Dual Cultivation & Human Cauldrons

Dual Cultivation“Dual Cultivation” is mentioned in many Chinese cultivation novels. But what exactly is it? And what are these “Cauldrons” or “Furnaces” that are sometimes mentioned alongside it?

Just based on the context provided in the novels, it’s easy to get a general idea of what Dual Cultivation entails. However, the concept of Cauldrons is usually a little more difficult to grasp.

Interestingly, these two terms are closely linked and have real-world history behind them. This article will hopefully shine some light on their origin and meanings.


Dual Cultivation (双修) is also commonly translated as “Pair Cultivation” or “Paired Cultivation“.

The term is actually related to ancient Daoist sexual practices.

Some ancient Daoists chose to completely abstain from sex, because they believed that ejaculation would deplete their energy and essence. But others thought differently…

According to Yin & Yang philosophy, women are primarily Yin and men are primarily Yang. Yin & Yang are opposites, but they are also deeply complementary. They mutually support each other and give birth to new things as they intermingle.

Naturally, this was seen as an allegory for the relationship between men and women. And if the intermingling of Yin and Yang is so beneficial, then what about the “intermingling” of men and women? Basically, some Daoists came to believe that sex could be used to exchange and strengthen vital energies. Sex could actually be a unique form of cultivation Dual Cultivation!

It wasn’t all rosy, unfortunately. While dual cultivation was generally considered to be mutually beneficial for both parties, that wasn’t always the case. The practice of Caibu in dual cultivation was very predatory, for example.

Caibu (采补) can be translated as “Plucking to Nurture”. The idea was that a person could greatly increase their cultivation by plundering the vital energies of their partner during sex. A male doing this to his female partner (as was usually the case) was said to be “Plucking Yin to Nurture Yang” (采阴补阳). It added a connotation of rape to dual cultivation, since it was victimizing and especially since young girls were seen as prime targets to “plunder”.

Ritual Cauldron (鼎)

Ritual Cauldron (鼎)

The victims of this practice were often dehumanized. They were little more than objects to be exploited. They were… Cauldrons ().

In Chinese cultivation novels, cauldrons and pill furnaces are tools commonly used by alchemists to make medicinal pills & elixirs. I’ve seen many readers become confused, therefore, when the novels occasionally mention humans being used as cauldrons or furnaces. It just doesn’t make much sense, intuitively.

However, it starts to make sense once you consider that cultivators are basically Internal Alchemists, while the “alchemists” seen in novels are basically External Alchemists.

In brief, the difference is that an External Alchemist takes external objects (such as herbs and minerals) and refines them in a cauldron to make miraculous medicine. Historically, their goal was to produce the Elixir of Life. Meanwhile, an Internal Alchemist uses their own body as a cauldron to refine vital energies (rather than objects) internally in order to cultivate. Historically, their goal was to produce the Golden Elixir (金丹) – known in cultivation novels as the Golden Core.

From this, we can see that Cultivators / Internal Alchemists imagine the human body as a cauldron, and it can be used to refine vital energies for cultivation. It then becomes clear why Caibu practitioners called their victims “cauldrons”! The bodies of the victims were being used as mere tools for cultivation.


In novels, the term Human Cauldron (炉鼎 / 鼎炉) is more commonly translated as a “Furnace“, “Cauldron“, or “Cultivation Vessel“. I much prefer “Human Cauldron”, however, because it makes it easier for readers to distinguish between the alchemist tools and the victims of malicious dual cultivation.


 

In Summary:

 

Dual Cultivation” is essentially a man and a woman cultivating together by having sex, and it’s related to the philosophy of Yin & Yang.

  • However, some authors of cultivation novels use the concept without the sexual aspect.
  • World of Cultivation is an example of this. At one point in the novel, the main character (who cultivates Yang-attribute divine power) meets a woman (who cultivates Yin-attribute divine power). When they cultivate in close proximity to each other, it creates a “resonance” which makes cultivation easier and more effective for both of them.
  • There are many other novels which do something similar. It’s basically a PG-13 version of Dual Cultivation.

Human Cauldrons” are victims who are drained of their vital energies by a malicious person. This is normally done through Dual Cultivation (sex).

  • But again, some novels use a PG-13 version of the concept. It might instead be portrayed as some kind of evil ritual or vampiric draining technique, for example.

 

29 thoughts on “Dual Cultivation & Human Cauldrons

  1. I just wanted to say thank you for the definition of “human cauldron!” I knew it has a bad connotation, but I was afraid to head into the wilds of Google to look it up. Your back story and explanation were so helpful, much appreciated!

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  2. Do you have to stay with the same partner for dual cultivation? For example a man and woman has been dual cultivating but then the man wanted a new dual cultivation partner. Are they bonded together or you can dual cultivate with someone and then move on to someone else?

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  4. So dual cultivation is consensual and has both sides benefit and get stronger, while cultivation using a human cauldron is closer to rape and only the person using the human cauldron benefits, not both parties. But what I don’t understand is…

    Let’s say you’ve been kidnapped by X to serve as their human cauldron. You have no way to escape during the act, you know there’s no way to save yourself, so why not reciprocate sexually? If being forced means you don’t benefit, but doing it consensually means you benefit, and you know there’s no way to escape the act, can’t you just decide to return it and make the act consensual so that you get something out of it?

    I know that would be difficult and not everyone would have the mentality to do it, but if the difference between these two cultivation methods is the state of mind of the participants, what’s to stop the victim into deciding to make it consensual so that they can get something out of it too, if only out of sheer spite and desire to ruin the attacker’s plans? Assuming they’d be mentally able to be that calculating and overcome their disgust towards their aggressor.

    So my question is, is the only difference between dual cultivation and human cauldrons a matter of intent? Or is there more I’m not seeing?

    I know this is a bit of a distasteful question, but I wanted to know more about the difference of these two methods.

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    • I think it’s not only the sex, but the willingness to share energy. So even if the human cauldron accepts and tries to make it into duel cultivation, the other will only be taking and not giving back, making it impossible to duel cultivate. But that’s just my take on it.😅

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  11. Now I get it haha . I got the term from reading the shonen-ai novel The Legendary Mater’s wife where the mc used dual cultivation with his guy lover O.o

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    • They can not because dual cultivation is to exchange energy Yin and Yan, two men would be two Yan energies, so I guess they can not do dual cultivation however if they can steal, or exchange energy since they are the same type, but this would no longer be the common dual cultivation, in fact I do not know what name it would have

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      • In BL Cultivation novels, m/m cultivation partners occur when one of them cultivates yin energy through demonic cultivation

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