Monday, August 13, 2007

Hyonmu (tortoise and snake)

Hyonmu (tortoise and snake), one of the four gods, in a Kangso Tumulus

Koguryo was the first feudal state in the history of Korea (100 B.C. - 668 A.D.), and its tomb murals are the oldest paintings still in existence on the Korean Peninsula and are one of the paragons of the Oriental paintings of the early middle ages in their technique and accuracy.

Four gods represent the four directions of north, south east and west. Koguryo people regarded them as guardian deities and symbols of the safety of tumuli. Chongryong (blue dragon) guards the east, while Paekho (white tiger) defends the west, Chujak (red sparrow), the south, and Hyonmu (tortoise only or tortoise and snake) the north.

Copyright © 1997 The People's Korea. All rights reserved.

Genbu, AKA Xuan Wu


Genbu: a black tortoise representing winter and the north

This is Genbu, one of four gods which came to Japan from China. They are scarcely remembered at all today except in various fantasy mangas...

Genbu is a black tortoise representing winter and the north. Genbu is said to have done battle with a serpent, and is frequently shown either entwined with the snake or - as here - with the snake on his back.

Po Kong Temple, Oakland, CA

Po Kong Temple on MacArthur in Laurel District, Oakland, CA

Black tortoise-snake in the north

Mirror with Geometric Patterns and the Four Spirits

(Kyoto National Museum)

This Mirror with Geometric Patterns and the Four Spirits is an example of a type of mirror that was made in great numbers in China from the end of the Early Han Dynasty to the Late Han Dynasty (from about the 1st Century B.C. to the 2nd Century A.D.), which corresponds to the Japanese Yayoi Period. Many of these mirrors were brought into Japan by way of Korea.

The blue dragon represents constellations in the east, the white tiger in the west, the red bird in the south and the black tortoise-snake in the north (at top of picture).

Copyright Kyoto National Museum. Kyoto, Japan.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Paper house with Joss paper

The paper house, with joss paper thrown all over and personal belongings in boxes in the front.

"It was supposed to be the ceremony for my ancestors (specifically, my great grand parents, grand parents and an aunt). So if you have read my earlier blog complaining about a certain someone that was the 20th May.

The ceremony is called Gong Teck in Hokkien which roughly translates to 功德 in Chinese which means passing of merits to our deceased ancestors"

Friday, July 27, 2007

Xuan Tian Shang Di Blogsite

Xuan Tian Shang Di

"This blog is dedicated to Xuan Tian Shang Di (Siong Te Kong in Hokkien). We hope to share information - stories, documents and pictures - about Xuan Tian Shang Di around the world. We invite you to join us in sharing what you know about Xuan Tian Shang Di, in any country or any language."

Cool Blog!!

Tran Vu aka Zhenwu

Yao Taoist Painting of Tran Vu (Zhenwu)
Yao people - Vietnam
Mid 20th cent.
water-based paint on paper
All photographs and text Copyright Indigo Arts Gallery Inc., 1998-2006.

The Dark Lord of the North

Xuan Wu Stepping on Snake and Tortoise

"Lord Xuan Wu (also called The Dark Lord of the North or The Lord of True Martiality) is one of the most widely revered Chinese deities, ranking in popularity behind only Guan Yin and Kwan Kung.
The God is always depicted holding a magical sword, which he borrowed from one of the 8-Immortals named Lu Dong-Pin. Legend says that He borrowed the magical sword to beat off a powerful devil, and after he was successful, he refused to return the sword back to Lu Dong-Pin. If his palm opens, then his sword will automatically fly back to Lu Dong-Pin. Therefore he always hold this sword tightly.
Lord Xuan Wu is also always depicted with a tortoise and a snake, beneath his feet. He is revered as a powerful God, able to control the elements (worshipped by those wishing to avoid fires), and capable of great magic. He is particularly revered by martial artists, and is the 'patron saint' of Wudang Mountain in China's Hubei Province, where he allegedly attained immortality."

Copyright © 2003-2007. All rights reserved.

Inside the historic Bok Kai Temple in Marysville

Candles burn inside the historic Bok Kai Temple in Marysville

Return of the Bok Kai

by Katie Lawrence

Issue date:Section: News 2/16/05

"Bok Kai is the main deity, who controls the flooding and can banish evil." explained Keith Bogt, one of the temple's volunteer caretakers.

During 1850 and 1900 the Marysville Chinese population in the northern Sacramento valley was so large that at times it ranked second only to San Francisco. Most of Marysville's Chinese population was part of the Chinese workers from the mines and on the railroads. They brought their traditions and religion with them and erected Bok Kai Mui, which translated means, "Temple of the North side of the stream."

Bok Kai is the Chinese God of Water. It is said that some of Bok Kai's powers are to oversee irrigational waterways and rain. Bok Kai Mui is the only surviving Taoist temple in the western hemisphere with Bok Kai as its central deity."

Media Credit: Stephen sylvanie

Bok Kai Temple Scrolls

Bok Kai Temple Scrolls


Yuba County Library
Copyright © 2007 The Regents of The University of California.

Zhenwu, Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven

Chen Yanqing Zhenwu, Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven

Ming dynasty, dated 1439
Gilt bronze
36.4 cm

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Kuan Kong

Kuan Kong: seated god of war

Medium: gilded and lacquered wood

Kuan Kong: Originally the Chinese god of war, he is now held in high regard by business people, police, and martial arts devotees, among others, and is often associated with wealth. He is the only god depicted with a red face, and is often depicted with his Black Dragon Sword. He is also the keeper of good people and fights those who might harm them.

Art Merchant International • 17161 Beaton Road SE • Monroe, Washington 98272

Chung-li Ch’uan

Eighth Immortal Astride Kirin

Medium: 19th century Chinese bronze

Chung-li Ch’uan, chief of the eight Chinese immortals astride a qilin, a mythological creature that brings serenity and prosperity. With his fan he is able to revive the souls of the dead.

This piece is believed to have been manufactured in Fukien province in the late 19th century. An inscription on one side of the qilin indicates the casting was made for Ming dynasty emperor Xuande, who reigned from 1426-1435.

Art Merchant International • 17161 Beaton Road SE • Monroe, Washington 98272

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

(likely pre-renovation)
Copyright © 2007 The Regents of The University of California.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

Near the Bok Kai Temple.

Photo by David Bush.

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

Side of Bok Kai Temple. Photo by Mary Israel.

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

Back side of Bok Kai Temple. Photo by Mary Israel.

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

Out in front of the entrance to the Bok Kai Temple. Photo by Mary Israel.

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

Gate in front of the Temple. Photo by Mary Israel.

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California

Bok Kai Temple

Dedicated March 21, 1880, this building replaced the first temple built nearby in the early 1850’s. It has been a Chinese community project since 1866, serving as a meeting hall, court, school, and place of worship.

In this “Palace of Many Saints”, Bok Eye, the Water God, is the central deity and has been celebrated in Marysville on Bomb Day since Chinese settled here.

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 889.

Photo by Mary Israel

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blue & White Jar, Ming Dynasty

The fourth and main register represents the Eight Immortals who are either talking with each other or relaxing under a tree probably just after a good drink, with their emblems such as the sword, (associated with Lü Dongbin) and the fan (associated with Zhong Liquan) spread on the foreground. Trees, clouds and shrubs surround them. On the bottom are wave patterns. The shape of this jar and the coloring of the underglaze blue bear much resemblance to a blue and white jar also with the Eight Immortals design dated to the Tianshun reign of the Ming dynasty (1457-1464).

Digital images copyright Special Collections, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College. All rights reserved.

Ivory Fly Whisk Handle, Qing Dynasty

This object is a handle for a fly whisk. It contains the Eight Immortals of Taoism on the handle. Like another fly whisk handle in the collection, this object is missing the hair strands which would complete it. On one side we notice the two Immortals: Li T'ieh-kuai, recognizable by his emaciated body and crutch, and Lu Tung-pin, who has a sword on his back. To the side on the right we see Lan T'sai-ho, who is playing a flute, and Ts'ao Kuo-chiu, who carries a tablet and wears a hat. On the next side directly to the right there is another pair of Immortals. We notice Ho Hsien-ku, who is a female Immortal holding a long-stemmed lotus flower and Chung-li Ch'uan who holds a fan. On the final side we notice Han Hsiang-ku who is holding a basket of flowers over his head with his left arm, and Chang Kuo-lao who is riding a donkey.

Digital image copyright Special Collections, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College. All rights reserved.

Han Chung-li

Lu Tung-pin's teacher, friend, and fellow winebibber, was Han Chung-li, the typical soldier of the Group. Yet, there are so many versions of his life and adventures that he sometimes figures as a warrior, sometimes as a Taoist priest, and sometimes as a beggar receiving the Pill of Immortality. His military virtues are eclipsed by his alchemistic talents. All his pic-tures show him in mufti, sometimes holding his famous feather-fan, or a peach of long life.
Text from:
Plate LEGEND OF LAO TSE, HAN CHUNG-LI Collector's Plate Copyright © 1995-2007 eBay Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Lu Tung Pin

Poems by Lu Tung Pin
What is Tao?
What is Tao?
It is just this.
It cannot be rendered into speech.
If you insist on an explanation,
This means exactly this.

My heart is the clear water in the stony pond.
My heart is the clear water in the stony pond.
Right now it is invaded by the peach-blossom shadows.
As soon as I arrive at heaven's palaces
I shall settle down with my seven-stringed lute.

English version by



The third of the Eight Immortals, Han Zhong Li had great strength, and was physically the strongest of the Eight Drunken Immortals.

In his youth, Han had been a drunkard who had always had an eye for trouble, picking brawls and causing mischief. One day, Li Tit Kwai warned him to straighten out his life. Han refused, and challenged Li to a brawl. Han was promptly defeated and forced to abide by Li's side and become his pupil. Although he tried to run away from Li on many instances, Li always got the better of him. Han eventually resigned to becoming a Taoist priest and after many years of meditation achieved immortality on the Mountain Hua.

Han's signature characteristics are a fan and a huge wine cauldron, the latter of which he is often depicted with in pictures. The fan gives him the power of resurrecting the dead.

Text Copyright 2005 - 2007 (c) All rights reserved:

Picture from:

Lu Tung Pin - Immortal Lu

Lu Tung Pin - Immortal Lu

Lu Tung Pin is venerated for two reasons. Firstly because he is associated with medicine and the elixir of life. He knows the formula for the elixir of life and his potions and charms can heal the sick. Lu Tung Pin is also the doctor of the poor.

As a young man Lu Tung Pin met up with a fire dragon who gave him a sword. This sword was called Chan-yao Kuai, the Demon-Slayer which allows him to have control over evil spirits destroying, capturing or taming them if he is invoked correctly; but to Lu Tung Pin this sword was not a weapon for killing enemies but a symbol for conquering passion, aggression, and ignorance.

Lu Tung Pin considered compasion to be the essential means of attaining perfection.

He decided to forgo the life of an official and follow Chung Li-ch'uan into the mountains. There Lu learned the secrets of alchemy and the art of swordsmanship. He transformed the methods of Outer Alchemy (wai-dan) into those of Inner Alchemy (nei-dan).

Chung Li-ch'uan

Chung Li-ch'uan, patron saint of the military.

Han Chung Li was a historical persona, serving as a Marshall or General of the Imperial Han dynasty (207BCE - 220CE). It was said that Lao Tzu himself, shared the wisdom of the Tao with Han Chung Li. Upon embracing the teachings of the Tao , Han successfully ended the bloodshed and violence in his government life and journeyed to the wilderness, the mountains, to nature as a wanderer cultivating the Tao.

One day, whilst meditating, the adjacent stone in his mountain chamber cracked and revealed a sacred jade box. Inside this mysterious box contained an age old scroll that showed him the secrets of attaining Immortality. Studying the secret meditations, Han Chung Li finally achieved his immortality. His chamber was filled with celestial clouds, music and a magic crane appeared bringing him to the realms of the immortals.

Han Chung Li was revered for devising the pill of immortality by sacred Taoist Alchemy. This is why he is a popular deity for those in search for longevity. Once during a famine that swept China, Han Chung Li turned stones to gold and silver for the poor, saving millions of lives.

His symbol of power is his feather fan, which he uses to revive and reincarnate the souls of the departed. His magical fan can also control the forces of the 7 seas and the changes in the weather. He is often depicted as mounted on a chimera (Kei Lun), a mythical creature of the Taoist Goddess Hsi Wong Mu.

Han Chung Li is associated with the Trigram Chen of the Bagua. Chen, a yang wood trigram relates to the direction East, and is represented by the colors Green. Chen is often associated with the thundering forces of nature, and thus we may say that Han is often seen as jovial and forceful. His positive emotions embodies generosity, benevolence and graciousness while he suppresses the negative feelings of condemnation, guiltiness, frustration and violence.

Data from:

Picture from: Marla Mallett Textiles and Tribal Oriental Rugs

Han Chung-li

Han Chung-li

Han Chung-li represents military men. He lived during the Han dynasty when he was a Marshall of the Empire. In his old age he became a hermit and lived on Yang-chiu Mt. in Shansi where he met the Five Heroes who taught him how to be an immortal. This knowledge he taught to Lu Tung-pin.

During a famine he turned base metals into silver which he distributed to the poor people. He is recognized as a figure who holds a fan or a peach.

When he achieved immortality he was carried by a stork into the Heavens. Another legend has it that the wall of his hut burst open to reveal a casket in which were instructions on how to become an immortal.

From: The Taoist Deities

Lü Dong Bin

Lü Dong Bin
Lu Tung Pin is said to have been born in 755 in Shansi province of China. As Lu grew up, he trained to be a scholar at the Imperial Court, but he did not pass the required examination until late in life.

He met his teacher Chung-Li Chuan in a marketplace where the Taoist master was scrawling a poem on the wall. Impressed by the poem, Lu Tung Pin invited the old man to his home where they cooked some millet. As the millet was cooking Lu dozed and dreamed that he had passed the court examination, had a large family, and eventually rose to a prominent rank at the court -- only to lose it all in a political fall. When he awoke, Chung-Li Chuan said:

"Before the millet was cooked,
The dream has brought you to the Capital."

Lu Tung Pin was stunned that the old man had known his dream. Chung-Li Chuan replied that he had understood the nature of life, we rise and we fall, and it all fades in a moment, like a dream.

Lu asked to become the old man's student, but Chung-Li Chuan said Lu had many years to go before he was ready to study the Way. Determined, Lu abandoned everything and lived a simple life in order to prepare himself to study the Great Tao. Many tales are told of how Chung-Li Chuan tested Lu Tung Pin until Lu had abandoned all worldly desires and was ready for instruction.

He learned the arts of swordsmanship, outer and inner alchemy and attained the immortality of enlightenment.

text from:
picture from:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Han Zhongli

The first immortal to be examined is Han Zhongli (Chungli Ch'uan). His birth story is similar to the Buddha's, and may have been influenced by it. It is said that his body was covered in auspicious markings and that at an early age he could speak and foretold his eventual immortality. Han Zhongli is often associated with a historical general of the Han dynasty. Legend says that during a military excursion far from his home he became lost in a maze-like system of canyons, and eventually met up with beings that can be described as shamanic-ghosts. He began his quest for immortality here. It is said that among his powers was the ability to turn copper into silver.

Text from Taoism 101:

Picture from: His Nibs
Copyright © 1999-2007 (His, LLC). All rights reserved.

Zhongli Quan and Lu Dongbin

Zhongli Quan and Lu Dongbin
This beautiful panel adorns one of the ghost-money incinerators at the Tian Hou Temple in Chiwan, Shenzhen.

Chungli Ch'uan: A stout man with only wisps of remaning hair but a beard reaching his waist. His fan has the power to raise the dead.

Lu Tung-pin: Born 798 AD and honored as a scholar. Received from a fire dragon a sword enabling him to hide from death. He is the most widely known of the Immortals and considered the de facto leader.

Facts from:

Picture from:


ZHONG-LI QUAN ( CHUNG-LI CHUAN ) This is the familiar Fat Man with his bare belly showing. He always carries a fan and sometimes a peach. He is also considered the Chief of the Immortals.

Another account describes Chung-li Ch’üan as merely a vice-marshal in the service of Duke Chou Hsiao. He was defeated in battle, and escaped to Chung-nan Shan, where he met the Five Heroes, the Flowers of the East, who instructed him in the doctrine of immortality. At the end of the T’ang dynasty Han Chung-li taught this same science of immortality to Lü Tung-pin and took the pompous title of the Only Independent One Under Heaven.

Han Zhongli

Han Zhongli (or Zhongli Quan) was given the first divine revelations by Li Tieguai and then went into the mountains to seek the light. After his return to the world, he killed a tiger with a flying scimitar and changed copper into gold to help the poor. In the end, he ascended to the upper realms of immortality with his brother. He is usually shown with a feather fan in a comfortable reclining posture.

Copyright © Chinadotcom All Rights Reserved
Ba Xian Guo Hai:the Eight Immortals Cross the Sea:

Chung-li Ch'uan

When Immortal Lu Tung-pin was studying with his teacher Chung-li Ch'uan, Chung li Ch'uan gave him a large and heavy sack to carry. Immortal Lu carried the sack for three years without complaint or resentment. At the end of the three years, Chung-li Ch'uan told Immortal Lu to open the sack.

    He said to Immortal Lu, "While you were carrying the sack these years, did you know what was inside?"

    Immortal Lu replied, "Yes, I knew that the sack was filled with stones."

    Chung-li Ch'uan then said, "Do you know that the rocks that you've been carrying around all these years could be turned into gold? Because you have shown sincerity and humility and have never uttered a word of complaint, I shall teach you how to turn these stones into gold if you wish.

    Immortal Lu asked Chung-li Ch'uan, "When these stones have been transformed into gold, will they be identical to real gold?"

    Chung-li Ch'uan replied, "No, gold that has been transformed from stones or other objects will only last for five hundred years. After that, they will return to their original form."

    Immortal Lu said, "Then I do not wish to learn the techniques of turning stones into gold. If the gold is not permanent, then what I do now will have harmful effects five hundred years later. I would rather be ignorant of a technique which may potentially harm people."

    Hearing Lu Tung-pin's reply, Chung-li Ch'uan said, "Your foundations are stronger than mine. Your level of enlightenment will be higher than mine. As you have enlightened me, I now realize that this technique of turning stones to gold or silver or precious gems is not worth learning and not worth teaching." From Historical Legend of Sun Bu-er:

Picture: The Immortal Zhongli Quan, late 1400s, attributed to Zhao Qi, China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, The Cleveland Museum of Art. From: Taoism & The Arts of China

Zhongli Quan

Zhongli Quan, or Chung-li Ch'üan, is one of the most ancient of the Eight Immortals (the oldest is Iron-crutch Li) and the leader of the group. (Some people consider Lü Dongbin to be an informal leader.) He is also known as Zhongli of Han because he was born in the Han Dynasty. He possesses a fan which has the magical ability of reviving the dead. He has a very rare double-character surname, Zhongli.(From Wikipedia)

Bamboo Carving of Zhongli Quan.

Circa 1880. One of the eight Immortals, Zhongli Quan is usually shown holding a fan.

From: LiAsia Gallery 31 SPRING ST., WILLIAMSTOWN, MA 01267

Chung-li Ch'üan

Chung-li Ch'üan

Pinyin Zhongli Quan in Chinese mythology, one of the Pa Hsien (q.v.), the Eight Immortals of Taoism. A wine-drinking recluse in quest of immortality, he is often depicted as a potbellied, bearded old man holding a fan with a tassel of horse hairs. Occasionally he is depicted as a military man and is credited with unusual knowledge of alchemy.

"Chung-li Ch'uan." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 12 Mar. 2007 <>