The Eight Immortals

The Eight Immortals/ 8 dewa-dewi china

The Eight Immortals (Chinese: 八仙; pinyin: Bāxiān; Wade–Giles: Pa¹hsien¹) are a group of legendary xian (“immortals; transcendents; saints”) in Chinese mythology. Each Immortal’s power can be transferred to a power tool (法器) that can bestow life or destroy evil. Together, these eight tools are called the “Covert Eight Immortals” (暗八仙 àn ~). Most of them are said to have been born in the Tang or Song Dynasty. They are revered by the Taoists and are also a popular element in the secular Chinese culture. They are said to live on a group of five islands in the Bohai Sea, which includes Penglai Mountain-Island.

8 dewa

The Immortals are:

Named Hé Qióng (何瓊, Hé Qióng), Immortal Woman He or He Xiangu (何仙姑, Hé Xiān Gū in pinyin or Ho Hsien-ku in Wade-Giles) is the only female deity among the Eight Immortals. The gender of her fellow Immortal Lán Cǎihé is somewhat ambiguous.

She was from Yong Prefecture (today Linglin County) during the Tang Dynasty, or from a wealthy and generous family in Zēngchéng County (增城縣), Guangdong.

Hé Xiān Gū was the daughter of Ho T‘ai, of the town of Tsêng-ch‘êng, in the prefecture of Guangdong.

At birth she had six long hairs on the crown of her head. When she was about 14 or 15, a divine personage appeared to her in a dream and instructed her to eat powdered mica, in order that her body might become etherealized and immune from death. So she swallowed it, and also vowed to remain a virgin.

Later on by slow degrees she gave up taking ordinary food.

The Empress Wu dispatched a messenger to summon her to attend at the palace, but on the way there, she disappeared.

One day during the Jīng Lóng (景龍) period (about 707 CE), she ascended to Heaven in broad daylight, and became a Hsien (Taoist Immortal).

Her lotus flower improves one’s health, mental and physical. She is depicted holding a lotus flower, and sometimes with the musical instrument known as Shēng, or a fènghuáng bird to accompany her. She may also carry a bamboo ladle or fly-whisk.

The youngest of the Eight Immortals, Royal Uncle Cao or Cao Guojiu (pinyin: cáo guó jiù; Wade–Giles: Ts’ao Kuo-ch’iu) is named one of the following:

  1. Cao Yi (曹佾 cáo yì) (courtesy name Gongbo (公伯 gōng bó))
  2. Cao Jing (曹景 cáo jǐng)
  3. Cao Jingxiu (曹景休 cáo jǐng xiū)
  4. Cao You (曹友 cáo yǒu).

He was said to be the uncle of the Emperor of the Song Dynasty, being the younger brother of Empress Dowager Cao (曹太后 cáo tàihòu).

In historic records, there were several Emperor-consorts Caos in the Song Empire, but only one became empress: Cishengguangxian Empress (慈聖光獻皇后 cí shèng guāng xiàn huáng hoù) (1015–1079), the wife of the fourth Song emperor, Rénzōng (仁宗), none of whose children became an emperor.

However, this does not render the historical existence of the “Royal Uncle Cao” impossible as in pre-modern China, the address “uncle” also meant “brother-in-law”. Sometimes specified as “Wife-uncle” (妻舅 qī jiù) or as a respect, “Little Uncle” (舅子 jiù zǐ). Císhèngguāngxiàn Empress did have a younger brother named Cao Yi in historical record. But the given name of Royal Uncle Cao being Yi as well could be a post hoc.

Cao Guojiu’s younger brother Cao Jingzhi (曹景植 cáo jǐng zhí) was a bully, but no one dared to prosecute him because of his powerful connections, not even after he killed a person. Royal Uncle Cao was so overwhelmed by sadness and shame on his brother that he resigned his office and left home.

He is shown in the official’s court dress with a jade tablet. Sometimes he holds castanets. His jade tablet can purify the environment. Royal Uncle Cao is considered the patron deity of actors.

Iron-Crutch Li (traditional Chinese: 李鐵拐; simplified Chinese: 李铁拐; pinyin: ”Lǐ Tiěguǎi”; Wade–Giles : ”Li T’ieh-kuai”; Japanese: Tekkai🙂 is sometimes said to be the most ancient and popular of the Eight Immortals of the Taoist pantheon. He is sometimes described as irascible and ill-tempered, but also benevolent to the poor, sick and the needy, whose suffering he alleviates with special medicine from his gourd. He is often portrayed as an ugly old man with dirty face, scraggy beard, and messy hair held by a golden band. He walks with the aid of an iron crutch (t’ieh kuai) and often has a gourd slung over his shoulder or held in his hand. He often is depicted as a clown figure who descends to earth in the form of a beggar who uses his power to fight for the oppressed and needy.

The legend says that Iron-crutch Li was born during the Yuan Dynasty period (1279–1368), and was originally named “Li Yüan”. However, in folklore he is depicted as Laozi‘s disciple, which would claim him to be a figure of the 6th century BCE.

The Eight Immortals became immortal deities through the means of Taoist religion. Within the myth, they lived on an island paradise called Penglai Shan, found east of China, which only they could traverse due to the “weak water” which would not support ships. Among the eight immortals, Li Tieh-Kuai was one of the more popular, and was depicted as a man leaning on crutch and holding a gourd. Some say that in the myth the “gourd had spirals of smoke ascend from it, denoting his power of setting his spirit free from his body.”Others say that the gourd was full of medicine which he dispensed to the poor and needy.

Li studied with Lao Tzu (founder of Taoism). He is said to have renounced material comforts and led a life of self-discipline as an act of religious devotion for 40 years, often going without food or sleep.

Li Tieh-Kuai, in the beginning of his Taoist training was said to live in a cave. He was said to be a handsome man. Lao Tzu tempted him with a beautiful woman he had made of wood. After refusing to acknowledge the presence of this woman and therefore defeating his temptation, Lao Tzu told him of his trick and rewarded him with a small white tablet. After consuming this tablet, Li Tieh-Kuai was never hungry nor ill. Lao Tzu again tempts Li Tieh-Kuai with money. Some robbers had buried money in Li Tieh-Kuai’s field without knowing he was watching. Lao Tzu approached him in disguise and told him he should take any money that came to him. After Li Tieh-Kuai refused, saying that he did not care if he remained poor his whole life, Lao Tzu rewarded him with another pill. This pill bestowed upon Li Tieh-Kuai the ability to fly at amazing speeds.

Before becoming an immortal, it was previously stated that Li Tieh-Kuai was a very handsome man. However, on one occasion his spirit traveled to Heaven to meet with some other Immortals. He had told his apprentice, Li Ching, to wait for seven days for his spirit to return. If he did not return by then, Li Ching was to burn the body because that meant that he had become an immortal; but after six and a half days the student had to go home to see to his sick mother one last time before she died. So the student cremated the body of Li Tieh-Kuai. The student passed a dying beggar on his way to his mother’s but did not have time to bury him. Upon returning, Li Tieh-Kuai’s spirit found that his body had been cremated and had to enter the only body available at the time, the corpse of the homeless beggar who had just died of starvation. The beggar, unfortunately, had a long and pointed head, large ears with one large brass earring, a woolly and disheveled beard and hair. He also had long, scraggy, and dark eyebrows, dark eyes, and he had a pan lid on his head and a lame leg. Lao Tzu appeared and gave him a medicine gourd that could cure any illness and never emptied. Li Tieh-Kuai then brought the apprentice’s mother back to life using the liquid from his gourd. Li Ching was then dismissed as his student, after being given a small pill and being told that he would work hard enough to become one of the Immortals himself. This turned out to be true.

“The gourd served as a bedroom for the night and held medicine, which Li dispensed with great beneficence to the poor and needy.” Lao Tzu also used the bottle to make him an iron crutch that would never rust nor break. He then told Li Tieh-Kuai that he was ready to join the Immortals. From then on, Li Tieh-Kuai was charged to cure the sick and he traveled to many lands and “could be found wherever the sick lay dying or the poor were persecuted.”

Probably the second most popular of the Eight Immortals, Iron-crutch Li is associated with medicine. His symbol of an iron crutch still hangs outside some traditional apothecaries. One of the reasons for him not being extremely popular is due to his “renowned bad temper and eccentricities.Sometimes, the non devout seek out prescriptions from him through certain Taoist priests. His magical, medical gourd is his more popular sign which is favoured by professional exorcists. As a beggar, he uses his form to “fight for the rights of the poor and those in need.”He is very much a clown figure and his popularity rests upon the twin attractions of being seen as one of the downtrodden, who is really more powerful than the strongest, and the clown who is irascible.”

The Eight Immortals are examples of how all can obtain immortality. Most of the immortals (including Iron-crutch Li) were common folk who attracted the attention of the gods through suffering unjust treatment, without complaint, and gave more to others than themselves. They were admitted to eternal life as a reward for their acts on earth and bearing gifts to Shoulao, who is the god of long life.”The path to immortality includes achieving physical and spiritual harmony through meditation, diet, exercise, breath control, and the use of herbs. To achieve this state, one also had to eliminate all disease and evil from the body and spirit”.

His characteristic emblems are the gourd bottle which identifies him as one of the Eight Immortals and also his iron crutch. A vapour cloud emanates from the gourd, and within it is the sage’s hun (soul); which may be depicted as a formless shape or as a miniature double of his bodily self.

Lan Caihe (Chinese: 藍采和; pinyin: Lán Cǎihé; Wade–Giles: Lan Ts’ai-ho) is the least defined of the Eight Immortals in Chinese mythology. Lan Caihe’s age and sex are unknown. Lan is usually depicted in sexually ambiguous clothing, but is often shown as a young boy or girl carrying a bamboo flower basket.

Stories of Lan’s behaviour are often bizarrely eccentric. Some sources dress Lan Caihe in a ragged blue gown, and refer to them as the immortal patron of minstrels. In another tradition, Lan is a female singer whose song lyrics accurately predict future events.

Lan is often described as carrying a pair of bamboo castanets which they would clap and make a beat with by hitting the ground, they would then sing to this beat and a group of onlookers would follow and watch in amazement and entertain themselves. After these performances they would give them lots of money as they asked for it, Lan Cai. They would then string this cash and coins on a long string of money that they carried. As they walked the coins would fall off. They would not care, other beggars would then take the money.

They are often described as wearing only one shoe and other foot being bare, in the Winter it was said they slept naked in the snow and it melted and in the summer it was said they stuffed their clothes full and wore thick clothes despite the heat.

Like all the other immortals they were often said to be in a drunken stupor and left this world by flying on a heavenly swan or crane into heaven. One day while in a tavern, they had supposedly gotten up to go to the bathroom. But before leaving they flew off on the crane or swan and stripped off their clothes on the way up.

Lü Dongbin (Chinese: 呂洞賓; Wade–Giles: Lü Tung-Pin; born 796) was a Tang Dynasty Chinese scholar and poet who has been elevated to the status of an Immortal in the Chinese cultural sphere, worshipped especially by the Taoists. Lü is one of the most widely known of the group of deities known as the Eight Immortals and considered by some to be the de facto leader. (The formal leader is more likely said to be Zhongli Quan or sometimes Iron-Crutch Li.) He is also a historical figure who was mentioned in the official history book “History of Song”. Lü is widely considered to be one of the earliest masters of the tradition of Neidan, or Internal alchemy. He is depicted in art as being dressed as a scholar and he often bears a sword on his back that dispels evil spirits.

Lü Dongbin is usually portrayed as a scholarly, clever man with a genuine desire to help people obtain wisdom/enlightenment and to learn the Tao. However, he is often portrayed as having some character “flaws”, not an uncommon theme for the colorful Taoist immortals, all of whom in general have various eccentricities:

  1. He is said to be a ladies man, even after (or only after) becoming an immortal – and for this reason he is generally not invoked by people with romantic problems. This may also relate to some of the Taoist sexual arts.
  2. He is portrayed as having bouts of drunkenness, which was not uncommon among the often fun-loving Eight Immortals. This also parallels several Taoist artists renowned for their love of drinking.
  3. One story relates that early on after becoming immortal, he had a strong temper as a “young” Immortal, even deforming a riverbank in a bout of anger.
  4. Lü was also a prolific poet. His works were collected in the Quan Tangshi (Complete Tang Poetry).

His name is Lü Yán, with Yán (巖 or 岩 or 喦) being the given name. Dòngbīn is his courtesy name. He is called Master Pure-Yang (純陽子 Chunyang Zi), and is also called Lü the Progenitor (呂祖 lü zŭ) by some Daoist, especially those of the Quanzhen School. He was born in Jingzhao Prefecture (京兆府 Jīngzhào Fŭ) around 796 C.E. during the Tang Dynasty.

When he was born, a fragrance allegedly filled the room. His birthday is said to be on the fourteenth day of the fourth month of the Chinese calendar. He had been very intelligent since childhood and had many academic achievements. However, according to one story, still unmarried by the age of 20, Lü twice took the top-level civil service exam to become a government official, but did not succeed.

The legend has it that one night when Lü Yan was in Chang’an or Handan, he dozed off as his yellow millet was cooking in a hotel. He dreamed that he took the imperial exam and excelled, and thus was awarded a prestigious office and soon promoted to the position of vice minister (侍郎 shìláng). He then married the daughter of a prosperous household and had a son and a daughter. He was promoted again and again, and finally became the prime minister. However, his success and luck attracted jealousy of others, so he was accused of crimes that caused him to lose his office. His wife then betrayed him, his children were killed by bandits, and he lost all his wealth. As he was dying on the street in the dream, he woke up.

Although in the dream, eighteen years had passed, the whole dream actually happened in the time it took his millet to cook. The characters from his dream were actually played by Zhongli Quan in order to make him realize that one should not put too much importance on transient glory and success. As a result, Lü went with Zhongli to discover and cultivate the Tao. This dream is known as “Dream of the Yellow Millet” (黃粱夢 Huáng Liáng Mèng) and is described in a writing compiled by Ma Zhiyuan of the Yuan Dynasty.

In volume 82 of Song Dynasty scholar Li Fang‘s Extensive Records of the Taiping Era, an earlier version of the story, Lü Dongbin was replaced by Student Lu (盧生 Lú Shēng), and Zhongli Quan by Elder Lü (呂翁 Lǚ Wēng).

The exact age of Lü Yan when this incident occurred varies in the tellings, from 20 years of age to 40.

A story has it that when in Chang An, Lü was tested by Zhongli Quan ten times before Quan took him in as disciple and Lü subsequently became immortal. These ten trials are described below.

  1. One day Lü came back from work and found out that his loved one was in serious sickness and dying, without sadness or remorse, he started to prepare the dress and coffin necessary for burial, but later his loved one revived and lives on, Lü was without sadness or joyous feeling.
  2. Lü was selling stuff at a market and there came a buyer to bargain with him, after agreeing on the price, Lü handed him the stuff but the buyer refused to pay in full and the walked away. Lü would not argue and let him walk away.
  3. On the first day of lunar calendar, Lü met with a beggar, after giving him some money, the beggar kept asking for more and threw vulgar words at him, Lü left the scene with a smile.
  4. Lü was once a shepherd; during his tenure a hungry tiger was eyeing to snatch the goats under his care. Lü protected the goats by sending them down to the hillside and stood in front of the Tiger, the hungry tiger was at awe to see this and left the place without hurting Lü.
  5. Lü was studying at a small hut on a mountain and suddenly a beautiful and gorgeous lady came by and asking for a night to rest since she was lost. That night, this beautiful lady was flirting and trying to get Lü to have sex, but Lü was untouched by such temptation.
  6. One day Lü came back and saw his house was burglarized and lost all his belongings, without throwing temper and showing sign of anger he started to work on his farm, suddenly as he dug further on the ground he found countless pieces of precious gold, without greed he uncovered the earth without taking a single piece of the gold.
  7. Lü bought some bronze utensils at a market and upon returning to home, he realized all the utensils were gold made and he immediately returned to the seller.
  8. A crazy Taoist was selling medicine on the street, telling people that his magic potion would have one of two outcomes: either 1) the drinker would die on the spot, or 2) the drinker would become immortal. No one would dare to try, except Lü, who bought and tried the potion. Nothing happened to him.
  9. A river was elevated due to heavy rain, Lü and other passengers were on a boat crossing the river. Before reaching the middle of the journey, the weather deteriorated, resulting in most the passengers except Lü being nervous and worried. Lü took it in his stride and never worried about life and death!
  10. Lü was alone at home and suddenly weird things happened. Ghost and monsters were killing each other and wanted to do the same to Lü. Showing no sense of fear, Lü kept on doing his chores without paying attention to them. Another group of devils with blood all over them tried to take Lü’s life away by saying to Lü that he owed his previous life to them since in past life Lü took his life. Without any fear Lü said ‘go ahead and take my life since I took yours in past life, this is fair and square !’ All of a sudden the sky turned blue and those ghost and devils disappeared. Zhongli Quan (Who happened to be his Teacher and Mentor in Taoist stories) was looking and laughing at him while all these events were happening.

These 10 tests proved that Lü is a pure and dignified person and Master Zhongli was very satisfied and happy to take Lü to Nan San Her Ling to pass his secret to life and subsequently formed a “Zhong-Lü Golden Dan” school of Taoism. But Lü was not too fond on the secret and instead change his formula for inner peace and benefits more human beings; many until today practiced such path to immortals. This is his major effort and contribution. He is said to have helped many to walk the right path and improve the health as well as living condition of many.

Since the Northern Song Dynasty, there have been many stories and legends that are connected to Lü Dongbin. The stories were usually about Lü helping others to learn the Tao. According to the official History of the Song Dynasty (《宋史》), Lü was seen several times visiting the house of Chen Tuan (陳摶), who was believed to be the first person to present to the public the Taijitu.

The kindness of Lü Dongbin is demonstrated in the Chinese proverb “dog bites Lü Dongbin” (狗咬呂洞賓 gŏu yăo Lǚ Dòngbīn), which means an inability to recognize goodness and repay kindness with vice. Some say that the original proverb should actually be “狗咬呂洞賓,不識好人心,” stemming from a story about the friendship between Gou Miao (狗咬) and Lü Dongbin, who both did for the other great favors, each of which seemed like a disservice initially, signifying the importance of having faith in one’s friends.

According to Richard Wilhelm, Lü was the founder of the School of the Golden Elixir of Life (Jin Dan Jiao), and originator of the material presented in the book “Tai Yi Jin Hua Zong Zhi” (《太一金華宗旨》), or The Secret of the Golden Flower. Also, according to Daoist legend, he is the founder of the internal martial arts style called “Eight Immortals Sword” (八仙剑), considered to be one of the martial treasures of Wudangshan.

According to one story, Lü’s teacher Zhongli Quan became an immortal and was about to fly to heaven, while saying to Lü that if he kept practicing the Tao he would also be able to fly to heaven himself very soon. Lü Dongbin replied to his teacher that he’ll fly to heaven only after he enlightens all the sentient beings on earth (another story says all his relatives). According to the book “The Eight Immortals Achieving the Tao (《八仙得道摶》),” in his previous incarnation, Lü Dongbin was a Taoist master and the teacher of Zhongli Quan.

According to the Taoist book “History of the Immortals” (《歷代神仙通鑒》), Lü is the reincarnation of the ancient SageKing “Huang-Tan-Shi” (皇覃氏).

One of most popular of Lü Dongbin’s legends is his encounter with a prostitute named White Peony (Bai Mudan)

The most popular version comes from the Journey to the East novel.] It is said that the immortal Lü Dongbin was greatly attracted to one of Luo Yang‘s most beautiful courtesans, White Peony. Lü Dongbin slept with her many times but never ejaculated, because he didn’t want to lose his Yang essence. Unfortunately Lu’s immortal colleague Iron-Crutch Li and He Xiangu taught Mudan how to make him ejaculate by tickling his groin. Finally White Peony successfully made Lü Dongbin ejaculate and absorbed his Yang essence. Later she cultivated herself and became immortal too.

Another version comes from Ba Xian Dedao novel.[2] This version is more subtle and there is no sexual intercourse here. One day the immortal Lü Dongbin transforms himself into a handsome scholar and tries to advise the famous prostitute White Peony. In their first encounter White Peony seduces him passionately, but he refuses to sleep with her. In their second encounter, Lü agrees to sleep with her. But as they walk to the bed, Lü suddenly cries that his stomach is painful, and faints. White Peony is very sorry about his condition and calls a doctor using her money (despite her pimp’s grumbling, who incites her to throw the sick Lü to the road). Lü (who is only pretending to be sick)is very pleased knowing Peony’s merciful heart. In their third encounter, Lü Dongbin finally succeeds to persuade White Peony to leave her wayward life. She finally becomes immortal too

In the opera version, White Peony is changed from a seductive prostitute to the daughter of a drugstore owner. One day Lü Dongbin comes to their store and makes trouble by asking for impossible medicines. Knowing her father’s difficulty, Peony meets Lü and answers all of his question. From quarrelling they finally become lovers.

One of the Eight Immortals, Philosopher Han Xiang (韓湘子 in pinyin: hán xiāng zi) or Han Xiang Zi, in Wade-Giles as Han Hsiang Tzu, was born Han Xiang during the Tang Dynasty, and his courtesy name is Qingfu (清夫 qīng fū). He is said to be the nephew or grandnephew of Han Yu, a prominent statesman of Tang Court. Han Xiang studied Daoism under Lü Dongbin. Once at a banquet by Han Yu, Han Xiang tried to persuade Han Yu to give up a life of officialdom and to study magic with him. But Han Yu was adamant that Han Xiang should dedicate his life to Confucianism instead of Daoism, so Han Xiang demonstrated the power of the Dao by pouring out cup after cup of wine from the gourd without end.

Because his flute gives life, Han became a protector of flautists.

Elder Zhang Guo” or “Zhang Guo Lao” (Chinese: 張果老; pinyin: Zhāng Guǒ Lǎo; Wade–Giles: Chang Kuo Lao; Japanese: Chokaro) is one of the Eight Immortals. Of the Eight Immortals he, along with Zhongli Quan and Lü Yan, was a real historical figure; the rest exist only in legend. His existence is said to have begun around the middle or end of the seventh century AD, and ended approximately in the middle of the eighth. The epithet “Lao” added at the end of his name means “old”.

Elder Zhang Guo was a Taoist fangshi (方士 “occultist-alchemist”) who lived as a hermit in the Zhongtiao Shan in Heng Prefecture (恒州 Héngzhōu) during the Tang Dynasty. By the time of Empress Wu, he claimed to be several hundred years old. A strong believer in the magic of necromancy, he also declared that he had been Grand Minister to the Emperor Yao during a previous incarnation. Zhang Guo Lao also had a love for wine and winemaking. He was known to make liquor from herbs and shrubs as a hobby. Other members of the Eight Immortals drank his wine, which they believed to have healing or medicinal properties. He was also known to be a master of Taoist Breath or Qigong and could go without food for days, surviving on only a few sips of wine.

He was the most eccentric of the Eight Immortals, seen clearly in the kung fu style dedicated to his memory. The style includes moves such as delivering a kick during a back flip or bending so far back that your shoulders touch the ground. He was known to be quite entertaining, often making himself invisible, drinking water from the petals of poisonous flowers, snatching birds in flight from the sky, as well as wilting flowers simply by pointing in their direction.

Zhang Kuo Lao appears frequently in Chinese paintings and sculpture, either with the Eight Immortals or alone, and, like the other immortals, can be seen in many different common artistic mediums and everyday objects. He may be depicted standing or seated, but is typically shown riding his white mule, usually seated facing backwards. His emblem is a Yü Ku, or fish drum, which is a tube-shaped bamboo drum with two iron rods or mallets that he carries with him, or carrying a phoenix feather or a peach, representing immortality. Since he represents old age, in the Taoist Feng Shui tradition a picture or statue of Zhang Kuo can be placed in the home or bedroom of an elderly person to help bring them a long life and a good, natural death.A picture of him on his mule offering a descendant to a newly wed couple can also be found in Daoist nuptial chapels.

Zhongli Quan (traditional Chinese: 鐘離權; simplified Chinese: 钟离权; pinyin: Zhōnglí Quán; Wade–Giles : Chung-li Ch’üan) is one of the most ancient of the Eight Immortals (some others say the oldest is Iron-Crutch Li or Elder Zhang Guo, or Lü Dongbin) and the leader of the group. (Some people consider Lü Dongbin to be an informal leader.) He is also known as Zhongli of Han (Han Zhongli 漢鐘離) because he was said to be born during the Han Dynasty. He possesses a fan which has the magical ability of reviving the dead and in some stories, it also can transform stones into silver or gold.

He was born in Yantai (燕台 Yàntái). According to legends, bright beams of light filled the labour room during his birth. After birth he did not stop crying until seven full days had passed. He was destined for greatness from the day he was born by showing features such as a broad forehead, thick ears, long eyebrows, deep eyes, red nose, square mouth, high cheeks, and scarlet lips. Stories depict that either 7 days or 7 years later he began to speak, the first sentence he uttered was, “my feet have wandered in the purple palace of the [immortals], my name is recorded in the capital of the jade emperor.” Later Taoists celebrate his birthday on the fifteenth day of the fourth month of the Chinese Calendar. Following his fathers example, he became a member of the court, advancing to general of one of the armies of the Han Dynasty. During his time as general, his army fought against Tibet. In his last battle he was beaten by the Tibetans, forcing him to flee into the mountainous areas surrounding him. There he came across an old man who led him to a spiritual sanctuary where he was welcomed in and told that he could stay as long as was needed. There he learned the ways of the immortal rituals and extensive amounts of alchemy. After 3 hard days of teaching, he was dismissed and told to use his newfound powers to serve his people. When he turned back to talk to the man, he and his home had vanished. Using his power of alchemy and his magical fan, he created silver and gold coins from stones and saved people from poverty and famine.

There are 2 stories that depict how he became one of the Immortals. In the first, it was in his continuous use of the immortal powers and his magical fan that eventually caused his descent into the shimmering cloud of the immortals. In the second, he was meditating near a wall of his hermitage when all of a sudden it collapsed. Behhind the wall was a jade vessel that took him as an immortal to the shimmering cloud.

In Taoism, he is known as “正陽祖師” (Zhèngyáng Zǔshī), literally the True-Yang Ancestor-Master. He is also called “Master of the Cloud-Chamber” (雲房先生 Yún Fáng Xiān Shēng) in accounts describing his encounter with Lü Dongbin before achieving immortality.

He has a rare Chinese compound surname, Zhongli (鐘離). He is one of three leaders of the group of the eight immortals.

Usually depicted with his chest and belly bare and holding a fan made of feathers or horse hair. He is often set apart from the other immortals in pictures by wisps of hair on his temples and a beard down to his navel. He is known for his pleasing disposition, and is often painted or drawn drinking wine.

**For their names in Chinese characters and Wade-Giles, see the individual pages in the list above.

In literature before the 1970s, they were sometimes translated as the Eight Genies. First described in the Yuan Dynasty, they were probably named after the Eight Immortal Scholars of the Han


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