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September 2022

Am J Chin Med. 1979 Summer; 7(2): 171-81.

A comparative study of greek and chinese alchemy.

Mahdihassan S.

According to an herbal cult of immortality in China, about 200 B.C., certain plants could make man immortal. Greek alchemy, the earliest record of which dated about 200 A.D., presents a similar version, was originally Chinese and was introduced by the Arabs who brought herbal drugs of longevity to Alexandria. The name of these drugs, Chin-I, dialectal Kim-Iya, was Arabicized as Kimiya and transliterated Chemeia by the Copts. Other terms were later influenced by Indians (Chumeia, 100 A.D.) and more directly by the Chinese (Chrusozomion, 200 A.D.). The 3 terms signify herbal elixirs of gold and the art related to them. Both early Chinese and Greek alchemies were not concerned with the making of bullion gold. In China the development of alchemy has been ruled by two theories: first, as like makes like, a perennial plant can make human life perennial: likewise, certain substances can prolong human life as they are rich in Life-force or Soul-content. From here, Blood was equated to Soul and later Redness to Soul. Jade, Cinnabar and eventually gold, more precisely Red-gold or Cinnabar-gold, a colloidal gold, became the ideal drug of immortality. Finally, alchemy can be defined as the art of making metal colloids as panaceae.


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