Tales of Taoist Immortals: Lao Tzu Gazed at the Sun

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In her book Tales of the Taoist Immortals, Eva Wong shares early stories of Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism and author of the Tao Te Ching. Early stories of Lao Tzu tell how Lao Tzu “radiated a golden glow”, “gazed at the sun and smiled” and “swallowed the rays of sun and stars”. Are these ancient records of Lao Tzu practicing sun gazing?

Tales of the Taoist Immortals

Eva Wong

The Old One – Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu’s name was originally Li Erh. The legends say that on the night he was conceived, his mother saw an infant wrapped by the sun, moon, and clouds. On the morning of his birth, three suns rose from the east, and after he suckled, magic water came out of the mouths of nine dragons.

Li Erh was an extraoridinary child. At three, his body radiated a golden glow. At five, he gazed at the sun and smiled and looked at the moon and sighed. At seven, he learned to swallow the rays of the sun, moon, and stars.

Not interested in becoming a statesman, Li Erh did not seek employement in the courts of the feudal states. Instead, he was content to working in the imperial library, where he could read and study the ancient rites and rituals.

One time, a young scholar named Kun Chung-ni came to the library to ask Li Erh about an obscure ritual. (Kung Chung-ni would later be known as Kung Tzu, or Confucius.) After answering the young man’s questions, Li Erh told him, “You need to file down your sharpness and put away your sword of ambition. The great sage often appears dull and dim-witted, and those with true learning do not display their knowledge.”

Years later, Chung-ni would recall this meeting and say “Birds soar above the earth; fishes siwm to the depths of the oceans; and tigers run the great expanse of hte plains. But who can predict the behavior of the dragons? Somtimes they fly among the clouds and somtimes they tunnel beneath the earth. Lao Tzu [the Old One] must have been a dragon. You could catch a glimpse of his wisdom, but if you tried to grasp it, it was gone.”

Lao Tzu retired from the civil service not long after Chung-ni’s visit. He traveled west and, at a border town near Han Ku Pass, dictated a treatise on the Tao and virtue to a man named Wen Shih. This book becames known as the Tao Te Ching.

It was said that Lao Tzu continued to travel west after leaving Han Ku Pass. Eventually, he climed up Mount K’un Lun and entered the immortal lands.

Lao Tzu lived during the latter part of the Chou dynatsty (1122-221 BCE) in the feudal state of Ch’u. He is regarded as the founder of the philosophy of Taoism and the author of the Taoist classic, the Tao Te Ching.

Source: Tales of the Taoist Immortals


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 24th, 2024 at 7:01 pm and is filed under Books.

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