Monday, January 25, 2016

Zhu Xi's 8 Points of Cultivation Training

Zhu Xi was one of the greatest teachers of Yi Fa, and responsible for its fullest elaboration in Chinese Philosophy.  He was a strong advocate of cultivation practice in an age where it was not generally approved of by the intelligentsia. His fellow scholars tried to claim that the I Ching should only be studied as a philosophical text, and not actually used; and many of them dismissed Qi Gong and meditation entirely as merely 'mystical' activities that were unnecessary. They believed that a sage only needed to memorize and repeat the classic teachings, or speculate on intellectual matters.

Thus, Zhu Xi had to restore conditions in Cultivation practice that were in a strong state of disrepair. He brought back significance and legitimacy to the active practice of cultivation work, and explained how this was vital to the process of self-transformation.

He had eight key points that he considered essential to being effective at self-cultivation:

Zhu Xi's 8 Points of Cultivation Training

1. Zhujing: maintain a state of composure.  In other words, step 1 is to remember to relax and be present.

2. Zhen-tu: Attention in solitude.  The practice of Showing Up to reality, letting yourself become attentive and sensitive to the sensations of your body and consciousness to detect the "weifa" (unmanifested reality) within the "yi fa" (reality).

3. Xing-cha: self-inquiry.  You must seek to understand the nature of your own being and the sources of your qualities in the past.

4. Cun-yang: "Preserve and nourish".  You must hold to your original nature. Find the most natural way of your being and help it be nourished. The 'most natural' here does not mean the easiest or your baser impulse, but rather your higher nature, the Superior Individual.

5. Ke-ji: "conquering the self". Overcome your own tendencies and outside influences to maintain discipline in practice and develop Virtue.

6. Jing-zuo: quiet contemplation. Collect your thoughts, nourish your consciousness.

7. Ke-wu zhih-zhih: "grasping the whole pattern (of events and phenomena)".  Observe beyond the merely visible, by making use of your mind, intuition and consciousness, within and without you. Thus you will achieve "guandong", usually translated as "interpenetration": the state of seeing the connections in all things.

8. Xing: "practice".  Ceaselessly continue in your practice, ceaselessly apply what you have practiced to your life.


  1. This article by Joseph Adler is a nice addition to yours: You seem to use different transcription, with a mix of Wade-Giles and pinyin. What are your sources for your article?

    1. Thank you very much for the comment! I copied these points from notes in an old spiritual/magical diary of mine, but I'm not certain what my original source was (almost certainly an academic book). In my notes the terms of each of the 8 points were in Wade-giles, and since now Pinyin is the norm I did my best to convert them, but I'm certainly a better practitioner than linguist.