Bigu (grain avoidance)

Bigu ( simplified Chinese :辟谷 ; traditional Chinese :辟穀 ; pinyin : bìgǔ ; Wade-Giles : pi-ku , literally: “Avoiding grains”) is a Daoist fasting technical associated with Achieving xian“transcendence; immortality”. Grain avoidance is related to multifaceted Chinese cultural beliefs. For instance, bigu fasting was the common medical cure for expelling the sanshi三 尸 “Three Corpses”, the malevolent, grain-eating spirits that live in the human body (along with the hunsouls), report their host sins to heaven every 60 days, and carry out punishments of sickness and early death. Avoiding “grains” has been a variety of foodstuffs ( food grain , cereal , the Five Grains , wugu , or staple food ), or not eating any food ( inedia , breatharianism , or aerophagia ). In the historical context of traditional Chinese culture, qui Within the concept of biguIt has been developed with great importance in the life of the world and is of importance in sustaining human life, exemplified in various myths and legends of ancient China. The concept of bigu developed in this tradition, and within the context of Daoist philosophy .


The Chinese word bigu compound bi 辟 “ruler; monarch; avoid; ward off; keep away” and gu 穀 or 谷 “cereal; grain; ( 穀子 ) millet”. The bi辟meaning in bigu is a variant Chinese character for bi 避 “avoid, shun, evade, keep away” (eg, bixie辟邪gold避邪”ward off evil spirits; talisman amulet”). The alternative pronunciation of pi辟 “open up; develop; refute; eliminate” is a variant character for 闢 . The complex 14-stroke traditional chinese character gu穀 “grain” has a 7-stroke simplified Chinese character gu “valley throat.” Although a few Chinese dictionaries (eg, Liang & Chang 1971, Lin 1972) gloss the pronunciation of bigu辟穀 as pigu , the definitive Hanyu Da Cidian (1997) gives bigu .

English lexicographic translations of bigu are compared in this table.

Chinese-English Dictionary Definition of 辟穀 / 辟谷
Giles (1912) “to give up eating the five cereals, with a view to immortality. Also, to refuse food, – and starve”
Mathews (1931) “to abstain from cereals in order to attain to immortality; to starve”
Liang & Chang (1971) “to avoid eating cereals in order to obtain immortality”
Lin (1972) “stop even vegetarian food, have a way of becoming immortal Taoist”
DeFrancis (2003) “avoid eating cereals in order to gain immortality”
Kleeman & Yu (2010) “refuse to eat grain”

Catherine Despeux (2008: 233) lists synonyms for bigu “abstention from cereals”: duangu斷穀”stopping cereals” (with Duan 斷 “cut off; sever; break; give up”), juegu絕穀”discontinuing cereals” ( jue 絕 “cut off, sever, refuses; reject”), quegu卻穀”refraining from cereals” ( that 卻 “retreat, decline, reject, refuse”), and Xiuliang修糧”stopping grains” (with xiu 修 “repair; trim, plum ‘cultivate’ and liang 糧 ‘grain, food’).

Juegu , unlike these other alternative expressions, had meanings besides Daoist dietary practices. For instance, the ( c.139 BCE) Huainanzi uses juegu in a traditional saying ( trt Major et al., 2010: 775): “Now, rejecting a study of those who have failed to grieve and not eating or stumbling to stop walking and not going [anywhere]. ” About one century later, Liu Xiang ‘s Shuoyuan說苑”Garden of Stories” rephrases this simile about choking ounce and discontinuing grains.

Agricultural mythology

Main article: Agriculture in Chinese mythology
Shennong plowing fields, Han Dynasty wall.

Chinese folklore and mythology associated with several divinities with agriculture and grains.

  • Suiren “Firelighting Person” was a three-eyed sage who discovered how to make fire and invented cooking. This sui 燧 means ” flint , bow drill , burning mirror .”
  • Shennong “Farmer God”, also known as Wuguxiandi 五穀 先帝 “Emperor of the Five Grains”. Shennong is specifically credited with teaching humans to cultivate and eat the five grains. The list of grains was counted varied, but the various lists include the leguminous soybean, according to Lihui Yang (2005: 70 and 191-192). The (139 BCE) Huainanzi describes Shennong transforming human society from hunter-gatherer to agriculture .

In ancient times, the people fed on herbaceous plants and drank [only] water, picked fruit from shrubs and trees and ate the meat of oysters and clams. They frequently suffer tribulations from feverish diseases and injurious poisons. Therefore, the Divine Farmer first taught the people to plant and grow the five grains. He evaluated the suitability of the land, [noting] whether it was dry or wet, fertile or barren, high or low. He tried the taste and flavor of the hundred plants and the sweetness or bitterness of the streams and springs, issuing guidelines so the people would know what to avoid and what to accept. At the time [he was doing this], he suffered poisoning [as many as] seventy times a day. (19 tr, Major et al., 2010: 766-767)

  • Houji “Lord Millet” is the god or goddess of agriculture and ancestor of the Zhou people. The Shenging poem Shengmin “Birth of the [Zhou] People” praises Houji for inventing both agriculture and sacrifices (Campany 2005: 10-13).
  • Hou Tu “Lord Earth” was the goddess of the soil, and supposedly the predecessor of the giant Kua Fu . Worshipped at sheji altars.

While traditional Chinese mythology depicted cooking and agriculture as key elements of civilization, the Daoists created a “counter-narrative” (Campany 2005: 16) to justify the idea of ​​grain avoidance. For example, the Confucianist Xunzi and Hanfeizi Legalist describe Suiren as cultural folk hero .

In the earliest times … the people lived on fruit, berries, mussels, and clams – things that sometimes became so bad that they hurt people’s stomachs, and many became sick. Then a wise came up who created the boring of wood to produce fire and the food. The people were so delighted by this that they made him ruler of the world and called him the Fire-Drill Man (Suiren 燧 人). ( Hanfeizi 49, Tr Campany 2005: 15)

In contrast, the Zhuangzi “Mending Nature” chapter mentions Suiren first in a list of mythical wise-rulers – Fu Xi , Shennong, Yellow Emperor , Tang of Shang , and Yu the Great , traditionally credited with advancing civilization – goal depicts them as villains who initiated the destruction of the primal harmony of the Dao. Campany (2005: 16) calls this “the decline of Power and the ever-farther departure from the natural Dao into systems of social constraint and what passes for culture.”

The ancients, in the midst of chaos, were tranquil together with the whole world. At that time, yin and yang were harmoniously still, ghosts and spirits caused by disturbance; the four seasons came in good time; the myriad things went unharmed; the host of the living creatures escaped premature death. … This condition persists in the survival of Torchman [Suiren] and Fuhsi arose to manage all under heaven, but no longer unity. Integrity further declined to the Divine Farmer and the Yellow Emperor, but no longer agreed. Integrity declined still further until T’ang and Yu arose to manage all under heaven. They have been diluted and simplicity dissipated. (Tr.

Grains in Chinese agriculture and culture

The traditional Chinese symbol for civilization and state Was gu “grains cereals” (a synecdoche for “agricultural products”).

The Wangzhi “Royal Regulations” chapter of the Liji uses cooking food and eating grains to culturally classify the Chinese “Middle Kingdom” bordered by the “Four Barbarians” (Eastern Yi , Southern Man , Western Rong , and Northern Di ).

Thus the people of the five regions … each had their natures, which they could not be made to alter. Those of the east were called Yi; they wore their hair unbound and tattooed their bodies, and some of them ate their food without cooking it. [The people of] the south were called Man; they tattooed their foreheads and had their feet turned to each other, and some of them ate their food without cooking it. [The people of] the west were called Rong; they wore their hair unbound and wore skins, and some of them did not eat grain. [The people of] the north were called Di; they wore feathers and lived in cellars, and some of them did not eat grain. (Tr Campany 2005: 7-8)

Kwang-chih Chang (1977: 42) interprets this Liji context to mean, “One could eat grain but also eat a grain of wheat. cooked his meat. ”

During the first dynasties of the Qin and Han, when Daoism simultaneously became a mass movement, Chinese agricultural techniques were revolutionized. Applying methods from the (256 BCE) Dujiangyan Irrigation System , with widespread deforestation.

The nong p “peasant; farmer” was second-highest of the Four Occupations under the traditional Chinese feudal system . Kristofer Schipper says,

The peasants depended entirely on agriculture and were forever tied to their country through all kinds of fiscal and administrative measures. As a result, the rural communities became an easy prey to all the ills of sedentary civilization: ever-higher taxes, enslavement to the government through drudgery and military draft, epidemics, periodic shortages and famines, and wars and raids by non-Chinese tribes from across the borders. (Schipper 1993: 168)

When natural or human disasters occurred, the peasants could take refuge in non-arable regions of mountains and survive on wild foods other than grains.

The sheikh “altars to soil and grain gods” were the ritual center of a Chinese state. Originally, she was the “god of the land” and ji “the god of the harvest” (see Houji above), and the compound sheji “gods of soil and grain” metaphorically means “the state”. The Shiji (Campany 2005: 21) says establishing a new dynasty required eliminating the sheikh altars of the preceding dynasty and erecting one’s own.

Offerings of grain, liquor (a grain product ), and meat were necessary not only for sheji sacrifices but for ancestral sacrifices . The obligation to feed the ancestral dead to Chinese society. Campany summarizes the cultural importance of sacrificing “grains” to feed both natural and ancestral spirits.

Grain was, in short, a symbol and summation of culture itself, or rather of nature acculturated, as well as of the completely human community. A natural locus of nutritive “essence” ( jing ), grain but required cooperative, communal and differentiated stages of production-planting, tending, harvesting, storing, thrashing, milling, mixing, and cooking-to be transformed into food. Thus transformed, it was the most culturally celebrated food of humans (both living and dead) and of gods. (2005: 24)

The Chinese character for jing精 “spirit of life; energy” is written with the radical rice米.

Early textual references

The first textual references to “avoidance grains / cereals” are found in Chinese classics from the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE), Qin Dynasty (221 BCE-206 BCE), and Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 EC).

A (c. 3rd century BCE) Zhuangzi chapter describes a shenren神 人 “divine person” who does not eat grains but mysteriously helps them grow.

Far away on Mount Kuyeh there dwells a spirit man whose skin is like congealed snow and who is gentle as a virgin. He does not eat any of the five grains, but inhales the wind and drinks the dew. He rides on the clouds, drives a flying dragon, and wanders beyond the four seas. His spirit is concentrated, saving things from corruption and bringing a bountiful harvest every year. (1, tr .: Mair 1994: 6-7)

In this passage, Maspero (1981: 417) Recognizes the main Daoist Practices That Were current During the Six Dynasties period: “(1) abstention from Cereals, (2) respiratory exercises, and (3) concentration and meditation The.” Journey beyond the Four Seas “(4) corresponds to a manner of directing ecstasy,” resembling astral projection .

The (168 BCE) Quegu Shiqi卻穀食氣”Eliminating Grain and Eating Qi ” manuscript, qui Was Discovered in 1973 Among the Mawangdui Silk Texts , is the oldest documented grain-avoidance diet (tr by Harper. 1998: 305-9) . This Chinese medical manual outlines a method for Replacing grains with qi circulation, and consuming medicinal herbs, notably the fern shiwei石韋” pyrrosia lingua ” as a diuretic to treat urinary retention resulting and from Eliminating grains. This text (tr .: Campany 2005: 31) dichotomizes diets with the square-earth round-heaven from Chinese cosmography and fengshui , “Those who eat eatqi eat what is round. Round is heaven; square is earth. ”

The (139 BCE) Huainanzi chapter on topography (4, tr Major et al., 2010: 161) correlates diet and lifespan. “Those That feed is flesh are brave and daring goal cruel are. Those That feed is qi [Attain] spirit illumination and long-lived are. Those That feed is grain are knowledgeable and clever goal short-lived. Those That do not feed it do not die and are spirits. ”

Sima Qian ‘s (91 c ECB.) Records of the Grand Historian (26 rev Watson 1993, 1: 113; cf. Yü 1965. 92) mentions bigu in connection with Zhang Liang (262-189 ECB), or the Marquis of Liu, who served as teacher and strategist for Emperor Gaozu of Han (202-195 BCE). Zhang officiellement requested “to lay aside the affairs of this world, and join the Master of the Red Pine immortal in sport” (referring to Chisongzi赤松子”Master Red Pine”, a legendary xianwho, like Guiguzi , abstained from grains) and the emperor permitted it. Zhang Liang “set about practicing dietary restrictions and breathing and stretching exercises to achieve levitation”bigu , daoyin , and qingshen輕身 “lightening the body”). After Gaozu died, Empress Lü Zhi urged Zhang to eat, saying, “Why should you punish yourself like this?” Zhang “Eight years later he died.” Based on this account (which is also found in Lunheng ), Campany (2005: 37) concludes that by the late 2nd and 1st centuries BCE, “the idea that some practitioners are abstaining from grains while practicing methods for consuming, directing,

The (ca. 111 CE) Book of Han mentions bigu in context with the fangshi “alchemist; magician” Li Shaojun 李少君 teaching Emperor Wu of Han (141-87 BCE) a “method of worshipping the furnace and abstaining from cereals to prevent old age “(tr Despeux 2008: 233). Since grains have been cooked on the stove, in the raw / cooked logic, grain avoidance has been traditionally linked with worship of Zaoshen 灶神The Stove God (Pregadio 2008). In a reversal of not eating the Five Grains obtenir to immortality, the Book of Han aussi That record in 10 CE, the usurper Wang Mang paid the Fangshi Su蘇樂Lo, Who Claimed to know thexian secrets of longevity, to plant some “immortality grain” (Yu 1965: 115).

[T] he five grains were planted within the palace in the face of each other. The seeds have been soaked in the marrow of the bones of cranes, tortoise-shell ( you mao ), rhinoceros (horn), and jade, in all more than twenty constituents. One bushel of this grain cost one piece of gold. This was called Huang Ti’s cereal method for becoming a holy immortal. (tr. Needham 1997: 37)

The Confucian scholar Liu Xiang (79-8 BCE) edited several classical texts, including the (ECB 26) Guanzi that repeatedly praises grain eating. The first chapter ” Neiye ” “Inner Training” begins by comparing the jing精 “essence” in grains and stars.

The vital essence of all things It makes the five grains below and becomes the stars above. When flowing amid the heavens and earth, we call it ghostly and numinous. When stored within the chests of human beings, we call them wise. (Roth 2004, 1:01)

Campany (2005: 18) knows of “no text that exalts grains more highly or insists on their importance more strongly than the Guanzi .” Compare: “The five grains and the eating of rice are the people of Director of Allotted Lifespans” (ie, Siming) and “In all cases the five grains are the controllers of all things” ).

Liu Xiang’s hagiography of Daoist xian , the Liexian Zhuan “Collected Biographies of Immortals”, tells the famous “Hairy Woman”.

During the reign of Emperor Cheng of the Han, the hunters in the Zhongnan Mountains saw a person who wore no clothes, his body covered with black hair. When seeing this person, the hunters wanted to pursue and capture him, but The hunters then stealthily observed where the person lived, surrounded and captured him, whereupon they determined that the person was a woman. Upon questioning, she said, “I was originally a woman of the Qin palace.” When I heard that I was coming from the East of India, the King of Qin would go out and surrender, and that the palace buildings would be burned, I fled In the mountains, I was on the verge of dying by starvation when an old man taught me to eat the resin and nuts of pines. they were bitter, but gradually I grew accustomed to them. They enabled me to feel neither hunger nor thirst; in winter I was not cold, in summer I was not hot. “Calculation showed that the woman, having been a member of the Qin KingZiying’s harem, must be more than two hundred years old in the present time of Emperor Cheng. The hunters took the woman back in. They offered her grain to eat. When she first smelled the stink of the grain, she vomited, and only after several days could she tolerate it. This diet, her body hair fell out; she turned old and died. Had she not been caught by men, she would have become a transcendent. (Campany 2005: 38)

Campany states, “Few narratives more succinctly summarize the argument that ordinary foods or” grains “block the path to transcendence.” Ge Hong ‘s (3rd century) Shenxian zhuan gives a different version – including the Hairy Woman’s name of Yu Qiang and not mentioning her being captured or fed grains.

Two chapters of Wang Chong ‘s (1980 CE) Lunheng criticize the practice of avoiding grains as mistaken. The “Daoist Untruths” chapter uses Li Shao Jun, who “knew some clever maneuvers and some fine tricks, which did not fail to produce a wonderful effect” (Forke 1907: 344), to exemplify confusing Daoist xian immortality techniques with natural longevity (see Yü 1965: 111).

There are no instances of any one having obtained Tao, but there have been very long-lived persons. Tao and the art of immortality, become over a hundred years old without dying, call them immortals, as the following example will show. At the time of Han Wu, there lived a certain Li Shao Chun, who pretended that by sacrificing to the “Hearth” and [ bigu ] abstaining from eating grain he could ward off old age. He saw the emperor, who conferred high honors upon him. (Forke 1907: 344)

This context also mentions Wang Ziquiao 王子 僑, to his King of King of Zhou (571-545 BCE).

The idea prevails that those who [ bigu] abstain from eating grain are well versed in the art of Tao. They say eg that Wang Tse Ch’iao and the like, because they did not touch grain, and lived on different food than ordinary people, had not the same length of life as ordinary people, they transcended into another state of being, and became immortal. That’s another mistake. Eating and drinking are natural impulses, with which we are endowed at birth. Hence, the upper part of the body has a mouth and teeth, the inferior part orifices. With the mouth and teeth one chews and eats, the orifices are for the discharge. Keeping in accord with one’s nature, one of the violins one’s natural propensities, and neglects one’s natural spirit before heaven. How can we get long life in this way? (Forke 1907: 347)

The Lunheng “Meaning of Sacrifice” chapter mentions juegu in criticizing the tradition of presenting food and wine sacrifices to ancestral spirits.

The votaries of Taoism studying the art of immortality abstain from eating cereals and taking other food with other people with a view to purifying themselves. Ghosts and spirits, however, are still more ethereal than immortals, why should they use the same food as man? One assumes that after death man loses his consciousness, and that his soul can not become a spirit. But let us suppose that he did, then he would use different food, and using different food, he would not have to eat human food. Not eating human food, it could not give us luck or mishap. (Forke 1907: 524)

Lu Jia 陸賈 ‘s (c.191 BCE) Xinyu新 語 “New Sayings” criticizes bigu among other early Daoist xian transcendental practices.

[If a man] treats his body bitterly and harshly and goes deep into the mountains in search of hsien immortality, [if he] leaves behind his parents, casts aside his kindred, abstains from the five grains, gives up classical learning, thus running In this case, it is impossible to find a way to “no death,” then it is in no way to communicate with this world or prevent it from happening. (tr Yü 1965: 93)

The (c.190-220 CE) Xiang’er commentary to the Daodejing contrasts qi -eaters and grain-eaters.

Noble transcendants ( xianshi仙 士) differ from the vulgar in that they do not value glory, rank, or wealth. They value only “drawing sustenance from the mother” -that is, [from] their own bodies. In the interior of the body, the “mother” is the stomach, qui Governs the qi of the five viscera. Commoners eat grain, and when the grain is gone, they die. Transcend noble eat grain when they have it, and when they do not, they consume qi . The qi returns to the stomach, qui est the layered sack of the bowels. (tr .: Campany 2005: 37)

Ge Hong ‘s (320 EC) Baopuzi contains classical discussions of bigu techniques. For instance, chapter 6, “The Meaning of ‘Subtle'” (微 旨), equates grain avoidance with the supernatural abilities of a xian transcend.

Therefore, by giving up starches one can become immune to weapons, exorcize demons, neutralize poisons, and cure illnesses. We enter a mountain, he can render savage beasts harmless. When he crosses streams, no harm will be done by dragons. There will be no fear when plague strikes; and when a crisis or difficulty suddenly arises, you will know how to cope with it. (6, tr Ware 1966: 114-5)

Chapter 15, “Miscellanea” (雜 應), describes “avoiding grains” in terms that Campany (2005: 39) says are “tantamount to not eating food at all” and “merely swallowing saliva and qi” and “ingestion medicinal preparations to suppress appetite”. and strengthen the body. ” The chapter begins with the interlocutor asking about duangu “cutting off grains” and changsheng長生 “longevity” (meaning “eternal life” in Daoist terminology). “I would like to inquire whether a man can achieve fullness of life by just dispensing with starches.” How many methods for this are there, and which is the best? Ge Hong gives a long answer, citing both personal observations and textual records.黃 精 “yellow essence” (” polygonatum ; Solomon’s Seal”) and yuyu禹 餘糧 “Yu’s leftover grain” (” limonite “).

By dispensing with starches a man can only stop spending money on grains, but he can not attain fullness of life. When they have been doing things for a long time, they say that they were in better health than when they were eating starches. When they took thistle and nibbled mercury and when they also took pills of brown hematite twice a day, this triple medication produced an increase in breaths, so that they gained the strength to carry loads of long trips, for their bodies became extremely light in weight. . These patients have been treated for a long time, but when they swallowed their breaths, they took amulets, or drank brine, only loss of appetite resulted, and they did not have strength for hard work. The Taoist Writings may be said that if one wishes Fullness of Life the intestines must be clean, and if immortality is desired the intestines must be without feces; But they also say that they are going to eat, but at the same time stupid; that those eating meat will be very strong, and also brave. Those eating starches will be wise, but they will not live to an old age, while those eating breath will have gods and spirits within them that never die. This last one, however, is only a biased claim by the school that teaches the circulation of breaths. One has no right to claim this method. If you wish to take the great medicines of gold or cinnabar, they will act quickly if you fast for the first time or so. If you can not fast that long, take them straightway; this will do no great harm, but it will take more time to acquire geniehood. (15 Tr Ware 1966: 243-4)

Warning that abandoning grain is difficult – “If you consider it inconvenient to break with the world, leave your household, and live high on a peak, you will certainly not succeed” – Ge Hong notes the popularity of alternative dietary techniques.

If you would not be distressed yourself, it is best to dispense with starches but merely regulate the diet, for which there are about hundred methods. Sometimes, after a few dozen pills of interior-protecting medicines have been taken, it is claimed that appetite is lost for forty or fifty days. (Other times, one or two hundred days are Claimed, or the pills must be taken for days or months.) Refined pine and cypress as well as thistle can aussi protect the interior, purpose They Are inferior to the great medicines, and last only ten years or less. At other times, fine foods are consumed and consumed to the utter satiation, and then they are taken to be eaten, so they may not be digested. This is a claim to remain valid for three years. If you then wish to revert to the eating of starches, it is necessary to start by swallowing mallows and lard, so that the fine food you prepared will pass from you undigested. (15 Tr. Ware 1966: 244)

Ge Hong chronicles the effects of grain avoidance.

They have been observed for two or three years, which have been foregoing starches, and their general bodies have been mild and their complexions good. They could withstand wind, cold, heat, or dampness, but there was not a fat one among them. I admit That I have-nots yet puts Any Who HAD not eaten starches in Several decades, goal if Some People cut off from starches for only A couple of weeks die while thesis others look as well as They Do after-years, why should we doubt That the (deliberate) fasting could be prolonged still further? If Those cut off from starches grow Progressively Weaker to death, one Would Normally fear That Such a diet simply can not be prolonged, order inquiry Of Those Pursuing this practice Reveals That at first all of em leaflet was lessening of strength, purpose That later They gradually get stronger month by month and year by year. Thus, there is no impediment to the possibility of extension. All those who have found the divine process for attaining Fullness of Life by taking medicines and swallowing breath; they are all in perfect agreement. A time of crisis, HOWEVER, Generally OCCURS at an early stage When medicines are taken and being white starches abandoned and it is only forty days of after-progressive Weakening, as one only uses holy water and feeds Solely one breath, That One regains strength. (15 Tr. Ware 1966: 246-7) It is an early stage procedure in which it is used only in the aftermath of the disease, and it is used only in the following cases. (15 Tr. Ware 1966: 246-7) It is an early stage procedure in which it is used only in the aftermath of the disease, and it is used only in the following cases. (15 Tr. Ware 1966: 246-7)

This “holy water” refers to a Daoist fu ” talisman ” dissolved in water. Ge Hong further quoted an Eastern Wu historical example to show that drinking water can not prevent death. When Emperor Jing of Wu (r. 258-264) heard about, Shi Chun石春, a Daoist healer “Who Would not eat in order to Hasten the cure When He Was Treating a sick person,” he exclaimed,

“In a short time this man is going to starve to death.” Then he had it locked up and guarded, and all that Shih Ch’un asked for a second or three quarters of water for making holy water. It went on like this for more than a year, while his complexion became ever fresher and his strength remained normal. The emperor then asked him how much longer, and Shih Ch’un replied that there was no limit; possibly several dozen years, his only fear being that he might die of old age, but it would not be of hunger. The emperor then discontinued the experiment and felt him away. Note that Shih Ch’un’s statement shows that giving up starches can not protract one’s years. Some now have Shih Ch’un’s method. (15 Tr. Ware 1966: 248-9)

In the Baopuzi , Ge Hong criticizes contemporary charlatans who claimed to have duangu “cut off grains”.

I have also frequently seen ignorant processors who, wishing to boast and amaze and acquire a reputation for not eating when they really knew nothing about such procedures. Meanwhile, they would drink more than a gallon of wine daily, and dried meats, puddings, jujubes, chestnuts, or eggs were never out of their mouths. Sometimes they would eat large quantities of meat – several times daily – swallowing their juices and spitting out anything that was unpleasant. This, however, is actually feasting. Wine drinkers will be able to keep their mouths wet, and they can keep this up for a long time without stumbling or falling. Never yet, however, they have claimed that this was “cut off from starches!” (15 Tr. Ware 1966: 248)

The (c. 4th-5th century) Taishang Lingbao Wufuxu太上靈寶五符序”Explanations of the Five Numinous Treasure Talismans” Attributed To the Han Daoist Lezichang樂子長, Gives instructions for practicing bigu , swallowing saliva, and Ingesting the “five wonder plants” (pine resin, sesame, pepper, ginger, and calamus). This “Explanations” text includes the (c 280) Lingbao wufu jing靈寶 五 符 經 “Scripture of the Five Numinous Treasure Talismans”, which says:

The Third Immortal King told the Emperor: In the old days I followed a dietetic regimen and attained immortality. My teacher made me increase the sweet spring in my mouth and swallow it in accordance with the following incantation: “The white stones, hard and rocky, are rolling on and on. The gushing spring, bubbling and pervasive, becomes a thick juice. it and attain long life – Longevity forever longer! ” These twenty-two words-you should follow them! If you can actually do this and have a good time, then your inner energy will grow and remain strong, never to be weakened. You reach the Tao by avoiding all grains. You will never have to follow the rhythm of the moon and plant or harvest. Now, the people of mysterious antiquity, they are old age because they are still in the kitchen. As theDayou zhang [Verse of Great Existence] says: “The five grains are chisels cutting life away, making the body stink and shorten our spans. To avoid death, keep your intestines free of excrement! (1993 Kohn 1993: 149-150)

Campany uses internalism Externalism and to analyze how the idea early texts Justified That Shiqi食氣”eating qi ” is better than Shigu “eating grain”. For examples (2005: 2), “We eat X because X makes us live long” is an internalist based on essential properties or benefits; “We eat X and not Y, which is what other people eat” is an externalist claim based upon cultural stereotypes. After understanding analysis of how early texts describe “grain” (ie, “mainstream food”) avoidance, from the (c 320 BCE) Zhuangzi to the (c 320 CE) Baopuzi , Campany (2005: 43) concludes the (c 280 CE) Lingbao wufu jingis the earliest passage “in which grains are attacked by a food source based on what we might call negative internalist reasons-that is, on the grounds that they cause actual harm to the body in specific, theorized ways.” Before the 3rd century, Chinese classical texts do not claim that “grains” actually harm the body, they argue that ” qi and other more refined substances, when ingested and circulated in esoterically recommended ways, give superior and (for some texts at least) longevity-inducing nourishment. ”

One of the strongest things in the world is the most critical of grains or other everyday foods. That is, They All recommend Avoiding grains and What They offer everything you superior alternative, order on the issue of PRECISELY why grains are inferior Such nourishment They Have little or nothing to say. What little internalist criticism we do find is quite late – apparently Eastern Han at the earliest – and does not seem well developed: ordinary foods, described as rotten and smelly, impure a body that must be brought into qi-based resonance with heaven. This impurity is specifically located in the intestines. […] In most discussions, then, it is not that prescribers and practitioners of transcendence arts portrayed ordinary food as harmful; it is more important than they are. [… Purpose,] why these diets of qi or of rare herbs and minerals should be regarded as superior to one of ordinary food is a question that very often remains unanswered; we are merely, but repeatedly and in various ways, told that they are superior. (2005: 48)

Echoing Claude Lévi-Strauss , Campany (2005: 50) suggests that grains, inexorably linked with their cultural and institutional symbolisms, were “good to contrast” rather than being inherently “bad to eat.” One of the major reasons for consuming wild plants and exotic foods was the inherent contrast with eating everyday “grains”.

Daoist rejection of grain

The avoidance of “grain” means the Daoist rejection of common social practices. According to Kohn (1993: 149), “It is a return to a time in the dawn of humanity when there is no grain, it is also a return to a primitive and simple way of eating.”

Daoist bigu practices created excuses to quit the agricultural-based Chinese society in which grains were necessary for basic food, ancestral sacrifices, and tax payments.

The “cutting off” of grains, which were the basic staple food for the peasants, was also a rejection of their sedentary life and peasant condition as such. This refusal should not be misinterpreted in the light of miseries endured by farmers, but also in a much more fundamental way. Agriculture has occasioned, since Neolithic times, a radical break with the way of life that prevails for the whole prehistory of humankind. Agriculture has also been the main focus of the world of human civilization over the past ten years or so: the systematic destruction of the natural environment, overpopulation, capitalization, and other evils that result from sedentariness. (Schipper 1993: 170)

Grain abstention was prerequisite for the Daoist practice of yangxing養 性 “nourishing the inner nature”. Maspero explains.

Nourishing the Vital Principle consists of suppressing the causes of death and creating the body that will replace the dead body. The causes of death are especially the Breath of Grains and the Breath of Bloody Foods: hence the foodstuff which is designated by the generic name Abstinence from Grains. One must succeed in replacing vulgar food with the Food of the Breath, like an aerophagiawhich is in the air, it is possible to escape it, while it is held in, making it pass, in identical mouthfuls with great gulps of water, from the trachea into the esophagus, so that it can be felt on the stomach like real food. The body is made of Breaths, like all things; but it is made of coarse breaths, the air is a light, the subtle and pure Breath. Vulgar food, after digestion, supplies the body with the Breath of the Flavors, common and impure Breaths which make it heavy. By contrast, Food of the Breath by little replaces the coarse matter of the body with light, pure Breaths; and when the transformation is completed, the body is immortal. (1981: 255)

Some versions of “grain avoidance” could result in health problems, as discussed by Maspero.

This very severe diet was not without its painful moments. Without grains and meat, whoever practices is undernourished; and the Taoist authors admit that they are many, some of them general (vertigo, weakness, sleepiness, difficulties in moving), others local (diarrhea, constipation, and so on). Nevertheless, they advise persevering, insisting that these symptoms disappear and that the body soon becomes more comfortable. They also advise practicing it only gradually, and they recommend a number of drugs for the period of transition and adaptation which, according to them, lasts thirty to forty days. Ginseng, Cinnamon, Pachyma Cocos [ie, Fu Ling]], sesame, digitalis, licorice, and all the traditional Chinese tonics play a leading role in them. (1981: 335)

Chinese Buddhism adopted Daoist grain abstention as a preparation for self-immolation . For instance (Benn 2007: 36-7), the monk Huiyi 慧 益 (d.463), who vowed to burn his body in sacrifice to the Buddha, beginning preparations by which “abstaining from grains” (eating only sesame and wheat) for two years, then the only one of the thyme, and finally ate only pills made of incense. Although Emperor Xiaowu of Liu Song (r 453-464) tried to dissuade Huiyi, he publicly immolated himself in a cauldron full of oil, wearing an oil-soaked cap to act as a wick, while chanting the Lotus Sutra .

The Three Corpses or Worms

Main article: Three Corpses

Avoiding grains was the primary medical cure for eliminating the sanshi三 尸 “Three Corpses” or sanchong三 蟲 “Three Worms” Livia Kohn (1993: 148) describes the Three Corpses as “demonic supernatural creatures who feed on decay and are eager for the body to die altogether so they can devour it. They have been digested in the intestines if they are to be long lived, the three worms are to be starved, and the only way to do so is to avoid all grain.

Traditional Chinese medicine links the mythological Three Corpses / Worms with the intestinal jiuchong九 蟲 “Nine Worms”, which “correspond to parasites such as roundworms or tapeworms, weaken the host’s body and cause a variety of symptoms” (Cook 2008: 844) .

The Three Bodies of the Lower and Upper Middle, and Lower Dantian “Cinnabar Fields” within the brain, heart, and abdomen, respectively. After Their host dies, They Become ghosts and are free to roam about stealing sacrificial offerings. These pernicious corpse-worms seek to harm both their host’s body and fate. First, they weaken the bodily Dantian energy centers. Second, the Three Corpses keep records or their host’s misdeeds, ascend to tian”heaven” bimonthly on the Chinese sex cycle gengshen day “57th of the 60”, and file reports to the Siming司命 “Director of Destinies” who’s getting punishments to the host’s lifespan. For genghsen days, the (4th century) Huangtingjing黃庭 經 “Yellow Court Scripture” (Schipper 1978: 372) says, “Do not sleep or day or night, and you shall become immortal.”

In the heart of the world, the Baopuzi records the Hearth God making one.

It is also said that there are three bodies in our bodies, which, although not corporeal, are actually of an inner nature, ethereal breaths, the powers, the ghosts, and the gods. They want us to die prematurely. (After death they are a man’s ghost and move on to be to where sacrifices and libations are being offered.) Therefore, every fifty-seventh day of the sixty-day cycle they mount to heaven and personally report our misdeeds to the Director of Fates . Further, during the night of the last day of the month the god also ascends to heaven and makes an oral report of a man’s wrongs. For the most important misdeeds a deducted period. For the minor ones they deduct one reckoning, a reckoning being three days. Personally, it is really not so, but that is because the ways of heaven are obscure, and ghosts and gods are hard to understand. (6 Tr. Ware 1966: 115-6)

Bigu abstinence from grains and cereals, which allegedly makes the Three Bodies waste away, is the basis for many Daoist dietetic regimens, which can also exclude wine, meat, onion, and garlic. The Jinjian yuzi jing金 Classic 玉 字 字 經 經 Classic 經 字 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經 經five strong flavors, they must bathe, wash their garments, and burn incense. ” Practicing bigu alone can not eliminate the Three Bodies, but they would be weakened to the point where they could be killed with alchemical drugs, particularly cinnabar (Schipper 1993: 167).

Early Daoist texts and traditions portray the Three Bodies in both “zoomorphic and bureaucratic metaphors” (Campany 2005: 43). The (4th century CE) Ziyang zhenren neizhuan紫陽 真人 內 傳 In 真 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 傳 “Inner Biography of the True Person of Purple Yang”

  • Qīnggǔ青 古 Old Old Old Blue Blue dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell dwell Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan “” “” “” “” “” “” “” “” “” “” “
  • Bai gū白 姑 “White Maiden” dwells in the Crimson Palace within the Middle Field, “She causes palpitations of the heart, asthma, and melancholy.”
  • Xuê shī血 尸 “Bloody Corpse” dwells in the Lower Dantian,

Compare the (9th century) Chu Sanshi jiuchong baosheng jing “Scripture on Expanding the Three Bodies and Nine Worms to Protect Life” description.

  • The upper corpse, Penj jū 彭 琚, lives in the head. Symptoms of its attack include a feeling of heaviness in the head, blurred vision, deafness, and excessive flow of tears and mucus.
  • The middle corpse, Péng zàn 彭 瓚, dwells in the heart and stomach. It attacks the heart, and makes its host crave sensual pleasures.
  • The lower body, Péng jiǎo 彭 矯, resides in the stomach and bequests. It causes the Ocean of Pneuma … to leak, and makes its host lust after women. (tr Cook 2008: 846)

This text’s woodblock illustrations depict the upper body as a scholarly man, the middle as a quadruped short, and the lower corpse as “a monster that looks like a horse’s leg with a horned human head” (Tr Maspero 1981: 333).

The Japanese folk tradition of Kōshin (namely, the Japanese pronunciation of gengshen庚申 “57th”) combines the Daoist Three Corpses with Shintō and Buddhist beliefs, including the Three Wise Monkeys . People waiting Koshin-Machi庚申待”Waiting 57th Day” events to stay awake all night and prevent prevention the Sanshi三尸”Three Corpses” from leaving the body and reporting misdeeds to heaven.

Famine foods

Famine food plants, which are not normally considered as crops , are consumed during times of extreme poverty, starvation, or famine. Bigu diets have been linked to mountainous wilderness areas, including starvation foodstuffs and underutilized crops . Despeux (2008: 234) said, “Abstention from cereals should also be situated in the historical context of social unrest and famine.”

The Mouzi Lihuolun introduction describes people who fled China after the death of the Emperor Ling of Han and moved south to Cangwu in Jiaozhou (present day Tonkin ).

It happened, after the death of Emperor Ling (189 CE), the world was in disorder. Since only Chiao-chou [a colonial district in the far south] has remained relatively peaceful, otherworldly people from the north cam en masse and settled there. Many of them practiced the methods of the immortal spirit, abstaining from grains to prolong life. These methods were popular then, but they were unceasingly refuted by employing the Five Classics, and none among the Taoist adepts or the Magicians dared engage him in debate. (1, tr.Keenan 1994: 52)

These refutations of grain avoidance are found in Mouzi Lihuolun Article 30 (Keenan 1994: 151-153).

The Baopuzi discussion of grain abstention notes,

Should you take to the mountains and forests during political unrest? Otherwise, do not rush into this practice, for rushing can not be very beneficial. If you do not have enough food, you can find it when you smell it fat or freshness. (15 Tr. Ware 1966: 244)

The Chinese published the oldest book on famine foods: the Jiuhuang Bencao救 荒 本草 “Materia Medica for the Relief of Famine”. Zhu Su 朱 橚 (1361-1425), the fifth son of the Hongwu Emperor , compiled this describing 414 famine food plants. Bernard Read (1946) translated the Jiuhuang bencao into English.

Modern interpretations

The ancient Daoist practice of bigu grain avoidance resonates in present-day trends such as low-carbohydrate diets , gluten-free diets , cyclic ketogenic diets .

Schipper uses medical terminology to explain grain avoidance.

One can advance positive explanations for this belief, and the practice that derives from it, if one thinks, for example, of the relative abundance of feces produced by cereals as compared to that produced by a diet of meat. The conclusion of recent studies on the harmful effect of excessive amounts of carbohydrates in the form of sugar and bran, have led to some of the results of an empiricism in matters of diet. (Schipper 1993: 167)

Some contemporary researchers (such as Yan et al., 2002) are clinically investigating bigu fasting.

See also

  • Anqi Sheng
  • Chinese philosophy
  • Lunheng
  • Neidan


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