The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea

Lü Dong Bin | Lü Tung Pin

Known as LÜ TUNG-PIN, LÜ YEN, Lü Yan, or LÜ TSU, Lu Dongbin is part of the legendary Eight IMMORTALS or BA XIAN, his Daoist title is ChunYangZi. Had the nickname "The Wandering Daoist," was an immortal in Daoism, one of the Eight Immortals, one of the Five Great Benefactors, one of the Five Literary Gods, one of the founders of the Quanzhen Sect, and a key figure in the Zhong-Lü internal alchemy tradition and the ideology of the Three Teachings' integration. He was also the deity of civil service examinations, stationery, mining, and barbering.

Fabled to punish the wicked and reward the virtuous, one narrative recounts Lu Dongbin's choice to embrace TAOISM and a life of sanctity. During an encounter with ZHONGLI QUAN, another of the Eight Immortals, Lu Dongbin foresees his future after a vision induced during a nap, prompting him to renounce earthly ambitions and become Zhongli Quan's disciple.

In his youth, Lu Dongbin allegedly received a magic SWORD from a DRAGON that rendered him invisible when visiting HEAVEN. Another account states that, after overcoming ten temptations, he acquired a supernatural sword to combat evil forces. Some tales describe Lu Dongbin's 400-year journey across the world, where he mingled with common folk, employed his magical sword to vanquish evil dragons, aid the righteous, and dispel ignorance. Artists often depict him holding a FLY WHISK in his right hand with a sword slung across his back.

Legend of Lü Dongbin's Birth

It is said that when Lü Dongbin's mother was about to give birth, the room filled with a strange fragrance, heavenly music floated in the air, and a white crane descended during the day, entering the room and disappearing. Lü Dongbin was born with a "golden form" and "wooden quality," with a Daoist aura and an immortal demeanor. He had a turtle shell-like back, a tiger-like body, and dragon-like cheeks, with a black mole at the corner of his left eyebrow and another under his left eye. According to "Lü Zhenren's Memoirs at Jiangzhou Pavilion," he claimed to be from Jingchuan and took the imperial examinations three times without success. "The Eastern Travels" also describes his origins, stating that he was from Tang Puzhou and even suggested that he was the reincarnation of the Eastern Hua Zhenren. Despite varying records, the immortal deeds of Lü Dongbin generally align. The same book mentions that he didn't marry by age 20, failed the imperial examinations twice, and later met Grandmaster Long, who taught him the sword technique to banish demons.

Zhongli Quan's Ten Tests for Lü Dongbin

It's said that Lü Dongbin, at age 64, passed the imperial examination and wandered to Chang'an, where he met the immortal Zhongli Quan in a tavern. Zhongli Quan, upon seeing Lü Yan, recognized his potential and decided to test him to determine if he was worthy of becoming his disciple. Lü Dongbin underwent ten tests to prove his worthiness, eventually earning Zhongli Quan's approval.

First Test

One day, Lü Dongbin returned home to find his entire family suddenly dead. Showing no signs of grief, he prepared coffins to bury them, only to see them revive. This was the first test by Zhongli Quan.

Second Test

Lü Dongbin went to the market to sell some goods. After agreeing on a price, the buyer refused to pay the agreed amount, offering only half. Lü Dongbin didn't argue, choosing to give the items away without complaint. This was the second test.

Third Test

On New Year's Day, a beggar came to Lü Dongbin's door, demanding money. After receiving some, the beggar became even more demanding, cursing Lü Dongbin when he hesitated. Lü Dongbin remained calm, continually apologizing and soothing the beggar until he left. This was the third test.

Fourth Test

Lü Dongbin was herding sheep in the mountains when a tiger appeared, chasing the flock. Lü Dongbin stood in front of the sheep, willing to sacrifice himself to save them. The tiger left without harming him or the sheep. This was the fourth test.

Fifth Test

Lü Dongbin was alone in his hut when a beautiful young woman asked to stay for the night. Despite her advances, Lü Dongbin remained calm and was not swayed by lust. This was the fifth test.

Sixth Test

When Lü Dongbin returned home from an outing, he found that his house had been burglarized, with all valuables stolen. He calmly took up a hoe to gather herbs for sustenance, only to dig up dozens of gold coins. He quickly covered them, taking nothing. This was the sixth test.

Seventh Test

Lü Dongbin bought several copper items in the market, only to find that they were actually gold. He immediately returned them to the store without hesitation. This was the seventh test.

Eighth Test

A strange Daoist in the market was selling a potion, claiming that it would cause immediate death but guarantee enlightenment in the next life. Despite no one daring to try it, Lü Dongbin trusted the claim and drank the potion. Fortunately, nothing happened. This was the eighth test.

Ninth Test

During a spring flood, Lü Dongbin was sailing on a small boat when a storm caused the river to rage. Though the situation seemed life-threatening, Lü Dongbin calmly sat in the boat, unmoved by fear. The storm eventually subsided without harm. This was the ninth test.

Tenth Test

While sitting at home, Lü Dongbin was confronted by various demons and ghosts, some wanting to harm him. Without fear, he remained calm. Shortly after, a group of night demons appeared with a bloodied prisoner, who claimed Lü Dongbin had killed him in a past life and demanded retribution. Lü Dongbin was willing to accept his fate and prepared to sacrifice himself to atone for his supposed crime.

Outcome

As Lü Dongbin was about to kill himself, Zhongli Quan suddenly appeared, revealing that the entire ordeal had been a test. He declared that Lü Dongbin had passed all ten tests, proving he was ready to learn Daoism. Zhongli Quan then revealed his intention to impart the secret of alchemy to Lü Dongbin, allowing him to use it to help others and complete 3,000 deeds and 800 good acts. Zhongli Quan explained that the metal created through alchemy would eventually revert to its natural state, emphasizing the temporary nature of material wealth. Lü Dongbin, realizing this could mislead future generations, declined the alchemical art to avoid causing confusion or harm to future generations. Zhongli Quan, impressed with his selflessness, accepted him as a disciple.

The Legend of Lü Dongbin and the White Peony

This story recounts an episode where Lü Dongbin engaged with a human woman, showing a different aspect of his character. One day, he wandered through Luoyang City and encountered a beautiful woman named White Peony, who was a famous courtesan and entertainer. Despite his usual detachment from human desires, Lü Dongbin found himself drawn to her beauty, even comparing her to celestial beings. He disguised himself and began to interact with her, eventually visiting her home for a feast and enjoying several days of revelry.

However, realizing that he had lost track of time, Lü Dongbin decided to leave. Despite the deep emotions that developed between them, he knew he couldn't stay in the mortal realm. He promised to return later but ultimately left, highlighting the difficult boundary between mortals and immortals. This story was later adapted into operas and plays, emphasizing the emotional and human side of Lü Dongbin.

The Legend of Lü Dongbin and the Three Drunkards of Yueyang Tower

In this story, Lü Dongbin foresees that a divine transformation is about to occur in Yueyang County, leading him to Yueyang Tower. There, he encountered a thousand-year-old willow tree spirit and a spirit of a white plum blossom. The willow spirit was worried about the plum spirit harming humans and was patrolling the area. Lü Dongbin advised the willow spirit to cultivate the Dao, leading to the transformation of the two spirits into human forms. The willow became a man named Guo Ma'er, while the plum became a woman named He Lamei. Both eventually married and opened a tea house at the base of Yueyang Tower.

Despite Lü Dongbin's efforts to guide them, Guo Ma'er remained unconvinced. It took three visits for Guo Ma'er to realize his past life as a willow tree and He Lamei as a plum blossom. After this realization, they agreed to follow Lü Dongbin and pursue the Dao, eventually achieving immortality.

The Story of Lü Dongbin and the Dog That Bit Him

In this story, Lü Dongbin, following his master Huo Long Daoist's guidance, traveled to Lushan for cultivation. In Nanchang City, he was set down by his celestial crane, which informed him that someone would help him cross the river.

While exploring the area, he encountered a servant from a local benefactor's family, who informed him about a maiden in the household possessed by a demon claiming to be a celestial being. Several exorcists had tried to expel the demon but failed. With a small helper sent by his master, Lü Dongbin entered the house with a special artifact to contain the demon.

Upon finding the demon, it turned out to be the Howling Celestial Dog, the guardian spirit of the second lord god Erlang Shen. Knowing the significance of this spirit, Lü Dongbin was cautious not to cause harm. He captured it in the artifact, but before sealing it completely, he had second thoughts. Despite its misdeeds, the dog hadn't caused severe harm, so he released it. However, as soon as he opened the artifact, the dog bit him and fled, prompting Lü Dongbin to lament, "A good deed goes unrecognized."