THE PILL OF IMMORTALITY


In a tradition somewhat parallel to that of the Alexandrian alchemists (see my blog of August 20, 2015), the Chinese searched for a pill, probably gold-based, that would confer physical or spiritual immortality. But unlike the Alexandrians, the Chinese alchemists were supported in their search by their emperors and the nobility, who as Taoists, saw attaining immortality as the purpose of life.

According to the Lich Hsien Ch’uan (The Collected Biographies of the Immortals), the Yellow Emperor, a cultural hero and legendary sovereign, ruled for one hundred years beginning in about 2697 BCE. This patron saint of Taoism, having found the pill of immortality in the Huang Shan Mountains of eastern China, is said to have established in the peaks of that range the dwelling place for immortals. Today the area, known for its spectacular scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, and views of the clouds from above, is a major tourist destination.

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