(, 283—343), courtesy name Zhichuan
(??), was a minor southern official during the Jìn Dynasty (263-420) of China, best known for his interest in Daoism, alchemy, and techniques of longevity. Yet religious and esoteric writing represents only a portion of Ge's considerable literary output, which as a whole, spans a broad range of content and genres.
Although a prolific writer of many literary styles, most of Ge's early work, such as rhapsodies (fu
), verse (shi
), historical commentary, and biographies, are now lost. His surviving works consist of:
- one volume of hagiographies, entitled Shenxian zhuan (Traditions of Divine Transcendents);
- two volumes of essays and alchemical writing totaling seventy chapters, collectively entitled Baopuzi (???) or "The Master Who Embraces Simplicity", Ge’s sobriquet.
In the Neipian
(Inner Chapters) volume of the Baopuzi
, Ge vigorously defends the attainability of divine transcendence or "immortality" through alchemy; the Waipian
(Outer Chapters) volume is almost entirely given to social and literary criticism.
Most of Ge's surviving work demonstrates the influence of notable essayists and thinkers from the Han period (206 BC- 220 AD) such as Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BC), and Wang Chong (c. 27-97), as well as poets and literati from the post-Han era, such as Ji Kang (223-262) and Zuo Si (c. 253-309). Modern scholars have recognized his influence on later writers, such as the Tang dynasty (618-906) poet Li Bai (701-762), who was inspired by images of transcendence and reclusion. Nevertheless, Ge’s work was never enshrined in famous collections of essays and poetry, such as the Wenxuan
(Selections of Refined Literature) m as was Ji Kang’s essay, Yang sheng
(Nourishing Life), whose style Ge freely imitated. Reflecting the complex intellectual landscape of the Jin period, Ge is essential reading for an understanding of early medieval Chinese religion, culture and society. Recent scholarly and popular translations of Ge’s writing into English have ensured his inclusion in the swelling tide of enthusiasm for esoteric and religious Daoism in the West.