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Imbibing the Universe: Methods of Ingesting the Five Sprouts1

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AbstractThis paper explores the practice of ingesting the ‘Five Sprouts’ (wuya 五牙 / 芽), one of the most important meditative techniques practised by Daoists in medieval China. The five sprouts were defined as very essences of the five directions of space. The method of the Five Sprouts was a technique of meditative breathing and ingestion of saliva by which these pure essences were ingested and circulated in the body. This paper explores several variants of this method revealing the diversity of Daoist practices in medieval China, as well as examining Daoist ideas of the body, health and illness, and the diverse attitudes to medicine we find in Daoist texts.


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