Episode 168: Mushroom Of Immortality

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People in different cultures have been searching for the elixir or immortality for thousands of years. Today we will talk about the most famous Ling Zhi 灵芝.



Ling Zhi literally means magical mushroom in Chinese. Ling Zhi is actually a real plant in nature, which is Ganoderma, a genus of fungi and it is used in traditional Chinese medicines. But I don’t think it has the effects of immortality in real life.



The word Ling Zhi appeared earliest in the book XiJingFu 西京赋 from the Eastern Han dynasty,between the year 25 ~ 220. There was even a book called TaiShangLingBaoZhiCaoPin 太上灵宝芝草品, from around the 5th century with details about how to get and eat this magic mushroom. This book was a part of a series of Taoism books, so Ling Zhi was the magic plant in Taoism.



Some scholars think the reason people treat Ganoderma as the magic mushroom is due to the shape and patterns on them which look like clouds and clouds is a good omen in Chinese mythology since gods and immortals always come with.



There are many stories in Chinese mythology that you can find people are searching for Ling Zhi. In some version of the story Madame White Snake 白蛇传, we talked about from Ep 59 ~ Ep. 62, Madame White Snake stole the magic mushroom Ling Zhi on the Mountain EMei 峨眉山 to bring back the life of her husband Xu Xian 许仙.




In the book Journey to the West 西游记, the God of Longevity in Chinese mythology that we have talked about in Ep. 64 brought Ling Zhi to the Buddha as gifts.



In Chinese ancient palaces, temples, clothing, paintings, sculptures and etc, you can also find the images of Ling Zhi and the good omen clouds based on the shape of Ling Zhi. For example in the Wall Painting ChaoYuanTu 朝元图 from the Ming dynasty 明朝, there are maids holding Ling Zhi that are gifts to the emperors.





西京赋 XiJingFu

西游记 Journey to the West

太上灵宝芝草品 TaiShangLingBaoZhiCaoPin

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