The Story of Han Xiangzi

The Alchemical Adventures of a Daoist Immortal

Yang Erzeng
Translated by Philip Clart

  • Published: 2007
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 504 pp., 31 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

In this seventeenth-century Chinese novel, Han Xiangzi, best known as one of the Eight Immortals, seeks and achieves immortality and then devotes himself to converting his materialistic, politically ambitious Confucian uncle - Han Yu, a real historical figure - to Daoism. Written in lively vernacular prose interspersed with poems and songs, the novel takes its readers across China, to the heavens, and into the underworld. Readers listen to debates among Confucians, Daoists, and Buddhists and witness trials of faith and the performance of magical feats. In the mode of the famous religious novel Journey to the West (also known in English as Monkey), The Story of Han Xiangzi uses colorful characters, twists of plot, witty dialogue, and action suitable for a superhero comic book to convey its religious message-that worldly life is ephemeral and that true contentment can be found only through Daoist cultivation.

This is the first translation into any Western language of Han Xiangzi quanzhuan (literally, The Complete Story of Han Xiangzi). On one level, the novel is a delightful adventure; on another, it is serious theology. Although The Story of Han Xiangzi's irreverent attitude toward the Confucian establishment prevented its acceptance by literary critics in imperial China, it has remained popular among Chinese readers for four centuries.

Philip Clart's Introduction outlines the Han Xiangzi story cycle, presents Yang Erzeng in his social context, assesses the literary merits and religious significance of the text, and explores the theory and practice of inner alchemy. This unabridged translation will appeal to students of Chinese literature and to general readers who enjoy international fiction, as well as to readers with an interest in Daoism.
Yang Erzeng (fl. 1590-1602) was a writer and publisher from the city of Hangzhou in southeastern China. Philip Clart is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

"The Story of Han Xiangzi is simultaneously religious inspiration and literary play. It will surely attract a broad range of readers: religious seekers, those who are curious about exotic beliefs, and students of world literature. It should be in every substantial Asian studies collection."
-Robert E. Hegel, author of The Novel in Seventeenth-Century China

"Yang's novel is a true treasure trove of Chinese mythological, mystic, and alchemistical traditions, and at the same time a rich anthology of Daoist didactic and mystical verse. Because of its many humorous touches, it remains a good read throughout."
-Wilt I. Idema, author of The Red Brush: Writing Women in Imperial China

Preface and Acknowledgments
Translator's Introduction

The Story of Han Xiangzi
1. At Mount Pleasant Yike, a Crane Refines Himself / At the Banks of the River Xiang, a Musk Deer Receives His Punishment
2. Seeking Escape from Samsara, the Crane Boy Is Reborn / Discussing Astrology and Physiognomy, Zhong and Lu Conceal Their Names
3. Han Yu Inscribes His Name on the Tiger Placard / Xiangzi Drinks the Wedding Cup in the Nuptial Chamber
4. Zhong and Lu Appear on Gold Sprinkle Bridge / Han Xiang Studies the Dao on Sleeping Tiger Mountain
5. By Cutting Down the Hibiscus, Mme. Dou Criticizes Luying / While Waiting at the City Gate, the Crowds Tease Xiangzi
6. Abondoning His Family Bonds, Xiangzi Cultivates Himself / A Transformed Beauty Tempts Xiangzi for the First TIme
7. Tiger and Snake Block the Road to Test Han Xiang / Monsters and Demons Flee from Perfect Fire
8. A Bodhisattva Manifests a Numinous Sign as He Ascends to the Upper Realm / Han Xiangzi Guards the Elixir Cauldron with Firm Concentration
9. Han Xiangzi's Name Is Recorded at the Purple Office / Two Shepherds Recognize a Divine Immortal
10. Bragging and Boasting, Turtle and Egret Bring Calamity upon Themselves / Singing Daoist Songs, Han Ziangzi Moves the Crowd
11. In Disguise, Xiangzi Transmits a Message / A Stone Lion Is Transformed into Gold
12. When Tuizhi Prays for Snow, Xiangzi Ascends the Southern Shrine / The Dragon King Bows and Follows Orders
13. Riding an Auspicious Cloud, Xiangzi Is Saluted by Emperor Xianzong / Discoursing on Complete Perfection, Xiangzi Chants a Poem
14. Rushing in at a Birthday Banquet, Xiangzi Engages the Guests in Conversation / Hearing of Nourishing Primordial Yang, Tuizhi Does Not Become Enlightened
15. Manifesting His Divine Powers, Xiangzi Lies Snoring on the Ground / A False Daoist Drinks Merrily before the Assembled Guests
16. Xiangzi Enters the Underworld to Examine the Registers of Live and Death / He Summons Immortal Maidens to Deliver Birthday Greetings
17. By His Divine Powers, Han Xiangzi Manifests Transformations / Lin Luying Is Entagled in Love
18. Emperor Xianzong of the Tang Respectfully Welcomes the Buddha Bone / Han Tuizhi's Indignant Protest Gets Him Banished
19. Banished to Chaozhou, Tuizhi Travels to His Post / Crossing the River of Love, Xiangzi Rows the Boat
20. At the Village of Beautiful Women, a Fisherman and a Woodcutter Open Tuizhi's Mind / On a Snowy Mountain, a Herdboy Awakens Tuizhi from His Confusion
21. Inquiring into His Fortunes, Tuizhi Seeks an Oracle in a Temple / Seeking to Assuage His Hunger and Thirst, Tuizhi Stays in a Thatched Hut
22. Sitting in a Thatched Hut, Tuizhi Sighs to Himself / Expelling a Crocodile, the Celestial Generals Bestow Blessings on the People
23. Arduous Cultivation Leads Tuizhi to an Awakening / Willingly Guarding Her Chastity, Luying Remains Steadfast and Virtuous
24. Returning Home, Han Xiang Manifests His Transformative Powers / Shooting a Parrot, Mme. Dou Remains Attached to Her Illusions
25. Master Lu Sends a Dream to the Cui Family / Mother Zhang Two Makes a Marriage Proposal at the Han Mansion
26. Minister Cui Pretends to Act in the Public Interest while Taking Revenge for a Private Grudge / Two Fishermen Sit Together as They Cast Their Lines
27. At the Zhuowei Hermitage, Master and Servants Meet Again / Caring for an Ox, Han Yu Awakens to the Dao
28. On Cheating Mountain, a Woodcutter Shows the Way / Mother and Daughter-in-Law Cultivate Themselves in Magu's Hermitage
29. A Bear-Man Carries Han Qing across the Mountain Ranges / An Immortal Transmits Mysterious Secrets to Mme. Dou
30. The Musk Deer Is Freed from His Water Prison / The Han and Lin Families Together Realize the Sacred and Transcend the World


"Readers conversant with traditional and modern Chinese religion, and the Daoist universe of discourse, will appreciate Clart's painstaking contributions, and eagerly await the companion volume."
-Russell Kirkland, Religious Studies Review, December 2009

"Philip Clart's complete translation . . . is both elegant and highly readable, and is accompanied by the extent and type of endnotes that will assist readers without a background in Chinese Studies to better understand the story told in this novel."
-Duncan M. Campbell, Asian Ethnology, 69/1 (2010)

"Philip Clart's accomplished translation of The Story of Han Xiangzi is a welcome development for all scholars and readers concerned with either Chinese fiction or Chinese religion. . . . the book would make excellent reading for courses on Chinese fiction in translation, Daoism, or religion in literature, and would be additionally appealing because of its. . . manageable length."
-Journal of Chinese Religions

"This first English translation of this important work of Chinese popular religious fiction must be considered a major contribution to the field. . . . Recommended."