Zhongli Quan, Immortal

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on January 23, 2017.)

A bas relief of Zhongli Quan at the Tianhou Palace in Chiwan, Shenzhen

Our next member of the Eight Immortals is Zhongli Quan, sometimes called "Han Zhongli" because he allegedly lived in the Han Dynasty.

Two features make him easily recognizable. The first is his bared chest and prominent belly, resembling the so-called "Laughing Buddha" (Mi'le Fo). It shows his open-heartedness and benevolence. Unlike Mi'le, though, he has a long beard.

The second feature is the large fan he carries. This is an important part of his legend.

They say that Zhongli had a supernatural birth, the room in which he was born being filled with bright beams of light. He immediately commenced crying for a full seven days (indicating, perhaps, displeasure with the world-as-it-is). At the end of those seven days--but some sources say after seven years--he began speaking. (The baby Buddha is also said to have spoken shortly after his birth.)

His first sentence was, "My feet have wandered in the Purple Palace of the Immortals, and my name is recorded in the Capital of the Jade Emperor." Reportedly, his facial features foretold his greatness: "a broad forehead, thick ears, long eyebrows, deep eyes, red nose, square mouth, high cheeks, and scarlet lips."

Becoming a general after working at court, he fought against a Tibetan army--and lost. He then fled to the surrounding mountains, where he met an old man who taught him the way of Immortality. Using his new skills--and the magical fan he was given--he went about helping the poor by turning stones into silver and gold coins, saving them from famine. He also used his fan to raise the dead!

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