years passed. Lü Yen had taken the civil service examinations
twice and failed each time. On his way to the capital for one
last try, he stopped at an inn for the night. By now, Lü
Yen's enthusiasm for a government career had diminished substantially.
He sat at a table, ordered wine, and sighed as he drank. After
a few mouthfuls of wine, he heard a voice behind him say, "No
need to sigh and drink by yourself. Tell me what's on your mind."
Lü Yen turned and saw a man smiling at him. The stranger
was dressed in a short tunic open down to his waist to reveal
a tuft of hair on his chest. The legs of his pants were rolled
up; he had straw sandals on his feet; his hair was tied into two
knots on the sides of his head; and in his hand was a large fan.
Lü Yen was fascinated by the man. He walked over, sat down
at the stranger's table, and told him of his disappointment at
not being able to serve his country. At the end of his story,
Yen added, "I am ready to leave the world of fame and fortune
and devote my life to cultivating the Tao."
The strange man then said, "My name is Chungli Ch'uan. I
am also called the Hermit of the Cloud Chamber. Would you like
to follow me into the mountains and learn about the Tao?"
That night, Lü Yen slept with his head on the pillow and
dreamed that he had passed the civil service examinations and
had become a high-ranking official. He was appointed chief minister
in the emperor's court; he married and had many children and grandchildren;
and he was respected by all. Then the dream took an ugly turn.
Lü Yen saw himself embroiled in court intrigues. Ministers
jealous of Yen's relationship with the emperor framed him for
treason, and his entire family was arrested. First, all his male
children and grandchildren were executed. Then, his family shrine
was destroyed. Finally, he was exiled to the frontier, where he
died, far from his surviving relatives.
Lü Yen woke up from his nightmare trembling and covered with
sweat. Quickly, he ran out of his room to look for Ch'uan, who
was sitting at a table having his morning tea. When he saw Yen,
he said, "In one night, you have lived through twenty years
of your life."
"Then you knew about my dream?" asked Lü Yen.
The Taoist replied, "You achieved your goals in your dream,
but you also lost everything. Gains and losses are illusions of
the mortal realm. Only those who can see through illusions are
capable of transcending them."
"Take me with you into the mountains," said Lü
Yen. "From now on fame, riches, and social prestige are nothing
Chungli Ch'uan congratulated him, "You have awakened
from your illusions-this is your first step to cultivating the
Tao. However, before I can teach you the arts of longevity and
immortality, you need to strengthen your foundations. Right now,
your body is weak and your mind is cluttered. When you have built
the proper foundations, I will come back to teach you."
Lü Yen thanked Ch'uan and they parted. Yen walked out of
the inn and told himself, "From now on, I am no longer Lu
Yen the scholar. I will take the name Lü Tung-pin (guest
of the cavern), for now I understand I am but a visitor in this
realm learning how to return to my original home."
Lü Tung-pin built a thatched hut and settled in the Chung-nan
Mountains. He emptied his mind, strengthened his body, and lived
the simple life of a hermit.
One day, Chungli Ch'uan appeared at the door of Tungpin's retreat
and said, "I see that you have worked hard to cultivate your
mind and body. Now you are ready to learn the Taoist arts. First,
I'll teach you how to turn stones into gold."
Lü Tung-pin asked his teacher, "After the stones have
been turned into gold, will they remain as gold forever?"
Ch'uan replied, "No. The gold nuggets will revert back to
stones after three thousand years."
Tung-pin bowed to his teacher and said, "Our paths are different.
You are meant to wander leisurely in the celestial lands. As for
me, I will not enter the highest realm of immortality until I
have helped all sentient beings return to the Tao."
Ch'uan bowed deeply to his former student and said, "Your
deeds on behalf of the Tao will be far greater than mine."
With that, he walked into a bank of fog and disappeared. Lu Tung-pin
descended from his mountain retreat and wandered around the countryside,
teaching all those who wanted to learn about the Tao.
Lü YEN lived from the end of the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906 CE)
through the Five Dynasties (907-960 CE) and into the early part
of the Sung (960-I279 CE). He was the teacher of Wang Ch'ungyang,
the founder of the Northern Complete Reality School; Liu Hai-ch'an,
the founder of the Southern Complete Reality School; and Chen
Hsi-yi, the founder of the Earlier Heaven Limitless Way. His poetry
and treatises on cultivating the Tao are collected in the L? Tsu
ch'?n-shu (The Complete Works of Patriarch Lü).
Chungli Ch'uan grew up to be a strong and intelligent young man.
The emperor was impressed with his demeanor and appointed him
Once, Ch'uan led a military excursion to the western borders of
the Han empire, into a desert region called Turfan. His army was
overcome by the fierce warriors of the desert, and, fleeing from
his pursuers, Ch'uan was soon lost in a maze of canyons with steep
walls. When night fell, he sat on a rock and pondered his fate.
"Am I destined to die here?" he asked himself.
"Not if you follow my advice," responded a voice in
Chungli Ch'uan turned and saw a man dressed in rags and animal
skins. Eagle and hawk feathers hung from his hair, and around
his neck was a string of lion teeth. Ch'uan was at first apprehensive,
but the man said, "General, I can take you to a place where
you can be safe from your pursuers."
The stranger led Ch'uan through what seemed to be an endless labyrinth
of deep valleys. Presently, they arrived at an oasis. The man
stopped and said, "This is where the Celestial Lord of the
East attained the Tao. You will be able to spend a night here
in peace." Then he disappeared.
Chungli Ch'uan walked into the oasis and found a mansion. Not
wanting to disturb its occupants, he stood at the entrance and
waited. Soon a voice came from the courtyard: "That shaman
must have led you here." The door opened, and the general
saw an old man dressed in white deer hide standing in front of
him. Before Ch'uan could greet him, the old man said loudly, "You
must be Chungli Ch'uan, the general of the Han empire. You are
welcome to stay here."
Chungli Ch'uan realized that the man was no ordinary mortal. He
immediately fell to his knees and begged the old man to teach
him the arts of immortality.
After three days, Ch'uan's host said to him, "I have taught
you enough to get you started on the road to immortality. When
the time comes, other teachers will appear and guide you further."
Thanking his teacher, Ch'uan left the mansion. At the mouth of
the canyon, he turned to have a last look at the place that had
changed his destiny. To his shock, both the mansion and the oasis
Chungli Ch'uan never returned to the capital. He traveled throughout
the country and learned the arts of the Tao from hermits and wandering
sages. Eventually, he mastered the arts of immortality and ascended
to the celestial realm.
Chungli Ch'uan lived during the Han dynasty (206 BCE-2I9
CE) and was a general of the Han empire before he became a practitioner
of the arts of immortality. In Kuangtung Province in southern
China lived a well-todo family by the name of Ho. This family
had a daughter who was born with six golden hairs on her head.
When she was fourteen, Lady Ho dreamed that she met an immortal
who told her, "If you eat the sands of the Cloud Mother River,
your body will become light and you will live forever." Because
the dream was so vivid, Lady Ho followed the instructions immediately.
"I wish to remain single and devote the rest of my life to
cultivating the Tao," she told her parents. Her father was
not pleased when he heard this. He had planned to marry her off
to a rich man and relented only when her mother reminded him,
"Do you remember that our daughter was born with six strands
of golden hair? She's no ordinary woman and we should respect
Lady Ho continued to live with her parents, but often she would
disappear into the mountains to gather herbs and minerals. Her
gait was so swift that she could leave at sunrise, travel for
hundreds of miles, and return home at sunset with fruit for her
After her parents passed away, Lady Ho retreated into the mountains
and abstained from grains completely. In winter she could sleep
on ice and not be chilled; in summer she was not bothered by the
heat. Scholars who came to challenge her understanding of Taoism
were silenced and awed by her knowledge and breadth of learning.
The guards found Lady Ho and related the empress's wishes to her.
"The empress has heard of your abilities and desires to see
an immortal," they said.
But Lady Ho knew what was in the empress's mind. "The arts
of immortality are not meant to be abused by those who are selfish
and power-hungry," she said to herself. So one night, when
the company was just a few days' walk from the capital, she slipped
When the guards returned empty-handed, the empress flew into a
rage and shouted, "You incompetent fools! Go and put up posters
offering a large reward to anyone who can give me information
of Lady Ho's whereabouts."
One time, the empress received reports of Lady Ho flying up to
the sky on the outskirts of the capital. When the imperial guards
arrived, the immortal was nowhere to be seen.
Ho Hsien-Ku lived during the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906 CE)
and is regarded by many as the patron of female Taoist practitioners.
Chang Kuo was a master of magic and divination. Because
he always appeared as an old man, he was called Chang Kuo Lao,
meaning "Chang Kuo the Old Man."
Kuo had a white mule, a magical animal that could travel thousands
of miles a day. When he did not need the mule, he would command
the animal to step onto a piece of paper. The mule would be transformed
into a picture, and Chang Kuo would fold up the paper and put
it in a small box. When he needed the mule, he would unfold the
paper, and the animal would reappear, ready for him to ride.
When the emperor agreed, Fa-shan said, "Chang Kuo was originally
a bat spirit. He attained human form by absorbing the essences
of the sun and the moon." The diviner tried to continue,
but no words came from his mouth. Moments later, Fa-shan fell
to the ground and died.
Shocked, the emperor immediately took off his crown and his shoes,
went down on his knees, and begged the lords of heaven to save
A year later, the emperor tried to invite Chang Kuo back to the
palace. However, when the imperial messenger arrived at Kuo's
retreat, the master stopped his breath and died. Weeping, Kuo's
assistant lit the funeral candles and put his master's body in
After the emissary had gone, the lid of the casket flew open.
The assistant peeked in and, to his shock, found that Kuo's body
When news of Chang Kuo's "disappearance" reached the
capital, the emperor ordered a shrine to be built on Mount Heng
to honor the bat-spirit immortal.
Chang Kuo Lao lived during the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906 CE).
He wrote a treatise on astrology tided Chang Kuo Lao hsing-tsung
(Chang Kuo Lao's Astrological System). This system of celestial
divination is still used widely by Chinese seers today.
T'ieh-kuai means "Iron Crutch," and Li got this
nickname in an extraordinary way. He was an adept in the arts
of longevity and spirit travel; it is said he learned them directly
from Lao Tzu himself. Tall, handsome, and charismatic, Li as proud
of his good looks and youthful vitality, which he maintained as
a result of his practice.
One day, Li was invited to a gathering of immortals on Mount Hua.
Before he sent out his spirit, he told his servant, " I will
be leaving my body for seven days. Make sure that nothing happens
to it while my spirit is gone. If I don't wake up after sunset
on the seventh day, you can burn my body, gather your belongings,
and go home." With that, he closed his eyes, laid down, and
sent his spirit to Mount Hua.
Six days passed, and Li had not returned. On the morning of the
seventh day, the servant received a message from his brother,
telling him that their mother was severely ill and would die soon.
Li's servant was caught in a dilemma. "I need to go home
and see my mother before she dies," he said to himself. "But
the master told me to watch over his body for seven days."
He fretted for a long time and then decided, "Today is the
seventh day and my master has not returned. It probably won't
matter whether I burn the body now or wait till after sunset."
The servant built a pyre, placed Li's body on it, and set the
wood on fire. After making sure that the body was burned to ashes,
he packed his belongings and went home.
That evening at sunset, Li's spirit returned. When he saw the
funeral pyre outside his house, he sighed and said, "It is
the will of heaven."
At that time, Li had not attained immortality and still needed
a human shell to complete his cultivation. Fluttering around the
town, his spirit found a beggar who had just died. The beggar
was crippled and ugly, and, under normal circumstances, Li would
have been too vain to choose so grotesque a shell. But he was
desperate. If his spirit did not enter a body soon, he would lose
his chance to complete his cultivation. So Li's spirit hastily
entered the body of the crippled beggar. From that time on, Li
appeared as a crippled beggar leaning on an iron crutch.
Not much is known about T'ieh-Kuai Li except that he lived
during the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906 CE).
Han Hsiang was the nephew of the great scholar Han Yü. Although
learned in the classics and talented at poetry and music, Hsiang
had no intentions of entering the government.
While most young men of his age were busy studying the civil service
examinations, Han Hsiang was wandering around the mountains playing
his flute and writing poet One time, while climbing up Mount Hua,
Hsiang met the immortal Lü Tung-pin. Knowing the young poet
was des- tined to become an immortal, Tung-pin taught Hsiang the
arts of longevity and magic.
In the capital, Hsiang's uncle Han Yü was worried over his
nephew's lack of interest in the government. One day, he called
Hsiang to him and said, "It is your duty to use your talent
to serve the emperor. You should stop drifting around and start
preparing for the imperial examinations. "
Hsiang replied, "Our paths are different. You are destined
to be famous in the realm of mortals and I am meant to escape
the dust of the world." He waved his hand and a flask of
wine and two cups appeared on the table.
Han Y? spent several years at the frontier. Then, as Han Hsiang
had predicted, an imperial messenger arrived to invite Y? back
to the capital. "The charges against you have been dropped,"
said the emissary. "You are to return and be promoted."
Han Yü returned to the capital to serve his emperor. He would
eventually become one of the greatest poets, essayists, and scholars
of China. Han Hsiang attained immortality, sought out his old
friend L?ng-pin, and joined the company of the Eight Immortals.
Han Hsiang lived during the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906 CE).
His uncle, Han Yu, was one of the Eight Great Scholars of the
T'ang and Sung dynasties.
No one knows where Lan Ts'ai-ho came from. The legends say that
he was always dressed in colorful rags, had flowers in his hair,
and carried a three-foot-long branch that he used as a walking
stick. Sometimes he would dress as a male and sometimes as a female.
He wore only one shoe; the other foot was always bare. In summer
he would stuff cotton and wool into his clothing; in winter he
would lie naked on the ice and blow hot breath from his mouth.
Ts'ai-ho had no home. He wandered around the towns and villages
entertaining people and never stayed in one place for more than
a month. His favorite haunts were restaurants and wine shops,
where he would drink and entertain the patrons with songs about
life in the immortal lands. But T'sai-ho's favorite audiences
were the children and the elderly who gathered at the street corners
to hear him sing.
Whenever Ts'ai-ho was given coins for his performance,
he would tie them to a string and drag them behind him as he walked.
If he lost his money, he was not concerned. If he had money left
after paying for his food and drinks, he would give it to the
One day, while eating and drinking on the terrace of a restaurant,
Lan Ts'ai-ho heard the music of reeds and pipes. When a crane
flew down from the sky and landed on his table, he knew it was
time for him to leave for the immortal realm. He jumped onto the
crane's back, threw his shoe and sash on the ground, and flew
up to the sky. When the people in the street tried to pick up
his belongings, both the shoe and the sash vanished.
While wandering around in the immortal lands, Lan Ts'ai-ho met
Lu Tung-pin and Chungli Ch'uan. Taken by Ts'ai-ho's carefree manner
and beautiful voice, the two elder immortals invited the youth
to travel with them to visit the famous mountains and lakes of
the celestial realm.
Lan Ts'ai-Ho lived during the Five Dynasties (907-960 CE).
Not much is known about him except that he was a street entertainer
and was famous for his beautiful singing voice.
Ts'ao was a brother of the queen mother and the kuo-chiu (maternal
uncle) of the emperor. However, despite being born into nobility,
he was not interested in politics and power. His younger brother,
on the other hand, was ruthless and cruel and used his royal connections
to obtain land, jewels, and even other men's wives.
When Ts'ao failed to steer his brother away from his unethical
ways, he said to himself, "There is nothing left for me to
do in the palace." He left the capital, went into the woods,
and devoted his life to cultivating the Tao.
One day, the immortals Lü Tung-pin and Chungli Ch'uan happened
to walk by Ts'ao's retreat.
Lü Tung-pin called out, "I've heard that you had given
up the life of a prince to cultivate the Tao. Tell me, where's
the Tao that you are cultivating?"
Ts'ao pointed to the sky.
Immortal Lu then said, "And where's heaven?"
Ts'ao pointed to his heart.
Immortal Chungli Ch'uan clapped his hands and exclaimed, "Well
said. The way of the Tao is the way of heaven and the way of heaven
is in your heart. You have seen your original nature."
The three men laughed together. Lü Tung-pin and Chungli Ch'uan
then invited Ts'ao to travel with them to the immortal realm.
Ts'ao Kuo-Chiu lived during the early part of the Sung
dynasty (960-I279 CE). Not much is known about him except that
he shunned nobility and devoted his life to studying the Tao.
Sung T'ai-tsung heeded Chen Hsi-yi's words and named Chen-tsung
as his heir.
One summer, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, Chen
Hsi-yi said to his students, "It is time for me to journey
to Mount Omei in the west." His students understood that
their teacher meant it was time for him to leave the earthly realm,
so they purified the room with incense and lit two tall candles.
Hsi-yi sat on his bed in meditation posture, placed his palm on
top of his head, and sent his spirit to the immortal realm. At
that time, he was II8 years old.
Chen Hsi-Yi lived from the end of the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906
CE), through the era of the Five Dynasties (907-960 CE), and into
the early part of the Sung (960-I279 CE). He is acknowledged as
the father of modern ch'i-kung and wrote important treatises on
Taoist cosmology, divination, meditation, and calisthenics. He
was the founding patriarch of the School of Taoism known as the
Earlier Heaven Limitless Way.
Chuang Tzu lived during the latter part of the Chou dynasty (II22-22I
BCE) in the feudal state of Ch'u. He is reputed to be the primary
author of the Taoist classic Chuang Tzu.
Fan Li and Hsi Shih lived in the latter part of
the Chou dynasty (II22-22I BCE). Fan Li was a minister in the
state of Yüeh during a time when the feudal states of the
Chou empire had become semiautonomous kingdoms. He is also revered
as the patron of entrepreneurs in southern China.
Kuang-ch'eng Tzu said, "The Tao is intangible and
formless. You cannot hear it or see it. However, if you focus
your spirit, it will emerge within you. Empty your heart and still
your mind. Preserve your generative energy and do not strain your
body. Follow these teachings and you will live a long life."
Huang Ti, or the Yellow Emperor, lived in the legendary times
of ancient China before written history. He is regarded as the
wisest of all Chinese rulers and is credited with uniting the
tribes into a nation, building the first cities, and giving China
a written language and a numerical system.
One time, a young scholar named Kung Chung-ni came to the library
to ask Li Erh about an obscure ritual. (Kung Chung-ni would later
be known as Kung Tzu, or Confucius.) After answering the young
man's questions, Li Erh told him, "You need to file
down your sharpness and put away your sword of ambition. The great
sage often appears dull and dim-witted, and those with true learning
do not display their knowledge."
Years later, Chung-ni would recall this meeting and say, "Birds
soar above the earth; fishes swim to the depths of the oceans;
and tigers run the great expanse of the plains. But who can predict
the behavior of dragons? Sometimes they fly among the clouds and
sometimes they tunnel beneath the earth. Lao Tzu [the Old One]
must have been a dragon. You could catch a glimpse of his wisdom,
but if you tried to grasp it, it was gone."
Lao Tzu lived during the latter part of the Chou dynasty
(II22-22I BCE) in the feudal state of Ch'u. He is regarded as
the founder of the philosophy of Taoism and the author of the
Taoist classic, the Tao-te-ching.
That night, Liu prepared a feast to honor the eight Taoists. During
the dinner, one of the old men stood up and said to the prince,
"We see that you are sincere in your pursuit of the Tao.
Each of us has a specialty that he can teach you. One of us can
command the elements, make rain, and change the course of rivers.
Another can move mountains, tame wild beasts, and summon spirits
and ghosts. Another can hide the movement of armies and make them
appear at different places at the same time. Another cannot be
harmed by fire, water, or weapons. Another can create and craft
anything he wants-animals, plants, or in animate objects. Another
can see impending disasters and is skilled in the arts of longevity
and immortality. Another can transform dirt into gold and lead
into silver. Still another can fly in the sky and tunnel beneath
the earth. Of these skills, which would you like to learn?"
An replied, "All I wish is to be able to predict catastrophes
and live a happy and long life."
Liu An spent nine years learning from the old men and eventually
succeeded in making the pill of immortality. However, on the day
that he completed his apprenticeship, his son was killed accidentally
by one of the emperor's secretaries during a sword-fighting practice
session. Fearing that the lord of Huai-nan would sentence him
to death, the secretary told the emperor that Liu An was plotting
Liu An heeded the advice of his teachers immediately. He
went to his laboratory, took a pill from the cauldron, and swallowed
it. In his hurry to leave the palace, An knocked the cauldron
onto its side and scattered the remaining little red pills over
the floor. Before the pills could be picked up by the servants,
they were eaten by the cats and dogs in the household.
When the emperor's soldiers arrived at Liu An's palace, he was
nowhere to be found. The officer questioned the townspeople, who
told him, "We saw the lord of Huai-nan floating up to the
sky with cats and dogs flying up behind him."
Liu An, also known as Huai-nan Tzu, lived during the early
part of the Han dynasty (206 BCE-2I9 CE). His court was a haven
for Taoist alchemists, diviners, and magicians. He is reputed
to have recorded and collected the teachings of his Taoist retainers
into a classic titled Huai-nan Tzu.
Ssu-Ma Ch'eng-Chen lived during the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906
CE) and is regarded as one of the greatest patriarchs of the Shang-ch'ing
School of Taoism. He wrote many treatises on meditation and is
responsible for introducing the technique of insight meditation
(or internal gazing) into Taoist practice.
With the help of the royal endowment, T'ao Hung-ching finally
succeeded in making the pill of immortality. At the time, he was
seventy years old, but his complexion resembled that of a youth.
He took the pill, expecting to ascend to immortality. Nothing
happened. At first, he thought the pill was defective, but when
one of his students ingested the pill and flew off to the immortal
realm, he was bewildered. When the student returned after a sojourn
in the celestial lands, Hung-ching said to him, "Next time
when you visit the immortal realm, please ask the guardians why
I could not attain immortality."
Several days later, the student visited the celestial lands again
and returned with this message from the lords of heaven: "T'ao
Hung-ching is not allowed to enter the immortal lands at this
time because he has killed many insects and worms while searching
for the ingredients for the pill. Therefore, he must wait another
twelve years in the mortal realm before he can become an immortal."
T'ao Hung-ching took the message to heart. For the next twelve
years, he abstained from meat and was careful not to step on insects
T'ao Hung-Ching lived during the period of the Six Dynasties
(420-589 CE) and is regarded as one of the greatest patriarchs
of the Shang-ch'ing School of Taoism. Adept at all aspects of
the Taoist arts, he wrote over eighty treatises on topics that
included alchemy, meditation, metallurgy, astronomy, geography,
military strategy, divination, and medicine.
Lao Tzu replied, "I have many names, for I have appeared
in many incarnations. I have taught the Yellow Emperor as well
as the kings Yao, Shun, and Yu. In my current incamation I am
named Li Erh."
That night, Wen Shih honored Lao Tzu with a feast. After the banquet,
he prostrated himself before the sage and formally asked to be
accepted as a student. Lao Tzu stayed in the border town for a
hundred days and taught Wen Shih the arts of the Tao.
When it was time for his teacher to leave, Wen Shih declared,
"I would like to accompany you on your journey and serve
Lao Tzu refused, saying, "Although your roots are deep, you
are not ready to climb with me to the clouds or fly to the four
directions. You have a good understanding of the teachings, but
you are still lacking in experience. When you can merge with the
natural way, go to Szechwan and look for a blue ox. The ox will
show you where to find me." He then dictated a book of five
thousand words to his student. This book was the Tao-te-ching.
When Wen Shih stepped into the mansion, the child was transformed
into Lao Tzu. Thousands of rays of golden light emanated from
his body, and a purple aura glowed around his head. A canopy emerged
from the ground, and inside the pavilion was a seat surrounded
by lotus flowers.
The old man walked to the chair, sat down, and said to Wen Shih,
"When I left you, you were but a novice who aspired to cultivate
the Tao. Today, I see a man with the air of an immortal. Your
spirit has journeyed to the purple chamber of the Celestial Palace;
you have merged with the North Star; and your name has been entered
into the roster of the immortals." When Lao Tzu finished
speaking, the room was suddenly filled with celestial messengers
and immortals. Wen Shih stepped onto a cloud and was escorted
into the immortal realm by the personal attendants of the highest
lords of heaven.
Wen Shih, also known as Wen Tzu, lived in the latter part
of the Chou dynasty (II22-22I BCE). He is reputed to be the first
student of Lao Tzu and is the author of the Taoist classic Wen
Chang Tao-ling stood over seven feet tall and had bushy eyebrows,
a large round forehead, and a hawk-beak nose. On the sole of his
right foot were seven black dots arranged in the pattern of the
seven stars of the Big Dipper. He had long, powerful arms that
came down to his knees, and he walked with the strength of a tiger
and the speed of a dragon.
Chang Tao-ling was exceptionally intelligent. At seven,
he understood the teachings of Lao Tzu's Tao-te-ching. By twelve,
he had mastered the I-ching and the classics of divination. As
a young man, Tao-ling served his community as a provincial administrator,
but he continued to study the arts of the Tao.
Tao-ling left his cave and traveled throughout the river valleys
and mountains of Szechwan. On one of his journeys he met Lao Tzu,
who taught him how to fly to the stars and tunnel under the earth.
When Lao Tzu departed, he gave his pupil a scroll of talismans
that had the power to heal the sick and a magic sword that could
drive away malevolent spirits.
As time went on, Chang Tao-ling's skill in the arts of sorcery
matured. Soon he could make himself invisible or change himself
into any shape he wished. He could hear and see over great distances
and could call down rain and snow. He could heal the sick and
drive away evil spirits. His fame spread far and wide, and people
called him the Celestial Teacher, for they believed that he was
an immortal from the celestial realm.
Chang Tao-Ling lived during the latter part of the Han dynasty
(206 BCE-2I9 CE). He founded the School of Taoism known as T'ien-shih
Tao (the Celestial Teachers' Way) and is regarded as the father
of organized religious Taoism.
Fei Chang-fang suddenly realized that the weeks that he
had spent in the immortal realm were equivalent to fifteen years
in the realm of mortals.
Fei Chang-Fang traveled throughout the countryside healing
the sick and driving out evil spirits. He dispensed medicine from
his gourd, exorcised ghosts, and helped towns and villages ward
off floods and droughts.
Fei Chang-Fang lived during the latter part of the Han dynasty
(206 BCE-2I9 CE) and is regarded as the patron of healers and
herbalists. Huan Ching's visit to the shrines has become a cultural
tradition of China. Today, it is still customary for many Chinese
to spend a day in the mountains on the ninth day of the ninth
Kiang Tzu-Ya lived from the end of the Shang dynasty (I766-II22BCE)
to the beginning of the Chou dynasty (II22-22I BCE). He was Duke
Chi's principal adviser during the latter's campaign against Shang
Ts'ou and became the chief minister of the Chou dynasty when Chi
was made emperor. Tzu-ya's treatise on strategy and tactics, Kiang
T'ai-kung ping fa (Master Kiang's Art of War), is considered
one of the greatest classics of military strategy.
Tso Chi lived during the latter part of the Han dynasty (206 BCE-2I9
CE) when Ts'ao Ts'ao was the chief minister and the power behind
the throne. Ts'ao Ts'ao's son, Ts'ao Pei, eventually deposed the
Han emperor and founded the Wei dynasty (220-265 CE).
Ko Hsüan learned his magic from Tso Chi. Hs?an could
make stone statues walk; he could talk to butterflies and grasshoppers
and get them to dance; and he could grow vegetables in winter
and create ice in summer.
Ks Hsüan lived during the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-265
CE). He collected and edited the Ling-pao (Sacred Spirit) Scriptures,
which are the earliest texts of the Taoist canon.
Mah Ku was an extraordinary woman. From the time she was
a child, she could imitate the calls of every animal and bird.
She could jump up walls, walk on rafters, and climb trees. She
was so silent and stealthy that she often gave the impression
of being in several places at once.
While fleeing from her father, Mah Ku met an immortal who taught
her the arts of magic and immortality. After she completed her
apprenticeship, she returned to her village. There, on a stone
bridge in front of a crowd of people, she flew up to the sky.
The people of her town named that bridge Immortal's Bridge, in
honor of the young woman's courage and integrity. There is no
information as to when Mah Ku lived.
T'ai-hsüan Nü was married to a man who did not love
her. Soon after she gave birth to a son, her husband died. One
day, T'ai-hs?an N? met a diviner in the marketplace who told her,
"You and your son will not live long." When she heard
this, she did not panic. Calmly and methodically, she began to
study and practice the arts of immortality. After a few years,
she stopped aging. When her son had a family of his own, she retreated
to the mountains, built a hut, and began to gather minerals to
make the elixir of immortality.
As her cultivation progressed, T'ai-hsüan Nü was able
to sleep on the ice in winter and not be chilled, enter the water
and not get wet, sit in a fire and not be burned, and be at different
places at the same time.
T'ai-hsüan Nü lived to be over two hundred years
old. Her complexion was always that of a young woman and her hair
was smooth and black. One day, her students heard children's voices
coming from their teacher's room. When they pushed open the door,
they saw T'ai-hsüan Nü flying up to the sky accompanied
by a group of immortals. There is no information as to when and
where T'ai-hsüan Nü lived.
While wandering in the forest, Kuang-chen met the female immortal
Ho Hsien-ku, who taught her magic and the arts, of immortality.
While Kuang-chen was having dinner with her hosts, she heard someone
call her name. She excused herself, went outside, and found three
old men standing on a cloud. Immediately she summoned a giant
toad, stepped onto its back, and flew to meet the three immortals.
Delighted, the three old men took her on a tour of the famous
mountains and lakes.
Flying over the K'un-lun Mountains, one of the immortals said
to T'ang Kuang-chen, "Would you like to transcend the mundane
and enter the sacred, shed your shell and become an immortal?
Or would you rather keep your body and remain in the mortal realm?"
Kuang-chen swallowed the pill. From that time on, she was
immune to heat, cold, hunger, and thirst. She returned to her
village to care for her aging mother and lived what appeared to
be a normal life. After her mother passed away, T'ang Kuang-chen
received an invitation from the celestial lords. She summoned
the giant toad, got onto its back, and rode off to the immortal
T'ang Kuang-Chen lived during the Sung dynasty (960-I279 CE).
It is said that she learned the arts of female internal alchemy
from Immortal Ho Hsien-ku, the patron of female Taoist cultivation.
Kuang-chen wrote poems to document her spiritual experiences,
and these writings are considered some of the finest expositions
on female Taoist learning.
When Tung-fang Shuo was twenty-two years old, he wrote a letter
to Wu-ti, the Han emperor. In the letter, he explained, "I
was orphaned at an early age and was brought up by my brother.
I mastered the classics when I was twelve. At fifteen, I became
an expert in the martial arts. At sixteen I became a master poet
and memorized twenty thousand lines of song. At nineteen, I mastered
the science of warfare and the art of diplomacy. Now, at twenty-two,
I stand head and shoulders above everyone. My body is strong and
graceful. My mind is agile and cunning. I am honest and trustworthy,
brave and honorable. I am someone whom your majesty should have
in your service!"
The emperor finally understood. He sighed and said, "In the
eighteen years that Tung-fang Shuo was with me, I did not even
know that he was a sky immortal. What a pity!"
Tung-Fang Shuo lived during the early part of the Han dynasty
(206 BCE-2I9 CE) and served in the court of the emperor Wu Ti.
Chang Chung lived from the end of the Yüan dynasty (I27I-I368
CE) to the early Ming (I368-I644 CE). He helps Chu Yuan chang
defeat the Mongols and establish the Ming dynasty.
Ch'ing Wu learned the Taoist arts from P'eng Tsu (P'eng
the Ancient One), who was rumored to have discovered an elixir
of immortality and to have lived for over a thousand years.
Living on Mount Hua, Ch'ing Wu saw that clouds and mists gathered
only in certain places. He also noticed that some parts of the
mountain were frequented by animals and birds more than others.
One day, following the flight path of a crane, he climbed through
a cleft in the rock and found a secluded valley. At the mouth
of the valley was a round boulder, and in a pool sheltered by
the boulder was a group of cranes.
As Ch'ing Wu approached them, the birds changed into human form.
The crane that Ch'ing Wu had followed came toward him and said,
"We are crane immortals, and we have waited for you for a
long time. The lords of heaven have chosen you to be the keeper
of the knowledge of the land and its power. Therefore, we will
teach you how to recognize the flow of energy in the land and
how to select grave sites that will make kings and sages out of
the descendants of those who are buried there."
Ch'ing Wu lived during the early Han dynasty (206 BCE-2I9 CE)
and is considered by many to be the father of the art of k'an
yu (or feng-shui).
Sun Chung lived during the late Han dynasty. His son Sun Chien
is regarded as the founder of the Wu dynasty in the era of the
Three Kingdoms (220-265 CE). The Three Kingdoms were Wei, founded
by Ts'ao Ts'ao's son Ts'ao Pei; Shu, founded by Lui Pei; and Wu,
founded by Sun Chien.
Chou Tien was born into a poor family. At fourteen, he came seriously
ill; when he recovered, he had lost his memory and became a beggar.
Wandering around the marketplace, he would shout, "Peace
will come to the nation." Whenever a new government official
took office, Chou Tien would pay him a visit and say, "I
bring news of good times." Chou Tien divined this and said,
"Don't waste your time and effort trying to kill me. I cannot
be harmed by fire, water, or weapons."
The emperor did not believe him. "Tie up the madman's hands
and feet and throw him into the cauldron," Y?an chang instructed
his guards. "And make sure the fire underneath is hot."
After an hour or so, Chou Tien stood up inside the pot and smiled;
he was neither burned nor scalded. Y?an-chang then ordered his
men to cover the cauldron with a heavy lid. "This will kill
him for sure," said the emperor. "No one can survive
being cooked for several hours."
The hours passed. There was no movement or noise inside the pot,
so Chu Yüan-chang thought the diviner was finally dead. He
opened the cauldron, looked inside, and saw Chou Tien sleeping
like an infant. The emperor dropped the lid in shock. Chou Tien
woke up, yawned, and said, "What was that noise that disturbed
my sleep?" Chou Tien helped Chu Y?an-chang end the Y?an dynasty
(I27I-I368 CE) of the Mongols and establish the Ming dynasty (I368-I644
Chang Liang knew that Liu Pang would eventually become jealous
and suspicious of those who had helped him overthrow the Ch'in
dynasty. If Liang had refused a reward, he would have offended
his emperor. On the other hand, if he had requested rich lands
near the capital, he would be singled out as a competitor to the
throne. Therefore, wisely and tactfully, Chang Liang asked for
a poor region far from the capital, citing reasons that flattered
Toward the end of his life, Liu Pang did indeed come to fear that
his ministers and military commanders would overthrow him and
begin to murder his closest advisers. Of those who had helped
the emperor gain the throne, only Chang Liang did not suffer a
Huang-Shih Kung is a legendary figure from prehistoric China.
He is the patron of diviners and feng-shui practitioners.
Chang Liang lived from the end of the Ch'in dynasty (22I-207 BCE)
to the early part of the Han dynasty (206 BCE-2I9 CE). He was
chief adviser to Liu Pang and played a considerable role in ending
the Ch'in dynasty and establishing that of the Han.
Kuei-ku Tzu was over a hundred years old when he settled
in a place called Kuei-ku (Ghost Valley). It was to Ghost Valley
that Sun Pin, the grandson of the great military strategist Sun
Tzu, went to study strategy, tactics, and diplomacy. Soon, others
also flocked to Ghost Valley to learn from this legendary teacher.
Sun Pin became the military adviser of the lord of Ch'i until
a jealous rival kidnapped and tortured him. Crippled and left
to die in the wilderness, he finally realized that the political
arena was fraught with dangers. Pin was lucky to be rescued by
a woodcutter who nursed him back to health. After Sun Pin had
regained his strength, he returned to Ghost Valley and lived out
the rest of his days as a hermit. Of all the famous political
and military advisers of the era, he was the only one who did
not die a violent death.
Kuei-Ku Tzu lived during the latter part of the Chou dynasty
(II22-22I BSE) in the era known as the Warring States (475-22I
BCE). His teachings on statecraft, military science, and divination
are collected in a book titled Kuei-ku Tzu.
Kuo P'u was born and raised in a town named East River.
When he was nine years old, he met a diviner named Kuo Kung. Seeing
that the boy was destined to become a master of the arcane arts,
the old man taught Kuo P'u the I-ching, the theories of yin and
yang, the five elements, and the art of k'an-yu (feng-shui). K'an
means "high places," or "mountains," and yu
means "low places," or "valleys." Thus, k'an-yu
is the art and science of reading the patterns of energy in the
mountains and valleys.
His time drinking and writing poetry. Often, he would leave his
home for weeks or even months to walk in the mountains or float
down the rivers.
To most people, Kuo P'u was an eccentric who had no patience for
social conventions. Only P'u's closest friends knew that he was
a master diviner who could read omens in the sky, sea, and land.
Thus, when he predicted that the town of East River would be sacked
by bandits, his friends heeded his words: they sold their properties,
packed up their goods, and left. A month later, the river overflowed
its banks and flooded the city. While the soldiers from the garrison
were off repairing the dams, robbers looted the town.
When Kuo P'u was about forty years old, he divined that he would
soon die violently. From that day on, he locked himself in his
study and wrote down his lifetime's research on divination, feng-shui,
and the I-ching. Not long after P'u had completed his books, he
offended the warlord Wang Tun and was executed.
Three days after the execution, Kuo P'u was seen eating and drinking
at his favorite restaurant. When this was reported to Wang Tun,
the warlord ordered that P'u's grave be opened and examined. In
front of a large crowd of witnesses and curious onlookers, the
examiners dug up the coffin and removed the lid. To the astonishment
of everyone, the coffin was empty. It was only then that the people
realized that Kuo P'u was a master of the arcane arts who was
not only able to release his spirit just before death, but could
"borrow" his body back now and then to walk in the earthly
Kuo P'u lived during the Chin dynasty (265-420 CE). He was a diviner,
geographer, astronomer, mythologist, and poet. His book on the
selection of burial sites, titled Chuang-shu (The Burial Classic),
is still widely studied by modem feng-shui practitioners.
The great poet Su Tung-po heard about Ling-su's talent and paid
him a visit.
"I have a gift for you," said the poet, as he handed
the child a book on divination. Ling-su flipped through the pages,
closed the book, and recited the contents from memory.
Su Tung-po was shocked. He sighed and said, "Your intelligence
far surpasses mine. Fame and fortune await you on the horizon."
Surprisingly, Ling-su said, "Whether you are a noble or a
commoner, rich or poor, famous or unknown-at best you'll end up
as a ghost. My destiny lies beyond this."
When Lin Ling-su was twelve, he met an immortal who taught him
the arts of magic and divination. Within two years Ling-su had
learned everything the Taoist could teach him. On parting, Ling-su's
teacher told him, "You now have the power to command the
elements, drive out evil spirits, and see into the future. Use
your abilities to benefit others and do not abuse your power.
You will soon meet the emperor at the gates of the Celestial Palace.
See that you advise him well."
The Sung emperor was a devout Taoist. One night, he traveled in
spirit to the celestial realm to ask for an audience with the
lords of heaven. At the gates of the Celestial Palace, he was
met by an immortal who told him, "I have been sent by the
lords of heaven to give you this message: listen to the advice
of honest and virtuous ministers. Stay away from those who speak
falsely. Only in this way can your kingdom be saved."
The priest responded, "You should meet Lin Ling-su."
When Ling-su arrived at the palace, the emperor looked at him
and inquired, "What are your abilities?"
Lin Ling-su replied, "I can travel to the celestial realm;
I can predict the future of humanity; and I can intercede on behalf
of the dead. Not long ago, we met in the celestial realm."
One night, Lin Ling-su looked up at the sky and saw the emperor's
guardian star weakening while another star rose in the north.
He sighed and said to himself, "It is written in the heavens.
The emperor has lost his mandate to rule. A new ruler is rising
to power in the north. There's nothing left for me to do."
The next morning, Lin Ling-su asked for permission to leave. Unable
to retain him, the emperor thanked the Taoist for his service
and gave him three hundred pounds of gold. When T'sai Ching, who
had by then become the chief minister, discovered that Ling-su
had received this great gift from the emperor, he told his personal
guard, "Kill Ling-su and take his gold."
Ling-su divined T'sai Ching's evil intentions. He returned the
three hundred pounds of gold to the emperor. The next day, when
the assassins arrived at his retreat, the Taoist was nowhere to
After leaving the capital, Lin Ling-su retreated into the mountains.
There he gathered a group of students and taught them the arts
of longevity. One day, he called his students together and said,
"The country is about to be plunged into war. You should
hide in the mountains and wait for the storm to pass. As for me,
my time in the mortal realm is over, and I must return to where
I originally came from."
Ling-su then sat in a meditation posture, closed his eyes, and
sent his spirit to the celestial realm. Not long afterward, the
Chin tribe invaded the Sung empire from the north and captured
the emperor. Eventually, this tribe was conquered by the Mongols,
who swept south and brought an end to the Sung dynasty.
Lin Ling-Su lived during the latter part of the Sung dynasty (960-I279
CE). It is said that he predicted the kidnapping of the Sung emperor
and the fall of the dynasty.
Po-tuan had a friend who was a Zen Buddhist. The two men
often met to meditate together and discuss Buddhist and Taoist
philosophy. One day, the friend, whose Buddhist name was Hui-ting,
went to Po-tuan's retreat and said, "I have mastered the
technique of spirit travel. When I enter meditative stillness,
I can send my spirit anywhere I want."
The two men sat on their meditation cushions, closed their eyes,
and sent their spirits to the flower gardens of Yang county. When
Po-tuan arrived, he found his friend already sitting on a bench.
Hui-ting remarked, "I've already walked around the garden
When Chang Po-tuan was about to shed his body and enter the immortal
realm, he called his students together and said, "After I
have gone, you should cremate my body." At ninety-nine years
of age, he sent his spirit into the immortal realm. After the
students cremated his body, they found among the ashes thousands
of tiny fragments of bones that glowed with a golden hue.
Chang Po-Tuan lived during the early part of the Sung dynasty
(960-I279 CE). He is one of the greatest exponents of the Southern
Complete Reality School and is the author of the famous internal-alchemical
classic Wu-chen p'ien (Understanding Reality). Chun-pao was a
talented apprentice: by fourteen, he had mastered the Shaolin
martial arts, as well as Zen meditation. However, despite these
accomplishments, he felt that there was something missing in his
training. Thus, at the age of fifteen, he decided to leave Shaolin
to look for other teachers. As Chun-pao's cultivation progressed,
his appearance changed. His head began to resemble that of a tortoise
and his bones became as light as a crane's. His ears grew and
his eyes shone with an inner glow. Summer and winter, he wore
a hemp robe and straw sandals.
Chang Chun-pao visited many famous mountains where Taoist hermits
had settled, but did not find a place to his liking. Once, when
he was a guest at the Golden Altar Monastery, he fell asleep and
did not wake up for a month. Thinking that he had passed away,
his friends bought a casket and performed the funeral rites. Suddenly,
Chun-pao sat up and demanded, "Why have you put me in a coffin?"
After this incident, he went to Szechwan and settled on Mount
T'ai-ho. He built a hut in the shelter of an ancient grove and
spent much of his time in meditation. By then, he was immune to
hunger and thirst.
One day, Chang Chun-pao heard a commotion outside his retreat.
He looked out of the window and saw a monkey and a snake fighting
in front of his hut. As he watched the movements of the combatants,
he saw that while the snake had the advantage of speed and flexibility,
the monkey had the advantage of agility. "Each animal has
its natural ability to defend itself," he observed. "If
humans could learn the best of each animal's style of fighting
and combine them into one form, what a powerful form of martial
art that would be!"
For several years, Chun-pao worked hard to develop a martial art
that combined the fighting abilities of various animals. However,
after he had created a seemingly invincible fighting style, he
still felt it was incomplete.
One day, while walking in the Wu-tang Mountains, Chang Chun-pao
looked into a valley and saw leaves whipped into a spiral by the
wind. He then looked at the sky and saw clouds swirling around
the jagged peaks. Finally, he realized that the forces of the
Tao far outweigh the abilities of animals and humans and said
to himself, "The aim of the martial arts is not to subdue
and conquer opposing forces but to dissolve, deflect, and absorb
Chang Chun-pao built a hermitage in the Wu-tang Mountains
and began to develop another form of martial art, one based on
neutralizing and transforming opposing forces. Using the principles
of the Tao as manifested in nature, he called the method T'ai-Ch'i
One day, while wandering around the mountains of Wutang, Chang
Chun-pao saw a rock formation that resembled three peaks pointing
up to the sky. Taken by the view, he said, "From now on,
my name will be Chang San-feng (Three Peaks)."
Chang San-Feng lived from the end of the Yuan dynasty (I271-I368
CE) into the Ming dynasty (I368-I644 CE). He founded the Wu-tang
sect, wrote numerous treatises on internal alchemy, and is considered
by many to be the originator of T'ai-Chi Ch'uan.
Cheng Wei loved the Taoist alchemical arts and married
a woman with similar interests. The couple built two laboratories
in a quiet corner of their estate where, in their spare time,
they would experiment with making the pill of immortality and
turning mercury into gold.
Another time, Cheng Wei had worked all night in his laboratory
trying to transform mercury into gold and had gotten no results.
Returning to his room tired and disappointed, he happened to walk
past his wife's laboratory. As he looked through the window, he
saw something gleaming in her hands. Bursting into his wife's
laboratory, Cheng Wei cried, "You have had the secrets of
making gold all this time and didn't tell me!"
His wife replied, "To succeed in the arts of alchemy, it
must be in your destiny." She turned and walked away, leaving
him angry and frustrated.
Cheng Wei tried to entice his wife with money and jewels, hoping
that she would give him the formula. When she refused, he went
to a friend and said, "My wife knows the formula for transforming
mercury into gold and will not tell me. If you can figure out
how to get the formula from her, I'll make sure you're rich for
the rest of your life."
The friend came up with a plan: they would poison the woman and
then threaten to withhold the antidote if she did not reveal the
formula. However, Cheng Wei's wife discovered the plot. She confronted
her husband and said to him, "The secrets of the Tao are
transmitted only to the right person, even if you only meet him
casually on the street. If the person is unsuitable, the Tao is
not transmitted, even if refusal means death."
That evening, Cheng Wei's wife smeared mud over her face, feigned
madness, and ran away from home naked. Her husband chased her
to the edge of town, but she vanished into the night.
Later, the townspeople reported seeing a madwoman in shabby clothes
flying up to the sky. Cheng Wei spent the rest of his life experimenting
with making a pill of immortality and turning mercury into gold.
He succeeded in neither.
Cheng Wei's wife lived during the latter part of the Han dynasty
(206 BCE-2I9 CE). Not much is known about her except that her
maiden name was Fang and she was an adept alchemist.
Ko Hung was attracted to the arts of immortality even when he
was a child. His family was poor, so he had to collect branches
and sell them as firewood in order to buy books and paper. Every
evening, after his family had retired to bed, Ko Hung would stay
up long into the night studying the classics of medicine, divination,
He rarely spoke, did not receive guests, and was not interested
in the bustle and excitement of town life. Daily, he studied the
Taoist classics and the arts of longevity and immortality. When
he had problems understanding a text, Hung would travel hundreds
of miles to find a teacher to explain the teachings to him.
On one of his journeys, Ko Hung heard about an alchemist named
Cheng Yin and traveled a thousand miles to I Yin's retreat to
ask for instruction.
"I do not accept students," said Cheng Yin. "However,
because you are sincere and willing to learn, I'll make an exception
At the end of Hung's apprenticeship, Yin said to his student,
"I have taught you everything I know. If you want to continue
your studies, you should find a man named Pao Hsuan. He is the
magistrate of the county of Nan Hai."
On their first meeting, Pao Hsuan was so impressed with Ko Hung
that he not only accepted Hung as his student, but decided to
make him his son-on-law.
When Ko Hung heard that Mount Lao Fao was rich in cinnabar and
other alchemical ingredients, he went to the magistrate of that
area and said, "I would be grateful if you could give me
a minor post in a village near Mount Lao Fao."
The magistrate could not understand why the young man would want
an assignment in a remote and mountainous area. "People with
your abilities and background should apply for a post in a large
city. No one will notice you in a small village," he protested.
Ko Hung replied, "I'm not interested in a career in the civil
service. All I want is to live in an area where I can gather herbs
and minerals to make the pill of immortality."
When Ko Hung was eighty-one years old, he wrote a letter to his
friend Teng Yüeh saying, "I will be leaving soon to
find teachers who can show me the path to immortality." Realizing
that Hung was alluding to his departure from the mortal realm,
Y?eh set out immediately for Mount Lao Fao, hoping to see his
friend one more time.
Yüeh arrived at Ko Hung's retreat and found him sitting on
the bed. Hung's eyes were closed, a golden glow radiated from
his body, and a sweet fragrance filled the room. When Teng Yüeh
saw green and red vapors floating around the cauldron, he realized
that Hung had succeeded in making the Dragon-Tiger Elixir.
Teng Yüeh kept a vigil at his friend's home for three days.
When the light and the fragrance had disappeared, he went to make
arrangements to have Ko Hung buried. However, when Yüeh returned
with the undertaker and a coffin, Hung's body was nowhere to be
Ko Hung lived during the latter part of the Chin dynasty (265-420
CE) and is regarded as one of the greatest alchemists of his time.
His book, the Pao p'u Tzu (The Sage Who Embraces Simplicity),
is still considered an authoritative text on the arts of longevity
Yü-ch'an not only was adept at art, calligraphy, and poetry,
but was also a scholar. By seven, he had memorized the major Confucian
and Taoist classics, and he was proclaimed a child prodigy by
the local examiners at twelve. However, despite his talent, Yü-ch'an
was not interested in pursuing a career in the government. At
sixteen, he left home and wandered around southern China, looking
for teachers to instruct him in the arts of longevity and immortality.
After several years of traveling, Pai Yü-ch'an decided to
settle on Mount Lao Fao. There, he met a Taoist named Chen Ni-wan
who accepted him as a student. Yü-ch'an studied with Ni-wan
for nine years. At the end of his apprenticeship, Ni-wan told
him, "You are learning so fast that I thought something was
unusual. Last night, I went to the celestial realm and discovered
that you were once an immortal. Because you offended the lords
of heaven with your drunken behavior, you were condemned to spend
time in the mortal realm, where you are to redeem yourself by
leading people to the Tao. I was sent to help you to return to
the celestial realm. Now my work is done. Make good use of your
time in the mortal lands."
One year, Pai Yü-ch'an decided to celebrate the Autumn Moon
Festival by the river with his friends. The group was laughing,
drinking, and making poetry when suddenly Pai Yü-ch'an stood
up and jumped into the water. Just as his friends were about to
dive in to save him, Yü-ch'an's head surfaced. He looked
at his friends, shook his head, indicating that they were not
to rescue him, and then disappeared into the depths of the river.
Pai Yü-ch'an, like his teacher Chen Ni-wan, had chosen to
shed his shell in the water when he sent his spirit to the immortal
Pai Yü-Ch'an lived during the latter part of the Sung dynasty
(960-I279 CE). He is the fifth patriarch of the Southern Complete
Reality School. His writings on the arts of longevity and immortality
are collected in the Pai Yü-ch'an ch'üan-chi (The Collected
Works of Pai Yü-ch'an).
T'ai-yin Nü loved the Taoist arts of immortality from the
time she was a child. When she could not find someone to instruct
her, she said to herself, "I'll study by myself. If it is
in my destiny, then someday I'll find a teacher." One morning,
a man came to her shop to buy a flask of wine. Noticing that the
woman who served him was well mannered and intelligent, he said,
"You walk the path of the white tiger and snake; I walk the
path of the green dragon and black tortoise. In this world, who
can understand this?"
When T'ai-yin Nü heard this, she was delighted. She asked
the man, "What is the numeric of the element earth?"
He replied, "I don't know the numeric of the element earth,
but south is three, north is five, east is nine, west is seven,
and the center is one."
That evening during dinner, her guest said to her, "My name
is T'ai-yang Tzu and I am a subordinate of the celestial lords.
I have drunk the water of the sacred light; I have ascended to
the North Star; and my body has the five treasures. In acknowledging
me as a virtuous man, you have become a part of my family."
T'ai-yang Tzu stayed at T'ai-yin Nü's retreat for several
days and taught her the arts of immortality. Before he left, he
told her, "Continue to practice your meditation. Fly to the
stars to receive instructions from the celestial lords. They will
let you know when the elixir is ready."
One day, T'ai-yin Nü saw a purple vapor rising from the cauldron.
Intuitively she knew the elixir was ready. She poured it into
a cup, drank it, and floated up to the sky. At that time, she
was almost two hundred years old, but her appearance resembled
that of a young woman.
T'ai-Yin Nü probably lived during the T'ang dynasty (6I8-906
CE). Not much else is known about her.
Wei Po-yang was a native of southeast China. Even as a child,
he was attracted to the alchemical arts of immortality. At the
age of eighteen, he went into the mountains, built a laboratory,
and experimented with making the pill of immortality.
Wei Po-yang called his students together and said, "I think
I have succeeded in making the pill of immortality, but before
we take it, we should test it on the dog."
Po-yang opened the lid of the cauldron, took out one of the pills,
and gave it to the dog. Minutes later, the dog fell over and stopped
breathing. Wei Po-yang sighed and said, "It is the will of
When none of the students volunteered, Wei Po-yang said, "I
will give it a try." After swallowing the pill, he too fell
down and stopped breathing.
The two intelligent students said to each other, "Our teacher
has died from this pill. It would be stupid for us to take it
and die as well. After all, our goal is to attain immortality.
If we can't become immortal, then we should go home." They
went into the laboratory, gathered their belongings, and made
their way down the mountain.
The dim-witted student stood and looked at the cauldron for a
long time. Then he said to himself, "My teacher has always
been a cautious man. He wouldn't take a pill that would kill him."
Slowly, he reached into the cauldron, picked up a pill, and swallowed
it. Then he sat on a rock and waited. Suddenly, Wei Po-yang stood
up, laughed, and patted the student on his back. Moments later,
the dog also stood up and ran to his master. Wei Po-yang soon
began to feel weightless. When he took a step, he found himself
floating up to the sky.
Flying up close behind him were his student and the dog. The three
were spotted by the apprentices who had decided to leave their
teacher. The two students hurried back to the laboratory, but
when they got there, the fire in the furnace was out and there
was nothing left in the cauldron. Wei Po-Yang lived during the
latter part of the Han dynasty (206 BCE-2I9 CE). He is regarded
as the father of the alchemical arts of immortality and is the
author of the first Taoist alchemical text, Tsan-tung-chi (Triplex