The Eight immortals (Ba Sien) could fly and kill demons, eradicating evil from the world. Some gods were born as gods, but not the Eight Immortals – they were once people living on earth, but thanks to their qualities and devotion to Taoism, they gained immortality and earned their place among the other gods.

Statue of the Eight Immortals in Penlai City, Shandong

Li Xuan

Li Xuan was the first of the Eight Immortals to receive his immortality, a follower of Taoism, to whom the Queen Mother of the West and wife of the Jade Emperor, Xi Wanmu, revealed the secrets of eternal life with the elixir of the gods. Li Xuan’s diseased right leg was healed by the mother goddess, but he remained lame. So she gave him an iron crutch to help herself.

One day, Li Xuan stopped in front of a river he wanted to cross, but he couldn’t. There was only one leaf and he stepped on it and floated across the river. There was a man nearby, and Li Xuan invited him to climb the list, but the man replied that he was afraid he would sink. Li Xuan told him that human thoughts were heavy, so he would not stay afloat. Then Li Xuan climbed back on the leaf and flew to Eastern Paradise.

Zhongli Quan

In ancient times, Zhongli Quan resigned as commander of the emperor’s court. He lived as a hermit in the mountains and was said to be able to transform copper into silver, but used his ability to help the poor, not for his own benefit. During his many travels around the country, he met the immortal Li Xuan, who in turn introduced him to Taoism. Junli became immortal and became a messenger of the gods.

Liu/Lü Dongbin

After a long journey, Lu Dongbin arrived tired and thirsty at an inn. Zhongli was also in the inn, heating rice brandy. As he watched the immortal, his eyelids grew heavy and he fell asleep. He dreamed that he had reaped success at a high service in the palace for fifty years. He amassed enormous wealth, but trouble befell him, it happened that he was sent into exile. Lu Dongbin awoke from his sleep, and Zhongli was still heating the rice brandy. Lu understood the message of the dream – earthly glory can end in pain, so he devoted himself to the study of Taoism and later discovered the secret of immortality.

Han Xiangzi

Diligently studying the ideas and concepts of Taoism, Han Xiangzi followed in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Han Yu, who was a famous philosopher of the Tang Dynasty. He quickly assimilated everything that Han Yu showed him about Taoism and even predicted its future – he would soon regain the favor of the emperor, which he had lost.

After Han Xiangji learned everything his great-grandfather could teach him, he sought another teacher and became a follower of the immortal Liu Dongbin. Proving to be a wise student, Liu led Han to the peach tree to gain immortality.

He climbed high, but slipped and flew down. Fortunately, he climbed a great height from the tree, so before he hit the ground, Han Xiangzi became immortal. Han lived with Lu and the other immortals in Eastern Paradise.

Cao Guojiu

Cao Guojiu, unlike Lu Dongbin, who dreamed of holding a high state position, Cao was indeed in that position – he was the brother of one of the empresses of the Song Dynasty. However, he was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and was thrown in jail. After serving his sentence for several years, he was released. Fully aware of the human lust for power, he did not return to the palace. Instead, he went to the mountains and distributed all his wealth, living as a hermit.

The gold plaque worn by all the courtiers was the only memory of his previous service in the court. Once he reached a river he could not cross – he had no money to pay the boatman. He offered him the gold plate in return, but the boatman refused because he was abusing his power as an official. Cao then threw the plate into the water to show that he had renounced his earthly goods. The boatman was impressed and was not just anyone, but the immortal Lu Dongbin himself. Lu initiated Cao into the secrets of Taoism, and Cao later joined the immortal gods.

Zhang Guolao

Often the emperor and empress cinnamon the hermit Zhang Guolao, who had magical abilities. He stubbornly refused and preferred the tranquility of his solitary life, but many pleas eventually led him to accept. He arrived in the capital, but died at the gates of a temple. And it came to life, even though it began to decay. The emperor was greatly impressed by his other skills: he became invisible, drank poison, turned birds into stones by pointing fingers at them.

The Eight Immortals crossing the sea,Werner, E. T. C. (1922)

He returned after a long time, now as an old man, to his mountain refuge. When he died, he was buried near his home. His followers opened the tomb after a while, but it was empty. Zhang Guolao became immortal. He is said to ride a magic donkey that can fold like a sheet of paper and put it in his bag whenever he wants.

He, along with Lu Dongbin and Li Xuan, was one of the strongest immortals. Glory came to the three, dressed in lavish clothing and brave deeds in their fight against demons. They often got into trouble after drinking feasts, and sometimes played dangerous tricks, such as when they set fire to the ocean.

Lan Caihe

The most mysterious of the Eight Immortals was Lan Caihe. No one knew if he was a man or a woman, although the stories about him are always masculine. He was known as an incredible healer who knew the healing power of many Chinese plants. Once, while collecting herbs in the mountains, he met an old beggar who was in great pain. Dan examined him, his body covered in ulcers. He quickly washed it, bandaged the wounds, and continued to heal it until it healed.

The old man was not an ordinary man, but the immortal Cao Guojiu. Cao was so impressed by the healer’s diligence, knowledge, and devotion that he took Dan with him to the Eastern Paradise and made him immortal.

He Xiangu

A young girl who lived near the Pearl Mountain did not have Ha Xieng. In her dream, a ghost visited her one night. He told her to go to the mountains, take pearl powder, and drink it, and she would become immortal. When she woke up, she followed the directions of the spirit – she went to the mountain and swallowed a few pearl stones. She soon became immortal and joined the other gods in the Eastern Paradise.