Immortals


The spiritual beings of primary importance in religious Taoism are the Immortals (Xian in Chinese). First introduced in the Chuang-Tzu and perhaps intended by the author to be allegorical, these super-humans or "perfected persons" (chen jen) came to be worshipped and emulated by Taoists. Some even seek to locate them, in the hope of asking them their secret of immortality.

In the Chuang-Tzu, these perfect beings dwell far away in an untroubled place, where they experience an effortless existence of physical freedom. They are ageless, eat nothing but air, drink nothing but dew, and enjoy the power of flight. They exemplify the Taoist virtue of spontaneity - they are nothing other than their essential nature.

The Eight Immortals

These powerful beings are especially known and revered in the group of Eight Immortals, who are said to have been born in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) or Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The Eight Immortals frequently appear in Chinese literature, mythology and art and they each have a symbol and special power. As a group, they are associated symbolically with good fortune as well as the "eight conditions of life" (youth, age, poverty, wealth, high rank, common people, feminine and masculine).

References

    - "Taoism." Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004.
    - John Bowker, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions (2000).
    - Xian (Daoist Immortal) - Wikipedia (Janurary 2007)