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Persons in Chinese History - Ge Xuan 葛玄

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Ge Xuan 葛玄 (164-244), courtesy name Ge Xiaoxian 葛孝先, was a Daoist master in the state of Wu 吳 (222-280) during the Three Kingdoms period 三國 (220-280). He was also called Taiji Ge Xianweng 太極葛仙翁 "Old Immortal Ge of the Utmost Extreme". His family hailed from Langya 琅琊 and later moved to Gourong 句容 in the commandery of Danyang 丹陽. His great-grandfather Ge Lu 葛廬 had been a cavalry general-in-chief (piaoji da jiangjun 驃騎大將軍) under the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) and was made Marquis of Xiapi 下邳. His grandfather Ge Ju 葛矩 served as gentleman attendant of the palace gate (huangmen shilang 黄門侍郎), his father Ge Deru 葛德儒 as Chamberlain for dependencies (da honglu 大鴻臚), and then as a minister (shangshu 尚書). Ge Xuan was so born into a family of high standing, and received a decent education. His family was interested in Daoist teachings, and therefore Ge Xuan did not only study the Confucian Classics, but also the Daoist writings Laozi 老子 (Daodejing 老子道德經) and Zhuangzi 莊子. Influenced by these writings he decided not to pursue an official career but learned the art of alchemy (xiulian 修煉) from eremits of the Red City Summit of Mt. Tiantai 天臺赤城山. The Daoist master Zuo Yuanfang 左元放 reveiled to him the writings Baihu qibian jing 白虎七變經 "Scripture of the Seven Changes of the White Tiger", Taiqing jiuding jinye dan jing 太清九鼎金液丹經 "Scripture of the Elixir of the Golden Liquor of the Nine Tripods of the Great Clarity" and Sanyuan zhenyi miaojing 三元真一妙經 "Wonderful Scripture of the Perfect Unity of the Three Origins". Ge Xuan wandered around in several mountain regions, like Mt. Kuocang 括蒼, Mt. Nanyue 南岳 and Mt. Luofu 羅浮. When the Han dynasty was overthrown and the empire was divived into three kingdoms, he began writing down his Daoist knowledge and revised the scripture Lingbaojing gao 靈寳經誥 "Proclamations to the Scripture of the Numinous Treasure", in which he explained the spirit of the schools of the "Highest Purity" (shangqing 上清) and the "Numinous Treasure" (lingbao 靈寳). He ordered his disciple Zheng Siyuan 鄭思遠 (Zheng Yin 鄭隱) to preserve and unify the writings of the Shangqing, Sandong 三洞 and Lingbao traditions on the temple of Mt. Gezao 閣皂, and to transmit them from generation to generation.
In 233 Ge Xuan built an clause on the eastern summit of Mt. Gezao, with a terrace and a furnace to "alloy cinnabar and gold".
According to tradition, the scripture Lingbaojing lu 靈寳經簶 "Registers of the Scripture of the Numinous Treasure" was compiled by Ge Xuan himself. He is therefore by the Gezao Church 閣皂宗 venerated as the oldest patriarch (zushi 祖師). The official dynastic history Sanguozhi 三國志 says that the emperor of Wu, Sun Quan 孫權 (The Great Emperor of Wu 吳大帝, r. 222-252), was inclined to Daoism and often conferred with Ge Xuan. He had also in 239 built the Dongxuan Temple 洞玄觀 on Mt. Fangshan 方山. This foundation is also mentioned in the geography Yudizhi 輿地志.
In 1104 Ge Xuan was given the canonical title of Chongying zhenren 沖應真人 "Perfect Man of Serene Response", that was in 1246 enlarged to Chongying fuyou zhenjun 沖應孚佑真君 "Perfect Lord of Trustful Assistance of Serence Response".
The chapter Jindan 金丹 in the book Baopuzi 抱朴子 says that Ge Xuan obtained from Zuo Yuanfang the books Taiqing danjing 太清丹經 "Scripture of the Elixir of the Greatest Clarity" with a length of 3 juan "scrolls", Jiuding danjing 九鼎丹經 "Scripture of the Elixirs of the Nine Tripods" and Jinye danjing 金液丹經 "Scripture of the Elixir of the Golden Liquor", the last two short texts of only one juan. He extracted from these books all knowledge of the art of alchemy and transmitted them to Zheng Yin, and the latter to Ge Hong 葛洪, a grandson of Ge Xuan. Two of these texts correspond to the received scriptures Taiqing jinye shendan jing 太清金液神丹經 "Scripture of the Divine Elixir of the Golden Liquor of the Great Clarity", Huangdi jiuding shendan jing 黄帝九鼎神丹經 "Scripture of the Divine Elixirs of the Nine Tripods of the Yellow Emperor" (but with different juan numbers). They were presumably written during the late Former Han 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) or early Later Han 後漢 (25-220 CE), and are the oldest surviving Daoist writings on alchemy. The chapter Dongxianji 洞仙記 in the Daoist encyclopaedia Yunji qiqian 雲笈七籤 says that Zheng Siyuan was given by Ge Xuan the writings Zhengyi fawen 正一法文, Sanhuang neiwen 三星内文, Wuyue zhenxing tu 五岳真形圖 and Dongxuan wufu 洞玄五符. The last two writings were actually no books on alchemy, but writings about exorcism, and belong to the Dongshen tradition 洞神. Various Daoist texts narrate stories about Ge Xuan's practice of diet, the avoidance of grain, and many other forms of physical cultivation.

Source: Qing Xitai 卿希泰 (ed. 1994), Zhongguo daojiao 中國道教 (Shanghai: Zhishi chubanshe), Vol. 1, pp. 228-229.

February 20, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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