Xian (Myths and Legends of the World)
In the Taoist mythology of China, the Xian (or Hsien) are a group of eight characters who at one time lived as humans on earth. Some of the Xian were real individuals mentioned in historical records; others appear only in myths and legends.
Popular subjects in Chinese mythology and art, the Xian are said to travel the universe together in a state of perfect health and happiness. They perform various wonders and miracles and serve as models for those seeking the tao, or wayhe path to an ideal state of being and existence. In Chinese art, these Eight Immortals often appear as a group, each depicted with his or her own characteristic clothing and possessions.
How the Xian Achieved Immortality. The stories about the Xian explain how each achieved immortality in a different way. The first to reach this state was Li Tieguai (Iron Crutch), a hermit who went 40 years without food or sleep. According to some stories, Li Tieguai acquired immortality and his crutch from the Queen Mother of the West, who saw him limping and begging. Other legends say that Laozi, the founder of Taoism, came down from heaven to teach Li Tieguai the wisdom of the gods. One day Li sent his spirit to Laozi. When he returned, he found that a follower had burned his body, believing him to be dead. So Li entered the body of a deformed beggar who had died, gaining both immortality and a new...
(The entire section is 924 words.)
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