Livia Kohn has done a great job telling us, readers of encyclopedia, about different  kinds of ‘observation’ in different times, beginning from the fifth century with the rise of Louguan (‘Tower of Observation”) for a Taoist monastery and leading the list of terms throughout the Buddhist influence in the seventh century and later.

Zhiguan, neiguan, qiguan vs. shenguan, jiafa guan vs. shifa guan and piankong, youguan vs. wuguan and zhongdao guan, and also waiguan and yuanguan to contrast neiguan, and the ultimate technique — kongguan, or observation of emptiness. The meaning of the word ‘guan’ is ‘to look at carefully’, ‘to scrutinize’. And now we have the volumes of teachings! Why people put so much passion to make simple things so complicated!

Let’s make this picture easier to understand. My favorite list of careful observations would be printed out like this: observation any cup of coffee, green or black tea, or Japanese matcha I have made during past decades; observation sky and earth, and any tree, leaf, flower, or snow every time I leave the home; observation my dreams and daoyin exercises every night and my work every day; observation every child and adult person I can meet and talk; observation my favorite ideas, books, and authors during the whole life, and observation of the hexagrams of the Book of Changes (which is probably the best item in the whole list).

L. Kohn didn’t mention it, but the character Guān (observation) is the hexagram No 20 in the Book of Changes (I Ching).


Well, my list doesn’t look neither shorter nor easier after mentioning 64 hexagrams especially (actually it is much longer), sorry for that 🙂

Guan-I Ching-Tung Tso-pin

Spring: earth, sky, new grass and young leaves observation time)



Obviously, Gĕ Hóng 葛洪 is a very important figure in study of taoism and his Bàopŭ zi 抱樸子 (Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity  (Traditional Chinese here and Simplified Chinese in the Encyclopedia article) is an important source of information too. 

Needless to say, there will not be much simplicity in his picture of Taoism, so let’s make an agreement: every citation of this author which will be helpful to understand details of the ‘minor arts’ (xiaoshu—healing methods, longevity techniques, divination), nourishing life (breathing, gymnastics – daoyin, sexual techniques – fangzhong shu), and meditation will be treated carefully. All other ideas and thoughts will be omitted, because the main goal of these private notes is to figure out the shortest way through the many centuries to the core of taoism as it was for ‘cultivating inner nature of any person’ and not a religious and organized movement in the history of one of the biggest civilization in the modern world. 

There are a couple of pictures of Ge Hong from the ‘sacred internet’, it looks like he was a very different person sometimes. Frankly, the same visual effects can come in sight when we deal with scientific/historic ideas and this is another brick in my strong intention to find anything close to the time of the origin. These two pictures will not be included, definitely 🙂

Ge Hong 01Ge Hong 02