The Legend of Eight Immortals: A Closer View of Taoism

Taoism is a true and one of the ancient religions of China. Without Taoism the basic knowledge of Chinese art and culture remains unfulfilled. The legend of Eight Immortals is similar to the doctrines of Taoism, that’s why the popularity of this legend increased with the advent of Taoism.

The Eight immortals usually refer to a group of eight legendary “Xian” or immortals. They are: Immortal Woman He Xiangu, Royal Uncle Cao Guojiu, Lan Caihe, the leader of the group Lu Dongbin, Iron Crutch Li, Philosopher Han Xiang Zi, Zhang Guo Lao and lastly Han Zhongli. These immortals possessed amazing powers and they could transfer their power to a tool of power that could give life and destroy evil spirits.

The legend of Eight Immortals influenced many art forms, including Taoism paintings and literature. Although the Eight Immortals are reported to have born in Tang and Song Dynasties they first appeared in art forms only in Jin dynasty. Taoism gave them an official recognition as Eight Immortals when they first appeared in the writings and art works of the Taoist sect known as Quanshen.

The pictures of Eight Immortals are considered to be the signs of prosperity and longevity. You can find them depicted on celadon vases, paintings, silk paintings, wall murals, wood block printings etc. The Eight Immortals are also frequent in sculptures. You can find those Eight Immortals together or separately, if you wish to pay your homage to any specific Immortal.

One very specific feature of the Eight Immortals pictures of that period was that they were often accompanied by jade hand maidens or other images which delineate great spiritual power. This goes on to underline the early influence they had on Taoism.


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