Liu An, prince of Huainan, was the grandson of Han Dynasty founding Emperor Liu Bang. He was a highly intellectual chap, with a reputation for writing six impossible esoteric things before breakfast.
According to legend, he was very keen to learn the secrets of immortality, particularly after a few unfortunate controversies at court threatened to make his mortal life a misery.
So the spiritually-inclined prince gathered a number of fellow intellectuals, scholars and sages together to tackle the problem. This group became known as the Eight Immortals of Huainan, aka the Eight Gentlemen. Not to be confused with the Eight Immortals not of Huainan.
They pored over books, they delved into manuscripts, they researched as hard and as furiously as they could. Along the way they produced at least one profoundly bewildering book of philosophy called Huai-Nan-Tzu and possibly The History Of The Great Light.
Did they crack the secret of immortality? If so, only Liu An received the benefit of it. Legend tells that he drank an Elixir of Immortality and ascended to Heaven.
As soon as he had partaken of the Elixir of Immortality, Liu An’s body shed its mortal nature. He became as light as a feather and found himself shooting up into the sky. This always happens when you drink Elixirs of Immortality.
Rapidly gaining control of his new-found flying abilities, Liu An pointed himself in the direction of Heaven. He thought it only proper to introduce himself and pay his respects to the Gods. In his excitement he dropped the bottle of Elixir, which went spinning back to Earth and landed in his very own courtyard.
Arriving in Heaven, Liu An prepared to introduce himself to the great and majestic Jade Emperor, who any minute now would turn in his direction and address him. He composed himself with infinitely respectful sublimation, practiced his kowtow and brushed his hair. He was terribly nervous. It was worse than a dentist’s waiting room.
Meanwhile, far below, his farmyard animals were licking up the dregs of immortality elixir leaking from the broken bottle...
At last, His Imperial Heavenly Majesty turned towards the nervous new recruit and nodded. Liu An summoned up every ounce of his dignity and prepared to speak — and was unexpectedly joined by a noisy gang of freshly immortalized pigs, dogs and chickens from his courtyard. Their immortal nature did nothing to stop them grunting, clucking and chasing each other around the imperial chamber.
Liu An was so embarrassed, he almost wished he was mortal again. Luckily his fame as a philosophical writer had already spread to Heaven and his seat in eternity was assured. So far as we know, none of the immortal pigs or chickens wrote anything at all. They were all sent back down to Earth. Presumably they are still here.
Liu An Facts and Figures
Name: Liu An
Pronunciation: Coming soon
Alternative names: Liú Ān
Celebration or Feast Day: Unknown at present
In charge of: Immortality
Area of expertise: Immortality
Good/Evil Rating: NEUTRAL, may not care
Popularity index: 1977
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Article last revised on May 16, 2019 by Rowan Allen.
Editors: Peter J. Allen, Chas Saunders
References: Coming soon.