The Eight Immortals have been part of Chinese oral history long befor they were recorded in the works of writers of various dynasties - Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming.
But it was Wu Yuantai (吳元泰 wú yuán taì) of the Ming dynasty who wrote 'The Emergence of the Eight lmmortals and their Travels to the East', since than the Eight began to be clearly distinguished.
In Chinese mythology the Eight Immortals are believed to know the secrets of nature. They represent separately male, female, the old, the young, the rich, the noble, the poor, and the humble Chinese.
Each Immortal's power can be transferred to a tool of power, kind of a talisman associated with a certain meaning, that can give life or destroy evil.
Together, these eight tools are called “Hidden Eight Immortals” or "Covert Eight Immortals".
Not only are they revered by Taoists, but by all Chinese society. They are the base for various literature, folk tales and are pictured in art. Symbols are representing the characteristic attributes of each Immortal and they were depicted on a wide variety of porcelain, bronze, ivory, and embroidered objects.
From the time of the Ming dynasty, there is another work by an unknown writer, called The "Eight Immortals Cross the Sea" (八仙過海; bā xiān guò hǎi). The legend is about the Immortals on a journey to attend the "Conference of the Magical Peach" (蟠桃會 pán taó huì) and on this journey they encounter an ocean. Instead of going across by their clouds, the immortals way of transportation, their leader Lü Dongbin suggested, that they all together should use their magical powers to get across. Stemming from this, the Chinese proverb "The Eight Immortals cross the Sea, each reveals its divine power" indicates the situation that everybody should show off their powers to achieve a common goal.
The Eight Immortals are:
He Xian Gu (何仙姑; pinyin: Hé Xiān Gū)
According to a different version, He Xian Gu, daughter of a 7th-century shopkeeper, ate a magic peach and became immortal. Since than she is flying about.
She is attributed by the lotus/lotus pond, which can cultivate people through meditation.
Occasionally she is attributed with a peach, the divine fruit of Gods, associated with immortality or a music instrument or a ladle to dispense wisdom, meditation and purity.
Cao Gou Jiu (曹國舅; pinyin: Cáo Guó Jiù)
He is also attributed with a jade tablet, which can purify the air.
He is represented by wearing formal court dress, always the finest dress among all Eight Immortals, and carrying castanets.
Cao Gou Jiu is the patron deity of actors.
Li Tie Guai (李鐵拐; pinyin: Lĭ Tiĕ Guăi)
He is represented as a lame beggar carrying a double gourd. The gourd, symbolising longevity and the ability to ward off evil, has a cloud emanating from it. The cloud represents the soul, depicted as a formless shape.
Lan Cai (蓝采和; pinyin: Lán Cǎihé)
She/he is variously portrayed as a youth, an aged man, or a girl; in modern pictures generally as a young boy.
She/he is represented by wearing a tattered blue gown and only one shoe.
Lü Dongbin (呂洞賓; pinyin: Lǚ Dòngbīn)
He is represented with a sword on his back and a fly brush in his hand.
Han Xiang Zi (韓湘子; pinyin: Hán Xiāng Zi)
He is represented as a Happy Man.
Han Xiang Zi is the patron saint of musicians.
Zhang Guo Lao (張果老; pinyin: Zhāng Guǒ Lǎo)
He is represented as an old man riding the mule, at times riding backwards.
Zhongli Quan (鐘离權; Pinyin: Zhōnglí Quán)
He is represented as a Fat Man with his bare belly showing.
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