The Eight Immortals: He Xian’gu

He Xiangu 3

He Xian’gu (何仙姑), which translates as The Immortal Woman He, is the only woman among the Eight Immortals (Bāxiān  八仙). She is known as a chaste woman who was devoted to her parents during their lifetime. She is usually portrayed holding a lotus flower or a peach to signify immortality.

Legend has it that He Xian’gu was the daughter of a Tang Dynasty peasant. The He family lived in the Zengcheng District in Guangzhou (Canton), Guangdong. Her birth name was He Qiong.

When He Xian’gu was about fourteen, she had a dream in which an immortal instructed her to eat the powdered mica that could be found on the banks of a distant stream. He Xian’gu was so inspired and moved by her dream that she took a vow of celibacy and travelled to the stream where she found and ate the mica. As a result, He Xian’gu became light as a feather; was able to cover large distances in a single stride; and ceased to require food and water to stay alive.

He Xiangu 4Having achieved immortality, He Xian’gu remained a filial daughter, continuing to care for her parents until their deaths.

Tales of her piety and immortality spread and the Empress Wu  (AD 690-705) summoned the young woman to court, eager to discover her secret. However, on the way to the palace, He Xian’gu floated up to Heaven on a cloud.

He Xian’gu is the patron deity of women and women seeking spiritual enlightenment.