Myths and Legends of China

Page: 121

Miao Shan becomes a Buddha

The guardian spirit on duty that day then announced the arrival of a messenger from Yü Huang. It was T’ai-po Chin-hsing, who was the bearer of a divine decree, which he handed to Miao Shan. It read as follows: “I, the august Emperor, make known to you this decree: Miao Chuang, King of Hsing Lin, forgetful alike of Heaven and Hell, the six virtues, and metempsychosis, has led a blameworthy life; but your nine years of penitence, the filial piety which caused you to sacrifice your own body to effect his cure, in short, all your virtues, have redeemed his faults. Your eyes can see and your ears can hear all the good and bad deeds and words of men. You are the object of my especial regard. Therefore I make proclamation of this decree of canonization.

“Miao Shan will have the title of Very Merciful and Very Compassionate P’u-sa, Saviour of the Afflicted, Miraculous and Always Helpful Protectress of Mortals. On your lofty precious lotus-flower throne, you will be the Sovereign of the Southern Seas and of P’u T’o Isle.

“Your two sisters, hitherto tainted with earthly pleasures, will gradually progress till they reach true perfection.

“Miao Ch’ing will have the title of Very Virtuous P’u-sa, the Completely Beautiful, Rider of the Green Lion.

“Miao Yin will be honoured with the title of Very Virtuous and Completely Resplendent P’u-sa, Rider of the White Elephant. Page 287

“King Miao Chuang is raised to the dignity of Virtuous Conquering P’u-sa, Surveyor of Mortals.

“Queen Po Ya receives the title of P’u-sa of Ten Thousand Virtues, Surveyor of Famous Women.

“Shan Ts’ai has bestowed upon him the title of Golden Youth.

“Lung Nü has the title of Jade Maiden.

“During all time incense is to be burned before all the members of this canonized group.” Page 288

1 See Chapter IV.

2 This has reference to the change of Kuan Yin from the masculine to the feminine gender, already mentioned.

3 There is evidently a mistake here, since the King was twenty when he ascended the throne and fifty at the birth of Miao Shan.

Chapter XI

The Eight Immortals

Pa Hsien

Either singly or in groups the Eight Immortals, Pa Hsien, of the Taoist religion are one of the most popular subjects of representation in China; their portraits are to be seen everywhere—on porcelain vases, teapots, teacups, fans, scrolls, embroidery, etc. Images of them are made in porcelain, earthenware, roots, wood, metals. The term ‘Eight Immortals’ is figuratively used for happiness. The number eight has become lucky in association with this tradition, and persons or things eight in number are graced accordingly. Thus we read of reverence shown to the ‘Eight Genii Table’ (Pa Hsien Cho), the ‘Eight Genii Bridge’ (Pa Hsien Ch’iao), ‘Eight Genii Vermicelli’ (Pa Hsien Mien), the ‘Eight Genii of the Wine-cup’ (Tin Chung Pa Hsien)—wine-bibbers of the T’ang dynasty celebrated by Tu Fu, the poet. They are favourite subjects of romance, and special objects of adoration. In them we see “the embodiment of the ideas of perfect but imaginary happiness which possess the minds of the Chinese people.” Three of them (Chung-li Ch’üan, Chang Kuo, and Lü Yen) were historical personages; the others are mentioned only in fables or romances. They represent all kinds of people—old, young, male, female, civil, military, rich, poor, afflicted, cultured, noble. They are also representative of early, middle, and later historical periods.

The legend of the Eight Immortals is certainly not older than the time of the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960–1280), and is probably to be assigned to that of the Yüan dynasty (1280–1368). But some, if not all, of the group seem to Page 289have been previously celebrated as Immortals in the Taoist legends. Their biographies are usually arranged in the order of their official eminence or seniority in age. Here I follow that adopted in Hsiu hsiang Pa Hsien tung yu chi