The nei tan or "inner alchemical" school was concerned with the development of the nei qi, or inner qi. Although the roots of the inner tradition lie in the outer alchemical tradition, it is difficult to provide an exact date for the beginning of what was to be identified as the "inner yogic tradition." One of the earliest and most important texts of both the outer and inner alchemical schools, The Nei Pien of the alchemist Ko Hung, treated both disciplines in 320 A.D. The classical Chinese alchemical text Tao Tsang dates from 730 A.D. Another text, the Tien Yuan Fu Yao Ching (Mirror of the Heavenly Essence Medicine Classic) written in 940 A.D., illustrates the typical prose of the tradition:
If the water is true water, and the fire is true fire,
And if you can bring them to bed together,
Again, the original goal of the inner alchemical Taoists was to compound within their bodies the elixir or pill of immortality. Choosing nei yao, or "inner medicine" over "outer medicine," these quests extrapolated models taken from the "external" experimentation of the outer alchemist's pot, and applied them to the search for answers within the human body. Few martial artists today realize that the concept of the tan tien (tanden in Japanese) derives from the Taoist internal yogic tradition; the term tan (or dan) refers to the secret drug of immortality that participants in the yogic tradition believed could be developed in the area of the lower belly (the tien, literally, "field"). Thus, tan tien translates as the "field of the elixir of immortality."
The "pure" nei tan Taoists rejected the necessity of outside substances to transform body and spirit and sought longevity via internal change, a process called lien tan, or "exercising the tan." Taoist yogas called Tao Yin developed, appropriating the tradition and terminology of the outer alchemists.16 These yogas were rt A
inner medicine tan tien
Tao Yin physical exercises designed to enhance and transform the nei qi. The alchemist Ko Hung described the process in this way:
In forming and fashioning the transforming power (of nature), there is none more powerful than man. Therefore, he who penetrates to its shallower (aspects) can put all things to his service, while he who penetrates to its deeper (aspects) can enjoy eternal life.
It is interesting that over 300 years ago the West took some note of these physio-therapeutic systems. In China during the later 1700s, a missionary Jesuit priest named Cibot wrote a journal on the subject which discussed Taoist yogic health practices. In this French publication, the first of its kind published in the West, he discussed respiratory and other health techniques practiced by the Taoists:
The various exercises of the Cong Fu (Kung fu) if correctly performed, should relieve or clear all those illnesses which arise from an embarrassed, retarded, or even interrupted circulation. But, how many diseases are there which have a cause other than this? One may well ask whether, apart from fractures and wounds which injure the organization of the human body, there are any such diseases.17
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