Red Pellet, Golden Bones – Poetry on the Formation of the Elixir Qi

Translation and Commentary by Jill Gonet

One of the eight legendary Taoist immortals, Master Lü Dongbin was born in 796 C.E. in the province of Shanxi, during the Tang dynasty.  This selection of his poems on the art of Taoist internal cultivation and the formation of the Elixir presents two of the Master’s instructional poetry sequences, as well as a third selection of his poems on the general subject of cultivation.

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Scholars, dedicated cultivators of the Tao, and those who are both, will find within these poems the trail of returning to the source. The reality that emerges throughout the stages of cultivating the Elixir Qi is both spiritual and of the physical body, and in this, these extraordinary poems are like mirrors reflecting the Master’s experience of the union of spirit and body, the nature of the task of the creation of the Elixir, and the phases of its formation. In the Lü Dongbin poems presented here, the Master is working with and through the body, and he focuses again and again on what is right there within the aspiring adept.

The poems in the current selection are presented with clarity and directness, and the glosses shed significant light on the coded language and symbolism within the poems. Ms. Gonet’s translations and commentary offer the modern Western reader and Taoist practitioner a valuable window into the most central ideas and experiences involved in the processes and phases of creating the Internal Elixir, bringing the art of Taoist cultivation into the hands of modern-day cultivators of the Tao and practitioners of the Taoist arts. Many of these poems deserve to be used as meditation scriptures, for their terms and images resonate in a holy and responsive manner within the being. Ms. Gonet’s translation does an impressive job, and provides the reader with excellent English equivalents that impart much of the same meaning and feeling as the original.

About the Translator, Jill Gonet, MFA

Jill Gonet earned her B.A. at the University of Massachusetts, and then moved to Seattle where she earned her M.F.A. from the University of Washington, Seattle. She has resided in the Pacific Northwest ever since. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals over the years, including PoetryPloughsharesThe New England ReviewThe Gettysburg Review, and The Best American Poetry, among others. She is the recipient of awards from the Poetry Society of America, as well as grants from the Seattle Arts Commission. Interested in ancient Daoist classics since high school years, she has studied the Dao De Jing-the Way of VirtuesYi Jing-the Book of ChangeLing Shu-the Spiritual Pivot, Zhuang-Zi,and Lie-Zi diligently. A meditator and Qigong practitioner with over 25 years of experience, she has combined her interests in writing, Chinese culture, and the art of internal cultivation by collaborating on many writings with Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun.