Monday, March 19, 2007

Blue & White Jar, Ming Dynasty

The fourth and main register represents the Eight Immortals who are either talking with each other or relaxing under a tree probably just after a good drink, with their emblems such as the sword, (associated with Lü Dongbin) and the fan (associated with Zhong Liquan) spread on the foreground. Trees, clouds and shrubs surround them. On the bottom are wave patterns. The shape of this jar and the coloring of the underglaze blue bear much resemblance to a blue and white jar also with the Eight Immortals design dated to the Tianshun reign of the Ming dynasty (1457-1464).

Digital images copyright Special Collections, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College. All rights reserved.

Ivory Fly Whisk Handle, Qing Dynasty

This object is a handle for a fly whisk. It contains the Eight Immortals of Taoism on the handle. Like another fly whisk handle in the collection, this object is missing the hair strands which would complete it. On one side we notice the two Immortals: Li T'ieh-kuai, recognizable by his emaciated body and crutch, and Lu Tung-pin, who has a sword on his back. To the side on the right we see Lan T'sai-ho, who is playing a flute, and Ts'ao Kuo-chiu, who carries a tablet and wears a hat. On the next side directly to the right there is another pair of Immortals. We notice Ho Hsien-ku, who is a female Immortal holding a long-stemmed lotus flower and Chung-li Ch'uan who holds a fan. On the final side we notice Han Hsiang-ku who is holding a basket of flowers over his head with his left arm, and Chang Kuo-lao who is riding a donkey.

Digital image copyright Special Collections, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College. All rights reserved.

Han Chung-li

Lu Tung-pin's teacher, friend, and fellow winebibber, was Han Chung-li, the typical soldier of the Group. Yet, there are so many versions of his life and adventures that he sometimes figures as a warrior, sometimes as a Taoist priest, and sometimes as a beggar receiving the Pill of Immortality. His military virtues are eclipsed by his alchemistic talents. All his pic-tures show him in mufti, sometimes holding his famous feather-fan, or a peach of long life.
Text from:
Plate LEGEND OF LAO TSE, HAN CHUNG-LI Collector's Plate Copyright © 1995-2007 eBay Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Lu Tung Pin

Poems by Lu Tung Pin
What is Tao?
What is Tao?
It is just this.
It cannot be rendered into speech.
If you insist on an explanation,
This means exactly this.

My heart is the clear water in the stony pond.
My heart is the clear water in the stony pond.
Right now it is invaded by the peach-blossom shadows.
As soon as I arrive at heaven's palaces
I shall settle down with my seven-stringed lute.

English version by



The third of the Eight Immortals, Han Zhong Li had great strength, and was physically the strongest of the Eight Drunken Immortals.

In his youth, Han had been a drunkard who had always had an eye for trouble, picking brawls and causing mischief. One day, Li Tit Kwai warned him to straighten out his life. Han refused, and challenged Li to a brawl. Han was promptly defeated and forced to abide by Li's side and become his pupil. Although he tried to run away from Li on many instances, Li always got the better of him. Han eventually resigned to becoming a Taoist priest and after many years of meditation achieved immortality on the Mountain Hua.

Han's signature characteristics are a fan and a huge wine cauldron, the latter of which he is often depicted with in pictures. The fan gives him the power of resurrecting the dead.

Text Copyright 2005 - 2007 (c) All rights reserved:

Picture from:

Lu Tung Pin - Immortal Lu

Lu Tung Pin - Immortal Lu

Lu Tung Pin is venerated for two reasons. Firstly because he is associated with medicine and the elixir of life. He knows the formula for the elixir of life and his potions and charms can heal the sick. Lu Tung Pin is also the doctor of the poor.

As a young man Lu Tung Pin met up with a fire dragon who gave him a sword. This sword was called Chan-yao Kuai, the Demon-Slayer which allows him to have control over evil spirits destroying, capturing or taming them if he is invoked correctly; but to Lu Tung Pin this sword was not a weapon for killing enemies but a symbol for conquering passion, aggression, and ignorance.

Lu Tung Pin considered compasion to be the essential means of attaining perfection.

He decided to forgo the life of an official and follow Chung Li-ch'uan into the mountains. There Lu learned the secrets of alchemy and the art of swordsmanship. He transformed the methods of Outer Alchemy (wai-dan) into those of Inner Alchemy (nei-dan).

Chung Li-ch'uan

Chung Li-ch'uan, patron saint of the military.

Han Chung Li was a historical persona, serving as a Marshall or General of the Imperial Han dynasty (207BCE - 220CE). It was said that Lao Tzu himself, shared the wisdom of the Tao with Han Chung Li. Upon embracing the teachings of the Tao , Han successfully ended the bloodshed and violence in his government life and journeyed to the wilderness, the mountains, to nature as a wanderer cultivating the Tao.

One day, whilst meditating, the adjacent stone in his mountain chamber cracked and revealed a sacred jade box. Inside this mysterious box contained an age old scroll that showed him the secrets of attaining Immortality. Studying the secret meditations, Han Chung Li finally achieved his immortality. His chamber was filled with celestial clouds, music and a magic crane appeared bringing him to the realms of the immortals.

Han Chung Li was revered for devising the pill of immortality by sacred Taoist Alchemy. This is why he is a popular deity for those in search for longevity. Once during a famine that swept China, Han Chung Li turned stones to gold and silver for the poor, saving millions of lives.

His symbol of power is his feather fan, which he uses to revive and reincarnate the souls of the departed. His magical fan can also control the forces of the 7 seas and the changes in the weather. He is often depicted as mounted on a chimera (Kei Lun), a mythical creature of the Taoist Goddess Hsi Wong Mu.

Han Chung Li is associated with the Trigram Chen of the Bagua. Chen, a yang wood trigram relates to the direction East, and is represented by the colors Green. Chen is often associated with the thundering forces of nature, and thus we may say that Han is often seen as jovial and forceful. His positive emotions embodies generosity, benevolence and graciousness while he suppresses the negative feelings of condemnation, guiltiness, frustration and violence.

Data from:

Picture from: Marla Mallett Textiles and Tribal Oriental Rugs

Han Chung-li

Han Chung-li

Han Chung-li represents military men. He lived during the Han dynasty when he was a Marshall of the Empire. In his old age he became a hermit and lived on Yang-chiu Mt. in Shansi where he met the Five Heroes who taught him how to be an immortal. This knowledge he taught to Lu Tung-pin.

During a famine he turned base metals into silver which he distributed to the poor people. He is recognized as a figure who holds a fan or a peach.

When he achieved immortality he was carried by a stork into the Heavens. Another legend has it that the wall of his hut burst open to reveal a casket in which were instructions on how to become an immortal.

From: The Taoist Deities

Lü Dong Bin

Lü Dong Bin
Lu Tung Pin is said to have been born in 755 in Shansi province of China. As Lu grew up, he trained to be a scholar at the Imperial Court, but he did not pass the required examination until late in life.

He met his teacher Chung-Li Chuan in a marketplace where the Taoist master was scrawling a poem on the wall. Impressed by the poem, Lu Tung Pin invited the old man to his home where they cooked some millet. As the millet was cooking Lu dozed and dreamed that he had passed the court examination, had a large family, and eventually rose to a prominent rank at the court -- only to lose it all in a political fall. When he awoke, Chung-Li Chuan said:

"Before the millet was cooked,
The dream has brought you to the Capital."

Lu Tung Pin was stunned that the old man had known his dream. Chung-Li Chuan replied that he had understood the nature of life, we rise and we fall, and it all fades in a moment, like a dream.

Lu asked to become the old man's student, but Chung-Li Chuan said Lu had many years to go before he was ready to study the Way. Determined, Lu abandoned everything and lived a simple life in order to prepare himself to study the Great Tao. Many tales are told of how Chung-Li Chuan tested Lu Tung Pin until Lu had abandoned all worldly desires and was ready for instruction.

He learned the arts of swordsmanship, outer and inner alchemy and attained the immortality of enlightenment.

text from:
picture from:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Han Zhongli

The first immortal to be examined is Han Zhongli (Chungli Ch'uan). His birth story is similar to the Buddha's, and may have been influenced by it. It is said that his body was covered in auspicious markings and that at an early age he could speak and foretold his eventual immortality. Han Zhongli is often associated with a historical general of the Han dynasty. Legend says that during a military excursion far from his home he became lost in a maze-like system of canyons, and eventually met up with beings that can be described as shamanic-ghosts. He began his quest for immortality here. It is said that among his powers was the ability to turn copper into silver.

Text from Taoism 101:

Picture from: His Nibs
Copyright © 1999-2007 (His, LLC). All rights reserved.

Zhongli Quan and Lu Dongbin

Zhongli Quan and Lu Dongbin
This beautiful panel adorns one of the ghost-money incinerators at the Tian Hou Temple in Chiwan, Shenzhen.

Chungli Ch'uan: A stout man with only wisps of remaning hair but a beard reaching his waist. His fan has the power to raise the dead.

Lu Tung-pin: Born 798 AD and honored as a scholar. Received from a fire dragon a sword enabling him to hide from death. He is the most widely known of the Immortals and considered the de facto leader.

Facts from:

Picture from:


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.

Another account describes Chung-li Ch’üan as merely a vice-marshal in the service of Duke Chou Hsiao. He was defeated in battle, and escaped to Chung-nan Shan, where he met the Five Heroes, the Flowers of the East, who instructed him in the doctrine of immortality. At the end of the T’ang dynasty Han Chung-li taught this same science of immortality to Lü Tung-pin and took the pompous title of the Only Independent One Under Heaven.

Han Zhongli

Han Zhongli (or Zhongli Quan) was given the first divine revelations by Li Tieguai and then went into the mountains to seek the light. After his return to the world, he killed a tiger with a flying scimitar and changed copper into gold to help the poor. In the end, he ascended to the upper realms of immortality with his brother. He is usually shown with a feather fan in a comfortable reclining posture.

Copyright © Chinadotcom All Rights Reserved
Ba Xian Guo Hai:the Eight Immortals Cross the Sea:

Chung-li Ch'uan

When Immortal Lu Tung-pin was studying with his teacher Chung-li Ch'uan, Chung li Ch'uan gave him a large and heavy sack to carry. Immortal Lu carried the sack for three years without complaint or resentment. At the end of the three years, Chung-li Ch'uan told Immortal Lu to open the sack.

    He said to Immortal Lu, "While you were carrying the sack these years, did you know what was inside?"

    Immortal Lu replied, "Yes, I knew that the sack was filled with stones."

    Chung-li Ch'uan then said, "Do you know that the rocks that you've been carrying around all these years could be turned into gold? Because you have shown sincerity and humility and have never uttered a word of complaint, I shall teach you how to turn these stones into gold if you wish.

    Immortal Lu asked Chung-li Ch'uan, "When these stones have been transformed into gold, will they be identical to real gold?"

    Chung-li Ch'uan replied, "No, gold that has been transformed from stones or other objects will only last for five hundred years. After that, they will return to their original form."

    Immortal Lu said, "Then I do not wish to learn the techniques of turning stones into gold. If the gold is not permanent, then what I do now will have harmful effects five hundred years later. I would rather be ignorant of a technique which may potentially harm people."

    Hearing Lu Tung-pin's reply, Chung-li Ch'uan said, "Your foundations are stronger than mine. Your level of enlightenment will be higher than mine. As you have enlightened me, I now realize that this technique of turning stones to gold or silver or precious gems is not worth learning and not worth teaching." From Historical Legend of Sun Bu-er:

Picture: The Immortal Zhongli Quan, late 1400s, attributed to Zhao Qi, China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, The Cleveland Museum of Art. From: Taoism & The Arts of China

Zhongli Quan

Zhongli Quan, or Chung-li Ch'üan, is one of the most ancient of the Eight Immortals (the oldest is Iron-crutch Li) and the leader of the group. (Some people consider Lü Dongbin to be an informal leader.) He is also known as Zhongli of Han because he was born in the Han Dynasty. He possesses a fan which has the magical ability of reviving the dead. He has a very rare double-character surname, Zhongli.(From Wikipedia)

Bamboo Carving of Zhongli Quan.

Circa 1880. One of the eight Immortals, Zhongli Quan is usually shown holding a fan.

From: LiAsia Gallery 31 SPRING ST., WILLIAMSTOWN, MA 01267

Chung-li Ch'üan

Chung-li Ch'üan

Pinyin Zhongli Quan in Chinese mythology, one of the Pa Hsien (q.v.), the Eight Immortals of Taoism. A wine-drinking recluse in quest of immortality, he is often depicted as a potbellied, bearded old man holding a fan with a tassel of horse hairs. Occasionally he is depicted as a military man and is credited with unusual knowledge of alchemy.

"Chung-li Ch'uan." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 12 Mar. 2007 <>

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hanford Taoist Temple

Taoist Temple
Hanford's Chinatown grew and prospered rapidly to include its own restaurants, additional homes, grocery stores, laundries, tobacco shops, herbal shops with several herb doctors in residence, sundries stores and, of course, many gambling establishments; a virtual "city within a city." It is a fascinating adventure to visit the Taoist Temple and museum. Allowing us a step back into history we can almost feel the presence of worship in the temple and business of living within the alley. After climbing the steep steps to enter the temple, one is surrounded by vestiges of a by-gone era. Furnishings are the original pieces with the exception of some flowers on the main altar table which were donated by a couple from Bakersfield following the demise of the originals. The building is constructed of "on-site" hand made brick, creating one foot thick walls. The internal walls were then covered with a thin layer of plaster which was painstakingly painted to simulate brick.

Hanford Taoist Temple

National Register #72000226
Taoist Temple
12 China Alley
Built 1893

The Taoist Temple is now a museum.

Greeting the visitor at the top of the stairs are several large plaques covered with Chines characters, which list the names of members of the Sam Yup Association who donated monies for the building's construction. On the south wall are carved figures of the eight immortals (mythical personages likened to the Patron Saints in Catholicism) while their corresponding ceremonial staves are displayed next to the stairwell. Across the room is a ceremonial "oven" or incinerator in which were burned paper offerings of money or clothing to the individual's ancestors. Silk embroideries show symbolic animals and birds, the meaning of which are explained by docents. The tools of individual "worship" have remained where they were used, leaving a treasured legacy through which we may partially learn of their fascinating ways.

Saturday, March 10, 2007



"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.

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."


CHUNG-LI CH‘ÜAN, one of the Eight Immortals


"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...

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."


Beijing has spared a Taoist temple

Beijing has spared a Taoist temple on the grounds of the 2008 Games. Many other Chinese treasures have not been so lucky.
( Miranda Mimi Kuo for The NYT )

"The Olympics site seems to be an example of how China's antiquities protection system should work. Construction supervisors and archaeologists have collaborated for four years, conducting excavations and restoring three Taoist temples, including one near the National Stadium, the main Olympic venue...

But elsewhere in China, archaeologists are often in a losing race against bulldozers. In late January, a work crew in the ancient capital city of Nanjing unearthed and destroyed the burial sites of 10 noblemen from six dynasties. By the time a team of local archaeologists arrived, bulldozers had crushed the burial crypts and looters had combed through the site.