Myths and Legends of China

Page: 125

In the twenty-third year (A.D. 735) of the reign-period K’ai Yüan of the Emperor Hsüan Tsung of the T’ang dynasty, he was called to Lo-yang in Honan, and elected Chief of the Imperial Academy, with the honourable title of Very Perspicacious Teacher.

It was just at this time that the famous Taoist Yeh Fa-shan, thanks to his skill in necromancy, was in great favour at Court. The Emperor asked him who this Chang Kuo Lao (he usually has the epithet Lao, ‘old,’ added to his name) was. “I know,” replied the magician; “but if I were to tell your Majesty I should fall dead at your feet, Page 295so I dare not speak unless your Majesty will promise that you will go with bare feet and bare head to ask Chang Kuo to forgive you, in which case I should immediately revive.” Hsüan Tsung having promised, Fa-shan then said: “Chang Kuo is a white spiritual bat which came out of primeval chaos.” No sooner had he spoken than he dropped dead at the Emperor’s feet.

Hsüan Tsung, with bare head and feet, went to Chang Kuo as he had promised, and begged forgiveness for his indiscretion. The latter then sprinkled water on Fa-shan’s face and he revived. Soon after Chang fell sick and returned to die in the Hêng Chou Mountains during the period A.D. 742–746. When his disciples opened his tomb, they found it empty.

He is usually seen mounted on his white mule, sometimes facing its head, sometimes its tail. He carries a phœnix-feather or a peach of immortality.

At his interviews with the Emperor Ming Huang in A.D. 723 (when he was alive still) Chang Kuo “entertained the Emperor with a variety of magical tricks, such as rendering himself invisible, drinking off a cup of aconite, and felling birds or flowers by pointing at them. He refused the hand of an imperial princess, and also declined to have his portrait placed in the Hall of Worthies.”

A picture of Chang Kuo sitting on a donkey and offering a descendant to the newly married couple is often found in the nuptial chamber. It seems somewhat incongruous that an old ascetic should be associated with matrimonial happiness and the granting of offspring, but the explanation may possibly be connected with his performance of wonderful feats of necromancy, though he is said not to have given encouragement to others in these things during his lifetime. Page 296

Ho Hsien Ku

A maiden holding in her hand a magic lotus-blossom, the flower of open-heartedness, or the peach of immortality given her by Lü Tung-pin in the mountain-gorge as a symbol of identity, playing at times the shêng or reed-organ, or drinking wine—this is the picture the Chinese paint of the Immortal Ho Hsien Ku.

She was the daughter of Ho T’ai, a native of Tsêng-ch’êng Hsien in Kuangtung. Others say her father was a shopkeeper at Ling-ling in Hunan. She lived in the time of the usurping empress Wu (A.D. 684–705) of the T’ang dynasty. At her birth six hairs were found growing on the crown of her head, and the account says she never had any more, though the pictures represent her with a full head of hair. She elected to live on Yün-mu Ling, twenty li west of Tsêng-ch’êng Hsien. On that mountain was found a stone called