Myths and Legends of China
Page: 123Elsewhere it is related that T’ieh-kuai, after entering the body of the lame beggar, benevolently proceeded to revive the mother of Yang, his negligent disciple. Leaning on his iron staff and carrying a gourd of medicines on his back he went to Yang’s house, where preparations were being made for the funeral. The contents of the gourd, poured into the mouth, revived the dead woman. He then made himself known, and, giving Yang another pill, vanished in a gust of wind. Two hundred years later he effected the immortalization of his disciple. Page 291
During his peregrinations on earth he would hang a bottle on the wall at night and jump into it, emerging on the following morning. He frequently returned to earth, and at times tried to bring about the transmigration of others.
An example is the case of Ch’ao Tu, the watchman. T’ieh-kuai walked into a fiery furnace and bade Ch’ao follow. The latter, being afraid of imitating an act evidently associated with the supernatural world of evil spirits, refused to do so. T’ieh-kuai then told Ch’ao to step on to a leaf floating on the surface of the river, saying that it was a boat that would bear him across safely. Again the watchman refused, whereupon T’ieh-kuai, remarking that the cares of this world were evidently too weighty for him to be able to ascend to immortality, stepped on to the leaf himself and vanished.
Regarding the origin and life of this Immortal several different accounts are given. One states that his family name was Chung-li, and that he lived in the Han dynasty, being therefore called Han Chung-li. His cognomen was Ch’üan, his literary appellation Chi Tao, and his pseudonyms Ho-ho Tzŭ and Wang-yang Tzŭ; his style Yün-fang.
He was born in the district of Hsien-yang Hsien (a sub-prefecture of the ancient capital Hsi-an Fu) in Shensi. He became Marshal of the Empire in the cyclic year 2496. In his old age he became a hermit on Yang-chio Shan, thirty li north-east of I-ch’êng Hsien in the prefecture of P’ing-yang Fu in Shansi. He is referred to by the title of King-emperor of the True Active Principle. Page 292
Another account describes Chung-li Ch’üan as merely a vice-marshal in the service of Duke Chou Hsiao. He was defeated in battle, and escaped to Chung-nan Shan, where he met the Five Heroes, the Flowers of the East, who instructed him in the doctrine of immortality. At the end of the T’ang dynasty Han Chung-li taught this same science of immortality to Lü Tung-pin (see p. 297), and took the pompous title of the Only Independent One Under Heaven.
Other versions state that Han Chung-li is not the name of a person, but of a country; that he was a Taoist priest Chung Li-tzŭ; and that he was a beggar, Chung-li by name, who gave to one Lao Chih a pill of immortality. No sooner had the latter swallowed it than he went mad, left his wife, and ascended to Heaven.
During a great famine he transmuted copper and pewter into silver by amalgamating them with some mysterious drug. This treasure he distributed among the poor, and thousands of lives were thus saved.