Huang t’ing ching: the formation of the three cavities of the body

The Huang t’ing ching (huáng tíng jīng) or Classic of the Yellow Court is a well known classic of Taoist internal alchemy written in 356 AD by the Taoist mystic Lady Wei Huacan (Lady Wei Hua-Ts’un). The Yellow Court refers to the spleen.

One English translation is Michael Saso’s The Gold Pavilion (Tuttle publishing, 1995. ISBN: 0804830606). Pavilion appears to be a mistranslation for court, which doesn’t bode well for the translation.

A Study of Daoist Acupuncture & Moxibustion ISBN: 189184508X
Some information on Lady Wei from A Study of Daoist Acupuncture & Moxibustion Blue Poppy Pr; 1st edition (March 1, 1999) ISBN: 189184508X, p17:

Wei hua-can (225-334 CE), a.k.a. Lady Wei
Lady Wei developed an interest in the teachings of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi when she was very young. Later she encountered some lofty scholars, including True Person Cool & Void (Qing Xu Zhen Ren), who taught her the Taoist Huang Ting (Yellow Court) exercise. This is a special type of qi gong. Yellow court refers to center earth which, in turn, means the spleen. Hence, this exercise focuses on fortifying the spleen. Soon she became a master at this style of qi gong. Then, based on the theory of the five viscera and the six bowels, Lady Wei revised this system of exercise and wrote the Huang Ting Nei Jing Jing (The Classic of the Yellow Court Inner Vista) and the Huang Ting Wai Jing Jing (The Classic of the Yellow Court Outer Vista). These works focus on tapping the potential of the clay pill palace (ni wan gong, i.e. the third eye), thus acquiring the ability to see into one’s own body and the bodies of others. In the later part of her life, Lady Wei settled in Mount Mao preaching Daoism and teaching the Huang Ting. Her fame attracted large circles of people around her, and she was acclaimed as the founder of the Mount Mao Church. The great Daoist and medical figure, Tao Hong-jing, was her seventh generation disciple.

The Taoist Cultivation and Information Centre has this summary of the book:

There are two sections in the Book of the Yellow Court: the Book of the Inner Landscape of the Yellow Court and the Book of the Outer Landscape of the Yellow Court. The Book of the Middle Landscape of the Yellow Court appeared late and had little influence, so it is not included when people talk about the Book of the Yellow Court.
The Book of the Inner Landscape of the Yellow Court and the Book of the Outer Landscape of the Yellow Court are quite similar in contents and form; they are actually two versions of the same book. Both of them explain the principles of health preservation and cultivation in the form of seven-character verses. They state that the human body has upper, middle and lower Elixir Fields, and that there are three Yellow Courts corresponding to them. The Upper Yellow Court is located in the brain, the Middle Yellow Court is in the heart, and the Lower Yellow Court is located in the spleen.

Is the Lower Yellow Court the same thing as the Lower Dān tián? According to Fabrizio Pregadio, yes it is:
Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China ISBN: 0804751773

Referring to Laozi as a deith to be visualised within one’s inner body, the Inscription for Laozi (Laozi ming) of 165 CE states that he goes in and out of the Cinnibar Hut (em>dān-lú), and rises from and descends into the Yellow Court (huáng-tíng). The Cinnibar Hut and the Yellow Court are names of the upper and lower Cinnibar field…
Both the Inscription for Laozi and another epigraph also dating from 165 CE, the Stele to Wangzi Qiao (Wangzi Qiao bei) also contain the first mention of a term that later became prominent in inner alchemy, dān tián. The Inscription for Laozi uses this term to mean the lower Cinnibar Field and places it alongside the Purple Chamber (zifang), a name for the gallbladder. These verses of the Inscription refer to Laozi in his divine aspect:

He regulates the Three Luminaries (sanguang),
and the Four Numina (siling) are to his sides;
he maintains his thought on his Cinnibar Field
and on the Purple Chamber of the Great One (Taiyi).

Great Clarity: Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China by Fabrizio Pregadio, p204, Stanford University Press; 1 edition (February 27, 2006) ISBN: 0804751773

Pregadio seems to be saying that the Great One (Taiyi) refers to Laozi in his divine aspect. This is not the understanding of some other commentators.

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~ by scalambra on August 2, 2009.

2 Responses to “Huang t’ing ching: the formation of the three cavities of the body”

  1. Well, I happened to read your post today and I don’t think I meant to say exactly that. In this passage, Laozi is meditating on two loci within his body, the Cinnabar Field and the “Purple Chamber of the Great One”. According to other texts, the Purple Chamber is a name of the gallbladder, which is one of the residences of the Great One in the human body. That’s all.

    Nevertheless, at a different level there are certainly connections between the Great One (Taiyi) and Laozi in his deified aspect. Both of them, for example, dwell in the Pole Star, at the center of the cosmos.

    Concerning the identity of the Yellow Court and the lower Dantian, it depends on the way of seeing. If one focuses on the body as physical structure, they may be different, especially if one takes Yellow Court to mean the spleen.

    But then, the spleen is the center of the body when the center is defined with regard to the five viscera. In fact, “yellow court” essentially means “center”: yellow is the color of the center in the pattern of the five agents, and the inner court is the center of a house. This is why Yellow Court also refers to the Dantian, and not only to the lower one: Yellow Court is used as a synonym of all three Dantian, the three centers of the human body, or rather the human being.

  2. Huang Ting and Lower Dan Tian are not the same. According to Qigong: The Secret of Youth by Yang, Jwing-Ming, “[T]he Huang Ting is located between the solar plexus (Middle Dan Tian), which is where the Yang (Fire) Qi is stored, and the Lower Dan Tian, where the Yin (Water) Qi is stored. It is therefore the center where Yin and Yang can interact.” (Page 212; also see diagram on p. 210.)

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