Unlike regular cultivation practices which use spiritual energy (灵气, líng qì) stored in the dantian, demonic cultivation manipulates resentful energy (怨气, yuàn qì) given off by walking corpses. Notably, demonic cultivation does not require a golden core.
Conversation in the Orchid Room
The conceptualization of demonic cultivation first arises in a scenario Lan Qiren gave his class:
"There is an executioner with parents, a wife, and children, but before he died, he executed more than one hundred people. He suddenly died in the public and, to punish him for his deeds, he was left on the streets for seven days. With the repressed energy of resentment, he started to haunt and kill. What should be done?"
Lan Wangji, as a representative of orthodox cultivation, replies:
"First, liberate; second, suppress; third, eliminate. The initial approach is to utilise the gratitude of his relatives and grant his dying wish, set free what he could not let go of. If it fails, suppress it. If the crimes were extremely wrongful, and its energy of resentment does not dissipate, exterminate it completely. The cultivation world should precisely keep to this order of measures. No errors should be allowed."
Wei Wuxian, however, postulates a different solution:
"Because the executioner died in such a way, it is only natural that he turned into a ferocious corpse. Since he executed more than one hundred people before he died, why not dig up the graves of these people, arouse their energy of resentment, collect the heads of those hundred people, and use them to fight with the ferocious corpse… There are some things that have no use after liberation, so why not find a way to make use of them? When Yu the Great tamed the flood, obstruction was the inferior method, and redirection was the superior. Suppression is the same as obstruction, so isn’t it inferior… Spiritual energy is energy; resentful energy is energy as well. Spiritual energy is stored in the dantian. It can split mountains and fill oceans, available for human use. If so, then why can’t resentful energy also be used by humans?"
After he is thrown into the Burial Mounds following the loss of his golden core, Wei Wuxian develops methods to control Ghosts and Fierce Corpses to escape the Burial Mounds. After three months, he has progressed enough to use flute music to control the resentful energy of corpses and ghosts.
Following the bloodbath of Nightless Sky and the first siege of the Burial Mounds, demonic cultivation faced restrictions and a loss in popularity with the death of Wei Wuxian. In particular, Jiang Cheng led the Yunmeng Jiang Clan to seize any practitioner of demonic cultivation, in case Wei Wuxian's spirit had returned and possessed their bodies.
The Lanling Jin Clan hired multiple cultivators to develop demonic cultivation further, but only Xue Yang showed any talent for the practice. Xue Yang was able to repair the Yin Tiger Tally, as well as develop a way to induce Corpse Poisoning as a way to turn living people into corpses.
Tools and Techniques
Conscious Fierce Corpses
Web Series Divergence
In the Web Series, Demonic Cultivation can be traced back to a man named Xue Chonghai, who used Yin Metal to control the Xuanwu of Slaughter. Several hundred years later, the Qishan Wen Clan began to collect the fragments of Yin Metal to control soulless living "puppets," alongside sealing the Yin energy on creatures such as the Dire Owl.
- Despite the title of the Novel, the phrase "grandmaster of demonic cultivation" only appears once in the text – upon his resurrection, Wei Wuxian merely claims that he is known by such a title.
- However, the actual term for his cultivation path used throughout the novel is ghostly path, not demonic cultivation. This is also a more accurate term, since according to the same discussion with Lan Qiren that began Wei Wuxian's theory, demons and ghosts are different creatures. As Wei Wuxian's techniques harvest resentful energy from the dead, he cultivates from ghosts, not demons. However, later demonic cultivators do indeed harvest resentful energy from living people, thereby cultivating from demons as well as ghosts.