The eight immortals

  • The Immortals

    The best-known protagonists of Daoism are the Eight Immortals. These half-legendary people are said to have recognised the Dao and thus acquired immortality. Numerous legends are told about the Eight Immortals, all of which emphasise the individuality of each experience of enlightenment.

    Two of these immortals are “Iron Crutch Li” (Li Tieguai) and Liu Hai. Iron Crutch Li is represented
    as a dirty, ragged and limping beggar with an iron crutch. Originally he was a healthy man. But on one of his spiritual journeys his mind left his body for so long that he was believed to be dead and his body was cremated. When the mind did not find his body on its return, it had no choice but to slip into the body of a beggar who had just died.

    Liu Hai was a high civil servant who was converted by the immortal Zhongli Quan. Zhongli Quan showed him the meaninglessness of his desire for success by building a tower out of ten eggs and ten coins. Liu Hai recognised that his situation as a civil servant was much more difficult and more dangerous than this wobbly tower demonstrated. He quit his career as a civil servant and went in search of the Dao. His symbol is the three-legged toad.