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Lan Tsai-ho

Lan Tsai-ho is variously stated to have been a woman and an hermaphrodite. She is the strolling singer or mountebank of the Immortals. Usually she plays a flute or a pair of cymbals. Her origin is unknown, but her personal name is said to have been Yang Su, and her career is assigned to the period of the Tang dynasty. She wandered abroad clad in a tattered blue gown held by a black wooden belt three inches wide, with one foot shoeless and the other shod, wearing in summer an undergarment of wadded material, and in winter sleeping on the snow, her breath rising in a brilliant cloud like the steam from a boiling cauldron. In this guise she earned her livelihood by singing in the streets, keeping time with a wand three feet long. Though taken for a lunatic, the doggerel verse she sang disproved the popular slanders. It denounced this fleeting life and its delusive pleasures. When given money, she either strung it on a cord and waved it to the time of her song or scattered it on the ground for the poor to pick up.

One day she was found to have become intoxicated in an inn at Fng-yang Fu in Anhui, and while in that state disappeared on a cloud, having thrown down to earth her shoe, robe, belt, and castanets.

According to popular belief, however, only one of the Eight Immortals, namely, Ho Hsien-ku, was a woman, Lan Tsai-ho being represented as a young person of about sixteen, bearing a basket of fruit. According to the Hsiu hsiang Pa Hsien tung yu chi, he was the Red-footed Great Genius, Chih-chiao Ta-hsien incarnate. Though he was a man, adds the writer, he could not understand how to be a man (which is perhaps the reason why he has been supposed to be a woman).


 

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