Difference between revisions of "The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea"

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Latest revision as of 11:42, 23 August 2009

"The Eight Immortals ( 八仙 Baxian ) Cross the Sea" is a Daoist anecdote. The Eight Immortals are usually identified as Li Tieguai, Han Zhongli, Lan Caihe, Zhang Guolao, He Xiangu, Lü Dongbin, Han Xiangzi and Cao Guojie. In the legend, the Eight Immortals take with them different Magical Instruments ( 法器 Faqi ): Li Tieguai's iron stick, Han Zhongli's drum, Zhang Guolao's paper donkey, Lü Dongbin's sword and xiao (a vertical bamboo flute), He Xiangu's bamboo cover, Han Xiangzi's flower basket, Cao Guojiu's jade tablet, and Lan Caihe's big clappers, each of which has a unique power.


It may be said that in Chinese history, literary and artistic works about the Eight Immortals can be found everywhere. Even on printed cakes and on sedans taken by brides when they got married in ancient times, there are different-patterned and lifelike models of the Eight Immortals. On the blue and white porcelain vases popular in the Ming dynasty, there are designs with the Queen Mother of the West ( 西王母 Xiwangmu ) in the center, where you may find the scene of the Eight Immortals congratulating her on her birthday. Among the people there is a kind of square table, which is called "the Eight Immortals table". All these facts show the profound influence of the Eight Immortals in peoples' minds.


"The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea" is one of the wonderful stories about the Eight Immortals. Its vivid record is found in the Journey to the East written by Wu Yuantai of the Ming dynasty. This book describes how the Eight Immortals were always ready to defend the weak and helpless, punish evildoers and encourage the good. One day, they went to the Donghai Sea together and saw gigantic turbulent tides and waves. Lü Dongbin suggested that each of them throw one thing into the water in order to show their "magical power" and cross it. All the other immortals agreed with him. They threw their magic articles onto the sea, and then, standing on them, crossed the sea, braving the wind and the waves. Afterwards, people have compared this anecdote to the way that one creates miracles with one's special ability.