The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea

Lan Cai He | Lan Ts’ai-ho

Lan CaiHe was originally a man, but often dressed as a woman, carrying a flower basket. It is said that he was actually an immortal who had descended to Earth, and he originally was a wandering Taoist priest. He often wore tattered blue clothing, with a wooden belt more than three inches wide, one foot in a boot and the other barefoot. In summer, he wore cotton clothes, and in winter, he slept in the snow, breathing out steam. He often carried a large wooden clapper over three feet long, singing and walking through cities, appearing drunk, but not entirely mad.

Lan Caihe's Songs Across the World

《Tai Ping Guang Ji》

"Lan Caihe sings while walking, how much of the world can he cover? Beautiful youth is like a spring tree; the flow of time is like a thrown shuttle. Ancient people leave and never return; today, people come and go even more. In the morning, they ride phoenixes to the heavens; in the evening, they see the white waves rise over green fields. The bright sunlight shines in the sky, with golden and silver palaces towering high." There are many songs, mostly with celestial themes, and people can't understand them. If you give him money, he strings it on a long rope, dragging it on the ground. If it falls, he doesn't turn around. If he sees poor people, he gives them money, and also gives to taverns. He roams the world, and people who saw him in their childhood would see him with grey hair, yet his appearance remained unchanged. Later, he sang at a wine shop in the city of Haojiang. Drunk, he heard the sound of cloud-like flutes, and suddenly ascended into the clouds, dropping his boot, clothes, belt, and clapper, slowly floating away.

Lan Caihe's Battle with the Dragon King

《Journey to the East》

Legend has it that Lan Caihe once attended the Peach Festival and, on his way back, each of the immortals used magical items to cross the sea. A dragon prince liked the jade tablet Lan Caihe stepped on and stole it, leading to a battle. The Eight Immortals 'set fire to the Eastern Ocean,' and the Dragon King was defeated, asking heavenly soldiers for help. In the end, Guanyin mediated the conflict, bringing peace. After that, heaven and earth became calm, and the world was at peace. The book is written in both classical and vernacular Chinese, with stories often inconsistent, as it combines folk tales.

ZhongLi Quan Converts Lan Caihe

(Zhongli appears and recites a poem) "The door where I was born and the door where I die, how many are wise and how many are ignorant? Last night, I pondered as a strong man, immortality is made by people." I am Zhongli Quan, named Yunfang, Taoist name Zhengyangzi. I came to attend a heavenly ritual and saw a beam of blue energy rising into the sky. I observed for a while and found Lan Caihe in Luoyang, working in a theater. This person had half-immortal characteristics. I went to him and guided him toward the immortal path. I had his name removed from the book of life and death and placed in the register of celestial officers. I pointed out the way to the ends of the earth and guided him on the great path.

Lan Caihe was from Nanjing, originally named Xu Jian, who advised King Li. King Li didn't listen, fearing disaster, so he left Nanjing and went to Bianliang, working in a theater for 20 years. He performed various plays to earn a living, "doing a bit of artistry, which was better than owning a thousand acres of farmland." One day, his relatives, Wang Base and Li Bothin, opened the theater, with a man sitting on the musical bed, not leaving. Lan Caihe met with him, and he asked him to perform some plays. Lan Caihe performed some classic scenes, but this man didn't leave. Lan Caihe guessed that he might be Zhongli Quan, and the man said that he was conning people for money by performing, "it's better to become a monk." Lan Caihe responded, "You live off thin meals and simple clothes, while I have to scavenge for food to make a living. You hang out in teahouses and bars, carrying ceramic bottles to collect some flour scraps." Lan Caihe was annoyed because the man disrupted his day of work, costing him earnings. He ordered Wang Base to lock the theater door, wondering how this man would leave.

It turned out that the man was Zhongli Quan. He saw that Lan Caihe had half-immortal qualities and had come to guide him, but Lan Caihe was too short-sighted to realize it. Zhongli cried and laughed on Lan Caihe's birthday. Lan Caihe, annoyed but not wanting to make a fuss, said, "I'm the birthday star; I'm not arguing with you." Zhongli responded, "You may be the birthday star today, but you might be a disaster star tomorrow." Lan Caihe wasn't listening, ordering Wang Base to close the door. Zhongli kept telling him to become a monk, but Lan Caihe ridiculed him, saying that monks were just trying to trick people. Suddenly, a messenger came to summon Lan Caihe, who was scared because he made a mistake, getting beaten with 40 lashes. Terrified, he asked Zhongli for help, who told him to become a monk. Lan Caihe had to agree, saying, "I will follow Zhongli in cultivation, not leading a hundred others in disguise to make money anymore." He wrapped his turban, wore a long robe, tied a woven belt, and danced freely. His wife asked him to return home, but he replied, "Children are like gold chains and jade locks, causing many troubles." He told her that the master taught him to sing celestial songs, saying, "When you drink, just drink, and when you're idle, just relax. Don't frown all the time, just laugh." He understood the fleeting nature of life and would rather read the Tao Te Ching and rest when tired.

Thirty years later, Lan Caihe, having completed his cultivation, was heading to the Jade Pool, passing by a group of musicians. It was "Lan Caihe's family," with Wang Base now 80, Li Bothin 70, and Lan Caihe's wife 90. Lan Caihe lamented the passing of time, seeing his old acquaintances aged, yet he remained unchanged. The group asked him to perform some plays, revealing old costumes in perfect condition, but when he opened the curtain, Zhongli Quan was sitting there, meditating. He criticized him for his worldly thoughts. Lan Caihe then realized his mistakes and went with the other immortals to the Jade Pool.