenuity (Taiwei 太微) starry palace.10 While in a very similar passage in the “Lisao” the traveler is turned away from the gates of heaven, here the celestial guard pushes open the Changhe Gate.11 This portal became a permanent landmark in the subsequent descriptions of cosmic journeys, where it always tests the visionary travelers at the transitory point to heaven and indicates a passage between planes of being.12 9

10

11

12

M. Puett links the “Yuanyou” with question four of the Shiwen and with the dialogue between Huangdi and Guang Chengzi in chapter 11 of the Zhuangzi; he discusses them as examples of what he calls “ascension literature,” which depicts the liberation and ascension of the spirit to the heavens (To Become a God, 201–224). Taiwei, or the Grand Tenuity, is one of the great star palaces of the Chinese sky. It consists of more than ten stars situated in the constellations Leo, Coma Berenices, Virgo, and Sextans. It is considered to be the southern palace of the Grand Monad, Taiyi, and is an astral administrative center distinct from the Purple Tenuity at the Celestial North Pole, which is a grand audience hall above all (Schafer Sinological Papers 5, 11). For a description of Taiwei, see Shiji 27.1299; Sun Xiaochun and Kistemaker, The Chinese Sky during the Han, 124–128, where star maps are also provided. The “Lisao” passage is almost identically phrased; compare “He pushed the Changhe Gate open and looked at me” 排閶闔而望予 (“Yuanyou”) with “He leaned on the Changhe Gate and looked at me” 依閶闔而望予 (“Lisao” l. 208). Through a conceptual analysis of the components chang 閶 and he 闔, Elyzabeth Hyland characterizes this gate as the “Chinese version of the Greek Symplegades”—a coincidence of opposites that tests the traveler (Hyland, Oracles of the True Ones, 160–61, n. 59). 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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Having successfully passed the trial of the Changhe Gate, the protagonist embarks on his celestial journey proper. The account exploits the conventions of the itineraria theme as developed in the earlier poetry of the Chuci anthology. The hero progresses accompanied by a magnificent entourage of ten thousand chariots, riding an eight-dragon harness, with cloud banners and rainbow standards flapping in the wind and phoenixes soaring above, commanding numerous gods and deities in his retinue. His cosmic potency extends even to the stars—he takes hold of a comet to use it as a banner and brandishes the Dipper’s handle as a baton. The portrayal of the Perfected Man resembles the depiction of the ancient celestial deities in the “Jiuge” as masters of clouds, wind, and rain. The entire account of his paraphernalia and entourage is based on the conventional imagery and formulas (left-right, morning-evening, etc.) recurring throughout the “Jiuge” and the “Lisao.” In contrast to the older Chuci poems, however, the journey in the “Yuanyou” is performed in a highly regular and symmetrical space. It takes the form of a cosmic circuit, during which the traveler approaches the guardian gods of the four directions in due order, before culminating in the center. If we go back to the text of the “Lisao,” the absence of such a unified symmetrical spatial structure becomes obvious at once. The magic-making progress of the poet in the “Lisao” takes place in an undefined cosmos; not even his route is precise. In contrast, the protagonist of the “Yuanyou” successively traverses a clearly outlined, mandala-like cosmos, defined by the four cardinal points and the six coordinates. From the Court of Heaven the poet sets off to visit the realm of the east presided over by the god Tai Hao and tutelary spirit Gou Mang and thence to the west ruled over by Xi Huang and the deity Ru Shou. His aerial flight takes him then to the Fiery God of the south and its guardian Zhu Rong, and finally to the north, where he meets the god Zhuan Xu and the attendant spirit Xuan Ming. As already pointed out in the preceding chapter, the presiding gods of the cosmic directions and their tutelary spirits are the same as those given in the Huainanzi. From the four quarters of the world, the poet then rises to the summit of the celestial vault—and descends deep down into the Great Abyss (Dahe) to conclude his journey in the center, where all distinctions dissolve in the unity of the Grand Primordium. This highly schematized space is reduced to the abstract cosmographic pattern prevalent in Han thought and art.13 The fantastic lands through which the 13

The unified cosmographic system dominating Western Han thought can be visually illustrated by the “TLV” system of decorating contemporary bronze mirrors. It represents a highly symmetrical and unified symbolic microcosm, reconciling the two views of the cosmos based on the five phases and twelve chronograms, respectively. See Loewe, Ways to Paradise, 60–85. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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protagonist passes are not described but are evoked through their presiding divinities—very much as in Han- dynasty mirror depictions. Nor is there any account of the experience of reaching these distant quarters. Only the significant points that define the cosmos are of intrinsic interest to the poet, not the passage between them. Although the poem records movement taking place in some sort of time, the narrative development is conceived not as a temporal progression but above all as a spatial order. In this “recitation of an action”14 the journey proceeds with sudden leaps from one point in space to another. It is also important to note that the movement between this world and the higher realms is not a gradual passage but takes place suddenly, as the following passages demonstrate: “Looking down suddenly, I glimpsed my old home below” 忽臨睨夫舊鄉 and “As I beheld the flickering instant…” 視儵忽 …. Paul Kroll has pointed out the religious implications of the element of suddenness—the transitions between the two planes of being are like spontaneous mystic insights, which typically occur abruptly.15 The abrupt nature of the transition between the profane and the supernal is a feature that came to be commonly used in later treatments of the “roaming into immortality” theme, as we have seen in chapter 3. Similarly to the end of the “Lisao,” the hero of the “Yuanyou,” in the middle of his ecstatic journey, glimpses his old home below, and his heart is overwhelmed by nostalgia and longing for all he has left behind. For the protagonists of the “Lisao” and some of the “Jiuzhang” poems, these reminiscences cause an abrupt descent from the celestial heights back into the human world. In the “Yuanyou” facing one’s former home and all it represents is conceived as one of the last obstacles in the journey towards the Dao—namely, overcoming one’s earthly identity and casting away all human affections. And after the protagonist has sighed and brushed his tears away, he rises even higher. One of the last stages of this mystical voyage is a feast with music and dance in the company of goddesses. The positioning and the narrative function of this musical interlude have already been discussed in chapter 3 of this book. The rapture of music and dance transports the protagonist beyond all bounds 14

15

David Knechtges hesitates to use the term “narration” for this type of verse and characterizes it as the “recitation of an action” (“A Journey to Morality,” 165). David Hawkes similarly argues that the language of the Chu itineraria is not narrative but enumerative and sees in the principle of orderly enumeration an archetype that is in origin essentially magical and religious. He traces it back to the shaman’s orderly enumeration of parts of the cosmos, as exemplified by two other poems from the Chuci: the “Zhaohun” (Summoning the Soul) and the “Dazhao” 大招 (The Great Summon) (“The Quest of the Goddess,” 89–90). Kroll, “On ‘Far Roaming,’” 657.

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and limits. The feast scene also includes the only appearance of women in the “Yuanyou”: the goddesses of the Luo and Xiang Rivers. Unlike the “Lisao,” here the goddesses are not the object of a frustrated quest but are present as equal partners in mutual entertainment. This important difference sets off the cosmic journey of the “Yuanyou” from similar accounts in the “Jiuge” and in the “Lisao”—the theme of the quest of a deity or the Fair One, who allegorically represents a worthy ruler, is missing in the “Yuanyou.” The cosmic journey is here motivated neither by the hero’s search for a divine mate nor for an appreciative ruler but is an intrinsic part of his way toward immortality. The ecstatic circuit through the heavens and the four directions becomes in itself a means of knowing and possessing all under Heaven. It might not be too far-fetched to make a parallel between the “Yuanyou” type of cosmic travels and the journeys of monarchs like Qin Shi Huangdi and Emperor Wu of Han through the four corners of the empire and their sacrifices to local deities, all designed to gain or affirm supernatural sanctions for their rule.16 In both cases special powers are acquired through the pilgrimage. On his inspection tour the emperor would “directly link the various local spirits together … [and] would ultimately become himself divinized and immortal through this process, become closer to the Great One, and gain dominance over the local deities.”17 In this respect the celestial travels of the “Yuanyou” are much closer to these power-asserting and power-generating journeys through the empire than to the shamanistic quests of the “Jiuge” or to the allegorical itineraria of the “Lisao.” By rising beyond the world and ecstatically traversing the quarters of the sky, the protagonist develops special powers—he is transported to the Grand Primordium, to the mysterious pre-beginnings of the universe prior to phenomenal differentiation, where the Dao is found in its most essential form. Through his integral identification with the absolute principle, the hero also attains eternal, or rather timeless, existence as demonstrated in chapter 3. The Distant Journey in the Han Fu The “Yuanyou” model underlies most of the Han sao and fu compositions concerned with the theme of immortality: Sima Xiangru’s “Daren fu,” Liu Xiang’s “Yuanyou,” Zhang Heng’s “Sixuan fu,” and so on. While these compositions employ the theme to ends different from those of the “Yuanyou”—for the glorification and delectation of the imperial patron (“Daren fu”) or as a rhetorical device (“Sixuan fu”)—in plot, diction, and vocabulary they closely follow the 16 17

See the discussion in Hawkes, “The Quest of the Goddess,” 83–86. Puett, “Becoming Laozi,” 225. See also Puett, To Become a God, 225–258.

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“Yuanyou” version of the cosmic journey. In these works the celestial travels are detached from the quest topos and take the form of a smooth ritual circuit of the cosmos. The process of journeying itself imbues the traveler with transcendental powers. At each stage of his cosmic circuit, the protagonist receives further initiation by mythical personages, extends his might over more and more divinities, and consumes miraculous drugs, herbs, and essences that purify and transform his body into an immortal one. Fascinating as these accounts are with their unrestrained fantasy and verbal artistry, it would be redundant to dwell on them in length here. Nevertheless, it is useful to recapitulate the celestial progress in the “Sixuan fu,” for Zhang Heng outlines even more comprehensively than in the “Yuanyou” the successive stages of the path beyond this world.18 In line with the honored Chuci tradition, the peregrination of the cosmic traveler starts with divination and instruction from an ancient sage. Before embarking on his journey, the hero travels first to Mount Qi 岐, the site of the old Zhou capital, where King Wen of Zhou, the reputed compiler of the Yijing, performs a divination for him and urges him to fly away and hide to preserve his good name. He then purifies and strengthens himself for his coming departure: like the traveler of the “Yuanyou,” he washes his hair in a limpid spring and dries it in the morning sun, as well as partakes of magical elixirs—he sips the fluid of the Flying Spring and chews the petals of the stone mushrooms (shijun 石菌).19 After this preparation the protagonist acquires the swiftness of a bird and is able to embark on the distant journey. His travels proceed in a ritually proper order—first east, then south, west, and north—and take him both to traditional mythical lands and to specific immortality sites.20 In the east, on the isles of immortals, he gathers magic mushrooms to prolong his life. 18 19

20

My understanding of the fu has been aided by the study of this text by D. Knechtges in “A Journey to Morality” and his excellent commented translation (Wen Xuan, vol. 3, 105–138). Stone mushrooms are probably a kind of magic mushroom (zhi) said to induce immortality. Although the Flying Spring (Feiquan) is part of the landscape of Kunlun, the expression here, in conjunction with the stone mushroom, very probably refers to an alchemical elixir. David Knechtges suggests that this sequence of the four directions, which is common in Han fu, is derived from the solar cycle, “in which the sun rises in the east, reaches midpoint in the south, sets in the west, and rests in the north at night” (“A Journey to Morality,” 170). It also corresponds to the mutual production order of the five phases (in this case four): wood/east → fire/south → metal/west → water/north. This sequence differs from the one in the “Yuanyou” but is present in the two “Summons” poems (the “Zhaohun” and “Dazhao”) of the Chuci. Sima Xiangru also follows the same sequence in his “Shanglin fu” (Fu on the Imperial Park) and in “Daren fu.”

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He also visits sites associated with the ancient solar mythology, spending a night at the Fusang tree and traveling in the morning to the Dawn Valley, where he appropriates the regenerative powers of the nascent sun. Further magical substances and essences are consumed at this point: he drinks jade mead (yuli 玉醴) and absorbs the Drifting Flow (hangxie).21 Following the course of the sun, the protagonist proceeds to the south, which is connected with the ancient legendary figure of Yu the Great (Mount Guiji 會稽), and pays a visit to Emperor Shun (Chonghua 重華) and the Fire Regulator (huozheng 火正, i.e., Zhu Rong), who is buried at Mount Heng. On his way to the west, he stops at the Standing Tree (Jianmu 建木), which marks the center of the world, picks the flowers of the Ruo Tree, on which the sun sets in the west, and traverses the state of Xuanyuan (the Yellow Emperor), where the people reputedly enjoyed longevity of one thousand years. In the west another metamorphosis takes place—the hero’s spirit is suddenly transformed and he sheds off his old body (chantui), becoming a “companion of the pure essence” 朋精粹. His journey into immortality does not, however, end with this transformation. After passing through the White Portal (baimen 白門) in the farthest southwest, where the metal qi is generated,22 and fording the Weak Water River, the protagonist meets the Yellow Emperor and receives further instructions from him. Thereafter he finds himself in a sealed chamber in the realm of the Grand Yin (Taiyin). According to slightly later Daoist texts, the Grand Yin was a mysterious realm in the extreme north, where the body-soul complex of a sage underwent transmutation after his faked death to be renewed in a more sublime form.23 The image of the sealed chamber (probably a cave) strengthens these religious con21

22 23

The expression yuli 玉醴 is generally rendered as “jade liquor.” In order to distinguish this substance from yujiang 玉漿 (also commonly translated as “jade liquor”), I tentatively render it here as “jade mead.” It denotes a certain drink of immortality, but its referents might vary considerably. While here for Zhang Heng this is a naturally found fluid, two centuries later Ge Hong applies the term to a man-made elixir of immortality: “The Vermilion Herb (zhucao 朱草) looks like a small jujube and reaches the height of three or four feet. Its stalks and leaves are red; the stem is like coral. It prefers to grow below the cliffs and rocks of famous mountains. Cut it, and its sap will flow like blood. Toss into it jade, the eight minerals, gold, and silver, and you can roll it into pellets. With time it will become liquid. If gold is tossed into it, it is called ‘golden liquor’ (jinjiang 金漿); if jade is tossed into it, it is called ‘jade mead’ (yuli). Consuming either of them confers immortality” (Baopuzi neipian 4.79). In the Shangqing tradition yet another type of “jade mead” spurts from a jade rock on the mythical continent Yingzhou; it tastes like wine and confers longevity. In later Daoist traditions yuli is applied to the saliva that the adept refines and circulates within his body. Huainanzi 4.139; Major, Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought, 162–163. Laozi Xiang’er zhu jiaozheng, 22. See also chapter 4, note 29.

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notations, for caves are symbolically associated with the undifferentiated, primordial state of being from which all life is born. Thereafter the poet is carried by a whirlwind through a cavern at Mount Buzhou 不周, the gate to the Dark Capital (Youdu zhi men 幽都之門),24 into the subterranean world—into the realm of stillness, shadows, and formless potentiality. The way toward the higher spheres thus comprises both the immediate partaking of concentrated life energies in the east and a symbolic return to the formlessness of the prebeginnings in a hermetically closed space. Only after the hero emerges back from the darkness of the depths does a radical breakthrough occur on the existential plane—he is transported to the silver terrace of the queen of the immortals, Xi Wangmu. The circuit, which initially proceeds on a horizontal plane through the cardinal directions, is transposed after the passage through the abysmal depths onto a vertical axis—Kunlun, the Langfeng Peak, the Gate of Heaven, the Purple Palace, the court of the Grand Tenuity, and the constellations. At Kunlun the hero attends a banquet with jade mushrooms (yuzhi 玉芝) and enjoys the company and songs of Fufei and the Jade Maiden of Mount Taihua 太華玉女.25 On the highest Kunlun peak of Langfeng, he builds himself a bed from the tree of no-death and grinds azure-gem stamens (yaorui 瑤蕊) for his provision. Another instruction follows—this time from Shaman Xian, Wu Xian 巫咸. The protagonist gathers an entourage of deities and soars up to the Gate of Heaven and the Rose-gem Palace of the Celestial Sovereign. There he attends another divine concert and the rapture of heavenly music lifts him to even greater heights. From the Purple Palace, he arrives at the court of the Grand Tenuity and makes a circuit of the heavenly constellations before voluntarily returning to earth. Basing our analysis on the depictions in the “Yuanyou” and the “Sixuan fu,” we can conclude that the way to immortality in the Han fu was depicted as a sequential journey at the key points of which the hero acquired additional knowledge and powers that propelled him to the next phase of his pilgrimage. The essential stages were preliminary instruction from an ancient sage or an immortal, purification and transformation of the body through physiological practices, the maintenance of an ethereal diet and absorption of elixir substances, association with the animating essence of the sun, the successive exploration of all the coordinates of the universe and thus the acquisition of power over their divinities, and the attendance of a ritual banquet in the presence of divine women and heavenly music, which exalted the hero to the highest spheres. It is important to note that access to various elixir substances, 24 25

Huainanzi 4.139. The relevant passage was translated in chapter 2, p. 46.

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the shedding-off of the mortal form, and the visit to the queen of the immortals and to the Celestial Sovereign are not ends in themselves, as they would become in later poetry, but mere stages of the distant journey. The ultimately achieved transcendence in the “Yuanyou” and the later compositions modelled on it is conceived both as a state of being and as a realm situated in space that has been reached by the hero. The Journey Theme in the Yuefu Tradition Another genre of the late Han-Wei period in which the journey theme was developed in the context of xian immortality was that of yuefu songs. The yuefu tradition presents a much abbreviated and simplified version of the heavenly journey, which reduces it to its basics and lacks the fantastic and overwhelming nature of Chuci-type cosmic itineraria. Moreover, instead of embarking on a long ritual circuit of the whole cosmos, which in itself transforms and empowers the traveler, the yuefu pilgrim generally travels with one single objective: to acquire the elixir of immortality. A typical pilgrimage in search of the drug is outlined in the song “Dongtao xing” 董逃 [or 桃] 行:26 I want to pay my respects on high, I ascend the lofty mountain, 山頭危險道路難 The mountaintop so dangerous, the road so hard. 遙望五嶽端 In the distance I gaze at the peaks of the Five Marchmounts. 黃金為闕班璘 Yellow gold makes pylons, motley and bright. 但見芝草葉落紛紛 Suddenly, I see the magic mushroom herb, its falling leaves whirl and twirl, 百鳥集來如煙 Hundred birds flock, arriving like haze. 山獸紛綸 Mountain beasts teeming, 麟辟邪 unicorn, bixie, 吾欲上謁從高山

4

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26

The title “Dongtao” is generally interpreted as referring to the rebellious Dong Zhuo 董卓 of the Eastern Han, who seized Luoyang, and is translated as “Dong flees.” However, the character tao 逃 (“to flee”) might be a substitution for tao 桃 (“peaches”). In Shen Yue’s “Monograph on Music” (Song shu 21.612), the title of this song is given as “Dongtao xing” 董桃行 (Dong’s Peaches). Stephen Owen suggests that the character dong 董 might be an errant character for dong 東 and that the title thus refers to Dongfang Shuo and the peaches of immortality he stole (The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 153; see also the discussion in Birrell, Popular Songs and Ballads of Han China, 71–72).

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其端鵾雞聲鳴 但見山獸援戲相拘攀 小復前行玉堂 未心懷流還 傳教出門來 門外人何求 ? 所言欲從聖道 求一得命延 教敕凡吏受言

12

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採取神藥若木端 白兔長跪擣藥蝦蟆丸 20

奉上陛下一玉柈

24

服此藥可得神仙 服爾神藥,莫不歡喜 陛下長生老壽 四面肅肅稽首 天神擁護左右 陛下長與天相保守

At the summits kun fowls loudly singing.27 All I see are mountain beasts playing and tossing each other. Going on a little further, I pass the Jade Hall, My heart no longer cherishes to return.28 A messenger comes out of the gate: “Man beyond the gate, what do you seek?” What I say is: “I want to follow the Sages’ Way, to seek but long life!” The order sounds, “Common clerk, receive these words: Gather the divine drug from the boughs of the Ruo Tree!” The white hare kneels long and pounds the drug, the toad [rolls it into] a pellet. I respectfully offer to Your Majesty a jade plate: Eat this drug to attain divine immortality! Eat this divine drug, you all be joyful! Your Majesty will live long, to great old age, On four sides all will bow their heads in awe. Heavenly spirits will guard you to the left and right. May Your Majesty endure as long as Heaven!29

This anonymous yuefu song presents a sequence of stock situations: the ascent of a mountain, a journey in search of an elixir, and an encounter with the immortals during which instructions and an elixir is received from them. In the last couplets, the poem, which until this point sounds like a first-person account of a personal journey in search of immortality, abruptly shifts to a laudation of the emperor: the pilgrim ceremonially offers the elixir of long life to the ruler and promises him longevity, happiness, and divine protection as 27

28 29

The bixie 辟邪 (literally “averter-of-evil”) is a semi-mythical animal described as resembling a deer with a long tail and two horns (commentary to Han shu 96A.3889). Kunji 鵾 雞 (variants 鶤, 昆 ) is the name of a mythical bird, which is variously described as “another name for fenghuang” (Gao You in Huainanzi 6.204) or “similar to the crane and yellow-white in color” (Yan Shigu in Han shu 57A.2567, citing Zhang Yi). This line is probably corrupted. A character after wei 未 might be missing. Lu Qinli, 264. Previous translations in Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 154–55; Diény, Aux Origines de la poésie classique en Chine, 119–22.

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long as Heaven endures. These standard topics and their successive arrangement represent the basic model underlying most late Han-Wei yuefu songs.30 An abridged version of a similar journey in search of the immortality drug, this time under the guidance of an immortal, is found in the anonymous “Changge xing” (Long Song Ballad), which is translated in the next chapter. This song likewise ends with the final presentation of the elixir to the master through a conventional felicitation formula. The aim of the search for immortality in these songs is not to go beyond the human world and attain utmost freedom and purity. It is not an ecstatic journey through the cosmos but simply a quest for the endless prolongation of worldly life. These songs reflect a concept of immortality prevalent at the Han courts—immortality in the sense of the ultimate avoidance of death, which I discuss in chapter 3. Accessing elixirs, which in the “Yuanyou” and Han fu had been merely a preliminary stage on the way toward transcendence, here becomes an end in itself. The themes of the quest for the drug, the encounter with the immortals who bestow this elixir, and its following presentation to the lord (or personal consumption) accord with the Han emperors’ somewhat “mechanical” perception of the process of attaining immortality. One had to search for the immortals residing in paradise, receive from them divine elixirs, and, by consuming them, prolong one’s years in this world. The basic plot of quest for the elixir, which is outlined in the “Dongtao xing,” can be discerned in numerous modifications in late Han-Wei yuefu songs. A variation of the same scenario involves, for example, the consumption of the drug by the pilgrim himself instead of its presentation to the ruler or to the host. Examples include Cao Pi’s “Zhe yangliu xing” and Cao Zhi’s “Feilong pian.” Here is the latter song: 晨遊泰山 雲霧窈窕 忽逢二童 顏色鮮好 乘彼白鹿 手翳芝草 我知真人 長跪問道 西登玉臺 金樓復道

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8

30

At dawn I roam on Mount Tai, Deep in clouds and mist. Suddenly I met two youths, Of fresh and fair features, Riding white deer, Holding magic mushroom for a shade. I knew they were True Ones, I knelt down long, asking for the Way. In the west we climbed the Jade Terrace, With golden towers, storied passageways.

The constitution of these topics as elements of a shared poetic discourse during the Wei period is discussed by Owen in chapter 3 of The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry.

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授我仙藥 神皇所造 教我服食 還精補腦 壽同金石 永世難老

They bestowed me with the immortals’ drug, Made by the Divine Sovereign. They taught me how to ingest and eat, To return my essence, nourishing the brain. Long-lived like metal and stone, For generations on end, never growing old.31

Similarly to the “Dongtao xing,” the journey starts at a sacred mountain—this time it is Mount Tai, the holiest of Chinese mountains, believed to be a transitory realm between life and death. An encounter with two immortal intermediaries on the mountain enables the adept to progress to a western paradise land. In the west the usual bestowment of elixirs, initiation, and instruction in immortality practices take place whereby the adept himself is the sole beneficiary of these divine gifts. As seen in the two songs cited above, an ascent of a sacred mountain typically forms the first stage of the journey into the realm of immortals in the yuefu tradition. Still belonging to the topography of this world, the sacred mountains are intermediary zones and loci of contact between the mundane beings of this earthly realm and the celestial powers. There the adept might meet initiating immortals (as in the “Feilong pian”), whence he is propelled into higher spheres. Thus, in Cao Cao’s “Qichu chang” #1 the hero first flies to Mount Tai, where he encounters immortals and jade maidens, and is given jade liquor, which strengthens him and transports him to the next stage of Penglai and subsequently to the Gate of Heaven. In his “Qiuhu xing” #2 the stepping stone to heaven is Mount Hua, the holy mountain of the west: 願登泰華山 神人共遠遊 願登泰華山 神人共遠遊 經歷崑崙山 到蓬萊

(ll. 1–6)

31

32

I wish to climb the Great Hua Mountain, Together with the Divine Men wander far. I wish to climb the Great Hua Mountain, Together with Divine Men wander far. Pass over Mount Kunlun, Reach Penglai.32

Lu Qinli, 421–422. Previous translations in Cutter, Cao Zhi (192–232) and His Poetry, 298– 299; Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals,” 41–42; Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 141–142. Lu Qinli, 350. The complete song is translated in Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 149–51; Diény, Aux Origines de la poésie classique en Chine, 97–103.

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In our discussion of the “Yuanyou” and the “Sixuan fu,” the topos of oral instruction and initiation was identified as an important constituent of the journey toward immortality. This motif also occasionally occurs in the poetry on immortality after the fall of the Han. While in most Han sao and fu poetry it is a mythical emperor who instructs the hero (as in the “Lisao”), in yuefu songs and lyrical poetry this role is almost without exception played by an immortal, like in the “Yuanyou.” On certain occasions a whole poem on immortality might consist merely of the instructions bestowed by immortals, such as Cao Zhi’s song “Guizhi shu xing” (Cassia Tree Ballad). A second major stage of the distant journey involves rising to heaven and celestial flight. In the poetry of Cao Cao, Cao Zhi, and Xi Kang this topic is often expanded to form the core of a poem. In addition, in third-century treatments of this theme the authors freely draw both on the yuefu and the sao traditions, blending the Chuci idiom of mystic quest and the imagery of the immortality cults. One example of this syncretic tendency is Cao Zhi’s song “Wuyou yong” 五遊詠 (Fivefold Roaming): 九州不足步 願得凌雲翔 逍遙八紘外 遊目歷遐荒 披我丹霞衣 襲我素霓裳 華蓋紛晻藹 六龍仰天驤 曜靈未移景 倏忽造昊蒼 閶闔啟丹扉 雙闕曜朱光 徘徊文昌殿 登陟太微堂

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The nine continents cannot hold my steps, I wish to soar above the clouds, Roam and ramble beyond the eight wastelands,33 To cast my wandering gaze across the distant deserts. Clad in robes of cinnabar aurora, Garbed in skirts of pure rainbow. The floral canopy spreads its fragrance, My six dragons, heads uplifted, soar into heaven. The blazing numen has not moved its rays yet, As instantly we reach the grey-green sky. The Changhe Gate opens with cinnabar doors, The paired pylons blaze with vermilion light. I linger in the palace of Literary Brilliance,34 And ascend the hall of Grand Tenuity.

Bahong 八紘 (translated here as the “eight wastelands”) are the eight outlying regions situated beyond the eight distant regions (bayin 八殥), which surround the nine continents. Their names are provided in Huainanzi 4.138. Hong literally means “string” or “rope.” Gao You explains that these are the ropes connecting heaven and earth. Wenchang 文昌 (Literary Brilliance) is a cluster of six stars in the Northern Dipper. See Jin shu 11.291: “The six stars of Wenchang are in front of the head of the Northern Dipper, forming the Six Departments (liufu 六府) of heaven. They govern the computations of the Dao of the heavens.” Among them is the Siming 司命 star, the star of the Director of Destiny.

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上帝休西櫺 群后集東廂 帶我瓊瑤佩 漱我沆瀣漿 踟躕玩靈芝 徒倚弄華芳 王子奉仙藥 羡門進奇方 服食享遐紀 延壽保無疆

16

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The Thearch on High rests behind the western lattice, Courtiers gather in the eastern chamber. Decked with pendants of azure- and rose-gem, My mouth rinsed with Drifting Flow. I dally, toying with a magic mushroom, And loiter, playing with fragrant blooms. Wangzi presents drugs of immortality, Xianmen offers a wondrous recipe. If I consume them, I will enjoy long years, Prolonging my life, ensuring no end.35

Most critics point out that in this song Cao Zhi is imitating the “Yuanyou” of the Chuci. The poet imagines his immortal transformation purely in terms and images drawn from the Chuci tradition: he rises to heaven in a dragon chariot, garbed in robes of rainbows and aurora, shaded by a flowery canopy. The activities described by Cao Zhi not only resemble those in the “Yuanyou” but are phrased in identical vocabulary. He bedecks himself with gemstones, drinks Drifting Flow, and dallies and plays with divine herbs. The celestial places he visits— the Changhe Gate, the Grand Tenuity, the Wenchang constellation— figure prominently in Chuci poetry. Lines 15 and 16, on the other hand, echo the Han fu on palaces and parks by adopting the east-west formula to suggest the grandeur of the celestial edifices and to position them in space. Although this song might be regarded as a scaled-down version of the “Yuanyou,” the differences between these two works are immediately evident. The “Wuyou yong” does not describe a comprehensive, sequential process of attaining a higher state of being. The travels here do not take the form of a cosmic circuit; they even lack a precise itinerary. Unlike in the “Yuanyou,” the journey itself does not suffice to make the hero immortal; instead, at the culmination of his journey in the heavenly heights, he receives the elixir that imparts eternal life. The journey ends not with a mystical union with the Dao, but, typically of the yuefu tradition, with the reception of immortality drugs from divinities in paradise. Like the anonymous yuefu, Cao Zhi’s song finishes with a conventional felicitation formula. The verse demonstrates the intermingling of the yuefu type of elixir quest with Chuci diction and imagery, which became typical for the WeiWestern Jin treatments of the youxian theme in general. 35

Lu Qinli, 433–434. For previous renditions, see, for instance, the annotated translation in Cutter, Cao Zhi (192–232) and His Poetry, 294–295; Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals,” 45–46; Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 169–170.

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The protagonists in the yuefu tradition at times travel surrounded by splendid processions and precious trappings going back to the Chuci poetry, while at other times they use Daoist techniques of mastery over space by growing wings, “rising lightened” (qingju), or practicing chengqiao levitation, all discussed in chapter 3. In these abridged versions of the cosmic journey, the unified cosmographic system that informed the Han fu becomes less strict. The yuefu likewise lack successive progress through cosmic landmarks, and instead the transition from one cosmic level to another gains in importance, emphasized by verbs such as pai 排 (“push open”). The systematic exploration of the four directions on a horizontal plane comes to be replaced by a clear-cut movement along a vertical axis from the world of men to the heavens. A celestial landmark from the earlier poetry that continues to figure prominently in the Wei-Jin period is the Changhe Gate, which guards the passage to the highest heavens. It typically confronts the traveler at the final stage of his journey. As in the “Yuanyou,” in the subsequent poetry on immortality the Heavenly Gate unfailingly opens wide in front of the cosmic voyager: 閶闔開 天衢通

(ll. 1–2) 遂造天門將上謁 閶闔闢

(ll. 5–6)

The Changhe Gate spreads open, The Crossroads of Heaven are free.36 (Cao Zhi, “Pingling dong”) I arrive at the Gate of Heaven to visit its Lord, The Changhe Gate opens wide.37 (Fu Xuan, “Yunzhong Bai Zigao xing”)

Once the traveler has passed this ultimate trial, he gains access to the loftiest reaches of heaven, to the palaces of the highest gods and immortals. In thirdcentury verse the arrival in a paradise land usually forms the last stage of the “journey into immortality” plot. In the heavenly realm the hero joins the immortal throngs, feasts with them, and shares their bliss. Here he receives wondrous drugs or ultimate secrets are revealed to him: 因王長公謁上皇

36 37 38

I follow Wang Changgong to pay a visit to the High Sovereign.38

Lu Qinli, 437. Lu Qinli, 564. It is not clear to whom the expression “Wang Chang gong” 王長公 refers. Jian Changchun et al. speculate that Wang Changgong is the name of a further unspecified immortal (Fu Xuan Yin Keng shi zhu, 58). Stephen Owen suspects that Senior Prince Wang (Wang

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鈞天樂作不可詳 龍仙神仙 教我靈祕

(ll. 15–18)

The “Harmonious Heaven” music is indescribable. Dragon immortals, divine immortals, Teach me numinous secrets.39 (Fu Xuan, “Yunzhong Bai Zigao xing”)

The culmination of the journey could at times be described in more liturgical and courtly fashion. In heaven, among the stars, the adept might be honored by an audience with the Celestial Lord: 迴駕觀紫薇 與帝合靈符

(ll. 15–16)

I turn my carriage back to view the Purple Tenuity, And join magic tallies with the Thearch.40 (Cao Zhi, “Xianren pian”)

In Daoism tallies (fu 符) are potent diagrams, “which derive their power from their divine other half kept by the deity who conferred them.”41 They empower and protect their owner and serve as a passkey into the mystic regions. The situations and tropes outlined above receive varying emphasis in thirdcentury representations of immortality. Sometimes the poet might solely render his free and easy roaming through the universe, describing a journey without any intermediate stages, as in Cao Zhi’s “Youxian.” Some poems resort to Chuci imagery and describe the protagonist surrounded by sumptuous processions and attire, such as Cao Zhi’s song “Wuyou yong” or Xi Kang’s “Siyan shi” #10. At times the cosmic journey might be merely outlined, whereas the poet devotes his attention to visions of his blessed life with immortals in the paradise he has reached. The Distant Journey as a State of Mind Early and mid-fourth-century poetry follows a somewhat different model of the passage to transcendental realms. At times the protagonist is no longer a

39 40 41

changgong 長公) might be a reference to Wangzi Qiao (The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 167). On the other hand, Wang Chang 王長 (here Honorable Wang Chang) is the name of the favorite disciple of Zhang Daoling 張道陵— the founder of the Celestial Masters tradition. He received from Zhang Daoling alchemical teachings, synthesized the elixir and later ascended to Heaven together with his teacher and another of his disciples (Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 352–354). However, his name does not otherwise appear in the poetry of the period. Lu Qinli, 564. Lu Qinli, 434. Seidel, “Imperial Treasures and Taoist Sacraments,” 315. For a penetrating account of tallies (fu) and related registers (lu 籙) in Daoism, see ibid, 310–316.

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swift cosmic voyager or a pilgrim to immortal paradises but a secluded practitioner immersed in meditation. In Eastern Jin poetry journeys into the realms beyond often enfold in the mind alone, as in Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #8: 暘谷吐靈曜 扶桑森千丈 朱霞升東山 朝日何晃朗 迴風流曲櫺

4

幽室發逸響 悠然心永懷 眇爾自遐想 仰思舉雲翼 延首矯玉掌 嘯傲遺世羅 縱情在獨往 明道雖若昧 其中有妙象 希賢宜勵德 羨魚當結網

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The Dawn Valley spews divine radiance, Fusang’s thickets extend for many leagues. Vermilion auroras mount the Eastern Mountain, How brilliant and dazzling is the dawning sun! When the whirling wind streams through the curved window lattice, My hidden chamber emits detached tunes.42 Remoteness my heart forever harbors, So aloof, I spontaneously envision the distant. Looking up, I wish to soar on wings of clouds, I crane my neck and stretch my jade hands. Proudly whistling, I cast the worldly net aside, Following my feelings, I move in solitude.43 The bright Dao although seems dark, In its midst is housed a wonderful image.44 Aspiring to sagehood, I must perfect the virtue, Wishing fish, I must braid a net.45

Curiously, a paraphrase of this couplet appears in a poem by Jiang Yan written in imitation of Xu Xun 許詢: 曲櫺激鮮飇 Through the curved window lattice, fresh whirlwind surges in, 石室有幽響 In the stone chamber there are obscure tunes. (“Xu weijun Xun Zixu” 許徵君詢自序, Wenxuan 31.1470) In his commentary to Jiang Yan’s imitation of Xu Xun, Li Shan cites the now lost Zhuangzi lüeyao 莊子略要 (Abstract of the Zhuangzi) by Liu An, King of Huainan: “The gentlemen of rivers and seas, the men of mountains and valleys, they slight the myriad petty things of the world and move in solitude (duwang 獨往).” A comment by Sima Biao 司馬彪 explains that “to move in solitude is to entrust oneself to the Naturally-so (ziran) and no longer regard the world” (Wenxuan 31.1469–1470). References to the Daode jing, sec. 41: “The bright Dao is like darkness” 明道若昧; and sec. 21: “The Dao is such a phenomenon, that it is confused and vague. How vague, how confused, but in it there are images” 道之為物,惟恍惟惚,惚兮恍兮,其中有象. Lu Qinli, 866. The last line alludes to a famous passage in the Zhuangzi: “The reason for the net is the fish; when you obtain the fish you forget the net. The reason for the snare is the rabbit; when you obtain the rabbit, you forget the snare. The reason for the words is the meaning; when you obtain the meaning, you forget the words. If only I could meet a man who has forgotten words and share words with him!” (Zhuangzi jishi 26.944).

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Guo Pu opens his “Youxian” poem with a vivid depiction of dawning nature that interweaves mythical imagery with natural images possessing high numinous charge. From the broad cosmic vista his focus narrows down to a concrete location within the human world. We find the poet in the seclusion of his hidden chamber. This space is detached from the outside world but at the same time open for communication with the higher realms—numinous winds flow through the windows and music is spontaneously emitted. Sitting in solitude in his chamber and contemplating the reborn sun amidst whirling winds and numinous music, the hero visualizes (xiang 想) the higher worlds and his own transformation into a winged immortal. The concluding couplet is a variation on a passage from the Zhuangzi, which became a recurrent topos in xuanyan poetry. While most fourth-century poets stress forgetting the net after catching the fish (i.e., discarding the words after grasping the sense they conveyed),46 here Guo Pu shifts the meaning. He emphasizes not the expedience of the fishnet but its utility. In the context of this youxian poem, the reference to the Zhuangzi conveys the importance of possessing an appropriate method to attain transcendence rather than philosophical concerns with language and its boundaries. In this poem we encounter a coherent cluster of images that point to specific Daoist techniques. The “hidden chamber” (youshi 幽室) of the protagonist is probably a “quiet chamber” (jingshi 靜室), that is, a Daoist chamber for meditation, prayer, and communication with the gods. The opening quatrain does not merely depict a sunrise landscape in the mountains but suggests practices of absorbing solar light and energy that formed an important part of the Daoist regiment. In the Baopuzi Ge Hong enumerates texts such as the Shi riyue jing jing 食日月精經 (Scripture on Consuming the Essence of Sun and Moon) and the Riyue chu shi jing 日月廚食經 (Scripture on Consuming the Cuisine of Sun and Moon) that were current in the early fourth century.47 “Nourishment of light” (fuguang 服光) was soon to attain central significance in the Shangqing texts, which provided precise instructions on visualizing the light of the sun, moon, and stars. It is interesting to compare the opening of Guo Pu’s poem with an excerpt from a poem belonging to the Shangqing revelations that probably originated less than fifty years later:48 46 47 48

For instance, the conclusion of “Yonghuai shi” #1 by Zhi Dun. Baopuzi neipian 19.333–334. Zhen’gao 9.24b, Zhen’gao jiaozhu 9.306. The poem had originally appeared as an oral instruction in Dadong zhenjing 3. Lady Right Bloom (Youying furen) retransmitted the first two quatrains to Yang Xi.

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(ll. 1–4)

Fuchen begins to bear light,49 Purple clouds illuminate the mystic slopes. Radiantly penetrating, the Thickets of Spheric Rays,50 Brilliant and dazzling, the Net of Cleansing Radiance.51

Despite its more esoteric terminology, the depiction here echoes in imagery and diction Guo Pu’s quatrain and is suggestive of the continuances of literary and religious traditions in fourth-century southern China. In chapter 3 we already discussed the Daoist art of whistling (xiao), which appears in the fifth couplet of Guo Pu’s poem. The terms si 思, which I translate here as “wish” but which means more precisely “to concentrate the thought on,” and xiang 想, rendered here as “envision,” refer to important acts of contemplation and mental imaging that gained currency in the religious and poetic discourse of the Eastern Jin.52The images of flight and transformation are here produced by visual contemplation and enfold in the mind alone. It is also important to note the transition in the poem from the vivid depiction of external nature, through the formation of mental images of transformation and flight, to the plane of philosophical abstraction. In the pages below we will encounter different realizations of this same trajectory. A situation similar to the one depicted by Guo Pu occurs somewhat later at the opening of the fourth poem of Zhi Dun’s “Yonghuai” cycle:

49 50

51

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The expression Fuchen 扶晨, which appears several times in the Zhen’gao, is probably synonymous with “Fusang,” the Sun Tree. “Thickets of Spheric Rays” (Yuanguang wei 圓光蔚) is an esoteric name of the sun. The revealed commentary to the Dadong zhenjing explains that this is the name of the sun used by the True Ones of the Three Heavens (Santian zhenren 三天眞人). Shi sanshijiu zhang jing 釋三十九 章經 (Exegesis of the Scripture in Thirty-Nine Stanzas) 3 in Yunji qiqian 8.2b–3a; see also Wushang biyao 3.2b. In Zhen’gao it is explained that the term Zhuoyao luo 濯耀羅, translated here as “Net of Cleansing Radiance,” is the name of the sun used in an unspecified “foreign country” (waiguo 外國). In Yunji qiqian 8.3a and Wushang biyao 3.2b this is the name of the sun used by the True Ones of the Nine Heavens (Jiutian zhenren 九天眞人). The difference between the acts of si and xiang is discussed in Xiaofei Tian, “Seeing with the Mind’s Eye,” 67–68. For more on the diverse manifestations and significance of mental visualization and imagination during the Eastern Jin, the reader might consult the same author’s penetrating study Visionary Journeys.

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閑邪託靜室 寂寥虛且真 逸想流巖阿 朦朧望幽人

(ll. 1–4)

Guarding against depravity, I lodge in a quiet chamber, Serene and secluded, both empty and true. In distant visualizations I drift among ridges and slopes, Dimly descrying, I gaze at the obscure man.53

The protagonist of this poem is placed in a “quiet chamber” (jingshi), a Daoist oratory for meditation and prayer. Zhi Dun’s account corresponds to the descriptions of oratories preserved in later religious texts. The jingshi was an enclosed space entirely without decoration with a single door and one window.54 It had to be completely secluded from profane things and had to be kept clean and empty. It is there, in contemplative stillness and purity, that the protagonist of the poem creates mental visions of distant mountains and perceives with his mind a transcendental recluse. These two poems reflect the concern with mental images that gained importance both in Buddhist and Daoist thought during the Eastern Jin as well as the importance of meditative visualization, which “actualized” the object of contemplation in one’s mind. The state of immortality, which in some traditions was perceived as a transformation of the inner self and a merging with the Dao, could be attained not only by a physical journey in space but also, and primarily, by the penetrating insight of the contemplative mind. Illustrative in this respect is Zhi Dun’s third “Yonghuai” poem, which treats topics connected with immortality as modified by the xuanxue thought of the period. The poem opens in the idyllic setting of a spring garden, where the poet leisurely reflects on the passage of time and, “moved by things” (ganwu 感物), lets his thoughts soar up to the sacred realm of the Tiantai Mountains: 晞陽熙春圃 悠緬歎時往 感物思所託 蕭條逸韻上 尚想天台峻 髣髴巖階仰 泠風灑蘭林 管瀨奏清響

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8 53 54

The dawning sun shines on the spring garden, With distanced thoughts, I sigh at time’s passage. Moved by things, I long for an abode, At leisure, detached and lofty air rises. And then I envision Celestial Terrace ridges, As if I dimly gaze up its steep stairs. Cool breeze sprinkles a thoroughwort forest, The piping creek plays clear tunes.

Lu Qinli, 1081. According to the specifications in Zhen’gao 18.6b–7a (Zhen’gao jiao zhu 18.550).

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揮玄拂無想 隗隗形崖頹 冏冏神宇敞 宛轉元造化

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縹瞥鄰大象 願投若人蹤 高步振策杖

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Empyrean cliffs nurture numinous mists, Divine plants, holding moisture, grow. Cinnabar sand shimmers in the halcyon stream, Fragrant mushrooms sparkle with myriad gleams. Spiring and soaring, the layered peaks stretch afar, Empty and quiet, the stone chamber is bright. Within is a gentleman, pursuing transformation, Placed beyond, he unbinds the worldly net, Embracing Simplicity, he quells the thoughts of Actuality.55 Brandishing the Mystery, he skims over concepts of Non-actuality.56 Tall and towering, the cliffs of Form crumble down, Brightly shining, the expanse of Spirit opens up. Adapting to the changes, he [reaches] the source of creative transformation, Swiftly soaring, he becomes a neighbor of the Great Image.57 I wish to follow this man’s steps, Treading on high, wielding my staff.58

Instead of sitting in a distant chamber or in an oratory, Zhi Dun pictures himself in his spring garden, which is nevertheless cut off from the outside world (the character pu 圃 implies a space enclosed by walls). Similarly to in Guo Pu’s eighth “Youxian shi”, the time of day is defined as early dawn. After the opening quatrain the structure of the poem follows a model typical of fourth-century poetical treatments of immortality or reclusion, which includes the following: a description of a landscape setting, the appearance of 55

56

57 58

“Embracing Simplicity” (baopu 抱朴) is an allusion to Daode jing, sec. 19: “Manifest plainness and embrace simplicity” 見素抱朴. The word pu 朴 literally means “uncarved block of wood.” It is a metaphor for the Dao, which appears in a few more passages of the Daode jing (sections 28, 32, 37, 57). It represents the natural state of unadorned simplicity that also contains limitless potential. “The Mystery” (xuan 玄) is the favorite xuanxue term for the absolute reality that is beyond and anterior to names, shapes, and events. It is defined by Wang Bi as “dark, silent and non-actual” 冥也默然無有 (commentary to Daode jing, sec. 1). The Great Image (daxiang 大象) is the Dao. In Daode jing, sec. 41, the Dao is called “the Great Image that has no form” 大象無形. Lu Qinli, 1081. I have consulted the rendition in Xiaofei Tian, “Seeing with the Mind’s Eye,” 87–88.

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a transcendental figure (a recluse or an immortal) introduced by the conventional phrase “in the midst there is…” (zhong you), an account of his activities, and the final proclamation of the poet’s wish to follow his example. It is significant that all this is evoked as a purely mental image—it is the power of contemplative vision (xiang) that transports the poet from his idyllic spring garden into the numinous landscape. The description of the mountains mixes images and diction typical of zhaoyin poetry (the cool breeze, the clear tunes of the creek) and of fantastic paradise depictions pertaining to the theme of immortality (eternal divine plants, cinnabar sand, magic mushrooms). Though being purely imagined, the landscape is rendered almost tangible through vivid, sensuously powerful details (the music of the creek, shimmering cinnabar sand in the halcyon stream, fragrant sparkling zhi, etc.). While the garden of the human world is described in the opening couplet almost exclusively in terms of time (dawn, spring, advancing time), the imaginary mountainous realm exists in a dimension beyond time and change, as suggested by the complete lack of temporal indicators in its depiction. The description of the recluse dwelling therein stands in contrast to his alluring surroundings. His activities do not unfold on the plane of this idealized mountain (as in zhaoyin poems and some youxian verse) nor in a mythical universe (as in the “Yuanyou”) but solely in the inner world of his spirit. From rich sensory perceptions Zhi Dun moves into the realm of abstract philosophical thought—the recluse embraces Simplicity and wields the Mystery, casts off conceptions of Actuality to explore Non-actuality, breaks down the Form (xing) and opens up the “realm of the Spirit” (shenyu 神宇), and, finally, similarly to in the “Yuanyou,” merges with the Dao, entering the neighborhood of the Great Image (daxiang) at the mystic source of existence. Both these realms—the phenomenal plane of fantastic nature and the plane of abstract ideation—are perceived solely by inner vision; they exist as a state of the mind of the poet, who has never left his spring garden to travel physically to the Tiantai Mountains. This process also involves transcending human time; from ordinary time and space marked by the progress of the seasons, Zhi Dun enters a paradise zone beyond change whence he penetrates into the eternity of the pre-beginning. For Zhi Dun, and for many of his contemporaries, a physical pilgrimage in search of paradises and immortals was no longer needed; the whole mystic journey, which in the “Yuanyou” took place on the scale of the whole cosmos, now unfolds in the inner world of the poet. It is also significant that the mental journey in Zhi Dun’s “Yonghuai” #3, though purely imaginary, does not take him into the larger universe of astral and directional deities as in the old Chuci tradition but into the numinous landscape of real mountains. As has been demonstrated in previous chapters,

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during the fourth century some new tendencies in the treatment of themes connected with immortality appeared: the images of the immortals and hermits started to merge, while paradise worlds were increasingly projected in the landscapes of terrestrial mountains. Similar developments can be observed in the “distant journey” theme as well: the adept’s journey was transformed from a cosmic circuit into mystic travels in mountainous realms. The best illustration in this respect is the “You Tiantai shan fu” (Rhapsody on Roaming the Celestial Terrace Mountains) written by Zhi Dun’s contemporary and friend Sun Chuo. Sun Chuo’s Visionary Ascent of the Tiantai Mountains Sun Chuo’s fu is included in the Wenxuan category Youlan 遊覽 (Sightseeing, juan 11). This thematic category contains two more compositions—Wang Can’s “Denglou fu” 登樓賦 (Climbing a Tower) and Bao Zhao’s 鮑昭 (414–466) “Wucheng fu” 蕪城賦 (Weed-Covered City). The category of Jixing 紀行 (Recounting Travels, Wenxuan, juan 9–10) is quite similar; it comprises three personal travel narratives by Ban Biao, his daughter Ban Zhao 班昭 (ca. 49–ca. 120), and Pan Yue (“Beizheng fu” 北征賦 [Northward Journey], “Dongzheng fu” 東征賦 [Eastward Journey], and “Xizheng fu” 西征賦 [Westward Journey], respectively).59 Each of these fu records actual travels undertaken by the poets and recounts places charged with historical meaning that they had visited. They develop the langu 覽古, or “looking into antiquity” theme; the sites visited evoke famous events or heroes from the past and reflection upon them. These memories are often aroused by ascending high places—hills, walls, or towers—and gazing into the distance from the top. The recollections are interspersed with personal expressions of melancholy, homesickness, or unfulfilled ambitions. Sun Chuo’s fu, although similarly recording an ascent of an actual mountain, is very different from this travelogue tradition. In the preface to the fu the poet emphasizes that his journey is purely imaginary and takes place in the mind alone. In this respect the fu echoes the above-cited poem by Zhi Dun, where the poet, still sitting in his modest garden, is transported in his mind into the imaginary space of the Tiantai Mountains. Sun Chuo’s fu is preceded by an extensive preface written in prose, in which the author explains the circumstances of composition and elucidates the religious significance of Mount Tiantai. As pointed out in chapter 4, here Sun Chuo praises the Tiantai Mountains as a sacred and mysterious realm equaling

59

All translated in Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 2, 165–261. See also Knechtges, “Poetic Travelogue in the Han Fu”.

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the paradises of the immortals. Access is granted only to a few; whoever manages to climb the mountain cuts himself free of the world behind. In the preface Sun Chuo also dwells on the scarcity of records on the Tiantai Mountains, a result of their seclusion and inaccessibility to ordinary mortals. The sacred realm of these mountains is, however, rendered in numerous “charts and images” (tuxiang 圖像): Yet, the flourishing of their charts and images, how could this be unfounded? … Unless one confers himself afar and delves into the abstruse, steadfastly and sincerely communicates with the gods, how dare he presume to actualize them [the mountains] in distant visualizations? 然圖像之興,豈虛也哉!… 非夫遠寄冥搜,篤信通神者,何肯遙想而 存之?60

The expression “charts and images” most probably refers to Daoist “charts of the true form” (zhenxing tu 真形圖) of sacred mountains, which represented their intrinsic features rather than external visible topography. In Shangqing and Lingbao Daoism of the fourth and fifth centuries they became aids to mystical orientation, allowing the adept to visit these sites in meditation. The charts accompanied with text presented labyrinthine map-drawings that “open up” access to the mountains for those who possessed them. They had already been current in the time of Ge Hong who considered the Wuyue zhenxing tu 五岳真形圖 (Charts of the True Form of the Five Marchmounts) to be one of the most important and potent Daoist scriptures.61 The term cun 存 used by Sun Chuo denotes a specific Daoist visualization technique whereby the meditating adept cannot only behold but also make present and “preserve” divinities and paradise realms. Meditation and visualization that focus on mountains are described on many occasions in Daoist texts:

60 61

Wenxuan 11.494. A complete translation of the text is provided in Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 2, 243–253 and in and Mather, “The Mystical Ascent of the T’ien-t’ai Mountains.”. Baopuzi neipian 19.336–37. The earliest of the Wuyue zhenxing tu scriptures associated with the Shangqing tradition that is extant explains: “The True Forms of the Five Marchmounts are the images of mountains and streams. They are the configuration of tortuous clefts and labyrinthine hills … If you possess the True Forms of the Five Marchmounts in their entirety, you will traverse heaven and cross the earth, fully encompass the four directions” 五嶽真形者山水之象也盤曲鏤鈥回轉陵阜形勢 ... 子盡有五嶽真形橫天縱 地彌綸四方 (Wuyue zhenxing tu xu 五嶽真形圖序, cited in Yunji qiqian 79. 1a).

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Man-bird Mountain has the image of a man, the form of a bird. Scarping ridges, towering and pinnacled, cannot be fully told. Mystic terraces, precious halls where venerated spirits dwell. Forests and streams, birds and beasts, trees, stones, aromatic flowers, magic mushrooms and all kinds of drugs, fluid of no-death—it is hard to describe them all… With thought that penetrates the Mystery, close your eyes and behold it. Looking in all directions, exhaust it in entirety … If you exercise for long, you will achieve the Subtle, discard the flesh and fill yourself with the Subtle, soar like a bird, go out to roam beyond the three worlds … The one who studies [this method] when roaming in the mountain encompasses the mountain and achieves the Dao, forever existing, eternally preserved. 人鳥之山,有人之象,有鳥之形。峰巖峻極,不可勝言。玄臺寳殿, 尊神所居,林澗鳥狩,木石香花。芝草衆藥,不死之液,又難具陳。 玄達之思,閉目見之。周覽既畢 … 久錬得妙。肉去妙充,其翔似 鳥,出遊三界之外 … 學者遊山,縁山至道,永保常存。62

In the preface Sun Chuo in fact speaks of the Tiantai Mountains as an object of Daoist meditation and visualization aided by mountain charts. Their sacred realm, though hardly accessible by a physical journey, may open up to the adept through contemplative visualization (xiang) and actualization (cun). Furthermore, Sun Chuo states that the journey he is about to describe is not based on any actual experience but takes place in his mind alone, and in the short interval between “a downward and an upward glance,” he seems to have ascended the mountain twice. The text of Sun Chuo’s fu can be regarded as an account of spiritual exercise, of a meditative journey that might be of the kind described in the Xuanlan Renniao shan jingtu. In his rendition of this mystic experience, Sun Chuo, however, employs poetic conventions and topoi developed in earlier poetry and also extensively avails himself of the philosophical vocabulary of fourth-century xuanxue discussions. Although Sun Chuo turns his thoughts toward real mountains, he remolds and reinterprets many tropes from the Chuci tradition of celestial journeys. Many time-honored formulas and motifs find their place in his poem. As in the Chuci travelogues, the journey starts with a preliminary initiation from those already in possession of the Dao:

62

Xuanlan renniao shan jingtu 玄覽人鳥山經圖 (Scripture and Chart for the Mystic Contemplation of the Man-bird Mountain), DZ 434, cited according to the version in Yunji qiqian 80.19b.5–20a.5.

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仍羽人於丹丘 尋不死之福庭

(ll. 25–26)

I went to the plumed men on the Cinnabar Hill, Searched for the blissful halls of No-death.63

Sun Chuo repeats almost verbatim the lines from the “Yuanyou” that precede the cosmic journey of the hero. Thus, he seems to connect his own journey to the circuit of the cosmos described in the “Yuanyou.” The next two lines, however, shift away from his honored precedent: 茍台嶺之可攀 亦何羨於層城

(ll. 27–28)

As long as the Terrace range can be climbed, Why yearn for the Storied City?

Having hinted that he is embarking on a kind of mystical journey similar to the one in the “Yuanyou,” Sun Chuo stresses that it now takes place on the plane of the physical mountains. The description of the traveler’s paraphernalia was an important topos pertaining to cosmic journeys in the Chuci tradition. It is also present in Sun Chuo’s account of the mountainous ascent. Here, however, the fantastic trappings of the cosmic travelers are replaced by attributes of Daoist and Buddhist hermits—a coarse woolen robe (maohe 毛褐)64 and a metal staff, which is carried by Buddhist monks. The account of the journey that follows is again stylized on the basis of the Chuci itineraria and is written in the sao-style meter of the “Yuanyou,” omitting the refrain-particle xi 兮: 披荒榛之蒙蘢 陟峭崿之崢嶸 濟楢溪而直進 落五界而迅征

(ll. 33–36) 63 64

65 66

I part the dusky depths of tangled thickets, Scale the sheer steepness of cliffs and crags. I ford You Stream and advance straightaway,65 Skirt the Five Borders and swiftly travel on.66

Wenxuan, 496. The expression maohe 毛褐 might be an allusion to Cao Zhi’s “Qiqi” 七啟 (Seven Communications). The protagonist of the composition, the Daoist recluse Master Mystic Tenuity (Xuanweizi 玄微子), says that “he likes his coarse woolen robe” (maohe) in response to the description of precious weapons and clothing by one of the persuaders (Wenxuan 34.1581). The You 楢 (also written 油) Stream was located thirty li east of Tiantai prefecture. It was a dangerous barrier every traveler had to cross on his way to the mountain. Li Shan explains the expression “Five Borders” (wujie 五界) as the boundaries of the five prefectures through which the Tiantai Mountains stretched: Yuyao, Yin, Juzhang, Shan, and Shining. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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Sun Chuo narrates his journey in the mode prevailing in the Chuci and Han rhapsodic itinerarias, which, following David Knechtges, I have termed “recitation of an action.” He moves forward at a quickened pace, not having time to reflect on the vistas that appear before his eyes: he pushes through the thickets, climbs the cliffs, fords the stream, and crosses the Five Borders. The wild mountainous landscape is vividly rendered, and yet, we receive an impression of the surrounding natural setting merely through the actions of the hero. Each line introduces a different action and a separate point in space where it takes place. Again the reader is reminded of the swift progress of the heavenly travelers in the “Yuanyou.” Here, however, the mythical cosmic landmarks, the power nuclei defining the cosmos, are replaced by actual elements of the mountain landscape. In the middle of the journey, as in most itineraria, the traveler is faced with a decisive spiritual test. Unlike the earlier cosmic journeys where this trial takes the form of a passage through the Changhe Gate, here it is the actual crossing of the narrow Stone Bridge (Shiqiao 石橋) spanning a bottomless ravine. The commentary to Gu Kaizhi’s 顧愷之 (ca. 345–406) Qimengji 啟蒙記 (Records for Dispelling Ignorance, a no longer extant lexicon), extensively cited by Li Shan in his comments to the “You Tiantai shan fu,” explains: The path [of the Stone Bridge] is not a full foot wide and several tens of paces long. It looks down on a brook of sequestered darkness. Only after forgetting one’s body one can cross over. 路逕不盈尺,長數十丈,下臨絕冥之澗。惟忘其身然後能濟。67

According to the commentary to Xie Lingyun’s “Shanju fu” 山居賦 (Fu on Dwelling in the Mountains), “among the perils of the human pathways, nothing surpasses this [the crossing of the You Stream and of the Stone Bridge]” 人 跡之艱,不復過此也.68 Sun Chuo evocatively renders this breathtaking passage: 踐莓苔之滑石 博壁立之翠屏 攬樛木之長羅

67 68 69

I tread on slippery stones, overgrown with moss, Cling to the Halcyon Screen, rising like a wall.69 I grasp the long creepers on drooping branches,

Taiping yulan 41. Song shu 67.1758. According to Li Shan, the Halcyon Screen (Cuiping 翠屏) is a stone wall located at the Stone Bridge (Wenxuan 11.497). 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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援葛藟之飛莖

(ll. 39–42)

Seize the flying stalks of twining vine.70

However realistic it seems, the crossing of this forbidding natural barrier acquires new meaning in the context of the fu. Here it represents the “dangerous passage” that lies on the way of every adept seeking entry into paradise. It marks the passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to the real and eternal. The image of the “dangerous passage” is a common motif in both funerary and initiation mythologies throughout the ancient world, where it takes various forms: passing over a “sword bridge” or a bridge “narrow as a hair,” between colliding rocks, through the jaws of a monster, and so on. In the poetry preceding Sun Chuo, the passage through the Changhe Gate served this role. All these symbolic images express the need to transcend opposites, to abolish the polarity typical of the human condition, in order to attain absolute reality. This trial now passed, the poet proclaims: 雖一冒於垂堂 乃永存乎長生

(ll. 43–44)

Though once endangered at the brink, I shall exist forever in eternal life.

Beyond the Stone Bridge the road levels and a clear vista of purity and harmony opens up. The poet is no longer an active, hurried traveler but becomes a reflective observer. With a cleared vision and mind, he for the first time perceives and contemplates on the surrounding landscape: 藉萋萋之纖草 蔭落落之長松 覿翔鸞之裔裔 70



Cushioned by slender grass, lush and luxuriant, Shaded by tall pines, lofty and stately, I watch the graceful gliding of soaring simurghs,

The crossing of the Stone Bridge in its own turn became a motif to be alluded to in later poetry. Thus, Xie Lingyun in the poem titled “Around My New Lodge at Stone Gate on All Sides are High Mountains, Winding Streams and Rocky Rapids, Lush Woods and Tall Bamboo” 石門新營所住四面高山迴溪石瀨修竹茙林詩 writes: 披雲臥石門 I parted the clouds and repose on Stone Gate. 苔滑誰能步 The moss is so slippery, who can tread on it? 葛弱豈可捫 The creepers are flimsy—what can one grasp? (ll. 2–4) (Wenxuan 30.1399) The crossing of the Stone Bridge and of You Stream is also evoked in his “Shanju fu,” Song shu 67.1758. These two landmarks indicate points beyond which ordinary mortals cannot venture.

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(ll. 53–54)

Listen to the mellifluous melody of singing phoenixes.

The author transforms from an active actor in a poetic drama into a perceiver: the scenery is introduced through verbs such as di 覿 (“I see”) and ting 聽 (“I hear”). He washes himself in the waters of the Numinous Stream (Lingxi 靈溪), which cleanse the “residual dust” (yichen 遺塵) and the Five Hindrances (wugai 五蓋).71 The theme of the ritual bath is again an integral part of every initiation. Water is a universal symbol of the undifferentiated and virtual, containing all potentialities, the primordial substance from which all forms are born and to which they return again through regression. In water everything dissolves: every form disintegrates and every history is abolished. Destroying history and reconstituting, if only temporarily, the initial integrity, water purifies and regenerates because everything that has been immersed in it “dies,” and rising again from it enters a new life, resembling a newborn baby without a history.72 The poet emerges from the Numinous Stream with a cleared vision and mind, freed from the sensorial and emotional bonds of human existence. The paradise city of the immortals then opens up in front of him: 陟降信宿 迄於仙都 71

72

I climb up and down for two days and nights, Until I reach the City of Immortals.

The Five Hindrances (wugai 五蓋) are the Chinese equivalents of Nīvarana: tanyin 貪淫 (kāmacchanda, “desire and licentiousness”), chenhui 瞋恚 (vyāpāda, “rage and anger”), chenhun shuimian 沉惛睡眠 (styānamiddha, “dullness and drowsiness”), tiaoxi 調戲 (auddhatyakaukrtya, “frivolity”), and yi 疑 (vicikitsā, “doubt”). See Zürcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, vol. 2, 375, n. 43. Li Shan equates the term “residual dust” with the Buddhist “six dusts” (liuchen 六塵), i.e., gunas (“senses”): se 色 (rūpa, “sight”), sheng 聲 (śabda, “sound”), xiang 香 (gandha, “smell”), wei 味 (rasa, “taste”), chu 觸 (sparśa, “touch”), and fa 法 (manas, “thought”). However, throughout the rest of the poem Sun Chuo always pairs a Daoist and a Buddhist concept in the parallel lines of his couplets. From the structure of the couplets it can be inferred that the expression “residual dust,” which is parallel to the Five Hindrances, should be a Daoist equivalent of the Buddhist Five Hindrances. Indeed, the employment of the word chen to denote the profane world precedes the Buddhist translations; this term was often employed in early poetry. See, for example, the “Ai shiming” poem from the Chuci (second half of the second century BC): 概塵垢之枉攘兮 I have scraped away dust and disorder, 除穢累而反真 Purged unclean entanglements and returned to the True. (ll. 137–138) (Chuci buzhu 14.266) On the symbolism of water and purification through water, see especially Eliade, Traite d’historie des religions, ch. 5.

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雙闕雲竦以夾路

61

瓊臺中天而懸居 朱闕玲瓏於林間 64

玉堂陰映于高隅 彤雲斐斖以翼櫺 曒日炯晃於綺疏 八桂森挺以凌霜 五芝含秀而晨敷

68

惠風佇芳於陽林 醴泉湧溜於陰渠 建木滅景於千尋

72

琪樹璀璨而垂珠 王喬控鶴以沖天 應真飛錫以躡虛

Paired pylons, thrusting through the clouds, flank the road, Rose-gem terraces, mid-sky, hover overhead, Vermilion towers glisten and glitter amidst the woods, Jade halls dimly glow from high recesses. Crimson clouds, gaily mottled, glide into lattices, The dazzling sun brightly blazes through silken tracery. Eight Cassias, rising up in thickets, brave the frost;73 Five Mushrooms, laden with blooms, burgeon forth at dawn.74 Gentle breezes waft fragrance into sunlit groves, Sweet springs murmur and burble through shady rills. The Standing Tree obliterates its shadow for a thousand fathoms,75 Carnelian trees gleam and glint, hanging with pearls.76 Wang Qiao, driving a crane, cleaves the skies, Arhats, brandishing their staves, tread the void.77

76 73 74

75

76

77

Shanhai jing 10.268 lists a legendary grove of eight cassia trees to the east of Panyu 番隅 (modern Guangzhou). Guo Pu explains that these trees are so big that they form a forest. The expression wuzhi 五芝, “Five Mushrooms,” refers to five kinds of zhi exudations. In Baopuzi 11 Ge Hong discusses at length five classes of zhi and their miraculous properties: stone zhi 石芝, arboreal zhi 木芝, herb zhi 草芝, flesh zhi 肉芝, and fungi zhi 菌芝. Each encompasses hundreds of species (Baopuzi neipian jiaoshi 11.197–202). A different list of “five kinds of divine zhi” 神芝五種 appears in the Shangjing scriptures. These are said to be planted by Mao Ying on Mount Gouqu, and upon ingestion each of them imparts to the adept a different transcendent grade (Taiji zhenren jiuzhuan huandan jing yaojue 6b–8a). The Standing Tree, Jianmu 建木, is a mythical tree said to be situated in the center of heaven and earth. At noon it casts no shadow, and when one calls, there is no echo. Along this tree the gods ascend and descend (Huainan honglie jijie 4.136). The qi 琪 (translated here tentatively as carnelian) trees are probably the yuqi 玗琪 trees, mentioned in the Shanhai jing in conjunction with pearl trees. “North of the Opener of Light there are the Meetwatchers, pearl trees (zhushu 珠樹), patterned jade trees (wenyu shu 文玉樹), carnelian trees (yuqi shu) and trees of no-death (busi shu 不死樹)” (Shanhai jing jiaozhu 11.299). Guo Pu identifies yuqi as a kind of scarlet jade. Yingzhen 應真 (“Correspondents-to-truth”) are Buddhist arhats. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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A fundamental change in the method of description can be observed in the depiction of the paradise realm as compared to the earlier account of the mountainous ascent. The poetic persona is no longer present amidst the described landscape but remains outside of it, assuming the role of a mere observer. The vista of paradise is no longer an object toward which the poet’s actions or senses are directed; it is presented as an independent entity, free of references to the self of the poet. The understood first-person subject “I,” which until this point had dominated the narrative progress, completely disappears here: the poet is for a moment absorbed in the vista of the transcendental world and loses his own self. This shift of perception was to be later used in the landscape poetry of Xie Lingyun, where the “grammatical liberation from the self” indicates the beginning of transcendental communion with nature.78 Moreover, the straightforward progress through the mountains described until this point is replaced in the description of paradise by a closed, circular movement. In the initial three couplets cited above (ll. 63–68), the poet’s eyes move along a vertical axis: from the clouds and the sky they descend to the hills and forests and further down to the fine tracery of the buildings. Simultaneously, in the third couplet (ll. 67–68) the poet loops back up to the heights: to the clouds and the sun, which are this time brought down through the windows. Thus, an enclosed, circular inner motion is produced, which in itself partakes of eternity. The subsequent couplets introduce the magical flora of paradise and the elemental forces of wind and water. In the seventh couplet (ll. 75–76) the poet’s vision rises to the sky once again, following the flight of the Daoist immortals and of the Buddhist arhats. The circular movement that permeates the first three couplets also applies to the picture of paradise as a whole. While up to this point the poem has created the impression of straight, linear progression through the mountains, here the motion becomes enclosed in the perfection and perpetuity of the circle.79 78 79

Westbrook, “Landscape Transformation in the Poetry of Hsieh Ling-yun,” 239. It might not be too far-fetched to look for parallels to the two different movements that mark the stages of Sun Chuo’s mystical ascent—the straight progression through the earthly landscape and the closed circular motion of the divine sphere—in Daoist religious practice. Both Daoist ritual and alchemy are structured on the distinction of two types of time: progressive, “outer” time as exists in creation after the diversification of chaos and “inner” time before that division, which is exempt from yinyang-five phase cyclical changes and is therefore balanced and enduring. Different in nature and duration, these two types of time nevertheless proceed simultaneously, and the goal of the Daoist priest, as demonstrated by Kristofer Schipper, is to enter from the outer time cycles into the hidden inner time. See K. Schipper and Wang Hsiu-huei, “Progressive and Regressive Time Cycles in Taoist Ritual.” I am grateful to Achim Mittag for suggesting this connection. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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The parallel couplets further enhance the feeling of closed-in-itself harmony, wholeness, and timelessness. The carefully paired adjectives, nouns, verbs, and objects complement each other. The lines of every couplet unite closely related phenomena: gateway pylons and terraces, towers and halls, clouds and the sun, lattices and tracery, Eight Cassias and Five Mushrooms (or zhi exudations), breeze and springs, the Standing Tree and carnelian trees, and Wangzi Qiao and arhats. The symmetry of the mandala-like cosmographical space in which the hero of Han-dynasty itineraria in the Chuci and fu rhapsodies moves is here reflected in the paired complementary lines of the individual couplets. After a lengthy account of the paradise realm, the first-person subject appears again to describe the state of inner clarity and calmness he has acquired through the contemplation of this sacred land. The account is full of allusions to Zhuangzi, borrowing phrases from its parables verbatim. The hero has rejected all worldly affairs and excessive activity—that “which harms the horses” (haima 害馬).80 In perfect accord with the Dao, like the cook in one of Zhuangzi’s parables, the protagonist perceives with his spirit, “eyeing the ox, but not as a whole” (muniu wuquan 目牛無全).81 At noon he joins the immortal throngs for an audience of the Celestially Venerated (Tianzong 天宗).82 Enveloped by incense fragrance and resounding with “dharma drums” (fagu 法鼓), this celestial assembly, if in somewhat Buddhist garb, is an analogue of the divine banquets of the Chuci poetry, which take place toward the end of the cosmic peregrinations. Like the ancient travelers, the poet scoops up “black jade oil” (xuanyu zhi gao 玄玉之膏) and rinses his mouth in the Floriate Pond 80

81

82

Zhuangzi jishi 8.833. The Yellow Emperor asks a young horse herder how to govern the empire. The boy answers: “Governing the empire, how could it be different from herding horses? All you need do is to get rid of what harms the horses.” Cook Ding 丁 explains his mastery as follows: “When I began cutting an ox, what I saw was nothing but an ox, but after three years I no longer saw a whole ox. Now I encounter things with my spirit, and I do not look with my eyes.” Therefore, he never met any obstacles to cutting and carving (Zhuangzi jishi 3.119). The expression tianzong 天宗 (equivalent of 天尊) is a translation of the Sanskrit Bhagavat and initially designated Buddha. However, the Daoists very early adopted this title for their highest heavenly gods, especially the Yuanshi tianzong 元始天尊 (the Celestial Worthy, or Celestially Venerated, of Primordial Commencement). Li Shan comments that tianzong refers to Laojun, the deified Laozi. On the other hand, the Wenxuan commentator Zhu Jian 朱珔 (1769–1850) points out that the term “Celestial Worthy” appears in the “Yueling” chapter of the Liji as the name of the heavenly bodies (the sun, moon, and stars) worshipped by the Son of Heaven in the tenth month (Wenxuan jishi 文選集釋 12.3b, referred to in Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 2, 250, n. 91).

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(Huachi 華池).83. Similarly to the itineraria plot, this divine assembly takes place immediately before the final culmination, which in the “Yuanyou” took the form of an ecstatic breakthrough to the pre-beginnings. In Sun Chuo’s fu this climax is marked by a sudden leap beyond the phenomenal world into the realm of pure xuanxue philosophy. This transition echoes the structure of Zhi Dun’s “Yonghuai shi” #3, where the poet moves from physical (though fantastic) nature to the immaterial plane of abstract concepts. The poet looks for illumination in the Daoist doctrines of the Dao that is “beyond the images” (xiangwai 象外),84 beyond names and shapes, and in the Mahayana doctrines of “non-origination” (wusheng 無生) of the dharmas, or data of consciousness.85 Sun Chuo’s philosophical explorations smoothly blend together Daoist and Buddhist concepts and terms, which are paired in the parallel lines of the couplets. He becomes aware that he has not completely dismissed Actuality (you 有), the inconstant realm of phenomena, and that his passage into Non-actuality (wu 無) is still interrupted. He then finds illumination at last; there is no 83

84

85

Black jade oil is a wondrous substance, described in the Shanhai jing in conjunction with cinnabar trees: “[On Mount Mi 峚] there is white jade, which is jade oil. Its springs spume and spurt, gush and gurgle. The Yellow Emperor on this dines and feasts. [From the oil] black jade is produced from which issues jade oil that is used to water the cinnabar trees … 其中多白玉,是有玉膏,其原沸沸湯湯 ,黃帝是食是饗。是生玄玉。 玉膏所出,以灌丹木… (Shanhai jing jiaozhu 2.41). According to the commentary of Guo Pu, the jade oil confers immortality (ibid.). Guo Pu also locates the Floriate Pond on Kunlun (ibid. 6.294). What “lies beyond images” is the Dao. In Daoist texts xiang 象 denotes a stage of the sequential transformations leading from the formless undifferentiated Dao to the “ten thousand things.” This cosmological level was immediately above or before form (xing 形) (see Pregadio, “The Notion of ‘Form’ and the Ways of Liberation in Daoism”). Huainanzi 7 writes that “when there were not yet Heaven and Earth, there were only images without form” 古未有天地之時,惟像無形. These theories were further elaborated in later Daoist texts. For example, in his commentary to the Daode jing, Du Guangting says that “the first tokens of forms are called images; they are the beginning of the birth of things” 兆形曰象,生物之首也, the “commencement of form and matter” 象之,形質始 (Daode zhenjing guangsheng yi 道德真經廣聖義 8.20, DZ 725; see also Pregadio, “The Notion of ‘Form,’” 104–105). See also the debate recorded in Pei Songzhi’s 裴松之 (360– 439) Sanguo zhi commentary (10.319–320) and translated in Mather, “The Mystical Ascent of the T’ien T’ai Mountains,” 244, n. 108. For a brief discussion of the Buddhist doctrine of “non-origination,” see Mather, “The Mystical Ascent,” 244, n. 109. He cites Vimalakīrtinirdeśa 9 (version by Zhi Qian 支謙, ca. 250 AD): “Since [the dharmas] neither arise nor originate, therefore there is no duality [between origination and dissolution]. To attain acquiescence in the non-originating dharmas is the entrance to non-duality.”

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dichotomy between Actuality and Non-actuality, between form (se 色) and emptiness (kong 空). Sun Chuo elaborates on the current Mahayana doctrine that se (rūpa; “form,” “matter”) is empty (kong; “void and illusory”). He equals this insight with the Daoist attainment of the Mystery (xuan) through Actuality, of which the Mystery is the source and through which it becomes manifest. Thereafter he is able to reduce the “Three Banners” (sanfan 三幡) of form (se), emptiness (kong), and contemplation (guan 觀) to a single and indivisible Non-actuality.86 With this mystical insight the myriad phenomena merge into One, and the poet himself is unconsciously identified with the “Naturally-so” (ziran), with the Dao. He experiences spiritual transformation through which he achieves the common goal of both Buddhist and Daoist adepts: communion with the ultimate, constant reality, which is beyond Form or Actuality. I believe that it is no exaggeration to characterize Sun Chuo’s fu as the fourth-century answer to the “Yuanyou.” At first such an assertion might seem far-fetched, for the two compositions’ differences are more immediately apparent than their commonalities. Sun Chuo does not depict the greater cosmos of ancient deities with its comprehensible symmetric pattern, nor does he describe a magic-making celestial circuit or the fantastic paraphernalia and entourage of the cosmic traveler. There is no mention whatsoever of the various physiological and meditative practices leading to immortality. Sun Chuo’s journey takes place in his mind alone, achieved through the power of intense contemplation. Even if purely imaginary, it unfolds on the scale of a terrestrial mountain, which besides its mystical dimension retains much of its real, physical features. The poet takes on the appearance of a Daoist or Buddhist hermit instead of that of an ancient magician commanding the forces of nature, and he discourses at length on metaphysical xuanxue issues. Nevertheless, the two poems describe the attainment of the same goal: a mystical union with an ineffable but mysteriously potent reality that transcends all dualities. In both works the achievement of the ultimate reality is a process involving successive stages; and in both the image of the journey embodies this process. Sun Chuo’s fu is the only extant poetic work after the “Yuanyou” that not only comprehensively traces all the consecutive phases of such a mystical voyage but also describes it for its own sake, devoid of allegorical concerns. In addition, both compositions share a common sequence of similar events: preliminary initiation, journey, trial at the passage to the sacred, 86

The term sanfan 三幡 (“Three Banners”), apparently current among fourth-century Chinese Buddhists, is explained by Li Shan as referring to form (se), emptiness (kong), and contemplation (guan). See also the discussions in Mather, “The Mystical Ascent,” 244, n. 113, and Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 2, 252, n. 102.

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mystic roaming through the divine world, and a ritual feast followed by the ultimate breakthrough into another existential plane and the ecstatic attainment of the Dao. Significantly, in both the “Yuanyou” and Sun Chuo’s fu the land of paradise is not the final goal of the traveler but a mere stage in his journey toward the Dao—one of the last stages that, through its otherness, takes him closer to the ultimate mystical understanding. While in the “Yuanyou” the journey takes the form of a ritual, power-engendering circuit of a highly regular cosmos in which the protagonist successively traverses the four directions and achieves culmination in the center, Sun Chuo’s progress involves gradually rising above the concrete features of physical nature. He progresses simultaneously on two levels: the description of the inward process of expelling human passions and vexations, of breaking the bonds of senses and emotions, of rising beyond dualities, is mirrored on the outer plane of the poet’s physical (albeit purely imagined) surroundings. Recent scholars have pointed out that this poem heralds the aesthetics of the landscape poetry to come.87 It is only in the first phase of the journey, however, that the poet moves through a real mountainous landscape that is concretized through vivid naturalistic details (slippery moss, long creepers, trailing vines, etc.) and the names of actual scenic sites (Scarlet Wall Peak, the Cascade Waterfall, the You Stream, the Stone Bridge). After crossing the Stone Bridge, the passageway to the sacred, the landscape becomes more ambiguous, functioning simultaneously on two levels. The Numinous Stream is both an actual river and a topographic feature of the higher realms; resting on lush grasses, shaded by the tall pines, the poet views and listens to divine phoenixes. In the vision of paradise the real features of nature are further negated: the colors are unusual and living and nonliving nature merge together (pearlbearing gem trees). It is through this place, where the human distinctions and categories are abolished, that Sun Chuo passes into a realm beyond sensory perception, shapes, and colors into the sphere of pure ideation and metaphysical discourse. The three distinct spheres discerned in Zhi Dun’s “Yonghuai shi” #3 above—earthly nature, the mountainous paradise, and the world of abstract concepts—here become the consecutive stages of a single meditative process. The transformation of landscape from tangible physicality to the abstract and spiritual thus reflects the regression from the multiplicity of natural phenomena toward what is beyond their physical configuration and ultimately refers to the transformation of the self. 87

For example, Gu Nong, “Dong Jin xuanyan—shanshui shifu de qishou—Sun Chuo,” 59; Wang Jianguo, “Lun Sun Chuo de wenxue gongxian,” 51; and Holzman, “Landscape Appreciation in Ancient and Early Medieval China,” 138–139.

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While the dramatic contrast between the vulgar and inconstant world of men and the realm of the pure and eternal Dao, which is spatially located somewhere far above, pervades the “Yuanyou,” these two spheres do not constitute such a poignant dichotomy for Sun Chuo. For him it is transformed into a contrast between the “shallow knowledge” (jinzhi 近智) and limited vision of profane men, tethered by passions and bound to their senses, and the metaphysical insight of the sage. Although the Tiantai Mountains are time and again characterized as distant, secluded, and inaccessible, they remain a part of the earthly landscape. It is not their physical nature that is unapproachable by ordinary men but their true, mystical form underlying their physical configuration. One is reminded in this respect of the potent charts of the “true forms” of the mountains mentioned in the preface to the fu. Likewise, Sun Chuo’s journey takes place in the mind alone and recalls Daoist visualizations (xiang) that actualized and materialized (cun) transcendent deities and places. For him the hidden mountainous world can be approached not only by those who physically “abandon the world to play with the Dao” (yishi wandao 遺世 翫道) and “who cut off grains to dine on magic mushrooms” (jueli ruzhi 絕粒 茹芝) but also in the mind alone, which is mystically detached and probes the Mystery. Therefore, the radical break with worldly existence and with one’s human identity postulated in the “Yuanyou” is not a prerequisite for Sun Chuo. His communion with the transcendent, his merging with the ultimate reality, is not sought somewhere far beyond in space but is a state of mind penetrating beyond the physical configurations of earthly phenomena. In an anecdote preserved in Liu Jun’s 劉峻 (462–521) commentary to the Shishuo xinyu, Sun Chuo is reported to have said: “The one who embodies the Mystery and understands the Remote, no matter if he leaves the world behind or remains in it, returns alike [to the Dao]” 體玄識遠者,出處同歸.88 The differences between the “Yuanyou” and Sun Chuo’s fu can be explained by what Tu Weiming has called “the ontological turn” during the third and fourth centuries and the shift that it brought about in issues of interest and methods employed. This poetic transformation can be accounted for by the Wei-Jin style of thought that probed “the underlying structure and principle of things instead of casting one’s gaze outward in search of the grandiose design,”89 as during the Han dynasty. While the mandala-like space in the “Yuanyou” reflects the “constructing mode” of Han cosmological thought, which strives to embrace all existence in one rigid, comprehensible pattern, Sun Chuo starts from the things at hand and proceeds to uncover the hidden reality underlying 88 89

Shishuo xinyu jianshu 4.270. Tu Wei-ming, “Profound Learning, Personal Knowledge and Poetic Vision,” 7.

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them. This turn made it possible to perceive the ultimate significance inherent in the natural world itself. The Non-actual (wu), the source and end of existence for Sun Chuo and for the Wei-Jin thinkers in general, “becomes actual through a myriad shapes, names and events and then returns back to nonactuality and whoever has the eyes to see, can trace the temporal configurations back to their timeless source.”90 In order to unearth the ultimate reality, no magical circuit of the cosmic quarters is necessary; it is the single mountain and its landscape that holds the underlying principle of things. The implications of Sun Chuo’s redefinition of the mystic journey theme were to be fully evaluated a century later in landscape poetry. In his excursions into the mountains, Xie Lingyun climbs a self-contained cosmos, which needs not be transcended with the extravagant fantasy of cloud chariots and heavenly journeys. His encounter and interaction with the myriad manifestations of nature bring a flash of insight, like Buddhist sudden enlightenment. Through the ability to “appreciate” (shang 賞) landscape beauty, one can attain the li 理, a term Xie Lingyun uses similarly to the Dao, which indicates a higher, undifferentiated natural order. The ultimate understanding of li is not therefore to be sought somewhere in a distant realm but in the physical features of the scenery surrounding the poet. And it is Sun Chuo’s “You Tiantai shan fu” that can be regarded as a bridge between the older cosmic itineraria and the newly emerging landscape poetry on mountains and rivers. The Elixir Way In the earlier discussion of the “Yuanyou” and the Han fu modeled on it, I pointed out that the ability to embark on a distant journey was directly connected with the hero’s spiritual and physical cultivation. As demonstrated above, the poets referred mainly to practices discussed in late Warring States and early Han self-cultivation literature: various methods of cultivating qi (breath) and jing (essence), gymnastics, and sexual arts. Although numerous elixirs of immortality were mentioned, they were never of major significance. A real transformation of the state of being could be achieved not through the consumption of these elixirs alone but rather through inner cultivation and the process of ecstatic journeying. On the other hand, in the yuefu songs of the late Han-Wei period, divine elixirs became the main objective of the “distant journey.” The consumption of such elixirs—which were either naturally found in the mountains or alchemically refined—took on increasing importance in 90

Mather, “The Mystical Ascent of the T’ien T’ai Mountains,” 231.

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early medieval verse until it almost completely replaced the distant journey theme as a means to transcendence and a prerogative of the immortals. For Jin-period practitioners of immortality arts, mountains were important not only as physical embodiments of the Dao and sites of mystic illumination but also, and primarily, as mysterious sources of nourishing herbs and minerals. Ge Hong sends immorality seekers out to the mountains and wilds, where the adept may not only escape harmful social entanglements but can also find marvelous natural substances. He devotes one chapter of the Baopuzi neipian to describing various potent mineral and plant drugs, as well as where to find them and how to use them, and another to the art of entering the dangerous mountainous realm where they could be found.91 In the poetry of the period, the image of an herb gatherer frequently replaces that of the cosmic voyager. This shift parallels the conflation of the immortals’ paradises with earthly mountains. From the late third century onward, the theme of gathering herbs and mineral drugs in either mythical or terrestrial mountainous settings was adopted in the youxian verse. The search for divine herbs or mineral substances able to cure disease, prolong life, and even provide immortality was one of the major activities of the immortality seekers of the period. It was not exclusively the domain of Daoist adepts, for layman aristocrats as well spent much time looking for herbs that might increase their lifespans. John D. Frodsham even suggests that the passion for wandering in the mountains, so essential to shanshui poets, might have had its origin in this practical pursuit of herbs and drugs.92 According to the Jin shu, Xi Kang used to roam in the mountains and marshes, gathering “herbs” (yao 藥).93 It also contains a record of Xi Kang’s travels in the mountains with Wang Lie 王烈, who

91 92

93

Baopuzi neipian 11.196–223 and 17.299–322. Frodsham, “The Origins of Chinese Nature Poetry,” 75. For example, Zhi Dun writes in his preface to the “Baguan zhai” 八關齋 poems: “Once I found happiness in the quiet of a hut amidst the wilds and yearned of digging up herbs. So I dwelt alone there…. I climbed mountains and gathered herbs and indulged in all the joys that crags and rivers could afford” 余既樂野室之寂,又有掘藥之懷。遂便獨住 … 登山採藥,集巖水之娛 (Quan Jin wen 157.10a). The biography of Wang Xizhi in the Jin shu says that “together with the Daoist master Xu Mai he practiced dietetics; when picking medical stones he did not consider a thousand li as being too far to go. He travelled to all the districts in the east, visited all the famous mountains, and even sailed on the blue sea” 又與道士許邁 共修 服食,采藥石不遠千里,遍遊東中諸郡。窮諸名山,泛滄海 (Jin shu 80.2101). Jin shu 49.1370.

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was believed to have later attained immortality. There Wang Lie found a cakelike stalagmite, a “stone marrow” (shisui), and ate half of it.94 In fact, one of the early references to the practice of gathering herbs and minerals in a poem on immortality occurs in Xi Kang’s “Youxian shi”: 採藥鍾山隅 服食改姿容

(ll. 13–14)

On the corners of Mount Bell I gather drugs, Eating them will change my appearance.95

In his “Youxian” poems Guo Pu similarly unites the themes of immortality and drug gathering in the mountains: 登嶽採五芝 涉澗將六草

(“Youxian shi” #15)

Scaling the marchmounts, I pick up the Five Mushrooms, Fording streams, I obtain the six herbs.96

In “Youxian shi” #9 Guo Pu combines the theme of gathering herbs and drugs with the conventions of the Chuci-type cosmic journey: 採藥遊名山 將以救年頹 呼吸玉滋液 妙氣盈胸懷 登仙撫龍駟 迅駕乘奔雷 鱗裳逐電曜 雲蓋隨風迴

4

8 94

95 96

Picking drugs, I roam the famous mountains, Wishing to remedy the decrepitude of age. Inhaling and exhaling the jade fluid, Wonderful breath fills my breast. I rise, an immortal, pet my dragon steeds, Swiftly I ride, mounted on the bolting thunder. Garbed in scales, I overtake the lightning’s blaze. Cloud canopies eddy in the wind,

Jin shu 49.1370. The Shenxian zhuan presents a more detailed record of this episode in the hagiography of Wang Lie. In it Wang Lie, while roaming alone in the Taihang 太行 Mountains, came upon a rock cleft from which greenish mud was issuing like marrow. Wang Lie made balls out of this warm, wax-like material, which smelled and tasted like cooked rice. He carried them back to Xi Kang, but the balls had hardened into green stone. When Xi Kang later joined Wang Lie to have a look at the site, the cleft had disappeared (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 6.232; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 339). Thus, it is Xi Kang, the representative of the more philosophically inclined naturalism, who obstructs the revelation of the mountain’s numinous contents. Lu Qinli, 488. Lu Qinli, 867. On the “Five Mushrooms,” see note 74 above. The identity of the “six herbs” is not clear to me.

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手頓羲和轡 足蹈閶闔開 東海猶蹄涔 崑崙螻蟻堆 遐邈冥茫中 俯視令人哀

12

My hands pull back Xi He’s reins, My feet stamp for the Changhe Gate to open. The Eastern Sea seems a hoofprint full of water, Kunlun—a swarm of locusts and ants. Far, far below, into the boundless dark, A look down makes one grieve.97

As pointed out above, the basic plot of the yuefu songs on immortality involved a long journey that culminated in the reception of divine drugs. In this poem Guo Pu reverses this sequence of events—the elixirs now naturally grow in the mountains, where they are gathered by the adept and enable him to set off on a distant journey. The fantastic journey described in the second part of the poem is not part of a quest for immortality. Instead, the protagonist is already an immortal, and his travels demonstrate his achievement of ultimate freedom, loftiness, and triumph over time (through the pulling back of the reins of the sun chariot). The poet has attained a state so sublime that he becomes a master of natural phenomena, and from his lofty viewpoint even the paradises of immortals in the Eastern Sea and on Kunlun seem to be miniscule and trivial, like a “swarm of locusts and ants.” In fourth-century poetry herb gathering is frequently depicted as a practice sufficient to confer immortality. One is reminded of the yuefu tradition of elixir quest, only now the elixir is a natural one found in the mountains rather than in distant paradise lands. Some poems on immortality written during the Six Dynasties are actually titled “Drug Gathering” (Caiyao 採藥)—for instance, Yu Chan’s “Caiyao shi,” which was partly translated in the preceding chapter, and Wu Jun’s “Caiyao Dabu shan” (Gathering Herbs on Mount Dabu). Bao Zhao also composed a poem on digging up the roots of the potent “yellow essence” plant on Mount Tong 銅 entitled “Guo Tongshan jue huangjing” 過銅山掘黃 精詩.98 A poem by Jiang Yan is devoted to gathering sweet flag (changpu 菖蒲), through which the poet may stop physical deterioration and ascend to heav-

97 98

Lu Qinli, 866. Lu Qinli, 1302–1303. “Yellow essence” (huangjing 黃精) denotes a plant from the genus Polygonatum, or Solomon’s seal, which was believed to be a powerful drug of immortality conferring the ability to fly (Baopuzi neipian 6.117). According to the Shenxian zhuan, the immortals Wang Lie and Yin Gui regularly consumed it (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 232 and 318, respectively). Taishang lingbao wufu xu 2.19–21 discusses at length its cosmic origins, wondrous properties, and instructions for preparing the roots for consumption. A passage is translated in Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 26.

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en.99 Similarly, poems bearing the words youxian (“roaming into immortality”) in their title might speak about collecting herbs and drugs in the mountains. Yu Xin’s poem “Fenghe Zhaowang youxian” (Respectfully Matching a Poem on Roaming into Immortality by King of Zhao), for example, starts: 藏山還採藥 有道得從師

(ll. 1–2)

Hidden in the mountain, I turn back to gather drugs. To have the Way, one should follow a master.100

These poems no longer focus on a distant journey but center on the consumption of natural substances as the way to prolong eternally one’s years. What were these yao, so highly desired by the poets, that are commonly, albeit imprecisely, translated as “herbs”? If we look closer at the content of poems dealing with the theme of caiyao, we see that the yao in question rarely belong to the floral kingdom. Let us have a look again at the petrified nature of Yu Chan’s elixir mountain described in his “Caiyao shi” discussed in the preceding chapter: 懸巖溜石髓 芳谷挺丹芝 泠泠雲珠落 漼漼石蜜滋

(ll. 3–6)

From the overhanging cliffs stone marrow flows, Cinnabar mushrooms sprout in the Fragrant Gorge. Softly jingling, cloud pearls fall, Abundant, ample, stone honey grows.101

The “stone marrow” (shisui), which flows through the landscape denotes stalagmites, the “cloud pearls” (yunzhu 雲珠) raining down are a variety of mica (yunmu 雲母). The term zhi 芝, commonly translated as “fungi,” “magic mushrooms,” or “numinous mushrooms,” does not refer to mushrooms sensu stricto but is a generic word for exudations, for “protrusions or emanations from rocks, trees, herbs, fleshy animals, or fungi.”102 “Stone honey” (shimi 石蜜) probably refers to the juice of one kind of stone exudation called “stone honey zhi” (shimi zhi 石蜜芝), one of the most inaccessible and efficacious natural

99 100 101 102

“Cai shishang changpu shi” 採石上菖蒲詩 (Gathering Sweet Flag on the Rocks), Lu Qinli, 1566. Lu Qinli, 2362. Lu Qinli, 874. Campany, “Ingesting the Marvelous,” 127–128.

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elixirs.103 The word yao in texts and poems on immortality is used as a generic term for naturally found immortality elixirs, which might be of plant origin but are more commonly mineral. Therefore, “natural drugs” would be a much more appropriate rendering, although rather unwieldy in poetic translations. From the Liang dynasty onward, the search for natural drugs and elixirs in the mountains is replaced in poetry by the higher art of alchemy. Ge Hong already insisted that natural substances lack the efficacy of methodically synthesized elixirs. On this matter he writes: “If you do not obtain gold or cinnabar, but only ingest drugs from herbs and trees (caomu 草木) and cultivate other minor arts, you can lengthen your years and postpone death, but you cannot attain immortality (xian)” and “Only gold fabricated by transformation harbors the essences of various medicinal substances and in this it is superior to the natural sort.”104 Even poems with the conventionalized title “Caiyao” (Gathering [Natural] Drugs) often speak about transmuted elixirs. The late sixth-century poet Liu Shan composed a poem imitating Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #9. Its title cites the first line of Guo Pu’s text: “Caiyao you mingshan” 採藥遊名山 (Picking Drugs, I Roam the Famous Mountains). This composition, however, not only describes no magic journey but has more to do with alchemy than with collecting natural substances. A passage from it reads: 獨馭千年鶴 來尋五色丸 石牀新溜乳 金竈欲成丹

(ll. 3–6)

103

104 105

Alone harnessing a crane of a thousand years, Coming to look for the pellet of five colors. The stone bed newly pours out milk, The golden furnace is about to transform the elixir.105

According to Ge Hong, it grows on the Lesser Chamber Peak (Shaoshi 少室) of Mount Song, the central marchmount. The zhi emits stone honey, which drips into a basin on the top of a stone column. Although the zhi never stops emitting juice, the basin never fills nor overflows, and therefore it is almost impossible to get hold of the juice. Yet, it seems that earlier adepts had managed to accomplish this feat; an inscription in the stone just above the outcropping reads that if someone drinks a dou of stone honey, he will live for ten thousand years. Ge Hong adds that all Daoists dream of this place, but they understand that it is beyond their reach (Baopuzi neipian 11.198). In addition, extant fragments of the Shenxian zhuan (contained in Taiping yulan 988.5b and 857.2a) mention two adepts, the masters Xianmen and Feihuangzi 飛黃子, who had procured some stone honey (see Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 289 and 358). Baopuzi neipian 13.243 and 16.286, respectively. Lu Qinli, 2547.

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The “pellet of five colors” (wuse wan 五色丸) refers to some kind of alchemical elixir. Although it is not possible to establish its precise identity, it probably refers to a drug belonging to the tradition of Grand Purity. An elixir with the name Grand Purity Five-colored Elixir (Taiqing wuse dan 太清五色丹) is listed in the Tang-dynasty compilation Taiqing danjing yaojue 太清丹經要訣 (Essential Instructions from the Scripture of Elixirs of the Grand Purity), which draws on the expanded versions of the Taiqing jing that circulated during the Six Dynasties.106 A similar name—Grand Purity Five-colored Divine Drug (Taiqing wuse shenyao 太清五色神藥)—occurs in Chisongzi zhangli 3.22a (Petition Almanac of Master Redpine), a text belonging to the Celestial Masters tradition from the Six Dynasties period. Ge Hong describes the appearance of the compound just before its transformation into “reverted elixir” (huandan 還丹) as sparkling with a five-colored divine light (shenguang wuse 神光五色).107 Although it is not clear what exactly the expressions “stone bed” (shichuang 石 牀) and “milk” (ru 乳) refer to, most probably they denote some kind of stalagmite formation. The golden furnace might be a reference to a golden tripod (jinding 金鼎), which in Yunji qiqian 68.8b is listed as one of the five kinds of tripods, the others being silver, copper, iron, and clay tripods. Partaking of different mineral mixtures and alchemical preparations and possessing a lay knowledge of alchemical processes were part of gentry life during the Southern Dynasties. Especially popular was the consumption of a mineral mixture known as hanshi san 寒食散 (“cold-food powder”) or wushi san 五石散 (“five-mineral powder”). After the philosopher He Yan 何宴 (?–249) first took it to gain relief from depression, it was claimed to be effective in curing diseases and continued to be widely consumed by scholars and aristocrats until the Tang. The drug was believed to clarify the mind, increase strength, beautify the looks, and prolong life. The monk Shi Huiyi 釋慧義 (372–444) from the circle of Master Huiyuan describes it: “Five-Stones Powder is among the supreme drugs. One can prolong his years, nourish his life, and harmonize his mind. How could one say that it only cures diseases?”108 Wang Xizhi relates that after taking the mixture (which he calls “five-colored stone oil powder,” wuse shigao san 五色石膏散) his body “became light and he felt as if flying”.109 By the fourth and fifth centuries the consumption of the drug had spread even

106 107 108 109

Yunji qiqian 71.3b. Baopuzi neipian 4.77. Cited in Wagner, “Lebensstil und Drogen im chinesischen Mittelalter,” 134. “Zatie” 雜帖 in Quan Jin wen 26.9a.

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to Buddhist monasteries. A number of the most important treatises on the hanshi san were in fact written by Buddhist monks.110 Its beneficial claims notwithstanding, the drug was highly toxic and frequently caused disease and even death. Despite the severe side effects, its consumption increasingly spread among the gentry. It was taken during parties and feasts accompanied by music and dance; poems were also probably composed under its influence.111 One might speculate on the degree to which the conventional youxian imagery of some of the early medieval poems might in fact reflect feelings of lightness, levitation, and clarity induced by the drug. The titles of some poems indicate they were created on the occasion of consuming or being presented with a drug. Examples include Bao Zhao’s poem “Xingyao zhi chengdong qiao” 行藥至城東橋 (Under the Influence of the Drug, I Approach the Bridge to the East of the City Wall)112 and Xie Tiao’s 謝朓 (464– 499) matching poem “He Ji canjun fusan deyi shi” 和紀參軍服散得益詩 (Matching a Poem on Gaining Benefit from Consuming [Hanshi] Powder by Adjutant Ji).113 This latter poem, which stands somewhat apart from the rest of Xie Tiao’s work in terms of content and imagery, reads: 金液稱九轉 西山歌五色

110

111 112 113 114

115



The Golden Fluid equals the Nine-cycled [Elixir],114 [In] the Western Mountain singing of the Fivecolored [Elixir].115

Rudolf Wagner provides a list of treatises written on hanshi san up to the Tang period (“Lebensstil und Drogen im chinesischen Mittelalter,” 162–171). See especially entries 12–16, which list texts by Buddhist monks. Ibid., 118–135. The phrase xingyao 行藥 is synonymous with xingsan 行散, which means “to be under the influence of hanshi san.” The identity of Adjutant Ji is unknown, and the poem to which this one responds is lost. Jinye 金液, here rendered as Golden Fluid but generally translated as “Liquid Gold,” “Golden Liquor,” or “Potable Gold,” is an alchemical compound whose main ingredients are gold, mercury, realgar (As4S4), and saltpeter (Pregadio, Great Clarity, 115–116 and 281, n. 47). Pregadio also discusses and translates the elixir’s properties and the methods for preparing it (114–117 and 188–189). An in-depth analysis of the probable ingredients and chemical processes involved is provided in Needham, Science and Civilisation, vol 5.3, 88–99. This line might be an allusion to the song “Zhe yangliu xing” (Snapping a Willow Branch) by Cao Pi. The first half, which is preserved separately in Yiwen leiju 78 with the title “Youxian,” depicts a scene of immortals on the Western Mountain, who present the protagonist with an elixir pellet of five colors: 西山一何高 The Western Mountain—how high is it! 高高殊無極 High, high, beyond all limits!

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Transmuting one’s substance, push the clouds apart, Cleansing the lights, be forever unfathomable.116 Cloudy blooms, too, can be consumed,117 For the time being they halt Xi He’s vigor. It could make [one], [in the manner of] Sima Xiangru, lie down [and retreat],118 So as to encounter for a while true awareness.119

This short poem is replete with immortality elixirs and esoteric techniques current in southern China during the fourth and fifth centuries. The alchemical elixirs mentioned here—the five-colored drug, which was discussed in connection with the previous poem; the Nine-cycled Elixir; and the Golden Fluid (jinye)—are connected with the traditions preceding the Shangqing revelations and recorded by Ge Hong. In Han Zhong’s instructions to the adept Liu Gen 劉根 recorded in the Shenxian zhuan, the immortal Han Zhong praises the Nine-cycled Reverted Elixir (jiuzhuan huandan 九轉還丹) and the Golden Fluid of the Grand Monad (Taiyi jinye 太乙金液) as the highest type of drugs.120 The Golden Fluid would immediately raise the adept to the realm of the Grand Purity,121 coloring his body in a golden hue. Ge Hong claims that by ingesting it the personage destined to become the deity Grand Monad, Taiyi, acquired

116

117

118 119 120 121

On its crest are two immortal lads Who neither drink nor eat. They offered me a pellet of a drug, Bright and radiant, of five colors. (Lu Qinli, 393) Richard Mather understands this line as describing the drug and translates it as “Its gleaming brilliance never can be fathomed” (The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 2, 278). The “lights” (jing 景, also translated as “effulgences,” “phosphors,” or “luminants”) here are probably the lights within the human body, which are microcosmic counterparts of the lights of the heavenly bodies. See also Maspero, Taoism and Chinese Religion, 553–54. The expression zhuojing 濯景 (“cleansing the lights”), used here in juxtaposition to lianzhi 鍊 質 (“smelting one’s substance”), probably designates a method of inner cultivation. Yunying 雲英 (“cloudy blooms”) is one of the six varieties of mica (yunmu) distinguished by Ge Hong. It is five-colored with a predominantly greenish hue and should be consumed during the spring (Baopuzi neipian 11.202). Changqing 長卿 was the courtesy name of Sima Xiangru. Lu Qinli, 1447. A different translation and interpretation of this poem is provided in Mather, The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 2, 278–79. Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 300; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 244. Baopuzi neipian 11.208. 上有兩仙童 不飲亦不食 與我一丸藥 光耀有五色

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immortality (xian).122 The expression jiuzhuan (nine cycles) in line 1 of the poem refers to the Nine-cycled Reverted Elixir (jiuzhuan huandan), which is mentioned in passing by Ge Hong (curiously, also in conjunction with the Golden Fluid).123 The Shangqing corpus includes a recipe for preparing it, which probably predates the revelations.124 After speaking about these two potent elixirs, Xie Tiao refers to one variety of mica, cloudy blooms, as a substance able to prolong life. In fact, the Shenxian zhuan vitae of Liu Gen ranks the efficacy of mica (yunmu), together with realgar (xionghuang 雄黃), immediately after that of the Golden Fluid and the Nine-cycled Elixir: “Although with them one will not immediately mount the clouds or harness a dragon, one may still command and summon ghosts and spirits, perform transformations, and achieve long life.”125 In Xie Tiao’s poem we thus encounter a coherent cluster of alchemical images that all belong to the tradition of the Grand Purity and also occur together in at least one text of this tradition. Xie Tiao also mentions immortality techniques like lianzhi 鍊質 (“smelting, transmuting the corporeal parts”), which appears as early as the “Yuanyou,” and zhuojing 濯景 (“cleansing the lights [of the body]”). The latter expression probably denotes an esoteric technique associated with the Shangqing tradition. It is used in this sense in the Zhen’gao in connection with an inferior rank of immortals, known as Agents Beneath the Earth (dixia zhu zhe 地下主者). The practices enabling the Agents Beneath the Earth of third rank to advance in the divine hierarchy are described as follows: “They receive the teaching and 122

123

124

125

Baopuzi neipian 4.82–83. The transmission of the elixir preparation, its ingredients, and application are discussed here. According to Ge Hong, the method was transmitted by the Primeval Lady, Yuanjun 元君, to Laozi. Strickmann briefly discusses the circulation of the method and the scripture among immortality adepts in southern China during the fourth century AD (“On the Alchemy of T’ao Hung-ching,”133). Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 300; Baopuzi neipian 18.324. Here the Nine-cycled Elixir (the expression here, in conjunction with two other scriptures, most probably denotes an alchemical text) and the Scripture on the Golden Fluid (Jinye jing 金液經) are said to be kept in a sealed jade box on Kunlun. Contained in a fragment of the Dengzhen yunjue (preserved in Taiping yulan 671.1a–2a) and in the scripture Taiji zhenren jiuzhuan huandan jing yaojue 太極真人九轉還丹經要 訣 (Essential Instructions on the Scripture of the Reverted Elixir in Nine Cycles of the Perfected of the Grand Culmen, DZ 889). Fabrizio Pregadio argues that this is an earlier text incorporated in the Shangqing corpus with minor additions (Great Clarity, 57–58). On details concerning the preparation, ingredients, and usage of the elixir, see also pp. 193–200, where the respective portion of the Jiuzhuan huandan jing yaojue is translated. Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 300; trans. Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 244– 245.

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transform the bodily form, cleanse their lights, change the breath” 受學化形, 濯景易氣. After one hundred years they would be able to enter the palaces at Kunlun and Yingzhou.126 Xie Tiao also refers to celestial flight and stopping the flow of time by halting the sun charioteer Xi He, which were both conventional topoi in youxian poetry. The last couplet alludes to Sima Xiangru, the most accomplished poet of the early Han period. His biography in Shiji 117 records an illness he suffered toward the end of his life, which made him retreat from the capital Chang’an and move his residence to Maoling 茂陵. However, Sima Qian does not mention any medications he took. Neither is there any clue to what event in Sima Xiangru’s life the “true awareness” (zhenshi 真識) might refer to.127 It is likely that Xie Tiao references Sima Xiangru in the literal sense of leaving public service and retreating into the countryside, where “true awareness” (the expression has Buddhist connotations) can be found. In this connection the character wo 卧 is very significant. It means not only “lying down” or “sleeping” but also refers to the idea of withdrawing from the world, such as in the expressions wolong 卧龍 (“sleeping dragon”), which indicates a man of noble character who lives in reclusion and is yet to be discovered; wo mingli 卧名利 (“to cease the pursuit of fame and wealth”); and gaowo 高卧 (“to lay, to sleep on high”), which refers to a lofty man who has retired from service. The word wo also evokes the concept of woyou 卧遊 (“roaming in the mountains while lying down”) introduced by the writer and painter Zong Bing 宗炳 (375–443). Zong Bing believed in the power of landscape painting to transpose mentally one into the mountains in order to nourish the spirit and bring forth the mystical insight induced by being in nature, and Xie Tiao similarly refers to the attainment of “true awareness” through the act of wo. It is remarkable that such an exemplary poem on the theme of drug taking, full of alchemical and immortality lore, was composed by a poet whose extant poetry otherwise hardly employs Daoist themes and motifs. This poem not only indicates the degree to which the elixir culture had permeated daily court life but also illustrates the conventional employment of the “roaming into

126 127

Zhen’gao jiaozhu 13.404. Richard Mather speculates that the true awareness Sima Xiangru encountered might have been his death. Such an interpretation would mean that this poem might actually be intended as a subtle critique of the then-current consumption of hanshi powder (The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 2, 279). However, given the title, the context of composition, and the content of the preceding couplets, it seems too far-fetched to read the poem as a veiled reprimand.

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immortality” theme in connection with the consumption of the drug of hanshi. The elixir of life attracted and fascinated many Chinese emperors from the Six Dynasties, who set up and maintained alchemical laboratories. From 504 onward Emperor Wu of Liang patronized the alchemical pursuits of Tao Hongjing and is recorded as having consumed some of the elixirs presented by the master. He also commissioned Deng Yu 鄧郁, a Daoist master from Mount Heng 衡, to produce an alchemical elixir. Nevertheless, when the master submitted the life-giving drug to the emperor, the ruler could not summon up enough courage to consume it.128 A poem entitled “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 by Emperor Wu probably reflects this very episode: 水華究靈奧 陽精測神祕 具聞上仙訣 4

留丹未肯餌 潛名遊柱史 隱迹居郎位

8

128 129 130

131

132

133

委曲鳳台日 分明柏寢事

Water blossoms explore numinous secrets, The essence of yang probes divine mysteries. I have fully heard the instructions on rising to immortality,129 I possess the elixir, but never dared to eat it. Hiding my name, I wander on the star of the Court Historian,130 Concealing my tracks, I dwell among the stars of Court Guards,131 Understanding that day on the Phoenix Terrace,132 Clearly distinguishing the affairs of Cypress Rest Terrace.133

Nan shi 76.1896. Alternatively, “the instructions of the supreme immortals.” This line represents a play on words. Zhushi 柱史 (in full zhuxia shi 柱下史) is a title of the Court Historian. At the same time this expression designates a star, the χ of Draco (Sun Xiaochun and Kistemaker, The Chinese Sky during the Han, 166.7). This line, too, is a play on words. Langwei 郎位 are gentlemen serving at court, particularly guards. Langwei is also a cluster of fifteen stars in the constellation Coma Berenices (ibid., 124–126). The Phoenix Terrace (Fengtai 鳳台) is the terrace made by Duke Mu of Qin for his daughter Nong Yu and her immortal husband, the Flute Master. From this terrace the two departed on the backs of phoenixes into the heavens. See Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 80–84; Kaltenmark, Le Lie-sien tchouan, 125. The Cypress Rest (Boqin 柏寢) was a grand terrace in the ancient kingdom of Qi 齊. The Shiji records an episode in which the court fangshi Li Shaojun 李少君 correctly identified to Emperor Wu of Han a copper vessel as the one kept by Duke Huan 桓公 (d. 643 BC) of Qi on the Boqin terrace more than five hundred years earlier (Shiji 12.454). Emperor Wu of Han therefore started to believe that Li Shaojun was a divine man, who had lived several

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The Flute Master briefly falters, Waiting for me to mount the dragon chariot.134

In the second couplet Emperor Wu states that he has acquired the alchemical elixir and heard the secret oral instructions for becoming an immortal but has never dared to break away from his mundane existence. The third couplet contains a clever play on words: the expressions Zhushi 柱史 and Langwei 郎位 designate both official titles and stars. It emphasizes that despite the emperor’s transcendental wishes, the worldly affairs of the court hold him back; while the immortals freely tread the stars, he lingers among constellations of courtly titles and ranks. The poem concludes indecisively: the immortal Flute Master is still waiting for the emperor to summon up his courage, consume the elixir, and mount the dragon chariot into the sky. Faltering at the threshold of the divine had been a recurrent trope in accounts of cosmic journeys ever since the “Yuanyou.”135 Emperor Wu adopts this conventional motif here to reflect a very personal and very concrete situation. One of the songs from Emperor Wu’s “Shangyun yue” cycle, composed in 512, bears the title “Jindan qu” 金丹曲 (Tune of Gold and Cinnabar) and focuses purely on alchemy:

4

134 135

136

紫霜耀 絳雪飛 追以還 轉復飛 九真道方微

Purple frost shines, Scarlet snow flies. I strive to bring it back, Once reverted, it flies again. The method of the Nine True Ones is subtle,136

hundred years. It is not clear whether the “affairs of the Cypress Rest Terrace” here refers to this episode. Lu Qinli, 1530. The motif of faltering had appeared even earlier in the cosmic wanderings described in the “Lisao.” For its adoption in youxian verse, see, for instance, the seventh poem of Xi Kang’s cycle “Zeng xiong xiucai rujun shi shiba shou” 贈兄秀才入軍詩十八首 (Eighteen Poems, Presented to My Elder Brother, the Xiucai, on His Entry into the Army), where the hesitation is caused by the poet’s human attachments (Lu Qinli, 482). This poem is translated in the following chapter. The precise identity of the Method of the Nine True Ones (jiuzhen dao fang 九真道方) is not clear to me. The “method of the Nine True Ones” (jiuzhen fa 九真法) was an important visualization practice of the Shangqing tradition, described, for instance, in the Shangqing taishang dijun jiuzhen zhongjing 上清太上帝君九真中經, DZ 1376. It involved meditation focused on nine divinities within the body, which fused and transmuted into a single “great spirit” (dashen 大神) that entered the various organs and then

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千年不傳 一傳裔雲衣

For a thousand years it is not transmitted. Once transmitted, clouds will rim your robes.137

Although it is not possible to determine the exact nature of the “purple frost” and the “scarlet snow,” these are likely to have been alchemical compounds of some kind that the emperor might have even personally tested. Frost and snow in alchemical texts refer to crystals grown from solutions or sublimated. One of the first elixirs that Tao Hongjing prepared for the emperor, a Sublimated Elixir (feidan 飛丹), was said to have the appearance of frost and snow, and upon ingestion rendered the body weightless. The emperor had personally consumed it and found it effective.138 Purple frost is mentioned in the Taiqing jinye shendan jing 太清金液神丹經 (Scripture of the Divine Elixir of the Golden Fluid of Grand Purity) as a substance formed on the cover of the alchemical cauldron, which is a “divine elixir” (shendan 神丹).139 In the Shangqing texts the expression “scarlet snow” is used together with “dark frost” (xuanshuang jiangxue 玄霜絳雪) to denote some kind of immortality elixir.140 The term “flying up” (fei 飛) in line 2 in alchemical texts denotes complete sublimation, that is, “vaporisation with condensation above in solid form,”141 which parallels the adepts’ transformation and upward flight into the heavens. The term “bringing back” (huan 還) in line 3 refers to the method of repeated transmutations, which enhanced the efficacy of an elixir. This expression might even denote a concrete compound—Nine-cycled Reverted Elixir, with

137 138

139 140

141

rose to the niwan 泥丸 (the upper Cinnabar Field). However, such an understanding does not fit the alchemical content of Emperor Wu’s song. On the other hand, the expression jiuzhen (“Nine True Ones”) is also connected with a specific elixir from the Shangqing lineage: the jiuzhen yuli dan 九真玉瀝丹 (“Jade Wine Elixir of the Nine True Ones” or “Ninefold Perfected Jade Wine Elixir”), which caused the death of Tao Hongjing’s disciple Zhou Ziliang 周子良 (497–516) (Zhoushi mingtong ji 周氏冥通記 4.19a–20a). Tao Hongjing remarks that the method for preparing this drug is easier than that of the Ninecycled Elixir (jiuzhuan dan). Lu Qinli, 1525. Nan shi 76.1899. This statement is, however, contradicted by the major biographical source on Tao Hongjing, the seventh-century Huayang Tao yinju neizhuan 華陽陶隱居 內傳 DZ 300, which repeatedly mentions his failed efforts in compounding the commissioned elixir. Taiqing jinye shendan jing 2.2.This part of the text is also preserved in Yunji qiqian 65.15. It appears in Han Wudi neizhuan 1.7 among the divine elixirs listed by Xi Wangmu. See also Yunji qiqian 69.22a.6 and 114.11b.1; Wushang biyao 78.3a.5. Shen Yue also mentions it in his “Stele Inscription on the Golden Court Temple on Mount Tongbo” (Tongbo shan Jinting guan bei 桐柏山金庭館碑). Needham, Science and Civilisation, vol. 5.4, 9.

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which Tao Hongjing experimented all his life. This lethal concoction could induce immediate deliverance from the corpse, and according to Michel Strickmann, it could even have been the agent in Tao Hongjing’s ritual suicide in 536.142 Although the Nine-cycled Reverted Elixir originated in the older alchemical traditions of southern China, which were known to Ge Hong, the Shangqing lineage created its own, more exalted version of this elixir, that involved a loftier line of transmission. Its formula had been transmitted by the True Ones to Mao Ying, the eponymous patron of Mount Mao, and was further bestowed upon Yang Xi and his patrons Xu Mi and Xu Hui before it finally reached Tao Hongjing.143 In one of the poems written in response to Tao Hongjing, Shen Yue speaks of a certain jiudan 九丹, which might designate the same preparation: 若蒙九丹贈 豈懼六龍奔

(ll. 5–6)

If I should ever be honored with a gift of the Nine[cycled] Elixir, Why should I fear the six dragons’ flight?144 (“Chou Huayang Tao xiansheng” 酬華陽陶先生)

The expression jiudan usually refers to the Nine Elixirs that are described in the Jiudan jing 九丹經 (Scripture on the Nine Elixirs), one of the major scriptures of the Grand Purity tradition that was extensively quoted by Ge Hong.145 They are nine independent alchemical preparations, related to each other by 142 143 144

145

See Strickmann, “On the Alchemy of T’ao Hung-ching,” 146–159 and 191. In 536 Tao Hongjing was exactly eighty-one years old. A fragment of the Dengzhen yunjie that survives in the tenth-century encyclopedia Taiping yulan 671.1a–2a traces the transmission of the formula. Lu Qinli, 1637. The expression “six dragons’ flight” probably refers here to the passage of time. This image is connected with Chuci poetry. In one of Liu Xiang’s poems from the “Jiutan” cycle titled “Yuanyou” (Distant Journey), the protagonist drives his “six dragons” to the Mountain of the Three Perils (Sanwei 三危). This mountain is, according to Wang Yi, situated in the west—hence the association of the “six dragons’ flight” with the direction of the setting sun and decline. The image of the “six dragons” as a metaphor for the passing of time was well established in the third century; it appears, for instance, in Cao Zhi’s letter to Wu Zhi 吳質 (the respective passage is translated in chapter 6). The text survives in two versions in the Daoist canon: in the first chapter of the Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue 黃帝九鼎神丹經訣 (Instructions on the Scripture of the Divine Elixirs of the Nine Tripods of the Yellow Emperor, DZ 885) and in the Jiuzhuan liuzhu shenxian jiudan jing 九轉流珠神仙九丹經 (Scripture on the Flowing Pearl in Nine Cycles and the Nine Elixirs of the Divine Immortals, DZ 952). For an analysis and translation, see Pregadio’s “The Book of the Nine Elixirs and Its Tradition” as well as his Great

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their compounding methods, and each of them could sufficiently bestow immortality. Taking into consideration the recipient of Shen Yue’s poem and the context of the line, it is very probable that Shen Yue refers not to the older group of Nine Elixirs but to one single elixir—namely, the jiuzhuan huandan that engaged the efforts of Tao Hongjing. Wu Jun’s poem “Caiyao Dabu shan shi” (Gathering Herbs on Mount Dabu) reflects acquaintance with novel esoteric knowledge as well. It contains the following lines: 玉壺白鳳肺 金鼎青龍胎

(ll. 13–14)

In the jade jar—the lungs of a white phoenix, In the golden tripod—the embryo of a green dragon.146

This couplet refers to specific drugs that became known only with the revealed Shangqing scriptures at the end of the fourth century. A drug named “lungs of a white phoenix” (baifeng zhi fei 白鳳之肺) occurs in the long list of divine elixirs revealed by Xi Wangmu to the Emperor Wu of Han during their encounter as described in the Han Wudi neizhuan.147 Dragon Embryo (longtai 龍胎) is the name of a formidable elixir inducing instant corpse deliverance. Texts from the original Shangqing revelations promised it would give access to the loftiest heavens of the Supreme Purity.148

146 147 148



Clarity (pp.  55–56, 110–114, and 159–187). For Ge Hong’s summary, see Baopuzi neipian 4.74–76. Lu Qinli, 1739. Han Wudi neizhuan 1.7. The Dragon Embryo elixir often occurs in the texts of the Shangqing tradition, such as the Zhen‘gao (3.15b and 6.2b) and in the Qingling zhenren Pei jun zhuan 清靈真人裴君傳 (Life of Lord Pei) contained in Yunji qiqian 105. A poem from the Zhen‘gao contains the following lines: 龍胎嬰爾形 Dragon Embryo will bestow on you an infant’s form, 八瓊迴素旦 Eight Rose-gems will return your pure dawn. (ll. 11–12) (Zhen‘gao 3.15b–16a, Zhen’gao jiaozhu 3.118) In Zhen‘gao 14.16b the Dragon Embryo is said to have been consumed by Wang Yuan 王遠 (the master of Mao Ying), Zhao Boxuan 趙伯玄, and Liu Zixian 劉子先 (the last two personages remain unidentified) (Zhen’gao jiaozhu, 459; see also Strickmann, “On the Alchemy of T’ao Hung-ching,” 131). In addition, at several points the Yunji qiqian mentions the Dragon Embryo Elixir of the Grand Harmony and a certain Scripture on the Dragon Embryo Elixir of the Grand Harmony (Taihe longtai dan 太和龍胎丹) in two juan (Yunji qiqian 71.3a.2, 105.8b.6, 105.23a.7).

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In these few examples it is the very concoctions that alchemists were attempting to transmute at imperial behest that enter poetry as major agents of immortality and immortal fare. From the late fourth century onward, references to various breathing and physiological practices decline and are replaced almost exclusively by the higher art of alchemy. Alchemical Formulas and Sacred Scriptures In court poetry from the late fifth century onward, esoteric scripts and alchemical recipes take on increasing importance in addition to ready elixirs. Matching poems were composed not only on the occasion of consuming elixirs but also on occasions of transmitting methods of their preparation, as testified by Jiang Yan’s poem “Zeng liandan fa he Yin zhangshi shi” 贈鍊丹法和殷長史詩 (Presenting a Method of Refining the Elixir, Matching a Poem by Administrator Yin). Jiang Yan refers both to the elixir and to the scripture which contains it: 方驗參同契 金竈鍊神丹

(ll. 7–8)

Once you prove the [truth of] the Cantong qi, In the golden furnace you’ll refine the divine elixir.149

This poem contains one of the few Six Dynasties references to the ancient scripture [Zhouyi] cantong qi (Token for the Agreement of the Three According to the Book of Changes) in connection to alchemy. Reputedly an Eastern Han work, modern scholars believe the text was lost after the Han. The received scripture under this title appeared again during the Tang and became seminal in theories of both laboratory (waidan 外丹) and internal alchemy (neidan 內 丹), which promoted binary processes based on lead (yang) and mercury (yin). Jiang Yan’s poem suggests that the original scripture was not lost after the Han but in fact continued to circulate in southeastern China.150 In the poem “Chisongzi jian” 赤松子澗 (The Stream of Master Redpine), Shen Yue expresses his wish to obtain not a readymade drug of immortality but simply the method for its alchemical preparation: 願受金液方 片言生羽翼

(ll. 7–8) 149 150 151

I wish I might obtain the Golden Fluid recipe, And with one word sprout feathered wings!151

Lu Qinli, 1564. On the early history and transmission of the Cantong qi prior to the Tang, see Pregadio, “The Early History of the Zhouyi cantong qi.” Lu Qinli, 1639.

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In another poem titled “Huashan guan wei guojia ying gongde” 華山館為國家 營功德 (In a Temple on Mount Hua Establishing Merit on Behalf of the State and Royal Family), which dates probably from 498, Shen Yue refers to sacrifices and prayers performed in the hope of gaining supernatural assistance for the faltering Qi dynasty and longevity for the ruler.152 He then speaks of an elixir that could effect this end and the scriptures that contain its recipe: 丹方緘洞府 河清時一傳 錦書飛雲字 玉簡黃金編

(ll. 5–8)

The formula for the elixir is sealed within a grotto treasury, When the Yellow River clears, it is but once transmitted.153 In brocade script, in flying clouds characters, On jade tablets bound together with a golden cord.154

The lore of Daoist sacred scriptures also makes a novel appearance in the court poetry of the Qi and Liang dynasties. Revealed celestial texts were of crucial importance to the Shangqing tradition. Born spontaneously from the Void at the cosmic beginnings and stored in jade on golden tablets in the celestial palaces, the sacred Shangqing scriptures were believed to be endowed with primordial energy. The heavenly writings in their original form as celestial scripts were neither accessible nor legible to humans. Transcripts of the original celestial writings were believed to have been handed down from Heaven in a series of steps from the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Commencement to the lower ranks of gods and immortals until the texts were finally passed on to elected men. Those who owned the scriptures and were able to read them could succeed in prolonging life, eventually becoming immortals by practicing what was described in these texts. Indeed, not only practicing the content of a scripture but even repeatedly reciting the text itself could elevate one to a higher state of being. Given the divine nature of these texts that could render their owners immortal and the social prestige the possession of scriptures ensured to their holders, in the fifth century aristocrats and scholars systematically searched 152

153

154

Richard Mather supposes that this poem was composed soon after the enthronement of Xiao Baojuan 蕭寶卷, Marquis of Donghun 東昏侯 (r. 498–501), on the Southern Qi throne in the eighth month of 498 (Mather, The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 1, 268). Zheng Xuan’s 鄭玄 (127–200) Yiwei qian zuodu 易緯乾鑿度 2.11 says that “when Heaven is about to send down an auspicious omen, the waters of the Yellow River clear for three days” 天之將降嘉瑞應,河水清三日. Lu Qinli, 1660. The complete poem is translated in Mather, The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 1, 268.

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for revealed Daoist scriptures. Court-composed youxian verse also reflects the fascination with sacred writings. From the late fifth century onward, there are numerous references to golden books, jade texts, emerald tablets, and various other kinds of divine texts written in exquisite calligraphy on precious materials: 綠帙啟真詞 丹經流妙說

(ll. 7–8) 金書發幽會 碧簡吐玄門

(ll. 5–6) 玉題書仙篆 金榜燭神光

(ll. 5–6)

Green books reveal true words, Cinnabar scriptures pour out wondrous instructions.155 (Wang Rong, “Youxian shi” #1) The golden scripts were issued by the obscure assembly, The jade tablets were spewed out from the Mystic Gate.156 (Xiao Yan, “Fangzhang qu” 方丈曲) Jade inscriptions are written in immortals’ seal-script, Golden tablets radiate divine light.157 (Xiao Yi, “He Bao Changshi Longchuan guan shi” 和 鮑常侍龍川館詩)

In certain instances poems contain references to concrete scriptures transmitted among Daoist adepts, such as Jiang Yan’s “Zeng liandan fa he Yin zhangshi shi.” Bao Zhao also mentions such texts: 五圖發金記 九籥隱丹經

(ll. 13–14)

The Five Charts issue golden records, The ninefold casket conceals cinnabar scriptures.158 (Bao Zhao, “Dai shengtian xing” 代昇天行)

The term “Five Charts” most probably refers to the Charts of the True Form of the Five Marchmounts (Wuyue zhenxing tu), one of the most sacred and potent 155 156

157 158

Lu Qinli, 1398. “Cinnabar scriptures” (danjing 丹經) are alchemical texts. Lu Qinli, 1525. The expression “Mystic Gate” (xuanmen 玄門) denotes Daoist teaching. It refers to Daode jing 1: “Mystery of Mysteries, it is the gate to all the Subtle.” 玄之又玄, 眾妙之門. Lu Qinli, 2038. Lu Qinli, 1264.

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Daoist scriptures. Some commentators explain that the expression yue 籥 means “casket” or “box” and refers to the jade casket concealed deep within Mount Kunlun in which the alchemical scriptures Jiuzhuan dan 九轉丹 (Ninecycled Elixir) and Jinye jing 金液經 (Scripture on the Golden Fluid) had been kept.159 In a matching poem on immortality, Yu Xin similarly writes about the transmission of sacred writings that circulated in early medieval China: 玉京傳相鶴 太乙授飛龜 159

160

161

From the Jade Capital the Crane Physiognomy is transmitted,160 The Grand Monad transmits the Flying Tortoise.161

Zheng Xuan’s Yiwei zhu 易緯注 (Commentary to the Apocryphon of the Book of Changes), cited by Li Shan (Wenxuan 28.1330). Zheng Xuan further explains that it is called “ninefold casket” (jiuyue 九籥) because the elixir has nine cycles. The description of this casket is found in Baopuzi neipian 18, where a certain Xianjing 仙經 (Scripture of Immortals) is cited: “The Jiuzhuan dan (Nine-cycled Elixir), the Jinye jing 金液經 (Scripture on the Golden Fluid), and the Shouyi jue 守一訣 (Instructions on Holding the One) are found within the five walls of Kunlun, hidden in a jade casket, carved in golden letters, sealed with purple mud, stamped with the middle seal” (Baopuzi neipian 18.324). The Scripture on Crane Physiognomy (Xianghe jing 相鶴經) is connected with the immortal Floating Hill, Fu Qiu. See Ni Fan’s 倪璠 (fl. 1705) commentary in Yu Zishan jizhu, 218. According to the Yuan compendium Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian 4.347, Floating Hill gave this scripture to Wangzi Jin to hide it on Mount Song. When Liu An, King of Huainan, was gathering herbs there, he found the book and thereupon the scripture was transmitted among men. Sui shu 34.1039 lists a Scripture on Crane Physiognomy by the Eight Sires of Huainan (Huainan bagong xianghe jing 淮南八公相鶴經). Ge Hong mentions a chapter of the Lingbao jing 靈寶經 (Scripture of the Numinous Treasure) called “An Array Transmitted by the Flying Tortoise” (Feigui shouzhi 飛龜授祑) (Baopuzi neipian 12. 229). The same text, under the name Scripture of the Flying Tortoise Taking Off (Feigui chenjing 飛龜振經), is found as a separate scripture in the list of Daoist books in Baopuzi neipian 19.333. According to the Shenxian zhuan, Huazi Qi 華子期 received certain “Mountain-Concealed Numinous Treasure Methods” (shanyin lingbao fang 山隱靈寶方), one of which was called “Yi Luo’s Array [from the] Flying Tortoise” (“Yiluo feigui zhi” 伊洛飛龜秩). With the elixir prepared according to these methods he returned his youth and could travel 500 miles per day (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 54; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 307; see also Taishang lingbao wufu xu 靈寶五 符序 1.11, DZ 388). These writings were allegedly found within a stone and consisted of gold plaques with purple characters. The mentioned text had been sealed in a stone box by Yu the Great before he attained transcendence (Baopuzi neipian 12.229; Taishang lingbao wufu xu 1.11; trans. Bokenkamp, “The Peach Flower Fount and the Grotto Passage,” 67–68). The Grand Monad in Daoist texts figures as the lord of the northern polar asterism and a high deity, and moreover, in the alchemical tradition of Ge Hong, he was

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(ll. 5–6)

(“Fenghe Zhaowang youxian shi”)162

The “Crane Physiognomy” refers to the Scripture on Crane Physiognomy (Xianghe jing 相鶴經) listed in the Sui shu and the “Flying Tortoise” to a certain scripture on “the Flying Tortoise” (feigui 飛龜) mentioned by Ge Hong in the Baopuzi neipian. It should be emphasized that the stronger esoteric air perceptible in fifthand sixth-century representations of immortality also accorded with the aesthetic pursuits of court poetry. The sacred celestial scriptures that captured the imagination of the aristocrats not only revealed divine knowledge but were splendid objects in themselves, possessing the allure of the exotic and precious. The dazzling images of golden books, gem tablets, jade caskets, and divine cloud characters betray the poets’ fascination with both the esoteric and the beautiful. The visions of the divine world disclosed by the Shangqing divinities were not only much more sublime than anything hitherto known but appealed to the aesthetic sensibilities of their sophisticated audience as well.

162

considered to be an important patron of alchemical work. Ge Hong speaks of altars raised by alchemists to Taiyi, the Primeval Lady (Yuanjun 元君), and to Laozi (Baopuzi neipian 4.84 and 16.292) Lu Qinli, 2362. The complete poem is translated in chapter 6.

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Chapter 6

Immortality in the Context of the Human World Until now I have surveyed various facets of poetic representations of immortality and their transformation. The last issue with which I shall deal is of a more general nature—namely, the manner in which the paradise realms of immortality related to the human world of the poet and to his personal experience. Several major approaches can be discerned in early medieval poetry: the realm of immortality might be conjured up in contrast to the transient and corrupted world of men, the human world might be excluded altogether, or paradise might even merge with the surroundings of the court poet. The different realizations of the youxian theme directly stem from both the generic features and the social function of the poems in question (laudatory poems, feasting songs, personal exchanges, etc.), as well as from more general changes in the intellectual milieu and poetic pursuits during the Six Dynasties The Juxtaposition of the Two Realms in the Chuci Tradition From the earliest treatments of the youxian theme during the Western Han up through the fourth century AD, the depictions of immortals and their lands are generally set in opposition to the human world of the poet. A majority of extant early representations of immortality revolves around the contrast between a frustrated mundane existence and the liberating flight into the realm of immortality. We should, however, be aware of the danger of making misleading generalizations about the whole poetic output of the period on the basis of the small portion of surviving literature. The compositions that have come down to us reveal what critics from later, different intellectual worlds thought to be appropriate applications of the immortality theme, and therefore, worth preserving. More about this matter will be said later. The Chuci tradition and the poetry traditionally ascribed to Qu Yuan provides the basic model of juxtaposing the world of men with distant paradises. Constant alternation between depictions of heavenly journeys and lament about the ills of the world determines the structure of the “Lisao.” The “Lisao” primarily focuses on the sociopolitical aspects of human life; it describes the existence of a pure and devoted official amidst a world of injustice where his virtues are not recognized and his lofty aspirations remain unfulfilled. The intimate connection between the two themes of cosmic journey and of lament

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remained a major feature in later Chuci poetry and in much of the verse on immortality after the Han. Furthermore, the “Lisao” articulates an honest official’s inner conflict that would be elaborated in subsequent poetry—the contradiction between the urge to leave the depraved world behind and escape into a pure and ideal realm on one hand and a deeply engrained feeling of moral responsibility, of having a mission in the human world, on the other.1 In most later Chuci poems that deal with immortality in some capacity, the flight into the realm of immortals is connected with the notion of the human world as both a corrupted and a confining place, from which the poet wants to break free through a distant journey. Works demonstrating the interdependence between the themes of journey and lament include the “Xishi” (Sorrow for the Oath Betrayed) and the fifth poem of the “Qijian” (Seven Remonstrances) cycle, entitled “Zibei” (Grieving for Myself).2 The latter poem opens with the melancholic monologue of a neglected and banished worthy: 居愁懃其誰告兮 獨永思而憂悲 內自省而不慚兮 操愈堅而不衰 隱三年而無決兮 歲忽忽其若頹 憐余身不足以卒意兮 冀一見而復歸

(ll. 1–8) 悲不反余之所居兮 恨離予之故鄉

(ll. 17–18)

Living in misery, to whom can I make my plaint? Alone I long ponder, sad and melancholy. When I look within myself I am not ashamed: My fortitude is firmer and knows no diminution. Three years in obscurity—and still no remission! My time runs out swiftly as a collapsing wall. I grieve that I have not life enough left to fulfill my wish: I long to return for a single glimpse of him. I grieve that I may not return to where I used to dwell, I lament to be separated from my home.3

1 The dilemma of the scholar-official—whether to serve in government or leave public life— later became the central theme of the shelun 設論 (“hypothetical discourse”) genre, which was popular during the Eastern Han and Jin dynasties. The shelun genre is studied by Declercq in Writing Against the State. 2 Translated and discussed by Hawkes in The Songs of the South, 238–239 and 246. According to this author, the anonymous “Xishi” was written at the same date or a little later than the “Yuanyou.” He ascribes the Qijian cycle to an anonymous author from the circle of Mei Sheng (p. 246). 3 Chuci buzhu 13.248; trans. Hawkes, The Songs of the South, 252–253.

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Here the motif of the quick flow of time is connected with the political aspirations of the hero: his life is rapidly passing away while he still lives in exile, unjustly banished by his lord. The second half of the poem depicts a cosmic journey, in the course of which the protagonist receives instructions in Daoism from the immortal Han Zhong and dines on the immortals’ food. The images of the immortals’ bliss and spiritual purity become an allegorical device allowing the poet to praise his own virtues, his integrity and purity. The poet declares his desire to leave the world of corruption and disgrace through his imaginary trip, but he does so only because he is thwarted in his political ambitions, not because he is interested in the pursuit of immortality itself. Thus, we are left in no doubt regarding the real intentions of the poet: he does not wish to transcend the world, but instead he reconfirms the value of his human existence. The omnipresent contrast between the bliss of the immortals and the political adversities of the human world suggests that the theme of immortality in most compositions from the Chuci anthology is employed as an allegory for a pure official retreating from public life, unable to bear the corruption of the court or the lack of understanding of his sovereign. The poet is ultimately interested in his fulfillment as a social, moral being rather than the transcendence of his earthly existence. The religious and mystical dimensions of the “Yuanyou” that I discuss in the previous chapters far surpass the conventional plaint of a rejected loyal courtier. And yet, the search for transcendence in this poem also remains firmly grounded in the context of the human world. Like in the “Lisao,” the first part of the “Yuanyou” develops the theme of lament—the main motive for the protagonist’s “far-off journey” is his wish to escape from the “pressing constraints of the world’s vulgarity” (shisu zhi po’e 時俗之迫阨), from the “time of foulness and impurity” (shenzhuo er wuhui 沈濁而汙穢) in which he lives. However, the topics of unlucky times and hostile fate is not so broadly treated as in the “Lisao” and lacks the latter’s complicated allegory and rich floral symbolism, which express the poet’s virtues and the evil of his adversaries. Unlike in the “Lisao,” the laments in the “Yuanyou” are dominated not by the personal afflictions of the poet in the political world but by more universal reflections on the ephemeral and transient nature of life. Deep sorrow over the passing of time and the limits of mortal life pervade the first third of the poem: 惟天地之無窮兮 哀人生之長勤 往者余弗及兮 來者吾不聞

(ll. 9–12)

I thought of the inexhaustible vastness of Heaven and Earth, I grieved the long travail of human life. Those who had gone before I shall never reach; Those yet to come I shall never hear of.

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(ll. 41–44)

I fear the seasons fleeting by in endless alternation, The blazing numen, aflame, advancing towards the west. When fine frost descends, saturating all below, I grieve my fragrant herbs, fading before their time.4

In addition, the poet articulates a very concrete and personal concern— namely, that his spirit is leaving the body and thereby inducing its decay: 神儵忽而不反兮 形枯槁而獨留

(ll. 17–18)

My spirit suddenly darted forth and did not return, My form withered and decayed, left behind, alone.5

Similar concerns are expressed in early texts on self-cultivation, such as in the “Neiye” chapter of the Guanzi: There is a spirit that of itself resides within the body. One moment it leaves, the next it comes, and no one is able to contemplate it. If you lose it, you are inevitably disordered; if you attain it, you are inevitably well-ordered.6 有神自在身,一往一來,莫之能思,失之必亂,得之必治。

The spirit inhabiting the body might wander away, causing illness and death. One’s task is to keep the spirit firmly within and to ensure its union with the body. Contemplations on the restrictions of human existence and the anguish of approaching death alternate in the “Yuanyou” with reflections on the “inexhaustible vastness of Heaven and Earth” 天地之無窮 and on “those of past ages who had become immortals” 往世之登仙 and who “escaping all life’s troubles, had no more need to fear them” 免眾患而不懼. The impetus for the mystic journey here is not the quest for the “Fair One,” for a worthy lord, but the urge to overcome human limitations, to “leave the dust behind” 絕氛埃 and attain utmost freedom and eternal life. Nevertheless, traditional Chinese critics tended to read the “Yuanyou” in terms of the same political allegorism as the “Lisao.” Wang Yi, who interpreted the “Yuanyou” through the biography of its presumed author, Qu Yuan, per4 Chuci buzhu 5.163–164. 5 Chuci buzhu 5.164. 6 Guanzi 49.777. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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ceived it as an expression of Qu Yuan’s political frustration and concern for the Chu kingdom. Wang Yi set the tone for later commentators, who, unanimously accepting Qu Yuan’s authorship of the “Yuanyou,” expanded upon its figurative meanings.7 The “Yuanyou” provided the model for Sima Xiangru’s “Daren fu” (Fu on the Great Man), which glorifies his patron, Emperor Wu of Han. While the two compositions are very similar in narrative framework, diction, and vocabulary, even sharing almost identical couplets, the contexts in which they set their depictions of “distant journeys” stand apart. Responding to the emperor’s penchant for xian immortality, Sima Xiangru strove to flatter his imperial patron and to entrance him with fantastical portrayals of the immortals’ joys. Quite naturally, the introspective grief so typical of the sao poet could occupy only a secondary place under the brush of an author enjoying the emperor’s favor. Thus, in Xiangru’s fu melancholy is overshadowed by the much more appealing cosmic journey that exalts the emperor’s majesty. Nevertheless, the convention of lament was so strong that Sima Xiangru felt the necessity to contrast, albeit superficially, his enchanting descriptions with an expression of frustration. His fu commences: 世有大人兮 在乎中州 宅彌萬里兮 曾不足以少留 悲時俗之迫隘兮 朅輕舉而遠遊

(ll. 1–6)

In this world there is a Great Man; He dwells in the Central Continent. His abode extends ten thousand miles, But is insufficient even for a brief stay. Grieved by the pressing confinement of the vulgar world, He rises lightened and roams afar.8

The last couplet cited here almost literally repeats the opening lines of the “Yuanyou”:

7 Some later Chinese critics, while accepting the premise of Qu Yuan’s authorship, recognized that the meaning of the “Yuanyou” cannot be reduced to a political message. Wang Fuzhi 王 夫之 (1619–1692), one of the greatest philosophers, classical scholars, and literary critics of the seventeenth century, provides perhaps the boldest such interpretation. In his Chuci tongshi 楚辭通釋 (Comprehensive Explications of the Chuci), he reads the poem as a kind of manual on inner alchemy and consistently uncovers esoteric references in every line. See Chuci tongshi, 101–114. 8 Shiji 117.3056.

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(ll. 1–2)

Grieved by the pressing confinement of the vulgar world, I wish to rise lightened and roam afar.

Sima Xiangru, however, shifts the meaning. Here the reason for the emperor’s flight into the greater cosmos of deities and immortals is no longer grief over the perilous state of the world or the fear of approaching death. Instead, the Son of Heaven is frustrated by the confines of his earthly abode, too narrow for his cosmic power. In Ban Biao’s “Lanhai fu” (Fu on Watching the Sea), which is discussed in chapter 4, again the standard motif of dissatisfaction with the contemporary world stimulates the search for solace in the world of immortals. The lament theme is hinted at through an allusion to Confucius, who said that he would like to sail off to the sea on a raft if nobody followed the Way: 余有事於淮浦 覽滄海之茫茫 悟仲尼之乘桴 聊從容而遂行

(ll. 1–4)

Sacrificing on the shores of River Huai, I view the grey-green sea, broad and boundless. Aware of Confucius embarking on a raft,9 For a time I will follow him, calm and carefree.10

This opening equates the “calm and carefree” (congrong 從容) roaming into the realm of immortality with the following example of Confucius. The rest of the fu does not voice frustration or sorrow but depicts instead a smooth voyage, first to the isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea and subsequently throughout the cosmos, which culminates at the Purple Palace (Zigong). Inspired by Confucius’s wish to abandon the world if it does not follow the Way, Ban Biao equates, at least superficially, wishful roaming in the realm of immortals with the self-imposed retreat of the honest Confucianist.

9

10

A reference to Lunyu 9: “The Master said: ‘If the Way should fail to prevail and I were to put to sea on a raft, the one who would follow me would no doubt be Yu.’ Zi Lu, on hearing this, was overjoyed. The Master said, ‘Yu has a greater love for courage than I, but is lacking in judgment’” 子曰: 道不行乘桴浮于海。從我者其由與 ? 子路聞之喜。子曰: 由也好勇過我,無所取材。 (Lunyu jishi, 299; trans. Lau, Confucius: The Analects, 76–77). Quan Hou Han wen 23.4a.

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Melancholy and Yearning for Immortality during the Third and Fourth Centuries In the anonymous “Nineteen Old Poems” and the yuefu songs from the late Han-Wei period, we find a different appreciation of the relations between immortality and the human world. They all express a wish for longevity removed from concrete social concerns. Some of the songs simply celebrate the ideal world of the immortals, such as “Buchu Xiamen xing,” “Bagong cao,” “Dongtao xing” (discussed in chapter 5), and “Changge xing,” which is translated later in this chapter. Others evoke the human world, but never in order to express dissatisfaction with politics and with a personal lack of success. Instead, we find in them deep sorrow over the brevity and misery of human life. Toward the end of Han, the theme of human transience and physical deterioration becomes one of the central topics in the anonymous “Old Poems.” The nineteen pieces included in the Wenxuan anthology represent the remains of what must have been a much larger corpus of five-syllable ancient-style poetry that flourished during the Eastern Han and was still in circulation during the Six Dynasties. In a recent reconsideration of the generic nature of the “Old Poems,” Daniel Hsieh draws attention to their performative aspects and questions their traditional interpretation as private, lyrical laments or even allegorical pieces by unnamed literary figures. He argues that they were neither folk nor literary poems but popular ones of a generalized emotional type performed (probably sung) at entertainment venues and informal parties of the elite.11 A melancholic mood permeates the extant “Old Poems,” which revolve around the brevity of life and the inevitability of death, the sadness of parting and separation, the homesickness of the wanderer, the pointlessness of fame and glory, and especially the idea of carpe diem, that is, the urge to “seize the day” and make merry. The contents and moods of the poems matched the possible occasions of their performance, which encouraged the unrestrained expression of feelings: “Performed at banquets, parties, and houses of entertainment at which friends gathered to feast, drink, and lament and forget the troubles of the day, they were a kind of release or catharsis for their audience.”12 The “Old Poems” usually present intimations of mortality in a declarative tone, often using a simile comparing human life to evanescent phenomena like dew, dust, short sojourns, and a hurrying traveler. At other times human exis-

11 12

Hsieh, “The Origin and Nature of the ‘Nineteen Old Poems.’” Ibid., 29.

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tence is unfavorably juxtaposed with firm and durable materials, such as metal or stone: 人生天地間 忽如遠行客

(ll. 3–4)

Between Heaven and Earth is man’s life, Rushing like a traveler with a long way to go. (“Gushi shijiu shou” #3)

人生非金石 豈能長壽考 ?

Man is not made of metal or stone; How can he hope to live for long? (“Gushi shijiu shou” #11)

浩浩陰陽移 年命如朝露 人生忽如寄 壽無金石固

Yin and yang change places in a flooding course, The years allotted to man are like morning dew. Man’s life is as transient as a sojourn, His longevity is not as firm as metal or stone.13 (“Gushi shijiu shou” #13)

(ll. 9–10)

(ll. 9–12)

These similes and statements became stock phrases in the late Han and Western Jin poetic vocabulary; they recur almost verbatim in compositions belonging to different genres, including yuefu, lyrical poetry, and even encomia.14 The theme of immortality appears in several of the “Old Poems” and always within the context of the general theme of the transience of human life. The possibility of immortality is questioned and rejected as unachievable, which further deepens the pain over the inevitability of death. Reflections on human mortality and the feelings of grief and frustration provoked by them are the backdrop against which most representations of immortality are set in extant third- and fourth-century poetry. One of the central themes in the poetry of Cao Zhi is the concern with the inexorable passage of time and sorrow over life’s brevity and mutability. Some of his songs on immortality are based on a constant juxtaposition of the world of men and the world beyond. In the opening lines of his “Youxian,” the very first poem to bear this title, grief is connected with the impermanence of life and provides the impetus for the distant journey. Cao Zhi repeats almost verbatim here the beginning of “Nineteen Old Poems” #15: 13 14

Lu Qinli, 329–332. See Owen, The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 327–328 for a list of excerpts on the topic “human life is brief” drawn from Han and Wei poetry. The list is reproduced from Suzuki Shūji 鈴木修次, Kan Gi shi no kenkyū 漢魏詩の硏究 (Tokyo: Taishukan shoten, 1967).

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人生不滿百 歲歲少歡娛 意欲奮六翮 排霧陵紫虛

(ll. 1–4)

Human life never fills a hundred years, Year after year one’s joys abate.15 I wish to spread my six wings, Push the mists apart, skim the Purple Void.16

In “Xianren pian” visions of immortal joys likewise reiterate with condensed reflections on the human condition on earth, which is characterized by confinement and transience. This song does not open with the typical expression of frustration but starts immediately with a description of a feast held by immortals on the slopes of Mount Tai. The sight of this blissful scene elicits a sudden awareness of the constraints of the poet’s ordinary life: 仙人攬六著 對博太山隅 湘娥拊琴瑟 秦女吹笙竽 玉樽盈桂酒 河伯獻神魚 四海一何局 九州安所如 韓終與王喬 要我於天衢

(ll. 1–10)

Immortals grasp six game-slats, They gamble amongst each other on the slopes of Mount Tai. The Xiang Beauty strums the zithers, The Qin Maiden blows the mouth organ. Jade goblets brim with cassia wine, The River Earl presents a divine fish. How much the Four Seas confine! Where to go in the Nine Lands? Han Zhong and Wang Qiao Invite me on to the Crossroads of Heaven.17

The contrasting mode of expression enhances the disparity between the two realms: the calm and descriptive onlooker’s voice in the first three couplets is suddenly replaced by a first-person bitter exclamation and a rhetorical question in lines 7–8. Cao Zhi decides to follow the immortals away into the highest reaches of the empyrean, casually leaping thousands of miles, traversing the entire cosmos. In the middle of this exhilarating celestial flight, the 15

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Cf.: 人生不滿百 常懷千歲憂

Human life never fills a hundred years, Yet forever harbors sorrows of a thousand years. (Lu Qinli, 333) In the variant preserved in Yiwen leiju 78 the expression qiqi 戚戚 (“sad”) occurs instead of suisui 歲歲 (“year after year”). Lu Qinli, 456. Lu Qinli, 434. The beginning of this poem is also discussed in chapter 3.

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perspective once again abruptly shifts back to the world of men, suddenly awakening the poet from his transcendental reverie as he glimpses the world below: 俯觀五嶽間 人生如寄居

(ll. 23–24)

I look down amid the Five Marchmounts, Man’s life is but a brief sojourn.

Having experienced absolute freedom, he once more confronts the transience and anxiety of mortal life. The contrast between the narrative mode of the cosmic journey and the direct, lapidary comment on the human condition again emphasizes the juxtaposition of the two realms. Line 24 is, in fact, a stock phrase that also occurs in the “Old Poems” #13.18 Immediately afterward it becomes clear that the preceding description of the cosmic journey, which lacks volitional verbs such as yuan 願 (“to yearn”) or yu 欲 (“to wish”), takes place merely in the poet’s fantasy. What seems to have already taken place is something that has yet to be accomplished. Cao Zhi declares his resolve: 潛光養羽翼 進趨且徐徐 不見馯轅氏 乘龍出鼎湖 排徊九天上 與爾長相須

(ll. 25–30)

I will submerge my light and grow plumed wings, Confidently I proceed, but slowly. I do not see the Yellow Emperor, Mounted on a dragon, emerging from the Cauldron Lake. “I pace back and forth above the Nine Heavens, Forever waiting for you.”

The last couplet is ambivalent and interpretations of its meaning greatly depend on who is perceived as being the speaker. Traditional critics understand the speaker to be Cao Zhi and read this song as a political allegory in the vein of the Chuci—Cao Zhi purportedly states his desire to retire from politics and to wait for a worthy lord, symbolized by the Yellow Emperor.19 Donald Holzman concurs with this allegorical reading.20 On the other hand, the informal pronoun er 爾 (“you”) in the last line does not seem to be an appropriate way to address a divinity. It is possible that the last two lines are voiced by the Yellow Emperor himself, who is waiting in the highest heavens for 18 19 20

Cf. 人生忽如寄, “Human life is as transient as a sojourn.” Zhu Qian 朱乾, Yuefu zhengyi 樂府正義, cited in San Cao ziliao huibian, 202. Holzman, “Ts’ao Chih and the Immortals,” 34–36.

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the protagonist to rise as an immortal. They might also be addressed to the protagonist by an unnamed speaker: “He, the Yellow Emperor, waits for you in heaven.” The structure of most of Xi Kang’s extant poems on immortality is also based on the contrast between the two worlds. These poems frequently commence with the voicing of deep sorrow over the human condition followed by a dramatic shift to the freedom, eternity, and purity that the poet finds in the realm of immortals; they end with a comment that again relates to human life. A typical example is the seventh poem from his cycle “Zeng xiong xiucai rujun shi shiba shou” 贈兄秀才入軍詩十八首 (Eighteen Poems, Presented to My Elder Brother, the Xiucai, on His Entry into the Army): 人生壽促 天地長久 百年之期 孰云其壽 思欲登仙 以濟不朽 攬轡踟躕 仰顧我友

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A man’s life—a brief abode, Heaven and Earth—forever. A span of a hundred years— How can this be longevity? I wish to rise to be immortal, By crossing over, I’ll not rot. I gather my reins but falter, Looking up and back at my friends.21

The poem opens with a reflection on human mortality, which is compared to the eternity of Heaven and Earth using diction similar to the “Nineteen Old Poems”. Lines 5 and 6 contrast the limited lifespan of men with the incorruptibility of the immortals and express the poet’s wish to escape into their world. However, at the point where the protagonist prepares to detach himself from the mundane world and grasps the reins to embark on his final journey, he hesitates. The motif of indecisive faltering appears time and again in the cosmic wanderings of the “Lisao.”22 In Xi Kang’s verse human attachments cause this hesitation; it is not easy for him to leave his friends behind. Thus, the last two lines bring us back to the world of men, this time to affections and to those held dear. The dilemma is left unresolved: the protagonist stands between the two worlds, and it is not clear whether he will depart from or return to the 21 22

Lu Qinli, 482. Cf.: 結幽蘭而延佇

Knotting thoroughwort, I waited in indecision. (Lisao l. 210)





心猶豫而狐疑兮 欲自適而不可

My mind swithered, full of doubt, I wanted to go, and yet I could not. (Ibid., ll. 241–242)





欲從靈氛之吉占兮 I wanted to follow Ling Fen’s auspicious oracle, 心猶豫而狐疑 But my mind swithered, full of doubt. (Ibid., ll. 277–278)

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mortal world and his friends.23 Such hesitation can be regarded as a modification of the nostalgia theme, which is closely connected with the cosmic ramblings in the Chuci. It also figures prominently in Han yuefu, occasionally interweaving with the topic of immortality as in the song “Huainan wang.” While late Han anonymous yuefu and “Old Poems” express general melancholy free from concrete political concerns, many youxian poems from the third and fourth centuries also comprise a social dimension. Gone, however, is the stereotypical lament of a banished official found in much of the Chuci poetry. Here it is replaced by a highly personal reflection on the ills of the world surrounding the poet, which unfolds on a more complex introspective level and intimately blends with the poet’s awareness of the fleetingness of life. In most of Xi Kang’s poems on immortality lament over human transience interweaves with moral and social concerns. It is also the corruption of the world that makes the hero reject his mundane strivings and aspire to the purity and loftiness of the immortals:

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五言詩 #3

Five-Syllable Poems #3

俗人不可親 松喬是可鄰 何為穢濁間 動搖增垢塵 慷慨之遠遊 整駕俟良辰 輕舉翔區外 濯翼扶桑津 徘徊戲靈嶽 彈琴詠泰真 滄水澡五藏 變化忽若神 恒娥進妙藥 毛羽翕光新 一縱發開陽 俯視當路人 哀哉世間人 何足久託身

I cannot be close to the worldly people, I cleave to Redpine and Wang Qiao. What can you do in this mire? To move is to increase muck. With a troubled mind, I travel far, I wait to harness on a lucky day. Lightened I rise, soar beyond the world, And wash my wings in the Fusang’s ford. I wander and frolic on the Numinous Mountain, Strumming a zither, singing of Great Truth. In azure waters I cleanse my five organs, I change with godlike swiftness. Heng E gives me a wondrous drug. Down and feathers, fresh and glossy, I beat them and dash off to the Kaiyang star. From above I observe those in power. Alas, for the men in this world! To always abide there—how is it enough?24

For an interpretation of this poem within the context of the whole cycle, see Rushton, “An Interpretation of Hsi K’ang’s Eighteen Poems Presented to Hsi Hsi on His Entry into the Army.” The friend in question might be the recipient of these poems, Xi Kang’s elder brother, Xi Xi 嵇喜 (ca. 220–ca. 290). Lu Qinli, 489. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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Xi Kang commences with an outright rejection of the vulgar and philistine world and proclaims his inner proclivity to the pure and free immortals. The human realm is conceived in solely negative terms. It is characterized with terms such as huizhuo 穢濁 (“dirty and defiled”) and gouchen 垢塵 (“dirt and dust”); any social involvement would just increase the grime. His indignation prompts him to break away and soar like a bird in blissful freedom into the realms of the immortals. Yet his state of mystical detachment is not absolute, for at the end he pauses, looking back with pity to the world of political power. In Ruan Ji’s “Yonghuai” poems, fantasies of immortality are likewise set against the evanescence and sorrow of human life, which are central themes of his poetry. To underline the inconstancy of human life Ruan Ji traces impermanence on different levels of being—in the cosmic cycles and in the life of plants and animals. His poems unfold in a world of constant change, a world advancing toward inevitable death: the sun and moon in their courses, the changing seasons, morning superseded by evening, transitory phenomena like dew and frost, annual plants and blooms on the verge of decay, fragile insects. The heightened perception of the passage of time drives the poet to search for escape into the realm of immortals, such as in “Yonghuai” #24: 殷憂令志結 怵惕常若驚 逍遙未終宴 朱陽忽西傾 蟋蟀在戶牖 蟪蛄鳴中庭 心腸未相好 誰云亮我情 願為雲間鳥 千里一哀鳴 三芝延瀛洲 遠遊可長生

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Deep sorrows have fettered my will, I am gripped by anguish, as if in constant fright. My pleasures have not yet drawn to a close, As the vermilion sun swiftly plunges in the west. The crickets are at my window, The cicada chirps in the courtyard. My own passions are not in good accord, Who might say he knows my feelings? I wish to be a bird amidst the clouds, A thousand miles away, give out a mournful cry. The three magic mushrooms blanket the Isle of Ying, A distant roaming there can prolong my life.25

The poem commences with an expression of deep anguish and frustration. The vaguely defined emotive words lift Ruan Ji’s grief out of a specific setting. Lines 3–6 link this generalized sorrow to his perception of the rapid passage of time. The image of the setting sun belongs to the astronomical and meteorological imagery favored by the poet to suggest the impermanence of 25

Lu Qinli, 501. My understanding of this poem follows the interpretation of Donald Holzman in Poetry and Politics, 153–154.

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human existence.26 In the next lines Ruan Ji traces his own transience in the life of insects: crickets herald the onset of autumn, and the cicada represents ephemeral life.27 Lines 7 and 8 are rather ambiguous. Traditional commentators understand line 7 to mean “I have no intimate friend.” However, Donald Holzman points out that the word wei 未 in front of xianghao 相好 indicates that the expression should be read as an adverb-verb construction—“My heart (seat of the intelligence) and my entrails (seat of the passions) do not like one another”—which thus conveys a certain inner conflict between reason and emotion. The causes of these internal contradictions, which take place on the same abstract level as the anguish in the opening two lines, are once again not specified. The last two couplets express a longing to escape from the temporality of the world, from the poet’s loneliness and sorrow, and from his inner conflicts. The realms beyond the mundane world to which the poet aspires are evoked through the reference to the isle of immortals Yingzhou, which is covered by mushrooms of immortality that defy decay and death. The image of a bird soaring among the clouds, which might be a metaphor for the winged xian immortals, conveys Ruan Ji’s yearning for transcendence. This apotheosis, however, is not a blissful one, for grief and contradictions permeate even his imaginary escape. In Donald Holzman’s words “his doleful cry shows us his flight from the world is not a blissful rising up to the immortals’ paradise, but an allegorical quitting of an unbearable world.”28 Although this poem at first reading seems to be concerned with the passage of time and human transience, traditional critics interpret it in the context of contemporary politics and make it bear a heavy weight of allegorical reference. Jiang Shiyue 蔣師爚 (jinshi 1780) sees in the image of the setting sun a symbol of the decline of the Wei, and, accordingly, reads the poem as a cry of anguish for the falling dynasty.29 According to Chen Zuoming Ruan Ji pictures himself 26

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Victor Mair estimates that in the “Yonghuai” poems images of the sun and moon occur twenty-five times; dew, frost, and wind twenty-seven times; seasonal changes forty-seven times; and morning and evening sixty-one times (Four Introspective Poets, categories 212– 213, 215–217, 152–153, 147–148). Plant images occur sixty-seven times and insects and birds sixty-four times (ibid., categories 240–244, 142–143, 236). Shijing, Mao 154: “In the tenth month the cricket enters under our bed” 十月蟋蟀入我床 下. The cicada, which knows neither spring nor autumn, is, together with the “morning ephemera,” (chaojun 朝菌) one of the images of transience in the Zhuangzi (Zhuangzi jishi 1.11). Holzman, Poetry and Politics, 154. Ruan Sizong yonghuai shi zhu 阮嗣宗詠懷詩注 of 1799, cited by Huang Jie in Han Wei Liuchao shi liu zhong, 496.

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as a distant courtier without an understanding friend, grieving his country.30 In the same vein, most Chinese critics tend to search Ruan Ji’s verse for references to contemporary events at any price and to claim to identify the targets of even the most obscure allusions.31 Their readings often imbue the poems ex post with meanings that have little grounding in the text as such and reduce the complexities of Ruan Ji’s verse to a series of critical political statements. It is possible that such a poem could have been used to refer figuratively to concrete political events; however, nothing in the text itself can prove or disprove this assumption. In his “Youxian” poems Guo Pu also often contrasts visions of immortality with images of universal transience, such as, for instance, in the following poem:

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遊仙詩 #7

Roaming into Immortality #7

晦朔如循環 月盈已復魄 蓐收清西陵 朱羲將由白 寒露拂陵苕 女蘿辭松柏 蕣榮不終朝 蜉蝣豈見夕 圓丘有奇草 鍾山出靈液 王孫列八珍

The moon wanes, is born anew, on and on, Full, it sinks back into shadow, Ru Shou purifies the Pleiades in the west,32 The sun’s charioteer follows the path of moon. Cold Dew sweeps away trumpet vine blooms,33 Dodder creepers cleave from cypresses and pine. Hibiscus blossoms do not survive the day, How can mayflies behold the dusk? On the Round Hill grow wondrous herbs, The Bell-Mount issues numinous fluid. The Prince lays out the eight delicacies,34

Caishu tang gushi xuan 采菽堂古詩選, cited by Huang Jie, ibid. In addition to Jiang Shiye and Chen Zuoming, similar views are expressed by Chen Hang 陳沆 (1785–1826) in Shi bixing jian 詩比興箋, by Gu Zhi 古直 in Ruan Sizong yonghuai shi jian ding ben 阮嗣宗詠懷詩箋定本 of 1935, by Huang Jie 黄節 (1874–1935), and others, many of whom Huang Jie cites in his commentary. Donald Holzman in Poetry and Politics provides an overview and critique of the allegorical interpretations of the individual poems of the “Yonghuai” cycle he discusses. Ru Shou is the spirit of the autumn and of the west. Cold Dew (hanlu 寒露) is one of the twenty-four solar terms (jieqi 節氣) of the year. It falls on the ninth or tenth October in the Western calendar. The expression wangsun 王孫 (“Prince”) evokes the final lines of the “Zhao yinshi” from the Chuci. In early medieval poetry it began to connote a recluse, someone who has gone into the mountains never to return.

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安期鍊五石 長揖當途人 去來山林客

An Qi smelts the five stones.35 Bidding forever farewell to those in power, Leave and amidst mountains and forests come to dwell.36

More than half of this poem traces the impermanence of being on various cosmic levels. In the first two couplets, Guo Pu conjures up sweeping vistas of the cyclical movement of the cosmos, of the stars, sun, and moon, and observes thereafter how their relentless pace toward the west—the phase of autumn and of waning—causes decline on lower planes of existence. The creepers, unlike the pine trees to which they cling, do not survive the year; the life of hibiscus flowers and mayflies is limited to a single day. Similarly to Ruan Ji’s poem “Yonghuai” #24, their inconstancy is contrasted with the vision of herbs and springs in distant immortality lands, which defy time and bestow eternity. The closing couplet introduces a social dimension as well: the poet proclaims that he is leaving those in power, thus equating the world of transience with the world of political glory. In many of Guo Pu’s extant “Youxian” poems, existential anxiety blends with moral and political concerns as well. One example is the fifth poem, which is permeated by grief over the corruption and hostility of the world:

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逸翮思拂霄 迅足羨遠遊 清源無增瀾 安得運吞舟 珪璋雖特達

On swift wings I wish to sweep across the clouds, With rapid steps I yearn to wander far. The limpid stream raises no big billows, How can it house a fish that swallow boats?37 Though gui and zhang jewels are of utmost perfection,38

An Qi is the immortal An Qisheng, who is discussed in chapter 2. The “five stones” (wushi 五石) are major ingredients in many alchemical elixirs. Connected with the cosmological theories of the five phases, they constituted a model of the cosmic processes during alchemical transmutations. In Baopuzi neipian 4.78 Ge Hong lists the five minerals as follows: cinnabar (dansha 丹砂), corresponding to fire and the south; realgar corresponding to earth and the center; alum (baiyu 白礜 or baifan 白礬), corresponding to metal and the west; laminar malachite (cengqing 曾青), corresponding to wood and the east; and magnetite (cishi 慈石), corresponding to water and the north. Lu Qinli, 866. A reference to Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳 6, where Mencius says that “a fish [large enough] to swallow a boat does not dwell in a shallow moor, nor does a man of great capacity dwell in a polluted world” (cited by Li Shan, Wenxuan 21.1021). Gui 珪 and zhang 璋 are jade ritual implements used in court and ritual ceremonies. This line is a paraphrase of Confucius’s words that “gui and zhang are of special perfection

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明月難闇投

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潛穎怨青陽 陵苕哀素秋 悲來惻丹心 零淚緣纓流

Luminous moon pearls should not be thrown into the night.39 Hidden sprouts bemoan the spring sun, Lavish blossoms mourn over desolate autumn. Sadness comes, pains my cinnabar heart, Down my hat ribbons tears flow.40

Only the first couplet is in the typical youxian vein—like Cao Zhi in his songs “Wuyou yong” and “Youxian,” Guo Pu declares his wish to embark on a distant journey beyond the clouds. Instead of being carried to the far-off reaches of the empyrean, however, here he descends abruptly downward to the shallow waters of the spring. According to Li Shan, the second couplet is a metaphorical statement “that the dusty customs [of the world] are not enough to sustain the immortals.”41 After this realization, Guo Pu does not, however, abandon the “world of dust” to seek an imaginary escape into the realm beyond as in the majority of the youxian poems discussed above. He remains within the human world instead and reflects further on its injustice and transience. His broodings are conveyed indirectly through allusions and metaphors. The gui and zhang jewels and the Luminous Moon (mingyue) pearls in the following lines symbolize virtue and purity, which are met with misunderstanding and even persecution by the world. The sorrow of both the hidden sprouts for the spring and the blooms in the autumn may indicate both the adversities of the world and the mercilessness of time’s passage.42 The poem ends with a powerful outpouring of sorrow and frustration, which, in fact, takes the form of a standard type of closure in yuefu songs. Declarations of tears flowing down or soaking the clothes typically conclude songs that develop the theme of “sleeplessness at night” and imply loneliness and homesickness.43

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[because they represent] virtue” 珪璋特達,德也 (Liji, cited by Li Shan, ibid.). This line refers to a passage by the Western Han writer Zou Yang 鄒陽 (ca. 206–129 BC), which says that if one throws a luminous pearl in front of people in the dark, it will cause them to hold their swords in alarm (cited by Li Shan, ibid.). Lu Qinli, 866. Previous translations in Wu Fusheng, “From Protest to Eulogy,” 416–417; Huntington, “Crossing Boundaries,” 202. Wenxuan 21.1021. According to Li Shan, this couplet refers to mundane people who doubt the search for immortality but still complain that Heavenly favor is unfairly distributed and life is too short—as the spring comes too late for the sprouts and the autumn too early for the blooms (ibid.). Stephen Owen in The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry gives examples of late second- and third-century songs treating the theme “sleepless at night” and identifies the

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In this “Youxian” poem Guo Pu in a way negates the conventional treatment of the youxian theme and reverses the habitual sequence of topics formed in the “Yuanyou” and employed time and again through the Wei and Western Jin dynasties. In the earlier poetry the grief and frustration caused by the human world are typically voiced at the beginning and are surpassed through a heavenly journey in the course of the poem. Guo Pu, on the other hand, starts immediately with an expression of exhilarating freedom, but the journey he proposes never takes place. He is dragged down by his human condition, which was conventionally supposed to be transcended by distant roaming. This structure at least superficially resembles some Chuci compositions (the “Xishi” and the “Yuanyou” from the “Jiutan” cycle), which from the initial flight into the realms of immortals shift in the second part to a lament about the corruption and incomprehension of contemporary society. There is a profound difference, however, between Guo Pu’s anguished verse and the political allegories in the Chuci anthology. While the protagonists in the Chuci willingly return back to the world, stressing the priority of their political ambitions, Guo Pu, although kept bound to earth, aspires with all his heart to break away into transcendent freedom. Whereas in a majority of the “roaming into immortality” verse the poets are carried away by their yearnings and conjure up vivid visions of paradise, in certain cases, such as in Guo Pu’s “Youxian” #5, the futility of the transcendental aspirations might be immediately recognized. Such frustrated longing is succinctly expressed in the four preserved lines from the Eastern Jin poet Li Yong’s 李顒 “Lingxian fu” 淩仙賦 (Fu on Ascending into Immortality):44 瞻蓬萊之秀嶼 冀東叟之可尋 將乍至而反墜 漶巨浪之相監

I gaze afar to Penglai’s verdant island, Hoping that the eastern elders could be approached. Close within my reach, it sinks again, And I grieve the huge waves mirroring each other.45

Li Yong follows Sima Qian’s description of the isles of immortals, which hover as distant mirages on the horizon but sink into the ocean as soon as someone

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major topics that cluster around it (pp. 78–91). Not much is known about the author Li Yong. He was the son of the Eastern Jin scholar Li Chong 李充 (d. ca. 362), the reputed compiler of the literary anthology Hanlin 漢林 (Grove of Writings). The seventh-century Buddhist anthology Guang hongming ji 廣宏明 集 contains the “Dacheng fu” 大乘賦 (Fu on the Great Vehicle), which is ascribed to Li Yong. Quan Jin wen 53.11a.

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approaches them. In this quatrain the image of the empty expanse of water intensively conveys the futility of all yearnings to reach the divine lands and break away from the human condition. In “Yonghuai shi” #35 Ruan Ji contrasts his transcendental longings with his human limitations in a similar vein: 願攬羲和轡 白日不移光 天階路殊絕 雲漢邈無梁

(ll. 5–8)

I wish to seize Xi He’s reins, So that the bright sun no longer moves its rays. But the road of the Heavenly Stairs is cut off, And the Milky Way, distant, has no bridge.46

The topic of stopping the sun charioteer Xi He, which can be traced back to the “Lisao,” has already been discussed in chapter 3 in connection with Cao Zhi’s “Shengtian xing” #2 and his desire to conquer time. After voicing a similar wish, Ruan Ji immediately denies its possibility and laments his inability to hold back time. He is also unable to climb the Heavenly Stairs and cross the Milky Way; he remains earthbound, a subject to, not a master of, the cosmic flow. In fact, the images Ruan Ji uses here to lament the passage of time and his human limitations were well established in third-century rhetoric. Here is an example from the genre of epistolary writing, from Cao Zhi’s famous letter to Wu Zhi 吳 質 (178–230) (“Yu Wu Jizhong shu” 與吳季重書): I long to hold back the heads of the six dragons, stay the reins of Xi He, break off the blossoms of the Ruo Tree, block the valley of the Banks of the Meng.47 But the road to the heavens is high and distant; for a very long time it has not been scaled. 思欲抑六龍之首,頓羲和之轡,折若木之華,閉蒙汜之谷,天路高邈, 良久無緣。48

In its vocabulary, originating in the Chuci poetics, and tenor this passage is very close to Ruan Ji’s poem. Guo Pu’s “Youxian” #4 echoes Ruan Ji in melancholy and pessimism: 46 47 48

Lu Qinli, 503. Wang Yi glosses the term “Mengsi” 蒙汜 in the “Tianwen” as the “banks of River Meng,” where the sun sets in the west (Chuci buzhu 3.88). Wenxuan 42.1906. For a translation of the complete letter see Cutter, “Letters and Memorials in the Early Third Century,” 311–315.

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六龍安可頓 運流有代謝 時變感人思 已秋復願夏 淮海變微禽 吾生獨不化 雖欲騰丹谿 雲螭非我駕 愧無魯陽德 迴日向三舍 臨川哀年邁 撫心獨悲吒

The six dragons—how can they be staid? The cyclical flow entails supersession. The change of time stirs one’s mind, In days of autumn I yearn again for summer. At Huaihai small birds metamorphose, Only I never change.49 Though I wish to fly to Cinnabar Gorge, Clouds and dragons are not my steeds. I am ashamed not to have the virtue of Lu Yang To push the sun three days back.50 By a stream, mourning the advancing years,51 To soothe the heart alone I cry out in grief.52

Guo Pu does not have the strength to stop the flow of time, but he also clearly recognizes the impossibility of even his own, personal transcendence of time and space. He cannot physically metamorphose into a xian immortal, nor are the steeds of the immortals—clouds and dragons—within his reach to carry him off into the heavens. Thus, all ways of rising beyond the human lot are recognized as futile. He remains a clear-sighted observer of universal transience and his own decline, from which no escape is possible. During the third and fourth centuries, reflections on life’s transience and the alternative of becoming a xian immortal are not limited to the yuefu songs and lyrical poetry but are developed in a variety of genres. Here is an encomium by Guo Pu from his cycle of encomia on the illustrations to the Shanhai jing,

49

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52

A reference to the words of Zhao Jianzi 趙簡子 (sixth century BC) from the state of Jin 晉, as recorded in the Guoyu. Sighing over human destiny, he said: “Sparrows fly into the sea and turn into oysters, pheasants fly into the River Huai and change into clams, turtles, crocodiles, and fish—all of them can metamorphose. Only men are not able to do so. Alas, how sad is this!” (Guoyu 15, cited by Li Shan, Wenxuan 21.1021). The human faculty of metamorphosis (or rather the lack of it) in question is the ability to transform oneself into an immortal. Huaihai 淮海 is the region around Xuzhou 徐州 north of Huai River. The story of Duke Lu Yang 魯陽 of Chu is contained in the Huainanzi. During a battle with the state of Han, he threateningly shook his spear at the declining sun, causing it to go back three mansions (Huainanzi 6.193). An allusion to the words of Confucius, who had remarked before a flowing river: “It passes on just like this, never ceasing day or night” 逝者如斯夫!不舍晝夜 (Lunyu jishi, 610). These words, however, do not mourn the aging connected with the passage of time—a meaning they would commonly acquire after the end of Han. Lu Qinli, 865.

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which shares a common theme, structure, and diction with contemporary poetry: 不死之樹

The Tree of No-death

萬物暫見 人生如寄 不死之樹 壽蔽天地 請藥西姥 焉得如羿

Ten thousand things are fleetingly seen, Man’s life is but a sojourn. The tree of no-death, Its longevity covers Heaven and Earth. [I] ask the drug from the Western Granny,53 Receiving it from her—like the Archer Yi.54

Guo Pu commences with a statement on the brevity of human life voiced in diction similar to the “Nineteen Old Poems” and the yuefu songs. The image of the non-dying tree is then introduced in juxtaposition to human mortality— very much like the paradise flora in Ruan Ji’s “Yonghuai shi” #24 and Guo Pu’s “Youxian” #7 cited above. The last couplet turns away from the subject of the encomium and speaks of receiving the immortality drug from the Queen Mother of the West. Although personal pronouns are absent, we can assume that here Guo Pu adopts first-person voice, abandoning the impersonal attitude required by the encomium genre. The same ideas and the same sequences of topics are developed more copiously in the fu of the period. For instance, in Lu Yun’s “Xiji fu” (Fu on Rejoicing at the Rain Clearing), the immortality theme appears at the end of his meditations on cosmic flow and transience: 陰陽交泰 萬物方遒 炎神送暑 素靈迎秋 四時逝而代謝兮 大火忽其西流 年冉冉其易頹兮 53 54 55

Yin and yang harmoniously merge, Ten thousand things join in unity. The Fiery God sees off the summer, The White Numen welcomes the autumn. The four seasons advance and replace each other, The Great Fire Star swiftly floats toward the west.55 The years, creeping by, turn towards decline,

I.e., Xi Wangmu. Quan Jin wen 123.11a. Dahuo 大火 refers to the Fire Star, Huoxing 火星, which is Antares, the α of Scorpio and the brightest star of the Heart (Xin 心) constellation of the Chinese sky. The line is probably an allusion to Shijing Mao 154: “In the seventh month, the Fire Star passes the meridian.”

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 時靡靡而難留 嗟沉哀之愁思兮 瞻日月而增憂 感年華之行暮兮 思乘煙而遠遊 命海若以量津兮 吾欲往乎瀛洲 臨儀天之大川兮 凌懷山之洪波 瞻增城之峻極兮 仰蓬萊之峨峨 望王母於弱水兮 詠白雲之清歌 雖嘉命之未錫兮 將輕舉於流沙 振仙車之鳴鸞兮 吐玉衡之八和 託芝蓋之後乘兮 飧瓊林之朝華 修無窮以容與兮 豈萬載之足多

(ll. 47–74)

Time, slowly exhausted, is hard to hold back. So deeply sad, my autumn thoughts, I gaze to the sun and moon and sorrow mounts. Moved by the year’s journey into twilight, I wish I could mount the smoke and roam afar. Ordering Hai Ruo to plumb the ford, I wish I could travel to Yingzhou. Approaching the great rivers of the noble heaven, Skimming the giant waves around the cherished mountain. I would gaze at the Storied City, towering and pinnacled, Look up at Penglai, lofty and steep. I would watch the Queen Mother at the Weak Waters, And chant the clear air of the White Clouds. Not being bestowed with a happy destiny, Lightened, I will rise over the Flowing Sands. I will shake the singing simurghs of the immortals’ carriage, [Make] the jade shafts emit the eight harmonies. Leaning on the rear chariot, shaded by a canopy of magic mushroom, Dining on the morning blooms of the rose-gem forest. Cultivating the unlimited to become free and easy, How can ten thousand years be enough?56

“Rejoicing at the Rain Clearing” (Xiji 喜霽) was, together with “Grieving the Torrent” (Choulin 愁霖), an established theme in fu composition since the end of Han.57 Slightly earlier, during heavy rains in the sixth month of the second year of the Yongning 永寧 era (302 AD), Lu Yun composed the “Choulin fu” 愁 霖賦 (Fu on Grieving the Torrent) as part of a group composition by several “men of refinement” (wenya zhi shi 文雅之士) in imitation of the Jian’an poets. In the preface to the “Xiji fu,” Lu Yun explains that after the heavy rains cleared up, he followed the practice of the “men of refinement of the Wei dynasty” who would compose rhapsodies on this theme to express their thoughts on the rain 56 57

Quan Jin wen 100.3b–4a. Famous examples are the “Xiji fu” and “Choulin fu” written by Cao Zhi.

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that had ceased. The final part of the fu translated here extensively develops the idea of the regular movement of the cosmos and unceasing change. The contemplation of the eternal laws of nature invokes a heightened realization of one’s mortality, like in Ruan Ji’s and Guo Pu’s poems cited above. Similarly to them, through the flight to the realm of immortals, Lu Yun finds an imaginary escape from the inherent limitations of his human life. Having attained not merely life beyond end but perfect spontaneity and freedom, he soars to the eastern and western paradises of the immortals and travels among the stars. The youxian theme in the third- and fourth-century poetry discussed above is traditionally interpreted as allegory, similar to that used in the Chuci, which conveys the authors’ wish to flee from political corruption and oppressive government. While it is often almost impossible to decide to what degree a certain poem expresses religious conviction or applies the theme as a conventional way of stating the author’s desire to retreat from the world, most “roaming into immortality” after the Han contains more dimensions than mere outspoken political allegory. Even when social concerns are present, rising into immortality signifies not only withdrawing from the rigors of politics but a desire to vanquish time and attain spiritual fulfillment as well. Immortality is praised for offering salvation from the transience, misery, and confinement of human existence. Reflections on social ills, yearnings for absolute values, and meditations on life’s evanescence intimately interweave and are imbued with genuine passion and existential anxiety. Only by taking these broader meanings into consideration can one explore possible figurative readings of the poetry in question. The tendency to shift the contrast between the world of men and the realms beyond to a more metaphysical level further demonstrates that the poets of the period deal not merely with political problems but with existential, even philosophical, ones as well. During the Wei and Jin, xuanxue discussions on abstract philosophical topics became prominent, and the treatment of the youxian theme also reflects the influence of metaphysical thought. In many cases the poets juxtapose not just transience and eternity, spatial confinement and freedom, and corruption and purity but mystical insight and unity with the Dao on one side and the ordinary mind, confined by forms and limited by senses, feelings, and knowledge, on the other. The world of man is also the world of senses and emotions, which prevent humans from achieving mystical oneness. In many poems Ruan Ji contrasts transcendence, which is perceived as merging with the Dao, with our world of sensual differentiation, of sounds and colors, which deafens and blinds us.

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 讐怨者誰子 耳目還相羞 聲色為胡越 人情自逼遒 招彼玄通士 去来歸羡游

(ll. 7–12)

Who are those so hostile and resentful? Our ears and eyes disgrace each other. Hearing and sight are like the tribes of the east and west, Our passions by themselves oppress us. I will summon that man of mystic penetration, And go away, returning to roam unbounded.58 (“Yonghuai shi” #77)

Lu Ji’s “Lingxiao fu” (Fu on Skimming the Empyrean) is another example of the Western Jin tendency to portray the juxtaposition between the human world and the realm of the immortals in more abstract philosophical terms:

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挾至道之玄微 狭流俗之紛沮 颺余節以遠模 風扶搖而相予 削陋跡于介丘 省游仙而投軌 凱情累以遂濟 豈時俗之云阻 判煙雲之騰躍 半天步而無旅 詠陵霄之飄飄 永終焉而弗悔 昊蒼煥而運流 日月翻其代序 下霄房之靡迄 卜良辰而復舉 陟瑤臺以投轡 步玉除而容與

58 59

Carrying the mystic subtlety of the supreme Dao, Confined by the turbid mire of current vulgarity, I raise my insignia after a distant model, The wind whirls and swirls, giving me support. I cut off my vulgar traces at a great mountain; To visit the roaming immortals I throw off the ruts. Severing the entanglement of feelings, I successfully cross over. How could the vulgar times impede me? Pushing mists and clouds apart, I leap on high, I pace half the heaven—as if I never journeyed. I sing of the soaring ascent to the empyrean, Forever and ever there, without regret. The vast azure sparkles, turns and flows, Sun and moon course in endless alternation. I descend in the heavenly mansions deep beyond end, Divining a lucky day, I rise again. Climbing the Azure-gem Terrace, I brandish my reigns, I step on the jade stairs, free and easy.59

Lu Qinli, 510. For a translation of the complete poem and a discussion of the possible interpretations see Holzman, Poetry and Politics, 170–172. Quan Jin wen 97.5b–6a.

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The first half of the fu establishes two contrasting world models: the current profane world, which is associated with concepts like grime, vulgarity, and emotional attachment, and its antithesis—the world of the roaming immortals, which is the realm of the obscure and subtle Dao. The strictly parallel couplets enhance the contrast; thus, “turbid mire” (fenju 紛沮) is juxtaposed to the “mystic subtlety” (xuanwei 玄微) of the Dao and the poet’s “vulgar traces” (louji 陋跡) to the roaming immortals (youxian). All four parallel couplets develop the idea of rising above the mud of worldly affairs, cutting off vulgar traces, and overcoming profanity and the bonds of emotional attachments. Social Engagement, Hedonism, or Immortality Seeking? In early poetry the theme of immortality often appears in the context of exploring the efficacy of different teachings and their answers to a hopeless human existence. Three life philosophies are the object of this existential questioning: Confucianism, Daoist teachings of withdrawal and the search for immortality, and the hedonist approach of carpe diem, “seizing the day.” Han-dynasty poetry commonly expresses confidence in Confucian values. Zhang Heng’s “Sixuan fu,” which is discussed in chapter 5 in connection with the cosmic journey theme, exemplifies this stance well. The question that Zhang Heng confronts in this fu is whether in the face of a corrupt and hostile society he should escape to distant realms or remain in the world and, despite its adversities, persist in cultivating his virtue. To resolve this question Zhang Heng rhetorically explores the two alternatives. While the celestial travel of Zhang Heng is one of triumph and ecstasy, he does not, like the protagonist of the “Yuanyou,” end his journey in Daoist transcendence. On the contrary, although the poet is a step away from reaching this state, he rejects it as a satisfactory solution to his dilemma and resolves to go back to the human world and devote himself to studying the classics and writing of poetry. The coda of the poem recapitulates his skepticism about the prospects of immortality: 天長地久歲不留 俟河之清秪懷憂 願得遠渡以自娛 上下無常窮六區

Heaven is eternal, Earth is everlasting, time cannot be delayed, To wait for the Yellow River to clear only brings one grief. I wished to travel afar and enjoy myself, Ascending and descending by no fixed rule to explore the six directions.

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 超踰騰躍絕世俗 飄遙神舉逞所欲 天不可階仙夫稀 柏舟悄悄吝不飛 松喬高跱孰能離 結精遠遊使心攜 迴志朅來從玄謀 獲我所求夫何思

(ll. 413–424)

Rising above, springing into the sky, I cut myself off from the world; Light and airy, my soul soared, and I gave free rein to my desires. But Heaven cannot be scaled and immortals are few. Like the “Cypress Boat” poet, troubled and sad, I regretted I could not fly away;60 Redpine and Wang Qiao on their lofty perches—who can approach them? To concentrate vitality in distant roaming causes the heart to be drawn away; I thus change my course and come back to follow the profound counsels; I obtained what I sought—why brood on it further?61

Zhang Heng’s rejection of the idea of searching for immortality is connected not only with rationalist skepticism but, as David Knechtges has argued, with “his confidence in a cosmic moral order that is the source of ethical principles for the human world.”62 Only by behaving morally could one receive Heaven’s blessings. Although Zhang Heng does not deny the existence of spirits and immortals in his poem, he finds the journey into their realm “lonely, forbidding, and above all leading to a divorce from the moral order.”63 In the “Qibian,” which is discussed in chapter 3, Zhang Heng similarly contrasts the joys of immortality with Confucian values and additionally probes other alternatives: reclusion, advocated by the main protagonist, Master Nonaction, and various sensual indulgences, expounded by the first five speakers. We have already seen that Confucian engagement definitely wins over the three ways of hedonism, eremitism, and immortality. By the end of the Han dynasty, however, optimistic confidence in the ethical principles of the cosmos and human society was seriously shaken. With the decline and collapse of the unified empire the orthodox concept of “social

60

61 62 63

The “Cypress Boat” (Bozhou 柏舟) is a reference to a poem in Shijing, Mao 26. According to the “Mao Preface,” this poem is about a virtuous man who does not meet a wise ruler to employ him. Wenxuan 15.677; trans. Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 3, 137–139, with slight modifications. Knechtges, “A Journey to Morality,” 178. Ibid., 181.

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immortality” in the form of heroism and posthumous fame could no longer provide an adequate solution to existential questioning. In the “Nineteen Old Poems” the topic of immortality appears within reflections on the efficiency of different approaches in coping with human transience. The thirteenth poem briefly examines three main stances—Confucianism, immortality seeking, and hedonism: 萬歲更相送 聖賢莫能度 服食求神仙 多為藥所誤 不如飲美酒 被服紈與素

(ll. 13–18)

Ten thousand ages come and go, But of the sages and worthies none could cross over. Some seek divine immortality through ingesting [drugs]; Many are fooled by such nostrums. Far better to drink fine wine, And to dress in choice pale silks.64

The pursuit of physical immortality through drugs is ridiculed as unachievable—instead of prolonging one’s life the elixirs shorten one’s years. The establishment of an immortal “name” (liming 立名), of posthumous glory through virtuous deeds, is also dismissed as useless since even sages and worthies have not escaped death. The vanity of both seeking immortality and obtaining worldly fame leads directly to the exhortation to seize the day and make merry. The reaction to the frustrations of the world is here very different from the attitudes expressed, for instance, in the Chuci or by Zhang Heng, and the differences are rooted not only in the changed intellectual climate of the times but in the generic nature of the respective compositions as well. The urge to “seize the day” and make merry in the face of impending death corresponds to the context of the performance of the “old poems,” which were probably sung at entertainment venues and parties of the elite. The theme and mood of carpe diem belongs to the conventions of feasting songs in general. The contrasting modes of activism and withdrawal in the light of inevitable death are also explored by Cao Cao in his songs on immortality. The song “Jinglie” 精列 (Dissolution of the Essence) oscillates between melancholic reflections on the transience of all living beings and wishful escape to the everlasting realms of Kunlun and Penglai:

64

Lu Qinli, 332.

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 厥初生 造化之陶物 莫不有終期 莫不有終期 聖賢不能免 何為懷此憂 願螭龍之駕 思想崑崙居 思想崑崙居 見期於迂怪 志意在蓬萊 志意在蓬萊 周孔聖徂落

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會稽以墳丘 會稽以墳丘 陶陶誰能度 君子以弗憂 年之暮奈何 時過時來微

16

Since the onset of life Among all things, molded by the creative transformations, No thing does not have an end. No thing does not have an end. No sage or worthy can avoid this.65 Why cherish this sorrow? I wish a team of hornless dragons, Long to live on Mount Kunlun, Long to live on Mount Kunlun, Have a tryst with the uncanny wonders,66 I aspire to Penglai. I aspire to Penglai. The Duke of Zhou and Confucius—these sages— have passed away. Guiji has turned into a grave mound.67 Guiji has turned into a grave mound. In happiness who can cross over? The superior man by not grieving. The years decline—what shall I do? Time passes, the days to come are few.68

After being carried away by his immortality yearnings, Cao Cao recognizes their futility, for even ancient sages like the Duke of Zhou, Confucius, and Yu the Great succumbed to death. With resigned acceptance he turns back to his human condition and embraces the ideal of the Superior Man (junzi 君子) who lives his days serenely in the face of inevitable death. This fatalistic resolve does not, however, ease his melancholy at the approach of death and his inner yearning for some kind of transcendental escape. The poem concludes with a bitter exclamation: “Naihe?” 奈何? (“What should I do?”). 65 66

67 68

Cf. “Nineteen Old Poems” #13: “But of the sages and worthies none could cross over” 聖賢 莫能度. While the early variants in the Song shu and Yuefu shiji use the character qi 期, in the Gushi ji and in the Wei Wudi ji contained in the Han Wei Liuchao baisan jia ji of Zhang Pu 張溥 (1602–1641) it is replaced with qi 欺 (“to be cheated,” “to be abused”). This newer change transforms the meaning of the line into a negative one: “be deceived by the uncanny wonders.” However, such a reading does not fit the context of the adjacent lines. The grave of Yu the Great is on Mount Guiji in Zhejiang. Lu Qinli, 346.

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In “Qiuhu xing” #1, the beginning of which I briefly discuss in chapter 3, Cao Cao similarly attempts to find a solution to his inner dilemma. The song likewise ends with subdued, but not really resolved, contradictions. The same stances voiced in the “Nineteen Old Poems”—Confucianism, hedonism, and the pursuit of immortality—are also explored by Ruan Ji in many of his “Yonghuai” poems. Similarly to the “Old Poems,” the striving for an immortal name and worldly glory is rejected as an inadequate solution. “Yonghuai shi” #15, for instance, poignantly expresses Ruan Ji’s bitter realization of the shallowness of his youthful Confucian pursuits when faced with the inevitability of death: 昔年十四五 志尚好書詩 被褐懷珠玉 4

顏閔相與期 開軒臨四野 登高望所思 丘墓蔽山岡 萬代同一時

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千秋萬歲後 榮名安所之 乃悟羨門子 噭噭今自蚩

Long ago, at fourteen or fifteen, Having lofty aims, I loved the Classics.69 Clad in coarse cloth, I embosomed pearls and gems,70 With Yan and Min I set my dates.71 I open my window and look into the wilds around, Climb the heights and gaze towards those I cherish. Grave mounds cover up the mountains: Ten thousand generations sharing one single moment! After a thousand autumns, after ten thousand years, Where have their fame and glory gone? Suddenly I understand Xianmenzi,72 In a bitter self-mockery I give out a cry.73

The view of the tombs housing ten thousand long-forgotten generations opens his eyes to the transience of all worldly glory. He sees clearly the futility of establishing an immortal name, and, on the other hand, realizes that pursuing xian immortality, like Xianmen Gao, might provide the only salvation. 69 70 71 72

73

An allusion to Lunyu 2, where Confucius says: “When I was fourteen my aim was to study” 吾十有五而志于學 (Lunyu jishi, 70). A quotation from Daode jing 70: “The Sage wears coarse cloth clothing and carries jade within his breast” 是以聖人被褐懷玉. Yan 顏 and Min 閔 are Yan Hui 顏回 and Min Ziqian 閔子騫, two of Confucius’s most esteemed disciples. Xianmenzi 羨門子 is the immortal Xianmen Gao, whose activities are described in Shiji 6.251 and 28.1368–1369. Initially a fangshi from the state of Yan 燕, he was believed to have had achieved immortality and to dwell at Penglai. Lu Qinli, 499.

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According to Donald Holzman, this poem does not finish with an unambiguous assertion of immortality seeking but with unresolved contradictions. He interprets the onomatopoetic binome jiaojiao 噭噭 in the last line as charged with sadness, which would mean that for some unspecified reason Ruan Ji is not able fully to embrace and follow the way of immortality. The despair of his self-mocking laughter casts a shadow of frustration, of awareness of personal failure in both the ways that had been open to him.74 Although Ruan Ji dismisses Confucian striving for immortal fame as futile, he does not find any solace in the hedonism advocated in the “Old Poems” either. In “Yonghuai shi” #10, for instance, he unflatteringly compares the ephemeral frivolity of youths who “drift along with the tide of the prevailing fashion” 俯仰乍浮沉 and “who take shortcuts and follow narrow roads, striving hard as they haste to debauchery” 捷徑从狭路,僶俛趨荒淫 to the eternity of the immortal Wangzi Qiao, which alone can “calm his [the poet’s] heart” 可以 慰我心.75 Other poems, however, quite explicitly express his doubts about the prospects for achieving immortality. In “Yonghuai shi” #80, for instance, Ruan Ji rhetorically asks: 三山招松喬 萬世誰與期 存亡有長短 慷慨将焉知

(ll. 3–6)

On the Three Mountains I summon Redpine and Wangzi Qiao, But who, in ten thousand generations, could meet with them? All existence has its limits, My mind is troubled: how could I know its span?76

In “Yonghuai shi” #78, after a typical scene with blissful immortals, he continues: 可聞不可见 慷慨歎咨嗟 自傷非儔類 愁苦来相加

74 75 76

They can be heard of, but cannot be seen, With a troubled mind, I heave a heavy sigh. Anguished that I am not of the longlived kind, Bitter sorrow swells in me.

Holzman, Poetry and Politics, 164–65. Lu Qinli, 498; Holzman, Poetry and Politics, 161. Lu Qinli, 510. The complete poem is translated in Holzman, Poetry and Politics, 177.

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下學而上達 忽忽將如何

(ll. 5–10)

“I study that which is here below, and reach up high.”77 Time rushes swiftly by: What shall I do?78

Ruan Ji’s skepticism is not so much disbelief in the existence of immortality but doubt about his own ability to achieve it. The penultimate line, which quotes the Lunyu, is suggestive in the context of the poem. According to Donald Holzman, Ruan Ji “seems to be using the line somewhat ironically, as if he were saying that his lowly studies (Confucian or Daoist) should permit him to ascend to some immortal heaven, but they do not. The line … shows Ruan Ji torn between his conflicting desires, Confucian and Daoist, this-worldly and other-worldly.”79 Such unresolved contradictions are the hallmark of the whole “Yonghuai” cycle. Ruan Ji juxtaposes differing ideas and attitudes, endorsing and denying them in the same breath, but seldom decides to follow one particular approach to life. While for third-century poets the two ways of social activism and Daoist withdrawal presented an inner conflict that could seldom be resolved, from the establishment of the Western Jin onward a compromise was sought between public engagement and the principle of non-action. As Richard Mather points out, overt withdrawal from public life in the manner of the ancient hermits Bo Yi and Shu Qi, who starved to death rather than serve the new dynasty, had been long discredited, and toward the end of the third century reconciliation between “inward naturalness” and “outward conformity” was established.80 The effort to accord the opposing principles of activism and quietism found a metaphysical base in the Xiang Xiu/Guo Xiang commentary to the Zhuangzi (from late third and early fourth century AD): The innate principle of things has an ultimate universality in which both ultramundane and inframundane are blended in mystical union. There has never been anyone who achieved a universal roaming in the ultramundane 77

78 79 80

A quotation from Lunyu 14. Confucius is asked by one of his disciples what he meant when he said “Alas! There is no one who knows me!” The Master explains: “I bear no grudge against Heaven and do not blame men. I study that which is here below and reach to that which is on high. Is it not Heaven that knows me?” 不怨天,不尤人。下學而上 達。知我者其天乎! Lu Qinli, 510. For a complete translation see Holzman, Poetry and Politics, 176. Ibid., 177. Mather, “The Controversy over Conformity and Naturalness during the Six Dynasties,” 160–180.

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who has not at the same time united with the inframundane, nor has there ever been one who could be mystically united with the inframundane without roaming in the ultramundane. For this reason the sage constantly roams in the ultramundane in order to expand the inframundane. He has no fixed ideas, but complies with Actuality. Therefore although he exercises his body all day long, his spirit and vital force do not change. Although he moves up and down through ten thousand critical decisions, he remains tranquil and self-possessed.81 夫理有至極,外內相冥,未有極遊外之致而不冥於內者也,未有能冥於 內而不遊於外者也。故聖人常遊外以冥內,無心以順有,故雖終日見形 而神氣無變,俯仰萬機而淡然自若。

This stance made possible the new ideal of “disengaged engagement”: “though the sage may be found in the court, his mind is no different than if he were amid hills and woods.”82 Place and social position were no longer relevant when one embraced the Dao within. This approach proved to be very pragmatic in the course of the Six Dynasties, for it enabled one to combine the advantages of office with claims of high-minded disengagement. The new philosophical context also provided the ground for a new approach to the dilemma that had run through the poetry on immortality ever since the Chuci.83 Sun Chuo’s “You Tiantai fu,” which is discussed in the previous chapter, is symptomatic of the reevaluation of the immortality theme during the fourth century, when the contrast between this-worldly existence and the otherworldly realms of immortals gradually subsided. In this composition the relation between the two worlds of humans and immortals is perceived less as a contrast between two spatially distant realms or two radically different modes of being and more as a state of mind—as the difference between mystical insight and a profane psyche. It echoes the reconciliation propagated by the Xiang Xiu/Guo Xiang commentary—that is, a mystical union with the “inframundane” (nei 內) through roaming in the “ultramundane” (wai 外), for they blend in the ultimate reality, in the innate principle of things (li). 81 82 83

Zhuangzi jishi 6.268; trans. Mather, “The Controversy over Conformity,” 169. Zhuanzi jishi 1.28. In this respect, the disappearance of the shelun genre after the Jin dynasty is symptomatic. The compositions belonging to this genre revolved around the issue of whether to serve under the political realities of the day or to withdraw from public life. For a study of extant shelun and the historical and biographical circumstances that prompted them, see Declercq, Writing Against the State.

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After the Jin dynasty the model of contrasting the world of the poet with the higher realms of immortals, typical for early treatments of the youxian theme, as well as the exploration of different life approaches to the problem of death, loses its poignancy. The older concerns reoccur only occasionally and generally in compositions that consciously establish a link with the literary tradition, such as Tao Yuanming’s set of three poems “Xing ying shen” 形影神, which presents a dialogue between Body, Shadow, and Spirit on the subject of mortality.84 Modern scholars tend to read this set either as a philosophical debate between three distinct philosophical standpoints prevalent in the period or as a polemic against contemporary Buddhism and the notion of the “spirit is not extinguished” (shen bu mie 神不滅) propagated by Tao’s contemporary Master Huiyuan.85 Tao Yuanming’s series does not simply document a contemporary intellectual controversy; above all it provides a variation on an established poetic theme by reworking topics and concerns that had underlain Wei and Jin poetry since the “Nineteen Old Poems.” Tao Yuanming took a deep interest in the poetry of the Jian’an and Western Jin, and by picking up one of its central themes, he was leading a poetical dialogue with the past. As typical for the poetry of Tao Yuanming, this is a strongly personal variation, whereby the old topics take on new twists and are imbued with new meaning. All three speakers—the Body, the Shadow and the Spirit—express skepticism about the possibility of achieving immortality, using arguments and diction very similar to those found in third-century poetry. The Shadow, echoing the opening of Xi Kang’s “Youxian shi,” says: 誠願遊崑華 邈然茲道絕

(ll. 3–4)

84 85

86

I would truly like to roam on Kunlun and Mount Hua, But they are far from here and the road is cut off.86 (“Ying da xing” 影答形)

Lu Qinli, 989–990. According to Chen Yinke, the Body expresses “Neo-Daoist” thought as represented in the Liezi, especially in the “Yang Chu” chapter; the Shadow the mingjiao 名教 (conservative Confucian) standpoint; and the Spirit the “New Spontaneity” (xin ziran 新自然) specific for Tao Yuanming (Chen Yinke, “Tao Yuanming zhi sixiang yu qingtan zhi guanxi”). On the connection to Buddhist thought, see Lu Qinli, “Xing Ying Shen yu Dong Jin fodao zhi guanxi.” The different interpretations of traditional and modern scholars are critically surveyed in Machek, “Tělo, stín, duch.” Cf. 願想遊其下 I wish to wander beneath it [the green pine], 蹊路絕不通 But the path breaks, passable no more. (ll. 5–6)

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The Spirit adopts the argument that both Confucian sages and reputed immortals had passed away, which was recurrent in the third-century poetry: 三皇大聖人 今復在何處 彭祖愛永年 欲留不得住

(ll. 9–12)

The Three Emperors were great sages, Now, after all, where are they gone? Pengzu loved eternal life, Though he wished to stay, he had to go. (“Shen shi” 神釋)

The alternatives proposed by the Body and the Shadow in the face of inevitable mortality are also already familiar to us. The Body, representing the physical aspect of a human being, advocates drinking and merriment: 我無騰化術 必爾不復疑 願君取吾言, 得酒莫苟辭

(ll. 13–16)

We have no arts to rise above Transformation, It should be so, doubt no more! I would like you, lord, to take my words: If you’re given wine, do not carelessly refuse! (“Xing zeng ying” 形贈影)

The Shadow, the social and ethical aspects of a person, although recognizing the futility of establishing a lasting name, propagates “establishing good” and performing meritorious deeds: 立善有遺愛 胡可不自竭 酒云能消憂 方此詎不劣

(ll. 13–16)

Establish good and there will be lasting affection, Why do you not apply yourself? Wine may be able to dissolve grief, But is it not inferior to this? (“Ying da xing”)

The Spirit rejects both as inadequate solutions: 老少同一死 賢愚無復數 日醉或能忘 將非促齡具 立善常所欣 誰當為汝譽 ?

(ll. 13–18)

Old and young come to the same death; Neither wise nor foolish are destined to return. In daily drunkenness you may forget things, But does it not shorten your life? Establishing good is always a source of joy, But who is obliged to sing your praises? (“Shen shi”)

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It is important to note that throughout the three poems Tao Yuanming stresses the indivisible unity of the Body, Shadow, and Spirit. Their complementarity indicates that all the arguments and counterarguments voiced by them are part of a reflective process taking place within Tao’s own mind that is similar to the existential questioning underlying Ruan Ji’s “Yonghuai” cycle. Through the speech of the Spirit, Tao Yuanming proposes a deeply personal solution—not what should one do in the face of death, but how one should view the end and what mindset one should adopt. According to the Spirit, both despair at impending death and the quest for permanence miss the point, for the Dao is in constant flux and the only permanence existing are its transformations. Tao Qian echoes the ideas expressed in the Zhuangzi that one should go along with change and not resist it and should regard life and death as matters of indifference, neither of which should be sought or feared: 正宜委運去 縱浪大化中 不喜亦不懼 應盡便須盡 無復獨多慮

(ll. 20–24)

Just surrender to the cycle of things, Follow the waves of the Great Transformation; Not happy but also not afraid. When it is over, let it be over, No need to brood it further. (“Shen shi”)

Instead of with an anguished outcry of “What should I do?!” (Naihe 奈何), which resounded throughout the third-century poetry, Tao Yuanming concludes his poem with the curt but resolute statement: “No need to brood it further.” During the fifth century Bao Zhao composed a poem to the yuefu title “Shengtian xing,” the first extant lyrics of which come from Cao Zhi. Following such an illustrious precedent was probably the reason why Bao Zhao adopted the framework typical for the “roaming into immortality” of the third and early fourth centuries. His poem commences with a lament, which, as in the earlier poetry, provides the stimulus for searching for an escape into the world of immortality: 代昇天行

After the Ballad Ascending to Heaven

家世宅關輔

My family since generations has dwelt in the capital, within the pass, Achieving posts, I served in the royal city. I have fully heard the affairs of the Ten Emperors,

勝帶宦王城 備聞十帝事

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委曲兩都情 倦見物興衰 驟睹俗屯平 翩翻類迴掌 恍惚似朝榮 窮塗悔短計 晚志重長生 從師入遠岳 結友事仙靈 五圖發金記 九籥隱丹經 風餐委松宿 雲臥恣天行

8

12

16

冠霞登綵閣 解玉飲椒庭 蹔遊越萬里 近別數千齡 鳳臺無還駕

20

簫管有遺聲 何當與汝曹 啄腐共吞腥

24 87 88 89

90 91

In detail the events of the Two Capitals.87 I grew weary to see the flourish and decay of existence, So often I observed the worldly adversities and peace: Flit and flutter, like the waving of a hand, Faintly flashing like one-morning blooms. At the end of the road, I regret my shallow schemes, With late aspirations I value long life. Following a master, I enter the distant mountains, Making friends, I serve the immortal numina. The Five Charts issue golden records, The ninefold casket conceals cinnabar scriptures.88 Dining on wind, I lodge idly among the pines, Resting on clouds, footloose I journey through the sky. Capped in auroras, I climb the florid towers, Melting jade, I drink it within the pepper-scented court.89 My short journey extends over ten thousand miles, Since my recent parting thousands of ages passed. Though no chariot turns back at the Phoenix Terrace,90 After the Flute Master there remains a lingering tune. So why should I with you, people, Peck at carrion together, devouring raw flesh?91

The expressions “Ten Emperors” (shidi 十帝) and “Two Capitals” (liangdu 兩都) denote the Han dynasty with the western capital of Chang’an and the eastern capital of Luoyang. On the Five Charts (wutu 五圖) and the ninefold casket (jiuyue 九籥), see chapter 5, note 159. An alternative reading of this line is also possible: “Loosening my jade [girdle], I feast within the pepper-scented court.” Some commentators argue that because this line is parallel to the previous one, it should involve an action of the same kind. They also point out a similarity with a couplet from Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #10. See the discussion in Bao Canjun jizhu, 79. From the Phoenix Terrace the immortal couple Nong Yu and Xiaoshi (the Flute Master) departed on the back of phoenixes into heaven. Wenxuan, 1329–1330; Lu Qinli, 1264. The last line probably alludes to a poem by the Eastern Han author Zhu Mu 朱穆 (100–163) that accompanies his letter “Yu Liu Bozong juejiao” 與劉伯宗絕交 (Severing Relationship with Liu Bozong, Lu Qinli, 181). When Zhu Mu was a prefect, he had treated Liu well, but later, after Liu himself rose to a high

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Bao Zhao commences in an autobiographical tone, describing his personal situation and the turbulent years through which he has passed. The first ten lines are written in a deeply personal, anguished voice in the manner of yonghuai (“singing of the innermost thoughts”). He lucidly and directly relates how, at the “end of his road,” he became aware of the transience of all worldly glory and the pointlessness of social aspirations. Line 10 is a turning point in the poem, transforming the yonghuai theme into youxian. Bao Zhao then depicts a search for xian immortality, the joys of his far-off journey, and the freedom and eternity he attains. In the concluding couplet he vehemently addresses a rhetorical question to his former worldly associates, who, entangled in their lowly pursuits, “peck at carrion” and devour “raw flesh.” The representation of immortality in this poem differs in imagery and vocabulary from Wei-Jin works—we find here the novel arcana of sacred scriptures and alchemical elixirs, as well as the new topic of the Flute Master. But in structure the poem follows the youxian model predominant in the third and fourth centuries, that is, an opening lament about human existence, followed by a depiction of its alternative— xian immortality—and a conclusion with unfavorable references to the human world. Honoring the Immortals The preceding sections of this chapter focused on early compositions that developed the youxian theme within the framework of personal reflections on human destiny and society. Extant poems that present independent visions of immortality are, in comparison, far fewer. Their scarcity does not necessarily mean that grounding representations of immortality within the context of the human world was indeed the raison d’etre of the youxian theme, though later commentators would have liked us to believe so. The voicing of personal reflections on the human lot and on social issues might have simply been the major reason why these poems in particular were later judged worthy of preservation. The ideas about immortality and its attainment expressed in the “Yuanyou” are so remarkably consistent and developed with such verbal skill that it seems doubtful it was the only composition of its kind produced during the Western Han. The “Yuanyou” was probably preserved due to its relatively early ascription to Qu Yuan, which induced subsequent interpretations in the light

position, he behaved arrogantly toward his former benefactor. In the poem Zhu Mu compares Liu to a greedy owl, who feeds on stinking rotten flesh.

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of his biography as a political allegory. This figurative reading was also enabled by the narrative framework of the poem, modeled on the “Lisao.” Zhang Heng might have had also written more poetry treating the theme of immortality than the surviving “Sixuan fu” and the “Qibian.” Liu Xie ascribes to him a certain “Xianshi” 仙詩 (Poem on Immortals) and a “Huange” 緩歌 (Languid Song), which, judging from the titles, centered purely on immortality.92 Two couplets from a fu titled “Xiaoyao fu” 逍遙賦 (Fu on Free and Easy Journey), preserved in the Beitang shuchao, evoke four immortals and their typical attributes and also indicate that this fu might have been devoted solely to the theme of immortality.93 And yet, the only surviving compositions by Zhang Heng are those where the theme of immortality, though treated at length and with remarkable erudition, is employed rhetorically to reestablish at the conclusion his faith in Confucian values and the necessity of social involvement. Little survives of the early poetic texts written in praise or commemoration of immortals where no explicit references to the human world and no personal feelings are included. The scanty historical evidence indicates that already during the Qin and Western Han periods immortals and immortality became the themes of compositions written for public purposes and connected with ritual or with less official court occasions. In fact, the earliest poems on immortals mentioned in the historical sources were of this type and were directly related to the imperial quest for immortality. Sima Qian writes that when the First Emperor of Qin heard predictions of his death, he was extremely upset. Therefore, “he ordered the Erudite Scholars to compose poems on immortals and True Men. When he traveled around the world, he distributed [the poems] and ordered musicians to sing and play them to strings” 始皇不樂,使博士 為仙真人詩,及行所游天下,傳令樂人謌弦之.94 These compositions have unfortunately been lost. It is very likely that they were intended to please and attract the attention of the immortals so that they might favor the Emperor with visits and blessings, prolonging his life and rule.95 As evidenced by the “Jiuge” cycle of the Chuci, music and dance were a major medium through which to court the presence and the favor of the gods. A certain number of hymns written specifically for liturgical purposes survive from the Western Han dynasty, 92 93 94 95

Wenxin diaolong yizheng, 195. On the conventions of the “Languid Songs,” see the next section. Beitang shuchao, juan 109 and 110; also reproduced in the Quan Han fu, 485. Shiji 6.259. For the same reasons, in 104 BC Emperor Wu built replicas of the isles of immortals in his park. See Shiji 12.482 and 28.1402.

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such as a set of nineteen songs entitled “Jiaosi ge” 郊祀歌 (Songs for Suburban Sacrifices).96 These songs were composed at the court of Emperor Wu for the suburban sacrifices to Heaven, Earth, and the Grand Unity. They were created between 113 and 94 BC by “several tens” of poets, including Sima Xiangru and presumably Emperor Wu himself, and set to music by the chief musician Li Yannian 李延年 (fl. 120 BC).97 Several hymns celebrate auspicious cosmic omens that appeared during Emperor Wu’s reign: the discovery of an ancient tripod, the appearance of strange plants, the arrival of miraculous “Heavenly horses” from Ferghana, and others, which all signify Heaven’s approval of his rule. Others describe the manner in which gods and spirits move through the heavens, their processions, their descent, and their blessings to the imperial house. Although the word xian and immortal personages are not explicitly present in the hymns, the political ambitions of legitimizing power and cosmic potency expressed in them interweave with ideas of achieving personal eternity.98 We might suppose that the earlier songs for the immortals commissioned by the First Emperor of Qin greatly resembled in their poetic focus and purpose the sacrificial hymns extant from the time of Emperor Wu. In chapter 3 of this volume, we have already encountered the “Xian fu,” composed by Huan Tan during a ritual procession of Emperor Cheng. Huan Tan might have written it on imperial command. It was inscribed on a wall of the edifices established by Emperor Wu in honor of the immortals Wangzi Qiao and Redpine at Huayin. This composition celebrates the wondrous powers of the two immortals and praises an ideal world of spiritual freedom and purity. The poet describes the immortals from the observer’s point of view and does not voice any personal reflections or feelings, except admiration. A few more verse compositions connected with immortality cults are found among the Eastern Han epigraphic sources. The inscription of 165 AD on Wangzi Qiao, which is attributed to Cai Yong, commemorates the establishment of an official cult of this immortal at his family tomb near the city of 96 97 98

Han shu 30.1753–55 records the existence of 314 Han songs (geshi 歌詩 ) mostly ritualistic in nature; however, most of them are lost. Han shu 22.1044. The traditional association of the songs with Sima Xiangru is highly dubious, for Xiangru died in 117 BC. The focus on the personal eternity of the ruler and the extension of his potency over the whole cosmos is, according to Martin Kern, a major difference between these hymns and the earlier set of seventeen hymns, the “Anshi fang zhong ge” 安世房中歌 (Hymns for the Hall of Ancestors) from the reign of Han Gaozu, where the emphasis is on the eternity of the dynastic line (Kern, Die Hymnen der chinesischen Staatsopfer, 288). Martin Kern also provides German translations of the hymns and their analysis.

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Meng in Henan.99 The first part of the inscription, which describes the history of the tomb, the apparition of Wangzi Qiao, and the ceremonies held there, is followed by a verse section in three-syllable line praising the immortal: 伊王君 德通靈 含光耀 秉純貞 應大道 羨久榮 棄世俗 飛神形 翔雲霄 浮太清 乘螭龍 載鶴輧 戴華笠 奮金鈴 揮羽旗 曳霓旌 懽罔極 壽億齡

Lord Wang, His virtue connected with the numinous. He holds his bright radiance within, Keeping himself perfectly pure. Attuned to the great Dao, He yearned for eternal youth. Discarding the vulgar world, He flew away with a divine body. Soaring in the cloudy empyrean, Drifting in the Grand Purity, He rides on a hornless dragon, Or drives in a car pulled by a crane, Wearing a floriated bamboo hat, Shaking his golden bells, Waving a flag of plumes, Brandishing a rainbow banner. His joys know no limits, Longlived for a myriad of ages.100

The text then recapitulates the ceremonies honoring the immortal and finishes by addressing blessings to the people and the imperial house: 祐邦國 相黔民 光景福 耀無垠

Heaven will protect our state, Aid our common people, Make our bright blessings glow, Shining beyond end.

Despite the different meter and more solemn diction, this eulogy is akin to Huan Tan’s “Xian fu” and exhibits a similar structure. It likewise commences with a pronouncement of praise, followed by a reference to self-cultivation

99 100

For more on the circumstances of its composition, see chapter 2. Quan Hou Han wen 75.3b. A full translation is provided by Holzman, “The Wang Ziqiao Stele,” 79–81; for a French rendition see Bujard, “Le Culte de Wangzi Qiao ou la longue carrière d’un immortel,” 126–130.

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practices, a description of heavenly flight, a depiction of attributes, and an evocation of the immortal’s eternity. Around the same time the court had official rituals performed in honor of Daoist figures: for Laozi in 165 AD at his supposed birthplace in Henan and for Laozi and the Yellow Emperor the following year in the imperial palace itself.101 Emperor Huan, ruling during the decline of the Han dynasty, turned to Laozi with the hope that this divinity could restore the waning glory of the Han and introduce the era of the Great Peace. Solemn ceremonial music and elaborate ritual trappings accompanied the rites. The “Inscription on Laozi,” which was written by the court chancellor Bian Shao in commemoration of the first ceremony, survives. It gives an account of Laozi’s human biography and of the circumstances leading to the introduction of the rites, as well as recapitulates Laozi’s teachings. The prose section is followed by the inscription proper written in four-syllable verse, which praises Laozi as an accomplished adept of the immortality arts above all: 同光日月 合之五星 出入丹廬 上下黃庭 背棄流俗 含景匿形 苞元神化 呼吸至精 世不能原 卬其永生 天人秩祭 以昭厥靈 101

102

He unites his light with the Sun and the Moon, And merges with the Five Planets. Entering and exiting the Cinnabar Hut, Ascending and descending from the Yellow Court.102 He abandons popular vulgar customs, Holds his light within and hides his physical form. Embracing the Primordial, transforming his spirits, He inhales and exhales the ultimate essence. Those in the world cannot trace him back to his origins, And look up to his eternal life. Heaven and Man regulated their offerings, In order to illuminate his numinosity.

Similar rites were performed by the emperor also in honor of Buddha. On the “Laozi ming” and the deification of Laozi in general, see Seidel, La Divinisation de Lao Tseu dans le taoïsme des Han. The meaning of the expression danlu 丹廬 (Cinnabar Hut) is not clear. Anne Seidel perceives in the term both cosmological and physiological significance (La Divinisation de Lao Tseu, 48, n. 1). The Huangting jing mentions on several occasions a region of the body designated as the “hut” (lu). The Yellow Court (huangting 黃庭) is one of the key regions in the Daoist landscape of the human body, its symbolic center, which might be situated in the brain, in the spleen, or in the lower Cinnabar Field (Robinet, Taoist Meditation, 57). Anne Seidel points out that the term also has macrocosmic significance, designating a central region of the heavens (see La Divinisation de Lao Tseu, 48, n. 1).

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In admiration of his long life, I engrave this tablet with these commendations.103

None of the ritual hymns that accompanied the ceremonies in honor of Wangzi Qiao and Laozi conducted in 165 have come down to us. In the case of certain yuefu, however, there is room for speculation about a possible liturgical purpose. An example is the song “Wangzi Qiao” 王子喬 of uncertain date:104 王子喬 Wangzi Qiao, 參駕白鹿雲中遨 Harnesses white deer to roam amid the clouds, 參駕白鹿雲中遨 Harnesses white deer to roam amid the clouds. 下遊來王子喬 Come down to roam, Wangzi Qiao! 參駕白鹿上至雲戲 Harnessing white deer, above he reaches the clouds,  遊遨 roams and rambles, 上建逋陰廣里踐近高 [?], treads closer to the heights.105 結仙宮過謁三台 He reaches the immortals’ palace and passes to pay

4

8

東遊四海五嶽上 過蓬萊紫雲臺 三王五帝不足令 令我聖朝應太平

12

養民若子事父明

103

104 105

106

respect to the Three Platforms, To the east he roams the four seas and atop the Five Marchmounts, He passes the Purple Cloud Tower on Penglai. The Three Kings and Five Emperors may not command him, He commands my sagely ruler to receive the Great Peace.106 That he may nourish the people as a son, serve his father and ancestors,

Quan Hou Han wen 62.4a. For complete translations see Csikszentmihalyi, Readings in Han Chinese Thought, 105–112; Seidel, La Divinisation de Lao Tseu dans le taoïsme des Han, 122–128. This passage is also discussed in Raz, The Emergence of Daoism, 87. In Yuefu shiji 29.437 the song is accompanied by a remark: as “performed by the Wei and Jin musicians” 魏晉樂所奏.  This line is probably corrupted. Its meaning is not clear, and I could not find any satisfactory explanation among the few existing comments on this song. Zhang Hong reads the expressions puyin 逋陰 and guanli 廣裏 as place names; however, I did not succeed in finding any locations, real or mythical, with these names (Zhang Hong, Qin Han Wei Jin youxian shi de yuanyuan liubian lunlüe, 95). The last character, gao 高, might be a corruption of “Song” 嵩, denoting Mount Song, where Wangzi Qiao retreated following the Daoist master Fu Qiu. The whole line might refer to his withdrawal to Mount Song. Yuefu shiji 29.437 gives the character ming 明 for chao 朝.

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當究天祿永康寧 玉女羅坐吹笛簫 嗟行聖人游八極 鳴吐銜福翔殿側

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聖主享萬年 悲吟皇帝延壽命

Thus shall be received Heaven’s favor and perpetual health and peace. Jade maidens sit aligned, blow flutes and pan-pipes. Ah! The sage roams to the Eight Limits! Emitted melodies bestow fortune, hover at the flanks of the hall. May our Sage Master [e.g., the Emperor] enjoy ten thousand years, We solemnly chant: Let our Emperor extend his lifespan!107

In structure and topics this composition is very different from other extant late Han and Wei songs on immortality, which typically depict a first-person journey to paradise, an encounter with immortals, and the reception of an elixir. Instead of a personal account, here we find an onlooker’s depiction of the immortal’s activities and journeys, like in the “Xian fu” or in Cai Yong’s inscription on Wangzi Qiao. The account of cosmic ramblings interweaves with invocations to the immortal to descend and with felicitation formulas blessing the emperor and his rule. Similarly to the “Jiaosi ge,” the idea of the emperor’s everlasting life is imbued with a political dimension—Wangzi Qiao legitimizes his power by introducing the era of Great Peace. The description of the jade maidens’ musical performance might be a self-referential depiction of the performance of this song on earth, which would verbally duplicate the ceremony and enhance its ritual efficiency. All this indicates that this composition was created at court and, although not included in the Yuefu shiji among the sacrificial songs, most probably served a ritual function. Indeed, the seventeenth-century scholar Zhu Jiazheng 朱嘉徵 considers this song to be an invocation and prayer from the Han dynasty. He dates its composition to the reign of Emperor Wu and connects it with the imperial search for the isles of immortals.108 The structure and language of these few surviving commemorative compositions are also related to the inscriptions on bronze mirrors from 50 BC–250 AD. These inscriptions depicting the life of the immortals are quite uniform, using a standard set of formulations. One inscription consisting of rhymed seven-syllable lines reads:

107 108

Lu Qinli, 261–262. Yuefu guangxu 2.1a.

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 尚方作竟真大好 上有仙人不知老 徘徊名山采芝草 渴飲玉泉飢食棗 浮遊天下敖四海 壽如金石為國保

The imperial manufactory made this mirror, and truly it is very fine! Upon it are immortal beings, oblivious of old age. They linger on the famous mountains, picking magic mushrooms. When thirsty, they drink from springs of jade, when hungry, they feed on jujubes. They roam at large throughout the world, wandering among the four seas. Long life be yours, like that of metal or stone, and may you be protector of the land!109

Like the texts discussed earlier in this section, the mirror inscriptions objectively describe the activities and roaming of the immortals, focusing on the aspects of eternal life, divine diet, and unrestrained roaming, and conclude with a felicitation formula, wishing long life and happiness to the owner. Feasting Songs The majority of late Han-Wei yuefu songs dealing with the subject of immortality that have come down to us exhibit a structure different from the more official compositions mentioned above. Several of them are presented in firstperson voice, depicting the journey of the poet into a paradise world after taking the drug of immortality. Nonetheless, they likewise end with a felicitation, wishing longevity and joy to a host and guests. These songs are not included among the hymns meant for ritual use, and they were probably performed as entertainment at less official court occasions, such as convivial gatherings and feasts. A typical example is a yuefu song titled “Changge xing” (Long Song Ballad): 仙人騎白鹿 髮短耳何長 導我上太華 攬芝獲赤幢

4

來到主人門 109

The immortal rides a white deer, His hair is short and ears so long. He leads me up the grand Mount Hua, I pluck the magic mushroom, obtain a crimson insignia streamer. I reach the host’s gates,

Zhang Jinyi, Hanjing suo fanying de shenhua shuo yu shenxian sixiang, 65. Three more very similar inscriptions are cited and translated in Loewe, Ways to Paradise, 198–200.

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奉藥一玉箱 主人服此藥 身體日康強 髮白復更黑 延年壽命長

8

And respectfully offer a jade casket of drug. When you, my host, eat the drug, Your body in a day grows strong and fit, Your white hair turns black again, Your lifespan lengthens, your years are increased.110

This song can be divided into two parts. The first six lines develop the themes of the quest for the immortality drug, the encounter with an immortal who guides the protagonist and helps him acquire the drug, and the final presentation of the elixir to the host of the feast. These situations are presented in sequential order, which creates the impression of a real journey. The second half is based on a conventional felicitation formula—after taking the drug, the host’s body would become young again, his hair would turn black, and his life would be lengthened. The imagery and stock situations pertaining to the immortality theme are adopted here to express good wishes to the host in a hyperbolic manner. Conventional feasting songs are also found among the extant works of Cao Cao and Cao Zhi, such as “Qichu chang” #2 and #3 and the “Moshang sang” by the former and the “Feilong pian” and “Pingling dong” by the latter.111 In these songs the poets assume the voice of a celestial traveler to describe their heavenly journeys and feasts, as in “Qichu chang” #3: 遊君山 甚為真 磪磈砟硌 爾自為神 乃到王母臺 金階玉為堂 芝草生殿傍 東西廂 客滿堂 主人當行觴 坐者長壽

110 111 112

I roam on Mount Jun—112 Of such pure nature! Jagged and craggy, rough and ragged, One naturally considers it divine. At last I reach Queen Mother’s tower: Golden stairs, a hall of jade, Magic mushrooms grow by the hall, Wings to the east and west. Guests fill the hall. When the host passes the goblet, This company will live forever,

Yuefu shiji 30, 442. “Qichu chang” #2 is translated in chapter 3; “Feilong pian” is found in chapter 5. Junshan 君山, also known as Dongting shan 東庭山 or Xiangshan 湘山, is the name of an island in the northeast corner of Lake Dongting. The island is connected with the legend of the goddess(es) of Xiang River, to whom two of the nine songs of the “Jiuge” from the Chuci are dedicated.

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 遽何央 長樂甫始宜孫子 常願主人增年 與天相守

How could it perish? The start of eternal bliss accords with sons and grandsons. Constant is our wish: May our host increase his years, Together with that of Heaven!113

The concluding felicitation identifies this poem as a banquet song, voiced by the guests to celebrate their host and wish him long life. It flatteringly compares their celebration to a feast of immortals on the terrace of the Queen Mother of the West. Two of Cao Zhi’s songs on immortality—“Feilong pian,” translated in the previous chapter, and “Pingling dong”—likewise consist of independent depictions of the life of immortals. The poet speaks in his own voice and pictures himself as an immortal, freely journeying through the universe, feasting together with the immortals, and receiving from them elixirs of long life. The songs contain neither reflections on his earthly condition nor volitional verbs. The human world is excluded, and these songs purely celebrate an ideal world of eternal joy. Here is the “Pingling dong”: 閶闔開 天衢通 被我羽衣乘飛龍 乘飛龍 與僊期 東上蓬萊採靈芝 靈芝採之可服食 年若王父無終極

The Changhe Gate spreads open, The Crossroads of Heaven are free. I don my feathered robe and mount a flying dragon. I mount a flying dragon, To meet with the immortals. In the east I climb Penglai, pick magic mushrooms. The magic mushrooms, gathered, can be consumed. Then my years, like the Royal Father, no end will have.114

Similar light-hearted variations of older songs are also found among the works of Xi Kang. Examples include his “Siyan shi shiyi shou” 四言詩十一首 (FourSyllable Poems) and “Dai Qiuhu ge shi” (After the Song of Qiuhu), which were probably composed for entertainment purposes. Yuefu on the theme of immortality continued to be popular throughout the Southern Dynasties and provided indispensable entertainment during banquets and other informal gatherings of the upper classes. They offered an elegant way to compliment drinking companions, comparing them to blissful, 113 114

Lu Qinli, 346. Lu Qinli, 437.

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splendid immortals, and at the same time to voice a wish for long life and happiness. Such is the group of poems titled “Huansheng ge” (Song of Languid Music), which in the Yuefu shiji is included in the category “Miscellaneous Tunes” (Zaqu 雜曲). Some commentators speculate that the expression huansheng 緩聲 (“languid music”) is a pun on huansheng 緩生 (“prolonged life”). Songs by Lu Ji, Kong Ningzi 孔甯子 (?–425), Xie Huilian 謝惠連 (379–433), Xie Lingyun, and Shen Yue have survived. All of them, with the exception of the one by Xie Huilian, deal with the subject of immortality and share common imagery and vocabulary. The earliest of the group, Lu Ji’s “Qian huansheng ge” (Former Song of Languid Music) is a typical example: 遊仙聚靈族 高會層城阿 長風萬里舉 慶雲鬱嵯峨 宓妃興洛浦 王韓起太華

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南要湘川娥 肅肅宵駕動 翩翩翠蓋羅 羽旗樓瓊鸞 玉衡吐鳴和 太容揮高絃 洪崖發清歌 獻酬既已周 輕舉乘紫霞 揔轡扶桑枝 濯足湯谷波 清輝溢天門 垂慶惠皇家

12

16

20 115

116 117

Roaming immortals gather their numinous clan, And hold high concourse at the slopes of the Storied City. Lasting winds rise from ten thousand miles, Auspicious clouds congeal in dense profusion. Consort Fu appears on the banks of Luo, Wang Qiao and Han Zhong ascend the grand Mount Hua. From the north they call the Maiden of the Azuregem Terrace,115 From the south they invite the goddess E of the River Xiang. Swiftly swishing, the night carriages move on, Flapping and fluttering, halcyon canopies scatter. Plumed banners nest rose-gem simurghs, Jade shafts emit an euphony of chimes. Tai Rong strums an upper string,116 Hong Ya rises a clear song. When toasting each other went around, Lightened they soar, mount the purple auroras. They tie the reigns up to a branch of the Fusang tree, And wash their feet in the waves of the Dawn Valley. Clear radiance overflows the Gate of Heaven, Descending grace blesses the House of our Lord.117

Probably a reference to the Queen Mother of the West. Shiyi ji 11 describes her residence, Mount Kunlun, as having twelve terraces of azure-gem, each of them being a thousand feet broad and having bases of five-colored jade. Tai Rong was the mythical music master of the Yellow Emperor. Lu Qinli, 664–665. 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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This poem depicts a splendid feast of the immortals in the paradise of Mount Kunlun amid auspicious clouds and winds. Some of the merry companions are mentioned by name—the immortals Wangzi Qiao and Han Zhong; Consort Fu (Fufei), the goddess of the Luo River; the goddess of the Xiang River; and the Queen Mother of the West; entertained by the immortal Vast Cliff (Hong Ya) and Tai Rong, the music master of the Yellow Emperor. The feast is connected with a night excursion in jade carriages under kingfisher canopies and plumed banners, which takes the participants to the mythic realms of dawn. The paradise scenes are described in an impersonal tone from an onlooker’s point of view and are abstracted from reflections about the human condition. The poem concludes with a felicitation formula addressing a blessing to the imperial house (huangjia 皇家). The poems composed by Kong Ningzi, Xie Lingyun, and Shen Yue are very similar in diction and imagery. The “Qian huansheng ge” by Shen Yue has been translated by Richard Mather.118 Below follows a translation of the lesser known “Huange xing” 緩歌行 (Languid Song Ballad) by Xie Lingyun, which is apparently incomplete: 飛客結靈友 凌空萃丹丘 習習和風起 采采彤雲浮 娥皇發湘浦 霄明出河洲 宛宛連螭轡 裔裔振龍輈

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8

Flying guests meet their numinous mates, Skimming the void, they gather at the Cinnabar Hill. Softly swishing, mild breeze rises, Abundant, ample, crimson clouds float. The goddess E appears on the shores of the Xiang, Xiao Ming comes out on an island in the River.119 Coiling and curling, the dragon reins are gathered, Smoothly streaming, dragon pendants sway.120

These “Languid Music” songs describe divine processions and feasts and in topography and imagery draw heavily on the Chuci poetic idiom. The depictions focus on the tactile details of the processions—teams, chariot shafts, harness bells and hubcaps, reins, standards and banners—which are set against intangible cosmic landscapes consisting of highly numinous atmospheric phenomena—colored clouds, mists, auroras, radiance, and soft breezes. Music is an important topic in all of the songs. Not only are immortal musicians an integral part of the processions and music accompanies the chariots, but the lines themselves, abounding in onomatopoeic binomes, create a captivating 118 119 120

Mather, The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 1, 47–49. Xiao Ming is the daughter of the mythical Emperor Shun. Lu Qinli, 1152. In Yuefu shiji 65.946 the expression longzhou 龍輈 (“shafts of the dragon chariot”) reads longliu 龍旒 (“dragon pendants”). 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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euphonic effect. The pieces by Lu Ji and Shen Yue both finish with a pronouncement of blessings to the imperial rule, suggestive of a court performance. Yuefu that took as their subject one particular immortal and retold the legends connected with him in playful, impersonal verse were also popular during the Southern Dynasties. A series of yuefu in Yuefu shiji 29 is devoted to the time-honored immortal Wangzi Qiao, who, among all his other roles, was also connected with music. He played the sheng mouth-organ superbly, and the reference to the sounds of his sheng still echoing in the region of the Luo River became a common motif in the poetry of the Southern Dynasties. This motif has a close parallel in the iconography of Wangzi Qiao in the visual arts of the period.121 In the fifth and sixth centuries the divine musicians Flute Master and Nong Yu also became favorite subjects of poems. Yuefu shiji 51 contains compositions on the title “Xiaoshi qu” 簫史曲 (Tune of the Flute Master) by Bao Zhao, Zhang Rong 張融 (444–497), and Jiang Zong 江總 (519–594). Below is the earliest of them by Bao Zhao: 簫史愛長年 嬴女吝童顏 火粒願排棄 霞霧好登攀 龍飛逸天路 鳳起出秦關 身去長不返 簫聲時往還

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121

122 123 124

The Flute Master loved longevity, The Ying maiden spared her youthful looks. Wishing to discard fire and grains, They were apt at climbing auroras and mist.122 The dragon flies and flees along the Heavenly Way, Phoenixes rise from the Qin Pass.123 They are gone, never to return, The sound of flute comes back now and again.124

This motif goes back to the tradition recorded in the Liexian zhuan, which is discussed in chapter 2. The sheng is also an important attribute of Wangzi Qiao in pictorial arts. Two molded tiles from a tomb in Dengxian 鄧縣, Henan, datable to the late fifth–early sixth century, depict Wangzi Qiao playing the sheng with his Daoist master Floating Hill (Fu Qiu) standing beside him and a phoenix hovering between the two. One of the tiles has characters identifying the two figures. See Juliano, Teng-hsien, figs. 68 and 69. Iconographically, this scene corresponds to Wangzi Qiao’s hagiography in the Liexian zhuan. In Yuefu shiju 51.748 the first three characters read 霞好忽. According to Liexian zhuan, the Flute Master and Nong Yu, the daughter of Duke Mu of Qin, flew away on the back of phoenixes. See also chapter 2, note 22. Lu Qinli, 1269. In Yiwen leiju 78 this song is ascribed to Zhang Hua with the title “Yong Xiaoshi shi” 詠簫史詩 (Poem on Singing of the Flute Master). Gushi ji 21 contains a comment that the vocabulary of the song is not typical of a Jin-dynasty poem, and hence it should be Bao Zhao’s composition.

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The couple of Nong Yu and Xiaoshi was an especially rewarding subject for verse composed and performed during banquets of the elite. The amorous story of these two immortals combined the themes of love, music, and the allure of immortality, which were all very fitting to convivial gatherings with wine, female singers, and dancers. Tableaus of Higher Realms We possess many more poetic texts from the late third and early fourth century onward in which the juxtaposition between representations of immortality and the human world of the poet is not particularly prominent. Visions of immortality devoid of personal reflections, which in earlier periods pertained to laudatory compositions and feasting songs, became increasingly common in lyrical poetry that was not connected with ritual, commemoration, or performance. In the chapters above we have witnessed how during the fourth century depictions of both immortals and their lands became more extensive, more sensual, and more visually evocative. They were furthermore often voiced directly without being introduced by volitional verbs. The poets commonly pictured themselves embarking on celestial journeys and partaking of the joys of immortality without ever referring to the human world. For instance, the four fragmentary surviving “Youxian shi” by Zhang Hua from the late third century already present such autonomous visions of higher realms. Below there are two of them:125

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125

遊仙詩 #1

Roaming into Immortality #1

雲霓垂藻旒 羽袿揚輕裾 飄登清雲間 論道神皇廬 簫史登鳳音 王后吹鳴竽 守精味玄妙 逍遙無為墟

Clouds and rainbows hang from jeweled pendants, Feathered robes and airy skirts billow. I soar up to the clear clouds, And discuss the Dao in the Divine Sovereign’s lodge. The Flute Master raises a phoenix tune, The Queen plays a bamboo pipe. Guarding my essence, I savor the mystic subtlety, I roam and ramble around the Mound of Non-action.

The second poem is translated in chapter 3.

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遊仙詩 #4

Roaming into Immortality #4

遊仙迫西極

A roaming immortal, [I] approach the Western Limits, The Weak Water cuts through the Flowing Sands. With paddles of clouds [I] turn my misty helm, Swiftly [I] rise on soaring waves.126

弱水隔流沙 雲榜鼓霧柂 飄忽陵飛波

Such poems are often ambiguous. They lack volitional verbs and personal pronouns, and therefore it is not immediately clear whether the poet assumes a first-person voice, picturing himself as a “roaming immortal,” or whether he describes the travels of the immortals from the perspective of an observer. The ten fragmentary “Youxian shi” by Yu Chan, composed in the first half of the fourth century, likewise lack any references to the human world. Similarly to Zhang Hua, in most of the poems Yu Chan speaks as one of the immortals inside the paradise realm. He describes the otherworldly scenery that surrounds him and his own actions patterned on Chuci-type ritualistic gestures: 遊仙詩 #10

Roaming into Immortality #10

玉房石㯓磊砢 燭龍銜輝吐火 朝採石英澗左

Jade chambers, stone pallets randomly heaped, The Torch Dragon, mouth ablaze, spews fire. At dawn I gather stone blossoms on the left shore of a stream, At dusk I blanket myself with azure-gem flowers beneath a cliff.127

夕翳瓊葩巖下

The protagonist here directly enters the paradise world, which in the earlier lyrical poetry had often been an object of unfulfilled yearning. In other poems Yu Chan describes paradise landscapes and scenes from an onlooker’s point of view. Reflections on the human world of the poet are similarly excluded:

4 126 127

遊仙詩 #3

Roaming into Immortality #3

卭疏鏈石髓 赤松漱水玉 憑煙眇封子 流浪揮玄俗

Qiong Shu smelts stone marrow, Redpine rinses his mouth with liquid jade. Master Feng recedes, reclining on smoke, Xuan Su sweeps along the surging waves.

Lu Qinli, 621. Lu Qinli, 875.

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 崆峒臨北戶 昆吾眇南陸 層霄映紫芝 潛涧汎丹菊

8

崑崙涌五河 八流縈地軸

Kongtong borders on the Northern Court,128 Kunwu is far from the Southern Lands.129 In the layered empyrean purple mushrooms glimmer, On the hidden stream cinnabar chrysanthemums float. Kunlun spouts out the Five Rivers, The Eight Streams encircle the pole of the earth.130

Three complete “Youxian” poems by Yu Chan’s contemporary, Guo Pu, are extant that are not included in the Wenxuan. These works, as well as the fragments of nine more surviving in later collectanea, are less concerned with reflections on the human world and center on evocative depictions of otherworldly realms and celestial flights, as the following poem demonstrates:

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128

129 130 131

遊仙詩 #10

Roaming into Immortality #10

璇臺冠崑嶺 西海濱招搖 瓊林籠藻映 碧樹疏英翹 丹泉漂朱沫 黑水鼓玄濤 尋仙萬餘日 今乃見子喬

The Gem Terrace crowns the peak of Kunlun, The Western Sea borders on Mount Zhaoyao. The rose-gem forest is veiled in iridescent shimmer, Cyan trees shed blossom plumes. The Cinnabar Spring raises vermeil foam, The Black River swells with inky billows.131 In search of immortals for over ten thousand days, Only now I behold [Wang]zi Qiao.

The characters for the expression kongtong 崆峒 occur in graphic variants 空同, 空桐, or 空峒 in the Zhuangzi, the Shiji, the Huainanzi, and the Shanhai jing. In the Zhuangzi Kongtong 空同 Mountain is where the Yellow Emperor visits Guan Chengzi to enquire about the Dao (Zhuangzi jishi 11.379). It is explained as the mountain in the far north beneath the Northern Dipper. In post-Han Daoism the expression is imbued with cosmological significance—it is the empty cosmic region in which the primordial qi (yuanqi) was precipitated before the generation of the physical world (see Schafer, “Wu Yun’s Stanzas on ‘Saunters in Sylphdom,’” 333). In Yu Chan’s poem Kongtong still appears as a toponym belonging to ancient mythic geography. Kunwu 昆吾, often mentioned in the Han fu, is a famous volcano in the south that produced excellent copper and gold. Reputedly, the sun stood above it at high noon. Lu Qinli, 875. The first quatrain was discussed in chapter 2. For the mythical places mentioned here, see the discussion of the first three couplets in chapter 4.

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振髮晞翠霞 解褐禮絳霄 總轡臨少廣 盤糾舞雲軺 永偕帝鄉侶 千齡共逍遙

12

Loosening his hair, he dries it in the halcyon aurora,132 Slipping his coarse robe off, he puts on scarlet clouds.133 I fasten my reins by Mount Shaoguang,134 The coiled dragons sway my cloud chariot. Forever keeping company with the divine mates, For thousand years together we roam and ramble.135

This poem presents a self-contained depiction of paradise scenery and personages, which are in no way related to the human world or to the concerns of mortal men. It does not include any of the topics discussed earlier in this chapter that are traditionally associated with Guo Pu’s treatments of the youxian theme—namely, reflections on transience, mortality, and the ills of the world. Later imitations of Guo Pu’s verse attest that such autonomous renderings of otherworldly wonders were no exception among his youxian poems. In the late fifth century, Jiang Yan wrote a set of thirty pentasyllabic “Zati shi” 雜體詩 (Poems in Diverse Forms), which imitated the most distinguished poets from the Han till his day. Jiang Yan strove to define the most characteristic topic and style of each poet and to recapture the diction and the spirit of his prototypes. One of his pieces imitates Guo Pu’s youxian poems:

132

133 134

135 136

郭弘農璞遊仙

Roaming into Immortality [after] Guo Pu [Posthumously Known as Governor] of Hongnong:

崦山多靈草 海濱饒奇石

Mount Yan abounds in numinous herbs.136 The ocean shores are rich in wondrous stones.

The motif of drying one’s hair implies lofty disengagement. For prototypes in Chuci poetry, see chapter 3, note 219. The variants of this line in Beitang shuchao 151, Taiping yulan 8, and in Li Shan’s commentary to Wenxuan 28.1330 all read: “Loosening his hair, he crowns it with halcyon aurora.” 振髮戴翠霞. Here I amend li 禮 to bei 被 (“to wear”) after Yiwen leiju 78 and Gushi ji 31. Shaoguang 少廣 is variously explained by commentators as the name of a mythical mountain in the furthest west or a cave. It is associated with the Queen Mother of the West. According to the Zhuangzi, she dwelt there after attaining the Dao (Zhuangzi jishi 6.247). Although I translate this and the following line as voiced in the first person, they may also describe the actions of Wangzi Qiao. Lu Qinli, 866. Mount Yan is the mythical Yanzi Mountain, which appears in the “Lisao.” The sun is said to have set there.

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 偃蹇尋青雲 隱淪駐精魄

4

道人讀丹經 方士鍊玉液 朱霞入窗牖 曜靈照空隙 傲睨摘木芝 凌波採水碧 眇然萬里遊 矯掌望煙客 永得安期術 豈愁濛汜迫

8

12

Loftily rising, I pursue the azure clouds, Sinking in obscurity, I preserve the essence and the po-souls. Daoists read cinnabar scriptures, Magicians refine the jade fluid. Vermilion aurora enters my window, The blazing numen shines through the crevices. With a proud glance I pick up arboreal mushrooms, Skimming the waves, I gather liquid cyan. I roam ten thousand miles into the distance, And stretch my hands, gazing at the misty guests. Once the arts of An Qi are obtained forever, Why worry over the approach of the Banks of Meng?137

Guo Pu’s representations of immortality appealed strongly to the poetic tastes and personal interests of Jiang Yan. Both poets shared a penchant for the picturesque, for colorful and exuberant description, and for Chuci lore and records of the extraordinary, and both were interested in Daoism and immortality. A well-known anecdote recounts how Guo Pu appeared to Jiang Yan in a dream and took back his writing brush of many colors, which he had once lent to Jiang Yan. Afterward, the quality of Jiang Yan’s poetry rapidly declined. In his imitation poem Jiang Yan closely emulates the imagery, vocabulary, and diction of Guo Pu. He selects key words and typical expressions from all of Guo’s poems and remolds this material into a novel creation. The first couplet recalls lines from Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #7: 圓丘有奇草 鍾山出靈液

On the Round Hill grow wondrous herbs, The Bell-Mount issues numinous fluid138

The vermilion aurora coming through the window in line 7 evokes the picture of dawning nature described in Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #8: the vermilion aurora that mounts the Eastern Mountain and the whirling wind that streams through his window lattice. The gesture of stretching, or raising the hands, in line 12 also occurs in Guo’s eighth poem (cf. 延首矯玉掌, “I crane my neck and stretch

137 138

“Guo Hongnong Pu youxian,” Lu Qinli, 1575–1576. For another recent translation, see Williams, Imitations of the Self, 263–264. Lu Qinli, 866.

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my jade hands”).139 In line 4 Jiang Yan likewise combines two phrases that appear within one couplet contained in Guo Pu’s “Jiang fu” 江賦 (Fu on the Yangzi River), yinlun 隱淪 (“to live in reclusion” or “hermits and recluses”) and jingpo 精魄 (“essence and po-souls” or “refined po-souls”): 納隱淪之列真 挺異人乎精魄

(ll. 295–296)

It receives the assembled perfection of recluses and hermits, Raises the essence and po-soul of extraordinary men.140

The word ao 傲 (“haughty,” translated as “proud”) in line 9 of the present poem has been favored by Guo Pu. In “Youxian shi” #8 the protagonist whistles “proudly” (xiao ao 嘯傲); poem #1 speaks about the “haughty official” (ao shi 傲 吏) in the Lacquer Garden (i.e., Zhuangzi), while in the “Jiang fu” the Earl of the Yellow River casts “haughty glances” (ao ni 傲睨).141 Jiang Yan even follows his prototype phonetically. Four of the rhyme words he uses here— 石 (dʑiajk), 魄 (pʰaɨjk / pʰɛːjk), 液 (jiajk), and ke 客 (kʰaɨjk / kʰɛːjk)—serve the same function in Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #7, which is translated earlier in this chapter. Only the third couplet about alchemical scriptures and the refining of an elixir stands at odds with Guo Pu’s works and seems to convey Jiang Yan’s personal penchant for alchemical imagery (see chapter 5). And yet in overall tenor this poem is different from the majority of the youxian poems that Xiao Tong chose to include in the Wenxuan as representative of this theme. Jiang Yan’s imitation of Gu Puo contains neither frustrated yearnings nor reflections or comments on the human world. Even eremitic lore, generally associated with Guo Pu’s treatment of the immortality theme, is not so prominent here. In general mood Jiang Yan’s imitation is closest to Guo Pu’s “Youxian” #10 poem, which was not included in the Wenxuan. Such selfcontained tableaus of higher realms are what Jiang Yan considered to be most typical of Guo Pu’s style, even if the compilers of the Wenxuan and critics like Zhong Rong might have thought otherwise.142 If these instances of textual survival do not mislead us, we can assume that during the fourth century depicting scenes and landscapes of the immortals 139 140 141 142

For the text and a rendition of Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #8, see chapter 5. Wenxuan 12.571. Ibid. 12.568. On the opinion of Zhong Rong that Guo Pu’s poems do not contain genuine interest in immortality, but simply voice his frustrations, see chapter 1.

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figured as a self-sufficient theme in lyrical poetry as well, that is, it was not necessarily connected with voicing existential or social anxieties. The theme of “roaming into immortality” could be transformed into a free wandering of a poet’s thoughts into higher realms, perceived as an aesthetic or even religious experience. Tao Yuanming’s poetic cycle “Du Shanhai jing shi” (On Reading the Shanhai jing) also reflects this perception.143 In the opening poem Tao Yuanming justifies the composition of these poems not as an expression of existential, religious, or social concerns, but as both leisure and pleasure in which letting one’s mind spontaneously roam into otherworldly realms is all that counts: 汎覽周王傳 流觀山海圖 俯仰終宇宙 不樂復何如

(ll. 13–16)

I skim through the Record of the King of Zhou,144 And glance over the pictures of Mountains and Seas. Between an upward and a downward glance I reach the limits of the universe, If not happy [in this], what would I do?145

The experience of reading enables the poet to reach the limits of the universe—to reenact that grand feat of the celestial traveler from the Chuci and from earlier poems on immortality. Likewise, a standard gesture from the earlier poetry on mystic roaming introduces his imaginary journey, expressed in the phrase “between an upward and a downward glance.” We have already encountered a similar situation earlier, when Sun Chuo contemplated the mystical charts of the Tiantai Mountains and “between an upward and a downward glance” ascended the mountain twice. What Tao Yuanming renders a century later is not a religious experience or meditation on the Dao, but an experience of “happiness” above all, as stated in the last line. In twelve of the thirteen poems that follow, Tao Yuanming vividly renders separate mental pictures conjured up by selected topics from the Mu tianzi

143

144 145

The cycle deserves more attention than I can presently pay to it here. The reader might consult the studies and translations contained in the following: Xiaofei Tian, Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture, 146–167; Davis, T’ao Yüanming, vol. 1, 151–165; and Hightower, The Poetry of Ta’o Ch’ien, 133–146. The “Record of the King of Zhou” is Mu tianzi zhuan. Lu Qinli, 1010. My understanding and rendition of the last line follows that in Xiaofei Tian, Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture, 151.

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zhuan (in the first two poems) and from the Shanghai jing and its illustrations.146 Tao perceived the text of the Shanhai jing through Guo Pu’s commentary, and in the poems he accordingly transforms much of the ancient mythology into immortality lore. He was undoubtedly also familiar with Guo Pu’s encomia on the illustrations of the Shanhai jing, and in taking up the same topics he presents his individual version of them. Formally, Tao’s poems are not encomia—they are written in pentasyllabic verse and are longer than the usual appraisals. Most are marked by a more personal or colloquial tone. Despite the differences in form and diction, Tao Yuanming’s poems maintain a very close connection with both Guo Pu’s encomia and the text of the Shanhai jing, as the fourth poem on the cinnabar tree (danshu 丹樹) demonstrates. The retreat of the authors’ personal voice in lyrical poetry, combined with outer descriptivism in the depiction of one single topic, frequently results in the blurring of the generic distinctions during the Southern Dynasties. In addition, the encomia of the period at times adopted pentasyllabic form and a more florid style typical of lyrical poetry. In the late fifth century, the sight of wall paintings of a mountain landscape with clouds and immortals inspired Jiang Yan to compose and inscribe four encomia. This set of four compositions, known under the varying titles “Yunshan zan” 雲山贊 (Encomia on a Cloudy Mountain) or “Xueshan zan” 雪 山贊 (Encomia on a Snowy Mountain), consists of appraisals of Wangzi Qiao, of the immortal Yin Changsheng 陰長生,147 the subject of white clouds, and Nong Yu. Similarly to Tao Qian’s poems, they present separate tableaus on individual subjects that Jiang Yan picked up from the painting. In form and diction these works differ greatly from standard appraisals. They are written in five-syllable regular meter with carefully balanced parallel couplets and in the more artful language of current poetry. The encomium on Wangzi Qiao is a typical example: 子喬好輕舉 不待鍊銀丹 控鶴上窈窕 146

147

[Wang]zi Qiao preferred to rise lightened, He did not wait to transmute silver and cinnabar. Reigning a crane, he ascended gracefully,

Although the topics seem at first glance to be picked up at random, Xiaofei Tian perceives a “clear line of progression” within the set as a whole. In her penetrating analysis she proposes “to think of each [poem] as a part of a whole that forms a cosmic journey not unlike that in the youxian or yuanyou tradition, […] a voyage from light to darkness, from marveling to lamentation” (Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture, 157). His hagiography is included in the Shenxian zhuan (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 5.171–173; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 274–275), but he is otherwise not attested to in earlier poetry.

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學鳳對巑岏 山無一春草 谷有千年蘭 雲衣不躑躅 龍駕何時還

8

Imitating the phoenix, he faced the craggy heights. In the mountain there is no single-spring grass, In the valley there is thousand-year thoroughwort.148 Cloud robes do not falter, What time will the dragon chariot come back?149

Jiang Yan employs more ornate diction whereby he manipulates conventional imagery and its meanings. The third couplet involves a play on words, with the image of the single-spring grass juxtaposed to the thousand-year thoroughwort in strictly parallel lines. The image of spring grass is generally associated with the passage of time. Jiang Yan further deepens these connotations through the expression yichun cao 一春草 (“grass that lasts a single spring”). The meaning of the thoroughwort in the next line is deliberately shifted—thoroughwort, the conventional symbol of virtue in the Chuci and, later, of reclusion, is here characterized as “thousand-year old.” Besides indicating Wangzi Qiao’s accomplishments and withdrawal, it is infused with the additional meaning of longevity. The penultimate line is a playful reversal of the time-honored motif of faltering at the threshold of the otherworld.150 Jiang Yan humorously alters the conventional trope by placing the negative particle bu 不 before zhizhu 躑 躅 (“to falter indecisively”). Jiang Yan puts a direct question in the final line, adopting a more colloquial tone typical of the yuefu. In its formal features Jiang Yan’s composition, although written as an encomium, is undistinguishable from the poetic genres of the time. If taken out of the context in which it was composed, the text itself provides no indicators of its genre affiliation. This ambiguity is also reflected in the various classifications of this piece in later anthologies and leishu. While the works in the series were designated as encomia in Yiwen leiju 78, in the eleventh century Guo Maoqian included the first piece as a yuefu in Yuefu shiji 29, which suggests that it might have been set to music. In fact, it is very close in form, diction, and even rhyme to Bao Zhao’s “Xiaoshi qu,” which is translated in the conclusion of the previous section. 148

149 150

The image of the spring grass in the mountains could be an echo of the “Zhao yinshi” poem from the Chuci: “A prince went wandering and did not return / In spring the grass grows lush and green” 王孫遊兮不歸,春草生兮萋萋 (Chuci buzhu 12.233). In early medieval Chinese poetry, the image of the spring grass is commonly associated with the unstoppable flow of time. In poetry lush grass also commonly grows on old tombs and on the ruins of ancient palaces. Quan Liang wen 39.1a. See, for instance, Xi Kang’s “Zeng xiong xiucai rujun shi shiba shou” # 7, translated earlier in this chapter, or the “Youxian shi” by Emperor Wu of Liang, translated in chapter 5.

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This composition is not an isolated example of the fuzziness of generic distinctions during the Six Dynasties. An encomium on the Yellow Emperor by the fourth-century poet Cao Pi, written in five-syllable line, has caused later anthologists similar uneasiness in classifying it. In Yiwen leiju 11 it is listed among the encomia (zan) with the title “Huangdi zan” 黃帝贊. It is also included in the Ming anthology Gushi ji 32 as a lyrical poem (shi) with the title “Yongshi” 詠史 (Singing of History). The Earth Below Is Out of Sight The emancipation of the immortality theme from worldly social and political concerns became complete in the literary salons of the Qi and Liang. I have discussed the social context of the composition of youxian poetry in the late Six Dynasties and some of its novel features in chapter 3. In the highly cultured circles of the southern courts, where poetry was practiced as amusement and artistic display, elegant improvisation was not primarily a means to voice one’s mind but a way to express one’s verbal artistry and wit. Two poems by Shen Yue titled “He Liu zhongshu xianshi” are typical examples of such elegant poetic games, composed for pure enjoyment without any deeper social or existential concerns: 和劉中書仙詩二首

#1

4

8 151

清旦發玄洲 日暮宿丹丘 崑山西北映 流泉東南流 霓裳拂流電 雲車委輕霰 崢嶸上不覩 寥廓下無見

Two Poems Matching a Poem on Immortality by [Clerk of the] Central Secretariat Liu151 At clear dawn we set out from the Mystic Continent, At sunset spend the night at the Cinnabar Hill. Mount Kun glows toward the northwest, The Flowing Spring flows on to the southeast. Rainbow skirts brush the flowing lightning, Cloud chariots trail light hail. The sheer steepness above is out of sight, The unending infinity below invisible.

Liu Hui 劉繪 (458–502) was a member of the literary salon of the Prince of Jingling during the Yongming period and held the post of clerk in the Central Secretariat (zhongshu lang 中書郎) between 491 and 493. His biography is contained in Nan Qi shu 48.841–843. He seems to have shared Shen Yue’s interest in Daoist matters as evidenced by another poem by Shen Yue matching Liu’s poem on a Boshan censer (boshan lu 博山鑪) (Lu Qinli, 1646).

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#2 殊庭不可及 風熛多異色 霞衣不待縫 雲錦不須織

The Special Courtyard cannot be reached,152 Its wind-blown flames abound in otherworldly hues.153 Auroral robes need no stitching, Cloud brocades require no weaving.154

Like the other “matching” youxian poems by Shen Yue cited above, these two pieces draw heavily on Chuci topography and imagery. Despite the religious subject and imagery, the tone of the two poems is rather light-hearted, preoccupied with the display of verbal artistry and sensual beauty above all. Poetic wit is expressed by a certain amount of word play, such as the use of multiple negations in the four lines of the second poem: “cannot be reached” (bu ke ji 不可及), “no need of stitching” (bu dai feng 不待縫), and “require no weaving” (bu xu zhi 不須織). In lines 4 and 5 of the first poem, Shen Yue repeats the character liu 流 (“flow”), a homophone of Liu Hui’s surname, three times. The elaborate parallelism, the polished beautiful figures, and the air of playful detachment accorded to this “roaming into immortality” fully conform to the artistic conventions of salon poetry. At the conclusion of Shen Yue’s first poem, we encounter a couplet familiar to us from the final stage of the mystic journey depicted in the “Yuanyou” of the Chuci: 下崢嶸而無地兮 上蓼廓而無天

(ll. 173–174)

152

153

154

In the sheer steepness below, earth was no more— In unending infinity above, heaven was no more.

The Special Courtyard, Shuting 殊庭, refers to a place on Penglai. It is mentioned in the annals of Emperor Wu in Han shu 6.199 and in Shiji 28.1402: “On the jiawu day of the twelfth month [in the first year of Taichu (104 BC)], his Majesty [Emperor Wu] personally performed the shan sacrifice on Mount Kaoli [part of Mount Tai] and made offerings to the Lord of Earth (Houtu). He came to the Eastern Sea, wanting to sacrifice from afar to the residents of Mount Penglai, and hoped to get to the Special Courtyard (Shuting) there.” Richard Mather speculates that the expression “wind-blown flames” (fengbiao 風熛) may denote a place name, like the “Special Courtyard” in the first line, or it may refer to the sacrifices performed by Emperor Wu, to which the preceding line alludes. It might also be a copyist’s error for fengbiao 風標, which means “style” or “atmosphere.” See Mather, The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 1, 258. Lu Qinli, 1660.

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In the “Yuanyou” these lines render a mystic experience of time and space prior to the differentiation of forms that is closer to the primordial Dao. Shen Yue’s variation does not, however, indicate merging with the Dao but merely conveys the immense height of the cosmic voyagers, thus enhancing the pleasures of the celestial excursion. Moreover, Shen Yue switches directions and turns the “Yuanyou” couplet, so to say, “upside down”—the “unending infinity” (liaokuo 蓼廓) is no longer above but below the cosmic traveler, indicative of his immensely lofty viewpoint. The topic of casting a look down from the celestial heights is, actually, a good way to survey the changes in the relation between the human world and the realms of immortality that occurred in the centuries from the Han through the Six Dynasties. Looking from the heavens back down to earth is a common topic in Chuci cosmic journeys, where it usually marks the turning point of the narrative development. During the protagonist’s celestial roaming, he glimpses his old home below and is typically overpowered by a wave of nostalgia for the world he has left behind, which results in his willing descent (cf. the “Lisao”) back to his social and political concerns. In the “Yuanyou” this established gesture takes on new dimensions. Descrying the earth still causes nostalgic pain, which, however, the protagonist overcomes, taking himself even higher in the process: 涉青雲以汎濫游兮 忽臨睨夫舊鄉 僕夫懷余心悲兮 邊馬顧而不行 思舊故以想像兮 長太息而掩涕 氾容與而遐舉兮 聊抑志而自弭

(ll. 131–138)

I traversed the azure clouds, smoothly surging and roaming, Looking down suddenly, I glimpsed my old home below. My groom grew wistful, my own heart saddened, The trace horses looked back and would not go on. Recalling olden times, I pictured them in my imagination, And, with a long and heavy sigh, I brushed the tears away. Drifting free and easy, I rose far off, I would curb my will a while and restrain myself.155

In the context of the journey towards the Dao pictured in the “Yuanyou,” looking back to earth becomes one of the final and most crucial tests for the 155

Chuci buzhu 5.172.

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adept—it means overcoming his human affections and attachments to the ones he holds dear. Earlier in the chapter we encountered this fixed gesture as a standard conclusion of journeys into immortality from the Wei and Western Jin. Beholding the human world far below was still connected with a feeling of grief, but instead of stemming from homesickness, it was prompted by sorrow for mortal men trapped in the profane world: 俯觀五嶽間 人生如寄居

(ll. 23–24) 一縱發開陽 俯視當路人 哀哉世間人 何足久託身

(ll. 16–18)

I look down amid the Five Marchmounts, Man’s life is but a brief sojourn.156 (Cao Zhi, “Xianren pian”) I beat them [the wings] and dash off to the Kaiyang star. From above I observe those in power. Alas, for the men in this world! To always abide there—how is it enough?157 (Xi Kang, “Wuyan shi sanshou” #3)

The lofty point of view brings unusual clarity in the perception of the human lot and the social world, which is temporally and spatially confined, unjust, and corrupt. What the celestial traveler actually beholds below is not the earth per se, but the world of men, human destiny, and social relations. From the fourth century onward, looking back at earth generally appears in the representations of immortality to indicate the loftiness and delights of cosmic ramblings. During celestial flight the immortal protagonist often enjoys the sweeping panorama far below him: 三山羅如粟 巨壑不容刀

156 157 158 159

The Three Mountains seem scattered grains,158 In the huge Abyss a knife won’t fit.159 (Yu Chan, “Youxian shi” #4)

Lu Qinli, 434. Lu Qinli, 489. The three isles of immortals in the Eastern Sea. Lu Qinli, 875. The “huge Abyss” is probably the Great Abyss (Dahe) beyond the Eastern Sea, into which all the world’s waters are said to drain. See chapter 3, note 239.

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四瀆流如淚 五嶽羅若垤

The Four Rivers flow like tears,160 The Five Marchmounts seem scattered anthills.161 (Guo Pu, “Youxian shi” #13)

高翔五岳小 低望九河微

Soaring high, the Five Marchmounts are small, Looking down, the Nine Rivers so tiny.162 (Xiao Gang, “Xianke shi” 仙客詩)

(ll. 5–6)

The cosmic wanderers no longer cast their gaze at the human condition but leisurely survey the earthly landscape. Any feelings relating the traveler to the earth—nostalgia, social concerns, meditations on mortality—are accordingly excluded and replaced by pure enjoyment of the aerial perspective. During the sixth century the earth often disappears altogether from the view of the traveler—both as the epitome of the human condition and as a geological formation. The immortals soar to cosmic regions so lofty that the earth is no longer visible to them: 始餐霞而吐霧 終陵虛而倒景

(ll. 319–320) 俯觀雲似蓋 低望月如弓

(ll. 7–8)

At first ingesting auroras and spewing mist, At last I skim the void and look down on the sky-lights.163 (Shen Yue, “Jiaoju fu” 郊居賦) I view from above the clouds resembling a canopy, I gaze below the moon looking like a bow.164 (Wang Bao, “Qingju pian”)

The expression daojing 倒景 (literally “upturned, reversed lights”), used by Shen Yue, denotes the sun and moon as seen shining from below by the celestial traveler. This figure, adopted from Daoist texts, became increasingly common in representations of immortality during the sixth century. The motif of looking down—no longer at earth but at stellar vistas—further emphasizes the exalted status that the immortals acquired during the Southern Dynasties 160 161 162 163 164

The four rivers are the four great watercourses of China—the Yellow River, the Yangzi, Huai 淮 River, and Ji 濟 River. Lu Qinli, 867. Lu Qinli, 1934. The nine rivers are the nine tributaries of the Huanghe at the time of Yu the Great. Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 9. Lu Qinli, 2331.

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and is symptomatic of the emancipation of the youxian theme from worldly concerns. During the sixth century the earth not only disappears from the view of the celestial traveler but the very persona of the author—either as an observer of paradise scenes or as a participant in the joys of the immortals—is often absent in representations of “roaming into immortality.” Many poems do not describe one single landscape or a scene taking place at a particular location in paradise with consistent actions unfolding, such as a feast or a celestial excursion. Instead, they often take the form of long lists of allusions to otherwise unrelated stories of various immortals. For example, half of Yu Xin’s poem “Fenghe Zhaowang youxian shi” (Respectfully Matching a Poem on Roaming into Immortality by King of Zhao)165 consists of references to different immortal personages: 藏山還採藥 有道得從師 京兆陳安世 成都李意其 玉京傳相鶴

4

太乙授飛龜 165

166

167

168

Hidden in the mountain, I turn back to gather herbs, To have the Way, one should follow a master. In the capital—Chen Anshi,166 In Chengdu—Li Yiqi.167 From the Jade Capital the Crane Physiognomy is transmitted,168 The Grand Monad transmits the Flying Tortoise.

King of Zhao is Yuwen Zhao, one of the younger sons of the Western Wei statesman Yuwen Tai 宇文泰 (505–556) and a brother of Emperor Ming of Northern Zhou. He excelled at writing and patronized Yu Xin. Among Yu Xin’s surviving corpus there are sixteen poems written to match those of Yuwen Zhao. Chen Anshi 陳安世 is one of the immortals whose hagiography is included in the Shenxian zhuan. He was a servant of a certain Guan Shuben 灌叔本, who also pursued the Way of immortality. When two immortals came to test him, Guan Shuben failed to recognize their true nature, and they took Chen Anshi as their disciple instead. Chen Anshi attained the Way earlier than his master, and their hierarchical relation was thus reversed—the household master became religious pupil, while his former servant became his religious teacher (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 3.76–77; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 137–39). Li Yiqi’s 李意其 hagiography is also included in the Shenxian zhuan. He was a native of Shu and was believed to have lived already during the reign of the Han Emperor Wen 文 (r. 179–156 BC). He lived in an earthen den in a corner of Chengdu. When Liu Bei wanted to attack Wu, he summoned Li Yiqi to his court to consult with him the auspiciousness of his plan. Li Yiqi predicted the defeat of the Shu troops and Liu Bei’s death in 223 AD. (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 10.349–350; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 228–230.) On the Xianghe jing, or the Scripture on Crane Physiognomy, and the Scripture on the Flying Tortoise, see chapter 5, notes 160 and 161.

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白石香新芋 青泥美熟芝 山精逢照鏡 樵客值圍棋 石紋如碎錦 藤苗似亂絲 蓬萊在何處 漢后欲遙祠

8

12

White stones fragrant as fresh taro,169 Green mud delicious like cooked mushrooms,170 Mountain spirits confront the radiant mirror,171 The wood gatherer came across a game of chess.172 Stone patterns like patches of brocade, Creepers sprout like silk in disarray. At what place is Penglai? The Han Emperor wished to sacrifice afar.173

Images of immortality are no longer unified in one scene but are strung together in a kind of “catalogue” of carefully molded parallel lines. Each line comprises an allusion to the story of a different immortal and is wittily juxtaposed to the other line of the parallel couplet. Through his learned references, Yu Xin creates astonishing and unexpected metaphors—stones as fragrant as taro and mud as delicious as a meal—which communicate the paradoxical air of the otherworld. The conclusion of the poem refers to the frustrated attempts of Emperor Wu of Han to achieve immortality and changes the tone of the poem as a whole. While until this point the poem presents a gallery of successful adepts, the last couplet speaks about the lack of immortal aptitude on behalf of the Han ruler. It makes us consider whether the poem might bear certain figurative meaning. In this connection the reference to the immortals Chen Anshi and Li Yiqi in the second couplet is significant. The two immortals, whose vitae are included in the Shenxian zhuan, do not otherwise appear in Six Dynasty poetry or in other extant compositions by Yu Xin. The particular 169

170

171

172

173

This line references the story of the immortal Master Whitestone (Baishi xiansheng). He cooked white stones for food (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 1.34). Robert F. Campany points out that baishi (“white stones”) is probably not a generic term but signifies a particular kind of stone, the most likely candidates being milky quartz (baishi ying 白石英, “white stone blossoms”) and hydrated magnesium silicate, which sometimes is termed baishi hua 白 石華 (“white stone flowers”) (To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 292–294). This line alludes to the story of the immortal Wang Lie who found wondrous greenish mud in the mountains (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 6.232; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 338–340). This episode is briefly discussed in chapter 5, n. 94. In the Baopuzi Ge Hong names and describes several mountain spirits (Baopuzi neipian 17.303). The radiant mirror is a magic mirror carried by Daoists on their way into the mountains, which showed the real appearance of spirits and demons (Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 300). This line alludes to the story of the wood gatherer, Wang Zhi, who chanced upon immortals playing the game of liubo. While he watched the game, hundreds of years passed in the human world—his axe decayed and his village turned to ruins. See also chapter 3. Lu Qinli, 2362.

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choice of these personages here probably has an additional function besides displaying erudition—it might express the priority of religious achievement over social hierarchy. The servant Chen Anshi eventually became the religious teacher of his master, and Li Yiqi, who lived in an earthen den, predicted the defeat and death of the great ruler Liu Bei. The poem might be intended as a subtle reprimand directed at Yu Xin’s patron and literary disciple Yuwen Zhao, who took deep interest in Daoism and whose poem on immortality Yu Xin was matching. Alternatively, it might involve playful self-boasting: “I, your servant, am more advanced than you on an esoteric plane.” Similar treatments of the youxian theme as an elegant display of erudition and verbal dexterity are also found in the poetry of Yu Xin’s contemporaries. Their poems on immortality often lack a description of the actions, perceptions, and reflections of one single protagonist but instead enumerate disconnected personages and actions. The nature of the allusions also changed; now the immortals are seldom referred to by their names, as in the poetry from the Han throughout the Liang, but indirectly through some detail or attribute mentioned in their legends. An example is the “Shenxian pian” (Divine Immortals), composed by Zhang Zhengxian at the Chen court. Of the more than fifteen different personages to which Zhang Zhengxian refers, not a single one is mentioned by name: 葛水留還杖 天衢鳴去雞

(ll. 9–10)

174

175

In the waters of Ge a revolving staff is left,174 The Crossroads of Heaven resound with the departed roosters.175

Geshui 葛水 probably refers to Gebei Lake 葛陂 in Henan (Shuijing zhu 21). This line alludes to the story of the immortal Fei Changfang 費長房 from the Eastern Han dynasty. A bamboo staff carried Fei Changfang from the mountains, where the immortal Sire Gourd (Hugong 壺公) had taken him, back to his family. When he threw the staff into the waters of Lake Ge, it transformed into a green dragon. Versions of the legend of Fei Changfang are recorded in the Shenxian zhuan (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 9.307–309; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 161–168) and in Hou Han shu 82B.2743–45. He appears briefly in Bowu zhi 5 (Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 204), Baopuzi neipian 2.20 and 12.228, Soushen ji 15 (Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 390–391), and Shuijing zhu 21. This line alludes to the legend of Liu An’s ascension to heaven. According to the Shenxian zhuan, his dogs and cocks ate the remnants of the immortality elixir he had left behind and followed him to heaven (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 6.201–202; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 233–240).

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玄都府內駕青牛 紫蓋山中乘白鶴 潯陽杏花終難朽 武陵桃花未曾落 已見玉女笑投壺 復覩仙童欣六博

(ll. 13–14)

Inside the Mystic Metropolis he harnesses a blue ox,176 Amidst the Purple Parasol Mountain he mounts a white crane.177 The apricot flowers of Xunyang never wither, The peach blossoms of Wuling have never fallen.178 I already see the Jade Maid, smiling, pitches arrows into a pot, And look back at the immortal lads having fun at liubo.179

The actions described here merely hint at the identity of the respective immortals. In this regard, the poem reads like a riddle, in which the erudite audience had to guess who the protagonist of every line is. Zhang Zhengxian shows a predilection for alluding to immortals whose stories are included in the Shenxian zhuan. Like Yu Xin, he combines images from various legends that originally did not have any common points and connects them solely through the strict parallelism of the lines. The discrete character of the couplets and of the individual references makes it impossible to search here for deeper significance beneath their literal meaning. In late Southern Dynasties court poetry, representations of immortality often became an elegant formal exercise that delighted the audience with the startling novelty of the imagery, bizarre details, and surprising interconnections, as well as by displaying the erudition of the author in esoteric matters. 176

177

178 179

On the Mystic Metropolis, see chapter 4. The Blue Ox refers to the legend of Feng Heng 封 衡 (styled Junda 君達) from the Han dynasty. After he attained immortality, he returned to his old village and often rode a blue ox, hence his sobriquet Blue Ox Practitioner of the Way (Qingniu daoshi 青牛道士). His legend appears in Bowuzhi 5 and in the Shenxian zhuan (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 10.365–366; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 149). In Hou Han shu 82 (Fangshi zhuan) he is called Master Blue Ox (青牛士). The Purple Parasol (Zigai shan 紫蓋山) is one of the peaks of Mount Heng in Hunan. According to the fifth-century Jingzhou ji 荊州記 (Record of Jingzhou) of Sheng Hongzhi 盛弘之 (contained in Taiping yulan 39), a pair of white cranes soar around its peak. One of the thirty-six lesser grotto-heavens, Zixuan dongmeng 紫玄洞盟, was situated at Mount Zigai. See Sima Chengzhen’s 司馬承禎 (647–735) Tiandi gongfu tu 天地宮府圖 (Plan of Celestial and Terrestrial Palaces and Residences) in Yunji qiqian 27.8b and Du Guangting’s Dongtian fudi yuedu mingshan ji 洞天福地嶽瀆名山記 (Record of GrottoHeavens, Blessed Places, Ducts, Peaks, and Great Mountains), DZ 599. These lines allude to Tao Yuanming. See chapter 3. Lu Qinli, 2482.

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Poetry on Immortality and Personal Religious Pursuits Besides poems that use immortality imagery for public display and as a delightful pastime, in the late Six Dynasties the youxian theme appears in compositions dealing with deeply felt private concerns. These matters, however, no longer involve social problems, but the personal spiritual and alchemical pursuits of their authors. In the preceding chapters I have discussed a range of poems, created on private occasions, which might be designated as “Daoist.” These occasions include a dream vision and the acquisition of a sacred scripture (Xie Lingyun’s “Luofu shan fu”), the presentation of an elixir formula (Jiang Yan’s “Zeng liandan fa he Yin zhangshi shi”) or an elixir (Emperor Wu’s “Youxian shi”), the consumption of drugs (Bao Zhao’s “Xingyao zhi chengdong qiao”), and poetic correspondence with a Daoist friend (Shen Yue’s poems addressed to Tao Hongjing). The literati also composed poems on participating in Daoist religious ceremonies; surviving examples include “Huashan guan wei guojia ying gongde” (In a Temple on Mount Hua Establishing Merit on Behalf of the State and Royal Family) by Shen Yue and “Chunye jiao wuyue tuwen shi” 春夜 醮五岳圖文詩 (Performing a Daoist Sacrificial Ceremony to the Charts and Writs of the Five Marchmounts on a Spring Night) by the Liang-Chen poet Zhou Hongrang. The images of immortality in these compositions are neither metaphors for the ideal realm of one’s aspirations nor poetical embellishments of mundane scenes, but refer to very concrete aspects and practices closely connected with the Daoist religion of the time. One of Shen Yue’s poems addressed to Tao Hongjing, which conveys the author’s religious aspirations, is such an example:

4

180 181

酬華陽陶先生詩

In Response to Master Tao of Huayang

三清未可覿 一氣且空存 所願迴光景 拯難拔危魂

The Three Pure Heavens I have never yet beheld,180 The Single Breath, too, I’ve tried in vain to actualize. All I want is to revolve my bright lights, To rescue ills and hold my endangered hun-souls.181

The Three Pure Heavens (sanqing) are the three heavens of Shangqing cosmology. See chapter 4, note 86. According to the ancient Chinese conception, a human possessed two kinds of souls: hun-souls, light and volatile, associated with heaven, and the heavier po-souls, associated with the earth. It is in the nature of hun-souls to leave the body and fly away, especially in dreams and at death.

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若蒙九丹贈 豈懼六龍奔

If I should ever be honored with a gift of the Nine [-cycled] Elixir, Why should I fear the six dragons’ flight?182

Shen Yue describes in very technical terms inner techniques and alchemical practices that are fundamental to the Shangqing tradition and which he probably knew from Tao Hongjing’s teachings. The Three Pure Heavens (sanqing) are the three heavens of Shangqing cosmology, while the Single Breath denotes the fundamental undifferentiated qi at the cosmological beginnings. In addition, the first couplet refers to mental visualizations and “actualization” (cun) that were essential to the Shangqing tradition. The “bright lights” (guangjing 光景) in line 3 are the microcosmic counterparts of the celestial lights (also jing), usually eight or twenty-four in number, within the human body. They are circulated within the body and fused together through visualization. The holding of the endangered hun-souls might refer to methods of “securing” these souls and holding them in place through visualization and incantation that are described in the Shangqing texts.183 And finally, the Nine[-cycled] Elixir (jiudan) is probably the Nine-cycled Reverted Elixir (jiuzhuan huandan), which Tao Hongjing had been trying to produce at Emperor Wu’s behest since 504 and which was discussed in chapter 5. This very Daoist poem deals with deeply felt private concerns and poignantly expresses the dilemma that Shen Yue felt all his life. In Richard Mather’s words, “Shen wanted to transcend the world, but kept being drawn back by a vaguely felt Buddhist compassion—a need to save suffering beings that was equated in his mind with Confucian civil duty.”184 The wistful regret that he lacks the resolve to decisively break with the world is also reflected in numerous other compositions that Shen Yue wrote both in the periods when he found refuge outside the capital and the years he spent at court.185 In some poems, such as “Huan yuanzhai fengchou Huayang xiansheng” 還園宅,奉酬 華陽先生 (Returning to My Garden Home—in Respectful Response to the Master of Huayang), Shen Yue dwells more at length on his worldly concerns— his cares about his family and his official duties at court, which prevent him 182 183

184 185

“Chou Huayang Tao xiansheng shi,” Lu Qinli, 1637; also translated in Mather, The Poet Shen Yueh, 119. On the Six Dragons, see chapter 5, n. 144. See, for instance, Huangtian shangqing jinque dijun lingshu ziwen shangjing 皇天上清金 闕帝君靈書紫文上經 (The Upper Scripture of Purple Texts Inscribed by the Spirits, DZ 639) from the end of the fourth century; trans. Bokenkamp, Early Taoist Scriptures, 322– 323. Mather, The Poet Shen Yueh, 118–119. See Mather, The Poet Shen Yueh, especially chapters 6 and 8.

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from embracing the path of Daoist withdrawal. Yet these affairs are never condemned as vulgar, worldly dust from which one should seek lofty disengagement. He remains an engaged public servant even when he wistfully confesses the lack of strength and resolve to go after his heart’s true desires. Such internal contradictions, apparently shared by many literati of the Southern Dynasties, are expressed in the topos of faltering in indecision at the threshold between the two worlds, a theme that gained currency during the Liang dynasty. We have met with this topic earlier in this chapter, with Xi Kang being held back by his human affections at the conclusion of his “Zeng xiong xiucai rujun shi shiba shou” #7. During the Liang dynasty it was not only the personal ties of love and friendship that bound the poet down to the human world, but above all a sense of social mission, his political career, and, of course, the pleasures of mundane life. We have seen in the previous chapter Emperor Wu of Liang, in possession of the elixir and yet not daring to consume it, indecisively lingering between the immortals’ carriage and his courtly concerns (“Youxian shi”). In 494 Shen Yue wrote a poem titled “Zao fa Dingshan” 早發定 山 (Setting Out Early from Mount Ding) on his way away from the capital to his new assignment as governor of Dongyang 東陽 (modern Jinhua 金華, Zhejiang), where he hoped to fulfill his Daoist aspirations. The conclusion of the poem similarly expresses his lack of single-mindedness: 忘歸屬蘭杜 懷祿寄芳荃 眷言採三秀 徘徊望九仙

(ll. 11–14)

I will forget about returning; I belong to the thoroughwort and asarum, But then, I cherish salary and living with the Fragrant Herbs.186 Fondly picking triple blooms, I indecisively falter, and gaze after the Nine Immortals.187

Shen Yue garbs his internal contradictions in the plant symbolism of the Chuci—thoroughwort and asarum are here symbols of the recluse, while the fragrant herbs denote officials and the lord. The sanxiu 三秀 (“triple blooms”) is also originally an image from the Chuci. After Wang Yi identified the expression with “magic mushrooms” (zhicao 芝草), it became connected with 186

187

Quan 荃 is an alternative name for sun 蓀 (Acorus calamus, changpu). It occurs in the “Lisao” and in the “Jiuge.” Wang Yi explains it as a fragrant plant which symbolizes the lord. (Chuci buzhu 1.9) Lu Qinli, 1636. For complete translations see Mather, The Poet Shen Yueh, 91–92 and The Age of Eternal Brilliance, vol. 1, 164.

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immortality. Shen Yue pictured himself as a contemporary Qu Yuan, adopting his standard posture of fondling aromatic plants and indecisively pacing back and forth—this time before the promise of immortality. In contrast to the wavering Shen Yue, torn between dreams of transcendence and his political engagement, the following poem by Tao Hongjing expresses firm resolve to take the final step on the road to immortality:

4

告逝篇

Announcing My Departure

性靈昔既肇 緣業久相因 即化非冥滅 在理澹悲欣

My divine nature is long established, My karmic destiny is handed on from the past. After transformation I won’t perish into darkness, At one with the Principle, an easement of grief and joy. A cap and sword, a shadow of empty clothes,188 I harness, my body made immortal. I leave these mates of the brilliant Yellow Emperor, And befriend those guests of the Yingzhou towers. If only I could follow the remaining traces,189 And tell you of the mystic ford.190

冠劍空衣影 鑣轡乃仙身 去此昭軒侶 結彼瀛臺賓 儻能踵留轍 為子道玄津

8

The biography of Tao Hongjing in the Nan shi explains the circumstances of this poem’s composition as follows: “Although not being ill, he knew he would have to depart. On the day before his death, he composed a poem on ‘Announcing My Departure.’”191 Tradition dates this poem to 536, when Tao Hongjing passed away at the Zhuyang Temple 朱陽館 at the age of eighty-one. The poem accords with the tradition recorded in historiographic sources of composing poetry on the verge of one’s death as a bequest to future generations.192 We cannot know for certain whether Tao Hongjing departed willingly after consuming an elixir (probably the Nine-cycled Elixir) at the chosen age of eighty-one.193 The dating of this poem to the eve of his death is even less cer188 189 190 191 192

193

These items indicate corpse deliverance (shijie)—the cap, the sword, and the clothes of the adept remain in the grave, but his body is gone. I.e., the traces of former immortals. “Gaoshi pian,” Lu Qinli, 1813. Nan shi 76.1899. The most famous example of this tradition is the song composed by Xiang Yu 項羽 (232– 202 BC), the Hegemon of Western Chu, shortly before his suicide while trapped by Liu Bang’s army at Gaixia 垓下 (Shiji 7.333). Strickmann, “On the Alchemy of T’ao Hung-ching,” 146–159 and 191.

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tain. In fact, this poem falls under the practice established in the early medieval period of composing poems on one’s imagined death; however, none of these poems seems to have been actually written on an actual deathbed.194 Regardless of the exact circumstances of composition, the difference between Tao Hongjing and his predecessors is apparent at once—he is not writing about his death but about his expected transformation into an immortal. The images of the cap, sword, and empty clothes in the third couplet indicate that he is embarking on the way of the “corpse-delivered” (shijie) immortals, whereby only one’s belongings remained in the coffin after burial. In the second couplet he reverses a line from Tao Yuanming’s “Ziji wen”—“Into emptiness I shall have perished” (kuo xi yi mie 廓兮已滅)—by confidently proclaiming “After transformation I won’t perish into darkness.” Tao Hongjing faces his departure with no regrets, no pang of nostalgia, but with the confidence of an advanced religious practitioner and a firm belief in his pre-established destiny as an immortal. Youxian Poetry and Daoist Ritual Hymns On many occasions our discussion of xian immortality has touched upon the possible influence of Daoist religious texts on late Six Dynasties poets. Sixth-century verse written in the southern literary salons reveals a considerable knowledge of Daoist alchemy, of celestial scripture lore, and of the new, expanded religious topography. In addition, courtiers grew increasingly familiar with Daoist public ceremonies, which during the fifth century were elaborated and codified under the strong influence of Buddhism. The music and hymns accompanying Daoist rituals seem to have captured the imagination of the literary elite to the extent that imitations of liturgical verse were produced at court. The “Shangyun yue” (Music of the Supreme Clouds) set, ascribed to Emperor Wu of Liang, has already been discussed several times in 194

Lu Ji, for example, wrote extensively on the theme of his own death—besides his variations on the “Wange” 輓歌 (Coffin Pullers’ Songs), he composed the “Tanshi fu” 歎逝賦 (Fu on My Departure) and the “Damu fu” (Fu on the Great Dusk). However, as Timothy Wai Keung Chan points out, since Lu Ji’s demise was sudden and unexpected, neither could have been written on his deathbed (Considering the End, 114). Tao Yuanming’s “Ni wange ci” 擬輓歌辭 (In Imitation of Coffin Pullers’ Songs) and “Ziji wen” 自祭文 (Sacrificial Elegy for Myself) are also traditionally believed to have been written on the eve of his death—a view disputed by modern scholars. See Lomova and Yeh Kuo-liang, Ach běda, přeběda, 188–191; Chan, Considering the End, 109–114.

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the present book.195 It is not known whether the emperor composed the lyrics himself or commissioned some of his court poets to write them, nor is there any information about the occasions and the fashion of their performance. No hymns bear this title in the Daoist canon. The emperor probably created a new yuefu tune, adapting southern melodies and imbuing them with Daoist content.196 In the context of the current court poetry, their lyrics are rather unusual in that they exhibit remarkable coherence in the religious vocabulary and ideas, not only within individual songs but also within the set as a whole. With the exception of the sixth song, “Jindan qu,” which is devoted to alchemy, they all describe divine sites of Shangqing Daoism and assemblies of divinities and immortals, using technical religious terminology and not mixing different textual traditions as was common in the poetry of the day. If we apply the methodology proposed by Stephen Bokenkamp for dealing with Daoist elements in secular poetry, which was outlined at the end of chapter 1, we could say that here we encounter a “borrowed complex,” whereby not only the individual songs but the set as a whole absorbed a coherent cluster of ideas connected with the Shangqing tradition. In the late sixth century while detained at the court of Northern Zhou, Yu Xin wrote a set of ten poems titled “Daoshi buxu ci” (Stanzas on Pacing the Void of a Daoist Master) in imitation of a type of hymn performed during Daoist rituals. Daoist counterparts of this set have been preserved, and a comparison can tell us more about the interplay between religious and court poetry. From the end of the Eastern Jin onward, the tune of buxu 步虛 (Pacing the Void) developed parallel to the Lingbao public ceremonies. A set entitled “Buxu dongzhang” 步虛洞章 (Grotto Stanzas on Pacing the Void) for use in public rituals is ascribed to Lu Xiujing 陸修靜 (406–477), the reformer of Daoist liturgy.197 The earliest preserved buxu hymns comprise a ten-piece set in the Dongxuan lingbao Yujing shan buxu jing 洞玄靈寶玉京山步虚經 (Lingbao Scripture on Pacing the Void at the Jade Capital Mountain, DZ 1439) from the early fifth century, with a slightly altered version in the Dongxuan lingbao shengxuan buxu zhang xushu 洞玄靈寶昇玄步虛章序疏 (Commentary on the Stanzas for Ascending to Mystery and Pacing the Void, DZ 614). The Lingbao tradition presented these songs as belonging to the original revelation to Ge 195 196

197

On the composition of the set, see chapter 3, n. 196. The tune of “Shangyun yue” mixed “Wu melodies” 吳聲 and “Western tunes” 西曲, native to the South, together with “miscellaneous dance music” 雜舞曲 and foreign music (Li Fengmao, “Liuchao yuefu yu xiandao zhuanshuo,” 78). The title is listed in Maoshan zhi 9.11b and in the bibliographic section of the Tongzhi (completed 1161), but the relationship of these hymns to extant ones is not clear. See Schafer, “Wu Yun’s ‘Cantos on Pacing the Void,’” 388–389. The Lingbao buxu hymns are studied in Schipper, “A Study of Buxu.” 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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Xuan 葛玄, who subsequently transmitted them to his disciples at the Tiantai Mountains. Another fifth-century legend connects the songs with the name of the renowned poet Cao Zhi: When Chen Siwang [Cao Zhi] of Wei roamed in the mountains, he suddenly heard the sound of scriptures being chanted within the void—clear and remote, relaxed and brilliant. Having understood the sounds, he transcribed them and made the tune of Divine Immortals. Daoist Masters reproduced them to make the tune of “Pacing the Void.” 陳思王游山,忽聞空里誦經聲,清遠遒亮,解音者則而寫之,為神仙 聲,道士效之,作步虚聲。198

The buxu hymns were performed during the audience (chao 朝) ritual, the most essential part of the Lingbao zhai 齋 (“fast” or “retreat”) liturgy. During Daoist liturgy, the chanting of the ten stanzas was accompanied by the burning of incense and the ritual circumambulation of the Daoist priest, which corresponded to the ten directions of ritual space common in Lingbao rites. The chants were accompanied by music performed on bells and drums, which together with the exalted verse transported the participants into the highest spheres of the celestial void. Singing the buxu stanzas on the earth below imitated the performance of the hymns in heaven, in the Jade Capital during the periodical gathering of gods. The hymns from this set uniformly consist of fivesyllable lines but differ in length—there are ten-, twelve-, thirteen-, fourteen-, and even twenty-two-line songs. The first and the last pieces frame the set, serving as an opening and conclusion. They exhibit a stronger liturgical air and refer to the rites performed by the Daoist priest and the officiants, to the circumambulation of the altar, and to the ritual gestures and burning of incense. The opening stanza begins immediately with a depiction of the ritual it accompanies: #1 稽首禮太上 燒香歸虛無 流明隨我迴 法輪亦三周

(ll. 1–4)

198

Bowing our heads, we hail the Most High, Burning incense, we return to the empty void. Flowing lights turn along me, Dharma wheels each make three turns.

Liu Jingshu’s Yiyuan 5.9 (SKQS 1042; see also Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 641). 7D C 98 3 DH8 1D CAD8: : DB / AA 9DB (

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The subsequent hymns describe the ascent to the highest Jade Capital, where the Lingbao celestial scriptures are kept, the scenery and music of heavenly paradises, assemblies and processions of divinities. During ritual, the divine processions around the celestial capital were simultaneously represented both verbally, by the text of the stanzas, and performatively, through the gestures and the pacing of the Daoist priest around the altar. The ritual also proceeded on an esoteric level, whereby the participants visualized their own ascent to the heavens and a similar assembly of their bodily gods within: While practicing the Grotto Mystery retreat of the Numinous Gem, intone the stanzas for Pacing the Void in the Empty Grotto. First knock your teeth three times and swallow three times. Actualize in your mind the sun and moon to be present above your face, let their rays pour down your nose. The sun enters from the nose to the right, the moon enters from the nose to the left, they enter the Golden Floriate palace, and their bright light will come out at the back of the head. 脩靈寶洞玄齋,誦空洞步虛章,先叩齒三通,咽嗽三過。心存日月在己 面上,光芒灌鼻,日從鼻左入,月從鼻右入,入金華官,光明出頭 後。199

In the text of the hymns all three spheres interweave. The fourth song, for instance, depicts in verse the esoteric process described above: 俯仰存太上 華景秀丹田 左顧提欝儀 右盼携結璘

(ll. 1–4) 199 200

Looking down and up, I make the Most High present, The florid scenery blooms in my Cinnabar Field. Looking to the right, I get hold of the Shadowed Regalia, Glimpsing to the left, I clinch to the Knotted Spangles.200

Commentary to Dongxuan lingbao Yujing shan buxu jing 3a. Yuyi 鬰儀 and jielin 結璘 are esoteric Daoist names for the sun and moon, respectively. “Shadowed Regalia” and “Knotted Spangles” are the respective translations of the terms adopted by Stephan Bokenkamp (Early Taoist Scriptures, 348 and 370, n. 35). On yuyi and jielin, the transcendental spirits of the sun and the moon, see Shangqing huangting neijing jing 上清黃庭內景經 in Yunji qijian 12.8a; the meaning of the names as well as the identities and the practices of yuyi and jielin are studied in Esposito, “Sun-Worship in China,” 354ff.

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The same plot is simultaneously realized on several levels—among the divinities in heaven, as performed by the priest at the altar, within the priest’s body—in addition to being verbally reproduced in the songs. It culminates in the elimination of suffering and subsequent salvation depicted in the eighth song: 嚴我九龍駕 乘虚以逍遙 八天如指掌 六合何足遼

4

众仙誦洞經 太上唱清謠 香花随風散 玉音成紫霄 五苦一時迸 八難順經寥 妙哉靈寶囿 興此大法橋

8

I speed my team of nine dragons, Mount the void, roam footloose and carefree. The eight heavens are like a finger or a palm, The six quarters—how could they be distant enough? Immortal multitudes recite grotto scriptures, The Most High chants pure tunes. Fragrant flowers scatter along the wind, Jade notes complete in the purple heavens. The Five Sufferings disperse at once,201 The Eight Difficulties are smoothly crossed.202 How wonderful, the realm of the Numinous Gem! Flourishing, this bridge of the Great Dharma.

From the fifth century onward the Lingbao fast provided the model for elite Daoist liturgy and was frequently performed by the southern Daoists. In the course of the sixth century, southern Daoism spread in northern China as well, and the unification of the rituals of the north and south was sponsored at the imperial level, as attested by the Daoist encyclopedia Wushang biyao, compiled in the 570s at the request of Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou.203 The legend of Cao Zhi reproducing celestial chants provided a precedent for other men of letters to write their own versions of “Pacing the Void” hymns. Yu Xin’s ten “Stanzas on Daoist Master Pacing the Void” are the earliest extant buxu composed by secular poets in imitation of these religious chants, probably to the then-current ritual melody.204 They are likewise uniformly written in 201

202 203 204

The five forms of suffering are (1) birth, age, sickness, and death; (2) parting with the beloved; (3) meeting with hatred or dislike; (4) the inability to obtain the desired; and (5) the five skandha (“aggregates”) sufferings, both physical and mental. The eight conditions in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma. The texts cited in the Wushang biyao are mostly Shangqing and Lingbao texts. On the northern transmission of southern Daoism, see Lü Pengzhi, “Daoist Rituals,” 1342–1344. By Tang times it was accepted as a regular yuefu theme, and the corpus in Yuefu shiji 78 comprises sets by nine other poets: Yang Guang 楊廣 (569–618), Chen Yu 陳羽 (fl. 806), Gu Kuang 顧况 (ca. 725–ca. 814), Wu Yun 吳筠 (d. 778), Liu Yuxi 劉禹錫 (772–842), Wei

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five-syllable form and differ in length: four of the poems have twelve lines, five have ten, and one has eight. In diction they are, however, much more contrived, consisting almost exclusively of strictly parallel couplets. The most apparent difference from the model text is the lack of an underlying plot. Whereas the stanzas from the liturgical set represent the stages of a single process toward salvation, no such unifying scenario, no ritual sequence, can be discerned in Yu Xin’s series as a whole. The opening piece does not set the poems in a certain liturgical context either: 渾成空教立 元始正圖開

4

赤玉靈文下 朱陵真氣來 中天九龍館

205 206

207

208

209

In the Undifferentiated and All-embracing the teaching of Emptiness was established,205 At the Primordial Commencement correct charts opened.206 Of scarlet jade numinous writs descended,207 From the Vermilion Mound true breath arrived.208 At the Middle Heaven—the Nine Dragons’ Lodge,209

Qumou 韋渠牟 (749–801), Jiao Ran 皎然 (fl. 760), Gao Pian 高駢 (d. 887), and Chen Tao 陳陶 (fl. 841). A reference to Daode jing 25: “There is something undifferentiated and all-embracing that was born before Heaven and Earth” 有物混成,先天地生. This line might refer not only to the primordial origins of the cosmos but also to the key deity in the Shangqing and Lingbao traditions—Yuanshi tianwang/tianzun 元始天王 / 天尊, the Celestial King/Celestial Worthy of Primordial Commencement. He arose from the cosmic void and is the source of the sacred scriptures and talismans. Whereas in the Shangqing texts he adopted the title Celestial King (tianwang), the Lingbao tradition changed his title to the Celestial Worthy (tianzun). The texts of scarlet jade are probably revealed scriptures of the Lingbao tradition, for instance, the Chishu wupian zhenwen 赤書五篇真文 (True Writs in Five Chapters Written in Scarlet), also known as the Chishu yupian zhenwen 赤書玉篇真文 (True Writs on Jade Tablets Written in Scarlet) (DZ 22), which is regarded as the ancestor of all Lingbao scriptures. At the initial differentiation of cosmic qi it appeared spontaneously in the heavens in the form of mysterious flickering graphs and was further refined by the Celestial Worthy through fire. The Vermilion Mound (Zhuling 朱陵) is the grotto-heaven associated with Mount Heng, the Southern Marchmount (Dongtian fudi yuedu mingshan ji 6b–8b, DZ 599). In the Lingbao tradition it became the place where the corporeal spirits of the dead were refined to be reunited with the physical body (which underwent similar refinement in the Palace of Grand Yin) for rebirth or for continued existence in one of the heavens (Bokenkamp, Early Taoist Scriptures, 382 and 411). Both Wu Zhaoyi’s and Ni Fan’s commentaries identify the Nine Dragons’ Lodge 九龍館 as a Zhou-period hall mentioned in Zhang Heng’s “Dongjing fu” 東京賦 (Fu on the Eastern

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 倒景八風臺 雲度絃歌響 星移宮殿迴 青衣上少室 童子向蓬萊 逍遙聞四會

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倏忽度三災

Above the skylights—the Terrace of the Eight Winds.210 Clouds pass, strings and songs resound, Stars shift, palaces and halls turn. The Azure-robed ascends the Lesser Chamber,211 The Lad goes to Penglai. Roaming free and easy, he listens in the four directions, In a flash and a flicker, we cross over the Three Disasters.212

The opening song starts with allusions to the Daode jing—the “Undifferentiated and All-embracing” (huncheng 渾成) is an epithet of the Dao in its original, chaotic, and all-embracing state, while the “teaching of Emptiness” (kongjiao 空教) designates Daoism, which values Non-actuality (wu) and Void (xu 虚). The second line of the couplet takes on a distinctly religious note, referring to the generation of divine graphs and charts at the cosmic origins. The rest of the poem contains references to revealed sacred texts, as well as descriptions of celestial topography and sweeping heavenly vistas. The last two couplets reflect the apocalyptic expectations common in Daoist circles during the fifth and sixth centuries.213 The first characters in lines 10 and 11—qing 青 and tong 童—spell out the name of Qingtong, the Azure Lad, the Lord of the East in the Shangqing tradition, who is an intermediary of the expected messiah Li Hong 李弘, the Sage of the Latter Heaven. It is remarkable that Yu Xin breaks up the name of the Azure Lad, similar to the manner common in Daoist prophetic verse.214 His appearance here exhibits a certain incoherence, for the Azure Lad

210 211 212

213

214

Metropolis) (Wenxuan 3.104; Knechtges, Wen Xuan, vol. 1, 260–61). See Yu Kaifu quan ji jian zhu 3.41 and Yu Zishan jizhu 5.393. Probably a different celestial location is meant here. The eight winds are the winds of the four cardinal and four intercardinal directions. The Lesser Chamber Mountain (Shaoshi shan 少室山) is the western peak of Mount Song. Lu Qinli, 2349. Two kinds of “Three Disasters” (sanzai 三災) exist. The minor ones are caused by the sword, pestilence, and famine, and appear during decadent world periods. The major disasters, which destroy the world at the end of a cosmic kalpa, are caused by fire, water, and wind. Daoist messianism and apocalyptic thought in early medieval China are studied in Seidel, “The Image of the Perfect Ruler in Early Taoist Messianism” and “Taoist Messianism”; Bokenkamp, “Time After Time.” For a study of early seventh-century prophetic verse connected with Li Yuan’s 李淵 (Tang Gaozu, r. 618–626) seizure of power, in which the name of a messiah is similarly broken

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is associated with the Shangqing tradition and he does not otherwise figure in Lingbao texts. According to Stephen Bokenkamp, he is pictured here as a savior, “listening for reports of the just seed-people whom he will save from the coming disasters.”215 In the last line the poet speaks of the ultimate salvation— to be carried unharmed, as a “seed-person” (zhongmin 種民), over the three disasters of fire, water, and wind that destroy the world at the end of a cosmic kalpa. Salvation, which in the Daoist buxu set came as the culmination of a ritual process, takes place here in the very opening song. In fact, this song in itself succinctly reproduces the whole cosmic cycle: it starts with the cosmological origination of the universe and finishes with its final destruction, whereby only the deserving few are carried over. The replication of the cosmic cycle is also one of the most salient features of Daoist ritual, which commences with the “creation of the world” through establishing a ritual area—a perfect spatial and temporal model of the world— and ends in its destruction, whereby all participants advance in their merits.216 Although Yu Xin makes no references here to ritual performance, the text can be perceived as a synthesis of the essence and significance of the Daoist liturgy. While the first poem of Yu Xin’s set exhibits certain narrative development and a relative coherence of religious concepts, the others are much more eclectic in their terminology and ideas. Here is the fifth poem of the set: 洞靈尊上德

215 216 217

In the Cavernous Numen venerate the supreme virtue,217

up, see Bokenkamp, “Time After Time,” 77–81. The image of the Azure Lad in the Shangqing texts is studied in Kroll, “In the Halls of the Azure Lad.” Bokenkamp, “Time After Time,” 82, n. 62. Comprehensive introductions to Daoist ritual are provided in Schipper, The Taoist Body, chapter 5; Lagerwey, Taoist Ritual in Chinese Society and History. The strict parallelism of this couplet implies that the expression “Dongling” 洞靈 (Cavernous Numen) is used here as a place name. It might be situated in the highest heaven of the Grand Veil in the Grand Mystic Metropolis (Taixuan du), the residence of Yuanshi tianzun. According to Yuanshi wulao chishu yupian zhenwen tianshu jing 3 (DZ 22), on the twenty-third day of each month a divine assembly is held at the Cinnabar Platform of the Cavernous Numen (dongling dantai 洞靈丹臺) situated on the Jade Mountain in the Grand Mystic Metropolis (Taixuan du Yushan 太玄都玉山). There also exists a Spring of the Cavernous Numen (Dongling yuan 洞靈源), situated in Hunan province, which is one of seventy-two “blissful lands” (fudi) (Dongtian fudi yuedu mingshan ji).

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Immortality in the Context of the Human World 虞石會明真 要妙思玄牝 4

虛無養谷神 丹丘乘翠鳳 玄圃御斑麟 移梨付苑吏

8

種杏乞山人 自此逢何世

218

219

220

221

222

At Yushi meet the illustrious True Man.218 [In] profound subtlety contemplate the mysterious female, [In] Void and Non-actuality nurture the spirit of the valley.219 On the Cinnabar Hill mount a halcyon phoenix, At the Mystic Gardens drive a motley unicorn. Take away the pears, and entrust them to the garden keeper,220 Plant almonds, and give them to the mountain people.221 From this time on, in which generation shall we meet?222

The only source in which I was able to locate the expression “yushi” 虞石 is the Yuandynasty hagiographic collection Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian, juan 7, in the hagiography of the immortal Wang Xing 王興. In the first month of the second year of the Yuanfeng 元封 era (109 BC), Emperor Wu of Han ascended Mount Song, climbed the Great Yushi (Da Yushi 大虞石), where he erected a shrine for the Dao, and had Dong Zhongshu, Dong Fangshuo, and others fast and meditate on the gods. That night the emperor saw an immortal, who told him of the sweet flag (changpu) growing there, which would bring long life if ingested. In the variant recorded in the Shenxian zhuan, the place name Yushi is rendered “Da Yu shishi” 大愚石室 (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 10.354; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 341–342). See Daode jing 6: “The spirit of the valley never dies, this is called the mysterious female. The gate of the mysterious female is the root of Heaven and Earth” 谷神不死,是謂玄 牝,玄牝門,天地根. A reference to the story of the immortal Jie Xiang 介象, recorded in the Shenxian zhuan (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 9.324–326; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 189– 192). After learning of his alleged illness, Sun Quan 孫權 (182–252), the emperor of Wu, sent to him a gift of fine pears. Jie Xiang ate them and soon after underwent a faked death. After his burial he quickly reached Jianye 建鄴 (nowadays Nanjing) and entrusted the pears he had been given to the keeper of the imperial gardens. The ruler learned of this incident and opened Jie Xiang’s coffin, but all that was found in it was a talisman. This line alludes to the story of the immortal Dong Feng 董奉 contained in the Shenxian zhuan (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 10.333–336; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 141–145). Dong Feng lived on Mount Lu and cured the sick for free, only asking recovered patients to plant apricot kernels. After some years a luxuriant forest of several hundred thousand apricot trees was established. People could help themselves to the ripe fruits in return for leaving a corresponding measure of grain. Dong Feng distributed the grain he had collected in this way to aid the poor and gave away apricots to the passing travelers. This line probably references the separation between the Queen Mother of the West and King Mu of Zhou at the Azure-gem Pond. King Mu promised that he would return in three

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從今復幾春 海無三尺水 山成數寸塵

From today—how many times will spring return? The sea contains less than three feet of water,223 The mountain has become a few inches of dust.

The first line possibly refers to great divine assemblies in the Grand Mystic Metropolis of Lingbao Daoism. The following line also speaks of venerating the gods, but this time those taken from a different tradition. It probably refers to Emperor Wu of Han, who met in a dream an immortal on Mount Song after having established a Daoist shrine there. The two episodes are united not by the inner coherence of their traditions but solely through the strict parallelism of the couplet. In the second couplet Yu Xin refers to one of the most obscure passages of the Daode jing, with the third couplet we are in the mythic universe of the Chuci and the Shanhai jing, and in the fourth couplet we encounter stories from the traditions recorded in the Shenxian zhuan. The song concludes with a reference to the meeting between King Mu of Zhou and the Queen Mother of the West, and with the then-popular in southern poetry image of the Eastern Sea turning into mulberry fields, which conveyed the different time frame of the immortals. The other poems of the set also reflect a similar mixture of textual traditions. Some commence with abstract Daoist speculations, drawing almost verbatim from the Daode jing: 無名萬物始 有道百靈初

(ll. 1–2) 道生乃太乙 守靜即玄根

(ll. 1–2)

223 224 225

The Nameless is the origin of myriad things,224 Having the Way is the beginning of a hundred numina. (#6)225 What the Dao bears forth—this is the Grand Monad, Preserving quiescence—this is the root of Mystery. (#7)

years but failed to ever come back. This line refers to the legend of Ma Gu and the “mulberry fields of the Eastern Sea” discussed in chapter 3. This line alludes to Daode jing 1: “The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth, the named is the mother of myriad things” 無名天地之始,有名萬物之母. The order of some of the poems varies in the different editions. The numbers given here follow the order in Lu Qinli’s version.

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Yu Xin’s paraphrases of obscure passages from the Daode jing are highly uncommon in the poetry of the period. After the Eastern Jin, references to the Daode jing, once popular in xuanyan poetry, had disappeared from the poetic vocabulary in southern China. Nor are they found in other poems on Daoist themes by Yu Xin. The frequent use of references to the Daode jing here might be explained by the importance attached to this scripture by the Louguan 樓 觀 tradition (the reformed northern Celestial Masters), which was influential in the North and officially sponsored by the Northern Zhou rulers at the time Yu Xin was detained there. The Louguan Daoists venerated as their founder Yin Xi 尹喜, the guardian of the Hangu Pass 函谷關, at whose request Laozi wrote his scripture in five thousand words, and adopted the Daode jing as their principal text. In these poems Yu Xin devotes considerable space to describing celestial landscapes. His depictions take the form of polished parallel couplets, replete with beautiful images of sparkling gems, colors, and light: 五香芬紫府 千燈照赤城

(ll. 3–4) 北閣臨玄水 南宮坐絳雲

(ll. 1–2)

The five fragrances waft in the Purple Prefecture,226 A thousand lamps lit up the Crimson City.227 (#3) The Northern Tower looks down on the Dark River, The Southern Palace rests on scarlet clouds. (#8)

The heavenly scenes resound with all-pervading divine music, which sets everything in motion: 回雲隨舞曲 流水逐歌弦

(ll. 7–8) 226

227

The turning clouds follow the dance tunes, The flowing water trails after songs and strings. (#4)

In his commentary Wu Zhaoyi refers to Yunji qiqian 41, where the five fragrances (wuxiang) are identified as (1) angelica (baizhi 白芷), which dispels the three cadavers (sanshi) from the human body; (2) peach bark, which guards against bad energy; (3) cypress leaves, which induce immortals and True Men to descend; (4) the lingling 零陵 plant, which attracts sages to gather; and (5) birthwort (qingmu xiang 青木香, Aristolochia contorta), which purges grime and summons the True Men (Yu Kaifu ji jianzhu 3.46). On the Purple Prefecture, situated on the mythical continent of Zhangzhou, see chapter 4. The Crimson City is one of the ten major grotto-heavens of the Shangqing tradition. It is the Chicheng 赤城 Grotto in the Tiantai Mountains in Zhejiang, the site of the Shangyu qingping 上玉清平 heaven.

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These verses betray the striving for the beautiful and sensuous descriptions of paradise typical in southern court poetry, which have already been discussed in chapter 4. Yu Xin’s visions abound in colorful effects, further emphasized by the strict parallelism of the lines, and are infused with auditory and olfactory perceptions (the celestial music, the wafting fragrances) and with feelings of cold and warmth suggested by images connected with the north and darkness (the Northern Tower, Dark River) and with the south and sunlight (the Southern Palace, scarlet clouds, bright lamps). The otherworldly landscapes are thus made almost tangible for the listener. Images of ecstatic celestial travels through the most mystic reaches of the universe feature very prominently in Yu Xin’s poems: 飄颻入倒景 出沒上煙霞

(ll. 3–4) 歸心游太極 回向入無名

(ll. 1–2) 寂絕乘丹氣 玄明上玉虚

(ll. 3–4)

Whirling and swirling, enter the upturned lights, Now coming forth, now gone, rise into the misty auroras. (#2) Returning the heart to roam in the Grand Culmen,228 Turning direction and enter the Nameless. (#3) In utter silence mount cinnabar breath, In mystic luminosity rise to the Jade Void.229 (#6)

In their mystic exaltation these couplets are closer to religious poetry than to the youxian verse of the period, in which the theme of the cosmic journey had receded to the background. The couplets cited above exhibit such coherently absorbed complexes of religious ideas it might seem that the secular poet has adopted the inspired diction of a Daoist initiate. However, the Daoist discourse and the exalted imagery of celestial flights, heavenly scenery, and divine scriptures are limited to the first part of each poem. Immediately after he offers us a glimpse into the highest heavens, Yu Xin bring us back to the concerns of the earthly poet and, in the second half of each poem, turns his attention to the xian immortals and 228

229

Taiji 太極, the Grand Culmen (translated also as Supreme/Great Ultimate or Grande Bourne) is the supreme principle of existence, the undifferentiated source of yin and yang. On the mystic zone of the Jade Void, see chapter 4.

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their exploits. Moreover, he indulges in the current fashion of stringing together allusions to otherwise unrelated stories, which we have encountered earlier in this chapter in his matching poem on “Roaming into Immortality.” The major sources of his learned references are the Shenxian zhuan, the Liexian zhuan, and the Han Wudi neizhuan, well-known by the members of the southern elite. No references of this kind are to be found in the religious Daoist verse. The older xian immortals held such a low status within the celestial hierarchy that they never attracted the interest of religious authors, who turned their attention to much loftier divinities and more sublime celestial spheres. Furthermore, allusions are not typical of Daoist poetry, which uses much more straightforward and less artful language. In the ninth poem Yu Xin even refers to unsuccessful human attempts at achieving immortality: 地鏡堦基遠 天窗影跡深 碧玉成雙樹 空青為一林 鵠巢堪煉石 蜂房得煮金 漢武多驕慢

4

230

231 232

233

234

In the Mirror of the Earth the steps lead far,230 In the window of heaven the reflected traces are deep.231 Cyan jade forms paired trees, Hollow azurite makes a whole forest.232 Among crane nests one may smelt stones, Among beehives one may boil gold.233 Emperor Wu of Han was too arrogant,234

The Dijing 地鏡 (Mirror of the Earth) is an early sixth-century manual on the properties of soils and stones, providing instructions for locating minerals and treasures below ground by various signs above. Sui shu 34.1038 lists a Liang-dynasty Dijing in one juan and a Dijing tu 地鏡圖 (Illustrated Mirror of the Earth) in six juan. On the “Mirror of the Earth,” see Ho Peng Yoke, Explorations in Daoism: Medicine and Alchemy in Literature, 95–103, where the surviving fragments of the Dijing tu are also translated. The expression tianchuang 天窗 (lit. “heavenly window”) denotes a crevice in a cave or in a deep gorge through which light comes down. The term “hollow azurite” (kongqing 空青, lit. “hollow green”) designates the mineral malachite in a nodular form with large holes, as distinguished from the stratified form (cengqing 曾青). See Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. V.3, 15. Ban Gu in the “Zhongnan shan song” 終南山頌 (Eulogy on Mount Zhongnan) writes about beehives on the cliffs. The “crane nests” and “beehives” are probably metonymy for reclusion in the mountains. The immortal Master Horseneigh (Maming sheng 馬鳴生), master of the adept Yin Changsheng, boiled (zhu 煮) yellow stones into gold as a sign to his disciple (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 5.171; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 275). After meeting the Queen Mother of the West, Emperor Wu failed to follow her teachings and benefit from the sacred texts she had bestowed on him. The goddess said of him that

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淮南不小心 蓬萊入海底 何處可追尋

The King of Huainan was not careful.235 Penglai has sunk to the bottom of the sea, At what place should one look for it ?236

The first couplet entails the kind of wordplay favored by Yu Xin. The “Mirror of Earth” is the title of a scripture, but he employs this expression here in its literal meaning. The jade and azurite trees in the second couplet indicate paradise locales that cannot be identified with any certainty. The forest of “hollow azurite” might refer to a place situated in the Jade Purity heaven of the Shangqing tradition. According to the revealed commentary to the Dadong zhenjing (The True Scripture of the Great Profundity), “amid the Jade Purity heaven there are trees resembling pines. They are called the forest of hollow azurite (kongqing zhi lin 空青之林). If one eats their blooms, his body will become golden light.”237 A forest of “hollow azurite” (kongqing lin) is also said to be found on Fangzhu.238 On the other hand, in the Lingbao tradition the azurite forest is a hallmark of the marvelous realm of the Biluo 碧落 heaven, the sixth heaven of the northeast. The leaves of the trees there were inscribed in purple with the wondrous Lingbao scriptures by the Great Sages. When wind blew the trees, music issued.239 Even if Yu Xin evokes this exalted realm, any possible esoteric meaning is counterchecked by the next couplet, which takes us abruptly back to earth, to the alchemical pursuits of immortality adepts. We get even further

235

236 237 238 239

“his appearance was arrogant and his spirit was tarnished” (xing man shen hui 形慢神穢) and he lacked the “immortal’s talent” (xiancai 仙才) (Han Wudi neizhuan in Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 146). According to Ge Hong, when Liu An was honored with an audience with the Thearch on High, he behaved inappropriately. He sat with his legs spread, spoke loudly, and referred to himself with the form reserved for rulers—“I, the Single man” (guaren 寡人). For this rude breach of etiquette he was assigned to guard the celestial latrine for three years (Baopuzi neipian 20.350). In other versions of the story, Liu An behaved disrespectfully toward the immortal dignitaries (xianbo 仙伯) he hosted (Taiping yulan 186.7b; Taiping guanji 8.1). After the three years of punishment, he became an immortal without any office or rank. This line alludes to the unsuccessful expeditions of Qin Shi Huangdi and other rulers in search of Penglai—when the boats came close, the island sank into the sea. Shi sanshijiu zhang jing 釋三 十九 章經 (Exegesis of the Scripture in Thirty-Nine Stanzas), zhang 章 3 in Yunji qijian 8.3a. Maoshan zhi 28. Taishang zhutian lingshu duming miaojing 太上諸天靈書度命妙經 (Most High Miraculous Book of Salvation in the Numinous Writing of the Numerous Heavens, DZ 23) 23.3b.10–4a.4 from approximately 400 AD. This possible reference to the hollow azurite forest is pointed out in Bokenkamp, “Taoism and Literature,” 63.

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away from the celestial heights in the concluding quatrain, which refers to the frustrated pursuits of immortality. The lack of aptitude for immortality shown by various ancient sovereigns was a popular motif in the youxian verse at least since Guo Pu.240 Earlier in this chapter we encountered a very similar ending in Yu Xin’s poem “Fenghe Zhaowang youxian shi,” which recalls Emperor Wu’s futile quest for immortality and the elusive Penglai Island. While this topic fits within the repertoire of the youxian theme, it is not particularly appropriate for Daoist ritual hymns honoring divinities. The concluding poem of Yu Xin’s set consists almost exclusively of learned allusions to stories of immortals contained in the Liexian zhuan and the Shenxian zhuan: # 10

4

麟洲一海闊 玄圃半天高 浮丘迎子晉 若士避盧敖 經飡林慮李

240 241

242

243

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The Unicorn Continent is a whole ocean away,241 The Mystic Gardens rise through half the heaven. Floating Hill invites Zi Jin,242 Master Ruo avoided Lu Ao.243 [One] customarily dines on plums from Mount Linlu,244

Cf. the conclusion of Guo Pu’s “Youxian shi” #6: 燕昭無靈氣 King Zhao of Yan had no numinous qi, 漢武非仙才 Emperor Wu of Han lacked the immortal’s talent. (Lu Qinli, 866) Linzhou 麟洲, the Unicorn Continent, is one of the paradises described in the Shizhou ji—it is the Phoenix and Unicorn Continent 鳳麟洲, situated in the Western Sea (Wang Guoliang, Hainei shizhou ji yanjiu, 68). Zi Jin is the immortal Wangzi Qiao. This line alludes to the story of Wangzi Qiao and Fu Qiu, Floating Hill, as recorded in the Liexian zhuan. Wangzi Qiao roamed between the Yin and Luo Rivers, met the Daoist master Fu Qiu, and together they ascended Mount Song (Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 65). The story of Lu Ao 盧敖 and Master Ruo 若士 is recorded in the Shenxian zhuan (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 1.5; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 330–331). It had appeared earlier in Huainan honglie jijie 12.406–409 and in Lunheng 7. Lu Ao met the ancient immortal Master Ruo in the extreme north and asked him to become his master and friend. But Master Ruo resented Lu Ao’s boasting and left him, rising into the highest heavens. Mount Linlu 林慮 is situated in the western Lin 林 district of Henan Province. It appears in the Shenxian zhuan hagiography of Sun Bo 孫博, who entered it, refined a divine elixir there, and departed as an immortal (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 4.133; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 334–35). It also figures in some versions of the hagiography of Bo He 帛和. Dining on plums from Mount Linlu is not attested to elsewhere.

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舊食綏山桃 成丹須竹節 8

刻髓用蘆刀 無妨隱士去 即是賢人逃

From of old savors peaches from Mount Wei.245 To transform the elixir, bamboo segments are needed,246 To cut marrow a reed knife is used.247 Unhindered, the Concealed Master goes— This is the way the sage escapes.248

In diction and content this poem is undistinguishable from the other youxian poems by Yu Xin and his contemporaries, which often took the form of long lists of allusions instead of depicting unified scenes or consistent actions. Although the title of the set makes it clear that it was intended to be an imitation of liturgical hymns, what emerges from the brush of the secular poet are no longer religious chants. Rather than keeping true to his prototype, Yu Xin 245

246

247

248

The peaches from Mount Wei are connected with the story of the immortal Ge You 葛由 recorded in the Liexian zhuan. Being chased by the nobles of Shu, he entered Mount Wei 綏, and none of those who went after him returned—they all became immortals. Other variants add that peaches grow on this mountain: “If one gets a single peach from Mount Wei, although he will not become immortal, it is enough to make him extraordinary” (Liexian zhuan jiaojian, 50–51). This line is probably a reference to an elixir mentioned in the Shenxian zhuan, the Red Spring Divine Elixir (hongquan shendan 紅泉神丹), the recipe for which was obtained by Shen Wentai 沈文泰, who transmitted it to Li Wenyuan 李文淵. This method consists of cooking the elixir with bamboo root juice (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 1.12; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 334). In Baopuzi 4 Ge Hong gives instructions for making a certain Li Wen’s 李文 elixir by combining cinnabar with hematite (baisu 白素) and cooking them in bamboo juice (Baopuzi neipian 4.80). This line probably refers to an elixir; the meaning of the reed knife in conjunction with marrow is unclear, however. Ni Fan supposes that sui 髓 (“marrow”) might mean crane’s marrow here (Yu Zishan jizhu, 402). On the other hand, in his commentary Wu Zhaoyi refers to a tree recorded in the Tang-era Xiyang zazu 西陽雜俎, the fruits of which taste bitter when cut with a reed knife (ludao 蘆刀). The early medieval Shenyi jing 神異經 (Scripture on Divine Marvels) probably describes the same wondrous tree, here referred to as ruhe 如 何, as growing in the Southern Desert (Nanhuang 南荒). It blooms once every three hundred years and bears fruits once every nine hundred. If one uses a metal knife to cut the fruits, they taste sour; when cut with a reed knife, they taste bitter. Whoever eats them will become an earthbound immortal and will be immune to water, fire, and all kinds of swords (Han Wei Liuchao biji xiaoshuo daguan, 52). This line probably contains a reference to the story of Master Whitestone (Baishi xiansheng). In the Shenxian zhuan he is given the sobriquet Concealed Immortal (yindun xian) because “he was not anxious to ascend to the heavens to become a transcendent official, nor did he seek fame” (Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi 1.34; Campany, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth, 294).

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composes “roaming into immortality” poetry in the vein of the southern court poetry, but infuses it with a much stronger Daoist air. This “Daoization” is expressed in the adoption of esoteric terms and expressions, ecstatic flight imagery, names of mystic celestial locations, and references to Daoist festivals and sacred scriptures. At the same time the poet fully indulges in the passions of the literary salons—elaborate parallelism, deliberate verbal effects, paradoxical figures, wordplay, and extensive lists of allusions without deeper religious meaning. Yu Xin’s erudite references are based on a very broad range of sources—the Daode jing, esoteric Shangqing and Lingbao scriptures, texts in general circulation like the Shenxian zhuan, the Liexian zhuan, and the Han Wudi neizhuan, and ancient works of mythical lore like the Shanhai jing, the Mu tianzi zhuan, and the Chuci—that is, the whole range of Daoist texts that provided the imagery and vocabulary of the late Southern Dynasties poetry on immortality. Such eclecticism of textual traditions is typical for the youxian poetry written in the literary salons but does not occur in Daoist religious verse. Some of the individual couplets in Yu Xin’s stanzas suggest the complex borrowing of Daoist ideas, but the context of their occurrence amidst other lines, usually taken from different textual traditions, revokes any deeper religious connotations in the poem as a whole. These poems no longer represent the pacing of a Daoist master but that of an erudite and sophisticated court poet, who treads not on the void but on an intricate network of rich poetical and religious textual traditions.

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Conclusion In the centuries following the Six Dynasties the full diapason of Daoist imagery and diction was to be exploited by poets like Li Bai 李白 (701–762), Wu Yun 吳 筠 (?–778), and Cao Tang 曹淌 (fl. 847–883). During the Tang, youxian poetry reached its height, and it continued to be written by countless poets during the Song, Ming, and Qing, all the way down to the early twentieth century. The quantity of poetry on immortality composed in these later periods far exceeded its modest early medieval beginnings. The ninth-century poet Cao Tang, for instance, wrote ninety-eight poems with the title “Xiao youxian shi” 小遊仙詩 (Lesser Poems on Roaming into Immortality) and fifty entitled “Da youxian shi” 大遊仙詩 (Greater Poems on Roaming into Immortality), while during the early Qing, Li E 厲鶚 (1692–1752) composed three hundred works titled “Youxian shi.” In periods when Daoism enjoyed imperial patronage, youxian poetry and verse on other Daoist themes gained more outspoken religious dimensions and adopted richer and more fully developed religious vocabulary. Still, the themes, the clusters of topics and imagery, and the vocabulary and allusions that took form during the Six Dynasties, and which I have traced in this book, provided the basis for later representations of immortality. Early medieval poems on immortality, especially those by Cao Zhi and Guo Pu, continued to be admired and imitated by later poets. Even Yu Xin’s “Daoshi buxu ci,” itself an imitation of Daoist ritual hymns, became a model for imitation during the Ming.1 The continuity of literary traditions was maintained throughout late imperial China, and echoes of early medieval verse on immortality can even be perceived in poems written in the 1930s. In this book we could witness this remarkable continuity not only across dynastic boundaries but also across genres and thematic categories of poetry during a span of almost eight centuries. We observed the mirroring of themes, topics, and vocabulary during a certain period in compositions conventionally segregated into disparate genres and possessing different social functions: fu, yuefu, lyrical poetry, even encomia and eulogia. Early medieval representations of immortality drew heavily on Chuci poetry and its Han-dynasty interpretations. From the Chuci poetic idiom, authors adopted the theme of the cosmic journey; ornate, exotic imagery and diction; and the intimate interconnections between the two themes of itineraria and lament. Throughout the 1 A set of four buxu poems by Zhu Rangxu 朱讓栩, Prince Cheng of Shu 蜀成王 (d. 1547), contained in the Changchun jingchen gao 長春競辰稿 is one example; it is briefly discussed in Richard G. Wang, The Ming Prince and Daoism, 131.

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early medieval period, the Chuci remained an ever-renewed source of inspiration for the poets, who, in different periods and in differing social and intellectual contexts, exploited and modified various themes and tropes that originated in Chuci poetry and imbued them with new meanings. Thus, a cosmic itineraria could be transformed into the ecstatic journey of a Daoist adept (as in the “Yuanyou”), into a mystic mountain ascent (in Sun Chuo’s “You Tiantai shan fu”), or into ornate descriptions of splendid celestial processions (in many Qi- and Liang-dynasty youxian poems). The lament theme, which initially voiced the sorrows of a rejected loyal courtier, could lose its sociopolitical undertones and become anguished existential questioning, induced by the awareness of the transience and limitations of human life, as in the poetry of Ruan Ji, Xi Kang, and Guo Pu. The splendid luminous imagery surrounding celestial deities in the Chuci was later adopted as an attribute of immortals and acquired new significance in the context of immortality. The feasts with music and dance, which had transported the original Chuci protagonists into higher spheres, could become the sole theme of a “roaming into immortality” poem, such as in some works by Zhang Hua, Wang Rong, and Shen Yue, to name but a few. They could even replace the distant journey as a hallmark of immortality or be transformed into highly embellished images of court banquets and gatherings—the very occasions of the poems’ composition. In representing immortality the literati also drew on the repertoire of more popular imagery and colloquial diction pertaining to the yuefu tradition, on ancient mythology in its early medieval interpretations, and above all on various Daoist textual traditions. As we have seen, the various concepts of xian-ship and the methods for its attainment, the immortal personages, their activities and attributes, and the vocabulary used are all rooted in Daoist texts. Even more significantly, the poetry composed by secular writers reflects the evolution and transformations of the notions connected with immortality in Daoist religious traditions. During the Han dynasty and throughout the Jin, poets adopted much from the vocabulary and ideas of early Daoist thought as developed in the Zhuangzi and the Huainanzi. They stressed the spiritual aspects of xian immortality— mystic withdrawal from the outside world, purity and simplicity, unity with the Dao, and unrestrained freedom, concretized through images of ecstatic flight through the cosmos. Inner cultivation techniques expounded upon in pre-Han and early Han Daoist texts—breathing exercises, gymnastics, meditation, and the absorption of cosmic fluids—were very prominent in youxian verse during the Han and Jin. The yuefu presumably dating from the late second and early third centuries, on the other hand, reflect the concept of immortality as practiced at the Han courts—immortality in terms of the endless prolongation

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of life achieved through the consumption of a ready-made elixir that was bestowed by divinities in paradise. During the late third and fourth centuries, the mystic aspects of immortality received increasing emphasis in poetry, reflecting the concerns of the xuanyan discourse. In the verse of this period, abstract philosophical concepts and vocabulary interwove with then-current Daoist methods of nourishing life. In representing immortality the poets of the late third and fourth centuries also drew on the poetic repertoire of idealized eremitism, which was well established in the literature of the period. The topos of reclusion was mirrored in Daoist religious discourse as well, which developed the concept of the earthbound immortal (dixian), who, instead of rising to heaven to serve in the celestial bureaucracy, preferred to linger in absolute freedom and everlasting life in this world amid the great mountains. The representation of immortality in the poetry of the day similarly reflected the prevailing ideal of lofty disengagement. The transcendental immortals who had formerly traversed the cosmos in all directions often descended to earth to partake of the attractive nature of the Daoist recluses as we have seen, for instance, in many poems by Guo Pu. This transformation of the image of immortality was paralleled by a certain “naturalization” of fantastic paradise scenery, whereby the poets frequently transposed otherworldly realms onto the alluring mountain landscapes of the earthly recluses. The xuanyan discourse and verse of the period turned to the metaphysical dimensions of nature as the embodiment of the cosmic processes and of the very Dao itself. In addition, different temporal and spatial dimensions paralleling ordinary experience—such as the paradisiacal grottoheavens hidden within the mountains or the esoteric “true form” (zhenxing) of natural landmarks—received much attention in the Daoist religious thought of the period. Likewise, by the end of the fourth century, the literati, when writing on the youxian theme, frequently describe the sacred and timeless otherworld underlying this-worldly nature. Many Eastern Jin authors question the need to strive after distant higher realms and give preference to eternal life in an earthly paradise instead of a celestial flight to the worlds beyond. On the other hand, somewhat later poems traditionally classified as youlan (“sightseeing”), which emphasize the actuality of poetic experience, might be imbued with features of the “otherworld of paradise”—the distortion of the logical rules of time and space, paradoxical figures, and striking metaphors—as can be seen in works by Xie Lingyun and Jiang Yan. The Jin-dynasty poets also paid increasing attention to naturally found elixirs of mineral or botanical origins as agents of achieving immortality. From the late third century onward, the theme of youxian often interwove with the

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then-popular topic of caiyao, that is, gathering “herbs” and mineral drugs in the mountains, which might have been immediately connected with the personal pursuits of the authors. Furthermore, many Eastern Jin representations of immortality reflect the concern with contemplative visualization that was shared by both Buddhist and Daoist thought of the period. For poets such as Guo Pu, Zhi Dun, and Sun Chuo it was also the conscious act of image-making that transported the protagonist into the worlds beyond, whereby he could embrace the whole universe “between an upward and downward glance.” After the establishment of the Eastern Jin in the south, and especially from the late fifth century onward, we can observe significant transformations in all the aspects of representations of immortality discussed in this book. While the earlier poetry drew mainly on the traditions recorded in the Liexian zhuan, the Southern Dynasties poets increasingly referred to immortal personages popular in fourth-century hagiographic sources and records of strange phenomena, especially the Shenxian zhuan. The ideal of spiritual freedom and spontaneity, which informed the youxian theme during the Jin period, gave way to dazzling visions of the otherworld, in which divine majesty and courtly glamour interwove. The image of the disengaged immortal was replaced by that of the dignified celestial courtier, who participates in divine audiences and enjoys all the pleasures of a high rank. Similarly, the otherworldly scenery depicted in poetry became less “natural” and less numinous; being cultivated and tamed, it merged with the refined court ambience. I have connected these shifts in the depictions of immortality with the sophisticated court culture within which poetry was composed and consumed, with the public context of writing youxian poetry, with the more general aesthetic concerns of the southern literary salons, and with the new and loftier image of the True Ones within southern Daoist religion. Furthermore, in Southern Dynasties poetry the techniques of spiritual cultivation based on pre-Han and early Han Daoist sources were gradually replaced by the higher art of alchemy. During the Qi and Liang, the religious message and poetics of the Shangqing revelations began to enter the consciousness of the cultural elite. In the poetry of the period, there are references to specific alchemical concoctions and interiorized meditation practices of the Shangqing tradition, an emphasis on divine scriptures that was central to the Shangqing school, and a general “Daoization” of the attainment of immortality, which is perceived more as mastering arcane arts than as travelling to distant paradises. In many cases the poems reflect the actual spiritual and alchemical pursuits of their authors. Many poems were, moreover, created on occasions that might be designated as “Daoist”: having a dream vision and acquiring a sacred scripture (Xie Lingyun’s “Luofu shan fu”), being presented with an elixir (the “Youxian”

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poem by Emperor Wu of Liang) or a method for its preparation, exchanging poetic correspondence with a Daoist friend (Shen Yue’s poems addressed to Tao Hongjing), participating in a religious ceremony (Shen Yue’s “Huashan guan wei guojia ying gongde”), or visiting Daoist temples. Some of the court verse on immortality was created under the direct influence, and even in imitation, of Daoist ritual hymns (Yu Xin’s “Daoshi buxu ci”). The figure of Tao Hongjing was, beyond doubt, instrumental in disseminating the new esoteric knowledge, both through his compiling and editorial work and personal contacts. Most of the compositions that bear the impact of the Shangqing revelations came from the brushes of poets who had personal links with Tao Hongjing: Shen Yue, Fan Yun, Xie Tiao, Xiao Yan (Emperor Wu of Liang), and Xiao Yi (Emperor Yuan of Liang). Nevertheless, on other court occasions—on an outing, at a banquet, or at a literary gathering—a poet such as Shen Yue or Yu Xin could simply use Daoist imagery in formal, ornamental fashion, as a trope for court elegance and glory in order to flatter patrons and companions. It is significant to note that when the poets adopt Daoist imagery as poetic embellishment, they typically turn to Daoist lore preceding the Shangqing revelations: to the Kunlun-Penglai cluster of images and to divine figures such as Xi Wangmu and xian immortals recorded in earlier sources, above all Wangzi Qiao and Redpine. The new esoteric imagery and vocabulary, on the other hand, are employed in compositions that deal with more specific Daoist concerns. In this study I have repeatedly posed the question of the possible influences of Daoist verse on the poets of the Southern Dynasties. It is difficult to draw a line between the independent stylistic development of court poetry and the possible impact of revealed verse. Instead of one-directional influences, it would be more appropriate to speak in terms of resonance between the two: resonance in terms of themes, topics, imagery, and formal features. Both “secular” and religious poetry share many common topics: ecstatic celestial journeys, heavenly processions, and feasts in paradise accompanied by music, to name but a few. In imagery and diction the two types of verse were much indebted to the Chuci poetic tradition. Daoist religious verse itself drew on the adaptations of the youxian theme in the first centuries AD. The poetry dictated by Shangqing divinities was moreover designed to appeal to the sophisticated literary tastes of its intended gentry audience, even adopting pentasyllabic meter, which was increasingly popular among the southern men of letters. On the other hand, the general aesthetic pursuits in the literary salons of the Southern Dynasties involved a striving for more visually powerful and evocative imagery and diction—something in which the revealed poetry abounded. The major contribution of the new Daoist traditions (above all the Shangqing

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tradition, but to a certain extent the Lingbao as well) was that they furnished a new reservoir of available imagery from which the poets could draw depending on purpose, occasion, and audience, while retaining much of the established narrative plots and sequences of youxian poetry. As this survey has shown, the influence of Shangqing religious verse is most obvious in the adoption of certain esoteric terms and expressions, of meditation and alchemical practices, and of more exalted imagery, as well as in the inclusion of new paradise lands not found in earlier poetry. However, while Daoist verse turned to a novel, loftier pantheon of celestial beings and divinities, the literati showed a predilection for the older xian immortals from sources preceding the Shangqing revelations. Secular poets also dared not venture into the mystic regions of the highest empyrean recently disclosed by the Shangqing divinities. Moreover, the style of youxian verse, with its elaborate parallelism, deliberate verbal effects, and extensive lists of allusions, was generally in line with the poetic pursuits of the literary salons. Poets such as Yu Xin seemed to be interested not so much in the religious or philosophical messages of their Daoist sources but primarily used them as a source of striking images and new metaphors and as a means to show off their erudition. Their youxian poems often become elegant formal exercises, in which the artistic and witty manipulation of language matters more than any esoteric meaning. The verse on immortality created in the literary salons reflects the poets’ preoccupation with the craft of verse as such and the notion of poetry as an independent artistic object, rather than as a means to voice religious ideas. This survey of Daoist imagery in the poetry of the late Six Dynasties not only offers us a glance into the complex interaction between literature and Daoism but also helps us reevaluate the place of Daoist religious thought in the intellectual life of the period. The poems that have been discussed here are but a tiny fragment of a much larger, no longer extant corpus of texts. Nevertheless, it might not be too far-fetched to assume that such types of religiously tuned “secular” verse were no exception at the time. The public context of the composition of most of them indicates the presence of an audience expected to share the same esoteric knowledge. In this respect, the testimony provided by the non-canonical poetry tells us what competence in esoteric matters an early medieval author reasonably presumed of his listener—his fellow members of the literary salons and his royal patrons. During the Southern Dynasties the enigmatic names of alchemical elixirs, celestial locations, and inner cultivation practices, which in later times were no longer intelligible to traditional commentators, were not merely the domain of initiated practitioners or of few

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exceptionally well-read men of letters. They were integrated into a broader cultural repertoire shared by the elite in both southern and northern China. The discussion of the various aspects of early medieval representations of immortality also opens up richer connotations in the meaning of the term you (“roaming”), which, as the name of the thematic category of youxian suggests, was considered to be a hallmark of poetry on immortality. In the introduction to this book, I noted that the majority of poems titled “Youxian” actually do not present accounts of celestial journeys. If Daoists perceive the cosmos as a smooth continuum of levels of being, then the power of xian immortals to move spontaneously between these levels is what constitutes their roaming (you). Roaming does not necessarily involve travels to a distant paradise or to higher celestial regions, but rather signifies seamless transitions between various spheres and states of reality. You might also denote the immortals’ smooth passage to different temporal dimensions. The pervading vision, which moves from the outer configurations of nature to their true inherent, numinous form, is also a mode of you. As applied to poetry, you may have even broader implications. The very act of composing poetry on cosmic ramblings and paradise visions constitutes in itself such a you journey—a free wandering of a poet’s thoughts into otherworldly realms, perceived above all as a religious, intellectual, or aesthetic experience. If the Daoist adept had the power to render present divinities and paradise realms through visualization, then a poet had no less power to actualize his roaming into transcendence through his verse. Composing and consuming poetry on immortality could ultimately become a way of “crossing over” into the higher realms. It is hardly by chance that youxian verse and its effects on the listeners are often described as “floating and soaring, skimming the clouds.” In chapter 3 we witnessed how some authors created through their poetry alternative transcendental identities for themselves or for some of their contemporaries. The conscious act of representing immortality in poetry as a way of attaining immortality would be explicitly stated many centuries later by Li E, probably the most prolific youxian author ever. In the preface to the “Second Sequel to ‘One Hundred Songs on Roaming into Immortality’” (“Zai xu youxian baiyong” 再續遊仙百詠), he writes: In the past, Xie Yi 謝逸 (1066–1113) composed three hundred poems on butterflies and was called Xie the Butterfly (Xie Hudie 謝蝴蝶). If anyone knows about me now, won’t they consider me as Li the Roaming Immortal (Li Youxian 厲遊仙)?

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Extant Classical and Early Medieval Verse Treating the Theme of Immortality

Anonymous sao “Yuanyou” 遠遊 (Distant Journey), second half of the second century BC. Chuci buzhu 5.163–75. “Xishi” 惜誓 (Sorrow for the Oath Betrayed), second half of the second century BC. Chuci buzhu 11.227–31. “Zibei” 自悲 (Grieving for Myself) from the “Qijian” 七諫 (Seven Remonstrances) cycle, second half of the second century BC. Chuci buzhu 13.248–49. Anonymous shi “Gushi shijiu shou” 古詩十九首 (Nineteen Old Poems). Lu Qinli, 329–34; Wenxuan 29.1343–51. Anonymous yuefu “Bagong cao” 八公操 (Eight Sires), ascribed to Liu An, King of Huainan. Lu Qinli, 98–99; Yuefu shiji 58.851–52. “Buchu Xiamen xing” 步出夏門行 (Going Out of the Xia Gate Ballad). Lu Qinli, 267–68; Yuefu shiji 37.545. In Yutai xinyong 1 and Wenxuan buyi 34 with the title “Longxi xing” 隴西行 (Longxi Ballad). “Changge xing” 長歌行 (Long Song Ballad). Lu Qinli, 262–63; Yuefu shiji 30.442. “Dongtao xing” 董逃行 (Dongtao Ballad). Lu Qinli, 264; Yuefu shiji 34.503. “Huainan wang pian” 淮南王篇 (The King of Huainan). Lu Qinli, 276–77; Yuefu shiji 54.792. “Shanzai xing” 善哉行 (How Wonderful). Lu Qinli, 266; Yuefu shiji 36.535–36. “Shuixian cao” 水仙操 (Water Immortal). Lu Qinli, 320. “Wangzi Qiao” 王子喬. Lu Qinli, 261–62; Yuefu shiji 29.437. Ban Biao 班彪 (3–54) “Lanhai fu” 覽海賦 (Fu on Viewing the Sea). Quan Hou Han wen 23.4a–b; Quan Han fu, 252. Bao Zhao 鮑照 (ca. 414–466) “Baiyun shi” 白雲詩 (Poem on White Clouds). Lu Qinli, 1301; Bao Canjun jizhu, 175. “Dai Huainan wang” 代淮南王 (After the King of Huainan) #1. Lu Qinli, 1278; Yuefu shiji 55.797; Bao Canjun jizhu, 115–16.

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“Dai shengtian xing” 代昇天行 (After the Ballad Ascending to Heaven). Lu Qinli, 1264; Bao Canjun jizhu, 78–79. In Wenxuan 28.1329–30 and Yuefu shiji 63.920 with the title “Shengtian xing” 升天行 (Ascending to Heaven Ballad). “Guo Tongshan jue huangjing” 過銅山掘黃精詩 (Passing through Mount Tong, I Dig Up Yellow Essence). Lu Qinli, 1302–1303; Bao Canjun jizhu, 180–81. “Xiaoshi qu” 蕭史曲 (The Tune of the Flute Master). Lu Qinli, 1269; Yuefu shiji 51.748; Bao Canjun jizhu, 92. “Xingyao zhi chengdong qiao” 行藥至城東橋 (Under the Influence of the Drug, I Approach the Bridge to the East of the City Wall). Lu Qinli, 1301; Wenxuan 22.1056; Bao Canjun jizhu, 176–77. Bian Shao 邊韶 (ca. 100–ca. 170) “Laozi ming” 老子銘 (Inscription on Laozi), dated 165 AD. Quan Hou Han wen 62.3a–4a. Cai Yong 蔡邕 (133? –192) “Wangzi Qiao bei” 王子喬碑 (Wangzi Qiao Stele), dated 165 AD. Quan Hou Han wen 75.3a–b. Cao Cao 曹操 (155–220) “Jinglie” 精列 (Dissolution of the Essence). Lu Qinli, 346; Yuefu shiji 26.384; Wei Wudi Wei Wendi shizhu, 6. “Moshang sang” 陌上桑 (Mulberries along the Path). Lu Qinli, 348; Yuefu shiji 28.412; Wei Wudi Wei Wendi shizhu, 12–13. “Qichu chang” 氣出唱 (Song on Vital Breath Exhaled), three songs. Lu Qinli, 345–46; Yuefu shiji 26.383; Wei Wudi Wei Wendi shizhu, 3–5. “Qiuhu xing” 秋胡行 (Ballad of Qiuhu), two songs. Lu Qinli, 349–51; Yuefu shiji 36.527–28; Wei Wudi Wei Wendi shizhu, 20–22. Cao Pi 曹丕 (187–226) “Zhe yangliu xing” 折楊柳行 (Snapping a Willow Branch Ballad). Lu Qinli, 393; Yuefu shiji 37.547; Wei Wudi Wei Wendi shizhu, 46–47. In Yiwen leiju 78 with the title “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩; in Gu yuefu 4 with the title “Changge xing” 長歌行. Cao Pi 曹毗 (fl. 327–361) “Huangdi zan” 黃帝贊 (Encomium on the Yellow Emperor). Quan Jin wen 107.10b. In Gushi ji 32 with the title “Yongshi” 詠史 (Singing of History); in Lu Qinli, 888, with the title “Huangdi zan shi” 黃帝贊詩.

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Cao Zhi 曹植 (192–232) “Feilong pian” 飛龍篇 (Flying Dragon). Lu Qinli, 421–22; Yuefu shiji 64.926; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 397. “Guizhi shu xing” 桂之樹行 (Cassia Tree Ballad). Lu Qinli, 437–38; Yuefu shiji 61.886; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 399. “Kusi xing” 苦思行 (Bitter Thoughts Ballad). Lu Qinli, 439; Yuefu shiji 63.919; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 316. “Pingling dong” 平陵東 (East of Pingling). Lu Qinli, 437; Yuefu shiji 28.410; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 400. “Quche pian” 驅車篇 (Speeding My Chariot). Lu Qinli, 435; Yuefu shiji 64.928; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 404. “Shengtian xing” 升天行 (Ascending to Heaven Ballad), two pieces. Lu Qinli, 433; Yuefu shiji 63.919; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 266–67. “Wuyou yong” 五遊詠 (Fivefold Roaming). Lu Qinli, 433–34; Yuefu shiji 64.922; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 401. “Xianren pian” 仙人篇 (Immortals). Lu Qinli, 434; Yuefu shiji 64.923; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 263. “Youxian” 遊仙 (Roaming into Immortality). Lu Qinli, 456; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 265. “Yuanyou pian” 遠遊篇 (Distant Roaming). Lu Qinli, 434; Yuefu shiji 64.922; Cao Zhi ji jiaozhu, 402. Chenggong Sui 成公綏 (231–273) “Xian shi” 仙詩 (Poem on Immortality). Lu Qinli, 584–85. In Guan wenxuan 9 and Gushi ji 21 with the title “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 (Roaming into Immortality). Dai Gao 戴暠 (sixth century) “Shenxian pian” 神仙篇 (Divine Immortals). Lu Qinli, 2099; Yuefu shiji 64.924. Fan Yun 范雲 (461–503) “Da Gouqu Tao xiansheng shi” 答句曲陶先生詩 (In Response to Master Tao of Gouqu). Lu Qinli, 1545. Fu Xuan 傅玄 (217–278) “Yunzhong Bai Zigao xing” 雲中白子高行 (Bai Zigao among the Clouds Ballad). Lu Qinli, 564; Yuefu shiji 63.921. Gao Yun 高允 (390–487) “Wangzi Qiao” 王子喬. Lu Qinli, 2201; Yuefu shiji 29.438.

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Gao Yunsheng 高允生 (sixth century) “Wangzi Qiao xing” 王子喬行 (Ballad on Wangzi Qiao). Lu Qinli, 2113; Yuefu shiji 29.438. Guo Pu 郭璞 (276–324) “Shanhai jing tu zan” 山海經圖贊 (Encomia on the Illustrations of the Shanhai jing), 265 pieces. Quan Jin wen 122–123. “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 (Roaming into Immortality), nineteen poems and fragments. Lu Qinli, 865–67; poems #1–7 in Wenxuan 21.1018–24. Guo Yuanzu 郭元祖 (fourth century) “Liexian zhuan zan” 列仙傳贊 (Encomia on the Liexian zhuan), seventy encomia. Quan Jin wen 139. He Shao 何劭 (236–301) “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 (Roaming into Immortality). Lu Qinli, 649; Wenxuan 21.1017–18. Huan Tan 桓譚 (23 BC–56 AD, alt. ca. 43 BC–28 AD, 40 BC–31 AD) “Xian fu” 仙賦 (Fu on the Immortals). Quan Hou Han wen 12.7b; Quan Han fu, 248. Alternative titles “Wangxian fu” 望仙賦 (Fu on Watching the Immortals) and “Jiling fu” 集靈賦 (Fu on the Assembled Spirits). Jiang Yan 江淹 (444–505) “Biefu” 別賦 (Fu on Separation). Quan Liang wen 33.6a–7a; Wenxuan 16.750–59; Jiang Wentong ji huizhu, 35–42. “Cai shishang changpu shi” 採石上菖蒲詩 (Gathering Sweet Flag on the Rocks). Lu Qinli, 1566; Jiang Wentong ji huizhu, 116–17. “Cong guanjun Jianping wang deng Lushan Xianglu feng” 從冠軍建平王登盧山香爐峯 (Accompanying the General Commander of the Troops, the King of Jianping, I Ascend the Incense-Burner Peak of Mount Lu). Lu Qinli, 1557; Wenxuan 22.1058; Jiang Wentong ji huizhu, 103–104. “Dansha ke xue fu” 丹砂可學賦 (Fu on Alchemy Can Be Learned). Quan Liang wen 34.1b–2b; Jiang Wentong ji huizhu, 46–51. “Guo Hongnong Pu youxian” 郭弘農璞遊仙 (Roaming into Immortality [after] Guo Pu [Posthumously Known as Governor] of Hongnong). Lu Qinli, 1575–76; Wenxuan 31.1467; Jiang Wentong ji huizhu, 152. “Qingsi shi wushou” 清思詩五首 (Purifying the Thoughts, Five Poems) #5. Lu Qinli, 1583. “Yun shan zan sishou” 雲山贊四首 (Encomia on a Cloudy Mountain, Four Encomia). Quan Liang wen 39.1a–b; Jiang Wentong ji huizhu, 196–198. Alternative title “Xue shan zan” 雪山贊 (Encomia on a Snowy Mountain). The “Wang Taizi Qiao zan” 王太子喬 贊 from this series is also in Yuefu shiji 29.438 under the title “Wangzi Qiao” 王子喬.

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“Zeng liandan fa he Yin zhangshi shi” 贈鍊丹法和殷長史詩 (Presenting a Method of Refining the Elixir, Matching a Poem by Administrator Yin). Lu Qinli, 1564; Jiang Wentong ji huizhu, 111. Jiang Zong 江總 (519–594) “Xiaoshi qu” 蕭史曲 (Tune of the Flute Master). Lu Qinli, 2571; Yuefu shiji 51.749. Kang Hong 康泓 (fourth century) “Shan Daokai zhuan zan” 單道開傳贊 (Encomium on the Biography of Shan Daokai). Quan Jin wen 133.7a. Kong Ningzi 孔甯子 (?–425) “Qian huansheng ge” 前緩聲歌 (Former Song of Languid Music). Lu Qinli, 1138; Yuefu shiji 64.945. Kong Zhigui 孔稚珪 (447–501) “Chu Xiansheng Boyu bei” 褚先生柏玉碑 (A Stele on Master Chu Boyu). Quan Qi wen 19.8b–9a. Li Yong 李顒 (fl. 335–357) “Lingxian fu” 淩仙賦 (Fu on Ascending into Immortality). Quan Jin wen 53.11a. Liu Huan 劉緩 (fl. ca. 535–540) “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 (Roaming into Immortality). Lu Qinli, 1850. Liu Jun 劉駿 (430–464), Emperor Xiaowu of Song (Song Xiaowu di 宋孝武帝) “Dongjing zan” 洞井贊 (Encomium on the Grotto Well). Quan Song wen 6.10b. Liu Shan 劉刪 (late sixth century) “Caiyao you mingshan” 採藥遊名山 (Picking Drugs, I Roam the Famous Mountains). Lu Qinli, 2546–47. Liu Xiang 劉向 (77–8 BC) “Jiutan” 九歎 (Nine Laments). Chuci buzhu 16.281–312. Liu Xiaosheng 劉孝勝 (first half of the sixth century) “Shengtian xing” 升天行 (Ascending to Heaven Ballad). Lu Qinli, 2063; Yuefu shiji 63.920. Lu Chen 盧諶 (285–351, alt. 284–350) “Shi” 詩 (A Poem), two extant couplets. Lu Qinli, 885.

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Lu Huixiao 陸慧曉 (435–497) “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 (Roaming into Immortality), two extant couplets. Lu Qinli, 1462. Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303) “Dongwu yin xing” 東武吟行 (Ballad of the Dongwu Chant). Lu Qinli, 661; Yuefu shiji 41.608. “Liexian fu” 列仙賦 (Fu on Arrayed Immortals). Quan Jin wen 97.5b. “Lingxiao fu” 陵霄賦 (Fu on Skimming the Empyrean). Quan Jin wen 97.5b–6a. “Qian huansheng ge” 前緩聲歌 (Former Song of Languid Music). Lu Qinli, 664–65; Wenxuan 28.1314; Yuefu shiji 65.945. “Wangzi Qiao zan” 王子喬贊 (Encomium on Wangzi Qiao). Quan Jin wen 98.7a. Lu Sidao 盧思道 (535–586) “Houyuan yan shi” 後園宴詩 (Poem on a Feast in the Rear Garden). Lu Qinli, 2636. “Shengtian xing” 升天行 (Ascending to Heaven Ballad). Lu Qinli, 2629; Lu Sidao ji jiaozhu, 52–53; Yuefu shiji 63.920–21. “Shenxian pian” 神仙篇 (Divine Immortals). Lu Qinli, 2629; Lu Sidao ji jiaozhu, 50–52; Yuefu shiji 64.925. Lu Yu 陸瑜 (ca. 540–ca. 582) “Xianren lan liuzhu pian” 仙人覽六箸篇 (Immortals Grasp Six Game-Slats). Lu Qinli, 2539; Yuefu shiji 64.924. Lu Yun 陸雲 (262–303) “Choulin fu” 愁霖賦 (Fu on Grieving the Torrent). Quan Jin wen 100.2b–3b. “Dengxia song” 登遐頌 (Eulogies on Climbing the Distant). Quan Jin wen 103.9a–11a. “Xiji fu” 喜霽賦 (Fu on Rejoicing at the Rain Clearing). Quan Jin wen 100.3b–4a. “Yimin fu” 逸民賦 (Fu on Disengaged Men). Quan Jin wen 100.5b–6b. Mu Hua 木華 (fl. ca. 290) “Hai fu” 海賦 (Fu on the Sea). Quan Jin wen 105.7a–8b. Pan Ni 藩尼 (ca. 250–311) “You Xiyue shi” 遊西岳詩 (Roaming on the Western Marchmount), fragment. Lu Qnli, 771. Qian Xiu 牽秀 (d. 306) “Huangdi song” 黃帝頌 (Eulogy on the Yellow Emperor). Quan Jin wen 84.7a. “Laozi song” 老子頌 (Eulogy on Laozi). Quan Jin wen 84.7a–7b. “Pengzu song” 彭祖頌 (Eulogy on Pengzu). Quan Jin wen 84.7b.

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“Wang Qiao Chisong song” 王喬赤松頌 (Eulogy on Wangzi Qiao and Redpine). Quan Jin wen 84.7b. Ruan Ji 阮籍 (210–263) “Daren xiansheng zhuan” 大人先生傳 (Biography of Master Great Man). Quan Sanguo wen 46.5a–11a; Ruan Ji ji jiaozhu, 161–93. “Laozi zan” 老子贊 (Encomium on Laozi). Quan Sanguo wen 45.3b; Ruan Ji ji jiaozhu, 193. “Yonghuai shi bashi er shou” 詠懷詩八十二首 (Singing of My Feelings, Eighty-Two Poems). Lu Qinli, 496–510; Ruan Ji ji jiaozhu, 207–405. Shen Yue 沈約 (441–513) “Chisongzi jian” 赤松子澗 (The Stream of Master Redpine). Lu Qinli, 1639; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 364. “Chou Huayang Tao xiansheng shi” 酬華陽陶先生詩 (In Response to Master Tao of Huayang). Lu Qinli, 1637; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 360. “Chou Kong tongzhi Ti huai Peng shi” 酬孔通直逖懷蓬詩 (In Response to [Clerk with] Comprehensive Duties Kong Ti’s Poem “Yearning of Penglai”). Lu Qinli, 1661; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 435. “Feng Huayang wang waibing shi” 奉華陽王外兵詩 (Respectfully Offered to [General of] Outer Troops, [Tao Hongjing] of Huayang). Lu Qinli, 1638; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 363. “He Jingling wang youxian shi er shou” 和竟陵王遊仙詩二首 (Two Poems Matching a Poem on Roaming into Immortality by Prince of Jingling). Lu Qinli, 1636–37; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 356–57. “He Liu Yongzhou Hui boshan xianglu shi” 和劉雍州繪博山香爐詩 (Matching a Poem on a Boshan Censer by Liu Hui, Governor of Yong Province). Lu Qinli, 1646; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 384. “He Liu zhongshu xianshi ershou” 和劉中書仙詩二首 (Two Poems Matching a Poem on Immortality by [Clerk of the] Central Secretariat Liu). Lu Qinli, 1660; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 432. “He Wang zhongshu Dechong baiyun shi” 和王中書德充白雲詩 (Matching a Poem on the White Clouds by [Clerk of the] Central Secretariat Wang Dechong). Lu Qinli, 1645; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 383. “Huan yuanzhai fengchou Huayang xiansheng” 還園宅,奉酬華陽先生 (Returning to My Garden Home—in Respectful Response to the Master of Huayang). Lu Qinli, 1638; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 361. “Huashan guan wei guojia ying gongde” 華山館為國家營功德 (In a Temple on Mount Hua Establishing Merit on Behalf of the State and Royal Family). Lu Qinli, 1660; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 433.

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“Huayang Tao xiansheng denglou bufu xia” 華陽陶先生登樓不復下 (Master Tao of Huayang Climbs the Loft Never to Come Back). Lu Qinli, 1638; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 362. “Jiaoju fu” 郊居賦 (Fu on Dwelling in the Suburbs). Quan Liang wen 25.2b–6b; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 5–13. “Qian huansheng ge” 前緩聲歌 (Former Song of Languid Music). Lu Qinli, 1619–20; Yuefu shiji 65.946; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 303. “You Jinhua shan” 遊金華山 (Roaming on Mount Jinhua). Lu Qinli, 1633–34; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 346. “You Shen Daoshi guan” 遊沈道士館詩 (Roaming to the Temple of the Daoist Priest Shen). Lu Qinli, 1637; Wenxuan 22.1062–63; Shen Yue ji jiaojian, 359. Sima Xiangru 司馬相如 (179 –117 BC) “Daren fu” 大人賦 (Fu on the Great Man). Quan Han wen 21.7a–8a; Quan Han fu, 91–96. Sun Chuo 孫綽 (314–371, alt. 310–371) “Liexian zhuan zan” 列仙傳贊 (Encomia on Liexian zhuan), two encomia on Laozi and Shang Qiuzi 商丘子 extant. Quan Jin wen 61.8a. “You Tiantai shan fu” 遊天台山賦 (Fu on Roaming the Celestial Terrace Mountains). Quan Jin wen 61.1a–2b; Wenxuan 11.493–501. Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 (456–536) “Gaoshi pian” 告逝篇 (Announcing My Departure). Lu Qinli, 1813; Tao Hongjing ji jiaozhu, 53. “Huayang song” 華陽頌 (Eulogies on Huayang). Tao Hongjing ji jiaozhu, 40–52. “Shuixian fu” 水仙賦 (Fu on Water Immortal). Quan Liang wen 46.1b–2a; Tao Hongjing ji jiaozhu, 14–31. “Yun shang zhi xianfeng fu” 雲上之仙風賦 (Fu on the Wind of Immortality from above the Clouds). Quan Liang wen 46.1a–b; Tao Hongjing ji jiaozhu, 31–34. Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365–427), alternate name Tao Qian 陶潛 “Du Shanhai jing shi shisan shou” 讀山海經詩十三首 (On Reading the Book of Mountains and Seas, Thirteen Poems). Lu Qinli, 1010–12; Tao Yuanming ji jiaojian, 334–55. The introductory poem of the cycle also in Wenxuan 30.1392. “Xing ying shen” 形影神 (Body, Shadow, and Spirit). Lu Qinli, 989–90; Tao Yuanming ji jiaojian, 59–69. Wang Bao 王褒 (ca. 84–ca. 53 BC) “Jiuhuai” 九懷 (Nine Regrets). Chuci buzhu 15.268–80.

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Wang Bao 王褒 (ca. 511–ca. 575, alt. 513–576) “He congdi You shanjia shi er shou” 和從弟祐山家詩二首 (Two Poems Matching a Poem on Dwelling in the Mountains by My Younger Cousin You). Lu Qinli, 2338. “Qingju pian” 輕舉篇 (Rising Lightened). Lu Qinli, 2331; Yuefu shiji 64.923. Wang Can 王粲 (177–217) “Baihe fu” 白鶴賦 (Fu on the White Crane). Quan Hou Han wen 90.6b; Quan Han fu, 678. Wang Rong 王融 (468–494) “Youxian shi wushou” 遊仙詩五首 (Roaming into Immortality, Five Poems). Lu Qinli, 1398. Poem #3 is included in Yuefu shiji 64.924 with the title “Shenxian pian” 神仙篇 (Divine Immortals). Wang Yun 王筠 (481–549) “Dongnan Yeshan shi” 東南射山詩 (Poem on Mount Ye in the Southeast). Lu Qinli, 2017. Wu Jun 吳均 (469–520) “Caiyao Dabu shan shi” 採藥大布山詩 (Gathering Herbs on Mount Dabu). Lu Qinli, 1739. “Deng Zhongshan yanji wang Xijing tan shi” 登鍾山讌集望西靜壇詩 (Ascending Mount Zhong and Assembling for a Feast, I Gaze at the Platform of the Western Tranquility). Lu Qinli, 1730. “Langu shi” 覽古詩 (Poem on Viewing the Past). Lu Qinli, 1747. Wu Maiyuan 吳邁遠 (d. 474) “You Lushan guan daoshi shi shi” 遊廬山觀道士石室詩 (Roaming on Mount Lu I Gaze at the Stone Chamber of a Daoist Master). Lu Qinli, 1321. Xi Han 嵇含 (263–306) “Hanshi san fu” 寒食散賦 (Fu on Cold Food Powder). Quan Jin wen 65.5a. Xi Kang 嵇康 (224–263) “Da Er Guo sanshou” 答二郭三首 (Answer to the Two Guo, Three Poems). Lu Qinli, 486–87; Xi Kang ji jiaozhu, 63. “Dai Qiuhu ge shi” 代秋胡歌詩 (After the Song of Qiuhu) #6, #7. Lu Qinli, 480; Xi Kang ji jiaozhu, 50–52. Alternative title “Zhongzuo siyan shi” 重作四言詩 (Four-Syllable Poems Rewritten). “Shuzhi shi er shou” 述志詩二首 (Voicing My Aspirations, Two Poems). Lu Qinli, 488–89; Xi Kang ji jiaozhu, 35–37. “Siyan shi shiyi shou” 四言詩十一首 (Four-Syllable Poems, Eleven Poems) #10. Lu Qinli, 485.

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“Wuyan shi sanshou” 五言詩三首 (Five-Syllable Poems, Three Poems) #3. Lu Qinli, 489. “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 (Roaming into Immortality). Lu Qinli, 488; Xi Kang ji jiaozhu, 39–40. “Zeng xiong xiucai rujun shi shiba shou” 贈兄秀才入軍詩十八首 (Eighteen Poems, Presented to My Elder Brother, the Xiucai, on His Entry into the Army). Lu Qinli, 482–484; Xi Kang ji jiaozhu, 6–20. Xiao Gang 蕭綱 (502–551), Emperor Jianwen of Liang (Liang Jianwen di 梁建文帝) “Shengxian pian” 昇仙篇 (Ascending to Immortality). Lu Qinli, 1916; Yuefu shiji 64.926. “Xianke shi” 仙客詩 (An Immortal Guest). Lu Qinli, 1934. Xiao Wei 蕭撝 (514–573) “He Liang Wuling wang yaowang daoguan shi” 和梁武陵王遙望道館詩 (Matching a Poem on Gazing to a Daoist Temple in the Distance by the Liang Prince of Wuling). Lu Qinli, 2328. Xiao Yan 蕭衍 (464–549), Emperor Wu of Liang (Liang Wudi 梁武帝) “Changhe pian” 閶闔篇 (The Changhe Gate). Lu Qinli, 1515–16; Yuefu shiji 64.932. “Shangyun yue” 上雲樂 (Music of the Supreme Clouds), seven songs. Lu Qinli, 1524–26;