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Thread: Alchemy in South East Asia

  1. #1
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    Alchemy in South East Asia

    I am reading this book "Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism", this book has a section on Burmese alchemy. Apparently alchemy was and is very prevalent in Burma. Makes me wonder about south east Asia being an untapped source of alchemical text and knowledge.

    I have located an on line source which details the section on Burmese alchemy in full.
    https://www.tuninst.net/FLK-ELE/ch04...h04-alchem.htm

    I like the description of what alchemy is:

    I shall now endeavour to explain the scientific theory behind Burmese alchemic experiments. The whole universe is believed to be made up of four basic elements, earth, fire, water, and air. Therefore, all things on earth, whether organic or mineral, also have these four elements. The human body, [{p047}] too, is made up of these elements. But behind these four elements there is an essential matter which is not subjected to decay or change. Things decay only because of the four elements, and if the essential matter can be purified of the four elements, it will be preserved from change and decay. The aim of alchemic experiments is to obtain that essence which is in all metals, and then introduce that essence into the human body, which will thus become free from the four elements, an immortal and eternally youthful body.
    I also like the section when it talks about what happens when you ingest the elixir:

    The possessor of this stone can fly in the air, or dive not only under water, but underground. He cannot be wounded as long as he has this stone on his body, that is, in his mouth, under his hair-knot, in his hands, or under his armpits. He will be free from fatigue and disease. However, the body of the possessor of the stone is still just a human body, and the superhuman powers described above do not really belong to him but only to the stone, which by mere touch can turn 'lead into silver and brass into gold'. To obtain these powers, the possessor of the stone does not have to be the actual discoverer of the stone. Thus, when an alchemist has discovered the 'stone of live metal', he exposes himself to the danger of being robbed of it by evil spirits or jealous magicians. Burmese folklore is full of stories about this stone. The Chronicles mention the case of an Indian prince who came flying every day to the kingdom of Pagan from his kingdom in Bengal to pay court to a Burmese princess; he was not an alchemist, but he had somehow obtained possession of a 'stone of live metal', and with this stone in his mouth he was able to fly in the air. [{p043}]

    The alchemist, however, does not rest on his laurels after obtaining the stone. He continues his experiments, using the stone. The aim of these experiments is to discover certain metal compounds which will make his body superhuman. The third stage is reached when the required metal compounds are evolved. In order to make his body superhuman the alchemist cannot just swallow these metal compounds as one swallows medicine. They must be absorbed in his body. For this, he must first swallow the compounds, when his body will become as if dead. Then he must remain buried in the earth for a full seven days. This 'temporary death' of his body will become permanent if he is exposed to the air during the seven-day period. Moreover, during this period he will be entirely helpless and at the mercy of his enemies, namely evil spirits and magicians. Evil spirits will be on the look-out for him out of sheer jealousy and malice, but the magicians wish to eat his body, not only because it is very tasty and smells like the choicest perfume, but also because by eating it, they will come to possess superhuman strength. The Chronicles mention two heroes of the kingdom of Thaton who acquired prodigious strength after they ate the body of an alchemist, which they were cooking for their master, a monk-magician. fn043-01

    Therefore, when the alchemist has discovered the right metal compounds, the first task before him is to search for a faithful pupil who will bury him in the forest, away from human beings, who will scare away evil spirits and magicians, and who will watch over the spot under which the alchemist lies buried. When the faithful pupil has been found the alchemist makes him dig a hole in the ground and, on entering it, the alchemist will swallow the metal compounds. Then the hole is filled up, and seven days later the alchemist of his own accord and in great joy jumps out of it, for he has become a Zawgyi {zau-gyi}, a fully-developed alchemist. All the supernatural qualities of the 'stone of live metal' are now possessed by [{p044}] him in his supernatural body. As he no longer needs the stone he gives it to his pupil as a reward for services rendered, and as a farewell gift. He will then enter the forest and come back to the abode of human beings very seldom, if at all. As the alchemist's body has become superhuman he can wander at will, flying in the air or travelling underground; physical fatigue is no longer known to him and his body needs no further nourishment. His body will remain youthful until he dies, and death will come to him only after thousands of years.

  2. #2
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    That doesn't sound like something that would have been discovered through experimentation...just sayin.

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    I searched to see if there was mention of this Indian alchemist who could fly through the air by placing the stone in his mouth and actually found the account of him in Indian text.

    Bottom of pg24
    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...silver&f=false

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luxus View Post
    I searched to see if there was mention of this Indian alchemist who could fly through the air by placing the stone in his mouth and actually found the account of him in Indian text.

    Bottom of pg24
    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...silver&f=false
    That part I'll take. But as to who would ever think to bury themselves "alive" for 7 days... I don't know about all that, unless it's metaphoric, perhaps the origin of vampire coffins?

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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Luxus View Post
    I searched to see if there was mention of this Indian alchemist who could fly through the air by placing the stone in his mouth and actually found the account of him in Indian text.

    Bottom of pg24
    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...silver&f=false
    This is great! - It opened up another rabbit hole for me!

    Here is another one by David Gordon White I downloaded it and its full of good stuff

    https://www.amazon.com/Alchemical-Bo.../dp/0226894991

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