The Life of Liu Yiming (1734-1821)
As the 11th-generation master of the Dragon Gate Sect ( 龍門派 Longmen Pai ) of the Complete Perfection Tradition ( 全真道 Quanzhen Dao ), Liu Yiming ( 劉一明 Liu Yiming ), from Woxian County of Pingyang, Shanxi province (northeast of present-day Wenxi County, Shanxi province) was a famous master of Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ) in the Qing Dynasty. His alternate name was Wu Yuanzi and was also called Non-Harnessed Man of Simplicity ( 素樸散人 Pusu Sanren ).
His Experience of Wandering About and Practicing Dao
Liu Yiming studied the Confucian classics when he was young. He fell seriously ill three times in his twenties, and nearly died of illness. Having realized the meaning of life due to his illness, Liu turned to Daoism. The Inner Chapters on Comprehending the Mind ( 會心內集 Huixin Neiji ) said that when he was seventeen, he was seriously ill, and could hardly be cured as hundreds of drugs took no effect. So the next year he went to Nanan in Gansu province to recuperate. His condition got more and more serious in spite of the doctors and drugs. Fortunately he got a prescription offered by a Perfect Man ( 真人 Zhenren ), and he finally recovered. At the age of nineteen, he traveled around to visit Daoists, and met his master, the elderly man Kangu, somewhere in Yulin when he was twenty-two. Kangu rejected heterodoxy and dishonest practice, and orally taught him the right ways of cultivation. Liu Yiming he learnt what he said by heart, and the existing problems in his mind seemed to disappear immediately. After that, in order to consult and confirm, he stayed in the capital for four years, in Henan for two years, in Raodu for one year, in the Western Qin (now Jingyuan County, Gansu province) for three years, and wandered about for four years. During these thirteen years, he studied all the books and scriptures of the three religions and thought deeply about them, but there were some knotty problems that always puzzled him. In the 37th year of Qianlong, he met an elder Immortal on the Han River, and, through his instruction, the thirteen-year doubt in his mind was removed in one moment. Liu Yiming wandered and practiced Dao in many places in his life. According to the record of the 'Song of Oblivion' in the Outer Chapters on Comprehending the Mind ( 會心外集 Huixin Waiji ), he wandered to such provinces as Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu and Ningxia. He said that……it adds up to twenty-five years, the five mountains seem bright with brand-new looks and the fresh air permeates. In the second half of his life he lived in seclusion on Mt. Xiyun and Mt. Xinglong in Yuzhong County, Gansu province, for cultivation of Dao. At the same time, he built an altar to preach Daoism and wrote books to promote his ideas. Thus he became a very influential Daoist of the Dragon Gate Sect of Complete Perfection Tradition in Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Ningxia provinces.
His 'Twelve Kinds of Daoist Books'
Liu Yiming was a master of the theory of the Book of Changes ( 易經 Yijing ) of Inner Alchemy, as well as Chinese traditional medicine. He was an expert on medicine and an alchemist at the same time. His approach to Inner Alchemy was characterised by the combination of the three religions, especially that of Confucianism and Daoism. In the Preface to the Pointers ( 指南針序 Zhinanzhen Xu ), he took the 'Doctrine of the Mean' ( 中正之道 Zhongzheng Zhi Dao ) as the foundation uniting the three religions, expressed as the Golden Mean ( 中庸 Zhongyong ) of Confucianism, the Vehicle of Oneness ( 一乘 Yicheng ) of Buddhism, and the Golden Elixir ( 金丹 Jindan ) of Daoism. In his Nine Essentials for the Cultivation of Perfection ( 修真九要 Xiuzhen Jiuyao ), he stated that there were nine essential things in the cultivation of perfection. The first important one was to see through human society. That was why he wrote the Book of Passing through Barriers ( 通關文 Tongguan Wen ), in which he explained the barriers of sexual desire, of the desires for honor and for wealth, and of hardship and poverty by introducing Buddhist thought. The second essence of cultivation was to practice Daoism through benevolence, which shows his combination of Confucian and Daoist thought. In his works, there are many expressions of the combination of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism.
His Elaboration on the Theory of Inner Alchemy
Liu Yiming elaborated on all aspects of the theory of Inner Alchemy in all aspects, and insisted on the Integrated Cultivation of Spiritual Nature and Bodily Life ( 性命雙修 Xingming Shuangxiu ). 'One cannot become an immortal unless he cultivates Spiritual Nature and Bodily Life in an integrated way', and one should cultivate one's Bodily Life ( 命 Ming ) step by step before one's gradual cultivation of one's Spiritual Nature ( 性 Xing ). Liu divided alchemical skills into the supreme, middle, and lower grades, and the Elixir into the inner and outer one. And he thought that the inner elixir comes from man himself as his original nature, while the outer elixir comes from the Vital Breath of Perfect Oneness in Emptiness ( 虛空中真一之氣 Xukong Zhong Zhenyi Zhi Qi ), called Original Life ( 元命 Yuanming ). Influenced by Neo-Confucianism, he also thought that nature could be divided into the nature of destiny and that of temperament. He also made a very unique elaboration and special explanation about the Three Ways Unified and Normalized ( 周易參同契 Zhouyi Cantong Qi ), On Realizing Perfection ( 悟真篇 Wuzhen Pian ), and the Book of Secret Correspondences ( 陰符經 Yinfu Jing ).