Bai Yuchan

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Bai Yuchan's Life

His original name was Ge Changgen. Because his stepfather's family name was Bai, his name was changed to Bai Yuchan. His literary names included Ruhui, Ziqing and Baishou. He styled himself Haiqiongzi, Hainan Weng, Wuyi Shanren and Shenshao Shanli, and lived in the Southern Song dynasty. His ancestral home was in Mingqing, Fujian, but he was born in Qiongzhou. In his boyhood, he showed his special talents by memorizing the Nine Classics, composing poems and painting, and he became a successful candidate at the imperial examination for juveniles. When he was a young man, he killed a man in an act of chivalry and took refuge on Mt Wuyi. After that, he became a Daoist and followed Chen Nan for nine years. In this period, he roamed over the country along with patriarch Chen, who, in turn, passed all his Daoist Skills on to him. In the fifth Jiading year, Chen Nan entrusted him on Mt. Luofu with the privilege of dealing with Daoist affairs on his behalf. After Chen's death, Bai roamed over sacred mountains such as Luofu, Wuyi and Longhu, either with disheveled hair and bare feet, or in rags. He was seen either moving swiftly, or sitting silently, or sleeping all day long, or standing alone through the night, or crying, or laughing. He seemed to others to be an utter madman. In the 10th Jiading year, Peng Lu and Liu Yuanchang became his disciples. In the 11th Jiading year, following Emperor Ning's order, Bai Yuchan was put in charge of a National Offering at the Temple of Jade and Prosperity ( 玉隆宮 Yulong Gong ), praying for a prosperous nation. After that, he also held another National Offering at the Temple of Auspicious Happiness ( 瑞慶宮 Ruiqing Gong ) on Mt. Jiugong. In the 15th Jiading year, he came to Linan. He wrote a letter to the Emperor, expressing his ideas about national affairs. But he had no channel to submit the letter to the emperor. In disappointment, he drank so much that he was terribly drunk. For that, he was detained for one night. This incident made many high ranking officials so angry that they reported it to the emperor, accusing Bai of misleading people. After that, Bai lived as hermit, dedicating himself to writing Daoist books and transmitting concepts of Inner Alchemy. As a result, he founded the Southern Lineage of the Golden Elixir Sect. After his death, he was granted the title 'Perfect Man Ziqing Who understands Dao' ( 紫清明道真人 Ziqing Mingdao Zhenren ). He was also known as 'Gentleman Ziqing'.


In his books, he tries to combine his theory of Inner Alchemy, which is based on Daoist Cosmogony, and his understanding of the concepts of Spirit, Vital Breath and Essential Matter ( 精氣神 Jing Qi Shen ), with the Confucian School of the Book of Changes and the Buddhist School of Chan (Zen). He considered that a man ought to keep to three valuable things in his body, i.e. Essential Matter, Vital Breath and Spirit. Essential Matter originates in the saliva of the Jade Emperor and not from sperm; Vital Breath originates in the vapour of Supreme Simplicity and not from breathing, Spirit comes from the Primeval Lord of Heaven and not from thinking. So a man ought to realize that these three things have come into being before his birth. The three things should not be separated from each other in a man's body. Instead, a man ought to refine them through Inner Alchemy. He also highly praised the Integrated Cultivation of Spiritual Nature and Bodily Life ( 性命雙修 Xingming Shuangxiu ), and suggested precedence of Spiritual Nature over Bodily Life ( 先性後命 Xianxing Houming ), which showed that his theory was a combination of Confucian Rationalism and Buddhism. He also absorbed the School of the Book of Changes in his theory of Inner Alchemy. As a result, he claimed that attainment to immortality is also the doorway to sagehood, and that the cultivation of mind is also the doorway to Buddha. In this way, his theory of Inner Alchemy integrated Buddhism's Cultivation of Mind with Daoism's Cultivation of Bodily Life. Bai was also good at the Magical Registers of the Great Grotto ( 大洞法籙 Dadong Falu ) as well as Fasts and Offerings. He was particularly famous for his mastery of the Thunder Skills of Divine Heaven ( 神霄雷法 Shenxiao Leifa ). He considered Inner Refinement ( 內煉 Neilian ) as the fundamental task, and suggested to combine Thunder Skills with Inner Alchemy. In his opinion, it was Inner Refinement that decided whether Thunder Skills or Talismans and Registers worked or not. Inner Refinement, on the other hand, relied on a man's mind. So he said: Daoist Skills are servants of man's mind. A man's mind governs Daoist Skills. With no worries, a man's mind is in purity. A pure mind brings forth a marvelous Skill. If a man keeps to oneness, he is single-minded, which will strengthen his Skill. So whether his Skill works or not relies on his mind. He also considered that the spirits controlled by Talismans and Incantations were transformations of Essential Matter and Vital Breath in the Magician's body.


His theory of Inner Alchemy is different from that of Zhang Boduan and Shi Tai. Zhang employs idea of Sudden Enlightenment ( 頓悟圓通 Dunwu Yuantong ) to define the Reversion to Emptiness of Inner Alchemy ( 內丹還虛 Neidan Huanxu ). Bai Yuchan, on the other hand, integrates ideas of Chan Buddhism into Daoism by stressing that the highest Dao lies in a man's mind, and a man's mind is Dao itself. He also combined Thunder Skills with Inner Alchemy, which helped to form the theory of Cultivation characteristic of the Southern Lineage. That is, Inner Refinement produces Inner Alchemy, and Outer Refinement produces Skills, a theory which has had great influence on the Daoist theory of Cultivation and Refinement of later periods. In addition, when he was roaming over the country, he accepted Liu Yuanchang, Peng Lu, Cheng Shoumo and Zhan Jirei as disciples. According to some books, numerous scholars from different regions came to him in that period. As a result, he ended the tradition of the Southern Lineage according to which one patriarch had only one disciple, a system which had lasted between the eras of Zhang Boduan and Cheng Nan. After his transmitting Dao and teaching Skills on Mt. Wuyi, he founded the Southern Lineage of the Golden Elixir sect. On the other hand, following the example of the Twenty-Four Dioceses ( 二十四台 Ershi Sizhi ), and the custom of calling Masters' homes as Dioceses, and believers as Tranquility Rooms, a tradition begun during the Celestial Masters era of the Eastern Han dynasty, Bai Yuchan also had Tranquility Rooms established as places for religious activities.


  1. Essays of Jade Prosperity ( 玉隆集 Yulong Ji ),
  2. Essays of Highest Clarity ( 上清集 Shangqing Ji ),
  3. Essays of Wuyi ( 武夷集 Wuyi Ji ),
  4. Quotations of Perfect Man Bai Haiqiong ( 海瓊白真人語錄 Haiqiong Baizhen Renyu Lu ),
  5. The Treasured Tablet of Dao and its Virtue ( 道德寶章 Daode Baozhang ),
  6. Poems by Haiqiong ( 海瓊詞 Haiqiong Ci ),
  7. Haiqiong's Essays on the Quest for Dao ( 海瓊問道集 Haiqiong Wendao Ji ).