A Translation of the First Chapter of the Book of Huang Di


[ Huang Di, one of the three patriarchs of the oriental, lived around 2400 B.C. The book to be translated, Inner Canon, a study of human and nature, was in general credited to him. The task of translating this book is far more daunting than the translator has previously imagined.]


A long long time ago, there lived Huang Di in the east. He began to speak at a very young age. His wisdom was manifested among his people. His understanding of human and nature grew with his age.  He was righteous and wise.  When he reached the age of an adult, he was anointed to become the King of the east.


He asked the teacher “I heard that ancient people (prehistoric) lived more than a hundred years, still moved and labored energetically. How comes that today when people get to their fifties, they can not move and act swiftly? Is this because of the time, or will our human being permanently lose this capability?”


The teacher answered, “ Among those ancient people who knew the law of the nature, they understood the dynamics within the nature. They lived in harmony with the law and adapted to the changes of seasons, abundance and lack. They regulated their diet and drink, waking up and laying down. They did not burden themselves with works and worries. So their bodies were in perfect harmony with their spirit. They lived to their full ages and departed from the earth after more than a hundred years.


People living today are different. They drank alcohol like nectar; they fooled themselves with imaginations and evil desires; they entered their bedroom when they were drunk; they exhausted their essence with desires; they wasted their true self; they did not hold themselves in their full capacity; they did not govern their spirit properly; they seek every way to please their hearts. They gained their enjoyment by rebellion against the law; they lived without any rule; Therefore, when they reached their fifties, they saw much decaying.”


The saints from the old taught the young, saying “ one shall avoid the evil of the unreal and the wind of the hidden, at the right time; one shall be content, in ease and in void outwardly; follow one’s true breath and inspiration; protect one’s inner spirit; where can disease come? One should lay down one’s will and lessen one’s desires; let peace reign and draw away fears; labor but not to get tired; smoothen one’s breath and let it go on naturally; let the body function and satisfy itself. Therefore, every food should be tasty; every dress should look good; and one should be happy with one’s culture; the noble and the simple should not envy each other; this shall be called pure in heart. Don’t let your hobby nor your desire hinder and drain your seeing; don’t let lust nor evil cheat your heart and fool your will; let the foolish, the wise, the high-minded not be bothered nor fear any material things. This is the way. The reason one can function fully in one’s hundredth, is that one is perfect in ones deeds. His being will not be threatened.”


Huang Di asked “When one gets to an old age and cannot have children, one lacks the physical strength and ability. Is it because of the law of the nature?”


The teacher answered. [skip two paragraphs].


Huang Di asked again “ then why is that some older people did bear children?” The teacher answered,  “ They were given more years to live as gifts; their physical circulation flew very well; they have some extra time to reproduce. However, even for this kind of people, they cannot bear children if the man passes their eighth eight and the woman passes their seventh seven. By that time, they were not given anything to bear children”.


Huang Di then asked “ Those who know and obey the law, can they have children at their hundredth?” The teacher answered “ Yes, those who know and obey the law, even though their ages grow, their physique remains fully functioning. Despite the fact that they are old, they can still bear children.”



Huang Di finally said, “ I heard that in the far-ancient days, there were the genuine men. They mastered the law of the heaven and the earth; they took hold of the dynamics in the nature; they breathe in to nurture themselves; they guarded their spirit and freely lived;

Their flesh and bones were in one. Therefore, their days were like the heavens and the earth; nobody saw their ending.  This is the result of their obeying the law of heaven and earth.”


“In the mid-ancient days, there were the perfect men. They kept perfect morale and obeyed the law; they lived in peace with the nature; they adjusted to the changes of seasons; they left the culture and the world behind; they stayed focused on their spiritual being; they traveled around the world; their sight and hearing can reach very far; what they did enhanced their lives. They are also considered as genuine.”


“Then there were the sages. They lived and rested with all the goodness of heaven and earth; they abided by the laws of the nature; they enjoyed proper hobbies and culture, with no resentment and bitterness; they followed the traditions of their people; they dressed as ordinary people; they did not boast nor acted in arrogance; they did not damage their physical body with labors; they did not have any conflicts inside; they considered joy as their living; they considered contentment as their achievement; their body was preserved; their spirit was whole; they had no problem reaching their hundredth. ”


“Last, there were the noble men. They know the laws of heaven and earth, the sun and the moon, the motions of the stars; they adapted to these changes; they followed the teachings of the old. They did not disobey the law; they lived fully to their own time.”