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  • The Neijing tu and the Twenty-four Calendar Divisions
  • Li Juntao (bio)

The organizers of the 13th International Conference on Daoist Studies, held in Los Angeles in 2019 with a focus on notions and practices of time, could not have chose a better opening day: the day of the summer solstice. The time corresponds to the fullness of yang and the trigram Qian 乾 (heaven), the point where the annual cycle reaches its zenith.

The start of Daoist cultivation practice is just at the opposite end of the spectrum, the winter solstice—at the height of yin symbolized by the trigram Kun 坤(earth)—when creation begins to unfold. In the overall sequence of time, this is the period when the yang potency of time and space is completely exhausted and the world enters a state of complete yin. However, from here the vital energy of the cosmos starts anew with the growth of yang, moving step by step in the order of the twelve waxing and waning hexagrams. They begin with the hexagram Fu 復 (Turning Point), which consists of five yin lines and one yang line, and move all the way through Qian (all yang) to Kun (all yin) to begin again. This is shown in Figure 1, the Neijing tu 內經圖(Chart of Internal Passageways) overlaid by a diviner's compass showing the yin-yang symbol, the eight trigrams, and the sixty-four hexagrams of the yin-yang cycle of the year.

Cosmic body charts in Daoist cultivation are maps of the internal universe within the human being, merging natural and cultural symbols into an integrated whole. Stars and landscapes, spirits and gods, passageways and palaces reveal the mysteries of the cosmos, the inner secrets of Dao, and the way to health and long life. [End Page 137]

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Fig 1.

The period of the trigram Kun, the height of yin at the winter solstice, when energy moves from all-yin to a gradual increase of yang.

They show the mysterious structure of the cosmos through visual images that have cosmic correspondences, depicting the human body as the universe and thus encouraging a more cosmic-centered way of being, a transformation of self and world. They represent different dimensions, working with vital energy or qi, information, and power, thereby allowing adepts to adjust their situation and attain healing of all diseases.

Building on this cosmological schema, Daoist charts of internal passageways not only present an image of the processes of the harmonization of body and mind and the systematic creation of the cinnabar elixir through internal refinement and the cultivation of perfection. They also contain—albeit deeply hidden—the stages and systems of healing exercises and energy guiding, cleverly storing the core information of heaven and earth and the rhythm of the sun and the moon. [End Page 138]

The core concept underlying the charts is the notion of the ultimate oneness, the complete unity of heaven and humanity. Daoism thus presents an integrated vision of body and mind, health and cultivation, working systematically to establish the harmony of yin and yang and the refinement of the three treasures (essence, energy, and spirit). Eventually spirit and physical form are joined in oneness, both inner nature and life-destiny are fully cultivated, and Dao and virtue are whole and complete—the most fundamental goal of the complete realization of inner nature and life-destiny is fully attained (Li 2009). All this happens through quiet sitting and inner observation, meditation and visualization of the internal landscape, as well as the harmonization of qi and the refinement of spirit. To get a better understanding of this process, the body charts are essential as is the proper understanding of time.

Cultivation Processes

A key set of charts in this context is the matching pair of the Great Ultimate (taiji 太極) and the Non-Ultimate (wuji 無極), one showing cosmogonic progression, the other outlining the progress of the Daoist cultivator matching cosmogonic regression (see Fig. 2). That is to say, both charts are the same, showing pure Dao at creation as an empty circle at the top, then presenting the interaction of yin and yang as black and white semi-circles...


Additional Information

pp. 137-151
Launched on MUSE
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