[A-Z April Blogging] [I] Immortals of Kūnlún

Not only do almost all Chinese religions firmly believe in the existence of Immortals, but most of them also have provisions for becoming an Immortal (Daoism especially so): in China, emperors, peasants, merchants and soldiers share a belief in and the possibility of attaining eternal life. In Chinese Folk religion, with its many apotheosised local heroes, the distinction is very blurred between such heroes and Immortals.

So except for the heavenly members of the Celestial Bureaucracy, who are also immortal, the largest concentration of Immortals is supposed to be on top of the Kūnlún Mountains (Kūnlún Shān 崑崙山), a great mountain range spanning from Amdo to south of the Tarim Basin, Ladakh, and ending in Bactria. The Kūnlún Mountains are the paradisiacal abode of the Immortals (xiān and yǔrén), a utopian place where shamans travel to learn their rites, where Daoist hermits have retired, where fantastic creatures dwell, and where fabled plants grow. Here the Queen Mother of the West (Xī Wángmǔ) reigns supreme. Ascending this mountain is forbidden to mortals, and it is heavily guarded by many fantastic guardians. Feroucious tribes of dark-skinned barbarians live at its foot. Ancient gods and heroes retire here in mysterious cities hidden amidst the lofty mountains. Despite the forbidding altitude, the temperature is always pleasant.

The Immortals of Kūnlún are rumoured to have amassed vast quantities of esoteric tomes of knowledge, magic items, and alchemical formulae over time.

According to some sources, the Immortals do not live on the mountain, but within the mountain, because it is hollow.

The Kūnlún Mountains are situated at the extreme western end of the Chinese 'known world'; they have a counterpart at the extreme eastern end of the world: Pénglái Island (Pénglái Xiāndǎo 蓬萊仙島) in the Yellow Sea. The Immortals of Kūnlún and the Immortals of Pénglái are separated by a bitter rivalry.

In gaming terms, only characters who have reached and accepted Daoist, Heterodox or Shamanistic apotheosis (p65 of The Celestial Empire) may travel unhindered to the mountain and meet the Immortals of Kūnlún. Of course, the Immortals do sometimes invite special mortals to meet them; in this case, they usually send a crane, a bì'àn or a tianmǎ to transport the lucky mortal.

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