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THE EIGHT IMMORTALS

By W. PERCEVAL YETTS

 


THE

JOURNAL

OF THE

ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY

OF

GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND

FOR

1916

 

[LONDON, 1916]

{Reduced to HTML by Christopher M. Weimer, August 2002}

p. 773

XXI

THE EIGHT IMMORTALS

By W. PERCEVAL YETTS

   ONE of the subjects beloved of Chinese artists is a venerable figure in an attitude of profound reverie shown as part of a wild and romantic scene of forest, crag, and torrent. Sometimes below his rocky hermitage there stretches a plain with far-off shadowy outlines of ordinary mortal habitations, of which the faint remoteness suggests the gulf separating him from mundane cares and vanities. Looking at such a one, instinct tells us that he feels, to use the words of Shelley, "as if his nature were resolved into the surrounding universe, or as if the surrounding universe were resolved into his being." He belongs to a strange race, variously named by Western writers Fairies, Immortals, Genii, Rishi. And here may it be remarked in parenthesis that neither "fairy" nor "immortal" is a term that exactly fits them; nor, indeed, does Arabic jinn or Sanskrit ṛishi. They are a race peculiarly Chinese and apart. Hence it would seem most appropriate to call them by their native name hsien, now commonly written ###, a pictogram representing perfectly the essence of their cult—the primitive contact of man with Nature typified by the mountains. Hsien, therefore, they will be termed in these pages.

   The painter's motive in using this figure might be explained by desire to symbolize the untarnished thought and feeling of early Taoism—something near akin to that passionate love of Nature instinctive in the Chinese mind. Perhaps he seeks thus to convey a hint of the emotion that inspires his brush; yet maybe he is conscious of no loftier purpose than to complete the scheme of composition. Whatever the reason, the frequent presence p. 774 of this figure in landscape as an integral part of the picture is a characteristic and significant feature of a form of art adjudged the highest achievement of the national genius.

   Now, while hsien may be depicted without personal attributes merely as types of their kind, more often they appear as endowed with definite individuality. They are made recognizable by some distinguishing emblem (pao pei) or peculiarity, so that the place of each in the legendary lore of Taoism can be identified. The number of hsien whose lives and exploits are recorded in the standard works on the subject reaches a formidable total; but for the purposes of popular representation a comparatively small throng of several score has been selected by common usage.1 Among these latter the favourite and by far the most ubiquitous are the pa hsien, so well known to Western students and collectors under the title of The Eight Immortals. The purpose of this article is to give the generally accepted tradition surrounding this group of eight as exemplified in the works of Chinese artists and craftsmen. To do so within the space of a few pages it seems best to combine the writer's notes upon a large number of objects of art with extracts from some single widely known and representative book. Such a book is the Lieh hsien chuan. Its title is the same as that of a famous collection of short biographies attributed to the statesman, author, and magician Liu Hsiang2 of the first century B.C. p. 775 The book translated here was compiled by a Taoist called Huan-ch‘u, probably towards the end of the Yüan period (A.D. 1206-1368). Unlike its older namesake it is illustrated, the fifty-five hsien whose lives it contains being portrayed in a corresponding number of woodcuts. The quality of the illustrations suggests that they, like the text, were derived from different sources, for they are of unequal merit. Some show skill and imagination, while others are poor affairs. The text is carelessly put together; many passages that can be traced to their origin are found to be misquoted or mutilated, and typographical errors are frequent. Perhaps these are sufficient reasons why it is not included among the 1,464 works comprising the official canon described by Wieger.1 What is most important for our purpose is the fact that this Lieh hsien chuan seems to have provided a sort of handbook of Taoist mythology to which reproducers of such themes have turned for information. Its convenient size, small price, frequent editions, and many illustrations explain its popularity and wide circulation.2

   The names of The Eight Immortals, according to the generally accepted version, are as follows: Chung-li Ch‘üan, Ho Hsien-ku, Chang Kuo, Lü Tung-pin, Han Hsiang Tzŭ, Ts‘ao Kuo-chiu, Li T‘ieh-kuai, and Lan Ts‘ai-ho. It should be mentioned, however, that one or two in the list are occasionally replaced by other hsien.

   Just when the Eight came first to be grouped together seems to be as great a mystery as the reason why these particular hsien should have been picked out for special honour. According to a passage quoted by Mayers, the tradition that establishes them as a definite unit is traceable to no higher antiquity than the Yüan period.3 One of them, p. 776 Ts‘ao Kuo-chiu, is said to have lived as late as the Sung. On the other hand, it seems certain that some group of pa hsien was recognized at a much earlier date, for in the dictionary P‘ien tzŭ lei pien there is mention of a T‘ang book entitled ###; and besides, the famous, "Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup" belong to the same period. It is a fact that single members of the group were painted as early as the T‘ang—witness the masterly ninth century drawing of Lü Tung-pin reproduced in the first volume of Ars Asiatica, of which the authors remark that the date of the picture warrants the supposition that here we have an actual authentic portrait. At the present day it is rare to find representations of our group that can be attributed beyond doubt to a period earlier than the Ming; certainly I have never seen one.

 

CHUNG-LI CH‘ÜAN

   This hsien is generally bearded and corpulent, and is often shown half-naked. Artists do not as a rule attempt to reproduce all the curious physical features attributed to him in the following biography. He is to be recognized by his distinctive emblem, a fan, which may be one made of feathers, as in the accompanying woodcut, or one roughly quadrangular with rounded corners and concave edges, made from the leaf of the fan-palm. The latter type of fan is often combined with a fly-whisk fixed to its distal end. Occasionally he appears with a two-edged sword, the pao pei of his pupil Lü Tung-pin (see p. 789).

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, i, 34 seq.:—

   Chung-li Ch‘üan was a native of Yen T‘ai. In later life he assumed the name (ming) of Chüeh. He p. 777 was also known by the style (tzŭ) of The Taoist Hermit, and by the pseudonyms (hao) The Philosopher Wang-yang and The Master Yün-fang.

   His father was one of the small princelings of the second rank, and he ruled his fief from the town of Yün-chung.1

   The birth of this sage was accompanied with strange phenomena in the shape of rays of light, scores of feet in length, whereat all those in attendance were much amazed.

   The babe had a high dome-like top to his head, a massive brow, large ears, elongated eyebrows, deep-set eyes, a prominent nose, a square-shaped mouth, a large jaw, and lips and cheeks the colour of cinnabar. His nipples were set far apart, and his arms were as long as those of a three-year-old child.2

p. 778

   Day and night he never uttered a sound till he was seven days old, when, springing to his feet, he exclaimed:

"My feet have wandered in the purple palace of the hsien1,
My name is recorded in the capital of the Jade Emperor2."

   On reaching man's estate, he was given command of an expedition sent by the Han Emperor against the Tibetans; but, having suffered defeat, he became a fugitive riding alone through wild and mountainous country. Lost in a dense forest, he came upon a foreign priest with unkempt locks hanging over his face and garments made of straw. The priest led the way for several li till they came within sight of a village. "This is the abode," he said, "of The Master Tung-hua, who has attained Tao.3 You can get a lodging here." Then, making a bow, he departed. Chung-li Ch‘üan did not venture to knock on a door for fear of startling the villagers, but after some time he heard someone say, "This must be due to the blabbing of that blue-eyed foreigner."

p. 779

   Then there appeared an aged man, clad in white deer-skins and leaning upon a blackthorn staff, who addressed him in a loud voice. "Are you not the Han General Chung-li Ch‘üan?" cried he, "and why have you not found a lodging with the foreign priest?" Hearing these words Chung-li Ch'üan was amazed, and recognized that this was no ordinary man. He reflected that having made his escape from deadly perils (lit. from the lairs of tigers and wolves), now was the time to direct his thoughts to the mysteries of immortality (lit. ideas of the luan1 and crane2).

p. 780

   And so his heart returned to the contemplation of Tao. He earnestly begged for the secret of transcending mortal limitations from the old man, who thereupon imparted to him not only an infallible magic process for attaining longevity, but also the degree of heat required to produce the "Philosopher's Stone", and the Green Dragon1 method of sword-play.2 As Chung-li Ch‘üan was about to depart, having taken leave of the old man, he turned round for a last look at the village, and lo! it had vanished.

   By and by he came across the Taoist adept Hua-yang,3 and received from him a pinch of the Great Monad4, a fire charm, and some of the spiritual drug of immortality.

p. 781

   Chung-li Ch‘üan wandered about in haphazard fashion till he reached the State of Lu1, and dwelt for a while in the city of Tsou. Later on he retired to the K‘ung-t‘ung Mountains,2 and took up his abode on the Red-gold Peak, where the Four Grey-heads3 had lived. There he found a jade casket containing the arcana of Taoism, and, having attained hsienship, departed this world.

 

HO HSIEN-KU

   Ho Hsien-ku is shown as a comely girl sometimes dressed in elaborate robes, but more often wearing over a simple garment the leafy cape and skirt affected by the hsien. A large ladle is her recognized emblem. Its bowl, made of bamboo basketwork, is often filled with several objects associated with Taoist immortality, e.g., the magic fungus4 and peach5; sprigs of bamboo and p. 782 of pine1; and flowers of the narcissus2. The place of the ladle may be taken by the more picturesque long-stalked lotus bloom; and sometimes she holds just a fly-whisk or the basket of wild fruit and herbs gathered for her mother.

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, ii, 32, 33:—

   Ho Hsien-ku was the daughter of Ho T‘ai, of the town of Tsêng-ch‘êng, in the prefecture of Canton.

   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.4

p. 783

   The Empress Wu1 dispatched a messenger to summon her to attend at the palace, but on the way thither she disappeared.2

   In the ching lung period (about A.D. 707) she ascended on high in broad daylight,3 and became a hsien. In the ninth year of the t‘ien pao period (A.D. 750) Ho Hsien-ku reappeared, standing amidst rainbow clouds over a shrine dedicated to Ma Ku. Again, in the to li period (about A.D. 772) she appeared in the flesh on the Hsiao-shih Tower at Canton.

p. 784

 

CHANG KUO

   This member of the group is easily recognized by his pao pei, a curious object which to Western eyes resembles a diminutive golfer's bag containing two clubs. Actually it is a kind of musical instrument called a "fish-drum", composed of a cylinder, often of bamboo, over one end of which is stretched a piece of prepared fish or snake skin. What look like two projecting golf clubs are the ends of long slips of bamboo used as castanets. They may be carried in his hand. Another attribute, distinctive of this hsien, is the white donkey upon whose back he rides. The association existing between the two is so close that frequently when Chang Kuo is represented unmounted (his ass presumably being tucked away in his cap-box), a miniature image of the animal may be seen amid a curling wreath of vapour emitted from the open end of his drum, or from the mouth of the calabash that forms part of the outfit of every hsien.

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, ii, 28 seq.:—

   Chang Kuo lived the life of a hermit on Mount Chung-t‘iao in Hêng Chou1, and used to wander, to and fro, between the River Fen2 and the Chin3 territory.

   He acquired the magic art of prolonging life. It was his custom to ride a white ass, travelling tens of thousands of li a day. Whenever he stopped to rest, he folded his donkey up, when it was no thicker than paper, and slipped it into his cap-box. Then as soon p. 785 as he wished to ride again he squirted water from his mouth over it, and transformed it back into a donkey.

   The Emperors T‘ai Tsung (A.D. 627-49) and Kao Tsung (A.D. 650-83) of the T‘ang summoned him to Court, but he refused to go.1 The Empress Wu2 also sent for him to leave his mountain retreat, but he feigned death in front of the Tu-nü Shrine. The season then being blazing hot, in a very short while his body gave forth the odour of putrefaction and begot worms, whereupon the Empress was convinced that he was really dead. Subsequently someone saw him again on the Hêng Chou mountain.

   In the twenty-third year of the k‘ai yüan period (A.D. 735) the Emperor Ming Huang3 commissioned a eunuch secretary, by name P‘ei Wu, to ride post haste to Hêng Chou to fetch him. Chang Kuo went to the Eastern capital,4 where he was installed in the Chi-hsien Palace, and treated with all possible courtesy and respect. The Emperor plied him with questions about the hsien, but he gave no reply.

   He was an adept at regulating the breath5, p. 786 and for days together would go without food, drinking frequent potions of wine. The Emperor having bestowed upon him some wine, he declined it, saying, "Your servant is able to drink no more than two pints, but he has a disciple who can manage ten." Ming Huang was pleased and gave orders for him to be summoned. All of a sudden a small Taoist priest flew down from the roof of the palace. Aged about 15 or 16, he had a handsome face and an engaging personality. The Emperor having ordered him to be seated, Chang Kuo protested, "My disciple should remain standing while in attendance upon Your Majesty." This pleased the Emperor still more, and he presented some wine to the disciple, who managed to drink off a small tou1 of it. Chang Kuo then called a halt, exclaiming, "Pray give him no more, or it will exceed his limit." Nevertheless, Ming Huang insisted upon presenting him with more, the result being that he became drunk, and the wine welled up out through the crown of his head, dislodging his cap, which fell to the ground. Instantly he was transformed into a golden wine-cup. The Emperor and the imperial concubines alike were amazed and amused to see the Taoist disappear and nothing left in his place but a golden cup. On examination it proved to be one belonging to the Chi-hsien Palace, and just capable of holding a single tou of wine.2

   The Emperor addressed Kao Li-shih3, saying: p. 787 "I have heard it said that he who can drink aconite1 without suffering harm is a marvellous being. Since the weather now is cold, let Chang Kuo have some in his wine." They did so, and having drunk three lots Kuo collapsed, exclaiming, "This wine is not good." He then lay down to sleep. Presently his teeth were observed to grow black and to recede into the gums; whereupon he looked round, and, taking a ju-i2 from one of the bystanders, he knocked them out and wrapped them up in his girdle. Then he brought out some ointment which he rubbed upon his gums, and slowly a new set of teeth appeared as white and glistening as jade.

   Whilst the Emperor was hunting at Hsien-yang3 he killed a large deer, and was about to tell his chief steward to have it cooked, when Chang Kuo said: "This is a supernatural deer; it is fully a thousand years old. Long ago in the fifth year of the period yüan shou (B.C. 118), during the reign of the Han Emperor Wu,4 I was with the imperial retinue when they were p. 788 hunting in the Shang-lin Park. We caught this deer and let it go again." The Emperor remarked: "Deer are plentiful, and it was a long while ago. How could it possibly have survived such a long succession of ages?" Chang Kuo replied, "At the time when Wu Ti had the deer released he caused an inscribed bronze plate to be attached to the base of its left antler." Thereupon an examination of the deer was ordered; and, indeed, it did have a bronze plate, more than two inches long, only the characters had become obliterated.

   The Emperor inquired of Yeh Fa-shan1 whether he knew who Chang Kuo was. "I do know," he replied, "but death might be the penalty of my telling, therefore I dare not speak. If Your Majesty is willing to protect me (by pleading on my behalf) with your cap doffed and your feet bared,2 then I will venture to tell you." The Emperor having consented, Fa-shan said, "At the time when cosmos was being evolved from chaos, the spiritual essence of a white bat . . ."; the sentence was broken off unfinished, for blood gushed from his seven channels of sense, and he fell prostrate upon the ground. The Emperor hurried to Chang Kuo's abode, where he removed his cap and bared his feet, and declared that he himself was the one to blame. Chang Kuo calmly replied: "That young fellow talks too much. If I allowed him to go without punishment, I fear he might divulge the secret of the universe." The Emperor having again and again implored forgiveness, Chang Kuo squirted water from his mouth over the face of Fa-shan, who forthwith came to life again.

   After that the Emperor treated Chang Kuo with still greater honour, and decreed that his portrait should be p. 789 placed in the Chi-hsien Palace. He also conferred upon him the title Master of Taoist Mysteries. But Chang Kuo repeatedly submitted that he was old and in failing health, and at length his prayers led to his being sent back to Hêng Chou.

   At the beginning of the t'ien pao period (about A.D. 742) Ming Huang sent a messenger to summon him to the capital again, but immediately on receiving the news he died. His disciples buried him. Subsequently, when the coffin was opened it was found to be quite empty.1

   The Emperor had a shrine built, called the Ch‘i-hsia Kuan, in which votive offerings were made in his honour.

 

LÜ TUNG-PIN

   The Patriarch of Hsien, best known as Lü Tung-pin, is represented a dignified elderly man generally clothed in the dress worn by the scholarly class. His emblem is the magic two-edged sword, which he carries in his hand or slung on his back. He is the literary member of our group; and, while in some localities regarded as the patron saint of jugglers and magicians,2 he is more widely looked upon by barbers as their special protector.3 In the last capacity he is called in Peking the Patriarch Lo4. So far as my observation goes this hsien occupies the place of chief importance and popularity among The Eight Immortals. He is portrayed more frequently than any other single member of the group; and, in addition p. 790 to innumerable notices of him to be found in general Taoist literature, there are at least two large works entirely devoted to his life and doings. Shrines in his honour are to be found all over China—a statement that does not apply to any of the other seven.

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, ii, 22 seq.:—

   Lü Yen, whose literary name (tzŭ) was Tung-pin, lived under the T‘ang dynasty, and was a native of the town of Yung-lê, in the prefecture of P‘u-chou1. He was also called (hao) Shun-yang.

   At the moment when his mother gave him birth an unearthly perfume pervaded the house, and strains of celestial music were wafted from the sky, and a white crane from heaven flew down between the curtains of her bed and was seen no more. Even when a newly-born infant his frame was strong as metal, and his muscles hard as wood. The crown of his head formed a high dome resembling a crane's; his back was arched like that of a tortoise; his eyes were as brilliant as those of a phœnix; and his eyebrows extended on either side to meet the hair round the temples.2

   While still a child he was very quick at learning, being able to memorize thousands of lines a day. His language was fluent and couched in classical terms. In height 8 ft. 2 in.,3 he resembled Chang Tzŭ-fang4. At the age of 20 he had not yet taken unto himself a wife.5

p. 791

   The Patriarch Ma1 saw him at the beginning of his career, when he was still in swaddling-clothes, and exclaimed: "His bodily frame is that of no ordinary mortal. Eccentric in character, he will hold aloof from worldly affairs; whatever hovel he happens upon he will make it his home; whenever he sees a goblet of wine he will partake of it. Mark well my words."

   By-and-by Tung-pin wandered to the Lu Range2, and there met by chance the Taoist adept Huo-lung, who instructed him in acquiring supernatural invisibility by the magic sword method.

   During the hui ch‘ang period (A.D. 841-6) of the T‘ang he went up twice for the third or doctor's degree, but failed. At that time he was 64 years of age.

   Once having wandered into a tavern at Ch‘ang-an3, he watched a Taoist priest, dressed in a black cap and white gown, scribbling without apparent effort the following stanza upon the wall:—

"Whenever I would rest I grasp a cup of wine,
Oblivious of all else in this great capital.
So vast are heaven and earth that I remain unknown,
An old man wandering by himself among mankind.
"

   Impressed and attracted by his strange appearance and extreme old age, as well as by the grace and spontaneity of his poem, Tung-pin made him a bow and inquired his name. The old Taoist replied: "I am The Master Yün-fang (alias Chung-li Ch‘üan, q.v.), and my home is upon the Crane Ridge, of the Chung-nan Mountains. Can you accompany me in my wanderings?"

p. 792

   Without actually agreeing to this proposal, Tung-pin put up at the same inn with Yün-fang. Now, while the latter was with his own hands attending to the cooking of a meal, Tung-pin, reclining on a pillow, soon became oblivious of his surroundings and fell into a deep sleep.1 He dreamt he went up to the capital as a candidate at the triennial examination and passed at the top of the list. Starting his career as a junior secretary to one of the Boards, he rapidly gained promotion to the Censorate and the Han-lin College, and eventually reached the position of Privy Councillor, having occupied in the course of his unbroken success all the most sought-after and important official posts. Twice he was married, and both wives belonged to families of wealth and position. Children were born to him; and he witnessed his sons take to themselves wives, and his daughters leave the paternal roof for their husband's homes. And all these multitudinous events had happened before he reached the age of 40. Next he found himself Prime Minister for the space of ten years, wielding immense power, and it corrupted him. Then suddenly, without warning, he was accused of a grave crime. His home and all his possessions were confiscated, and his wife and children separated. He himself, a solitary outcast, wandering towards his place of banishment beyond the mountains, found his horse brought to a standstill in a snow-storm, and no longer able to continue the journey.

   At this juncture Tung-pin with a heavy sigh waked out of his dream, and lo! the meal was still being prepared. With a laugh Yün-fang sang these words:—

"The yellow millet simmers yet uncooked
While you have journeyed to the Realm of Dreams."2

p. 793

Whereat Tung-pin was much astonished. "Sir," asked he, "pray, what can you know about my dream?" The other replied: "In that dream or yours just now you climbed not only up but also down every rung in the ladder of worldly glory; you both plumbed the uttermost depths of misery and scaled the dizziest heights of splendour. Fifty years were past and gone in the twinkling of an eye. What you gained was not worth rejoicing over, what you lost was not worth grieving about. Some day there will be a Great Awakening, and then we shall know the truth."

   From a pedlar of copper ware Lü Tung-pin once brought some pots, which when he had taken home he found all to be made of gold; yet such was his unworldliness that he went in search of the pedlar in order to return them to him.

   [During the period of probation as to his fitness to become a hsien Tung-pin underwent a number of ordeals or tests.] Of these the eighth1 in order of time occurred when he bought some magic drugs from a crazy professor of Tao, who used to wander about selling them in the streets, muttering to himself that whoever partook of his wares would instantly die, but would attain Tao in some future existence. The Taoist warned him: "The only thing for you to do now is to make speedy preparation for your death." Yet Tung-pin swallowed the stuff without more ado, and no harm befell him.

   The ninth ordeal to which Tung-pin was subjected happened one spring-time when all the country round was flooded, and he in company with the rest of the inhabitants were seeking safety in boats. Just as they reached the middle of the waters a violent storm burst upon them, and the waves rose high, lashed into fury by p. 794 the wind. All were in a panic except Tung-pin, who remained in his seat calm and unconcerned.

   On the tenth occasion Tung-pin was sitting alone in his house, when without warning there appeared to him an innumerable host of demons in weird and terrifying shapes, all seemingly determined to beat him to death. Yet he was not in the least dismayed. Then a sharp word of command came from the sky, and the whole crowd of devils vanished. The voice was followed by some one who, descending from above, clapped his hands and laughed with delight. This turned out to be Yün-fang. "I have subjected you to ten ordeals," said he, "all of which have left you unscathed. There can be no doubt you will succeed in attaining Tao. I will now disclose to you the mysteries of alchemy, in order that the knowledge may enable you to benefit mankind. When for 3,000 years you shall have carried out this meritorious work for the sake of others and thus completed your period of probation, and shall have spent in addition eight centuries in researches on your own behalf, then, and not till then, will come your salvation." Tung-pin asked: "Pray, when1 will my conversion take place?" "Only after 3,000 years shall have passed," the other replied, "will you be restored to the state of your original physical purity." At which Tung-pin coloured up with vexation and exclaimed: "Alas! with the prospect of having to wait 3,000 years, how can I maintain my zeal all those ages?" "Your courage," Yün-fang rejoined with a smile, "will carry you not only over 3,000 years but 3,800."

   Next he took Tung-pin to the Crane Ridge, and imparted to him there the profoundest truths and mysteries of Taoism, including the secret of supernatural p. 795 power. Also he presented him with a small quantity of the "Philosopher's Stone". While these two were thus engaged there arrived upon the scene two hsien, each reverently bearing in both hands a golden tablet, the emblem of his office. They announced to Yün-fang an edict of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, nominating him guardian of the Golden Gate of the Ninth Heaven; and they added that the world of mortals was but one vast dream (i.e. illusory and impermanent).

   Impressed by this incident, spiritual enlightenment came to Tung-pin. So, falling on his knees before Yün-fang, he entreated him for the magic secret of transcending the limitations of this earthly sphere. To try him still further Yün-fang answered: "Your character is not yet fully established. Before you can bring salvation to mankind, many generations shall come and pass away." And having uttered these words he straightway vanished.

   After that Tung-pin abandoned his semi-official position as one of the literati for a life of retirement, and it was during this period that Yün-fang subjected him to the ten ordeals.

   The first occurred when Tung-pin had returned home after a long journey to find all his household stricken with mortal sickness. Nevertheless, instead of giving himself up to vain sorrow, manfully he set about making preparation on a lavish scale for the funeral, when lo! and behold! they all rose up alive and well.

   The second time Tung-pin was put on his trial he was negociating the sale of some of his belongings, and had come to a definite agreement about the price. This notwithstanding, the dealer wished to cancel the bargain and pay only half the stipulated sum. Tung-pin acquiesced, and handing over the goods, walked away, without showing anger or even engaging in dispute.

   The third ordeal took place at the time of the New Year. As Tung-pin was leaving his house he was accosted p. 796 by a beggar demanding alms, to whom he handed both coin and gifts in kind. But the beggar remained dissatisfied, with threats demanding more and making use of the most abusive terms; yet Tung-pin with a smiling face again and again gave him what he asked.

   The fourth time Tung-pin was put to the test, he was looking after some sheep in the mountains. A hungry tiger came upon them, with the result that the flock scattered in all directions. But Tung-pin interposed his own person between the tiger and the terrified sheep. The tiger gave up the chase, and slunk away.

   The fifth ordeal took place while Tung-pin had retired to a mountain retreat to study books, with no other home than a simple hut of reeds. One day there came to his door a very paragon of feminine grace and loveliness, who scintillated with such beauty that she was positively dazzling. She explained she was a newly married bride on the way to visit her parents, but had lost the road. Would he allow her to rest a short while in his hut? Tung-pin granted her request, and she then tried in endless ways to tempt him from the path of virtue; but all in vain.

   Tung-pin's character was put to a test the sixth time when on returning home from a walk in the country he found that during his absence thieves had carried away all his goods and chattels, and left the house bare. Not even then was his equanimity disturbed. He just set himself to earn a livelihood by tilling the ground, and one day when at work with his hoe he unearthed gold pieces to the number of several score. Yet he took not a single one, but quickly covered them all up again.

   The seventh trial of Tung-pin was on the occasion of his meeting the hsien Yün-fang, who addressed him thus: "In obedience to the summons of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe I am on the way to present myself before his throne. If you behave virtuously during your abode p. 797 among men, and thus acquire merit, you will in time reach a plane similar to mine." Bowing again Tung-pin answered: "My aim is not only to emulate you, sir, but to bring salvation to every living creature in this world. Only when this end has been achieved shall I be willing to ascend on high." Yün-fang then gradually rose in the air till he passed out of sight among the clouds.

   After Tung-pin had succeeded in mastering Tao as taught by Yün-fang, and the magic sword method of becoming invisible as practised by Huo-lung Chên-jên, he took to wandering along the banks of the Rivers Yangtse and Huai, and testing the power of his magic two-edged sword in order to rid the country of the evil wrought by the chiao dragon1, at times becoming invisible to mortal eyes. During the constant journeyings of his last 400 years of life on earth he visited, without being recognized, places so far apart as Hsiang-t‘an2, Yo3, O4, Liang-chê5, P‘ien6, and Ch‘iao. He used to call himself Hui Tao-jên, "the man who reverted to Tao."7

   During the chêng-ho period of the Sung (A.D. 1111-17) there appeared in the palace demons even in broad daylight, who plundered the treasury of gold and silver, and also kidnapped some of the imperial concubines.

   The Emperor purified himself by fasting, and humbly offered supplications to heaven for the space of sixty days without ceasing. One day he fell asleep and saw in his dream standing outside the Tung-hua Gate of the palace a Taoist adept, wearing upon his head p. 798 a green lotus-cap,1 and upon his back a dark crane's-down robe. In his hand he carried a crystal ju-i.2 Bowing to the Emperor, he said: "Your servant has been sent by the Supreme Ruler of the Universe to control these demons." Then he summoned an officer resplendent in golden armour, who seizing the demons tore them in pieces and swallowed them till none were left. In answer to the Emperor's query as to the identity of this gallant warrior the Taoist replied: "He is no other than Kuan Yü3, whom Your Majesty invested with the title Revered and Immortal Prince." The Emperor thanked the officer repeatedly, and then asked him where was Chang Fei4. Kuan Yü replied: "Every generation Chang Fei becomes reincarnate in the person of some male child. At the present time, in order to serve Your Majesty, he is being reborn in a family called Yo, living at Hsiang Chou5."

   Asked by the Emperor what was his name, the Taoist replied: "Your servant is called Yang, and was born on the 14th day of the 4th month."6

   The Emperor awoke from his dream, and having looked up the records, knew that the Taoist was really Tung-pin. Henceforth the demons remained permanently expelled from the palace. An imperial edict ordered that in all the shrines dedicated to Tung-pin throughout China he should be known by the title The Pure One of Subtle Intellect.

p. 799

   To enumerate all the supernatural powers and magic deeds of Tung-pin is an impossibility.

   Some years later the father of the future Yo Wu-mu1 had a vivid dream, in which he learnt that it would fall to the lot of this son to be the reincarnation of Chang Fei, and therefore he afterwards named him Fei.

 

HAN HSIANG TZŬ

   The recognized pao pei of The Philosopher Han Hsiang is a flute. Sometimes he is represented carrying a pair of long castanets, and sometimes a small furnace or crucible in token of his skill as an alchemist. Pictures often show him garbed in the leafy cap and deer-skin kilt worn by hsien; and generally near by is to be seen the peach-tree from which he fell and so ended his mortal existence. With obvious desire to keep on good terms with the Confucianists, Taoist writers and painters have made the most of his relationship with Han Yü, and it is not uncommon to find the famous scholar depicted in close proximity to The Eight Immortals, holding a scroll on which is written his protest against the extravagant honours paid to one of the Buddha's bones by the T‘ang Emperor Hsien Tsung.

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, i, 27 seq.:—

   The Philosopher Han Hsiang, also known (tzŭ) as The Pure Sage, was the nephew of Han Wên Kung2. His disposition was wild and irresponsible. He used to wander about in company with The Master Shun-yang.3

p. 800

   It was through a fall from a peach-tree that his mortal body died, and he was freed from the bonds of earthly existence (that is to say, became a hsien).

   When he paid his uncle a visit, and the latter urged him to apply himself to study, Han Hsiang replied, "You and I have different ideas of study." And in order to make his meaning clear he composed the following lines:—

"In a cave mid mists and torrents by green-clad peaks I live;
I sip the dew at midnight that stars the earth like gems,
I make my food the rosy clouds that flush the coming dawn.
I play the Green Jade Melody upon a seven-stringed lute,
And melt in fiery alembics fine-powdered pearls and white;
Within my Precious Cauldron the Golden Tiger dwells;
I grow the Magic Fungus to feed the Snow-white Crows,
With Nature's creative powers my bottle-gourd is stored,
I slay the evil demons with my magic three-foot blade;
Wine fills the empty goblet when I speak the wizard word,
And flowers spring up and bloom in the twinkling of an eye;
Show me the man who doth these things in the way that I have told,
And I will gladly talk with him of the hsien who ne'er grow old.
"1

p. 801

   Having read the poem Wên Kung exclaimed, "What! can you usurp the creative powers of Nature?" and then handed him an empty goblet, which Han Hsiang successfully caused to become full of excellent wine. Next, a small heap of earth having been scraped together, in a very short time there shot out from it a cluster of blue flowers, from the midst of which was extruded this couplet written in characters of gold:—

"Lost on the far Ch‘in Mountains, I cannot find my way;
Snowdrifts cover the Lan Pass and my horse can do no more
."

To Wên Kung, who read it without understanding its meaning, Han Hsiang remarked, "Some day you will find these words come true."

   Not long afterwards Wên Kung was banished to a post at Ch‘ao-chou1, in punishment for the violent remonstrance he addressed to the Emperor about the Buddha's bone.2 While on the road thither a snow-storm overtook him. All at once someone approached, struggling through the storm, who turned out to be Han Hsiang Tzŭ. "Do you remember the couplet in the flowers?" asked he. Wên Kung then inquired what the name of the place was, and was told "the Lan Pass". This struck him p. 802 dumb with astonishment; and after a while he exclaimed, "I will complete that poem for you."

   Han Yü's lines run thus;—

"At dawn a sealed memorial presented to the throne, . . . etc., etc."

   They may be found in the published collection of his works.1

   That night they both stayed at an inn beside the Pass, and Wên Kung satisfied himself that Han Hsiang was no charlatan. At parting Han Hsiang handed the other a calabash full of a drug, one single grain of which, he declared, would, when swallowed, counteract the malarious vapours of the place to which he was journeying. Wên Kung appeared downhearted, so to cheer him up Han Hsiang told him, "You will soon be back again, not only in good health, but also reinstated in your former office." Wên Kung asked, "Shall we two ever meet again after this?" "That I cannot foretell," replied Han Hsiang Tzŭ.

 

TS‘AO KUO-CHIU

   Ts'ao Kuo-chiu is represented as an old bearded man wearing a cap, and, as a rule, carrying a pair of clapper castanets, his distinctive attribute. The tradition that credits him with royal birth and allots him to p. 803 the eleventh century is considered to be of doubtful authenticity.1

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, ii, 36:—

   Ts‘ao Kuo-chiu was the younger brother of the mother2 of one of the Sung emperors. He was so deeply ashamed of the conduct of his younger brother in illegally putting people to death that he sought concealment in a mountain cavern, where he engaged in spiritual meditation and the study of Taoist principles. He wore rustic clothing and a cap of grass-cloth. Frequently he would go without food for ten days at a time.

   Once he happened to meet the two hsien Chung-li and Shun-yang,3 who questioned him, saying: "Sir! we have heard you are going in for cultivation. What is it you are cultivating?" He replied: "I am cultivating Tao." They asked: "Where is Tao?" Kuo-chiu pointed up to heaven. "Where is heaven?" they said. Kuo-chiu pointed to his heart. The two hsien remarked, laughing: "Your heart is one with heaven, and heaven is one with Tao. You have indeed arrived at a profound understanding." Then they imparted to him the secret of reverting to a condition in perfect harmony with nature, and induced him to join the company of hsien.

 

LI T‘IEH-KUAI

   The Master with the Iron Crutch offers a striking contrast to the other members of the group. Hideous, hairy, deformed, and scantily clad in filthy rags, p. 804 he is the type of that repulsive legion haunting to the present day every city in China, and preying upon a long-suffering public, which is moved to the giving of alms not so much by pity as by feelings of horror and fear. His recognized emblem is the bottle-gourd or calabash that forms part of the equipment of every hsien; and to the gourd is generally added a more distinctive object, his crutch. A mysterious vapour—a kind of fata Morgana—floats upwards from the mouth of the gourd, and in its midst is seen the image of the sage's hun, which may appear in nondescript shape as in our woodcut, or in the guise of a miniature double of his bodily self. Sometimes the hun is replaced by a spherical object representing the "Philosopher's Stone".

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, i, 12:—

   In the form with which nature endowed him, the sage Li T‘ieh-kuai was a fine man of imposing presence.

   While yet of tender age he heard Tao. Choosing a mountain cave for his abode, he set himself to the cultivation of mental and physical purity as taught by the Taoists. Li Lao Chün (Lao Tzŭ) and The Master Wan Ch‘iu used often to come down from heaven to visit his rocky hermitage in order to instruct him in the subject of his studies.

   One day T‘ieh-kuai was going to meet Lao Chün by appointment on Hua Shan1, and so he gave a pupil of his the following instructions: "My p‘o," said he, will remain here while my hun2 goes upon a journey. p. 805 If by chance in seven days' time my hun has not returned, you may then burn the p‘o."

   The pupil received an urgent message to visit his sick mother, and, impatient of delay, burnt his master's body on the sixth day. The following day in due course T‘ieh-kuai returned to find his p‘o gone, and no habitation left for his hun,1 till he spied lying near by the corpse of one who had died of starvation. Into it the wandering soul entered, giving it new life; and that is the reason why Li T‘ieh-kuai, instead of his original handsome appearance, has now the loathsome shape of a cripple.

 

LAN TS‘AI-HO

   Legend relating to this hsien is so uncertain that even the question of sex seems to be left to the fancy of the artist. Lan Ts‘ai-ho is variously portrayed as a youth, an aged man, or a girl; in modern pictures generally as a girl. The accompanying woodcut seems hardly consistent with the biography it iliustrates; for the text suggests a male, and such, therefore, we will call him. His distinctive emblem is a flower-basket, often carried slung on a hoe over his shoulder. The basket contains various flora associated with ideas of longevity, e.g., the magic fungus2; sprigs of bamboo, of pine,3 and of flowering p. 806 and leafless plum;1 chrysanthemums;2 and a red-berried plant3 called "myriad years green". Sometimes Lan Ts‘ai-ho is drawn as described in the Lieh hsien chuan—a ragged unkempt being with one foot bare,4 carrying castanets and a string of cash.

 

   Biography from Lieh hsien chuan, ii, 16 seq.:—

   Where Lan Ts‘ai-ho came from is not known. His usual garb was a single ragged gown with six black wooden buttons and a waist-belt more than 3 inches wide; on one foot he wore a boot, while the other went bare.5 In summer he had his gown padded with cotton-wool, and in the winter he used to sleep in the snow, and from him there arose clouds of vapour like steam.

   Whenever he begged for alms in the public thoroughfares he carried hanging by a string a large pair of castanets more than 3 feet long. When he was drunk he used to sing and caper, so that old and young alike followed to watch him. In a half-crazy way he sang songs, which he improvised as he went along, all of which p. 807 had meanings relating to hsienship, and were therefore unintelligible to ordinary mortals. On receiving money he used to string the cash upon a piece of cord, which he trailed behind him as he walked. At times the cash would get scattered and lost, leaving the cord bare; but he paid no heed. Sometimes he gave his money to the poor, sometimes he spent it with fellow-tipplers.

   He roamed all over China. People when they reached hoary old age noticed that his face and general appearance remained just the same as when they had seen him in their childhood.

   Many years had passed, and Lan Ts‘ai-ho was drinking wine in a tavern at Hao-liang, when suddenly the sound of reed-organ and flute was heard, and in a trice he soared up into the sky mounted upon a crane. Having dropped down his shoe, gown, girdle, and castanets, he gradually rose till he passed out of sight.


Journals 


Footnotes

p. 774

1 Study of this still sufficiently numerous body in its relation to Chinese art has for many years pleasantly occupied the writer's leisure hours. What follows is a fragment of the results, publication of which has of necessity been postponed owing to the War. The exigencies of military service would have rendered revision of even this short article impossible but, for the help of my friend Dr. Lionel Giles, who, though faced with similar difficulties, has kindly found time to make many valuable corrections. I wish also to acknowledge indebtedness to Mr. Chu Ch‘i with whose aid some time since in Peking the translation of Chinese texts was first made.

2 See Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 1300.

p. 775

1 Taoïsme, vol. i.

2 A translation by Dr. Laloy of nearly all the first chüan was published in the Bulletin de l'Association amicàle franco-chinoise, vol. v, No. 4, 1913.

3 Chinese Reader's Manual, pt. ii, No. 251.

p. 777

1 Now Ta-t‘ung Fu, in Shansi.

2 Instances are numerous of distinguished persons exhibiting strange abnormalities at birth. The peculiarities credited to Lao Tzŭ, for example, make a formidable list. Obviously several of them refer to the aged appearance he presented when born. "His hair was white; his complexion yellow; his ears long; his eyes large and wide" (probably ### used for ### or ###); "his nose had a double bridge, and each ear three orifices; he had a fine beard and a broad forehead; his teeth had gaps between them; and his mouth was square-shaped. The soles of his feet were inscribed with characters, three on one and five on the other, and the palm of each hand had ten ###" (Lieh hsien chuan, i, 1 seq.). Compare also the account of Lü Tung-pin (p. 790), and this passage from the book Shui ching chi: "Li T‘ai-po had a figure like a tortoise on the soles of his feet. On the breast of Confucius were inscribed the characters ###, and on that of Śākyamuni a swastika."

The fact that several parallels to the above are to be found among the "Eighty Lesser Points of Beauty" possessed by a Buddha perhaps points to an Indian influence in these Taoist tales. For instance: "A massive brow, round and full; ears thick and long; a prominent nose; arms reaching to the knees; hands, feet, and breast marked with lucky emblems" (see De Harlez, Vocabulaire p. 778 Bouddhique Sanscrit-Chinois, p. 15 seq.). It might be as well to remark that in oriental iconography the term "long ears" refers specially to the size of the lower part of the pinna. The Chinese have a proverb: "Ears hanging to the shoulders, a most illustrious person."

1 The celestial abode of good Taoists. "The purple mansion is the same as 'the palace of the Genii'."—Lockhart, Manual of Chinese Quotations, p. 471.

2 The supreme deity in the pantheon of later Taoism.

3 ### or ### is an expression often occurring in these biographies. It is also used in Buddhist literature for attainment to that most exalted plane of enlightenment which constitutes Buddhahood. To quote Chuang Tzŭ, "Tao is without beginning and without end," and hence it follows that those who become one with Tao attain immortality, in other words become hsien. This is no place to attempt a discussion of the meaning of Tao, even if there had been anything left unsaid by the many distinguished sinologues who have dealt with the subject. The reader is referred to the writings of Rémusat, Julien, Chalmers, Watters, Legge, H. A. and L. Giles, Balfour, Parker, and De Groot. To indicate the elusive nature of Tao it is sufficient to quote the well-known words attributed to Lao Tzŭ himself: "Those who know about it do not speak, those who speak about it do not know."

p. 779

1 This fabulous bird seems to be interchangeable with the phœnix, fêng, both in pictures and literature. It combines the physical characteristics of the pheasant and peacock. The luan is associated in Taoist lore with ideas of immortality. It figures among the retinue of the mysterious fairy queen Hsi Wang Mu, and some accounts describe an azure luan as heralding her approach to the Emperor Wu Ti of the Han, when she brought him the gift of seven magic peaches of immortality.—Pétillon, Allusions Littéraires, pp. 178, 510. See also H. A. Giles, Adversaria Sinica, i, p. 9 seq. Mei Fu, one of the hsien, was carried up to heaven on the back of a luan.—Lieh hsien chuan, ii, p. 10.

2 Regarded as the patriarch among birds, for according to popular tradition it lives to a fabulous age. It is not surprising, therefore, that the crane is associated with hsien, and constantly makes its appearance in pictures with Taoist motives. Indeed, it is often called ###. Tung Wang Kung and the God of Longevity are seldom portrayed without one in attendance; and a frequent theme is Wang Tzŭ-ch‘iao being carried heavenwards upon the back of a white crane. See also Lan Ts‘ai-ho (p. 807). Perhaps the commonest representation of the crane in the class of picture we are considering shows the bird holding in its beak a rod or tally, as, for example, it does in the accompanying woodcut of Chung-li Ch‘üan. Such a combination is usually described by the phrase ###, which means "Heaven lengthens the span of life". An explanation of how it comes to have this meaning involves several classical allusions. In the first place a crane may be regarded as synonymous with heaven on account of this passage in the Canon of Poetry: ###. Then the idea of longevity conveyed by ### is derived partly from the structure of the character itself, and partly from a well-known anecdote illustrating the endless life of hsien. This little tale has several variations, but the one in the Ch‘ou ch‘ih pi chi p. 780 is expressed in as picturesque terms as any. Thus: "Once upon a time there were three ancient men met together, and someone asked of them how old they were. One replied: 'My memory fails me in counting the years, but this I do remember, that in my youth I had duties to perform under the direction of P‘an Ku.'" (A mythical being concerned in the creation of the world. See Mayers, Chinese Reader's Manual, No. 558). "Another said: 'Each time the sea has turned into a mulberry orchard I have thrown down a slip of bamboo to mark the event, and now I have ten rooms full of these tallies.'" (The sea turned into a mulberry orchard is a metaphor for cataclysms vast enough to change the configuration of the world, and hence for measureless epochs of time. Cf. Lieh hsien chuan, ii, 21.) "The third said: 'My tutor ate one of the peaches of immortality, and threw the stone down to the foot of the K‘un-lun Mountains.' (in other words, the peach came from the gardens of Hsi Wang Mu), 'and now the tree that has sprung from it is as tall as the mountain itself.'"

1 The Green Dragon is one of the Four Supernatural Creatures, and is associated with the eastern quadrant of the vault of heaven. Perhaps here it has some astrological significance.

2 The two-edged sword still forms part of every Taoist magician's equipment.

3 A sobriquet of the famous Taoist magician T‘aü Hung-ching. See Mayers, Chinese Reader's Manual, pt. i, No. 711, and Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 1896. The fact that historically he lived A.D. 451-536 in no way convicts the author of the Lieh hsien Chuan of an anachronism; for hsien, of course, are independent of time.

4 "A cosmogonical term alluding to the condition of all things as one, before the evolution of the Yin and the Yang, the interaction of which gave birth to the phenomena of nature."—Giles, Dict., No. 5341.

p. 781

1 In modern Shantung. Famous as the birth-place of Confucius.

2 "In Kansuh."—Giles, Dict., No. 6597.

3 Four worthies who, to escape the troublous times at the end of the third century B.C., retired to a hermit life. See Mayers, Chinese Reader's Manual, pt. ii, No. 83.

4 This, the most ubiquitous object in Chinese art, has received various botanical names. (See Bretschneider, Botanicum Sinicum, Journ. Chin. Br. R.A.S., vol. xxv, p. 40, and vol. xxix, p. 418.) Its branches expand into flattened umbilicated extremities with scolloped edges. It is probably largely because of the resistance its wood-like substance offers to decay that it has been adopted as the emblem par excellence of immortality. There are records of its supernatural qualities having been recognized as early as the third century B.C. (see Chavannes, Mém. Hist., vol. ii, p. 176 seq.), and to the present day it is sold by native apothecaries as a drug capable of prolonging life.

5 Any representation of the magic peach is a covert allusion to that enigmatical figure, Hsi Wang Mu, the Queen of Taoist Fairyland. See note, p. 779. Among the wonders of her mountain domain was the tree that bore but once in 3,000 years peaches the taste of which gave immortality.

p. 782

1 Bamboo and pine, being evergreen, are emblems of longevity.

2 The name the narcissus bears is sufficient reason why it should be included in this category.

3 For the meaning of ###: see note by Dr. Laufer in T‘oung Pao, vol, xvi, p. 192. Perhaps a parallel may be found here between the alchemy of China and the West. Talc, a mineral often confused with mica, figures prominently in the writings of mediæval alchemists, and as late as 1670 it was advocated as a mysterions preservative of youth and beauty by the Apothecary in Ordinary to the English Royal Honsehold, N. le Febure by name, in his Compleat Body of Chymistry, pt. ii, p. 106 seq.

4 One of the first steps on the road to hsienship. Taoists are often said to have given up the ordinary diet of cereals. Some gradually reduce their food till they die of starvation. So emaciated is their condition that their bodies after death become mummified, and thus they p. 783 do actually attain a kind of corporeal immortality. Particulars of this aspect of Chinese eschatology are to be found in an article by the writer in JRAS. for July, 1911.

1 The notorious woman who, through the possession of an extraordinary personality and a genius for intrigue, rose from obscurity to become the supreme ruler of China during the latter part of the seventh century. See Mayers, Chinese Reader's Manual, pt. i, No. 862; and Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 2331.

2 i.e. Ho Hsien-ku eluded the envoy. Chinese legend abounds in instances of summonses to Court being sent to hermit sages and others who had cut themselves off from worldly affairs. The recipients have almost invariably shown a consistent contempt for mundane honours by refusing to comply, and imperial curiosity as to their reputed wisdom or powers of magic has remained unsatisfied.

3 The actual period of the day or night when emancipation from earthly ties takes place and the final stage in becoming a hsien is completed is considered in Taoist lore to have a determining influence upon the subsequent career of the hsien. See, for example, the following passage from the Chi hsien lu: "When (after death) the body remains like that of a living man, the condition is that of release from the flesh, shih chieh; when the legs do not become discoloured nor the skin wrinkled—that is shih chieh; when the eyes remain bright and unsunken, in no respect differing from those of a living man—that is shih chieh; when resuscitation follows death—that is shih chieh; when the corpse vanishes before it is encoffined, and when the hair falls off before the mortal body soars (to heaven)—both of these are shih chieh. Most perfect is the release that takes place in broad daylight, but less complete is the release that occurs at midnight. When it takes place at dawn or at dusk, then the persons concerned are relegated to a terrestrial abode" (i.e. they will not reach the celestial paradise, but remain in haunts of the hsien on earth, such as the K‘un-lun Mountains, the Isles of the Blest, and the Five Sacred Hills).

p. 784

1 Corresponding to part of the modern prefecture of Ta-t‘ung Fu, in Shansi.

2 The chief river of Shansi.

3 A state, which ceased to exist about the middle of the fifth century B.C., comprising parts of the modern provinces of Shansi, Honan, and Chihli. It is still used as a literary name for Shansi.

p. 785

1 See note, p. 783.

2 See note, p. 783.

3 Sixth Emperor of the T‘ang dynasty, during whose reign from 712 to 756 there figured many characters famous in Chinese history. At first a beneficent ruler and patron of arts and literature, later he neglected affairs of state to indulge in dissipation, becoming a mere tool in the hands of his concubines and eunuchs.

4 Lo-yang, the modern Ho-nan Fu.

5 Breathing exercises form an important part of the physical training followed by Taoists in their quest for longevity. As described to the writer by a certain aged man, who certainly bore in his person testimony to their efficacy, they consist in a series of deep inspirations alternating with periods during which the air is held in the lungs. The old Taoist explained how the air followed a route comprising the entire circuit of the body. The practice of regulating the breath is, of course, not peculiar to the cult of Tao, and it may have been borrowed from Buddhism, or at any rate from India. For a note on this subject containing references to Buddhist literature, see R. F. Johnston, Buddhist China, pp. 245-6.

p. 786

1 The tou is a measure containing 10 pints.

2 This magical performance on the part of our hsien was doubtless intended to have an allegorical significance, and goes to prove that he was tactful enough to adapt himself to his surroundings. Considered in the light of his bibulous history it suggests an interesting feature of the Taoist cult.

3 Chief of the palace eunuchs. He was given the post of Prime Minister by the dissolute monarch. Kao Li-shih appears as frequently in pictorial art as he does in historical anecdote. He was the high official whom the Emperor compelled to go down on his knees and pull the boots off Li T‘ai-po, after the poet had delighted the Court with some verses penned in a fit of alcoholic inspiration. And he it was who, p. 787 at the time of the Emperor's downfall, had the lot assigned him of strangling the famous beauty and chief imperial concubine, Yang Kuei-fei.

1 ### is written here in error for ###.

2 The real history and significance of this object remains shrouded in mystery. The earliest known representations of the type so familiar to all acquainted with Chinese art are to be found in paintings of the T‘ang period. In modern times the ju-i has been used as a gift in token of good will, conveying the wish that the recipient may realize all his desires. Professor H. A. Giles considers that the ju-i was originally a kind of blunt sword (Chinese Pictorial Art, p. 159; Adversaria Sinica, vol. i, pp. 320, 321, 328). Dr. Laufer has written a comprehensive survey of the subject (Jade, p. 335 seq.), and suggests that the ju-i may have grown out of one of the early emblems of the Chou period, and that in the beginning it was a symbol of light, generative power, and fertility. Of the three ju-i appearing in plate lxviii of Dr. Laufer's book, fig. 1 has its handle decorated with the emblems of our Eight Immortals; and the object described by the author as "the sacrificial vase tsun" is surely no other than the "fish-drum" of Chang Kuo.

3 A hsien city in the prefecture of Hsi-an Fu, capital of the empire under the T‘ang, and now the capital of Shensi.

4 Notoriously credulous and easily imposed upon by Taoist cranks and magicians. A keen sportsman, he enlarged the Shang-lin Hunting Park, which had been begun in the third century B.C.

p. 788

1 One of the magicians largely patronized by this emperor.

2 The notion that on an important occasion the hair should hang loose and the feet should be bare is possibly based on the fear that any knot or constriction, whether on the head or feet, might impede the attainment of success. Cf. Frazer, Golden Bough, 3rd ed., pt. ii, p. 310 seq.

p. 789

1 Chang Kuo being immortal, death of course was merely feigned as a subterfuge to escape returning to Court.

2 Grube, Zur Pekinger Volkskunde, p. 68.

3 See De Groot, Les Fêtes Annuelles à Émoui, vol. i, p. 170, for some interesting rernarks on this subject.

4 Grube, loc. cit.

p. 790

1 In Shansi.

2 Cf. the following from Shui ching chi: "The Patriarch Lü's eyebrows stretched back as far as the hair round the temples, and his cheek-bones were high and prominent."

3 The foot of ancient China is reckoned to have been about eight of our inches.

4 Another name for Chang Liang, a prominent figure in the history of China of the third century B.C. In his latter years he renounced the world and became a Taoist. See Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 88.

5 The customary age for men to get married being 19.

p. 791

1 See Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 1485.

2 These beautiful mountains are close to the Treaty Port of Kiukiang on the Yangtse.

3 At that time the capital of China.

p. 792

1 Here follows the famous Yellow Millet Dream. A similar story is related of Lu Shêng. See Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 1429.

2 This is an allusion to the fabulous land visited by King Mu of Chou as described in the third book of Lieh Tzŭ; see L. Giles, Taoist Teachings, p. 58 seq.

p. 793

1 The order in which they appear in the text of the Lieh hsien chuan is adhered to in this translation, though their sequence is perplexing. The first test is described below, p. 795.

p. 794

1 The text has ###. These two ### serve as time marks to denote the season when the element metal starts its annual reign, i.e. the beginning of autumn. See Forke, Lun-hêng, ii, p. 467.

p. 797

1 In causing inundations.

2 Now the capital of Hunan.

3 Yo-chou Fu, at the entrance of the Tung-t‘ing Lake, Hunan.

4 Now the capital of Hupeh, on the bank of the Yangtse, just opposite Hankow.

5 Now the province of Chehkiang.

6 Now the capital of Honan.

7 This is a pun, the character ### being composed of the same two elements that make up the first character of his name, Lü.

p. 798

1 A kind of small coronet made to represent a lotus-bloom.

2 See note, p. 787.

3 The most renowned of China's military heroes. Died in A.D. 219. Countless shrines exist in his honour throughout the country, where he is worshipped as God of War. See Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 1009.

4 He, together with Liu Pei, shared many of the exploits of Kuan Yü. See Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 51.

5 In Honan.

6 This day is still kept as the anniversary of Lü Tung-pin.—Grube, Zur Pekinger Volkskunde, p. 68.

p. 799

1 Posthumous name of Yo Fei, another famous soldier. See Giles, Biog. Dict., No. 2501.

2 Prince of Literature, the posthumous title of canonization given to Han Yü.

3 One of the names of Lü Tung-pin, q.v.

p. 800

1 This poem resembles in many ways the writings of mediaeval alchemists. Both schools, Eastern and Western, use the same fantastic jargon, and I venture to think that it is as difficult, perhaps as impossible, to give an adequate rendering of Han Hsiang as to unravel the mysteries of—say Paracelsus. Having made this statement I offer the following remarks for what they are worth. The pearl is closely associated with yin, the female principle in nature, because of the well-known relationship existing between the pearl and the moon—an ancient idea not contined to the Chinese. See De Groot, Les Fétes Annuelles à Émoui, p. 127 seq. It is for that reason that the pearl is chosen as a talisman against fire, for fire is merely an active display of the opposing principle yang. Pearls, as well as jade and gold, taken internally are said to confer immortality. See De Groot, Religious System of China, vol. iv, pp. 331, 332. The Precious Cauldron is said to represent the mortal human body. The Golden Tiger perhaps stands for the male or creative principle in nature. Gold is p. 801 associated with the sun as opposed to pearls with the moon, and of course the transmutation of other metals into gold was the chief aim of alchemystical researches in China as elsewhere. Tiger, the King of Beasts, is an emblem full of significance. "He is seven feet in length, because seven is the number appertaining to Yang, the masculine principle, and for the same reason his gestation endures for seven months."—Mayers, Chinese Reader's Manual, pt. i, No. 182. It is rather disconcerting to find, however, that the sister pseudo-science of fêng-shui regards the tiger as representing yin. The three-legged crow is an ancient symbol for the sun.

1 Near Swatow.

2 This polemic, famous as a literary composition, is called Fo ku piao.

p. 802

1 The complete poem, included in many anthologies of Chinese verse, is as follows:—

At dawn a sealed memorial presented to the Throne,
At eve condemned to banishment eight thousand li away.
To end an evil practice for the Emperor's sake I tried,
Nor did I treasure dearly my few remaining years.
Lost on the far Ch‘in Mountains, I cannot find my way,
Snow-drifts cover the Lan Pass, and my horse can do no more.
Thoughtful was the motive that brought you from afar,
To bear my body homewards from these malarious streams.

p. 803

1 Mayers, Chinese Reader's Manual, pt. i, No. 763.

2 The empress referred to is famous as one of the women who ruled China successfully. She acted as regent during the illness of her son, the fifth emperor of the line (A.D. 1064-7).

3 See pp. 776, 790.

p. 804

1 In Shensi. The western one of the Five Sacred Hills.

2 These are the two parts which the Chinese believe together constitute every person's soul. The p‘o is the visible personality indissolubly attached to the body, while the hun is its more ethereal complement also interpenetrating the body, but not of necessity always tied to it. The hun in its wanderings may be either visible or invisible; if the former, it appears in the guise of its original body, which actually may be far away lying in a trance-like state tenanted by the p‘o. And not only is p. 805 the body duplicated under these conditions, but also the garments that clothe it. Should the hun stay away permanently, death results. This subject was discussed in a most interesting paper by Professor H. A. Giles, read before the China Society in 1907, and published in Adversaria Sinica, vol. i, pp. 145-62. See also De Groot, Religious System of China, vol. iv.

1 This story has many points of resemblance with that of Hemotimus of Clazomenae. See Pliny, Natural History, vii, 52.

2 See note, p. 781.

3 See note, p. 782.

p. 806

1 Because it shows extraordinary vitality in producing in early spring flowers from apparently lifeless branches.

2 Being one of the last flowers to flourish in late autumn they are credited with unusual vitality. Chrysanthemum seeds enter into the composition of several Taoist nostrums.

3 Other plants with red berries also used in this connexion are the "heavenly bamboo" and kou-ch‘i, the former because of the spiritual significance conveyed by its name, the latter because it is used as a drug for the prolongation of life.

4 In view of possible confusion it may be mentioned that a popular representation of the Buddhist patriarch Bodhidharma shows him also with one foot bare. The patriarch, however, has curly hair and beard indicating his Indian origin.

5 Possibly there is here something more than a mere record of the careless ways and disregard for ordinary conventions characteristic of hsien. The statement may have a hidden and symbolic meaning. Bare feet may have been regarded as helping in some magic way towards freedom of the Soul—a parallel to the motive underlying a custom in ancient Greece, described by Sir J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough, 3rd ed., pt. ii, p. 310 seq.

 

 

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