By Robert Ford Campany
The original author of this collection was Ge Hong (283-343 CE), an aristocratic scholar and Daoist practitioner. It is a collection because Ge Hong assembled and organized but did not attempt to systematize these aspects of Chinese religious life that have echoed through Chinese thought ever since. The individual tales of what are often called “Immortals,” but which the introductory text explains as a more complex issue of Daoist thought, cover dietetic, alchemical, meditative, dance and exercise, sexual, and medicinal disciplines for life extension. A brief selection from the text provides the best sense of the translation:
“Chen Zhuang obtained a method for the essentials of surviving on attractylis. Having ingested the plant he attained transcendance, entered Mount Huo and departed. His wife of the Jiang clan suffered from chronic fatigue. Recollecting her husband’s method of collecting attractylis, she too, ingested this and her illness was easily cured.”
The text is fully annotated and contains the technical materials necessary for scholars to examine the translation in detail.
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