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Elizabeth Reninger

Iron Crutch Li

By September 2, 2008

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The most ancient of the Eight Immortals is Taiguai Li – Iron Crutch Li – who is known as the patron of the injured and diseased. For forty years Immortal Li studied with Laozi, often going for long periods without food or sleep, in order to devote himself single-pointedly to meditation practice.

Taiguai Li, like all of the Immortals, is frequently shown carrying a calabash - a gourd bottle. Spiraling up from the gourd is a misty cloud, which contains Immortal Li’s hun (ethereal soul), and/or a spherical object representing the Philosopher’s Stone – that which allows an alchemist to turn base metal into gold. At night, Taiguai Li could make himself small enough so that he could sleep inside his gourd. Iron Cruth Li’s specific emblem is his iron crutch. He is sometimes shown riding on a qilin (pictured above) – a mythical hoofed creature cloaked in flames.

Iron Crutch Li is the most gnarly-looking of the Eight Immortals. Why is this? As the story goes ... read more

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