Rebirth from the Original Fetus and Bones
“Rebirth from the Original Fetus and Bones ” ( 脫胎換骨 Tuotai Huangu ) is a term used in Daoist Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ). It means that having attained the Dao through cultivation, a mortal can get rid of his mortal fetus and bones and gain a sacred fetus and bones. In Inner Alchemy, this state indicates that one obtains inner elixirs and transforms his nature. According to Daoism, the combination of the numeral three, which represents wood in the east, with the numeral two, which represents fire in the south, and the combination of the numeral four, which represents gold in the west, with the numeral one, which represents water in the north, both make the numeral five. Together with the numeral five that represents earth in the center, the three “fives” converge to the center. It is called “three families meet to produce a baby”. Hence the practitioner accomplishes his alchemical cultivation and deviates from his mortal nature. These two conditions are the prerequisite for achieving immortality. The expression “rebirth from the original fetus” was already found in the commentaries on The Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes ( 周易參同契 Zhouyi Cantongqi ) in the Song dynasty. For example, Chen Xianwei says, “when one is reborn from the original fetus, his body shines as sunrays light up dust through bright windows.” The term “Rebirth from the Original Fetus and Bones” also had an influence on literature afterwards. For instance, chapter 104 in The Dream of the Red Mansion ( 紅樓夢 Hongloumeng ) says, “all those who become immortals make it either in his bodily form or by shucking off his body.” Here “shucking off his body” means the practitioner shucks off his mortal body so that his true body ascends immortality. This Daoist idiom is used in Chinese culture to signify one thing is emerges from the womb of another thing.