Chen Tuan

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Life of Chen Tuan

Chen Tuan, who styled himself Tu Nan and had the sobriquet Fuyaozi, was a renowned Daoist priest during the Five Dynasties and the first years of the Song dynasty (ca. 960). He was a native of Zhenyuan, Bozhou (or Chongkan, Puzhou). In his early teens, he was conversant with the Confucian classics, history, and the theories of various schools of thought. He was also fond of Buddhist philosophy, medical principles, astronomy and geography, and fanous for his poems. Later, he failed in the highest imperial examinations and came to realize the unreality of the affairs of human life, so he gave up all thoughts of an official career and traveled to famous mountains in search of Immortals ( 仙 Xian ) and Daoists. For over twenty years, Chen Tuan led a secluded life in Nine Room Cave ( 九室岩 Jiushi Yan ) on Mt Wudang, Ingesting Vital Breath ( 服氣 Fuqi ), Abstaining from Grain ( 辟谷 Pigu ), and Cultivating Dao ( 修道 Xiudao ). He later moved to Yuntai Temple on Mt. Hua and then to the stone room on Mt. Shaohua, and was in close contact with Lu Dongbin, Li Qi and so on. Emperor Shizong of the Later Zhou called him into the court and later appointed him councilor of the emperor for his rare talent and farsightedness. But he refused firmly, and was then named 'Gentleman of White Clouds' ( 白雲先生 Baiyun Xiansheng ). Emperor Taizong of the Song dynasty also twice called Chen Tuan to the court, and treated him very kindly. Chen Tuan advised Emperor Taizong to 'call in persons of outstanding worth from afar, dismiss sycophantic courtiers at his side, levy less taxes from the people, and reward the army generously'. Emperor Taizong highly honored and deeply trusted him, and so granted him the title 'Gentleman Who Sees and Hears Nothing' ( 希夷先生 Xiyi Xiansheng ). In the second year of Duangong (AD 989), he died in Zhaochao Valley, under the Lotus Peak.


Religious ideas

Chen Tuan liked to study the Book of Changes ( 周易 Zhouyi ), which he was unable to put down. He drew a Chart of the Infinite ( 無極圖 Wuji Tu ) and carved it onto the cliffs of Mt. Hua. Moreover, he drew a Chart of Anterior Heaven ( 先天圖 Xiantian Tu ), which integrated the religious ideas of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. This marked the beginning of the trend of Integration of the Three Doctrines ( 三教合一 Sanjiao Heyi ) in the Song dynasty, and exerted a considerable influence on the Song Neo-Confucian philosophical school. It is said that the Illustrated Explanation of the Supreme Ultimate ( 太極圖說 Taiji Tushuo ) by Zhou Dunyi, the founder of the Neo-Confucian philosophical school, was derived from Chen Tuan's Chart of the Infinite, and that his Chart of Anterior Heaven evolved into the system of 'Images and Numbers' ( 象數 Xiangshu ) by Shao Yong.


Chen Tuan's ideology of Daoist Alchemy ( 丹道 Dandao ) advocated the Integrated Cultivation of Spiritual Essence and Bodily Life ( 性命雙修 Xingming Shuangxiu ), Nourishing Life ( 養生 Yangsheng ), Inner Refinement ( 內煉 Neilian ), the purification and calmimg of the mind, Regulating Breathing ( 調氣 Tiaoqi ) and Entering Tranquility ( 入靜 Rujing ), and conforming to the great Dao. Chen Tuan took the traditional theories of philosophical Daoism as the core of his ideology, and absorbed Confucian and Buddhist ideas to constitute a set of systematic theories on Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ), laying a foundation for the formation of the Daoist Inner Alchemy tradition of the Song and Yuan dynasties.