7 Taoist Masters


pp. 108-114 – 19.

pp. 108-109, 111 pilgrimage to birthplace of Lao-tzu; plan to patronize brothels

p. 108

"The four disciples arrived at Lao-tzu’s birthplace. There they saw a small shrine with an octagonal enclosure surrounded by nine wells. Inside the shrine was a stone inscribed with the legend concerning Lao-tzu’s birth. According to legend, during the time of the Shang dynasty ... a young woman of nineteen who was known for her intelligence and wisdom ... ate a fruit ... and ... found herself pregnant. When the villagers consulted the oracles it was revealed to them that a great sage was to be born in the region. However, the oracle also told them to pick a year, month, day, and hour for the sage to be born, for it was important for the heavenly bodies to be in the most favorable celestial positions to herald the birth of the sage. The villagers ... could not find an appropriate date until eighty-one years had passed since the young woman’s conception. By now the woman was over one hundred years old, but ... on the appointed day Lao-tzu tumbled out of his earthly mother’s belly, and as he hit the ground a clap of thunder rang through the sky. His hair was white, and he could walk and talk the moment he was born. He walked forward seven steps, walked back three steps, and said in a loud voice, "Heaven and earth will acknowledge me as the Ancient One." At once music was heard from the heavens and fragrant flowers flew through the air. fairies danced on rainbow-colored clouds, and

p. 109

nine dragons showered Lao-tzu with water. {cf. elephant which showered Gosala Maskarin with water} It is said that as the waters of the dragons hit the ground nine wells sprouted up, and the water of those nine wells has never dried up even in times of drought."


"the disciples said to each other, "... Let us each speak a few lines of poetry in honor of Lao-tzu ... ."

Hao T>ai-ku was first to recite his lines. "The sword of wisdom hangs high among the cold north stars. The hands of the monsters of illusion are bound tight. On the meditation cushion during the midnight hour, the dragon and the tiger copulate when the Pill circulates nine times to return to the Source."

Next, Wang Yu:-yang recited, "... In the critical hours of the alchemical process, when Golden Raven and Jade Rabbit meet, the dragon will rumble and the tiger will roar."

When T>an Ch>ang-chen’s turn came he recited, "... The hand[s] of monsters and ghosts are when they strike. If you want to transcend the mortal to become immortal, you must strike through the barriers of illusion with an iron fist. Then in the stove and cauldron the roar of the dragon and tiger can be heard."

Lastly, Liu Ch>ang-sheng recited, "That which is spoken chills the heart. The intelligent are deceived by intelligence and become fools. ..." ...


T>an Ch>ang-chen said to Wang Yu:-yang, "There is wisdom in knowing what chills the heart and in knowing the pitfalls of intelligence. ..." ...

p. 111

T>an Ch>ang-chen laughed and said, "... Brother Liu Ch>ang-sheng had a dream in which he met the Empress of Heaven. He could not control his admiration for the beauty of the court ladies ... . The Empress ... told him to return to the earthly realm ... . I recounted a story about the sage Hu Hsiang-yang, and Liu Ch>ang-sheng came up with the idea that he should go to the brothels to cultivate his heart ... ." ...

Liu Ch>ang-sheng said, "... I need to expose myself to the activities in the brothels so that I can see ... sexual attractions and desire."

Wang Yu:-yang and Hao T>ai-ku said, "Many people have sought ways to ... sexual desire, ... we have ... heard that going to the brothels was a method.""

pp. 111-114 doings of Hao T>ai-ku

p. 111

"The next day the disciples said farewell to one another and parted. Hao T>ai-ku continued westward to Shensi. He saw the majestic peaks of Hua Shan, ... and said, "... Now I know why generations of Taoists attained immortality in these peaks." As Hao T>ai-ku explored the mountains of Hua Shan he was especially taken by a vertical slab

p. 112

of rock face that pointed up to the sky like a palm. He suddenly remembered Wang Ch>ung-yang’s final words to him : "Hao T>ai-ku, you will wander east and west but will not attain the Tao until you have reached the top of the cliff-edged mountains." Hao T>ai-ku climbed to the top of the palm-shaped mountain and decided to dig a cave where he could meditate in peace.

... but on the day he finished a Taoist hermit arrived and asked Hao T>ai-ku if he could spare him the cave. Before Hao T>ai-ku could answer the man stepped inside the hollow and sat down. Hao T>ai-ku ... picked up his belongings and went to another isolated region to excavate another cave. ... Over the next ten years Hao T>ai-ku excavated seventy-two caves among the cliffs of Hua Shan. each time just as he was about to settle inside his cave someone arrived asking for it, and seventy-two times Hao T>ai-ku gave up what he had dug with hard labor.

Finally, Hao T>ai-ku saw a ledge halfway down a precarious cliff. He said to himself, "If I went down to the ledge and hollowed out part of the wall behind me, I would be able to meditate there without any people finding me." So he went to the nearest village and bought some ropes. On the way back to Hua Shan he found a man who begged Hao T>ai-ku to accept him as a disciple.

p. 113

... the disciple thought to himself, "... Surely this

p. 114

man must be an immortal. If I left him I would lose my chance of becoming an immortal." Next morning, Hao T>ai-ku and his disciple ... arrived at the cliff ... . ... The disciple ventured to say, "Sir, ... How can you get down to the ledge?" Hao T>ai-ku replied, "... If there is no rope, I’ll just jump down." With that Hao T>ai-ku leapt over the edge of the cliff and disappeared." {On Hoy, trowies "danced about, seeming to throw themselves over the cliff edge" (TT).}

TT = http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/trows/hoytrow.htm


pp. 115-119 – 20.

pp. 115-116 at the brothel

p. 115

Liu C^>an-s^en "arrived in the Su-hang region, an area in southern China. The Su-hang region was known for producing beautiful women, and its brothels had courtesans who were not only beautiful but also talented in music, painting, and poetry. On the way into town, Liu Ch>ang-sheng picked up some stones and turned them into gold pieces. He ... walked into one of the most exquisite brothels in the town. Liu Ch>ang-sheng sought out the proprietress of the brothel and said to her, "My name is Ch>ang Sheng-tzu. I am a jewel merchant from the north. I have heard that your house has the most beautiful ladies in the area. ..." ...

p. 116

The proprietress, who was kept happy by Liu Ch>ang-sheng’s seemingly endless supply of gold pieces, was too eager to please her rich customer to care about Liu Ch>ang-sheng’s unconventional sexual behavior. Thus Liu Ch>ang-sheng was often accompanied by five or six ladies who were continually amused by his ... sexual interest toward them ... ."

pp. 116, 118 visit from Bodhi-dharma

p. 116

"One day the ladies had bought some flowers for Liu Ch>ang-sheng and persuaded him to dress up as a woman. {Omphale persuaded Heraklees to dress up as a woman. (GM 136.i)} Just as the ladies were beginning to dress him in women’s clothing and put flowers in his hair, the door of the room opened and a bearded, long-haired monk stepped in. ... This monk was none other than Bodhidharma, the great patriarch of {C^>an / Zen} Buddhism ... . {Heraklees was thus attired in women’s clothed when visited by the god Pan. (GM 136.j)} He was passing through the Su-hang region when he saw a purple cloud hovering over the brothel where Liu Ch>ang-sheng was staying. Knowing that the purple cloud signified the presence of an immortal, Bodhidharma decided to seek out this enlightened person. ... When Liu Ch>ang-sheng saw Bodhidharma he knew that this was an enlightened person ... . He rose from his seat and respectfully asked Bodhidharma

p. 118

to have tea with him. There was no hot water to make fresh tea, so Liu Ch>ang-sheng took a pot of cold water and pressed it against his lower tan-t>ien. After a while, the water in the pot started to boil. Liu Ch>ang-sheng put some tea leaves in the hot water and presented the tea to Bodhidharma. The ladies hiding behind Liu Ch>ang-sheng were astonished. ... Liu Ch>ang-sheng said to them, "... See, my belly can also bake hotcakes." Liu Ch>ang-sheng took a stack of hotcakes and pressed them against his tan-t>ien. He worked up the fires in his body, and in a few seconds the cakes were baked. ... Bodhidharma said good-naturedly, "Your method of cooking is so wonderful! Maybe some day we’ll get together and you can teach me." Bodhidharma finished his tea and bid farewell to Liu Ch>ang-sheng."

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

pp. 118-119 visit from Wan Yu:-yan

p. 118

"Liu Ch>ang-sheng had been staying at the brothel for over a year when Wang Yu:-yang came through the Su-hang region on his way south. ... When he arrived at the brothel where Liu Ch>ang-sheng was staying, the ladies welcomed him ... . ...

p. 119

He walked up quietly to an open window and used his internal energy to fan the candle flames, lighting up the room so that the flames roared up like a firestorm. The women screamed in horror ... . {"At night, ... suddenly she would see huge flames in the room as if the whole house had caught on fire." (PHSE, p. 80)} Wang Yu:-yang opened the door, smiled and said, "... I am playing tricks on the monsters." ...

Liu Ch>ang-sheng said, "Brother, hurry and leave. You must go immediately to the south. there is someone waiting for you to accompany you to the immortal realm." ...


On the road south Wang Yu:-yang met T>an Ch>ang-chen. Together they decided to head for the mountains in the southwest ... . It is said that in the cloud-covered peaks of the southwest region of China, Wang Yu:-yang and T>an Ch>ang-chen attained the Tao and became immortal. As for Liu Ch>ang-sheng, he left the brothel soon after Wang Yu:-yang’s visit. ... Liu Ch>ang-sheng retreated into the mountains near the eastern coast and, after three years of meditation, became immortal and ascended into the heavens. Hao T>ai-ku attained immortality on the cliffs of Hua Shan, shedding his immortal shell when he leapt over the cliff on the palm-shaped mountain."

PHSE = Adeline Masquelier : Prayer Has Spoiled Everything. Duke U Pr, Durham, 2001.


pp. 120-126 – 21.

pp. 120-121, 123 illusory man & illusory woman


violating norms through illusion


"Sun Pu-erh lived in the city of Lo-yang for twelve years. She attained the Tao and acquired powerful magical abilities. ...

Sun Pu-erh took two withered branches and blew at them softly. Instantly the two branches were transformed into a man and a woman. The woman resembled Sun Pu-erh ... . The couple went into the busiest streets of the city and started laughing, embracing, and teasing each other. ... in those day, ... such shameful behaviors in public between a man and a woman was [were] not tolerated. Yet despite reprimands from the city officials and the teachers of the community, the couple continued their jesting and playing day after day. Even after the guards escorted them away from the city they were found back in the busy streets the next day. ... the mayor issued a decree and had it posted throughout the city. It read : "... For a man and woman to


embrace and tease each other in public is to break the rules of propriety. ... We shall arrest them and burn them in public. ..." Together with the city guards, community leaders, and a large crowd, the mayor walked toward the abandoned house at the edge of the city where the man and the mad woman were ... staying. ... The crowds piled dry branches around the building and set them on fire. ... Suddenly the grey smoke turned into a multicolored haze and the mad woman was seen seated on a canopy of clouds, flanked by the man and woman whom the people had seen jesting in the streets. Sun Pu-erh said to the crows below, "... I shall give you this couple ..., and I shall see to it that your harvests be plentiful and your city protected from plagues and natural disasters."


"In gratitude to Sun Pu-erh the citizens built a shrine to her. In it was a statue of her likeness, and beside her stood statues of the man and woman she had created from two branches. The shrine was named the Three Immortals’ Shrine."

{This tale of flouting social conventions and miraculous escaping punishment therefor, with the escapees revered thereafter as saints, is an instance of a theme also common to Sahajiya and of rN~in-ma literatures.}

pp. 123-125 her return to Ma Tan-yan

p. 123

"After Sun Pu-erh ascended to the heavens she returned to the earthly realm." She returned to Ma Tan-yan.

To her, Ma Tan-yan said, "My magical powers are strong. I can transform stones into silver pieces."

Sun Pu-erh said, "I can transform stones into gold." "Then Sun Pu-erh related to Ma Tan-yang a story about Immortals Lu: Tung-pin and Chung-li Ch>u:an. ...

p. 124

Chung-li Ch>u:an replied, "... 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.""


"Next day, Sun Pu-erh invited Ma Tan-yang to take a bath in a tub of boling water. Ma Tan-yang ... tested it with his finger, and exclaimed, "This water is so hot that I almost burned my finger. How can I sit in it and take a bath?" Sun Pu-erh jumped into the tub of boiling water as if it had been merely lukewarm."

p. 125

This miraculous feat by Sun Pu-erh convinced Ma Tan-yan to fare forth into homelessness. "Late that night Ma Tan-yang changed into Taoist robes and slipped out of his mansion. ... Ma Tan-yang would never return to his mansion and his lands again."

pp. 125-126 itinerary of Ma Tan-yan

p. 125

Ma Tan-yan "left the county of Ning-hai and journeyed westward to Shensi, ... to visit his master’s grave ... . As he neared Mount Chung-nan, he saw a figure kneeling by his master’s tomb. Coming closer, he recognized his brother Ch>iu Ch>ang-ch>un. ...

p. 126

Later that day Ch>iu Ch>ang-ch>un led Ma Tang-yang to the shrine built by the villagers of Ta-wei in memory of Wang Ch>ung-yang. ...

They gathered together what they had and followed the road south. ... The two disciples had one meditation cushion between them and sat back to back when they meditated."


Eva Wong (translatrix) : Seven Taoist Masters. Shambhala Publ, Boston, 1990.