Reference Work Entry

Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures

pp 2236-2237

Wei Boyang

  • Fabrizio Pregadio

Although many Chinese works relate the name of Wei Boyang to the origins of alchemy, nothing is known about him from a historical point of view, and his figure may be entirely legendary. Some sources, which place him in the second century, relate that he came from Shangyu (in modern Zhejiang) and transmitted his teaching to Xu Congshi, who in turn handed it down to Chunyu (alternative spelling: Shunyu) Shutong. The text deemed to embody the gist of this transmission is the Zhouyi cantong qi (Agreement of the Three According to the Book of Changes), a scripture in verses that is attributed to Wei Boyang. The commentaries usually interpret the “Three” as Heaven, Earth, and Man, or as Daoism, cosmology, and alchemy. The Book of Changes is the Zhouyi (or I Ching, also spelled Yijing), the renowned divination manual, which also includes a classical exposition of cosmology in its section commonly known in the West as “Great Treatise.”

The genesis of the Cantong qi is as obscure as its putativ ...

This is an excerpt from the content