This is an essential guide for anyone interested in Chinese legend and lore, Chinese magic and medicine, and Taoism.
Here in one slender volume are the essentials to a tradition that dates back to 3,000 B.C. Among the topics covered here are:
1. The origins of Chinese alchemy
2. The quest for gold and immortality
3. The role of minerals and plants, medicines, astrology, yoga, and magic in Chinese alchemy
4. Alchemy in the East and in the West
Chinese alchemy, largely associated with Taoism, has a recorded history of more than 2000 years, but traditionally it goes back even further, to the Yellow Emperor and his Three Immortal Ladies, some 3000 years BC.
While Western alchemy was concerned with the search for spiritual and material gold, classic Taoist alchemy was a mystical quest for immortality. But like Western alchemy, it was as spiritual quest, its aim being union with the Absolute.
J.C. Cooper describes the history and development of Taoist alchemy, compares it with similar traditions in India and Turkistan, and gives it context by contrasting it with the rationale of the Western hermetic tradition. As she writes in her concluding chapter:
"The whole work of alchemy is summed up in the phrase 'To make of the body a spirit and of the spirit a body'...The goal of the Taoist alchemist-mystic was transformation, or perhaps more correctly, transfiguration, of the whole body until it ceases to 'be' and is absorbed into and becomes the Tao."
Jean Cooper (1905-1999) was born in China and has traveled extensively. She read Philosophy at St. Andrews University and has had a lifelong interest in comparative religion, Taoism in particular.