Stories of the Immortals: The Taibai Stars of Liquor

PureInsight | September 1, 2003

[] In the Tang Dynasty, when Minister Zhangchou Jianqiong guarded southwestern China, he often sent men to search for Taoists. There was one man who was a liquor maker, and his liquor was very mellow and much better than his competitors'. But he was not anxious to make a profit and he sold products on credit to many people.

Four old men often came to drink wine at this liquor maker's wine shop. They always wore yarn hats and walked with sticks. They could drink a couple of dou (about 2.5 gallons) of liquor. The liquor would be purchased on credit and would not be paid for until the credit had exceeded ten dan (about 25 gallons) of liquor. They had a sense of humor and would not leave the wine shop until they did not want to drink any more. They always talked about Sun Simiao, a famous Chinese doctor. They repeatedly would say, "Sun Simiao was capable of doing this and doing that." Eventually, the news about these men got to Minister Zhangchou.

A trusted messenger of the minister was sent to see the men. One time after the four men had gotten half drunk, the messenger showed up to greet them and give them Minister Zhangchou message. The message being, "I have worked hard cultivating myself. As I know you immortals are here, I wish to serve you. Will that work?" The men acted as if they had not heard the words at all, and kept drinking. After the first round of alcohol, the four immortals asked the liquor vendor, "How many dou have we drunk?" The vendor said, "One dan." They all clapped and laughed, "Too much!" As soon as they finished the words, they disappeared immediately from their seats.

The messenger reported back to Mr. Zhangchou what he saw. Mr. Zhangchou then dispatched more men to search for the four immortals. A month had gone by and they still had not been found, until one day they suddenly reappeared. After receiving a report on the whereabouts of the immortals, Mr. Zhangchou secretly went to the wine shop with several other men. Once they arrived at the wine shop, Mr. Zhangchou came over to the four men and respectfully greeted them and announced himself. The four old men looked at each other, and while standing up slowly they each disappeared. Only four burnt fire logs were left standing in front of their seats. After that, they were never seen again.

At that time in history, the Emperor Xuanzong upheld Taoism, and Mr. Zhangchou reported the story to the emperor. Emperor Xuanzong asked the famous Chinese doctor that the four immortals talked frequently about, Mr. Sun Simiao, for more details. Mr. Sun said, "These men were the Taibai Stars of Liquor. They are morally lofty. They often travel in the human world and drink, and seem to like gathering at the central Shu area (now Sichuan Province) the most." After this Emperor Xuanzong dispatched more people to look for them, but not a trace of them could be found.

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