On the Essential Meaning of Ingesting Vital Breath
The one-volume On the Essential Meaning of Ingesting Vital Breath ( 服氣精義論 Fuqi Jingyi Lun ), was compiled by Sima Chengzhen of the Tang dynasty. It is divided into nine sections, namely on the five sprouts, on ingesting vital breath, on gymnastics, on talismanic water, on taking elixirs, on taboos, on the five internal organs, on healing by means of ingesting vital breath, and on symptoms. It records techniques of still meditation, such as the technique of taking the five perfect sprouts, the supreme clarity technique of vital breath dirigation, technique of ingesting vital breath on six Wu days, technique of ingesting vital breath of 3, 5, 7, and 9, and technique of nourishing the vital breath in the five internal organs that corresponds with the Five Agents ( 五行 Wuxing ). They tell people to control respiration, exhaling the old vital breath and inhaling the new one, and to control the circulation of vital breath in the body with mind, provided that the gesture of the body remains unchanged. In addition, the book advocates motion skills, which make the nourishing and guarding of vital breaths unobstructed and smooth by means of gymnastics, and causes the vital breath to "ascend and descend in good order" in the body. Apart from ingesting vital breath, the book advocates the taking of elixirs. Both ingesting vital breath and taking elixirs can help cure diseases. This book develops Tao Hongjing's idea of healing through ingesting vital breath and further perfects Daoist methodology of healing by Breathing Arts ( 氣功 Qigong ). Moreover, the book proposes all kinds of "taboos" about ingesting vital breath. It stresses the modulation of one's spirit and mood, which is just the "essential meaning" of the theory of ingesting vital breath. The book has rather great influences on the Inner Alchemists ( 內丹家 Neidan Jia ) of the Song and Yuan dynasties. It is collected in the subsection of methods, the Pervasive Divinity Section ( 洞神部 Dongshen Bu ) of The Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era ( 正統道藏 Zhengtong Daozang ), and is extracted by volume 57 of Seven Slips of a Cloudy Satchel ( 雲笈七簽 Yunji Qiqian ).