Song of the Golden Elixir

Translated by Tenney L. Davis and Chao Yün-Ts'ung in Isis Vol 30 No 2 as "An alchemical poem by Kao Hsiang-Hsien (高象先)." Their transliterations and glosses are rather out-of-date, but the numbers for Chinese characters from Giles's Chinese-English Dictionary have been replaced by Unicode characters for easier reference. More Chinese alchemical translations by them are scanned in at Rex Research (source of the above image.)

The original text (I believe!) is at the Chinese Text Project as 真人高象先金丹歌 ("Song of the Golden Elixir by the Zhenren Gao".)

Davis and Yün-Ts'ung rightly point out how strikingly similar this piece is to those of Western alchemy:

" HUANG-TI (黃帝) (ancient Emperor and legendary founder of alchemy) inquired concerning the Tao (道) (Way) at a cave in the K'ung T'ung Mountain (崆峒山). There he got an outline of Hsuan (玄) (Mystery), the meaning of which was not yet thoroughly understood because the subject was then for the first time known to people. He thereupon turned his attention to the country of Shu (蜀) [Ssŭ Ch'uan (四川)], where he visited T'IEN CHÊN HUANG JEN (天眞皇人) (Almighty Man of Heavenly Truth) and CHÊN I (眞一) (True One) in the mountain of O Mei (峨嵋) (a sacred place).

" There is no better way than to knock first at the door of Wu Ssŭ (戊巳), because inside that door the elements Chin (金) (metal) and Shui (水) (water) can be found. Chin and Shui are known as the roots of Huang Ya (黃芽) (yellow sprout), and Huang Ya roots in turn are the mothers of creation.

" Behold, the mother, when she has sons, becomes a furnace and a pot! At the time when the soul of the sun and the essence of the moon are in a state of mutual influence, when one portion sinks and the other portion floats, the pearl will fly naturally. This black pearl will fly straightway to the peak of K'un Lun (崑崙) (a mountain range). If anyone wants to get it, Wang Hsiang (罔象) (an aquatic monster) can be used as the means. When Wang Hsiang captured the pearl, it returned to the crimson chamber. The substance which sublimed in the crimson chamber stained muscle and skin with red. Behold, muscle and skin changed to red leaving only the hair in black! Pei Tou (北斗) (the constellation of the Dipper) therefore canceled the name from the book of death. Oh, how admirable was the success of the ninety days work! It is seemly that footmarks still can be found in Bridge Mountain.

" Don't you know that SHU TUNG (叔通) worked together with WEI PO-YANG (魏伯陽), that they went smilingly hand in hand into the land of Wu Ho (無何) (Nothing-to-do), and that they wrote the Ts'an T'ung Ch'i (參同契) (Akinness of the Trio) to be the authoritative book on Tan (丹) (long-life medicine) for all ages?

" The book says at the beginning that Ch'ien (乾, ☰) (a Kua (卦) which symbolizes Heaven) and K'un (坤, ☷) (a Kua which symbolizes Earth) are the gateways to change, and that Ch'ien represents the Tao (道) of male and K'un that of female. The common people are not able to recognize the true Yin (陰) (negative principle) and Yang (陽) (positive principle). How can they find the Dragon and the Tiger by seeking them in the boundless universe? The moon is symbolized by Li (離, ☲) (a Kua) and the sun by K'an (坎, ☵) (a Kua). [N.B. this is likely a transposition error] The sun and the moon, Yin and Yang, can be made to swallow one another. When the golden Wu (烏) (crow) dies, the jade T'u (兔) (rabbit) is born. Creation of all things is due to the Heaven which is influenced by the Earth. During the conjugation of male and female, the two Ch'i (氣) (ethereal essences) are germinatively interinfluencing. The four signs (Heaven, Earth, Sun and Moon) and the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) relate themselves in the same way as the spokes and the hub of a wheel. Tun (遯, ䷠) and Mêng (蒙, ䷃) (the two heads of the Kua), day and night, all should imitate the rule of nature. It is unnecessary to watch the fire and the season with excessive attention, but (you should remember that) the collection (of the medicine) has a definite hour and the selection (of the materials) has a definite day. Oh, collection! Oh, selection! One must be cautious!"

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