Episode 47: Eight Immortals 5 – HeXiangu

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Today we are going to talk about the only female in the Eight Immortals 八仙. Her name is HeXiangu 何仙姑. Of course among the eight, she represents the female.

HeXiangu is depicted holding a lotus flower which can improve people’s health. Lotus flower is loved by Chinese people and represent virtue of gentlemen. In an article by a Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi 周敦颐from Song Dynasty 宋朝, it says, 予独爱莲 之出淤泥而不染, which means “for me I only love lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.” In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus also represents purity. To both Hindus and Buddhists, lotus is a sacred flower where many deities are depicted as seated on. Lotus is the symbol of immortality.

何仙姑2

There are many versions of who HeXiangu was before she became an immortal and how she became an immortal. In the book ChaXiangShiXuChao茶香室续钞from Qing Dynasty 清朝, it says, HeXiangu, the daughter of He Tai 何泰 from the county Zengcheng 增城县in Guangzhou 广州. During the ruling of Empress Wu 武则 天in Tang Dynasty 唐朝, she was around 14~15 years old. One night, she had a dream that an immortal taught her to eat mica, yes you didn’t hear it wrong, the mineral mica in order to fly. After that, she could fly from the top of a mountain to another. The Empress Wu heard about it to invite her to the palace, she disappeared on the way. It is like the story of Zhangguolao 张果老, another immortal from the eight, that he never wanted to meet the emperors to tell them the key of immortality. During the year of Emperor Zhongzong 唐中宗, she became a real immortal.

何仙姑

In the book DongXuanBiLu 东轩笔录from Song Dynasty 宋朝,it says, the girl from family He from the place YongZhou 永州, met an immortal who gave her a peach when she was a kid. After that, she never needed to eat and was insightful about the fortunes. The neighborhood regarded her as a goddess. We mentioned in our previous episodes that peaches represent immortality in Chinese mythology.

In Chinese medicine and Taoism, it seems like if you eat certain things you could get special power or ability. You are what you eat. Maybe the idea is that what you eat really goes into and absorbed by the body.

There are some temples worshiping HeXiangu in the city Guangzhou 广州市 today and on the 7th day of the third month , the birthday of HeXiangu and the 8th day on the eighth month, the day HeXiangu became an immortal, the believers would have a huge worship event in the temples.

Mentioned:

何仙姑 HeXiangu

周敦颐 Zhou Dunyi

茶香室续钞 ChaXiangShiXuChao

武则 天Empress Wu

张果老 Zhangguolao

唐中宗 Emperor Zhongzong of Tang

东轩笔录 DongXuanBiLu

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