Comparative Guts

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Maps of the inner sceneries • from the left and the right side

Songs of the Bodily Husk  (Ti ke ge  體殼歌), in Daoist Canon  (Zhengtong daozang  正統道藏), fasc. 125, no. 263, juan 18: 2b, 3a. Public domain; color scan.

The two side views of the body maps show four white leaves attached to the trachea (C | 1), which form together the lungs. Likewise the liver lobes are depicted as leaf-like forms in black, four of which are positioned at the right side of the ego, and three at the left, they enclose the heart, which is placed in the centre (C | 4).

Superintendent Zhu introduces the notion of anatomical liver variation, saying “there are livers with single lobes, with two lobes, or with three lobes”, and adds that “its seat is at the right side” of the body.

The black band seems unlikely to depict the diaphragm. Zhu writes: “Below the heart is a separating membrane (diaphragm) that is attached on all sides to spine and flanks. (…) Under the separating membrane are spleen, stomach, liver and gallbladder.”

The focus of the depiction shifts in this series from the head to the torso, but the digestive system as such is not foregrounded: Digestion is seen as having disruptive character. If an adept does not fast before exercises for some time—a noisy belly, sensations of fullness, or pain are all unwanted sensations during meditative excercises. But saliva is swallowed during late nightly hours; it brings fluids to the abdomen, and one visualises the ‘stomach spirit’ (D | 11) as receiving these nourishing saps.

The inner sceneries reveal elements of postulated inner circulation (the ‘marrow way’ C | 13 and D | 8), the male urogenital system (e.g. ‘urinary bladder’ D | 17, ‘jade spring’ D | 19, or the ‘drinking turtle’ C | 19 and D | 22), and the alchemical body of one’s ‘inner scenery’—like the ‘child’ (D | 13), or the ‘lower cinnabar field’ (D | 16).

The body map is thus made ready to familiarise oneself by mere-exposure effect with the details of one’s inner sceneries before one enters meditative states of consciousness.
Master Yan Luo’s body maps were painted on hanging scrolls, and in this form became a lifestyle object to be seen in official and literati households. Su Shi’s poem of a mountain stroll with female entertainers artfully contrasts such a scroll that depicts one’s inside, with the feminine and colours of outside appearances.

Travel to Zhang’s Mountaineer Garden



On the wall one scroll • a Master Yan Luo,
in pots a thousand bouquets • brocade blankets pile.
Being used to join masters and act as wine companions,
yet unsuspecting the regional inspector to open up as well.
Slenderly entering the wheat the citron daylily’s muss,
whispering winds blow up poems hundred showers of rain fall.
Hearing the Daoist gentleman’s home • being fond of spring water,
the carriage returns at the request • to bring back the bottles’ full.

(Dongpo quanji  9: 9a-b)