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This article sets out to compare visions of the female body and its processes found in Chinese medicine and in a Daoist tradition called nüdan, or female alchemy. This tradition, developed fully in the late Ming and Qing periods, describes the female body in ways very similar to those of Chinese medicine. However, despite the fact that loci, fluids and processes are described in a similar manner in the two textual traditions, the goals to reach are strikingly different. In the case of medicine, the goal is health, well-being, regularity, and the production of children, while in the case of female alchemy, the main goal is transcendence, achieved through the reversal of natural female processes like menstruation, gestation and childbirth.

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In: Asian Medicine
In: NAN NÜ
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Abstract

This chapter presents an overview of the presence of women and goddesses in spirit-writing circles from the earliest materials available to us, in an effort to make women in this tradition more visible, and their activities more acknowledged. I wish to explore the role of actual women within spirit-writing circles, the role of goddesses as communicators and transmitters of texts, and the gender-specific connection established between women and goddesses during this transmission. I also wish to render the implicit gender roles of male and female divinities more explicit in the context of spirit-writing transmission. The history of spirit-writing, and especially of women’s presence within it, is far from complete so I will shift between periods, regions, types of literature, and social contexts, in order to provide an initial introduction to this topic. The last part of the chapter will focus more specifically on the transmission of spirit written texts at the core of the tradition of self-cultivation for women called female alchemy (nüdan 女丹).

In: Communicating with the Gods
Spirit-Writing in Chinese History and Society
Few religious innovations have shaped Chinese history like the emergence of spirit-writing during the Song dynasty.
From a divinatory technique it evolved into a complex ritual practice used to transmit messages and revelations from the Gods. This resulted in the production of countless religious scriptures that now form an essential corpus, widely venerated and recited to this day, that is still largely untapped by research.
Using historical and ethnographic approaches, this volume for the first time offers a comprehensive overview of the history of spirit-writing, examining its evolution over a millennium, the practices and technologies used, and the communities involved.
In: Communicating with the Gods