Tan Qiao

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Tan Qiao from Quan Zhou, alias Jing Sheng, was a Daoist at the turn of the Tang (618-907) and the Five Dynasties (907-960), and he was an extraordinary Daoist scholar as well. With a very good memory, Tan read widely and showed his talent when he was young. Tan's father was a scholar and a state official as well. He hoped that his son would read the Confucian classics in order to become an official in the future, while Tan himself, with his love for the scholars of the schools of the Yellow Emperor and Laozi, enjoyed reading the biographies of the immortals, and had made up his mind to cultivate Dao and learn to be an immortal. Later he left his home, traveling to Mt. Zhongnan, and his father agreed because Mount Zhongnan was near the capital. After he left home, however, he did not return. Instead, he traveled to such mountains as Mount Taibai, Mount Taihang, Mount Wangwu, Mt. Song, Mt. Hua, and Mt. Tai, moving further and further away from his home. His father wrote to scold him and he wrote back: "In the past Mr. Mao, as the son of his father, left his family to learn to be an immortal. Now I admire him and hope I will benefit from following his example." His father realized that he could do nothing about it since Tan Qiao was so resolute to learn the Dao. In spite of all this, his father missed him so much that he not only sent his servant to look for him, but also posted him clothing and pocket money as well. But Tan Qiao offered all the clothing to poor people and the money to small inns, without leaving anything for himself. Tan stayed with a Daoist of Mount Songshan for over 10 years and learned the techniques of abstaining from grains and nourishing the vital breath. The coldness of the winter and the hotness of the summer could do nothing to hurt him. In summer he wore fur clothes and thin clothes in winter. Sometimes, lying in the snow for the whole day, he was thought to be dead, but when other people went to see him he was still breathing as usual. Later while living on the Southern Sacred Mountain, Tan accomplished refining the elixir, to the point where he could not be immersed when he was in water nor cauterized when put into the fire, and he could become invisible and transform himself into other forms. In the end he lived on Mt. Qingcheng and never left the mountain. Tan Qiao wrote six volumes of the Book of Transformation ( 化書 Huashu ), which is very significant in the history of Daoist thought.