A Taste of Happiness: Contextualizing Elixirs in Baopuzi

  • Poo Mu-chou

Abstract

In Daoist religion, the way to achieve immortality, and with it, ultimate happiness, is to perfect one’s moral righteousness, practice physical and mental exercises, and take various kinds of elixirs. Previous studies have examined the chemical elements involved in the production of elixirs and their physical effects on the human body (Needham 1974). This essay intends to take a further step and discuss the psychological effect of the drugs as described in the Baopuzi in the context of the social psychology of the Six Dynasties period. I examine the meaning of this attraction to elixirs in the context of the search for happiness in the history of popular religion. My tentative observation is that, in medieval China, a sense of happiness, once achieved through the help of ghosts and spirits, was now achieved through tasting elixirs. This change of mentality reflected changes in sociopolitical reality and social psychology, as well as the development of the art of medicine and alchemy in the Six Dynasties period.

Keywords

Clay Diarrhea Ghost Dock Lesterol 

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© Roel Sterckx 2005

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  • Poo Mu-chou

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