Xianxia stories often contain the following elements:

1> Cultivation of Qi:
Qi is a humor-esque substance which is generally absorbed from the environment and stored in the Dan Tian which in these stories is a virtual space near the navel. One starts with no Qi, then accumulates enough to fill the Dan Tian with gaseous Qi which is progressively liquidified and then solidified as one improves in level. Past the point of solidification and a few further compressions the thing usually develops into an independent universe inside the owner where stars, planets, life etc. may be spontaneously created / born or inserted from outside.

2> Elemental Travel:
Travel through the soil, through water, as wind etc.

3> Pill refining:
Various plant and animal parts are put in a cauldron, special hand gestures are made, Qi is infused into the cauldron and at the end, if successful, everything automatically congeals into a spherical pill without the need for molds etc. Pills have levels according to their "Qi" and "Medicinal Purity" and if these are sufficiently high, can even be "alive" or "sentient".

Everything is handwaved away inside the story world as "Daoism" but did historical Daoist/Buddhist scriptures or even folklore contain such elements, especially the stomach-universe and the sentient pills?

Edit: I am trying to trace the evolution of these ideas as presented in Xianxia. Names of and / or links to the earliest known works that contain any of these elements in the sense described above are also part of the "references" I'm looking for.

1 Answer 1

  1. No - this is a gross "gamification" of Qi to something similar like mana in other RPGs. You cannot "start with zero Qi" in Daoism, believed to be a vital force forming part of any living entity. Without Qi, you would be dead.

  2. Elemental travel is borrowed from 五行 (wuxing), in particular 形意拳 Xinq Yi Quan. It is a very common "magification" you find in countless Chinese movies.

  3. This is based on an old Daoist legend similar to Western alchemy stating that an alchemist could synthesize the "Pill of Immortality". The Daoist legend does not include pills being sentient.

  • Thanks. These while helpful are at least once removed from what I'm looking for. I have edited the question in an attemp to be clearer about what I'm looking for. For example if there were texts in the Xing Yi Quan tradition which state that "such-and-such techniques when trained to perfection will allow the practitioner to move unhindered through the soil" etc.
    – chhatra
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 17:16
  • There are no such claims in the surviving texts. Xing Yi uses movements called the five classical Chinese elements to metaphorically represent five different states of combat: Chopping 劈 Pī Metal, Drilling 鑽 Zuān Water,, Crushing 崩 Bēng Wood, Exploding 炮 Pào Fire, Crossing 橫 Héng Earth. .
    – Codosaur
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 9:18

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