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.”

《淮南八老公》

淮南王安好道术,设厨宰以候宾客。正月上辛,有八老公诣门求见。门吏白王,王使吏自以意难之,曰:“吾王好长生,先生无驻衰之术,未敢以闻。”公知不见,乃更形为八童子,色如桃花。王便见之,盛礼设乐,以享八公。援琴而弦歌曰:“明明上天,照四海兮。知我好道,公来下兮。公将与余,生羽毛兮。升腾青云,蹈梁甫兮。观见三光,遇北斗兮。驱乘风云,使玉女兮。”今所谓《淮南操》是也。

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