A Cultivation Story in the Dao School: Zhang Liang
Zhang Liang, alias Zhifang, was born in Han Kingdom (now known as the center of Henan province and lying southeast of Shanxi province). In order to avoid the chaos of war, he moved to Nayang in Henan and then moved to Pei Kingdom. Later on, he settled down in Pei Kingdom and naturalized there.
In Zhang Liang's childhood, on a windy, snowy winter day, he happened upon Yishui Bridge in the town of Xiapi. There he met an old man who wore a yellow shirt and a black hood. The old man threw one of his shoes down to the bridge on purpose and said to Zhang Liang: "Little boy, please go to pick my shoe back up for me." Zhang Liang did not hesitate. Regardless of the danger of slipping into the river and being exposed to the cold wind, he went down to the bridge and picked up the shoe for the old man. The old man did not take the shoe, but offered his foot to Zhang Liang and asked him put the shoe on it for him. Zhang Liang did not mind and helped the old man put the shoe on respectfully. The old man smiled and said: "Boy, you are highly promising. Come here tomorrow morning and I will teach you some things." The next day, before the crack of dawn, Zhang Liang came to the bridge and saw that the old man was already there. The old man said: "You came here later than me. I cannot teach you the Tao today." It happened like this three times. The third time, Zhang Liang finally got to the bridge earlier than the old man. The old man finally gave Zhang Liang a book and said: "When you fully understand the book, you will be able to serve as the chief military counselor for a king in the future. If you need my help in the future, come to see me. I am the yellow stone at the foot of the Gucheng Mountain." Zhang Liang went back home and he studied the book very hard and finally mastered its essence. He was able to understand all of its intricacy and became very familiar with military tactics. Later, he assisted Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han dynasty, to found the dynasty and unite China.
Later generations called the book the old man gave to Zhang Liang The Book of the Gentleman of the Yellow Stone. If one cultivated by following this book, he would be very strong and his body would be as light as a feather. Zhang Liang and other famous Taoists at that time, including Yi Liji, Mr. Dongyuan, Mr. Luli and Mr. Xiahuang, were good friends on the road of cultivation.
In the beginning of the Han Dynasty, one day Zhang Liang met four or five children who were playing along the roadside. One child was singing a nursery rhyme: "Wear black skirt, enter the door of sky, bow with hands clasped to Mother Gold, worship Father Wood." Nobody understood what the nursery rhyme meant, but Zhang Liang knew. He walked over to that child, saluted him and said: "You are the Jade Boy of the King of the Eastern Paradise. The Mother Gold you mentioned is the Queen Mother of the Western Paradise, the Father Wood is the King of the Eastern Paradise. These two primeval lords are the parents of Yin and Yang and the originators of heaven and earth. All things in this world are created and cultured by them. Father Wood is the lord of male immortals and Mother Gold of the West is the lord of female immortals. When a person attains the Tao and becomes an immortal, he must first present himself before the Queen Mother of the Western Paradise when ascending to heaven and then before the King of the Eastern Paradise. After the presentation, he can ascend to the three heavens of Jade Clarity, Supreme Clarity and Highest Clarity and present himself to the Emperor of Heaven. This nursery rhyme the Jade Boy sings is to teach people in this world to worship the King of the Eastern Paradise and the Queen Mother of the Western Paradise."
After Zhang Liang succeeded in assisting the Han Emperor Liu Bang unite the central plains of China, he was given the title Marquis of Liu and appointed to serve in the cabinet. After he died, he was buried at Longshouyuan. During the riot of Chimei at the end of Han dynasty, Zhang Liang's grave was dug out. When the coffin was opened, only a yellow-stone pillow was seen to rise to the sky and disappear in a flash as a meteor. There was no body, no clothes and no hat of Zhang Liang's at all. Inside the coffin there were only some articles on military tactics written on white thin silk. Legend has it that after Zhang Liang became an immortal, he was appointed the Supreme Mystery Boy and often followed Taishang Laojun (the Supreme Venerable Sovereign) in roaming the Heaven of Supreme Clarity. His grandson, Zhang Daoling also attained Dao. When he was in the Kunlun Mountain, Zhang Liang visited him once.
(Reference: "Extensive Records of the Taiping Era")
Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2002/10/22/18882.html