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Immortality & Splendid Mythological Realities

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Did you ever have one of those days when you could have sworn you were in the middle of a Chinese movie due to everything around you being of an ancient nature and entirely covered by a thick white blanket of sea fog giving it more than a mythological reality?

You haven’t had one of those days? Well maybe it’s time you gave it ago!

Today was one of the most amazing days I’ve had in four and a half years, landscape wise that is. Jump on a plane to Yantai city and then grab a bus that will take you sixty five kilometers northwest to a small beautiful coastal city of Penglai (formerly known as Teng-chou (Wade-Giles)). Penglai was the first port on the Shandong peninsula that was opened to foreigners in the 1800s, so it was the first place those pesky missions were established. Subsequently, it was overshadowed by the port of Yantai (Chefoo). Penglai’s scenery has earned the city fame as the fabled landing spot on Earth for the Eight Immortals.

Penglai has been ranked as one of China's best domestic tourist destinations and over the past several years more than twenty five million US dollars has been invested into restoring and developing it's characteristic tourist areas and each year more than two million tourists are expected.

There are several things to see in Penglai but all of them now come with a price tag with several digits on it. Sitting on a cliff top over looking the bay is the one thousand year old Penglai Pavilion that is closely entwined in Chinese mythology with the legends of the Eight Immortals Crossing The Sea (more on that later). There is also the Crossing the Sea Water Fortress and the Three Divine Mountains. The city is also famous for its mirages out at sea, which are frequent during May and June. On the 17th June 1988 a mirage appeared that lasted over five hours, revealing two islands with roads, trees, buildings, people, bridges and vehicles.

I am writing this on July 27th and I haven’t started it until now as it was the last day that Luo Wei and I spent together before she headed back to Kaifeng city and sadly out of my life to live a simple life with her mother.

After checking out of our expensive crappy hotel (and leaving our bags there for the day) we headed across to the Beima Bus Station and grabbed a bus to Penglai city. It cost 17Yuan each and the journey takes around one and a half hours. There is not much too see along the way except for a development zone where all factories have same gardens out front. When we arrived in Penglai were met by a line of cabs that pretty much told us how it all works. It costs 5Yuan to the supposed bridge where the Eight Mortals became Immortal. There is a temple dedicated to them along the way that costs 15Yuan to enter but we were more than sure we were gong to be 'templed out’ by the end of the day so we waved the driver on.

The Water Fortress/Bridge of Immortality costs 60 Yuan to enter and the Three Devine Mountains have an entrance fee of 120 Yuan and if you buy both together you get free taxi cart rides between both and you also get a free taxi cart ride to the bus station at the end of the day. As we wanted to get as much for our money as possible we decided to skip the one thousand year old pavilion (hey, I’ve seen many of them…tee hee) and took a taxi cart to the Three Devine Mountains to begin. Though there actually are no mountains there are three beautiful temples/pavilions. It was absolutely stunning especially as we were lucky enough to be there on a day when everything was totally covered with mythical sea fog. It really did feel we were either on another planet or living a mythical reality.

I won’t go into details of the park except to say that it was brilliantly constructed and all buildings and temples are with visiting. More so are the fabulous gardens that look like that are straight from a movie or painting.

It took us around three hours to walk around through the entire park and at the entrance they tell you that it will take four or five hours and offer you the luxury of a taxi cart but the cost of 150Yuan for the taxi cart you would want to be with a large group. Chinese speaking guides are free (there are no English speaking guides) but all temples etc have a small write up in both English, Chinese and Korean so you can walk around and figure most of it out.

We then spent a wonderful few hours across the road on the beach. I finally got to show Luo Wei how happy a real sandy beach can be. By this time the mist had cleared leaving a wonderful blue sky above.

We played with the sand and seaweed and collected little shells for Luo Wei to take home and then grabbed our free taxi cart back to the Water Fortress Temple thing. After walking around for an hour we both agreed it wasn’t worth the 60Yuan, especially as the pagoda wasn’t open to the public to climb and take photos from so we decided to call it a day and grabbed a free taxi cart to the bus station.

We spent the entire hour and a half bus journey going through our photos.

We arrived in Yantai at the Long Distance Bus Station (not far from the Beima Bus Station) so we walked back to our old hotel, grabbed our bags and then dropped into an awesome noodle place for dinner before checking into our new hotel across from the old and still used train station. For those going to Yantai who are reading this, if you arrive by bus from Ji’nan you will be dropped off near the New Train Station and this is the train station marked on both city maps and on the Lonely Planet map. You will know it as it is freaking huge. This station is not expected to be open for at least another year. So if you want budget accommodation ask your taxi driver to take you to the old train station area which is further west down Zhifutun Lu (runs west off Beima Lu).

It is not far from the large intersection and takes only a few minutes to walk. But it is worth it as there is a large difference in hotel prices. Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

PS: ALL PHOTOS CAN BE FOUND BENEATH THE TEXT BELOW ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Sydney’s awesome DEF FX The album was ‘Ritual Eternal’ ____________________________________________________________

Mount Penglai or Penglai Island is a mystical land found in Chinese mythology. The legend also passed into Japan, where it took shape as the legend of Hōrai.

According to Shan Hai Jing, the mountain is said to be on an island in the eastern end of Bohai Sea, along with four other islands where the immortals lived, called Fāngzhàng, Yíngzhōu, Dàiyú, and Yuánjiāo.

Though a Penglai City exists in Shandong, China, whether or not the city was the actual spot as described in the legends is unknown. The city, however, prides itself for the legend, and claims that a certain scenic region in the city was the landing point of the Eight Immortals. Others claim that the mountain can be seen in form of the frequent mirages at sea that the city is famous for. Another theory by Yichu of Later Zhou Dynasty puts the fabled island as Japan, while Penglai Mountain is Mount Fuji.

<u>In Chinese mythology</u>

In Chinese mythology, the mountain is often said to be the base for the Eight Immortals, or at least where they travel to have a banquet, as well as the magician Anqi Sheng. Supposedly, everything on the mountain seems white, while its palaces are made from gold and platinum, and jewelries grow on trees.

There is no pain and no winter; there are rice bowls and wine glasses that never become empty no matter how much people eat or drink from them; and there are magical fruits growing in Penglai that can heal any disease, grant eternal youth, and even raise the dead.

Historically, Qin Shi Huang, in search of the elixir of life, made several attempts to find the island where the mountain is located, to no avail. Legends tell that Xu Fu, one servant sent to find the island, found Japan instead.

<u>In Japanese mythology</u>

The presentation of Mt. H&#333;rai in Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, is somewhat different from the earlier idyllic Chinese myth. This version, which does not truly represent the Japanese views of Horai in the Meiji and preceding Tokugawa periods, rejects much of the fantastic and magical properties of H&#333;rai. In this version of the myth, H&#333;rai is not free from sorrow or death, and the winters are bitterly cold. Hearn's conception of H&#333;rai holds that there are no magical fruits that cure disease, grant eternal youth or raise the dead, and no rice bowls or wine glasses that never become empty.

Hearn's incarnation of the myth of H&#333;rai focuses more on the atmosphere of the place, which is said to be made up not of air but of "quintillions of quintillions" of souls. Breathing in these souls is said to grant one all of the perceptions and knowledge of these ancient souls. The Japanese version also holds that the people of H&#333;rai are small fairies, and they have no knowledge of great evil, and so their hearts never grow old.

In the Kwaidan, there is some indication that the Japanese hold such a place to be merely a fantasy. It is pointed out that "H&#333;rai is also called Shinkiro, which signifies Mirage &#8212; the Vision of the Intangible". Yet uses of Mount H&#333;rai in Japanese literature and art of the Tokugawa period (1615-1868) reveal a very different view than Hearn's Victorian-influenced interpretation.

<u>Who Are The Eight Immortals?</u>

Legends about the Eight Immortals (Ba Xian) started to circulate orally long ago among the people and were recorded in the works of writers of various dynasties - Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming. But it was only with Wu Yuantai of the Ming dynasty who wrote The Emergence of the Eight lmmortals and Their Travels to the East that the Eight began to be clearly distinguished as the following.

<u>Tieguai Li (also called Li Tieguai, meaning Li with the Iron Crutch)</u> was a lay Taoist by the name of Li Xuan who received his Enlightenment from the Supreme Patriarch of Taoism himself. Once his soul left his body to travel abroad but had to enter the corpse of a starved beggar when he found his own body mistakenly burnt by his disciple. He then had an earthly form with unkempt hair, a dirty face, a bare abdomen and a crippled leg. He blew water on the beggar’s bamboo cane, changing it into an iron cane or crutch.

<u>Han Zhongli (or Zhongli Quan)</u> was given the first divine revelations by Li Tieguai and then went into the mountains to seek the light. After his return to the world, he killed a tiger with a flying scimitar and changed copper into gold to help the poor. In the end, he ascended to the upper realms of immortality with his brother. He is usually shown with a feather fan in a comfortable reclining posture.

<u>Zhang Guolao</u> was a hermit in the Zhongtiao Mountains for a long time. He is said to have already been several hundred years old in the reign of Empress Wu Zetian (690 - 705 A. D.). Summoned by the Empress, he feigned death by magic in order to avoid meeting her. Later people saw him in the mountains near Hengzhou. He used to travel on a white donkey which could cover thousands of leagues in a single day. When taking a rest, he would fold up the donkey as if it were made of paper and put it into his suitcase. He is usually depicted riding backward on his donkey, that is, facing the tail of the beast.

<u>He Xiangu</u> was a Tang dynasty girl of Zengcheng, Guangdong province, living at a place called Yunmu Xi (Ravine of Mica). She became an immortal at the age of fourteen by taking mica powder. After that, she was so agile that her body could float from one peak to another collecting fruit for her mother. Another source says that she was a woman Taoist of Yongzhou during the Song dynasty, famous for her fortune - telling.

<u>Lan Caihe</u>, according to some sources, was a hermaprodite, usually dressed in blue tatters, with one foot bare and the other in a boot, wandering through the country, begging along the thoroughfares and singing drunkenly to the cadence of castanets. One day in an inn, music of flutes and mouth - organs was heard descending from the sky. Lan was suddenly wafted off into the air and vanished.

<u>Lu Dingbin</u> was a native of Shaanxi (some say, of Shanxi) province and lived during the Tang dynasty. After failing twice at the imperial examinations during the years 841 - 846A. D., he led a vagrant life for years. At the age of sixty - four, he met Han Zhongli, who taught him the secrets of alchemy. He was given an official title by a Yuan emperor and came to be generally know as Lu Zu (Patriarch Lu). Taoists considered him to be one of the five supreme deities of the North.

<u>Han Xiangzi</u> is said to be a distant nephew of the great Tang writer - statesman Han Yu. Intelligent and unrestrained in nature, he managed, once in an early winter, to make rose - peonies blossom in a few days in different colours, each blossom carrying a written poem, to the great astonishment of his uncle. He tried to proselyte Han Yu to renounce the world for Taoism. When Yu fell into disfavour and was banished to Chaoyang in the far south, he met with snow on the way. Suddenly Xiangzi came from nowhere to bid him farewell. Before parting, Xinagzi told about future happenings, all of which came true.

<u>Cao Guojiu</u> is said to have lived during the Song dynasty and his name was Cao You, Guojiu being a semi - official title for the brothers of the empress. He had a brother who, taking advantage of his imperial connexion, became a notorious evildoer. Ashamed of his brother and afraid of becoming implicated, he scattered his wealth among the poor and went into the mountains to seek the Way of Enlightenment. Finally, he was immortalized by Han Zhongli and Lu Dongbin. Another source says that he left his mortal remains at a Taoist temple in Xuzhou.

The best known tale that involves all of them together is Ba Xian Guo Hai or The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea. It describes how, when crossing a sea in their wanderings, each of them used a different object (a walking cane, a fan, a scimitar, etc.) as a vessel. Thes has given rise to an everyday saying: when people try to accomplish the same task by different methods, they are said to be emulating the example of the Eight Immortals crossing the sea.

Penglai Eight Immortals Temple Adventure

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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