The eight Immortals
external image 8immortalsatsea.gif

Either singly or in groups the Eight Immortals, Pa Hsien, of the Taoist religion are one of the most popular subjects of representation in China; their portraits are to be seen everywhere—on porcelain vases, teapots, teacups, fans, scrolls, embroidery, etc. Images of them are made in porcelain, earthenware, roots, wood, metals. The term ‘Eight Immortals’ is figuratively used for happiness. The number eight has become lucky in association with this tradition, and persons or things eight in number are graced accordingly.

external image Zuang_Guolao.jpg
ZUANG GUOLAO ( CHANG KUO-LAO ) He is represented as an Old Man riding a donkey. (Sometimes Backwards) He is usually carrying two drumsticks. Legend has it that at the end of his journeys, he could fold up his donkey like a piece of paper and store him in his wallet. When he was ready to travel again he would sprinkle water on his wallet and the Donkey would reappear.
external image Zhong-Li_Quan.jpg
ZHONG-LI QUAN ( CHUNG-LI CHUAN ) This is the familiar Fat Man with his bare belly showing. He always carries a fan and sometimes a peach. He is also considered the Chief of the Immortals.
external image Han_Xiang-Zi.jpg
HAN XIANG-ZI ( HAN HSIANG-TSU ) This is the happy Immortal that is always seen playing a flute. It is said that Han could make flowers bloom with just his will, and soothe wild animals with his music.
external image He_Xiang-Zi.jpg
HE XIAN-GU ( HO HSIEN-KU ) One of two female Immortals, He Xian-Gu carries with her a magical Lotus flower. She was brought into the group of Immortals by Lu Dong-Bin after he rescued her from a demon with his magic sword.
external image Lan_Cai-He.jpg
LAN CAI-HE ( LAN TS'AI-HO ) The second woman amongst the Immortals is always shown wearing a tattered blue gown and only one shoe. A basket of flowers is her symbol, and is usually carried with her.
external image Li_Tie-Guai.jpg
LI TIE-GUAI ( LI TIEH-KUAI ) He is the most recognizable of the Eight Immortals. He is depicted as a lame beggar carrying a double gourd. Legend explains his lame state as follows. His spirit would frequently leave his body to wander the land and heavens. One day his body was found and thought to be dead. It was burned, as was traditional. When he returned from his journey to find his body gone, he entered the first body he found...that of a lame beggar.
external image Lu_Dong-Bin.jpg
LU DONG-BIN ( LU TUNG-PIN ) Upon his back he wears a magic sword used to slay dragons and demons. In his hand he carries a fly brush. He is said to have traveled the earth for over 400 years slaying dragons.
external image Cao_Guo-Jui.jpg
CAO GUO-JUI ( TS'AO KUO-CHIU ) The finest dressed of the Eight Immortals. He is always shown wearing formal court dress and carrying castinets.

One day, when the Eight Immortals arrive at the East Sea, the sea is extremely rough, with turbulent waves. Lü Dongbin proposes that each immortal cross the sea through his or her special skills by projecting something onto the sea surface. So, Iron Crutch Li throws his instrument-the crutch (or "bottle gourd" in other versions of the story); Han Zhongli hurls his palm-leaf fan; Elder Zhangguo puts his "paper donkey" into the sea and other immortals all cast their own instruments. Thus all of them have successfully crossed the stormy East Sea. Later, the story is used to symbolize overcoming difficulties or doing something marvelous through someone's special skills.
external image 8immortalsSmall.jpg