From those that watch over the underworld to others rewarded for their good deeds, some of the ancient Chinese myths deal with immortality and reincarnation. In this article, you will learn more about Meng-po, Guan-yu, and the Eight Immortals.
Known as the goddess of the underworld, Meng-po was part of the Chinese realm of the dead. The translation of her name means Old Lady Meng, and is known as the “Lady of Forgetfulness” in Chinese mythology. It was her responsibility to make sure the souls that were ready for reincarnation did not remember the life they previously led or their time in hell.
It is said that Meng-po gathered herbs from different ponds and streams to make a brew called Five Flavored Tea of Forgetfulness (also known as Mi-hun-t’ang). Before a soul leaves the underworld, they are given the tea to drink. They experience an instantaneous and permanent amnesia, where all the memories of their other lives are lost. The dead spirit is then purged of any sins and previous knowledge so that when they are reborn into a new body on earth, the cycle of their life starts afresh. There have been some instances where people have avoided drinking the tea, which resulted in them having past life memories when they are a child.
The ancient Chinese god of war was called Guan-yu. He was actually a general that served under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China. In his lifetime, he played an important role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty. When the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period was established, Liu Bei became the first emperor.
Throughout East Asia, Guan became a historical figure with a lot of fictionalized accounts incorporated into his true life exploits. He’s appeared in a historical novel and has had many tales passed down from the generations. Guan is used as an example of loyalty and righteousness, and was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty. Many Chinese people still worship him today , especially those that live in southern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
Today, Guan is a figure that appears in Chinese folk religion.
The Eight Immortals
In Taoist traditions, tales speak of the Eight Immortals (known as Pa Hsien), who are ordinary mortals that have been rewarded by the good lives they led and their good deeds. As a result, they were given the peaches of everlasting life to eat.
The Eight Immortals were Tieh Kual Li (a healer with possession of drugs that could revive the dead), Chung-li Ch’uan (happy old man known for living a frugal life in the mountains), Lan Ts’ai-ho (young flute player who plays soul-searching songs), Lu Tung-Pin (hero of early Chinese literature that renounced the riches of the world), Chang-Kuo Lao (aged hermit who possesses miraculous abilities), Han Hsiang-Tzu (scholar who studied magic instead of preparing for civil service), Ts’ao Kuo-Chiu (known for trying to set his corrupt brother (an emperor) on the right path by preaching the laws of heaven), and Ho Hsien-Ku (known as the Immortal Maiden who only appears to men of great virtue).