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Original scientific paper

The Authentic Person as Ideal for the Late Ming Dynasty Physician. Daoist Inner Alchemy in Zhang Jiebin’s Commentary on the Huangdi neijing

Leslie de Vries ; University of Westminster, EASTmedicine, London, United Kingdom

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At the end of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Daoist inner alchemy had a significant influence on the medical theories of some of the most prominent scholar physicians in Jiangnan China. In this article, I zoom in on Zhang Jiebin’s (1563–1640) commentary on the Huangdi neijing (Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor), the foundational text of Chinese medicine. In the first chapter of this text, four exemplary types of human beings are described. I analyse how Zhang Jiebin elaborates on one of them, the Authentic Person (zhenren). Abundantly referring to inner alchemical sources, his focus is on the essential constituents of the body: essence (jing), qi, and spirit (shen). I further show how Zhang emphasizes strong connections between medicine and inner alchemy in a discussion on concrete practices, which could not only dispel disorders but also lead to the Daoist ideal of becoming a zhenren.


Zhang Jiebin, Chinese medicine, Ming dynasty, inner alchemy, qi, soteriology

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