Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lan Caihe

Lan Caihe is the least known of the Eight Immortals. Lan Caihe's age and sex are unknown. The deity could be a hermaphrodite, but in the form most well-known he is a young boy or a youth carrying a bamboo flower basket.

He/she was born during the Tang Dynasty. His/her behaviour was often out of norm and was known for its bizarreness. He wore only shorts and thin shirts in winter, and thick jackets and long pants in summer. He walked with one foot bare and the other foot with shoe.


He/she is variously portrayed as a youth, an aged man, or a girl; in modern pictures generally as a young boy. His/her distinctive emblem is a flower-basket, often carried slung on a hoe over his/her shoulder. The basket contains various flora associated with ideas of longevity.

One suggestion for Lan Caihe's ambiguity is that the outfit was based on some previous shamanic outfits or practices of cross-genderism.

Zhang Guolao

Elder Zhang Guo is one of the Eight Immortals. He is known as Master Comprehension-of-Profundity .

Elder Zhang Guo was a Taoist occultist- who lived on Mount Tiáo in the Heng Prefecture during the Tang Dynasty. By the time of Empress Wu, he claimed to be several hundred years old. He also declared that he had been Grand Minister to the Emperor during a previous incarnation. Zhang Guo Lao was known for wandering between the Fen River & Chin territories during his lifetime and was known to travel at least a thousand li per day.

Zhang Guo 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 or Qigong and could go without food for days, surviving on only a few sips of wine.

He was the most of the eight immortals, as one can see from the kung fu style that was dedicated to him — which includes moves such as delivering a kick during a back flip, or bending so far back that your shoulders touch the ground.


In the twenty-third year of the reign-period K'ai Yüan of the Emperor of the Tang dynasty, he was called to the city of Luoyang in Henan, then the Eastern Capital of Tang and was elected as a Chief of the , with the honourable title of "Very Perspicacious Teacher".

It was just at this time that the famous Taoist Yeh Fa-shan, thanks to his skill in magic and necromancy, was in great favour at Court. The Emperor asked him who this Chang Kuo Lao was. "I know," replied the magician; "but if I were to tell your Majesty I should fall dead at your feet, so I dare not to speak unless your Majesty will promise that you will go with bare feet and bare head to ask Chang Kuo to forgive you, in which case I should immediately revive." Hsüan Tsung having promised, Fa-shan then said: "Chang Kuo is a white spiritual bat which came out of primeval chaos." No sooner had he spoken than he dropped dead at the Emperor's feet.

Hsüan Tsung, with bald head and feet, went to Chang Kuo as he had promised, and begged forgiveness for his indiscretion. The latter then sprinkled water on Fa-shan's face and he revived. Before long Chang Kuo claimed to feel sick and asked to return back to the Tiáo Mountains in Hêng Chou and was reported to have died there. When his disciples opened his tomb, they found it empty...

He Xiangu

Named 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 of the Eight Immortals. .

She was from Yong Prefecture in Tang Dynasty, or from a wealthy and generous family in Zēngchéng County , Guangdong.


Ho Hsien-ku 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.

Up hill and down dale she used to flit just like a creature with wings. Every day at dawn she sallied forth, to return at dusk, bringing back mountain fruits she had gathered for her mother.

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 period , she ascended to Heaven in broad daylight, and became a Hsien .

''From , ii, 32, 33''


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

Tie Guaili

Iron-crutch Li is sometimes said to be the most ancient of the Eight Immortals of the . He is sometimes described irascible and ill-tempered, but also benevolent to the poor, sick and the needy, whose suffering he alleviates with special medicine from his . He is often portrayed as an ugly old man with dirty face, scraggy beard, and messy hair held by a golden band, walking with the aid of an iron crutch.

He is also called Hollow-eyed Li or ''Li Ningyang'' .


The legend says that Iron-crutch Li was born during the period, and was originally named "Li Yüan". He studied with Lao Tzu and Goddess Hsi Wang Mu. He is said to have devoted 40 years to the practice of Taoist meditation, often forgetting to eat or sleep.

Before becoming an immortal, he 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 to wait for seven days for his spirit to return; but after six days the student had to go home to attend to his sick mother, so the student the body of Li Yüan.

Upon returning, Li Yüan's spirit had to enter the only body available at the time, the corpse of a homeless beggar who had just died of starvation; who unfortunately had "a long and pointed head, blackened face, woolly and disheveled beard and hair, huge eyes, and a lame leg." Lao Tzu gave him a gold band to keep his hair in order, and turned the beggar's bamboo staff into an iron crutch to help his lame leg. Lao Tzu also advised him not to put too much emphasis on appearance.

Li Yüan then brought the apprentice's mother back to life using a magical potion. At night he makes himself so small that he can sleep inside his gourd bottle.


His characteristic emblems are the gourd bottle, which identifies him as one of the Eight Immortals, and his iron crutch. A vapour cloud emanates from the gourd, and within it is the sage's ''hun'' ; which may be depicted as a formless shape, or as a miniature double of his bodily self. Sometimes the ''hun'' is replaced by a spherical object representing the "". He is sometimes shown riding on a qilin.

Lu Dongbin

Lǚ Dòngbīn is a deity/ revered by /Taoist. Lǚ Dòngbīn is the most widely known of the group of deities known as the Eight Immortals and hence considered by some to be the de facto .


His name is Lü Yán, with Yán being the given name. Dòngbīn is his courtesy name. He is called Master Pure-Yang , and is also called Lü the Progenitor by some Daoist. He was born in Jingzhao Prefecture around 796 C.E. during the Tang Dynasty. He is depicted in art as being dressed as a scholar and he often bears a on his back that dispels evil spirits.

Birth and Early Life

When he was born, a fragrance allegedly filled the room. He was very intelligent since childhood. According to one story, still unmarried by the age of 20, Lü twice tried to take the top-level civil service exam to become an official, but did not succeed.

Yellow Millet Dream

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 . He then married the daughter of a prosperous household and had a son and a daughter. He was promoted again to be 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" and is described in a writing compiled by Ma Zhiyuan in Yuan Dynasty.

In volume 82 of 's Li Fang 's ''Extensive Records of Taiping'' , an earlier version of the story, Lü Dongbin was replaced by Student Lu , and Zhongli Quan by Elder Lü .

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


Lü Dongbin is usually portrayed as a scholarly, clever man with a genuine desire to help people obtain wisdom/enlightenment. 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:

*He is said to be a ladies man, even 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 .

*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 renown for their love of drinking.

*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.

Lü Dongbin was once taught by his teacher Zhongli Quan an alchemy method that could turn ordinary stones to some kind of gold, which could be used as currency in ancient China. But this kind of gold will usually turn back to stone in about five hundred years. Lü didn't use this method because he felt it could be unfair to the person who gets the gold five hundred years later. This is usually seen as illustrating his understanding of the Tao and his ethics. Zhongli Quan is supposed to have expressed admiration for his student to come to such a conclusion.

Zhongli Quan

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 some day. Lü Dongbin replied to his teacher that he'll fly to heaven only after he enlightens all the sentient beings on earth. According to the book "The Eight Immortals Achieving the Tao ," in his previous incarnation, Lü Dongbin was the teacher of Zhongli Quan.

Stories and Legends

Since the Northern Song Dynasty, there have been many stories and legends that attribute to Lü Dongbin. The stories were usually about Lü helping others to learn the Tao. According to the official History of the Song Dynasty , Lü was seen several times visiting the house of Chen Tuan , 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" , which means an inability to recognize goodness and repay kindness with vice. Some say that the original proverb should actually be "苟杳呂洞賓,不識好人心," stemming from a story about the friendship between Gou Miao and Lü Dongbin, who both did great favors to the other and yet it seems 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 , and originator of the material presented in the book "Tai Yi Jin Hua Zong Zhi" , or The Secret of the Golden Flower.

Lü is also a very productive poet. His works were collected in the "Quan Tang Shi" .

According to the Taoist book "History of Immortals" , Lü is the reincarnation of ancient Sage-King "Huang-Tan-Shi" .

Cao Guojiu

The newest of the Eight Immortals, Royal Uncle Cao or Cao Guojiu or Wade-Giles, Ts'ao Kuo-ch'iu, is named one of the following:
* Cao Yi
* Cao Jing
* Cao Jingxiu
* Cao You .
He was said to be the uncle of the of the Song Empire, being the younger brother of Empress Dowager Cao .

In historic records, there were several Emperor-consorts Caos in the Song Empire, but only one became empress: Cishengguangxian Empress , the wife of the fourth Song emperor, , none of whose children became an emperor.

However, this therefore 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" or as a respect, "Little Uncle" . 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 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.

Han Zhongli

Zhongli Quan is one of the most ancient of the Eight Immortals and the of the group. He is also known as Zhongli of Han because he was born in the Han Dynasty. He possesses a which has the magical ability of reviving the dead.


Born in Yantai , Zhongli Quan was once a general serving the Han Dynasty. According to legends, bright beams of light filled the labour room during his . After birth he did not stop crying until seven full days had passed.

In Daoism, he is known as "正陽祖師" , literally the True-Yang First-Master. He is also called "Master of the Cloud-Chamber" in accounts describing his encounter with Lü Dongbin before achieving immortality.

He has a rare two-character , Zhongli .


Usually depicted with his chest and belly bare and holding a fan.