Ba Xian Guo Hai:the Eight Immortals Cross the Sea (1)

2006-05-09 14:46:14




Legends about the Eight Immortals (Ba Xian) started to circulate orally long ago among the people and were recorded in the works of writers of various dynasties - Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming. But it was only with Wu Yuantai of the Ming dynasty who wrote The Emergence of the Eigbt lmmortals and Their Travels to the East that the Eight began to be clearly distinguished as the following.

Tieguai Li (also called Li Tieguai, meaning Li with the Iron Crutch) was a lay Taoist by the name of Li Xuan who received his Enlightenment from the Supreme Patriarch of Taoism himself. Once his soul left his body to travel abroad but had to enter the corpse of a starved beggar when he found his own body mistakenly burnt by his disciple. He then had an earthly form with unkempt hair, a dirty face, a bare abdomen and a crippled leg. He blew water on the beggar’s bamboo cane, changing it into an iron cane or crutch.

Han Zhongli (or Zhongli Quan) was given the first divine revelations by Li Tieguai and then went into the mountains to seek the light. After his return to the world, he killed a tiger with a flying scimitar and changed copper into gold to help the poor. In the end, he ascended to the upper realms of immortality with his brother. He is usually shown with a feather fan in a comfortable reclining posture.

Zhang Guolao was a hermit in the Zhongtiao Mountains for a long time. He is said to have already been several hundred years old in the reign of Empress Wu Zetian (690 - 705 A. D.). Summoned by the Empress, he feigned death by magic in order to avoid meeting her. Later people saw him in the mountains near Hengzhou. He used to travel on a white donkey which could cover thousands of leagues in a single day. When taking a rest, he would fold up the donkey as if it were made of paper and put it into his suitcase. He is usually depicted riding backward on his donkey, that is, facing the tail of the beast.

He Xiangu was a Tang dynasty girl of Zengcheng, Guangdong province, living at a place called Yunmu Xi (Ravine of Mica). She became an immortal at the age of fourteen by taking mica powder. After that, she was so agile that her body could float from one peak to another collecting fruit for her mother. Another source says that she was a woman Taoist of Yongzhou during the Song dynasty, famous for her fortune - telling.

Lan Caihe, according to some sources, was a hermaprodite, usually dressed in blue tatters, with one foot bare and the other in a boot, wandering through the country, begging along the thoroughfares and singing drunkenly to the cadence of castanets. One day in an inn, music of flutes and mouth - organs was heard descending from the sky. Lan was suddenly wafted off into the air and vanished.
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