Eight Elders of Huainan: A Tale of Daoist Arts and Immortality

Explore the legend of the Eight Elders of Huainan and their quest for immortality in ancient China. Discover the tale of Emperor Liu An's fascination with Daoist arts and their magical transformation.

Emperor Liu An of Huainan had a keen interest in Daoist arts and had a special kitchen prepared to welcome guests. On the first Xin day of the first month, eight elderly men came to his door seeking an audience. The gatekeeper reported this to Emperor Liu An, who instructed the gatekeeper to question them casually. The gatekeeper replied, “Our great king desires longevity and immortality, and you do not possess the immortal arts that halt the aging process. Therefore, I dare not convey your message.” The eight elderly men understood that Emperor Liu An did not wish to meet them, so they transformed themselves into eight young boys with faces like peach blossoms. Emperor Liu An then received them with grand ceremonies and music. While playing the zither, he sang, “The discerning heavens above shine upon the four seas, knowing of my fondness for the Dao, allowing the Eight Sages to descend. The Eight Sages bestow blessings, and I shall transcend into immortality, riding on the green clouds, wandering on Liangfu Mountain. I see the sun, moon, and starlight and encounter the Big Dipper’s seven stars, riding the clear wind and colorful clouds, summoning heavenly Jade Maidens.” This is what we now call the “Huainan Melody.”



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