The Practice of External Alchemy
The Practice of External Alchemy refers to the skills and procedures of external alchemy. Based on hundreds of years' experiences and experiments in refining elixir, passed on from generation to generation, a set of very practical skills evolved, which included 'Fei', 'sheng', 'Chou', 'Fu', 'Dian', 'Guan', 'Yang', 'Zhu', 'Lian', 'Duan' 'Yan', and 'Feng', etc.
- 'Fei' refers to the skill by which heating from a burning stove changes solid minerals in a cauldron into vapor directly, instead of into liquid as the first stage.
- 'Sheng' refers to transformation, which is obtained through heating solid minerals just as does 'Fei'.
- 'Chou' refers to the skill by which solid substances are heated to boiling points to vaporize them to some degree, and collected after they are liquefied.
- 'Fu' refers to specific techniques that are used to deal with some unstable substances in a bid to preserve them in reliable condition for refinement.
- 'Dian' means to add some additives to substances in order to change their original character.
- 'Guan' means to put the substances for refining into well-sealed containers, which are buried deeply into the earth in order to create a very slow chemical change without heating them.
- 'Yang' means to keep substances in a very mild temperature for a long period, which brings forth minor changes in their characters.
- 'Zhu' means to boil substances in the cauldron with water.
- 'Lian' means to lead some dry substances to cause chemical changes.
- 'Duan' means to heat substances to dry them or cause vaporization.
- 'Yan' means to grind substances into powder.
- 'Feng' means to put substances in containers or bury them in the earth.
Apart from the above-mentioned skills, others have been used in refining elixirs. In accordance with these skills is the refining procedure, which consists of things like Ascending Yang Fire ( 進陽火 Jin Yanghuo ), Descending Yin Fire ( 退陰符 Tui Yinfu ), collecting medicinal substance ( 采藥 Caiyao ), refining substance, etc. Generally speaking, the fire phases of external alchemy are measured by 'cycles' ( 轉 Zhuan ), which refer to a specific number of substance changes or operational experiments in regard to external alchemy. For instance, the 'nine cycle reversion elixir' ( 九轉金丹 Jiuzhuan Jindan ) refers to nine changes in its refinement. The complexity of refining elixirs lies in the fact that a lot of patience is needed to achieve a specific 'cycle'.