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Eight Immortals in Enamel and Silver

The eight figures on this bracelet are known in Chinese mythology as the Eight Immortals or Baxian. Popular figures, the Immortals are not gods. They are humans who, after many lifetimes of spiritual practice, meditation and sacrifice transcended to an immortal form. They live on a magical mountain where there it is forever summer and pain does not exist. There  the rice bowls are never empty, and magical fruits heal and raise the dead…

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The legends of the Immortals originally emerged from Taoist practice in the Tang and Song Dynasty. By the 18th and 19thc they had become part of a broader folk culture. The Baxian appear in all types of Chinese art …from sculpture to silver. Used as symbols of longevity and immortality they frequently decorate children’s clothing and hats. Since they each have special powers and fully evolved personalities, they may appear singly or in various  combinations. From left to right on the bracelet:

1 Han Xiangzi: playing his flute, easily recognizable as inspiration to musicians he is known also as a philosoper, his flute has the power to give life.

Li Tieguai: the earliest and first of the group to attain immortality, he carries an iron crutch and his other symbol, the gourd, is on his shoulder. He offers comfort to the sick and support to their caretakers.

Lan Caihe: one of the youngest, a florist, he reminds people that life is fleeting.

He Xiangu: the only woman, she always carrys the lotus blossom which symbolizes purity  and marital bliss.

2

Lu Dongbin: the scholar, also has power to heal, the sword over his head can drive out disease and evil.

Zhang Guolao: one of the elders of the group, he is known as a teacher and powerful alchemist, he carries a musical instrument,
made of a bamboo with two iron rods with hooks

Zhongi Quan: the leader of the group, and former soldier, he is easy to recognize with his large bare belly, he has the power to
revive the dead

Cao Guojiu: the youngest of the group, guardian of actors, once a member of a royal family, wears court robes and carries the
castanets or a pair of jade court tablets, which have the power to purify.

This bracelet is interesting for me for several reasons, the form, (repousse with enamel) is uncommon, and the the subject matter (the Immortals) is uncommon in bracelets. That all leads me to conclude that this was a custom order….and not for made for export.

The images and the symbols on the bracelet may be very exotic to western eyes…but when you understand the story behind the images…all humans wish for the same things…health, success for their children, long life, a happy marriage.

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos… many in larger formats.

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One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2007 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I have a similiar bracelet, it does not look as in perfect condition as the one in this collection. I was just browsing the internet trying to find out the story of those faces when I came upon your website. Now instead of Chinese Kings I have found the eight immortals. Thank you, I did get far. (I know nothing of Chinese art. and was wandering around Persia for the figures) Can you tell me more about it? From when would it date? Donasimon21@hotmail.com

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