Ceramic Figure of the Taoist Immortal Lu Tung Pin
Item No. 17034
Early 20th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
9.75" x 3.5" x 3.5"
( 24.765 x 8.89 x 8.89 cm)
(H x W x D)
The “Eight Immortals,” referred to as Pa Hsien, were superior Taoist human spirits who achieved immortality by alchemy, asceticism, study or by being canonized by a superior deity. As deities, they dwell in mountains and hills remote from human habitation. Singly or in groups, these human figures are the most commonly represented in the iconography of Chinese homes and temples. All of them are folk heroes and most were probably actual people to whom extraordinary powers were attributed after death, which is true for most gods in the Chinese pantheon.
Each immortal maintains his or her human personality while being bestowed with supernatural powers. All achieved immortality by a different route at a distinct point in their lives, and thus continue to exist without getting old. Although they existed individually over the centuries, they were recognized as an identifiable group since the 13th century
The Eight are a colorful, cheerful, group of a multitude of adventures, travels and escapades, together and individually. They are fond of good food, wine, gambling and the opposite sex. The Eight Immortals each represent a different condition in life: poverty, wealth, aristocracy, age, youth, masculinity and femininity. They also represent the spectrum of Chinese life, such as scholars and soldiers and the strong and the lame.
Through history they have been considered merciful benefactors of humanity. They are viewed as “having the best of both worlds”: In this world, they are spontaneous and fun loving without worldly concerns or mortal diseases; in the neither world, they can raise the dead, cure the sick, make themselves invisible, and carry out missions for the Jade Emperor.
They correspond in some ways to the Eighteen Lohan of Buddhism, who are also distinguished by their respective symbols, with which they are always represented. The Hsien and the Lohan have the powers of crossing rivers and seas stand or sitting on their symbolic appurtenances.
Although the legends about them have regional variations, the names and symbolic attributes of the Eight Immortals remain constant and are recognizable. Even without an emblematic or pictorial depiction, the Eight Immortals are represented in most Chinese homes by a meter-square table with four long trestle benches. Called the Baxian Zhuo (the “Eight Immortals Table”) this central piece of furniture is a figurative expression of happiness accompanying the sharing of food and conviviality with family and friends
This image represents Lu Tung Pin, the most popular of the Taoist Eight Immortals. His image is found in most Taoist temples in towns and villages and many grottoes are dedicated to him on the sacred mountains of China. He is associated with medicine and with the elixir of life and has power over evil spirits and through charms. His two major symbols are a sword and a bushy fly whisk.
In this statue he officiously holds up his fly whisk which is a traditional symbol of one who can fly at will. His beard, pushed to the side as if in motion, also suggests flight. He is dressed in elaborate pastel colored official robes, with this ample stomach exposed. He stands on a multi colored swirling cloud forms, also indicating his ability to engage in flight.