Basil Lenkov
Jun 8, 2016 · 2 min read

Xing Qi English Translation 1997

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One of the first Xing Qi English translation can be found in the book: Early Chinese Medical Literature by Donald Harper, 1997

“Swallow, then it travels; traveling, it extends; extending, it descends; descending, it stabilizes; stabilizing, it solidifies; solidifying, it sprouts; sprouting, it grows; growing, it returns; returning, it is heaven. Heaven — its root is above; earth — its root is below. Follow the pattern and live; go against it and die.”

To compare parallel translations easier, I put the numbers of lines according to the translation made by Harold D. Roth in his book Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundation of Taoist Mysticism by Harold D. Roth, 1999

01 xing qi [Harper thinks this is a title and he begins his translation from the second line 吞則蓄 tūn zé xù]

02 Swallow, then it travels;

03 traveling, it extends;

04 extending, it descends;

05 descending, it stabilizes;

06 stabilizing, it solidifies;

07 solidifying, it sprouts;

08 sprouting, it grows;

09 growing, it returns;

10 returning, it is heaven.

11 Heaven — its root is above;

12 earth — its root is below.

13 Follow the pattern and live;

14 go against it and die.

I would like to add a couple of paragraphs from the point of view of D. Harper to make some details clear.

“The verbs that identify the stages of cultivation are not obscure words (travel, extend, descend, etc.), but neither is it obvious exactly how the technique is excited. Like the ’Neiye’ and the Laozi, the text is an example of verse meant for recitation by initiates who would have received fuller knowledge of its meaning either orally or in ancillary texts. The verse itself is the verbal distillation of the technique, each verb an icon of the act of circulating vapor.”

“The true focus of the Mawangdui and Zhangjiashan macrobiotic hygiene texts is on techniques. Unlike the ’Neiye,’ which is theoretical exposition on the physiology of the sage, the excavated texts are meant to teach how to do it — whether it be breath cultivation, exercise, sexual cultivation, or dietetics. Prior to their discovery, the only ancient example of a macrobiotic technique was a rhymed inscription on a dodecagonal block of jade bearing the title xingqi 行氣 (To circulate vapor). The artifact is thought to be late Warring States (perhaps late fourth or early third century B.C.). The technique is presented in nine trisyllabic phrases which describe the stages of breath cultivation from first swallowing the vapor to completion; four explanatory phrases concludes the text.”

I have to say, that running along the cold or hot mountain’s dirty road and keeping in mind all those transformations between the earth and heaven like a smart human being that’s probably the best hours in my life now.

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