The Secret Book on the Inner Elixir as Transmitted by the Immortal Sun Bu’er

(Sun Bu’er yuan jun chuan shu dan dao mi shu) 

IMG_0836Composer: Yii Kah Hoe (Malaysia)

Text: Sun Bu’er
12th-century Chinese Daoist practitioner and teacher; the only woman among the Eight Daoist Immortals

Performed in modern Mandarin

Please find text and translation below.

 

This, the longest song cycle, is scored for soprano, piano, Ebows  and percussion. It sets fourteen poems from The Secret Book on the Inner Elixir as Transmitted by the Immortal Sun Bu’er (Sun Bu’er yuanjun chuanshu dandao mishu), by the twelfth-century female Daoist practitioner Sun Bu’er.  Sun Bu’er was the only female member of the ‘Seven Immortals.’  These poems instruct the reader, in metaphorical language, in the practices of ‘nüdan,’ which specifies the method of Daoist inner cultivation especially modified for the female body.

Yii Kah Hoe has composed these songs based on the texts helpfully provided by Dr. Robin Wang (Marymount Loyola University (Philosophy)). My experience singing in Chinese (for example Evan Ziporyn’s ‘Ornate Zither and Nomad Flute’), and my frequent visits to China through Scripps’ faculty exchange initiative, teaching in both Mandarin and English, gave me confidence to propose that the composer set these poems in modern Mandarin.

 

Text and translation
(by Dr. Robin Wang, Marymount Loyola University)

 

第一收心(男女同)Step One: Collecting Heart/Mind (shouxin)

吾身未有日一氣已先存似玉磨逾潤如金煉豈昏
掃空生滅海固守總持門半黍虛靈處融融火候溫

Primordial qi already existed before the time of my existence;

Like jade being ground to reveal its brightness, how could it be possible that more polishing would make it darker?

Eliminating the seas of desires for life and death to guard the ultimate gate;

At the place of half a grain of rice where the empty spirit is alert, the adjusted fire is at its perfect temperature.

 

第二養氣(男女同)Step Two: Cultivating Qi (yangqi)

本是無為始何期落後天一聲纔出口三寸已司權
況被塵勞耗那堪疾病纏子肥能益母休道不迴旋

The origin begins in non-action, but it then collapses into posterity;

Once the first sound of crying bursts forth, breathing starts to take control of life.

Earthly dusts and laboring exhaust one’s life; one’s body is tangled with weakness and illness;

Abundance of children can benefit the mother, how can we say that we are unable to return to our beginning?

第三行功(未二句女子獨用)Step Three: Moving Energy (xingqi)

斂息凝神處東方生氣來萬緣都不著一氣復歸臺
陰象宜前降陽光許後栽山頭并海底雨過一聲雷

At the place of concentrating breath and spirit, the generating qi comes from the east;

Myriad desires have no place to stay, so only unified breath reachesto the stage of spirit;

The image of yin is descending in the front while the light of yang is ascending at the back;

When the top of the mountain is united with the bottom of the ocean there is thunder after the passing rain.

 

第四斬龍(女子襡用)Step Four: Slaying the Dragon (zanlong)

靜極能生動陰陽相與模風中擒玉虎月裡捉金烏
著眼絪縕候留心順逆途鵲橋重過處丹氣復歸爐

Extreme stillness can generate motion, where yin and yang coalesce;

Capturing the jade tiger in the wind and grasping the golden bird in the moon;

Keep eyes alert to the moment of intercourse of heaven and earth and be aware

At the meeting places of the magpie bridges, the qi of the elixir returns to the stove.

 

第五養丹(首二句女子獨用Step Five: Cultivating the Elixir (yangdan)

縛虎歸真穴牽龍漸益丹性須澂似水心欲靜如山
調息收金鼎安神守玉關日能增黍米鶴髮復朱顏

The captured tiger returns to the authentic spot while the grasped dragon gradually shows the effective elixir;

Disposition must be as clear as water while the desires of heart/mind must be still like the mountain;

Adjusted breath collects in the golden cauldron and a peaceful spirit guards the jade gate;

One can increase the cord of rice every day and a woman’s gray hair can return to youthful radiance.

 

第六胎息(男女同)Step Six: Embryonic Breathing (taixi) 

要得丹成速先將幻境除心心守靈藥息息返乾初
氣復通三島神忘合太虛若來與若去無處不真如

In order to arrive at the perfection of the elixir quickly, one must eliminate all stressful situations in the human world;

Each movement of the heart guards the spiritual medicine and each breath returns to the beginning of heaven;

Qi returns and penetrates the three islands and the forgotten spirit unites with the ultimate void;

Whether coming or leaving, wandering just like a Buddha.

 


第七符火(五六兩句女子獨用)
Step Seven: Symbolic Firing (fuhuo)

胎息綿綿處須分動靜機陽光當益進陰魄要防飛
潭裡珠含景山頭月吐輝六時休少縱灌溉藥苗肥

At the harmonious place of embryonic breath one must distinguish the timing/opportunity of motion and stillness;
The light of yang should gradually move forward and the spirit of yin should be protected to avoid its flying away;

The pearl in the pond reflects the scenery and the moon at the top of the mountain radiates brightness;

Be constant and concentrating through the six periods of the day, cultivate the abundant elixir.

 


第八接藥(男女同)
Step Eight: Receiving the Elixir (jieyao)

一半玄機悟丹頭如露疑雖云能固命安得煉成形
鼻觀純陽接神鉛透體靈哺含須慎重完滿即飛騰

Halfway to grasping the mysterious opportunity, the sprout of elixir appears like a dewdrop;

Though it is said that it can stabilize life, it still must be cultivated into a form.

Use the nose to smell and receive the pure yang while the divine mercury penetrates the bodily spirit.

Cultivation must be careful and it will take off as soon as it is complete.


第九煉神(男女同)
Step Nine: Transforming the Spirit (lianshen)

生前舍利子一旦入吾懷慎似持盈器柔如撫幼孩
地門須固閉天闕要先開洗濯黃芽淨山頭震地雷

Before birth there was a primordial spirit that once came into my body;

Be careful to hold on to it like holding a delicate vessel and be gentle to it as touching a soft infant;

The gate of earth must be firmly closed and the palace of heaven needs to be opened first;

Washing and reflecting the yellow sprout so that the top of mountain is shaking and booming.


第十服食(男女同)
Step Ten: Taking Food (fushi)

大冶成山澤中含造化情朝迎日烏氣夜吸月蟾精
時候丹能採年華體自輕元神來往處萬竅發光明

The great molding forms the mountains and ponds and within they contain the essence of transformation;

In the morning it receives the qi of the sun and in the evening it absorbs the essence of moon;

At the proper time one can pick up the elixir and return to youthfulness, and the body will become light and clean;

At the dwelling place of primordial spirit myriad apertures radiate the bright lights.

 

第十一辟穀(男女同)Step Eleven: Fasting (bigu)

既得餐靈氣清冷肺腑奇忘神無相著合極有空離
朝食尋山芋昏飢採澤芝若將煙火混體不履瑤池

Get vital qi from food and cleanse, purify the internal organs;

A mindless spirit has no desire to be attached and the unified ultimate contains emptiness and space;

Yearning for food one will find mountain taro and hunger will pick magic fungus;

If one is still involved with the ordinary cooking fire then one can never reach the divine pond.

 

第十二面壁(男女同)Step Twelve: Facing the Wall (mianbi)

萬事皆云畢凝然坐小龕輕身乘紫氣靜性濯清潭
氣混陰陽一神同天地三功完朝玉闕長嘯出翜嵐

Myriad things are all put to rest while one sits at a small shrine in concentration;

A light body rides the purple qi, and one’s purified nature is washed in the clear pond;

Qi of yin and yang become one and the spirit unites with heaven and earth to become three;

The completed training moves toward the jade palace, and a long breath blows out the morning haze of mountains.

 

第十三出神(男女同)Step Thirteen: Coming Out of the Spirit (chushen)

身外復有身非關幻術成圓通此靈氣活潑一元神
皓月凝金液青蓮煉玉真烹來烏兔髓珠皎不愁貧

There is a body outside the body but it has nothing to do with the achievement of skillful magic;

Circulating this spiritual qi activates the primordial spirit;

The bright moon forms golden fluid, and green lotus transforms the genuine jade;

Receiving smoothly the essence of bird and rabbit in the moon; holding the bright pearl, one never worries about poverty.

 

第十四沖舉(男女同)Step Fourteen: Ascendant Breaking Through (chongju)

佳期方出谷咫尺上神霄玉女驂青鳳金童獻絳桃
花前彈錦瑟月下弄瓊簫一旦仙凡隔冷然渡海潮

At a good time it will come out of the ravine and fly up to the divine cloud;

The jade girl rides the green phoenix, and the golden boy sends the silk peach;

Performing on the pipa in front of the flower and playing the jade flute under the moon;

Once immortal and mortal are separated one can calmly deal with the waves of the ocean.