Chen Tuan

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Chen Tuan
Chen Xi Yi Asleep by Hasegawa Tohaku (Ishikawa Nanao Art Museum).jpg
Native name Family name: Chén ()
Given name: Tuán ()
Courtesy name: Túnán ()
Born Luyi County, Henan
Died 25 August 989(989-08-25)[1]
Other names
Chen Tuan
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Chen.

Chen Tuan (陳摶)[2] (d. 989) was a legendary Taoist sage. In Chinese, he is often respectfully referred to as "Aged Ancestor Chen Tuan" (陳摶老祖 Chén Tuán Lǎozǔ) and "Ancestral Teacher Xiyi" (希夷祖師 Xīyí Zǔshī). Little is certain about his life, including when and where he was born. He was born around the end of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907 AD - 960 AD) and the start of the Song Dynasty (960 AD - 1279 AD), possibly in what is now Luyi in Henan Province.

According to certain Taoist schools who claim him as a founder, he lived a secluded life in the Nine Room Cave on Mount Wudang. Later at Mount Hua, one of the five sacred mountains of China, he is said to have created the kung fu system Liuhebafa ("Six Harmonies and Eight Methods"). Along with this internal art, he is also said to be associated with a method of Qi (energy) cultivation known today as Taiji ruler and a 24 season Daoyin method (er shi shi ssu shih tao yin fa) using seated and standing exercises designed to prevent diseases that occur during seasonal changes throughout the year. Known as the "Sleeping Immortal" he is also credited with using and creating sleeping qigong methods of internal alchemical cultivation.

The story goes that Chen Tuan had planned a career at the Imperial court, but flunked the state examination and became a hermit sage instead. He was also said to be conversant with the Confucian classics, history, and the theories of various schools of thought. In his legends he was said to be fond of Taoist philosophy, medical principles, astronomy and geography, and famous for his poems as well. Chen Tuan is also said to have studied the I Ching, which he was unable to put down. Chen Tuan, styled Tunan, titled himself Fuyao Zi (one soaring upward in the high sky, like in Nan Hua Jing written by Zhuangzi) born in Zhenyuan of Haozhou (Hao County of Anhui Province nowadays). Chen was said to have been astonishingly intelligent and erudite in his childhood. He travelled frequently and dwelled on Wudang Mountain for two decades earlier in his life. Later he lived a hermit’s life in Huashan at the First Year of Xiande Period of Later Zhou Dynasty (one of the Five Dynasties).

Chen Tuan had a good command of primordial Yi learning, taught the River Chart and Luo River Book as well as the Infinite and Taiji Charts. As an important teacher of Taoist doctrines who pioneered the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties, he had a profound influence upon later generations. He was adept in the practice of Taoist inner alchemy and practicing sleep meditation. As a result, Chen Tuan was known as the "Sleeping Immortal." Having rejected emperor’s orders and edicts, he was still conferred the title of “Master Xi Yi" (Master of the Inaudible and Invisible) by the Emperor Taizong of the Song Dynasty. During the first year of Duangong Period of the Emperor Taizong, Chen appointed his disciples to cut a stone chamber in the Zhao Chao Valley (later renamed Xi Yi Valley); then Chen Tuan presented a report to the imperial court in which he wrote the following note: “I will die soon. I am about to leave, nowadays I’m transformed in the Zhang Chao Valley at the foot of Lotus Peak on the 27th day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar”. By the time he died when he cupped his cheek in his hand his facial features remained unchanged.

Many tales of Chen Tuan have been circulated around and it is said that "He wanders around and shows no concern for worldly benefits." However, despite many mystical and mysterious stories, Chen was known to care about and was compassionate to ordinary people. For this he is deeply respected by the common folk. This Taoist sage was considered the embodiment of the Supreme Lord Lao and received the nickname of “Aged Ancestor”, a symbol of Taoism in Huashan.


According to the "semi-historical" biography of General Yue Fei, it was the immortal Chen Tuan who, disguised as a wandering Taoist, warned the Yue Family of the imminent Yellow River flood.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Song Shi, vol. 457
  2. ^ The character "Tuan" (摶) is sometimes confused with the very similar-looking character "Bo" (搏), thus the name is sometimes incorrectly romanized as Chen Bo or Chen Po.


  • (Chinese) Toqto'a; et al., eds. (1345). Song Shi (宋史) [History of Song]. 

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