Qiu Chuji (丘處機) (Born 1148 in Chi-hsia, China — Died July, 1227 in Beijing, china), widely known by his Taoist name Chang Chun Zi (長春子), was a Taoist master who provided spiritual guidance to Genghis Khan and was appointed by him as the head of religious affairs in China. His journey from northern China to Afghanistan to meet Genghis Khan was recorded by his disciple Li Chih-Ch’ang and contains some of his dialogues with Genghis Khan. Besides his involvement with Genghis Khan, and politics, Qiu Chuji was one of the most major Taoist spiritual leaders in history. Qiu Chuji was a disciple of Wang Chongyang, the founder of the Quanzhen (Complete Reality) school. Qiu Chuji is at the origin of his own branch of Quanzhen Taoism called Dragon Gate.
Journey to Genghis Khan
Around 1219, Genghis Khan summoned Qui Chuji to come visit him. Genghis Khan was principally interested in extending his life, since he had heard talk of Qui Chuji’s abilities in this regard. Qui Chuji was located in Lai-chou in northern China when he received the summons. He tried to arrange for Genghis to visit him when he returned from his campaign in the West (Central Asia and Afghanistan), but to no avail. Qui Chuji received a letter from Genghis that highly praised him and Taoism, and implored him to come to Central Asia.
In 1221, Qiu Chuji set out on his journey. He first responded to a request to visit Genghis’s brother Temuge, who was interested in extending his life. Qui Chuji told him that these matters could only be explained to someone who fasted and observed certain rules. Then Temuge sent him on his way, with a request for him to return after he had seen Genghis.
During the journey, Qiu Chuji was treated well but not always given what he wanted; for example he was not allowed to stop and rest for the winter. When Genghis’s son Chaghatai invited Qiu Chuji to stay with him to the south of the Amu Darya, Qiu Chuji refused because he thought his vegetarian diet was not viable in that area. Qiu Chuji received a letter from Genghis, who was on his way back to the East and eager to meet the master.
Genghis met qui Chuji near the Amu Darya. According Arthur Waley’s translation of the Travels of an Alchemist, Genghis said, “Other rulers summoned you, but you would not go to them. And now you have come ten thousand li to see me. I take this as a high compliment.”
Qiu Chuji replied, “That I, a hermit of the mountains, should come at your Majesty’s bidding was the will of Heaven.”
Genghis asked, “Adept, what medicine of long life have you brought me from afar?”
Qiu Chuji replied, “I have means of protecting life, but no elixir that will prolong it.”
Genghis was curious and Qiu Chuji answered his questions, teaching him about Taoism. They had many meetings, which were attended by interpreters and two of the Mongol leaders who had brought Qui Chuji to Genghis. Genghis invited Qiu Chuji to have all his meals with Genghis, but Qiu Chuji declined because he wanted peace and quiet. Genghis was so pleased with Qiu Chuji’s teachings that he ordered for them to be written down in Chinese characters.
In a sermon that has come down to us under the name Hsüan Fēng Ch’ing Hui Lu, Qui Chuji advised Genghis to practice chastity and vegetarianism. Genghis took this advice to heart and tried to apply it to some extent. Qiu Chuji also gave him political advice: he told Genghis not temporarily avoid taxing some provinces so they could economically recover from the effects of war. He advised having a Chinese minister manage this, and pointed out that this method had worked well for the previous dynasty.
Genghis and Qui Chuji returned to Mongolia together. They continued to meet and talk throughout the journey. Qiu Chuji did what he could to save lives by feeding the destitute. He convinced Genghis to hunt and eat meat less, and Genghis stopped hunting for two whole months. As a farewell gift, Genghis exempted the master’s pupils from taxation.
After Genghis and Qiu Chuji separated, Genghis continued to write to him. He wrote (in Arthur Waley’s translation ) “I am always thinking of you and I hope you do not forget me.” He requested for Qui Chuji and his disciples to pray for his longevity, and he offered to let Qiu Chuji live wherever he wanted.
Qiu Chuji died on July 23, 1227. Genghis Khan died a month later. Qui Chuji left behind many disciples, poetry, and some of his sermons which were recorded. His Dragon Gate school benefited from Genghis Khan’s support and became the dominant branch of Taoism.
“Sweep, sweep, sweep! Sweep clear the heart till there is nothing left. He with a heart that is clean-swept is called a ‘good man.’”
“For ten thousand li I have rode on a Government horse; It is three years since I parted from my friends. The weapons of war are still not at rest, but of the Tao and its workings I have had my chance to preach.”
“Those who study Tao must learn not to desire the things that other men desire, not to live in places where other men live. They must do without pleasant sounds and sights, and get their pleasure only out of purity and quiet.”
The Travels of an Alchemist (1931), by Li Chih-Ch’ang, tr. Arthur Waley
Originally published at www.longlivearth.com on July 23, 2018.
Article originally published by LLE staff Taifun33 on the decentralized blockchain encyclopedia Lunyr. Free to modify and distribute under the Creative Commons 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)