Myths and Legends of China

Page: 129

The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea

The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea

Pa Hsien Kuo Hai

The phrase Pa Hsien kuo hai, ‘the Eight Immortals crossing the sea,’ refers to the legend of an expedition made by these deities. Their object was to behold the wondrous things of the sea not to be found in the celestial sphere.

The usual mode of celestial locomotion—by taking a seat on a cloud—was discarded at the suggestion of Lü Yen who recommended that they should show the infinite variety of their talents by placing things on the surface of the sea and stepping on them.

Li T’ieh-kuai threw down his crutch, and scudded rapidly over the waves. Chung-li Ch’üan used his feather-fan, Chang Kuo his paper mule, Lü Tung-pin his sword, Han Hsiang Tzŭ his flower-basket, Ho Hsien Ku her lotus-flower, Lan Ts’ai-ho his musical instrument, and Ts’ao Kuo-chiu his tablet of admission to Court. The popular pictures often represent most of these articles changed into various kinds of sea-monsters. The musical instrument was noticed by the son of the Dragon-king of the Eastern Sea. This avaricious prince conceived the idea of stealing the instrument and imprisoning its owner. The Immortals thereupon declared war, the Page 304details of which are described at length by the Chinese writers, the outcome being that the Dragon-king was utterly defeated. After this the Eight Immortals continued their submarine exploits for an indefinite time, encountering numberless adventures; but here the author travels far into the fertile region of romance, beyond the frontiers of our present province. Page 305

1 An Illustrated Account of the Eight Immortals’ Mission to the East.

Chapter XII

The Guardian of the Gate of Heaven

Li, the Pagoda-bearer

In Buddhist temples there is to be seen a richly attired figure of a man holding in his hand a model of a pagoda. He is Li, the Prime Minister of Heaven and father of No-cha.

He was a general under the tyrant Chou and commander of Ch’ên-t’ang Kuan at the time when the bloody war was being waged which resulted in the extinction of the Yin dynasty.

No-cha is one of the most frequently mentioned heroes in Chinese romance; he is represented in one account as being Yü Huang’s shield-bearer, sixty feet in height, his three heads with nine eyes crowned by a golden wheel, his eight hands each holding a magic weapon, and his mouth vomiting blue clouds. At the sound of his Voice, we are told, the heavens shook and the foundations of the earth trembled. His duty was to bring into submission all the demons which desolated the world.

His birth was in this wise. Li Ching’s wife, Yin Shih, bore him three sons, the eldest Chin-cha, the second Mu-cha, and the third No-cha, generally known as ‘the Third Prince.’

Yin Shih dreamed one night that a Taoist priest entered her room. She indignantly exclaimed: “How dare you come into my room in this indiscreet manner?” The priest replied: “Woman, receive the child of the unicorn!” Before she could reply the Taoist pushed an object to her bosom.

Yin Shih awoke in a fright, a cold sweat all over her body. Having awakened her husband, she told him Page 306what she had dreamed. At that moment she was seized with the pains of childbirth. Li Ching withdrew to an adjoining room, uneasy at what seemed to be inauspicious omens. A little later two servants ran to him, crying out: “Your wife has given birth to a monstrous freak!”