Xi Shi (西施, 506 BC – ?)

Xi Shi (西施, 506 BC – ?)

Xi Shi (Chinese: 西施; pinyin: Xī Shī, 506 BC – ?) was one of the renowned Four Beauties of ancient China. She was said to have lived during the end of Spring and Autumn Period in Zhuji, the capital of the ancient State of Yue. Her name was Shi Yiguang (施夷光).[1]

Xi Shi's beauty was said to be so extreme that while leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish would be so dazzled that they forgot to swim and gradually sunk away from the surface. This description serves as the first two characters of the Chinese idiom 沉魚落雁, 閉月羞花 (pinyin: chényú luòyàn, bìyuè xiūhuā), which is used to compliment someone's beauty.

The Story of Xi Shi

King Goujian of Yue, king of Yue, was once imprisoned after a defeat in a war by King Fuchai of Wu, king of the State of Wu. The state of Yue later became a tributary to Wu. Secretly planning his revenge, Goujian's minister Wen Zhong suggested training beautiful women and offering them to Fuchai as a tribute (knowing Fuchai could not resist beautiful women). His other minister, Fan Li, found Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, and gifted them to Fuchai in 490 BC.

Bewitched by the beauty and kindness of Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, Fuchai forgot all about his state affairs and at their instigation, killed his best advisor, the great general Wu Zixu. Fuchai even built Guanwa Palace (Palace of Beautiful Women) in an imperial park on the slope of Lingyan Hill, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) west of Suzhou. The strength of Wu dwindled, and in 473 BC Goujian launched his strike and put the Wu army to full rout. King Fuchai lamented that he should have listened to Wu Zixu, and then committed suicide.

In the legend, after the fall of Wu, Fan Li retired from his ministerial post and lived with Xi Shi on a fishing boat, roaming like fairies in the misty wilderness of Taihu Lake, and no one saw them ever again. This is according to Yuan Kang's Yue Jueshu 《越绝书》. Another version, according to Mozi, is that Xi Shi eventually died from drowning in the river. (西施之沈,其美也)


She is remembered by the Xi Shi Temple, which lies at the foot of the Zhu Luo Hill (苎萝)in the southern part of the city, on the banks of the Huansha River.

The West Lake in Hangzhou is said to be the incarnation of Xi Shi, hence it is also called Xizi Lake, Xizi being another name for Xi Shi, meaning Lady Xi. In his famous work of song poetry, Drinks at West Lake through Sunshine and Rain (飲湖上初睛居雨), renowned scholar Su Dongpo compared Xi Shi's beauty to the West Lake.

Li Bai of the Tang dynasty wrote a poem about Xi Shi.

Imogen Heap released a song in 2012 titled Xizi She Knows after spending time in Hangzhou, China.

The Shih Tzu dog, among other stories, is believed to be an attempt to make a dog as beautiful as Xi Shi.

Other references

There is another well-known figure of unknown origin, probably fictional and parodical, named Dong Shi (東施). The "Dong" in her name means "east" contrasting to Xi Shi's "Xi", which means "west". Apart from her name, she is said to be the exact opposite of Xi Shi in being extremely ugly. This in turn has created the saying "Dong Shi imitates a frown" (东施效颦), whereas Dongshi, being ugly and thus inviting no suitor, emphasized her own ugliness while imitating Xishi's look of sexualized frailty and suffering. The saying has taken on a meaning to signify one's vain attempt imitating another only to emphasize one's own weaknesses.
A tongue twister that works best in Mandarin references XiShi: 西施死時四十四,四十四時西施死。(XīShī sǐ shí sì shí sì, sì shí sì shí XīShī sǐ.) It means Xishi died at (the age of) forty-four, at (age) forty-four Xishi died.


[1]^ 古代笔记中的西施归宿之争

人物: http://magupeople.blogspot.com/1983/05/xi-shi-506-bc.html



Alternative Names(異名):

The Xilin is a mythical creature of ancient China which has been used for many centuries for good luck, etc.

Uses of the Xilin

The Xilin is a mythical creature used many buddhist and believers of "风水" aka "Feng shui". The 风水 is an ancient art of Chinese "placings" which will help somes wealth, health, etc or vice versa. According to believers and 风水 masters, the Xilin can help the user/owner increase their wealth, fortune and so on. One special use of the Xilin (according to 风水) is that it can/will help the user/owner of it and grant them with a child within 2 years unless the female is over-aged or sick. One problem/difficulty is that the Xilin can't/shouldn't be used sparingly. This is because in ancient times, the Xilin was said to serve under the emperor there of was said to only help people of high ranks (people with great wealth already or people with a higher rank eg. a manager of a company). If an ordinary person used it, it was said that the Xilin would "turn around" and feed off its masters wealth instead of helping the owner/master. The Xilin is often compared to the Lion and is said to be the 9th child of the dragon. The Xilin is compared to the lion because of its look-a-likes and they are related.


The Xilin is seen in many palaces through out China. One of the most common one mentioned/seen is the one in the "summer palace" which is in Beijing. The emperor of that time (and many others) were said to taken the statues of the Xilin (and other mythical creatures) along with them for protection and good fortune. Statues of Xilins are commonly seen in palaces/imperial walkways along with Lions, Dragons, and other creatures as "guardians". Statues of Xilin are also one of the many small figures on top of imperial roofs (seen at the edge of the corners). This design was commonly used.

See also





Chinese Mythology |

Xian, Daoist immortal

Xian, Daoist immortal

Alternative Names(異名):
Xian, 仙, 仚, 僊, hsien

Xian (Chinese: 仙/仚/僊; pinyin: xiān; Wade-Giles: hsien) is a Chinese word for an enlightened person, translatable in English as:

"spiritually immortal; transcendent; super-human; celestial being" (in Daoist/Taoist philosophy and cosmology)
"physically immortal; immortal person; immortalist; saint" (in Daoist religion and pantheon)
"alchemist; one who seeks the elixir of life; one who practices longevity techniques" or by extension "(alchemical, dietary, qigong) methods for attaining immortality" (in Chinese alchemy)
"wizard; magician; shaman" (in Chinese mythology)
"genie; elf, fairy; nymph" (in popular Chinese literature)
"sage living high in the mountains; mountain-man; hermit; recluse" (folk-etymology for the character 仙)
"immortal (talent); accomplished person; celestial (beauty); marvelous; extraordinary" (metaphorical modifier)

Xian semantically developed from meaning spiritual "immortality; enlightenment", to physical "immortality; longevity" involving methods such as alchemy, breath meditation, and Tai Chi Chuan, and eventually to legendary and figurative "immortality".

The xian archetype is described by Victor H. Mair.

They are immune to heat and cold, untouched by the elements, and can fly, mounting upward with a fluttering motion. They dwell apart from the chaotic world of man, subsist on air and dew, are not anxious like ordinary people, and have the smooth skin and innocent faces of children. The transcendents live an effortless existence that is best described as spontaneous. They recall the ancient Indian ascetics and holy men known as ṛṣi who possessed similar traits.1994:376

According to the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, Chinese xian (仙) can mean Sanskrit ṛṣi (rishi "inspired sage in the Vedas").

The word xian

The most famous Chinese compound of xiān is Bāxiān (八仙 "the Eight Immortals"). Other common words include xiānrén (仙人 sennin in Japanese, "immortal person; transcendent", see Xiānrén Dòng), xiānrénzhăng (仙人掌 "immortal's palm; cactus"), xiānnǚ (仙女 "immortal woman; female celestial; angel"), and shénxiān (神仙 "gods and immortals; divine immortal").

The possible etymologies of xian are Sino-Tibetan "shaman" in the linguistic sense and "ascend" or "mountain" in the character sense. Axel Schuessler's etymological dictionary (2007:527) suggests a Sino-Tibetan connection between xiān (Old Chinese *san or *sen) "'An immortal' … men and women who attain supernatural abilities; after death they become immortals and deities who can fly through the air" and Tibetan gšen < g-syen "shaman, one who has supernatural abilities, incl[uding] travel through the air". The circa 200 CE Shiming, the first Chinese dictionary of etymology, defines xiān (仙) as "to get old and not die," and etymologizes it as someone who qiān (遷 "moves into") the mountains."

The character and its variants

The word xiān is written with three characters 僊, 仙, or 仚, which combine the logographic "radical" rén (人 or 亻 "person; human") with two "phonetic" elements (see Chinese character classification). The oldest recorded xiān character 僊 has a xiān ("rise up; ascend") phonetic supposedly because immortals could "ascend into the heavens". (Compare qiān 遷 "move; transfer; change" combining this phonetic and the motion radical.) The usual modern xiān character 仙, and its rare variant 仚, have a shān (山 "mountain") phonetic. For a character analysis, Schipper (1993:164) interprets "'the human being of the mountain,' or alternatively, 'human mountain.' The two explanations are appropriate to these beings: they haunt the holy mountains, while also embodying nature."

The Shijing (220/3) contains the oldest occurrence of the character 僊, reduplicated as xiānxiān (僊僊 "dance lightly; hop about; jump around"), and rhymed with qiān (遷). "But when they have drunk too much, Their deportment becomes light and frivolous – They leave their seats, and [遷] go elsewhere, They keep [僊僊] dancing and capering." (tr. James Legge) Shamanistic dancing is one interpretation of this ancient Shijing ode describing ancestral sacrifices.

The 121 CE Shuowen Jiezi, the first important dictionary of Chinese characters, does not enter 仙 except in the definition for 偓佺 (Wo Quan "name of an ancient immortal"). It defines 僊 as "live long and move away" and 仚 as "appearance of a person on a mountaintop".

Textual references

This section chronologically reviews how Chinese texts describe xian "immortals; transcendents". While the early Zhuangzi, Chuci, and Liezi texts allegorically used xian immortals and magic islands to describe spiritual immortality, later ones like the Shenxian zhuan and Baopuzi took immortality literally and described esoteric Chinese alchemical techniques for physical longevity. On one the hand, neidan (內丹 "internal alchemy") techniques included taixi (胎息 "embryo respiration") breath control, meditation, visualization, sexual training, and Tao Yin exercises (which later evolved into Qigong and Tai Chi Chuan). On the other hand, waidan (外丹 "external achemy") techniques for immortality included alchemical recipes, magic plants, rare minerals, herbal medicines, drugs, and dietetic techniques like inedia.

The earliest representations of Chinese immortals, dating from the Han Dynasty, portray them flying with feathery wings (the word yuren 羽人 "feathered person" later meant "Daoist") or riding dragons. In Chinese art, xian are often pictured with symbols of immortality including the dragon, crane, fox, white deer, pine tree, peach, and mushroom.

Besides the following major Chinese texts, many others use both graphic variants of xian. Xian (仙) occurs in the Chunqiu Fanlu, Fengsu Tongyi, Qian fu lun, Fayan, and Shenjian; xian (僊) occurs in the Caizhong langji, Fengsu Tongyi, Guanzi, and Shenjian.


Two circa 3rd century BCE "Outer Chapters" of the Zhuangzi (莊子 "[Book of] Master Zhuang") use the archaic character xian 僊. Chapter 11 has a parable about "Cloud Chief" (雲 將)  and "Big Concealment" (鴻 蒙)   that uses the Shijing compound xianxian ("dance; jump"):

Big Concealment said, "If you confuse the constant strands of Heaven and violate the true form of things, then Dark Heaven will reach no fulfillment. Instead, the beasts will scatter from their herds, the birds will cry all night, disaster will come to the grass and trees, misfortune will reach even to the insects. Ah, this is the fault of men who 'govern'!"
"Then what should I do?" said Cloud Chief.
"Ah," said Big Concealment, "you are too far gone! [僊僊] Up, up, stir yourself and be off!"
Cloud Chief said, "Heavenly Master, it has been hard indeed for me to meet with you — I beg one word of instruction!"
"Well, then — mind‑nourishment!" said Big Concealment. "You have only to rest in inaction and things will transform themselves. Smash your form and body, spit out hearing and eyesight, forget you are a thing among other things, and you may join in great unity with the deep and boundless. Undo the mind, slough off spirit, be blank and soulless, and the ten thousand things one by one will return to the root — return to the root and not know why. Dark and undifferentiated chaos — to the end of life none will depart from it. But if you try to know it, you have already departed from it. Do not ask what its name is, do not try to observe its form. Things will live naturally end of themselves."
Cloud Chief said, "The Heavenly Master has favored me with this Virtue, instructed me in this Silence. All my life I have been looking for it, and now at last I have it!" He bowed his head twice, stood up, took his leave, and went away. (11, tr. Burton Watson 1968:122-3)

Chapter 12 uses xian when mythical Emperor Yao describes a shengren (聖 人 "sagely person").

The true sage is a quail at rest, a little fledgling at its meal, a bird in flight who leaves no trail behind. When the world has the Way, he joins in the chorus with all other things. When the world is without the Way, he nurses his Virtue and retires in leisure. And after a thousand years, should he weary of the world, he will leave it and ascend to [僊] the immortals, riding on those white clouds all the way up to the village of God. (12, tr. Watson 1968:130)

Without using the word xian, several Zhuangzi passages employ xian imagery, like flying in the clouds, to describe individuals with superhuman powers. For example, Chapter 1, within the circa 3rd century BCE "Inner Chapters", has two portrayals. First is this description of Liezi (below).

Lieh Tzu could ride the wind and go soaring around with cool and breezy skill, but after fifteen days he came back to earth. As far as the search for good fortune went, he didn't fret and worry. He escaped the trouble of walking, but he still had to depend on something to get around. If he had only mounted on the truth of Heaven and Earth, ridden the changes of the six breaths, and thus wandered through the boundless, then what would he have had to depend on? Therefore I say, the Perfect Man has no self; the Holy Man has no merit; the Sage has no fame. (1, tr. Watson 1968:32)

Second is this description of a shenren (神人 "divine person").

He said that there is a Holy Man living on faraway [姑射] Ku-she Mountain, with skin like ice or snow, and gentle and shy like a young girl. He doesn't eat the five grains, but sucks the wind, drinks the dew, climbs up on the clouds and mist, rides a flying dragon, and wanders beyond the four seas. By concentrating his spirit, he can protect creatures from sickness and plague and make the harvest plentiful. (1, tr. Watson 1968:33)

The authors of the Zhuangzi had a lyrical view of life and death, seeing them as complimentary aspects of natural changes. This is antithetical to the physical immortality (changshengbulao 長生不老 "live forever and never age") sought by later Daoist alchemists. Consider this famous passage about accepting death.

Chuang Tzu's wife died. When Hui Tzu went to convey his condolences, he found Chuang Tzu sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a tub and singing. "You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old," said Hui Tzu. "It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing — this is going too far, isn't it?"
Chuang Tzu said, "You're wrong. When she first died, do you think I didn't grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a spirit. In the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and she had a spirit. Another change and she had a body. Another change and she was born. Now there's been another change and she's dead. It's just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter."
"Now she's going to lie down peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don't understand anything about fate. So I stopped. (18, tr. Watson 1968:191-2)

Alan Fox explains this anecdote about Zhuangzi's wife.

Many conclusions can be reached on the basis of this story, but it seems that death is regarded as a natural part of the ebb and flow of transformations which constitute the movement of Dao. To grieve over death, or to fear one's own death, for that matter, is to arbitrarily evaluate what is inevitable. Of course, this reading is somewhat ironic given the fact that much of the subsequent Daoist tradition comes to seek longevity and immortality, and bases some of their basic models on the Zhuangzi. (1995:100)


The 3rd-2nd century BCE Chuci (楚辭 "Lyrics of Chu") anthology of poems uses xian 仙 once and xian 僊 twice, reflecting the disparate origins of the text. These three contexts mention the legendary Daoist xian immortals Chi Song (赤松 "Red Pine", see Kohn 1993:142-4) and Wang Qiao (王僑, or Zi Qiao 子僑). In later Daoist hagiography, Chi Song was Lord of Rain under Shennong, the legendary inventor of agriculture; and Wang Qiao was a son of King Ling of Zhou (r. 571-545 BCE), who flew away on a giant white bird, became an immortal and was never again seen.

The "Yuan You" (遠遊 "Far-off Journey") poem describes a spiritual journey into the realms of gods and immortals, frequently referring to Daoist myths and techniques.

My spirit darted forth and did not return to me,
And my body, left tenantless, grew withered and lifeless.
Then I looked into myself to strengthen my resolution,
And sought to learn from where the primal spirit issues.
In emptiness and silence I found serenity;
In tranquil inaction I gained true satisfaction.
I heard how once Red Pine had washed the world's dust off:
I would model myself on the pattern he had left me.
I honoured the wondrous powers of the [真人] Pure Ones,
And those of past ages who had become [仙] Immortals.
They departed in the flux of change and vanished from men's sight,
Leaving a famous name that endures after them. (tr. Hawkes 1985:194)

The "Xi shi" (惜誓 "Sorrow for Troth Betrayed") resembles the "Yuan You", and both reflect Daoist ideas from the Han period. "Though unoriginal in theme," says Hawkes (1985:239), "its description of air travel, written in a pre-aeroplane age, is exhilarating and rather impressive."

We gazed down of the Middle Land [China] with its myriad people
As we rested on the whirlwind, drifting about at random.
In this way we came at last to the moor of Shao-yuan:
There, with the other blessed ones, were Red Pine and Wang Qiao.
The two Masters held zithers tuned imperfect concord:
I sang the Qing Shang air to their playing.
In tranquil calm and quiet enjoyment,
Gently I floated, inhaling all the essences.
But then I thought that this immortal life of [僊] the blessed,
Was not worth the sacrifice of my home-returning. (tr. Hawkes 1985:240)

The "Ai shi ming" (哀時命 "Alas That My Lot Was Not Cast") describes a celestial journey similar to the previous two.

Far and forlorn, with no hope of return:
Sadly I gaze in the distance, over the empty plain.
Below, I fish in the valley streamlet;
Above, I seek out [僊] holy hermits.
I enter into friendship with Red Pine;
I join Wang Qiao as his companion. We send the Xiao Yang in front to guide us;
The White Tiger runs back and forth in attendance.
Floating on the cloud and mist, we enter the dim height of heaven;
Riding on the white deer we sport and take our pleasure. tr. Hawkes 1985:266)

The "Li Sao" (離騷 "On Encountering Trouble"), the most famous Chuci poem, is usually interpreted as describing ecstatic flights and trance techniques of Chinese shamans. The above three poems are variations describing Daoist xian.

Some other Chuci poems refer to immortals with synonyms of xian. For instance, "Shou zhi" (守志 "Maintaining Resolution), uses zhenren (真人 "true person", tr. "Pure Ones" above in "Yuan You"), which Wang Yi's commentary glosses as zhen xianren (真仙人 "true immortal person").

I visited Fu Yue, bestriding a dragon,
Joined in marriage with the Weaving Maiden,
Lifted up Heaven's Net to capture evil,
Drew the Bow of Heaven to shoot at wickedness,
Followed the [真人] Immortals fluttering through the sky,
Ate of the Primal Essence to prolong my life. (tr. Hawkes 1985:318)


The Liezi (列子 "[Book of] Master Lie"), which Louis Komjathy (2004:36) says "was probably compiled in the 3rd century CE (while containing earlier textual layers)", uses xian four times, always in the compound xiansheng (仙聖 "immortal sage").

Nearly half of Chapter 2 ("The Yellow Emperor") comes from the Zhuangzi, including this recounting of the above fable about Mount Gushe (姑射, or Guye, or Miao Gushe 藐姑射).

The Ku-ye mountains stand on a chain of islands where the Yellow River enters the sea. Upon the mountains there lives a Divine Man, who inhales the wind and drinks the dew, and does not eat the five grains. His mind is like a bottomless spring, his body is like a virgin's. He knows neither intimacy nor love, yet [仙聖] immortals and sages serve him as ministers. He inspires no awe, he is never angry, yet the eager and diligent act as his messengers. He is without kindness and bounty, but others have enough by themselves; he does not store and save, but he himself never lacks. The Yin and Yang are always in tune, the sun and moon always shine, the four seasons are always regular, wind and rain are always temperate, breeding is always timely, the harvest is always rich, and there are no plagues to ravage the land, no early deaths to afflict men, animals have no diseases, and ghosts have no uncanny echoes. (tr. Graham 1960:35)

Chapter 5 uses xiansheng three times in a conversation set between legendary rulers Tang (湯) of the Shang Dynasty and Ji (革) of the Xia Dynasty.

T'ang asked again: 'Are there large things and small, long and short, similar and different?'
—'To the East of the Gulf of Chih-li, who knows how many thousands and millions of miles, there is a deep ravine, a valley truly without bottom; and its bottomless underneath is named "The Entry to the Void". The waters of the eight corners and the nine regions, the stream of the Milky Way, all pour into it, but it neither shrinks nor grows. Within it there are five mountains, called Tai-yü, Yüan-chiao, Fang-hu, Ying-chou and P'eng-Iai. These mountains are thirty thousand miles high, and as many miles round; the tablelands on their summits extend for nine thousand miles. It is seventy thousand miles from one mountain to the next, but they are considered close neighbours. The towers and terraces upon them are all gold and jade, the beasts and birds are all unsullied white; trees of pearl and garnet always grow densely, flowering and bearing fruit which is always luscious, and those who eat of it never grow old and die. The men who dwell there are all of the race of [仙聖] immortal sages, who fly, too many to be counted, to and from one mountain to another in a day and a night. Yet the bases of the five mountains used to rest on nothing; they were always rising and falling, going and returning, with the ebb and flow of the tide, and never for a moment stood firm. The [仙聖] immortals found this troublesome, and complained about it to God. God was afraid that they would drift to the far West and he would lose the home of his sages. So he commanded Yü-ch'iang to make fifteen giant turtles carry the five mountains on their lifted heads, taking turns in three watches, each sixty thousand years long; and for the first time the mountains stood firm and did not move.
'But there was a giant from the kingdom of the Dragon Earl, who came to the place of the five mountains in no more than a few strides. In one throw he hooked six of the turtles in a bunch, hurried back to his country carrying them together on his back, and scorched their bones to tell fortunes by the cracks. Thereupon two of the mountains, Tai-yü and Yüan-chiao, drifted to the far North and sank in the great sea; the [仙聖] immortals who were carried away numbered many millions. God was very angry, and reduced by degrees the size of the Dragon Earl's kingdom and the height of his subjects. At the time of Fu-hsi and Shen-nung, the people of this country were still several hundred feet high.' (tr. Graham 1960:97-8)

Penglai Mountain became the most famous of these five mythical peaks where the elixir of life supposedly grew, and is known as Horai in Japanese legends. The first emperor Qin Shi Huang sent his court alchemist Xu Fu on expeditions to find these plants of immortality, but he never returned (although by some accounts, he discovered Japan).

Holmes Welch (1957:88-97) analyzed the beginnings of Daoism, sometime around the 4th-3rd centuries BCE, from four separate streams: philosophical Daoism (Laozi, Zhuangzi, Liezi), a "hygiene school" that cultivated longevity through breathing exercises and yoga, Chinese alchemy and Five Elements philosophy, and those who sought Penglai and elixirs of "immortality". This is what he concludes about xian.

It is my own opinion, therefore, that though the word hsien, or Immortal, is used by Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu, and though they attributed to their idealized individual the magic powers that were attributed to the hsien in later times, nonetheless the hsien ideal was something they did not believe in — either that it was possible or that it was good. The magic powers are allegories and hyperboles for the natural powers that come from identification with Tao. Spiritualized Man, P'eng-lai, and the rest are features of a genre which is meant to entertain, disturb, and exalt us, not to be taken as literal hagiography. Then and later, the philosophical Taoists were distinguished from all other schools of Taoism by their rejection of the pursuit of immortality. As we shall see, their books came to be adopted as scriptural authority by those who did practice magic and seek to become immortal. But it was their misunderstanding of philosophical Taoism that was the reason they adopted it. (Welch 1957:95)

Shenxian zhuan

The Shenxian zhuan (神仙傳 Biographies of Spirit Immortals") is a hagiography of xian. Although it was traditionally attributed to Ge Hong (283-343 CE), Komjathy (2004:43) says, "The received versions of the text contain some 100-odd hagiographies, most of which date from 6th-8th centuries at the earliest."

According to the Shenxian zhuan, there are four schools of immortality:

Qì (气 - “Pneumas”) – Breath control and meditation. Those who belong to this school can

"...blow on water and it will flow against its own current for several paces; blow on fire, and it will be extinguished; blow at tigers or wolves, and they will crouch down and not be able to move; blow at serpents, and they will coil up and be unable to flee. If someone is wounded by a weapon, blow on the wound, and the bleeding will stop. If you hear of someone who has suffered a poisonous insect bite, even if you are not in his presence, you can, from a distance, blow and say in incantation over your own hand (males on the left hand, females on the right), and the person will at once be healed even if more than a hundred li away. And if you yourself are struck by a sudden illness, you have merely to swallow pneumas in three series of nine, and you will immediately recover.
But the most essential thing [among such arts] is fetal breathing. Those who obtain [the technique of] fetal breathing become able to breathe without using their nose or mouth, as if in the womb, and this is the culmination of the way [of pneumatic cultivation]." (Campany 2002:21)

Fàn (饭 - “Diet”) – Ingestion of herbal compounds and abstention from the Sān Shī Fàn (三尸饭 - “Three-Corpses food”)—Meats (raw fish, pork, dog, leeks, and scallions) and grains. According to the book To Live As Long As Heaven and Earth: Ge Hong’s Traditions of Divine Transcendents, the importance of 'grain avoidance' was told in a story by Ge Hong:

"During the reign of Emperor Cheng of the Han, hunters in the Zhongnan Mountains saw a person who wore no clothes, his body covered with black hair. Upon seeing this person, the hunters wanted to pursue and capture him, but the person leapt over gullies and valleys as if in flight, and so could not be overtaken. [But after being surrounded and captured, it was discovered this person was a 200 plus year old woman, who had once been a concubine of Qin Emperor Ziying. When he had surrendered to the 'invaders of the east', she fled into the mountains where she learned to subside on 'the resin and nuts of pines' from an old man. Afterwards, this diet 'enabled [her] to feel neither hunger nor thirst; in winter [she] was not cold, in summer [she] was not hot.']
The hunters took the woman back in. They offered her grain to eat. When she first smelled the stink of grain, she vomited, and only after several days could she tolerate it. After little more than two years of this [diet], her body hair fell out; she turned old and died. Had she not been caught by men, she would have become a transcendent." (Campany 2002:22-23)

Fángzhōng Zhī Shù (房中之术 - “Arts of the Bedchamber”) – Sexual yoga. (Campany 2002:30-31) According to a discourse between the Yellow Emperor and the immortaless Sùnǚ (素女 – “Plain Girl”), one of the three daughters of Hsi Wang Mu,

“The sexual behaviors between a man and woman are identical to how the universe itself came into creation. Like Heaven and Earth, the male and female share a parallel relationship in attaining an immortal existence. They both must learn how to engage and develop their natural sexual instincts and behaviors; otherwise the only result is decay and traumatic discord of their physical lives. However, if they engage in the utmost joys of sensuality and apply the principles of yin and yang to their sexual activity, their health, vigor, and joy of love will bear them the fruits of longevity and immortality. (Hsi 2002:99-100)

The White Tigress Manual, a treatise on female sexual yoga, states,

“A female can completely restore her youthfulness and attain immortality if she refrains from allowing just one or two men in her life from stealing and destroying her [sexual] essence, which will only serve in aging her at a rapid rate and bring about an early death. However, if she can acquire the sexual essence of a thousand males through absorption, she will acquire the great benefits of youthfulness and immortality.” (Hsi 2001:48)

Dān (丹 - "Alchemy", literally "Cinnabar") – Elixir of Immortality.(Campany 2002:31)


The 4th century CE Baopuzi (抱朴子 "[Book of] Master Embracing Simplicity"), which was written by Ge Hong, gives some highly detailed descriptions of xian.

The text lists three classes of immortals:

Tiānxiān (天仙 – “Celestial Immortal”) - The highest level.

Dìxiān (地仙 - “Earth Immortal”) – The middle level.

Shījiě xiān (尸解仙 - "Escaped-by-means-of-a-stimulated-corpse-simulacrum Immortal", literally "Corpse Untie Immortal") - The lowest level.This is considered the lowest form of immortality since a person must first “fake” their own death by substituting a bewitched object like a bamboo pole, sword, talisman or a shoe for their corpse or slipping a type of Death certificate into the coffin of a newly departed paternal grandfather, thus having their name and "allotted life span" deleted from the ledgers kept by the Sīmìng (司命 - "Director of allotted life spans", literally "Controller of Fate"). Hagiographies and folktales abound of people who seemingly die in one province, but are seen alive in another. Mortals who choose this route must cut off all ties with family and friends, move to a distant province, and enact the Ling bao tai xuan yin sheng zhi fu (靈寳太玄隂生之符 - “Numinous Treasure Talisman of the Grand Mystery for Living in Hiding”) to protect themselves from heavenly retribution. (Campany 2002:52-60)

However, this is not a true form of immortality. For each misdeed a person commits, the Director of allotted life spans subtracts days and sometimes years from their allotted life span. This method allows a person to live out the entirety of their allotted lifespan (whether it be 30, 80, 400, etc.) and avoid the agents of death. But the body still has to be transformed into an immortal one, hence the phrase Xiānsǐ hòutuō (先死後脱 - “The ‘death’ is apparent, [but] the sloughing off of the body’s mortality remains to be done.”)

Sometimes the Shījiě are employed by heaven to act as celestial peace keepers. Therefore, they have no need for hiding from retribution since they are empowered by heaven to perform their duties. There are three levels of heavenly Shījiě:

Dìxià zhǔ (地下主 - “Agents Beneath the Earth”) – Are in charge of keeping the peace within the Chinese underworld. They are eligible for promotion to earthbound immortality after 280 years of faithful service.

Dìshàng zhǔzhě (地上主者 - "Agents Above the Earth") - Are given magic talismans which prolong their lives (but not indefinitely) and allow them to heal the sick and exorcize demons and evil spirits from the earth. This level was not eligible for promotion to earthbound immortality.

Zhìdì jūn (制地君 - "Lords Who Control the Earth") - A heavenly decree ordered them to "disperse all subordinate junior demons, whether high or low [in rank], that have cause afflictions and injury owing to blows or offenses against the Motion of the Year, the Original Destiny, Great Year, the Kings of the Soil or the establishing or breaking influences of the chronograms of the tome. Annihilate them all." This level was also not eligible for promotion to immortality.

These titles were usually given to humans who had either not proven themselves worthy of or were not fated to become immortals. One such famous agent was Fei Changfang, who was eventually murdered by evil spirits because he lost his book of magic talismans. However, some immortals are written to have used this method in order to escape execution.(Campany 2002:52-60)

Ge Hong wrote in his book The Master Who Embraces Simplicity,

The [immortals] Dark Girl and Plain Girl compared sexual activity as the intermingling of fire [yang/male] and water [yin/female], claiming that water and fire can kill people but can also regenerate their life, depending on whether or not they know the correct methods of sexual activity according to their nature. These arts are based on the theory that the more females a man copulates with, the greater benefit he will derive from the act. Men who are ignorant of this art, copulating with only one or two females during their life, will only suffice to bring about their untimely and early death. (Hsi 2001:48)

Zhong Lü Chuan Dao Ji

The Zhong Lü Chuan Dao Ji (鐘呂傳道集/钟吕传道集 "Anthology of the Transmission of the Dao from Zhong[li Quan] to Lü [Dongbin]") is associated with Zhongli Quan (2nd century CE?) and Lü Dongbin (9th century CE), two of the legendary Eight Immortals. It is part of the so-called “Zhong-Lü” (鍾呂) textual tradition of internal alchemy (neidan). Komjathy (2004:57) describes it as, "Probably dating from the late Tang (618-906), the text is in question-and-answer format, containing a dialogue between Lü and his teacher Zhongli on aspects of alchemical terminology and methods."

The Zhong Lü Chuan Dao Ji lists five classes of immortals:

Guǐxiān (鬼仙 - "Ghost Immortal") – A person who cultivates too much yin energy. These immortals are likened to Vampires because they drain the life essence of the living, much like the fox spirit. Ghost immortals do not leave the realm of ghosts. (Wong 2000:page?)

Rénxiān (人仙 - Human Immortal”) – Humans have an equal balance of yin and yang energies, so they have the potential of becoming either a ghost or immortal. Although they continue to hunger and thirst and require clothing and shelter like a normal human, these immortals do not suffer from aging or sickness. Human immortals do not leave the realm of humans. (Wong 2000:page?) There are many sub-classes of human immortals, as discussed above under Shījiě xiān.

Dìxiān (地仙 - “Earth Immortal”) – When the yin is transformed into the pure yang, a true immortal body will emerge that does not need food, drink, clothing or shelter and is not effected by hot or cold temperatures. Earth immortals do not leave the realm of earth. These immortals are forced to stay on earth until they shed their human form. (Wong 2000:page?)

Shénxiān (神仙 - "Spirit Immortal") – The immortal body of the earthbound class will eventually change into vapor through further practice. They have supernatural powers and can take on the shape of any object. These immortals must remain on earth acquiring merit by teaching mankind about the Tao. Spirit immortals do not leave the realm of spirits. Once enough merit is accumulated, they are called to heaven by a celestial decree. (Wong 2000:page?)

Tiānxiān (天仙 – “Celestial Immortal”) – Spirit immortals who are summoned to heaven are given the minor office of water realm judge. Over time, they are promoted to oversee the earth realm and finally become administrators of the celestial realm. These immortals have the power to travel back and forth between the earthly and celestial realms. (Wong 2000:page?)

See also

Journey to the West
Sun Wukong
Transcendence (philosophy)
Way of Infinite Harmony
Xi Wangmu



Chinese Mythology | Taoism



Alternative Names(異名):

Xeglun is the celestial elk in Chinese mythology. It was Mangi's pursuit of this creature that was said to have created the Milky Way.

Chinese Mythology | 중국신화 | Chinese mythology stubs

Five fingers peak

Five fingers peak

DescriptionEnglish: Five fingers peak. Quartzite sandstone Huangshizhai Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan Hunan, China. Panorama 2012.
Français : Panorama des Cinq Doigts, piliers de grès quartzite dans le Wulingyuan, site naturel et historique inscrit au patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO dans la province du Hunan, en Chine.
중국 천자산 무릉원
Date26 October 2014
Camera location29° 20′ 21.56″ N, 110° 31′ 54.48″ E
PermissionThe copyright holder of this work has published it under the following license:
LicensingPermission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

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Yang Gui Fei (楊貴妃)

Yang Gui Fei

DescriptionYang Gui Fei;hanging scroll,color on silk 楊貴妃図 絹本着色
양귀비(楊貴妃, 719~756)
Date1821 江戸時代後期
AuthorTakaku Aigai(1796 - 1843) 高久靄厓
Camera location.
PermissionPublic Domain
LicensingThis is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:

This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

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This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

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White Tiger (白虎)

White Tiger (白虎)

Alternative Names (異名):
白虎, 백호(Korean), Baek-ho, Bái Hǔ(Standard Mandarin), White Tiger, Byakko(Japanese)

The White Tiger (Chinese: 白虎; pinyin: Bái Hǔ) is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. It is sometimes called the White Tiger of the West (西方白虎, Xī Fāng Bái Hǔ), and it represents the west and the autumn season.

The Seven Mansions of the White Tiger

Like the other Four Symbols, the White Tiger corresponds to seven "mansions", or positions, of the moon.

Legs (Chinese: 奎; pinyin: Kuí)
Bond (Chinese: 婁; pinyin: Lóu)
Stomach (Chinese: 胃; pinyin: Wèi)
Hairy Head (Chinese: 昴; pinyin: Mǎo)
Net (Chinese: 畢; pinyin: Bì)
Turtle Beak (Chinese: 觜; pinyin: Zī)
Three Stars (Chinese: 參; pinyin: Shēn)


During the Han Dynasty, people believed the tiger to be the king of all beasts. Legend had it that when a tiger reached 500 years old, its tail would turn white. In this way, the white tiger became a kind of mythological creature. It was said that the white tiger would only appear when the emperor ruled with absolute virtue, or if there was peace throughout the world. Because the color white of the Chinese five elements also represents the west, the white tiger thus became a mythological guardian of the west.

In Book of Tang, the reincarnation of White Tiger 's Star is said to be Li Shimin's general Luo Cheng (羅 成) and the reincarnation of Azure Dragon 's Star is said to be the rebellious general Dan Xiongxin (單 雄信). They two are sworn brothers of Qin Shubao (秦 叔寶), Cheng Zhijie (程 知節) and Yuchi Jingde (尉遲 敬德). Their souls after death are said to possess the body of the new heroes of Tang Dynasty and Liao Dynasty, Xue Rengui (薛 仁貴) and He Suwen (郃 苏文).

In some legends of the Tang Dynasty's general Xue Rengui, he's said the reincarnation of the White Tiger's Star. And his archenemy, Liao Dynasty's prince He Suwen is the reincarnation of the Azure Dragon's Star.



Chinese constellations | Chinese astronomy | Chinese mythology | Legendary mammals | Chinese legendary creatures | Chinese mythology stubs