ShenDoc 30




Shen was directly derived from an earlier language Qi. Qi was a hypermodern functional language that offered many features found in Shen. However Qi was written solely to run under Common Lisp.

The motive for Shen came from the observation that the implementation of Qi used only 15% of the system functions described in Common Lisp: the Language. The Shen mission was to develop an ultra-portable version of Qi that ran under a wide variety of platforms and which incorporates missing features in Qi such as streams. This approach involved rewriting and redesigning Qi to fit within the smallest feasible instruction set.

Shen is thus a RISC version of Qi with useful extensions like macros and streams; it is Qi running on a reduced instruction set.

The development of Shen was motivated by the desire to use Qi outside the ambit of Common Lisp. Though Common Lisp is a very powerful language, it's usage and libraries do not compare well with other languages such as Python. It is, for example, difficult to find providers who support Common Lisp, though many providers will offer Python as part of their services. Hence Shen was devised as the solution. Shen is Qi packaged to run under many platforms.

People have asked why Shen is called 'Shen' . There is a deep reason.

The words 'qi' and 'shen' are part of the Taoist vocabulary. The concept of shen belongs to a triad; jing, qi, shen. They represent stages in the refinement of energy. Jing is the sexual essence; it is the most hormonal and least refined of the life energies but important in the alchemical transformation of our energy into spirit. Qi is better known as life-force or vitality, which accumulates when jing is conserved and our kidney and natal energy is nourished. Shen is the spiritual energy that shows in shining eyes and an alert mind. In Taoist alchemy, the transmutation of jing into qi, and qi into shen is the nature of the highest Taoist practice which leads to seperation of the shen from the corporeal form, immortality and liberation from the wheel of life and death. For this reason shen is translated as 'spirit'

In terms of this process, Qi was nourished within the physical body of a specific platform which was Common Lisp. Having nurtured it to become strong, the goal must be now to seperate Qi from conceptual dependence on Common Lisp to be able to exist as a spirit that can run on any LISP. Hence the process of our work mirrors the ancient Taoist alchemists.


Basic Types in Shen and Kλ
The Primitive Functions of Kλ
The Syntax of Kλ
Notes on the Implementation of Kλ
Boolean Operators
The Syntax of Symbols
The Semantics of Symbols in Shen and Kλ
Strings and Pattern Matching
Character Streams and Byte Streams
Bytes and Unicode
Reader Macros
Standard Vectors and Pattern Matching
Non-standard Vectors and Tuples
Generic Functions
Type Declarations
External Global Variables
Property Lists and Hashing
Error Handling
Floats and Integers
The Timer
Special Forms

Built by Shen Technology (c) Mark Tarver, September 2021