The Timeless Legend of the Eight Immortals
Since ancient times, when a large number of Chinese communities migrated and settled in Thailand, the interchange of cultural beliefs and practices between the two countries have become deeply ingrained in both societies.
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One is the transmission of auspicious numeral beliefs which are derived from the pronunciation of words with ascendant meanings. Due to its similar pronunciation to “fa” in from the word “发财 or fācái,” which means “wealth” or “getting rich” in Chinese, number 8, which is pronounced as “ba” (八 or Bā), became the most popular among believers who aim for prosperous fortunes. In addition, its written form, when tilted, resembles the infinity symbol “∞”, which signifies infinite wealth.
“The Eight Immortals”, also known as “The Eight Xians”, are one of the most appreciated and revered deities among the hundreds of Xians in Chinese culture. Though the word “poyiānxiān” from the Chaozhou dialect might be a more common term known to describe the eight xians in Thai society, it is actually pronounced as “bāxiān” in Mandarin Chinese. When combining the word “bā”, which translates as the number eight, and “xiān”, which refers to a person with extraordinary abilities, the term “bāxiān” signifies the eight individuals with extraordinary abilities. Originating from Taoism, the adherents of the Eight Immortals believe that the deities symbolize happiness, good fortune, and longevity. They also represent men, women, the elderly, children, the wealthy, the noble, the poor, and the disabled, encompassing all aspects of humanity. Furthermore, the eight xians each own their special weapons called “ànbāxiān” (暗八仙), which translated as “The Magical Treasure of the Eight Immortals”.
Li Tieguai (铁拐李 or Tiě guǎi lǐ) is the Xian of medicine and alleviation. He possesses a magical gourd with five bats flying inside, symbolizing the five blessings of mankind, making the treasure capable of providing joy and good health to humans.
Han Zhongli (汉钟离 or Hàn zhōnglí) is a Xian associated with luck, business, and governance. He carries a banana leaf with the power to revive the dead and bring them back to life, also known as the “Fan of Resurrection”.
Lu Dongbin (吕洞宾 or Lǚdòngbīn) is a Xian of industrial business, wisdom, and poetry. He carries a sword of seven stars as a weapon to conquer demons and bring good fortunes. It is considered to be one of the most powerful swords among the heavenly beings.
Zhang Guolao (张果老 or Zhāng guǒ lǎo) is a Xian associated with longevity, abundance, and fertility. He carries a musical instrument that possesses the ability to reflect sounds and vibrations, known as the “Fish Drum”. His emblem symbolizes everlasting happiness and represents the blessings bestowed upon humans.
Lan Caihe (蓝采和 or Lán cǎi hé) is a Xian associated with wealth and prosperity. Lan carries a basket of flower blossoms, which symbolizes the auspiciousness of human life. The flowers in the basket will always bloom and never wither, representing the constant prosperity of life.
He Xiangu (何仙姑 or Hé xiāngū) is the Xian of goodness, honesty, loyalty, and agriculture. The lotus flower is her special emblem, symbolizing the worship of divine beings in protecting humanity from all dangers.
Han Xiangzi (韩湘子 or Hán xiāngzi) is the Xian of divination, wisdom, and music. The bamboo flute is his magical instrument, with the power to captivate the listeners with its beautiful melody and hypnotize their souls.
Cao Guojiu (曹国舅 or Cáo guó jiù) is the Xian of nobility, government, and honesty. He carries a pair of jade tablets, which symbolizes the force and power of nature manifested through the resounding echoes.
It is widely believed that the many ancient legends of the Eight Immortals originated in the Han Dynasty Era. One of the lores appeared in the “Huáinán zi” (淮南子) record by Liú ān, referring to all eight immortals as the “Eight Elders” (八公), which is renowned for xians with diligent efforts whose aim is to pursue longevity elixirs. Later, during the Ming Dynasty, Wúyuántài (吴元泰) composed a legendary record called “The Eight Immortals Depart and Travel to the East” (八仙出处东游记), commonly known as “Journey to the East” (东游记).
The ancient legends of China offer mystical significance to the Eight Immortals, making them revered symbols that are widely embedded and depicted in every corner of the nation. They appear in architecture, paintings, utensils, and sculptures from ancient times till the present day. In addition, their prominence is paralleled by the enduring belief in fortune, prosperity, and unchanging auspiciousness. The depiction of the Eight Immortals can still be found on intricately patterned ceramics, bearing witness to the steadfastness of beliefs passed down through generations, making them one of the most highly valued for collection.
A group of polychrome porcelain figures of immortals riding on archaistic animals (8 pcs.)
Dimensions: W 22 cm H 27 cm
Circa: Late 20th Century
Estimated Price: 10,000 – 15,000 THB