mawanduioldmap copy

In the beginning of the second volume of Encyclopedia of Taoism, Routledge, London and New York (2008) I would like to open the Mawandui manuscripts comment because this finding will have great and remarkable  influence on me during some years later.

The facts around the event are explained by Robin D.S.Yates: ”In December 1973, archeologists clearing tomb no. 3 at Măwánduī 馬王堆, Chángshā 長沙 (Hunan), discovered a cache of texts written mostly on silk folded in a lacquer box. They were placed there to accompany Lì Cāng 利蒼, Lord of Dai, who died in 168 BCE, into the afterlife. This was the main discovery of ancient texts since the opening of the hidden library at Dunhuang in the early twentieth century.”

The scientists discovered a new version of Yi Jing in the Mawandui tombs and the order of the sixty-four hexagrams of it is different from the known version, that is the fact. I can say one funny thing here: it is too bad for the version. I am not a scientists, I am not going to put proves here, I want just laugh and say that the true version can be only one (considering the mathematical consequences of the known version) and this is the version we usually open in the Wilhelm/Baynes edition. And I am pretty happy with it.

“Thirty-three of the names of the hexagrams are different from those in the received version, the most important being “Key” (jiàn 鍵) for qián 乾  and “Flow” (chuān 川) for kūn 坤. There are also a great number of variant graphs in the body of the text that could well have significant philosophical implications. Edward Shaughnessy (1996b) suggests that the original referents of “Key” and “Flow” were the male and female genitalia respectively, rather than the abstract notions of Heaven and Earth.” — R.D.S. Yates. Well, now it sounds like gynecology synopsis of a bad student. Lets make it clear in a couple of seconds: if cosmological aspects have been widely known by the time of Laozi and Zhuangzi why ‘the male and female genitalia’ should play such role in 168 BCE? Or, probably, I am not an early and easy adopter of new and ‘significant philosophical implications’. In any special case, the general beauty of Yi Jing ‘as is’ suits me perfect anytime I think about it.

There are also a serious group of fifteen texts inside the Mawandui corpus concerned health and medicine, and three of them are truly the most ancient Chinese sex manuals (fáng zhōng shū 房中書): Hé Yīn Yáng 合陰陽 (Conjoining Yin and Yang), Shí Wèn 十問 (Ten Questions), and Tiānxià Zhìdào Tán 天下至道談 (Discourse on the Ultimate Way Under Heaven). Another translation of the text 天下至道談 is Discourse on the Culminant Way in Under Heaven, and both titles I try to avoid. My favorite title sounds: On Following the Dao in High and Low, and I do like when translations from Chinese into English are short and a little bit poetical, two qualities which I guess natural for classical Chinese. I have some translations of this text into two languages and I reread them and comments every time I need to extract information but I will read my own translation into English always when I want to feel the fact knowledge can fly, from hear to heart. 

That is why Mawandui manuscripts have ‘great and remarkable influence on me’ many years already and today.  

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (THE END OF VOL. 1): Liùzì jué 六字訣 “instructions on the six sounds”

Liùzì jué  六字訣  “instructions on the six sounds”

Catherine Despeux, the entry’s author tells us exactly what sounds they are. “This breathing technique, also known as “method of the six breaths” (liùqì fă 六氣法), consists of inhaling through the nose and exhaling in six ways through the mouth. The corresponding sounds are designated by six characters (hence the name of the method, literally meaning “instructions on the six characters”). They are xū 噓, hē 呵 (or xu 呴, nowadays also pronounced gou), hū 呼, si 呬 (nowadays also pronounced xì), chuī 吹, and xī 嘻”.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Some advices on medical application of ‘six sounds theory’ we can extract from the same article: “The six breath are related to the five viscera (wŭzàng 五臟) and to a sixth organ which, according to different sources, is either the “triple burner” (sānjiāo 三焦) or the gallbladder. Essentially they have a therapeutic or prophylactic action upon the viscera and their corresponding symptoms according  to the principles of Chinese medicine. Chuī 吹 heals ailments resulting from cold and wind, hū 呼 ailments resulting from the heat, xī 嘻 ailments resulting from the wind and heat, hē 呵 relaxes the qi, xū 噓 clears away stagnation, and si (xì) 呬 dispels heat”. — C.D.

How often people should practice six sounds exercise? My first guess is you can practice it anytime you think you need it and how often you want it, but it does not look professional. So, different sources can give us different numbers, 81 times after midnight, 72 times at cockcrow, 64 times at dawn, etc. And sometimes people used to consider the gymnastic movements and body directions too.

The information about six sounds was very interesting in medical aspect in this entry but there is a couple of things nice to add. I mean martial arts and erotical guides.

Martial Art (One Example)


My favorite example is a short episode from the movie The Sword Identity (2011) with a master Yu Chenhui in the lost field. It takes 51 second, or exactly 38 second when master does absolutely stunning martial training form. We can hear 18 sounds, the first five will be repeated to the end in different order. As far as I can write it down right, they are Hu, Uh, Xu, He, and Ha-ah. Every two-seconds sounds help master to train self right. Probably, there are six sounds instead of five but they are not the same we have seen in medical usage above. However, using sounds in martial art forms is an important fact to me and I would like to see more information in the encyclopedia.

Sex Guides in Ancient China


Once again, only one example from my favorite text Tiān Xià Zhì Dào Tán (天下至道談)


Wŭ yīn: yī yuē hóu xī.  Èr yuē chuăn xī, sān yuē lèi ài, sì yuē huō.  Wŭ yuē niè.  Shĕn chá wŭ yīn, yĭ zhī qí xīn.  “The five sounds: the first is ‘sighing’.  The second is ‘short breathing’.  The third is ‘implicating sadness’.  The fourth is ‘panting’.  The fifth is ‘nibbling’. Pay attention to the five sounds to know her affections.” So sounds rule everywhere:)))

The word 訣  (jué) from the title has a meaning ‘secret’ also. How about 6 (or 5) secret sounds in martial art or in love making? Frankly, I wanted to join martial art example and traditional medicine and erotic guide long ago. Probably, it is on a whim mostly.

SRI YANTRA MASTER AND THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (MINI NOTES): Ishinpō 醫心方 Methods from the Heart of Medicine

“The Ishinpō (also transliterated as Ishimpō) presented in 984 to Emperor Enyuu (r. 970-84), was compiled by Tamba no Yasuyori (912-95), the official acupuncturist at the Japanese imperial court, and is the earliest extant work of Japanese medicine. Its importance for the history of Chinese medicine and Taoism lies in its quotations from 204 sources, most of which have long been lost” — Elisabeth Hsu, sinologist. By the way, Chinese reading of ‘Ishinpō’ sounds Yīxīnfāng, and hieroglyphs in the title are traditional, not simplified. 

Chapter (juan) 28 of 30 contains discussions on sexual techniques (fanzhong shu), and now we have a topic for conversation. The difficult topic. To get original text or quality translation definitely doesn’t look easy. In my case I could use only the full description and all available translation in the reprint of Sexual Life in Ancient China by R.H. Van Gulik, Leiden, 1974, and reading pp. 122-160 was quite a challenge due to extensive use of Latin by the author of this precious volume. Sometimes, I guess, translation into French, or Deutsch, or Russian, or another language can be complete and give the whole picture to readers, but it should be checked before you pay for the book 🙂

Recently, depending on my mood, I have two lists to read on subject introduced by 28th chapter of Ishinpō. The first is short, just two translation of the book written by R.H. Van Gulik in 1961. 

Frankly, the second list is much longer: 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom, 50 Wild Sex Positions, 100 Hot Sex Positions, 365 Sex Moves Positions, 365 Sex Thrills Positions, Tricks and Techniques for an Erotic Year, Blow Her Mind, The Rise and Fall of the Penis, Sex Talk and the Sexual Martial Art, Sexopedia, the 12-Minute Sex Solution, The Anal Sex Position Guide, The Good Vibration Guide to Sex, The Joy of Sex, The Position Sex Bible, The Secrets of Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation, etc :)))

Well, if you want in the end to be educated and classy as Chinese and Japanese emperors were, you probably would choose the short list, and welcome to the club. 

Otherwise, no matter how eager people are to be familiar with the topic they cannot avoid the second list of choice, sort of.