Zhao Bi Chen’s Nei Dan

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Question: What is Zhao Bi Chen’s system of Internal Alchemy? Where did it come from?


Zhao Bi Chen (趙避塵, 赵避尘) is famous primarily because he is one of the first practitioners to write a comprehensive book (Xing Ming Fa Jue Ming Zhi, 性命法訣明指, 性命法诀明指) describing in detail the methods and practices of Internal Alchemy. He tries to describe the practice in relatively plain language, so that your average person (with a teacher) could understand it. It is important to realize, however, that the book is still quite difficult as written words can only go so far to explain this very esoteric practice.

Zhao’s book was translated into English as “Taoist Yoga: Alchemy & Immortality” by Charles Luk (Lu Kuan Yu, 陸寬昱, 陆宽昱), one of the last of a generation of British trained scholars fluent in both Eastern and Western cultures. It is the most complete, publicly available work on Internal Alchemy in the English language. This is not to say that it provides a complete description of Nei Dan (內丹) nor is it suitable as a practice guide without a teacher.

In some regards, Zhao broke with the tradition of secrecy by writing the book. However, it is not believed that he expected someone to learn the practice from the book. Rather he intended the book to be a type of roadmap or check against which a student could measure what he learned from a teacher. Zhao was very much concerned about false teachers, having encountered more than a few, and wanted future students to have a “yardstick.”

Zhao’s school of Neidan, Qianfeng Xian Tian Pai (千峰仙天派),  was influenced by several sources. He is considered to have inherited the essence of the Longmen Pai (全真龙门 a branch of 北派, Bei Pai, Northern School). He was also influenced by the Wu Liu Pai (伍柳派, itself a Buddhist/Taoist synthesis), Chan Buddhism, and the Nan Pai (南派, Southern School). It is worthy of note that the Wu Lu Pai was only one source of Zhao’s teachings with the Longmen Pai probably being the most influential source. In any case, Zhao’s teachings are not, of course, fully described in his book.

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