Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lu Dongbin

This pic was taken at my friend's Taoist Feng Shui Fortune Telling business on the West Lake in Hanoi - a place that I talk about in my book, Destination Saigon. It is a statue of Lu Dongbin - a figure I didn't know much about until I encountered him in my friend's shop.
It seems that Lu Dongbin is something of a Patron Saint to practitioners of the Taoist arts.
He is also one of the most commonly appearing deities in the world of Chinese folk religion, though he is almost completely unknown to non-Chinese. It seems that in the early part of the 20th Century the cult of Lu Dongbin was particularly popular in Southern China, which explains his presence in so many temples in Hong Kong, and among the Chinese diaspora abroad.
Interestingly, a fable about Lu Dongbin is retold in Liao Fan's Four Lessons - one of my favourite books:

"Lu Dongbin was being taught the art of transforming iron into gold. They would use this gold to help the poor. Dongbin asked his teacher,"Will the gold ever change back to iron?" Li Jung answered, "After five hundred years, it will return to its original form." Dongbin said, "In that case, I do not want to learn this art for it will harm those who possess the gold five hundred years from now." Li Zhong said, "To become an immortal, one must complete three thousand virtuous deeds. What you have just said came from a truly kind heart. Your three thousand deeds are fulfilled.""

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