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Chang Tâo-ling, the Heavenly Teacher

One day when Chang Tâo-ling, the Heavenly Teacher was engaged in experimenting with the ‘Dragon-tiger elixir’, Lao Tzŭ appeared to him and conferred him the mystic treatise Tâo Tê Ching. Then he took up his abode in the deep mountains, where he devoted himself wholly to the study of this book and meditation, he persevered in the study of alchemy, and in cultivating the virtues of purity, declining all offers to enter the service of the State. By following the instructions in which he was successful in his search for the elixir of life.

After going through a thousand days of discipline, and receiving instruction from a goddess, who taught him to walk about among the stars, he proceeded to fight with the king of the demons, to divide mountains and seas, and to command the wind and thunder. All the demons fled before him.

Chang Tâo-ling had at least two selves, one of which used to disport itself in a boat on a small lake in front of his house. The other self would receive his visitors, entertaining them with food and drink and instructive conversation. On one occasion this self said to them: “You are unable to quit the world altogether as I can, but by imitating my example in the matter of family relations you could procure a medicine which would prolong your lives by several centuries. I have given the crucible in which Yellow Emperor prepared the draught of immortality to my disciple Wang Ch’ang. Later on, a man will come from the East, who also will make use of it. He will arrive on the seventh day of the first moon.”

Exactly on that day there arrived from the East a man named Châo Shêng, who was the person indicated by Chang Tâo-ling. He was recognized by a manifestation of himself he had caused to appear in advance of his coming. Chang then led all his disciples, to the number of three hundred, to the highest peak of the Yün-t’ai. Below them they saw a peach-tree growing near a pointed rock, stretching out its branches like arms above a fathomless abyss. It was a large tree, covered with ripe fruit. Chang said to his disciples: “I will communicate a spiritual formula to the one among you who will dare to gather the fruit of that tree.” They all leaned over to look, but each declared the feat to be impossible. Châo Shêng alone had the courage to rush out to the point of the rock and up the tree stretching out into space. With firm foot he stood and gathered the peaches, placing them in the folds of his cloak, as many as it would hold, but when he wished to climb back up the precipitous slope, his hands slipped on the smooth rock, and all his attempts were in vain. Accordingly, he threw the peaches, three hundred and two in all, one by one up to Chang Tâo-ling, who distributed them. Each disciple ate one, as also did Chang, who reserved the remaining one for Châo Shêng, whom he helped to climb up again. To do this Chang extended his arm to a length of thirty feet, all present marvelling at the miracle. After Châo had eaten his peach Chang stood on the edge of the precipice, and said with a laugh: “Châo Shêng was brave enough to climb out to that tree and his foot never tripped. I too will make the attempt. If I succeed I will have a big peach as a reward.” Having spoken thus, he leapt into space, and alighted in the branches of the peach-tree. Wang Ch’ang and Châo Shêng also jumped into the tree and stood one on each side of him. There Chang communicated to them the mysterious formula.

Three days later they returned to their homes; then, having made final arrangements, they repaired once more to the mountain peak, whence, in the presence of the other disciples, who followed them with their eyes until they had completely disappeared from view, all three ascended to Heaven in broad daylight.
 Chang Tâo-ling is generally represented as clothed in richly decorated garments, brandishing with his right hand his magic sword, holding in his left a cup containing the draught of immortality, and riding a tiger which in one paw grasps his magic seal and with the others tramples down the five venomous creatures: lizard, snake, spider, toad, and centipede. 


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