The Eight Immortals
The Pa Sien, or eight immortals, are legendary beings of the Taoist sect, said to have lived at various times and attained immortality. They are not unfrequently depicted on porcelain, and are also to be found as separate figures, of which there are two sets, one standing, the other seated ; sometimes they ornament the edges of plates, standing on various animals among the waves of the sea, and their symbols occasionally occur as devices.
The following are their names in the sequence in which they are represented in the engravings ; their order, however, differs in various lists, see Williams' Dictionary, under " Sien," and Mayer's Chinese Reader's Manual, p. 338, from which latter most of the information here given is derived.
1. Han Chung-le [P1. D], said to have lived under the Chow dynasty, which lasted from 1122–249 B. C., and to have obtained possession of the elixir of immortality. He is generally represented as a fat man with a bare belly, and holds in his hand a fan, with which he is said to revive the souls of the dead. His emblem is a fan (Shan). He is also known as Chung-le-Kwan.
2. Leu Tung-Pin [Pl. D], born A. D. 755. While a magistrate of the district of Teh-hwa, he is said to have encountered Han Chung-le among the recesses of the Lu-Shan, from whom he learned the mysteries of alchemy and of the elixir of immortality. He was exposed to a series of temptations, ten in number, and having overcome them, was invested with a sword of supernatural power, with which he traversed the empire, slaying dragons and ridding the earth of divers kinds of evil for upwards of four hundred years. His emblem is a sword (Keen).
3. Le Tee-kwae [Pl. E]. It is uncertain when he lived; he was instructed in. Taoist lore by Lao Tsze himself, who used to summon him to interviews in the celestial spheres. To do this his spirit had to leave his body, which he en-trusted to the care of •a disciple. On one occasion the disciple was summoned away, and when the disembodied spirit returned the body was gone. Lee Tee-kwae there-fore took refuge in the body of a lame beggar, in whose shape he continued his existence, supporting himself on a crutch or staff. His emblem is the pilgrim's gourd (Hu-1u), and he holds a staff in his hand.
4. Tsaou Kwo-kiu [Pl. E], said to be the son of Tsaou Pin, a military commander, who died A. D. 999, and brother of the Empress Tsaou How. He is therefore represented as wearing a court headdress. His emblem is a pair of castanets (Pan), which he holds in one hand.
5. Lan Tsae-ho [Pl. F], of uncertain sex, but generally considered a female. In the engraving a male figure is represented carrying a flower-basket (Hwa-lan), which is the usual emblem.
6. Chang Ko-laou [Pl. F], said to have flourished towards the close of the 7th and middle of the 8th centuries. He was a great necromancer, and used to be accompanied by a white mule, which carried him immense distances, and when not required was folded up and put away. The Emperor Ming Hwang summoned him to his court, but he refused to go. He is represented with a bamboo tube (Yu ku), a kind of musical instrument used by Taoists, and two rods to beat it ; the latter are some-times placed in the tube forming his emblem.
7. Han Seang-tsze [Pl. G], said to be a great-nephew of the statesman and philosopher Han Yu, who lived A. D. 768-824. He was a pupil of Leu Tung-Pin, by whom he was carried to the fabulous peach tree of the genii, but fell from its branches. He is represented as a flute-player, and his emblem is a flute (Tieh).
8. Ho Seen-koo [Pl. G], stated to have been the daughter of Ho Tai of Tseng-chehg, near Canton. She used to indulge in solitary wanderings among the hills, and rejecting the ordinary food of mortals, ate the powder of mother-of-pearl, which was supposed to produce immortality. She was summoned to the court of the Empress Wu (A. D. 690-705), but on her way disappeared. She carries in her hand a lotus flower (Leen-hwa), which forms her emblem.
( Originally Published Late 1800's )