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Chinese Mythology: Ba Xian 八仙 (Eight Immortals)
Terms in this set (8)
Li Tie Guai 李铁拐
A person skilled in medicine, he is portrayed with a gourd full of potions often with a bat. He is also known as Kong Mu and Li Ningyang. The story is that a disciple was instructed to wait and then burn his body after a week, while he went off on a voyage as a spirit. Returning to find his body had been destroyed a day too early he was forced to inhabit the body of a beggar who had just died. The beggar had a paralyzed leg and so he was given an iron stick to support him. His eyes did not fit the beggar's head properly and give the impression of Hollow Eyes (hence the name Kong Mu). He is often represented standing on a crab or accompanied by a deer. Symbol: bottle gourd.
Zhongli Quan 钟离权
An army marshal who on retirement took to a hermit's life in the Yangjiao mountains, Hunan. The Five Heroes taught him about immortality and how to turn copper into silver. He then produced silver which he gave to the poor. One day a wall of his house collapsed revealing a jade box containing the secrets of immortality. After a while he mastered the spells and was whisked off by a celestial crane to the land of the immortals. His magical fan has the power to bring the dead back to life. He is also known as Han Zhongli 汉钟离. He is depicted as a fat man with a bare belly carrying a feather fan and/or a peach of immortality. Symbol: fan.
Lan Caihe 蓝采和
Portrayed as a woman or a hermaphrodite wearing a blue gown. As a mortal she lived as Yang Su of the Tang dynasty. She is depicted playing a flute or cymbals. She traveled the empire singing with one shoe off and one shoe on. Her breath was of shining mist. One day she was found drunk in Anhui and disappeared into a cloud leaving her shoe, dress, belt and castanets behind. She laments the short and fleeting life of mortals. Symbol: flower basket.
Zhang Guo Lao 张果老
Depicted as an old man, he lived as a hermit of the Tang dynasty in Shanxi. He was then invited to attend Tang Emperor Taizong but refused. Later on he accepted a request from Empress Wu Zetian but he died on reaching the capital. He was immediately reborn in the Hengzhou mountains. He rode a white mule that could cover a thousand li in a day. The mule or donkey could be folded up as if it was made of paper and conveniently stored away. He performed magical tricks for the Tang Emperor Xuanzong. He carries a bamboo tube drum with two rods to beat it; he is often shown seated on a mule with may be peaches or phoenix feathers. Symbol: bamboo tube drum.
He Xiangu 何仙姑
Depicted as holding a magic lotus flower (which opens the heart) and playing the sheng, She (or Hé Qióng) lived in the reign of Empress Wu Zetian. Once she was threatened by a demon and rescued by Lu Dongbin. She moved to the Mother of Pearl Mountains and was shown how to achieve immortality by taking a magic potion. She then flew among the mountains picking fruit for her mother. She represents purity and self sacrifice. Symbol: lotus or peach.
Lü Dongbin 吕洞宾
In 755 he was born in Shanxi into a family of officials. He went off to Lushan mountain, Jiangxi and met a fire dragon who gave him a sword with the power of invisibility. At Chang'an he met Han Zhongli who taught him magical powers and immortality. He proved his skills by performing ten arduous tasks. For four hundred years he traveled the country killing dragons and preventing catastrophes. A tale relates that when visiting a wine bar instead of paying cash he painted two beautiful cranes on the wall, many came to see the realistic painting and the bar prospered, but as soon as his debt was paid by the increased trade the cranes detached themselves from the wall and flew off. He was also known for his scholarship. He is depicted with a devil-killing sword and a fly-whisk ➚ (云展 yún zhǎn) that enabled him to walk on clouds. Symbol: sword.
Han Xiangzi 韩湘子
He was probably the great nephew of the famous Tang statesman Han Yu (c. 820CE). He soon excelled in horticulture. He could grow plants in a small handful of earth and became a pupil of Lü Dongbi. He then became immortal by climbing into the peach trees of Immortality and falling to the ground. His melodious playing of the flute attracted the birds and animals and is the patron of musicians. He saw no value in money and gave away any he was given. Symbol: flute.
Cao Guojiu 曹国舅
He (930-999CE) was elected by the immortals to make up the set of lucky eight. He met Han Zhongli and Lu Dongbin who asked him what he was doing, when he replied he was 'Looking for the Way' and then asked 'Which way and where?' He responded by pointing to his heart. The immortals were impressed by this, as 'The heart is heaven and heaven is the Way'; he was soon given immortality. He is usually shown holding a scepter and castanets. He is the patron of actors. Symbol: castanets or ruyi.
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