Chinese Alchemy | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know

(somber humming) (brief bell chime) (mysterious, ominous music) – [Voiceover] From UFOs to psychic powers and government conspiracies, history is riddled with unexplained events You can turn back now, or learn the stuff they don't want you to know

Here are the facts In an earlier video, we covered the ancient group of disciplines known as alchemy, wherein various, often self-directed, scholars attempted to transmute metals, to extend human life, to make contact with other-worldly powers Yet, this is not the entire story While many in the West associate alchemical practices with ancient Alexandria, and later Western Europe, an independent branch of alchemy flourished half a world away in the Far East Broadly known today as Chinese alchemy, this proto-science had several similarities and many startling differences

Unlike many Western alchemists, the scholars of the East were not as concerned with wealth as they were with immortality, and a few were rumored to have achieved it It may also be possible that some of the innovations in traditional Chinese medicine and alchemy remain undiscovered by the West today Here's where it gets crazy Though experts still debate the origins of Eastern alchemy, there's no disputing that the practice focused on medicine more so than on wealth The teachings of Taoism contain references to alchemy, and in 144 BCE the Emperor issued a decree ordering execution for anyone caught creating counterfeit gold

While fake gold may sound like a common form of fraud, it was thought, by nature of the creation process, to hold more spiritual purity for the alchemist, almost all of whom searched for the legendary elixir of life The disciplines of Eastern alchemy were divided into two broad categories: outer and inner alchemy The first involved the preparation of elixirs, often made from substances like mercury, sulfur, lead, cinnabar, or arsenic, as well as plants common in Chinese medicine So far as we know, many of these concoctions were harmful to their consumers, causing physical ailments, occasional mental instability, and even death Yet, the practice remained so common that it became enshrined in legend, with many Chinese nationals of the time treating it as common knowledge that Lao Tzu became immortal using the methods in an alchemical text, known as The Secret of the Golden Flower

Like the coding practices of Western alchemy, Chinese alchemy was heavily steeped in symbolism, with different elements representing spiritual concepts And, like their Western counterparts, Chinese alchemists made world-changing discoveries in the course of their research, with gunpowder being, perhaps, the most notorious The practice of alchemy dwindled over time, even as parts of it evolved, merging with the existing practices of traditional Chinese medicine In some instances, vestiges of this ancient discipline may remain relevant to the modern world, and in ways you might not expect Pharmaceutical companies have begun pouring money into initiatives to research the practice of traditional medicine

In 2012, for example, GlaxoSmithKline opened a research unit in China to study this discipline In October of 2014, pharmaceutical giant Bayer acquired the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Company, a manufacturer of traditional Chinese medicinal ingredients To proponents, this is a good move However, many concerned practitioners worry the large Western firms are moving to consolidate control of this ancient medical art If so, that's certainly something these pharmaceutical companies don't want you to know

To learn more about the fact, fiction, past, and present of alchemy, tune in to our audio podcast, available at StuffTheyDontWantYouToKnowcom (brief bell chime)