the catalog for the Nomads and Networks exhibition. Not seeing any alternative, I ordered a copy, and it came today. It is magnificent and full of strange lore.
Immortals (xian 仙) are depicted as feathered sprite-like or dragon- or snake-tailed figures climbing stylized mountains or floating in swirling cloudscapes on tomb reliefs from the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 CE). These images represent immortals as transient figures moving through an intermediate realm where they are often joined by deer, tigers, dragons, birds, heavenly horses (tianma 天馬), and other animals.Wallace
analyzes the physical hybridity of immortals, their transitory existence, and their role as shaman-like intermediaries, demonstrating that Eastern Han representations of immortals repeatedly emphasize their liminal nature and close connection to the animal world. Their position betwixt and between physical forms and realms of existence was the basis of their spiritual power, enabling them to assist the deceased in their transcendent journey to paradise.
Having heard this precious teaching I departed,
And swiftly prepared to start on my journey.
I met the winged ones on the hill of Cinnabar;
I tarried in the ancient land of Immortality.
In the morning I washed my hair in the Valley of the Dawn,
In the evening I dried myself on the shores of heaven.
I visited Fu Yue on a dragon's back,
Joined in marriage with the Weaving Maiden,
Lifted up Heaven's Net to capture evil,
Drew the Bow of Heaven to shoot at wickedness,
Followed the Immortals fluttering through the sky,
Ate of the Primal Essence to prolong my life.