This excellent text is filled with jewels of knowledge and pearls of wisdom! The author presents the material in a concise, well-organized fashion. This book is small but mighty and offers information of exceptional value to students of alchemical mysticism, east or west. Images and illustrations from relevant Chinese sources provide a welcome visual supplement.

The chapters unfold the material in a succinct, sensible fashion. The book begins with the ancient origins of Chinese alchemy. The author distinguishes the differences between the exoteric, material (lead into gold) form of alchemy, and esoteric, metaphysical (gaining longevity and immortality) form of alchemy. Throughout the book, information about the development of Chinese alchemy is compared to parallel developments in Hindu, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, and European medieval alchemical practices. These diverse references make the text particularly useful.

Chinese alchemy is distinguished by its focus on producing longevity and immortality, whether through medicines, yogic practices, or spiritual disciplines. Chapter 3 introduces hsiens, the legendary immortals who achieved the goal of esoteric alchemical practices and their subsequent interactions with humans.

Following chapters offer overviews of tangential topics essential to alchemical practices: medicines, natural substances, astrology, Chinese five-element theory, ch'i, yoga, magic, and symbolism. End matter includes notes (citations), a bibliography and index.

This book is highly recommended whether the reader's focus is on eastern or western alchemy and mysticism. The wide range of topics is well-regulated and suitably paced. This book presents valuable information about this dense topic in clear language that will be accessible to most readers. It's a must-have reference text for those interested in the history of alchemy. Well done!

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Jean Cooper
Red Wheel/Weiser, 2016
158 pages, $14.95 pb
(Amazon: Kindle $9.99, paperback book $7.49)