maiden holding in her hand a magic lotus-blossom, the flower
of open-heartedness, or the peach of immortality given her
by Lü Tung-pin in the mountain-gorge as a symbol of
identity, playing at times the shêng or reed-organ,
or drinking wine—this is the picture the Chinese paint of
the Immortal Ho Hsien Ku.
was the daughter of Ho T’ai, a native of Tsêng-ch’êng
Hsien in Kuangtung. Others say her father was a shopkeeper
at Ling-ling in Hunan. She lived in the time of the usurping
empress Wu (A.D. 684–705) of the T’ang dynasty. At her
birth six hairs were found growing on the crown of her head,
and the account says she never had any more, though the
pictures represent her with a full head of hair. She elected
to live on Yün-mu Ling, twenty li west of Tsêng-ch’êng
Hsien. On that mountain was found a stone called yün-mu
shih, ‘mother-of-pearl.’ In a dream she saw a spirit
who ordered her to powder and eat one of these stones, by
doing which she could acquire both agility and immortality.
She complied with this injunction, and also vowed herself to
a life of virginity. Her days were thenceforth passed in
floating from one peak to another, bringing home at night to
her mother the fruits she collected on the mountain. She
gradually found that she had no need to eat in order to
live. Her fame having reached the ears of the Empress, she
was invited to Court, but while journeying thither suddenly
disappeared from mortal view and became an Immortal. She is
said to have been seen again in A.D. 750 floating upon a
cloud of many colours at the temple of Ma Ku, the famous
female Taoist magician, and again, some years later, in the
city of Canton.
She is represented as an extremely beautiful maiden, and is remarkable as
occupying so prominent a position in a cult in which no
system of female asceticism is developed.