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Eight Sages (Immortals)

Either singly or in groups the Eight Sages also called the Eight Immortals in Chinese mythology, or Ba Zu Shi or Ba Xian, 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 f or happiness. The number eight has become lucky in association with this tradition, and persons or things eight in number are graced accordingly. Thus we read of reverence shown to the ‘Eight Genii Table’ (Pa Hsien Cho), the ‘Eight Genii Bridge’ (Ba Xian Ch’iao), ‘Eight Genii Vermicelli’ (Ba Xian Mien), the ‘Eight Genii of the Wine-cup’ (Tin Chung Ba Xian) - wine-bibbers of the T’ang dynasty celebrated by Tu Fu, the poet. They are favourite subjects of romance, and special objects of adoration. In them we see “the embodiment of the ideas of perfect but imaginary happiness which possess the minds of the Chinese people.” Three of them (Chung-li Ch’üan, Chang Kuo, and Lü Yen) were historical personages; the others are mentioned only in fables or romances. They represent all kinds of people - old, young, male, female, civil, military, rich, poor, afflicted, cultured, noble. They are also representative of early, middle, and later historical periods.



Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #01 Han Xiang Zi Zu Shi, 韩湘子祖师,
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.

普遍的说法,韩湘子是唐代著名文学家韩愈的侄子(有说侄孙),《唐书·宰相世系表》、《酉阳杂俎》、《太平广记》、《仙传拾遗》等书都有关于他的介绍。一称是韩愈侄孙,历史上韩愈确有一个叫韩湘的侄孙曾官大理丞。韩愈曾有《左迁至蓝关示侄孙湘》一诗:“一封朝奏九重天,夕贬潮阳路八千。欲为圣朝除弊事,肯将衰朽惜残年!云横秦岭家何在?雪拥蓝关马不前,知汝远来应有意,好收吾骨瘴江边。”他成仙的传说,最早见于唐代段成式的《酉阳杂俎》。书中称韩愈有一年少远房子侄,为人轻狂不羁,不喜读书,韩愈曾责怪他,他却能在七日之内使牡丹花按其叔的要求改变颜色,并且每朵上边还有“云横秦岭家何在……”的诗句,韩愈惊奇万分。还有说韩湘子是韩愈外甥,其事迹和《酉阳杂俎》所言大同小异,韩湘子其人物原型为韩愈的族侄,五代时即被仙化。

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Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #02 He Xian Gu Zu Shi. 何仙姑祖师,
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.

何仙姑是八仙中惟一的女性,有关其身世说法不一。一说她是唐朝人。宋初《太平广记》引《广异记》称有“何二娘”者,是位以织鞋为业的农妇,后因嫌家居太闷,游于罗浮山,在山寺中住下,经常采集山果供众寺僧充斋。一次,远在四百里外的循州山寺僧来罗浮山寺,称某日曾有仙女去彼山采摘杨梅果子,经查实那天正好是二娘采果的日子,再加之大家又不知二娘从何处采来这众多山果,便认为二娘即为循州山寺采果之仙女,从此二娘远近闻名,她也借此不再寄居山寺了。《续通考》说何仙姑为唐武则天时广东增城县人,出身时头顶出现六道毫光,天生一副“仙科”,十三岁时在山中遇一道士,吃了道士一只仙桃,从此不饥不渴,身轻如飞,并可预见人生祸福。后来她应召进京,途中离去。一说她是宋朝人。宋代的一些文人笔记多称她为北宋永州(零陵)人,有称她幼遇异人,得食仙桃成仙。有称她放牧于郊野,遇异人送仙枣,食后而成仙,宋人笔记中还记载了何仙姑一些为人占卜休咎,预测祸福的事迹,一时士大夫及好奇者争先前往彼处占卜,可见她不过是一位精于占卜的民间女巫。

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Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #03 Lan Cai He Zu Shi. 蓝采和祖师,
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.

八仙中有位玩世不恭,似狂非狂的行乞道仙,名叫蓝采和。南唐沈汾《续仙传》、宋初《太平广记》、陆游《南唐书》等书均载有他的事迹。是唐末至五代时人。其行为怪僻,贪杯喜唱,平时穿一身破蓝衫,一只脚穿只靴子,另一只则光着脚丫子。更不近常情的是,夏天他穿棉衣,冬天却躺卧雪中而全身冒热气(《续仙传》)。平时他手持三尺有余的大拍板,一边打着竹板,一边踏歌而行,沿街行乞,他唱的歌很多,大都是触景而生,不仅令世人觉得高深莫测,而且颇具仙意。其一云:“踏歌蓝采和,世界能几何?红颜一春树,流年一掷梭,古人混混去不返,今人纷纷来更多。朝骑鸾凤到碧波,暮见桑田生白波。长景明晖在空际,金银宫阙高嵯峨。”他行为癫狂,有人施钱给他,他大都送给贫苦人,蓝采和居无定处,四海为家。这个仙人的人物原型本是一江湖流浪汉,仅由于他的行为癫狂,又好周济穷人,因此深得人们喜爱而被神化成仙。

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Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #04 Zhang Guo Lao Zu Shi. 张果老祖师,
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.

张果老是八仙中年迈的仙翁,名“张果”,因在八仙中年事最高,人们尊称其为“张果老”,历史上实有张果其人,新、旧《唐书》有传,武则天时,隐居中条山,时人皆称其有长生秘术,他自称年龄有数百岁,武则天曾派使者前去召见,张果老佯死不赴。唐玄宗开元二十一年,恒州刺史韦济将其奇闻上奏皇上,玄宗召之,张果又再次装死,气绝很久才苏醒,使者不敢进逼。玄宗闻知,再次派徐峤去邀请。张果只得进京。据说唐玄宗对其传闻有疑,曾叫善算夭寿善恶的邢和璞给张算命,邢却懵然不知张的甲子,又有道师“夜光”善视鬼,玄宗令他看张果,他却问:“张果在哪?”居然对面而看不见。从史传所记来看,张果不过是一位有些心虚的老朽江湖术士,要不何以数次装死以避征召呢?充其量不过会些幻术而已。所以有关他的仙话,全都是道教凭借民间传闻,夸大其词,为了宣传需要而编造的。《太平广记》还记张果老自称是尧帝时人,唐玄宗问术士“叶法善”张的来历,叶法善说:“臣不敢说,一说立死。”后言道:“张果是混沌初分时一白蝙蝠精。”言毕跌地而亡,后经玄宗求情,张果才救活他。

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Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #05 Lv Dong Bin Zu Shi. 吕洞宾祖师,
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.

八仙中流传故事最多的当数吕洞宾,在道教中,全真道奉其为“纯阳祖师”,又称“吕祖”。历来大多数研究者均认为,吕洞宾姓吕名岩,唐末人。《金唐诗》、《词综》中都收有他的诗作。宋代罗大经的《鹤林玉露》、洪迈的《夷坚志》及《集仙传》等书对其均有记载。有说他是京兆人(今陕西、西安一带),唐咸通中及第,曾当过两任县令。有说他是九江人,原为唐宗室,姓李,因避武后之祸,易姓为吕。他始名绍光,二十余年科场不第,遂罢举而纵游天下,后被钟离权点化成道。他是八仙中人情味最浓的一个,潇洒、风趣,为民除暴安良,斩妖除怪,还好酒好色,世间流传有《吕洞宾三戏白牡丹》的传说,他的传说既多且杂,但从中也可看出原是唐代一位慕道的士人,后被人们神化成仙。

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Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #06 Han Zhong Li Zu Shi. 汉钟离祖师,
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.

八仙中名气仅次于铁拐李的是钟离权。他在八仙中地位较高,特别是由于道教徒的吹捧,名声更大。元时,金真道奉为“正阳祖师”。有关其人物原型,约出现在五代、宋初之际。《宣和年谱》、《夷坚志》、《宋史》等书都有他事迹的记载,只是后来讹为汉钟离,才附会为汉代人。《历代神仙通鉴》、《续文献通考》等书称,钟离权,复姓钟离,字寂道,号云房子,又号正阳子。东汉咸阳人,其父钟离章为东汉大将,其兄钟离简为中郎将,后也得道成仙。而唐代确实有位叫钟离权的人,《全唐诗》录有他的三首绝句,并附有小传云:“咸阳人,遇老人授仙诀,又遇华阳真人,上仙王玄甫,传道入崆峒山,自号云房先生,后仙去。”他留世的诗题为《题长安酒肆避三绝句》,其中有“坐卧常携酒一壶,不教双眼识皇都”、“得道真仙不易逢,几时归去愿相从”等句,还颇有一些“仙味”,当是一位好道之人。

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Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #07 Tie Guai Li Zu Shi. 铁拐李祖师,
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.

先说铁拐李,铁拐李在民间传说中为八仙之首,有的书中称其姓李,名洪水,隋朝峡人,鲁迅先生的《中国小说史略》则说他姓李,名玄;赵翼的《陔余丛考》中又说他姓刘。有说他是唐玄宗开元、代宗大历之间人,学道于终南山,一次元神出壳,没曾想肉身为虎所食,只得投身于一个跛乞丐。《历代神仙通鉴》称,其原本一俊伟丈夫,善道术,会使导出元神法术,修练于砀山岩穴中,有次应师父老子之约,行“元神出壳”法术,赴千里之外华山,数日后回归,发现其肉身被其徒误焚,突见附近一饿殍,灵机一动说“即此可矣。”即从饿殍脑门而入,神魂归壳后则成一蓬头卷须、黑脸巨眼,并且还跛了一只右脚的丑陋汉子。看来他是一位民间口耳相传,诸事附会而成的道家仙人。

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Note: 8 Sages 八祖师, #08 Cao Guo Jiu Zu Shi. 曹国舅祖师,
The finest dressed of the Eight Immortals. He is always shown wearing formal court dress and carrying castinets.

排名八仙之末的曹国舅,出现的时间最晚,流传的仙话也较少。其身世,说法大同小异,都和宋仁宗的曹皇后有关。《宋史》有传,曹佾,字公伯,曹彬之孙,曹皇后的弟弟。他性情和易,通晓音律,喜爱作诗,封济阳郡王,身历数朝而一帆风顺,年七十二而寿终。《神仙通鉴》云:曹国舅天性纯善,不喜富贵,却慕恋于仙道,其弟则骄纵不法,恃势妄为,曹国舅对其恶行深以为耻,遂入山修炼,遇钟离权、吕洞宾而收他为徒,很快曹国舅修成仙道。《东游记》中所述曹国舅与上略同。

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