2000 years ago, during the Han dynasty, the King commanded vast wealth and power. He ate exotic foods gathered from all over the kingdom. His days were spent with concubines and in sports such as private hunting parties. Every whim of his interests was fulfilled, from his love of beautiful art to his enjoyment of hunting games. In short, his world was full of delights and distractions. Yet none of this was reflected in his despondent manner and his sad face. Nothing seemed to cheer him up. The entire palace became depressed, worried and confused.
It was decided among them that the King’s number one manservant was elected to try and find out the meaning of the King’s unhappiness. When asked, the King sighed deeply and said that he loved being the King and wanted to continue forever but realized that he had become aware of his deep fear of death. Now he could not keep his mind free of dark thoughts. Only the legends of gaining immortality seemed to be a solution. The manservant suggested that the King had the power to make his quest known throughout the kingdom. Almost immediately the King ordered official notices, hand written by the best calligraphers in the kingdom, to be posted in every town and village no matter how small. But, unlike all previous official notices in the history of China, this one was addressed directly to the Gods. It told of the King’s search for immortality and asked for the intervention of any God who wished to help.
From high in the cloud palaces eight Gods became aware of the notices. While sharing tea and liquor they decided to take a trip down to the earth and offer to impart some celestial knowledge to the King. A purple mist arose cloaking them, then descending in a swirling cloud to the earth and landing them just outside the King’s palace. One of the immortals went to the door guards and announced their presence. By now, talking among themselves they had decided that they were indeed going to tell the King some of the secrets of immortality. The captain of the door guards looked at this crew of people who appeared to be old and wrinkled and small, the men with white beards the women with bags beneath their eyes, and he almost laughed. He said something out of the side of his mouth and the other guards chuckled.
The eyes of the Gods caught one another. These servants were disrespecting their aged appearances and the Gods did not take that lightly. The disrespect shown to elders seemed a reflection on the King himself. Bad servants are often employed by bad men. Without another word they turned away from the palace, moved to the center of the great road outside the walls and, in a blast of white radiance, disappeared, returning to their heavenly abodes. But before they did, they returned to their normal appearances transforming into beautiful youths with glowing skins, lustrous hair and lightning crackling in their eyes. The house guard, the palace servants, and the market-gathering farmers watched this astonishing magical morphing and ran back to the palace in stark fear and awe.
From a simple lack of courtesy and humility, the secret of immortality was forever lost to the King despite his power and wealth.