The Biographies of Immortals
by Lau Heong
Compiled and revised based on the translations by Ulrich Theobald & Lionel Giles
Master Red Pine (Tsec Tsong Tzee)
Master Red Pine was Master of Rain during the time of the Divine Farmer. He consumed liquid jade, a technique he recommended to the Divine Farmer. He was able to step into a fire without suffering burnings. He often went on the top of Kwun-Lorn mountain and rested in the stone chamber of the Queen Mother of the West, following wind and rain to walk up and down. The youngest daughter of Flamming Emperor, following him on his journeys, also obtained immortality and departed with him together. During the time of king Goe-Sun, he became again the Master of Rain, and thus is the origin of the actual Master of Rain.
Mah See Worng
Mah See Worng was a horse doctor in the time of the Yellow Emperor. He knew the vital symptoms in a horse's constitution, and on receiving his treatment the animal would immediately get well. Once a dragon flew down and approached him with drooping ears and open jaws. Huang said to himself: "This dragon is ill and knows that I can effect a cure." There-upon he performed acupuncture on its mouth just below the upper lip, and gave it a decoction of sweet herbs to swallow, which caused it to recover. Afterwards, whenever the dragon was ailing, it issued from its watery lair and presented itself for treatment. One morning the dragon took Worng on its back and bore him away.
Yellow Emperor (Worng Dhaee)
Yellow Emperor has the epithet "Hin-Yuen" (High Shaft). He was able to stimulate hundreds of gods, to call them to his court and to command them. He could already speak when he was a baby and knew the future thanks to his divinity. He knew the nature of all things and made himself Master of Clouds, having the shape of a dragon. Yellow Emperor chose himself his days of absence and took his leave from the ministers. When he died, he was buried on Bridge-Mountain. The mountain later collapsed, and his coffin was discovered to contain no corpse, only sword and sandals.
The Book of Immortals says, Yellow Emperor collected ores from the Head-Mountain and casted a ding tripod at the foothills of Ging-Mountain. When the tripod was finished, a dragon with a long beard came down from heaven to look after Yellow Emperor, who immediately ascended to Heaven. His ministers and officials all tried to catch the beard of the dragon and followed the emperor. When they tried to clamber the emperor's bow, the dragon's beard came off. The bow falling down, all the ministers were not more able to follow their emperor, watched after him and cried loudly. Later generations gave this area the name "Tripod Lake" and called the bow "Crow's Cries".
The Old Master (Loe Tzee / Lao Tzu)
Loe-Tzee's surname is Ley, his name is Yee, his epithet is Buc-Yeong, and he was from the state of Chen. He was born during the Yarn (Seong) dynasty and served as a scribe "under the pillar" under the Tzau dynasty. He was expert at cultivating his essential energy, good at acquiring it and preventing it from leaking.
Later, he became archivist and served for more than eighty years. The Historical Record (See-Gey) says, when he was more than two hundred years old, he was called "the hidden nobleman". His posthumous name is Darm.
Once, Zong-Ney (Confucius) went to Tzau and met Loe-Tzee. Confucius knew that Loe-Tzee was a sage and accepted him as his teacher.
Later, when the Virtue of Tzau dynasty became weak, Loe-Tzee left driving a green ox cart. He traveled to the country of Great Tsurn, where he had to enter the Western Pass of Hahm-Goc. The guardian of the pass, called Whun-Hey, was already waiting there to receive him, because he knew that Loe-Tzee was a Real Person. Whun-Hey asked Loe-Tzee to write down his teachings in a book, thereupon, Loe-Tzee wrote the Scripture of Tao and Virtue (Doe Duc Ging / Tao Te Ching), which is divided into two sections.
Whun the Guardian of the Pass
Whun-Hey, the Guardian of the Pass was an official of Tzau dynasty. He was versed in esoteric science and lived normally from the purest essences, but he guarded his virtue like a secret and did not let anybody know of it. When Loe-Tzee traveled to the west, Whun-Hey perceived his energy in advance and knew that a Real Person was coming. Because Loe-Tzee's holyness radiated many colors that covered him, Whun-Hey could finally get the Old Master Loe-Tzee. Loe-Tzee himself also knew that Whun-Hey was an extraordinary person, and therefore taught him his book. Later, they traveled together to the Moving Sands, converted the barbarians and made their life from eating lettuce. Nobody knows what finally became of them. Whun-Hey himself also wrote a book in nine chapters, called "Master Whun of the Pass" (Gwarn Whun Tzee).
Loie Seong was a native of Kay-Tzau. He was born possessing the intuition of a sage and the capacity of foreseeing life and death. From the disorderly conditions prevailing under the rule of Chau (The last ruler of the Seong (or Yarn) dynasty), he fled to the east of Lil, where he remained in seclusion for forty years. Then he wandered westward to the realm of Tzau, and found in the Southern Mountain another reclusion.
There in a stream called P'an he angled with rod and line for three years without catching a fish; and the people of those parts all told him that he had better stop fishing. But Loie Seong replied: "This is something quite beyond your comprehension." And at last he did succeed in catching a large carp, with a military seal in its belly.
(* He seems to have been waiting for the authorization of Heaven before he could advise the ruler of Tzau to embark on the grave enterprise of rebellion against the House of Yarn)
Meanwhile, Tzau Cultural King dreamt that he had found an inspired sage; and hearing of Loie Seong, he came in his chariot and took him back to the capital. When at last Tzau Military King smote Chau, Loie Seong wrote a book entitled Secret Counsel in over a hundred sections. He used to eat marsh fungi and the essence of the earth.
After the lapse of two hundred years he announced that he was about to depart this life. And so it came to pass, but there was trouble in the land, and his coffin remained unburied. Later on, when his son came to fulfill the funeral rites, no corpse was found in the coffin, which was empty but for a jade seal and six bamboo tablets of manuscript.
Moe-Gworng lived in the time of the Har dynasty. His ears were seven inches long.(Long pendant cars were regarded as the mark of a Sage) He was fond of playing on the lute, and fed on cattail roots.
When Torng of Yarn was about to smite Ghid, (a tyrant who was the last ruler of Har) he approached Moe-Gworng for counsel, but the latter said: "It is no affair of mine."
Torng asked from whom he should seek advice. -- "I do not know."--"What about Yee-Whun?"--"He who employs force must endure mortification. I do not know that it can be otherwise with him."
When Torng had overcome Ghid, he offered to hand over the administration of the Empire to Moe-Gworng, saying: "The wise proffer counsel to it, warriors rally to it, good men abide in it. That is the way of the ancients. Why do you, Sir, not rally to it? I wish to make you my chief minister." But Moe-Gworng refused, saying: "To abandon one's sovereign is not righteous; to kill other men is not humane. That others should encounter the difficulties and I enjoy the benefits is not just. I have heard that one should not touch the emoluments of unrighteousness, nor occupy an official post in a wicked generation. How can I, then, accept any honour for myself? I cannot bear to witness such things any longer." Thereupon, taking a stone on his back, he threw himself into the Lil-river, and disappeared for over four hundred years. In the reign of Moe-Ding he appeared again, and Moe-Ding wanted to make him his minister. He declined, and when Moe-Ding went to seek him in his chariot and attempted forcible measures, he fled into the Fau-Leong mountain, and afterwards wandered away over the Seong-Fu range.
Ngon Kay Seen Sarng
THE Master Ngon-Kay was a native of Fau-Heong in the district of Long-Yeh. He used to sell medicines on the shore of the Eastern Sea. His contemporaries all called him Old Father Thousand Years.
When the First Emperor of the Chun dynasty made a journey to the East, he sought an interview with Ngon-Kay, and lingered talking with him for three days and three nights. The Emperor bestowed on him vast quantities of gold and precious jewels; but on his departure Ngon-Kay left his gifts in the pavilion of Fau-Heong, together with a letter saying that he considered himself sufficiently rewarded with a pair of red jade slippers, and adding: "After the lapse of a few years look for me on the island of Fong-Loy."
The First Emperor lost no time in sending out to sea an expedition numbering several hundreds of persons, led by Tsoie-See and Loe-Sung. They never reached Fong-Loy, because they encountered violent storms which caused them to turn back. Shrines in honour of Ngon-Kay have been set up in about a dozen places along the sea shore near the Fau-Heong pavilion.
Hah-Yau-Tzong was a native of Ning [in South Manchuria], where for over a hundred years he was a seller of medicines, the people merely regarding him as an instance of ordinary longevity. (Not knowing that he was an Immortal.)
His hut was shattered by an earthquake, and dozens of dwelling-houses in the same village were destroyed in the flood that followed. Tzong himself perished; whereupon some people came and threw his dead body into the river, afterwards proceeding to appropriate his medicines and offer them for sale. But ere long they found themselves confronted by Tzong in person, who was wearing a coat.
The culprits who had stolen his medicines and disposed of his body were terrified, and prostrating themselves at his feet begged for mercy. Tzong, however, said: "I am only vexed that you have caused people to know me for what I am. I must depart."
Subsequently he served as an express messenger under the barbarian King of Fu-Yiu (A kingdom in the north of Korea.), in which capacity he revisited Ning. Throughout the northern regions he was known as the banished Immortal.
Dong Forng Soc
Dong Forng Soc is from Yim-Tsee of Ping-Yiun. He stayed for a long time in Ng-Tzong where he was a school master for several decades. In the time of emperor Horn-Moe (r. 140-87 BC), he presented several proposals and was made a court director. In the time of emperor Tsil (r. 86-74 BC), some people argued if he was a saint, but others said he was an ordinary person, because sometimes he had a very profound attitude, sometimes a superficial one, sometimes he was very open-minded, but sometimes very reserved. Nobody knows what to think about him, because he could be very sincere, but also extremely playful. During the reign of emperor Suen (r. 73-49 BC), he retired from office to escape the chaos of the official world. After laying down his director cap in the office, he was blown away by the wind. Later he was seen at Whuid-Kye where he sold medicines in the area of the Five Lakes. Wise people esteem that he was the spirit of the planet Jupiter.
Care Long Ming
Care Long Ming (literally "Ride-dragon-uttering") was a native of Whun-Ting. At the age of twenty, when searching in a pool, he found a young dragon, in shape resembling a house-lizard, with more than ten heads. He gave it food and kept it in a hut thatched with straw. Soon after the dragon was fully grown it disappeared. Some fifty years later the hut was washed away by a flood, and its owner left the locality.
One day he returned to Whun-Ting riding on the dragon, and shouted to the inhabitants below: "I am the grandson of Fong-Buc-Tseong. If the people in this place do not remove to a distance of five hundred LEY, they will perish."
Those who put faith in the warning all went away, while the others regarded it merely as a piece of devilry. But in the eighth moon a flood actually did occur, in which thousands of persons lost their lives.
Tseong-Yong was a Taoist of Seong-Sarn, who called himself Yarn-Worng-Tzee. His food was the root of the wild bramble, and he spent his life roaming about the country. Though seen at intervals during more than two hundred years, his complexion remained that of a man of about twenty. From certain plants he was able to extract purple which he used to sell to dyers. Any money that he got he would give to widows and orphans -- he kept doing that for generation after generation [of worldly people], thus the shrines put up in his honour were ten thousand in number.
Kai-Fu was a basket-maker of Nam-Gwun, and dwelt in the mountains. There was constantly staying at his home a certain immortal from whom he bought melons. The latter taught him how to extract the active principle from melon-seeds; he kept a store of these together with the seeds of cassia fruit and berries of angelica, and after eating them in equal proportions for twenty years and more, was able to move at a flying speed, to scale high mountains, and to live under water. More than a century later he was dwelling on the summit of Mount Tziu. People called him the Old Man of the Valley, and he would talk to them about things that had happened in the course of his lifetime.
Goc-Tsorn was a native of Lig-Yeong, and held an official post in the reign of the Emperor Sing. (32-7 B.C.)
Stricken with disease, he died to all appearance, except that his body did not grow cold. His relatives carried out the funeral ceremonies and went into mourning, but they were loth to nail up the coffin.
Three years later, Goc-Tsorn reappeared, sitting upon the parapet of one of the town gates, and still wearing his cone-shaped official hat. Consternation prevailed among the townsfolk. His relatives came to bring him home, but he would not go with them. They opened his coffin, and found grave-clothes but no corpse. For three days and nights Goc-Tsorn remained where he was. Then he transported himself to Tseong-Ngorn [the capital] and took up a similar position above the Wharng Gate.
As soon as his people heard of it, they went after him and tried to get him to return. Again he departed, and took refuge on Mt. Tai-Buc. A shrine was then built for him on the mountain, to which he would come from time to time and stay for the night.
Yum-Sung was a beggar boy who lived under a bridge spanning the river Wai at Tseong-Ngon. He used to take up his stand in the market-place and beg from the people there. On one occasion, disgusted by his begging, they bespattered him with filth. Yet, when he appeared in his place again, his clothes were in their normal condition and showed no trace of dirt. The officer, getting wind of the affair, had him arrested and thrown into chains; and yet he continued to beg in the market-place. The officer then arrested him again and planed to kill him. This time, he left the city, but the houses of all those who had bespattered him collapsed in ruins, hurting some dozen people. Hence the jingle which is current in Tseong-Ngon:
"If you meet a beggar boy, give him a delicious drink,
Or your house will fall down before you can wink."
Moe-Neoi [" Hairy Lady "], whose style is Yorc-Geong, has been seen by hunters on Mount Wha-Yum for many generations. Her body is covered with hair. She professes to be one of the ladies from the palace of the First Emperor of Tsorn, during the troubles that attended the downfall of the Tsorn dynasty, became a wandering fugitive and took refuge on the mountain. There she encountered the Taoist recluse Goc-Tsorn, who taught her to eat pine-needles. In consequence of this diet she became immune from cold and hunger, and her body was so etherealized that it seemed to fly along. For over 170 years the mountain grotto in which she makes her abode has resounded to the thrumming of a lute.
Where Foc-Leoy originally came from is not known; but he constantly stayed at Geoy [in San-Dong], and wandered about among the temples along the sea-coast. In one temple he met three immortal(SEEN)s gambling for melons. Seeing Foc-Leoy, they bade him bring them a few dozen yellow and white melons and then told him to shut his eyes. When he opened them again, he found himself in the Forng-Tzeong mountain, which lies to the south of Pong-Loy.
Afterwards, when he revisited Geoy, he brought out a quantity of pearls and jade and other precious things which he had taken from Forng-Tzeong mountain, and offered them for sale. Time went on, and one day he appeared in reddish brown garments (The usual garb of a criminal), with shaven head and all the look of an old man. On being questioned, he said that he had been convicted of stealing objects from a temple.
A few years later, however, he resumed his youthful appearance and his hair grew long again as it was in the days gone by.
Mun-Bun was a villager of Tye-Yau, who made his living as a vendor of straw sandals. He had married and several decades later divorced. At a later period, his former wife, who had now passed the age of ninety, saw Mun-Bun again. He was still in the full vigour of manhood, and the old lady wept, and pleaded with him to take her back. Mun-Bun excused himself, saying: "It wouldn't do; but could you perhaps meet me at the altar west of the village pavilion, at daybreak on the first of the first moon?" Accordingly, the old lady, accompanied by her grandson, travelled over ten LEYs by night and sat by the altar waiting for Pin. In a short time he arrived and was greatly surprised to see her. "So you really love Tao, then?" he said. "Had I known that before, I should never have sent you away." He then instructed her to swallow chrysanthemum petals, Day-Fu [Kochia scoparia, Schr.], certain epiphytes of the mulberry, and pine-seeds. Thus increasing her store of vital energy, she too became rejuvenated, and was seen for more than a hundred years afterwards.
Fu Tzee Seen
Fu Tzee Seen was a fortune-teller of Gwarn-Hah in Horn-Tzong. When he had reached the age of a hundred odd, he made preparations to depart, and called to his old wife Tzau-Gah, saying: "Get ready as quickly as you can! You and I must obey the summons of the King Tzong-Ling [a ruler of the Immortals]."
The same night, an Immortal came to Fu Tzee Seen, bringing with him a couple of straw dogs. He and the lady Tzau-Gah each mounted one of these steeds, which straightway turned into dragons and flew up Mount Whah-Yum. Since then they have constantly been heard shouting from the top of the mountain: "Here we are! Tzee-Seen and the lady Tzau-Gah!".
The Master Fu-Goc [Box-carrier] was a man of uncertain origin, but his speech seemed to indicate that he had lived in the old Yeen State. (A feudal State in the north of China which was annexed by Tsorn in 222 B.C)
He always carried on his back a box of implements for polishing mirrors, and used to frequent the market-towns of Ng in order to exhibit his skill in this work. He charged one cash for polishing a mirror. Having inquired of his host if there were any sick persons in the place, he would produce a medicine made up into purple pills and administer these. Those who took them invariably recovered.
After he had been practising in this way for some forty years or so, a great pestilence broke out, and whole families flocked to consult him. He gave medicine and saved thousands of lives, but would not take a single cash in return, so that the people of Ng recognized in him a Real Person.
Afterwards he took up his abode on Mount Ng, and used to lower medicines down the side of a steep precipice for the benefit of those in the valley below. At last, having made up his mind to depart, he announced his intention as follows; "I am returning to the fairy island of Pong-Loy, and will send some magic water from the top of the cliff for you all." And true enough, one day a stream of white-coloured liquid was seen trickling down rocks. People came and drank it, and many were cured of their diseases. In a dozen places shrines were erected in Fu-Goc's honour.
Moc-Yiu was a native of Waw-Ping village, south of Geoy-Loc [in Woo-Buc]. His mother was poor and of humble station, and followed the profession of a midwife. She attended on a lady at her confinement, and when the child was born it opened its eyes and, looking at its mother, burst out laughing. The mother was much alarmed, but that night the midwife dreamed that she saw a personage in a large official cap with a red kerchief, watching over the child, who said: "This boy is the Controller of human destiny. In requital for your kindly services he will cause your son Moc-Yiu to attain Immortality." The woman believed and treasured up this promise in her heart; and afterwards, when she gave birth to a son, she gave him the name of Moc-Yiu. When the other boy, whom she had helped to bring into the world, had reached the age of fifteen, a carriage and horses came to fetch him away in the night; and as he passed the woman's house he called out: "Moc-Yiu! Moc-Yiu! Come and drive my carriage for me." So they both went off together.