I’m trying to read more Chinese poetry/literature because reaching back to my culture is like reaching through a veil that covers a mirror to myself. I’m also trying to draw more, because it uses my brain in a different way, and besides, it’s fun to draw things like flying cats and dogs.
Here is the story of Liu An, adapted from chapter 14, “A Prince among Taoists,” in Tales of the Taoist Immortals by Eva Wong.
“Liu An was the grandson of the founder of the Han dynasty” and was also known as Prince of Huai-nan.
His bro friends liked hunting, archery, and chariot racing. He liked to pay the guzheng, write poetry, and study the Taoist arts of how to live super long.
He inherited his father’s position of being lord of Huai-nan. One day, eight old dudes went to find Li An, but his guards were ageist and said they were too old and weak to see him. The old dudes laughed at him and said that they heard that the Prince of Huai-nan didn’t judge people by their looks and then turned into young dudes. The guards freaked out and told Li An that eight immortals were there to see him.
Li An was not hashtag rude like his guards and bowed to the eight immortals and even gave them a yummy dinner. During dinner, the eight immortals told Li An that they could teach him how to pursue the Tao and were really good at a lot of awesome things:
1. Being in charge of the weather and changing the course of rivers.
2. Moving mountains, taming wild beasts, and summoning spirits and ghosts.
3. Hiding armies and making them apparate.
4. Being fireproof, waterproof, and weapons-proof.
5. Making stuff. Like animals, plants, and other things.
6. Seeing future disasters and living super long or forever.
7. Making dirt into gold and lead into silver.
8. Flying and tunneling.
Li An chose number 6 and studied super hard for nine years, until he finally made the pill of immortality. The day he passed his class (Predicting Bad Things and Living Super Long 101), one of the emperor’s secretaries was helping Liu An’s son practice sword-fighting and oops, accidentally killed him. The secretary was like oh noes and told the emperor that Liu An was a traitor to avoid getting in trouble for killing Liu An’s son.
Before the emperor issued the order to arrest Liu An, the old dudes were like hey, Liu An, you best begone. Or else you gon’ die.
Liu An was like oh schnitzel and went to his lab, took a pill from his cauldron and swallowed it. And he was like OKAYBYE and clumsily ran away, flailing his arms everywhere, knocking his cauldron over. The cats and dogs of the household were like ohmigod food oh no just red pills okay let’s eat them anyway.
The emperor’s soldiers went to Liu An’s palace and because Liu An went OKAYBYE duh he wasn’t there. Then the officer asked the townspeople hey peasants where did Liu An go? And they said, “We saw the lord of Huai-nan floating up to the sky with cats and dogs flying up behind him.”