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Rootless Tree Ci (Poetry) by Zhang Sanfeng

Translated by Akrishi

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"The Rootless Tree Ci (Poetry)" is an important Taoist text written by the famous Taoist immortal Zhang Sanfeng (11th century A.D. - ?) who is also well known as the founder of the inner school of Chinese martial arts and Tai Chi Chuan.

In the "Direct Discourse on Mysterious Mechanism" also written by Zhang Sanfeng, there is a passage which I believe is referring to these poems and thus naturally serve best as its introduction:

"Once I have met a Guru, who gave me personal instruction and exposed to me the two tidings (inner and outer) of the reality of this Void.   Not daring to keep this private to myself, I risk the taboo to impart this, and disclose all about the creation of heaven, man and earth in one's physiology, the essence of the texts of the three religions, drugs and its degree of heating of the fire, the mating of the sun and moon, the degree of wax and wan, not in jargons, but all by words of truth, so that the learner will not mistake for the wrong path.    Where this book is, there are divine things guarding it. If those non-predestinated or filthy guys see it, it is just those lyrics for girls singing for a living in a tea house."

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Basically, comparing with what Zhang Sanfeng has mentioned in his "Direct Discourse on Mysterious Mechanism", we can divided these 24 poems into 3 sections:

1) The first 10 poems disclose the secret of the foundation building practice, Zhuji , or more specifically the method of "Etherealize essence to prana" for the cultivation of the inner elixir.   This is mainly the process starting from accumulating lead , or pick lead flower , up to the congealing of the "small reversion elixir" or xiaohuan dan , so called the process of "reverting the jade fluid to the elixir" . Full accomplishment in this will lead to the attainment of the status of human immortals .

2) The 11th to 18th poems are on reverting the pre-heavenly prana collected from the first step to the reversion elixir with seven homebound cycles . This is basically the same subject as discussed in Qinyuanchun by another famous Taoist immortal Lu Dongbin.   The reader can refer to my translation of Qinyuanchun and selected commentaries for more understanding on this section. Full accomplishment in this will lead to the attainment of the status of terrestrial immortals .

3) The last 6 poems are on the final step of cultivating the "great reversion elixir" or dahuan dan at the upper field of the elixir. This is for gaining the staus of celestial immortals but is not covered in detail here.

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The importance of this Rootless Tree Ci (Poetry) is mainly in the 1st section because there are not many Taoist texts that actually talk about how to accumulate lead or "Etherealize essence to prana". This is partly because of the ancient immortals' belief that "heavenly mechanism should not be disclosed" and probably also because of the taboo in talking about sex in ancient Chinese society. That is why this has always been passed on through word of mouth from the Guru to the disciple.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find a good commentary on this. But the first section should be easy enough to understand once the reader figure out what those terms including flower, moon and the stamen represent. This is more experiential than theoretical understanding. However, please note that this is for man only because of a different sexual physiology between man and woman.

There is a saying that "Man conform with the Sun and erect once a day; Woman conform with the moon and menstruate once a month" . Therefore man can make use of this natural instinct to cultivate the elixir, but not for a woman. The Quanzhen School, for example, primarily use the lively midnight hour for their practice.

Basically the primary mean of the inner elixir approach of Chinese Alchemy is to reclaim the essence lost by our sexual desires and turn them into drugs for cultivating the elixir paving the way to immortality. Therefore there is a common saying in Chinese Alchemy, "In accord to give birth to man, reverse to be immortal" .   This also explains why Lu Dongbin was famous as a ladies man and why the ancient immortals said that we need to "Refine ourselves in the dusty world, accumulate lead in household and in city" .

Besides the Rootless Tree Ci (Poetry), the reader can also refer to the "Elimination of Leak Diagram" in the Hui Ming Ching (known to the West as "The Book of Consciousness and Life") for cross reference. [NB. Please note that except for this diagram, the Hui Ming Ching is not a good reference for Chinese Alchemy.]

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In this translation, in order to achieve a metrical structure being lyrics of a song, I have sacrificed my useful emphasis in revealing the full meaning of the original Chinese words, just giving its central meaning. And where necessary, I have added notes to elaborate the other meanings.

2009/1/12 revised 

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External Links:
The Rootless Tree (WukenShu), translated by Douglas Wile (size: 305 KB)

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