During Wei and Jin Dynasties, the whole society deeply realized the uncertainty of life. The turbulence made people love and value their lives more than before. Shishuoxinyu Wenxue recorded that a famous scholar Wang Gong gave his highest comment to this line in an ancient poem: “We can never meet a same thing twice, because everything in this world is rapidly aging. So how can we ourselves become the exception?” This showed people’s fear of age and death and their hope for longevity at that time. Ji Kang believed through his life that there were immortals living in this world, as many people believed in those days. He wrote in Life Nurturinglun: “By using the right Life nourishing methods, a person can live several hundred years, or even more than a thousand years.” He also suggested that the main method to get longevity was to have mineral powder. The trend of this method was closely connected with the spreading of Taoism. Just like the trend of having mineral powder, this religion also flourished in the late Han dynasty and the Wei and Jin dynasties, and declined after the Sui and Tang dynasties. This was no accident. Taoism doctrines preached that taking mineral powder could extend people’s lives and even turn them into immortals. For example, The Biography of Wang Xizhi in Jinshu recorded that Wang Xizhi and a Taoist priest Xu Mai traveled a long journey to find herbs and minerals for mineral-powder-making.
Ge Hong (b.284-d.346), courtesy name Zhichuan and pen name Baopuzi, is a Taoism theologian, a medical scientist and an alchemist living in The Eastern Jin Dynasty. He wrote in Baopuzi Shizhi: “The longer the Jindans (mineral balls) were burnt, the more amazing and changeful they grow. Gold does not melt when being burnt and does not rust when being buried in the soil. Eating these two things can strengthen human body, thus making people immortals.” Ge Hong wanted to use the stainlessness of these metals to get rid of age and death. This kind of stiff analogical method was widely accepted in ancient times. Due to Ge Hong's strong advocation, Taoist alchemy using minerals to produce Jindan became popular for several dynasties until its decline in Tang Dynasty. But this kind of idea was already developed by the famous scholars of Wei and Jin.
The pursuit of health and longevity is the eternal aspiration of mankind. So human beings make every effort to stay healthy, and this makes Life nourishing an important content of our social life. The culture of Life nourishing has a long history and it is an important part of human culture. It is developed under the influence of various studies including Traditional Chinese medicine, religion, and Yi-ology. It is susceptible to other studies. It has produced a lot of achievements in history and has left a great deal of dross as well, which still cause some negative effects even today. During the 1980s, many people followed the trend of believing that by arm-swinging, drinking chicken’s blood and doing some so-called “Qigong” can various diseases be cured. This showed Chinese people’s eagerness to maintain their health. However, they often imitate others unreasonably, just like ancient Chinese people following the trend of having mineral powder and balls. This unreasonableness can also be found during the days when the heresy Falun Gong became rampant in the country. Although the heresy’s ideas were flawed and evil, it was still accepted by lots of people who wanted to keep healthy. This is really similar to things happened in Wei and Jin Dynasties.
Life nourishing is closely related to people's lives. That’s why it is the shared responsibility of the society and the individuals to establish the correct attitude towards Life nourishing. By knowing more about the historic figures such as Ji Kang and other famous scholars, their Life nourishing methods and their blindfold “Life nourishing” actions, we can better set up the correct attitude towards Life nourishing and fight backward and rotten ideas.
(By Niu Aijun)