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Sun Bu'er (Sun Pu-erh, in Chinese 孫不二), one of the Taoist Seven Masters of Quanzhen lived c. 1119 – 1182 C.E. in the Shandong province of China. She was a beautiful, intelligent, wealthy woman, married with three children. Her family name was Sun and her personal name was Fuchun, Bu'er being her name in religion. Her husband Ma Yu was a student of Wang Chongyang. At the age of 51 she took up serious study of the Dao and herself became a disciple of Wang Chongyang, and serving as a Taoist priestess. She eventually left her home and traveled to the city of Luoyang where after twelve years of practice at Fengxiangu cave she attained the Dao and, it is said, became an immortal. Sun was a teacher with several disciples, founding the Purity and Tranquility School, and she has written many Taoist poems.
According to tradition, Wang Chongyang told Sun Bu'er that if one of his disciples traveled 1,000 miles to Luoyang, that disciple would meet an immortal there who would instruct the disciple in the ultimate secrets of the universe. Sun Bu'er resolved to go, even though it meant giving up her comfortable life. However, Wang foresaw that Sun Bu'er's beauty would make her a target of lust-craving men if she made the journey, and that if she went, she would ultimately take her own life from shame. He explained the situation and forbade her to make the journey.
Determined to overcome the fact that her physical attractiveness would inhibit her study of the Dao, Sun Bu'er went home and burned her face with a splash of hot oil, destroying her beauty. Wang was astonished by Sun's action. He predicted that she would be the disciple to travel to Luoyang, and immediately began to train her in earnest in the secrets of internal alchemy.
Still unable to leave her loving family, Sun Bu'er pretended to become insane, wearing strange outfits and letting her hair go wild. Finally, she was able to leave home for Luoyang. It is said that there was an immortal there waiting for her in order to instruct her. Eventually, it is said, she did achieve immortality, ascending into heaven in broad daylight in her physical body.
According to tradition, even immortal, Sun Bu'er still did not forget her husband. She returned to Earth and went home where she helped her husband in his study of the Dao for a time before returning to the heavens. Her husband also achieved perfection, taking the name Ma Danyang.
The surviving writings of Sun Bu'er consist of:
- "Secret Book on the Inner Elixir as Transmitted by the Immortal Sun Bu'er" (Sun Bu'er yuanjun chuanshu dandoao mishu).
- "Model Sayings of the Primordial Immortal Sun Bu'er" (Sun Bu'er yuanjun fayu).
- Immortal Sisters: Secrets of Taoist Women, Thomas Cleary. Shambhala Publications, 1989.
- Daoism Handbook, Livia Kohn, editor. (Handbook of Oriental Studies Section Four, Volume 14.) Brill Academic Publishers, 2000
- The Taoist Manual: An Illustrated Guide Applying Taoism to Daily Life, Brock Silvers. Sacred Mountain Press 2005.
- Seven Taoist Masters: A Folk Novel of China, Eva Wong, translator. Shambala Publications, 1990.