A Review of Riding the Phoenix to Penglai

[Book Review 书评]

A Review of “Riding the Phoenix to Penglai”

By Lauri Amidon


Riding-the-Phoenix-COVER-5-16-2014Riding the Phoenix to Penglai contains two sets of poems by a female Taoist Adept, Sun Bu-Er, with exceptional translations and commentary by Jill Gonet. As Ms. Gonet points out, Sun Bu-Er’s poetry is lovely as an expression of Art and can be appreciated for Art’s sake. This is certainly true. The poems are so beautiful and the phrases are sublime, such as “From mountaintop and ocean bottom one hears the thunder after the rain” or “the person with a simple heart converses with the unadorned hearts of the flowers.” However, on another level, Sun Bu-Er’s poetry is also an instruction manual for Taoist cultivators. Because of the intimacy, clarity and insightful information of Ms Gonet’s writing, I believe that not only were Sun Bu-Er’s words translated, they were  internalized by Ms. Gonet’s own practice and experience. We, the readers, are fortunate to receive experienced insight–a priceless gift for the aspiring adept.

Ms. Gonet has up-dated Sun Bu-er’s instructions for the modern-day Taoist practitioner. While Sun Bu-Er wrote specifically for the female practitioner, Ms. Gonet lets the reader know that many points offered throughout the book certainly provide guidance and instruction for male practitioners as well.

“Riding The Phoenix” touches upon such subjects as breath-work, Qi development, awareness, lifestyle choices, nutrition, development of the elixir, specific metaphorical meanings in the Taoist literary tradition, and forward ideas about identity, female sexuality, and markers of success (or otherwise) on the path of internal cultivation. We are taken from the beginning of the cultivation practice to the formation of the spiritual body.

Sun Bu-Er was wholly dedicated to her internal cultivation and spiritual growth and development. She began with the development of Qi, then took that qi to a deeper expression through internal transformation, developed universal connection and realized cosmic Truth and Wisdom, becoming a true expression of the potential for spiritual being through the formation of the spiritual body. Her accomplishment is well-documented and is quite out of the ordinary.

Sun Bu-Er’s poetry packs tremendous meaning into each phrase, which makes every line very rich, and open to a variety of interpretations in Chinese. In many translations, it can be difficult and challenging to catch the right meaning of each phrase; however, the reader will find, in this case and in this translation, that Sun Bu-Er’s brevity translates to crystal clear expression and practical instruction to optimally guide the reader.

“Riding The Phoenix” is more than an instruction manual. It is filled with beauty and power as Sun Bu-Er’s words come to life in the West through Ms. Gonet’s translations, commentary and insights.

For more information about the book, please go to  http://yirenpress.com/books-2/ 


Lauri1Lauri Amidon – is board president of the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine and a certified Yi Ren Qigong instructor at IQ&IM’s Center in Bothell, WA. She has been studying with Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, the founder of Yi Ren Qigong and IQ&IM, for 9 years. She has also been involved with several research studies looking at the effects of Yi Ren Medical Qigong in chronic health conditions, including chronic pain and type 2 diabetes. In addition to Qigong, Lauri has an extensive background in dance, yoga, Pilates and herbal medicine. Email Lauri at lamidon@iqim.org


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