Volume 1 – Breaking the Golden Cage and Listening to Profound Insight
Volume 1, Chapter 1
Transmigrated Into the Body of a Daoist School’s Disciple
Cangwu Mountain, Profound Virtue Temple…
Zhang Yan slowly withdrew from his meditation. He could feel that his divine sense was sharper as he faintly breathed. His whole body was lighter and more comfortable. It seemed that his cultivation had improved once again.
However there was not a single trace of joy on his face.
“This grade of breathing technique, although it makes my body lighter and strengthens it by several points, it is not, after all, a good breathing technique.. Continuing to practice this technique would be insufficient since it seemed to only slightly improve the body and gave a small boost in perception. That would do if I just wanted to grow old and die. To only wait for good luck to come, let’s not even think about facing the Great Dao Tribulation. That would make it hard to keep my livelihood, not to mention, the upcoming days will be dangerous.”
As one started to tread on this path, there was no turning back.
Zhang Yan was immersed in deep thought while he hesitated and calculated the loss and gains he would face as his steps slowly approached a house. His conviction was unavoidably swayed by the personal gains versus the loss.
His hand subconsciously gripped a crystal clear piece of broken jade as he stroked it gently. As he was stroking it, it suddenly transmitted a tranquil and calm sensation through his fingers and made his slightly restless feelings gradually settle down.
He couldn’t help but laugh at himself since he was not the original Zhang Yan. Well then, he should follow his own heart and not dwell on and be burdened by the past.
When he thought about this, he suddenly felt an indescribable sensation for a moment. It was very obvious that after he let go of his negative thoughts, he finally felt a perfect fusion with his ‘new’ body.
Ten days ago, there was a falling meteor that fell down on Cangwu Mountain. The original owner of this body—a teenager—picked up a broken piece of remnant jade that accidentally fell from the clouds, without even suspecting that he would die on the spot.
As for himself, he had been struggling desperately in a great world calamity for 7 years and died when his rearguard battalion was in the middle of retreating. However, Zhang Yan’s accidental death actually let him get reborn in this body, which was owned by a dead teenager who had the same name as him.
The dead teenager’s name was Zhang Yan. He was listed as a disciple of the Profound Virtue Temple, one of the famous Three Great Schools of the prominent Blue Ocean Sect.
He originally came from a bureaucratic family. When he was 16 years old, because of his talent, he received guidance from a supreme cultivator who was on a journey seeking for the path of immortality. However that supreme cultivator left 3 years later in a hurry, and only taught him a breathing technique to improve his health and strengthen his body. Zhang Yan didn’t have the chance to learn the legendary immortal’s cultivation.
The supreme cultivator once told him, if he wanted to step into the profound world of cultivation, he must form his Primordial Qi, open his meridians, temper his mortal body, and practice the basics of the Profound Immortal Cultivation Method.
It could be said that for a person to actually enter the path of cultivation, they would have to pass through the first checkpoint on this profound path. Which was opening one’s meridians.
Only by opening the meridians, would one be able to wash-out all the impurities within one’s own body and practice the legendary cultivation techniques, and martial techniques to achieve immortality. And to then, tread on the path of the Great Dao. However, with an ordinary breathing technique, even if the person practiced it for 350 years, that person would not be able to advance to sainthood.
In short, one would not be able to become an immortal if one’s own meridians were blocked. If one cannot achieve this point, the path to immortality was only a broken dream!
The so-called thousand mile journey began with a tiny step just like how a nine-story building had to be built from the ground, this analogy was the same for opening one’s meridians. This process could not be achieved by only a single move, and the first step to achieve it, would be to condense one’s Primordial Qi. However, this step was yet to be taken by the newly reincarnated Zhang Yan. Thus, he felt quite helpless.
The dead teenager Zhang Yan repeatedly made journeys to practice the basic cultivation law for 3 years in order to pass through the threshold. Whenever he left on a journey to find an expert to seek for an advanced cultivation technique, those experts merely told him to wait for his opportunity to arrive. His merits were insufficient so they just told him to be more diligent in practicing his own cultivation law.
Before he climbed up the mountain and entered the school, he was just a simple honest teenager as he had no experience with the ways of society. He didn’t have anyone to advise him as he took everyone’s words seriously, therefore regardless of the hot weather in the summer or the cold weather in winter, he painstakingly practiced 3 hours every day with his basic cultivation law.
The newly reincarnated Zhang Yan could only respond with a forced, bitter smile. Even if this teenager was extremely honest, how could he believe this kind of bullshit?
As time passed, the previous Zhang Yan clearly felt that his body’s Primordial Qi was not progressing. But this teenager also had some clues that the so-called opportunity or destiny was simply something that required vasts amounts of wealth. Even if your natural talent was extremely high, if you were poor, no one would even care about an ordinary novice disciple.
However, fortunately, if you lose something, you would also gain something. That thought comforted the current newly-reincarnated Zhang Yan, since the previous original Zhang Yan had practiced diligently for several years. He had laid an extremely firm and solid foundation for this body. Perhaps in this entire Profound Virtue Temple, there was not a single person like him who diligently practiced the basic cultivation law.
It had to be known that this Dao cultivation law was known as the Oneness Purifying Breath Manual , as the so-called Dao was born from a single entity. From a whole one birthed two, from two gave birth to three, and from three gave birth to a myriad of living things. The ‘Oneness Purifying Breath Manual’ essence was the oneness, which could be said to the beginning of all the myriad living beings of the Great Dao.
Along with the profoundness of one’s cultivation advancement, all cultivation laws were divided into high and low methods, of which each had its own advantages and disadvantages. This ‘oneness’ was actually the original essence of everything that would arrive at the same destination or conclusion even if they were treading on different paths. Most cultivators would also take this breathing method as the most fundamental base in reaching the cultivation threshold.
However, this set of breathing practice was eventually still the most basic cultivation method as it didn’t have any excellent methods to help draw out one’s potential. It barely even helped consolidate a solid foundation for the cultivator.
Having survived past catastrophes and having faced various disasters and viruses, the current Zhang Yan deeply realized his insignificance and the weakness of being a mortal. Therefore his ambition was much more intense compared to anyone else.
Since he had arrived in this world, he must not miss the Great Dao to immortality!
Although he had a sense of great determination and perseverance, there were some urgent matters that he needed to face at present, as the original Zhang Yan had been cultivating for 3 years without any significant advancements. Even all his fortune that he brought to the school had been exhausted. And now, his only fortune was a small cooking tripod, a set of ink pens, an ink stone, and papers. To fill his empty stomach, he had to eat wild vegetables.
If even sustaining his own livelihood was this difficult, how would he be able set his sight on seeking the path to immortality?
Entering the world of cultivation didn’t mean that one had to escape to a remote mountain and not eat the food of ordinary mortals. On the contrary, it meant that one had to consume an extremely extravagant amount of wealth and fortune. If one had no wealthy family to support oneself, you could expect that even if you faced your death, nobody would even care.
Of course, gifted individuals and those with certain intellect would have no difficulties in advancing in their cultivation, as their masters and schools would naturally treat them differently.
However with Zhang Yan, since he entered the school and became a disciple on his own accord, he would have to bear all the expenses by himself.
This was exactly the problem he had been struggling with for the past few days, as he desperately tried to figure out how to solve the predicament before him. If he had the means to properly handle this problem, not only would he pass through this hurdle, he might also get the chance to garner the attention of the masters in the Profound Virtue Temple.
But the method he was about to take held great risks, as he had to brave certain dangers. If he made one wrong step, then he would be beyond redemption. However, since God had given him this second chance, even if God wanted him to abandon this path, he would absolutely refuse to descend from this mountain and abandon this opportunity.
There was no other choice but to move forward as he couldn’t go back…
He had arrived at the so-called point of no return, so there was no choice or option but to brave it through!
In his opinion, the previous dead teenager Zhang Yan only knew how to practice, but was absolutely clueless in managing his own fortune.
And because the previous Zhang Yan came from a scholar’s family, he had expended a great amount of time to research and study all the Dao literatures, especially the Eclipse Canon.
Almost all the Dao ancient manuals originated from this writing. It could be said that the Eclipse Canon was the basis for all Daoist cultivation laws.
In Zhang Yan’s opinion, the Eclipse Canon was like the key ‘password’ for all Dao teachings. Each character written in this manual could be interpreted into thousands of lines of meanings. To comprehend this manual, it would be like trying to understand heaven’s will. If one wanted to comprehend this manual, perception was not the only trait one needed, one also had to use the brain to deduct the lines in the manual. To be able to analyze the hints given, to contemplate all the things one had experienced in life, and in the end carefully grasp the meaning behind everything.
Such an interpretation, half depended on reading and as for the rest, it depended on guessing. Reading, to most cultivators, was only an extravagant way of wasting the time. It could be said that it was useless, as it was not very efficient. It was a common occurrence that, should a cultivator own a manual and read it for several years, it would only puzzle him greatly, as he would barely understand the meaning of its contents. This predicament left most cultivators baffled and gave them headaches.
And if you didn’t want to waste time in grinding and reading the manual, you could seek a master and ask for advice. But even if you did this, you still had to wait and see if you had enough ‘opportunity’.
However, since he barely escaped true death and had the memories of two lives, the current Zhang Yan was able to quickly understand the meanings written in the Eclipse Canon. His brain was faster, and it was capable enough to help him make deductions from the Dao manuals with little mistakes. He could feel that his brain worked several times faster than in the past. He thought that he could use this to help others comprehend the Eclipse Canon in exchange for money.
However, even if he did so, it still wouldn’t be enough.
He shook the piece of the broken jade in his hand, as he let out a confident smile. With this thing, it would work out.
He looked at the sky. It was about 7 to 9 AM now. High up over the horizon, the sky had turned bright as the mountain’s fog had already dissipated. He took the already prepared bamboo basket and held a bamboo streamer as he slowly walked.
His residence was on top of the cliff of Profound Virtue Peak, near a rock-hewn cave which was usually used by Daoist cultivators to meditate. Outside of the cave lied a wooden planked road for passage with no fence barrier on either side. Three steps from there was a ten thousand feet high cliff, which made people terrified when they looked at the bottom of the gorge.
However, he had lived alone in this place for three years and had long been accustomed to the view, as he strode smoothly over the plank road and walked along the mountain passage.
There were 18 peaks and 36 water streams on this Cangwu Mountain, and on the ninth peak of the mountain there was a huge-flat-smooth megalith called the Thousand Rock Pavilion. Whenever the sun rose and the clouds had dissipated, several hundred disciples of the Profound Virtue Temple usually got up early in the morning to climb here to meditate, and to absorb the heaven and earth spiritual qi.
From the Profound Virtue Peak, where Zhang Yan was living, the Thousand Rock Pavilion only took an hour to reach by walking. By the time he arrived at the peak, many disciples had been gathered, and some of them formed groups of two or three as they discussed about cultivation methods and their accomplishments. Zhang Yan ignored everyone. As his sight locked onto an empty slot, he calmly sat on the stone stool. He took out his bamboo streamer, an ink pen, ink, and papers, as he directly meditated with his eyes and mouth closed.
Before long, someone stepped into the pavilion and walked near his stone stool. He looked at the bamboo streamer as his eyes moved to Zhang Yan and spoke, “Did you read the Eclipse Canon? You… looking at your low cultivation, you dare to boast that you understand it?”
The person who came over was about 20 years old. He had a strong and stout body, wore a green Daoist robe with the sleeve rolled up to his arms, which revealed his strong muscles. He had a pair of bright eyes with a faint jade color in his complexion. With only a glance, anyone could quickly figure out that this youth had successfully formed his primordial spirit and entered the Primordial Qi Condensation realm . A youth with this level of cultivation should have a big background.
His question was obviously acceptable, since, generally speaking, the comprehension of the Eclipse Canon was greatly related with one’s cultivation realm. If you weren’t in the respective sufficient realm how could you really understand the Canon? The deeper the pool, the more water it contained; this was the undeniable truth.
Naturally, in case that someone was very poor and thoroughly researched the Eclipse Canon, they also had the possibility in obtaining some achievement. For example, those who knew that they were hopeless in practicing cultivation methods, but had deep interest in researching its profound meanings, were usually people who didn’t have to worry about clothes and food anymore. In short, they had to be wealthy.
Otherwise, if poor people tried to fully study this Canon until they grew old, they would only have wasted time and thoroughly lived in destitution without ever obtaining any achievements.
Zhang Yan’s age was not even over 20, moreover he was not even in the Primordial Qi Condensation realm. How can people be convinced?
Zhang Yan only lightly smiled as his expression was polite and gentle. He stood up and cupped his hand across his chest as he replied, “You may test me.”
Seeing his calm and confident gesture, it was as if he really had something, which made the youth curious as he responded with the similarly cupped hands on his chest, he said, “Myself is Min Lou, a humble disciple of Ethics Academic Temple. I don’t know what this younger fellow Daoist is called?”
Zhang Yan returned the courtesy as he replied, “Don’t dare, this one is Zhang Yan, a disciple of the Profound Virtue Temple.”
Ethics Academic Temple and Profound Virtue Temple were one of the Three Great Schools in the Ming Cang Sect. Actually the two temple’s disciples frequently engaged in Daoist theory discussions, but since there was a great event within the Cangwu Mountain these days, this garnered the curiosity of many disciples from the three courts. Many of them came to visit this mountain and gathered on this huge-flat-smooth Thousand Rock Pavilion.
Min Lou laughed loudly and directly sat in front of Zhang Yan as he opened the conversation, “I don’t know if younger fellow Daoist is willing to explain this Eclipse Canon?”
“Please put some rice or grain here, you could also pay with silver coins.” Zhang Yan pointed at the right corner of the ordinary bamboo streamer, which had a line of small characters. He must first solve his money problem, which was his immediate priority.
Min Lou stared for a second, and also felt that this Zhang Yan only asked for a small payment. If he really could explain the Eclipse Canon, that was considered cheap.
“Okay, rice, grain, or silver coins, I can give you. Come, I have this manual.” Min Lou was a straightforward person. He quickly took a light Dao manual from his arm’s sleeve, and put it on the stone table, as he spoke in a teasing tone, “Please enlighten me.”
Zhang Yan calmly took the ‘Passing Through the Dao Manual’ . He quickly turned several pages as he showed a faint smile. He took a pen and fully dipped it into the ink, directly writing on the white paper quickly, without thinking or pondering about the manual’s contents.
Min Lou was quite surprised as he quickly spoke, “Oh, you don’t need to use the bamboo token to infer the meanings? ”
Zhang Yan didn’t even lift his head and his complexion was very calm. However, the self-confidence carried in his voice was sufficient to infect the other people. Min Lou was actually doubtful, but seeing that Zhang Yan was very calm and it didn’t seem like he was putting on an act, he subconsciously became a bit serious.
Zhang Yan turned another 10 pages and it looked like he didn’t seem to find any difficulties at all. Moreover the manual was considered a good piece of Daoist’s writing; it was a rare chance to read it for free. However after he turned several pages again, he frowned and stopped writing.
Min Lou took a glance secretly as he secretly smiled.
This ‘Passing Through the Dao Manual’ content was actually quite easy to comprehend. However, several lines were also beyond common comprehension. Min Lou had also discussed these lines with his fellow disciples; however, some profound details were still obscure to him. He didn’t believe that this trivial in-name disciple would be able to explain those profound lines.
Although he encountered difficulty, Zhang Yan was not flustered as he secretly gripped the broken piece of jade in his left hand, and focused his mind for a moment to ponder about the manual’s profound lines. He then continued to write the meanings.
In Min Lou’s eyes, Zhang Yan’s eyes were just shut and pondered for seconds as he then used his hands to write without even looking confused. The lumps of doubts were filling his heart as he had the urge to stop Zhang Yan to skip those lines. However, since there was common etiquette to patiently wait for another’s interpretation, coupled with his original idea to tease Zhang Yan on a whim, he suppressed the urge as he was also expecting no remarkable result from Zhang Yan.
About half an hour later, Zhang Yan raised his hand and put his pen down as he took a white piece of paper, dried it, and gave it to Min Lou.
Min Lou faintly smiled as he received the paper, gave it a slight glance and thoughtlessly said, “Good words, good words.”
However, after he looked at several more lines he was really startled. The more he read, the more his complexion turned into astonishment. He immediately stood and looked at Zhang Yan without saying a word for a while.
The explanation of the ‘Passing Through the Dao Manual’ written on this white paper was really simple and incisive, not only did he realize that Zhang Yan was certainly someone from a scholar’s family, it also showed his attainments in comprehending the Dao in the Eclipse Canon. Zhang Yan’s interpretation also gave new enlightenment on some obscure meanings. Moreover, he did that in a very short time.
Min Lou immediately looked at Zhang Yan in a whole different light; the look of admiration was clearly drawn on his face. He sincerely said, “Fellow disciple really has a profound knowledge, this little brother really admires you.” Before, he questioned Zhang Yan because he doubted that Zhang Yan would have such knowledge. However, after Zhang Yan proved that he had the ability, his gestures immediately turned respectful.
Zhang Yan politely cupped his hands across his chest as he said, “I’m really ashamed, as I do this to make a living.”
Min Lou raised the paper with his hand as he laughed and replied, “Fellow disciple really has the ability, how come you worry for your livelihood? I really thank you for your hospitality and I will come more in the future for more advice.”
He couldn’t help but get excited. He could get a clear explanation on the Dao manual by only paying a trivial amount of rice and grain, for him it was a great bargain! Although this Zhang Yan was now only an unknown trivial Daoist, with his ability, his future will be limitless. And if he didn’t befriend this kind of person now, he might not have the opportunity later.
Zhang Yan set out immediately after he cupped one hand to his chest and politely spoke, “Many thanks for fellow disciple’s help.”
Min Lou gawked, then laughed, “Fellow disciple Zhang Yan is really an extraordinary person!”
Zhang Yan only lightly smiled and didn’t speak; although Min Lou acted like this, not many people believed him. However, since he decided to find himself a master, and needed to take care of his problems, no matter if it was just out of courtesy or not, he couldn’t shirk anymore. Moreover since this youth, Min Lou, was not some ordinary cultivator and had spoken to ask for more advice, he would happily oblige. It also seemed that he wanted to befriend him. Why not?
Min Lou immediately left after saying farewell and seemed to forget about paying before leaving. Zhang Yan also didn’t ask much. His complexion was very tranquil as if both sides had forgotten this point.
It wasn’t until noon that four people dressed in servant dresses, pushing a wheelbarrow had arrived at Thousand Rock Pavilion. One of them greeted Zhang Yan respectfully and said, “Young master Zhang Yan? We’re young master Min’s attendants. We’re here under his command to deliver these rice and grains to young master Zhang Yan’s residence.”
Zhang Yan nodded and said, “Wait here for the time being.”
He was not in a hurry to go back. Besides, these attendants were not looking troubled as they patiently waited beside him. This naturally attracted many passersby to stop and pay attention to him.
Today, aside from Min Lou, nobody really came over to ask for a manual interpretation again. Only a few people enquired one or two matters of which were answered by Zhang Yang one by one. As the sun had passed to the west horizon, Zhang Yan stopped and led the four attendants to push the wheelbarrow to return to his residence.
When Zhang Yan was about to leave the pavilion, a middle-aged scholar hurriedly came over. But when he found out that many people had already left the Thousand Rock Pavilion, he repeatedly stomped his foot with an upset look on his face.
Please give your opinions:
 I want to discuss the naming, as there’s such a Shan Yuan Temple, De Xiu Temple, and Ming Cang Sect here. I used original name here, which is better, the original or the translated one?
Such as Míng Cāng Pài: Blue Ocean Sect,
 一气清经 (Yīqì qīng jīng): If my memory doesn’t fail me, this 一气 is one of many Daoism terms, it literally means as Oneness Vital Breath, however since the characters were then combined with 清 and 经 respectively, the phrase made my head fucked up… but since it’s a breathing technique name, as of now I translated it as Oneness Purifying Breath Manual >> although the last character literally means classics.
 凝元显意 (Níng yuán xiǎn yì), still haven’t figured out a better name in English, as of now we come up with this Primordial Qi Condensation
 过道书 (Guòdào shū): Passing through the Dao Manual
 Can’t figure out what is the meaning of using bamboo chip/token for manual deduction. However if I’m not mistaken it was usually used to calculate divination/heaven’s will.