Han Xiang Zi | Han Hsiang Tzu

One of the legendary Eight IMMORTALS, or BA XIAN. In the stories about him, Han Xiang was said to be the nephew of a TANG-DYNASTY philosopher. He became a disciple of LU DONGBIN, one of the original Eight Immortals. He had the power to make FLOWERS grow and blossom in the wink of an eye and was depicted as a young boy playing a flute so wonderfully that all animals would stop and listen. He was the patron of musicians. The legends say he was a favorite student of Lu Dongbin, who was so pleased with his virtue that he took Han to HEAVEN and showed him a PEACH tree of the gods, which grew in the gardens of the palace of XI WANG MU and blossomed once every 3,000 years. The peaches of that tree were said to give or renew eternal life to anyone who ate one. Han Xiang climbed the tree at Lu Dongbin’s request, but he slipped and fell to EARTH, achieving immortality a moment before he crashed. Some tales depict him as having a wild, unpredictable temper as well as supernatural powers.

Han Xiangzi Transforms into an Immortal

Legend has it that Han Xiangzi was born with immortal bones. He lived freely, disdaining the hustle and bustle of the world, preferring tranquility and simplicity. Neither beauties nor delicious food could tempt him. He devoted himself diligently to cultivation and the study of Daoism. Although Han Yu repeatedly advised him to focus on scholarly pursuits, Han Xiangzi always replied, "What I learn is different from what you learn." This angered Han Yu, who rebuked him.

One day, Han Xiangzi went out seeking Daoist teachings and encountered Lu Dongbin and Han Zhongli. He left home to follow them and received their true teachings. Later, while traveling, Han Xiangzi came across a peach grove where ripe immortal peaches grew. As he climbed the tree to pick a peach, a branch suddenly broke, causing Han Xiangzi to fall to the ground and die, his body transforming into an immortal.

Han Xiangzi wished to enlighten Han Yu, but Han Yu was skeptical of Daoist teachings. So, Han Xiangzi first used magic to impress him. Coincidentally, that year there was a severe drought, and the emperor ordered Han Yu to pray for rain at the Southern Altar. Despite repeated prayers, no rain fell, putting Han Yu at risk of losing his position. Han Xiangzi disguised himself as a Daoist and put up a sign on the street saying, "Selling Rain and Snow." Someone informed Han Yu, who immediately invited the Daoist to join in the prayers. The Daoist performed a ritual, and suddenly, thick snowflakes fell from the sky. However, Han Yu remained skeptical and asked, "Did I bring this snow, or did you?" The Daoist replied, "I brought it." Han Yu demanded evidence, and the Daoist said, "The snow is three feet and three inches thick." Han Yu sent someone to measure, confirming the claim, and only then did he believe in the extraordinary power of Daoism.

One day, on Han Yu's birthday, friends and relatives came to congratulate him. Han Yu hosted a grand banquet for them. Unexpectedly, Han Xiangzi arrived and wished Han Yu longevity. Han Yu was both delighted and annoyed to see him. During the banquet, Han Yu asked Han Xiangzi if his knowledge had progressed during his travels and requested him to compose a poem expressing his aspirations.

Han Xiangzi recited:

Green mountains and clouds divide, this place is my home; Hand plucks clouds and dew, guests sing at dawn under the setting sun. Playing the zither in the Blue Jade Cave, refining white cinnabar in the stove; Treasure cauldron holds the golden tiger, the mushroom field nurtures white crows. A gourd contains the wonders of creation, three feet of new magic; Unraveling the twists and turns of wine, able to make flowers bloom instantly. If someone can learn from me, we'll share the view of the immortal flower.

After hearing Han Xiangzi's poem, Han Yu asked him if he possessed the ability to create nature's wonders. Han Yu then tasked him with making wine bloom into flowers. Han Xiangzi brought a jug of wine to the hall and covered it with a golden basin. After a while, when the basin was removed, the wine had turned into exquisite flowers. Han Xiangzi then gathered some soil, and soon, a blue flower bloomed, as big as a peony but more splendid in color. On the flower were two lines of golden characters: "Clouds stretch over the Qin Mountains, where is my home? Snow piles up at Lan Pass, the horse cannot advance." Han Yu did not understand the meaning. Han Xiangzi said, "The heavenly secrets cannot be revealed; they will be fulfilled in the future." The guests were all amazed. When the banquet ended, Han Xiangzi bid farewell to Han Yu and left.

During the reign of Emperor Xianzong of Tang, Han Yu angered the emperor by advising against the reception of Buddhist relics. As a result, he was demoted to the position of governor of Chaozhou and given a deadline to leave. Han Yu bid farewell to his wife and children and set off for Chaozhou. After only a few days of travel, a cold wind rose, and heavy snow fell. Han Yu reached a place where the snow was several feet deep, making it difficult for his horse to move forward. With no nearby houses in sight and unsure of the way, Han Yu felt lost. As the wind howled and the snow fell relentlessly, Han Yu was soaked and freezing, with no one to share his misery. At his most desperate moment, he saw someone braving the cold, sweeping snow towards him. To his surprise, it was Han Xiangzi. Han Xiangzi asked Han Yu, "Do you still remember the lines written on that flower?" Han Yu asked, "Where is this place?" Han Xiangzi replied, "This is Lan Pass." Han Yu sighed deeply before saying, "Since things are predetermined, let me complete the lines for you."

Left-Handed Farewell to My Nephew Han Xiang at Lan Pass

A memorial to the Heavenly Court, a demotion to Chaozhou, eight thousand li away. Wishing to rectify the government's shortcomings, willing to endure the twilight years. Clouds stretch over the Qin Mountains, where is my home? Snow piles up at Lan Pass, the horse cannot advance. Knowing you've come from afar with intentions, it's good to collect my bones by the malarial riverbank.

Playing the Flute to Meet the Dragon Maiden

It is said that the divine bamboo flute of Han Xiangzi was a gift from the Seventh Princess of the East Sea Dragon King!

One year, Han Xiangzi traveled through famous mountains and rivers, reaching the shores of the East Sea. He heard of the Dragon Maiden of the East Sea, skilled in music and dance, and wished to meet her. So, he went to the seaside every day to play his flute. On this particular day, the third day of the third lunar month, it was the day the Dragon Maiden of the East Sea set out for her spring outing. At night, the Dragon Maiden heard a melodious and pleasant flute sound coming from the seaside, which surprised her. Han Xiangzi's flute disturbed the Dragon Maiden's heart. The enchanting melodies seemed to steal her soul away, and she involuntarily walked towards the sea, transforming into a silver eel to meet the flute player.

After Han Xiangzi finished playing, the tide receded ten miles away. At that moment, he noticed a stranded silver eel on the shore, tears shimmering in its eyes as it looked up at him. Seeing her seemingly still lost in the music, Han Xiangzi felt both amused and exasperated, saying, "Little eel, little eel, do you also understand the mysteries within? If you are a kindred spirit, please convey my sentiments to the Crystal Dragon Palace!" The eel nodded eagerly. Han Xiangzi was astonished and out of curiosity, he began to play the jade screen flute. Unexpectedly, the silver eel, with deep understanding of human nature, started to dance gracefully under the bright moonlight, performing magical dances. The beauty of her dance and the strangeness of her demeanor were unprecedented. Even Han Xiangzi, who had traveled far and wide and seen many wonders, was stunned. Under the moonlight, the silver eel danced gracefully, spinning and twirling faster and faster. Suddenly, a flash of silver light, and the eel disappeared.

In the moonlit scene, a celestial-like Dragon Maiden danced gracefully, with willow-leaf eyebrows, apricot blossom face, jade-like hands, slender waist, draped in golden silk, with a lotus-bordered skirt. Her movements, like Chang'e's dance, surpassed that of swallows skimming over water, bewildering Han Xiangzi. As she danced, the Dragon Maiden sang:

"The sea is calm like a mirror under the moon, Lonely is the Dragon Palace, hearing the flute's melody. One song from the master, like a phoenix seeking its mate, I wish to dance with you until dawn."

As the song and dance continued, the moon gradually descended in the west, the tide slowly rose again, and dawn approached. Suddenly, a wave swept in, and both the eel and the Dragon Maiden disappeared. This scene repeated for three consecutive nights.

On this day, Han Xiangzi returned to the seaside to play his flute. For some reason, despite playing for most of the day, the Dragon Maiden did not emerge from the sea. Had the jade screen flute lost its power? Frustrated, he broke his beloved jade flute, but still, the Dragon Maiden did not appear. Disheartened, Han Xiangzi began to walk away when he heard someone calling him from behind. Turning around, he saw a strange old fisherwoman. The old woman bowed to Han Xiangzi and said, "Sir, the princess thanks you for your kindness and has sent me to deliver a message. To be honest, the princess who sang and danced under the moonlight in the past few nights is the Seventh Princess of the East Sea Dragon King. Due to the revelation of her actions, she has been confined in the deep palace by the Dragon King and cannot come to meet you. Today, she asked me to offer you this branch of the Divine Bamboo from the South Sea Mount Potalaka, to be used for making an immortal flute. She hopes you can compose divine music to save her from her plight!" With that, the old fisherwoman handed over a branch of the divine bamboo and disappeared in a gust of wind. Han Xiangzi crafted the divine bamboo into a golden flute, from then on, he abandoned the thought of mixing with the mortal world, delving into the depths of the ancient mountains, playing his flute and composing music day and night. Indeed, he cultivated extraordinary abilities beyond the mundane.

Later, when the Eight Immortals crossed the sea, Han Xiangzi used his divine flute to subdue snake demons and calm sea monsters, displaying his immortal powers. As for the Dragon Maiden of the East Sea, because she had secretly sent a branch of divine bamboo, she was punished by Guanyin Bodhisattva to serve as a maid, never to be freed. It is said that the fishermen of the East Sea often hear the deep flute sound on the sea, which is Han Xiangzi longing for the Dragon Maiden and expressing his restless heart through his flute in the heavens.