How many Taoist practitioners have achieved Immortality? No-one knows! Laozi – the founder of Taoism – is of course among them, as well as his spiritual descendent, Zhuangzi. But countless are the numbers of hermits and wandering Taoist sages, whose levels of realization were known only to themselves – and perhaps also their equally anonymous teachers!
In spite of (or perhaps because of?) this fact, the so-called “Eight Immortals” (Baxian) have emerged, within organized forms of Taoism, as mythological archetypes of the experience of Immortality. Among the Eight Immortals, a number seem to have had actual historical existences. They were “real people.” Nevertheless, the many stories that have accumulated, describing the magical and mysterious lives of these practitioners, make it well-nigh impossible to distinguish historical from mythological reality.
For me, these stories of the lives of the Eight Immortals are a source of inspiration, devotion and – occasionally – simple entertainment. I don’t doubt the possibility of the feats described, because I tend to think that anything is possible, and love to “push the envelop” in various ways. It doesn’t really matter to me whether their human existence can be proven, or not. For this reason, the short introductions below do not include any details about their supposed historical lives. Instead, I’ve focused on their identifying characteristics, and a couple of stories from the lives of each. Enjoy!
Meet The Eight Immortals
Follow the links below for introductions to each of the Eight Immortals:
1. He Xian Gu - Immortal Woman He
2. Cao Guo Jiu – Royal Uncle Cao
3. Taiguai Li – Iron Crutch Li
4. Lan Caihe
5. Lu Dongbin (also spelled Lu Tung Pin)
6. Han Xiang Zi – Philosopher Han Xiang
7. Zhang Guo Lao – Elder Zhang Guo
8. Zhongli Quan