The scroll depicts the Taoist Pantheon of nomadic warriors who champion the poor and downtrodden. Literally the 8 are ancient Chinese super heroes, whose stories still have a contemporary resonance.
The silk scroll on canvas backing was donated to the museum by storyteller, Ben Haggarty who had long been fascinated by their stories.
“Zhongli Quan” is shown with his chest and belly bare, and holds a feather or horsehair fan. He has wisps of hair on his temples, and is sometimes pictured with a beard down to his navel and is often shown drinking wine. His fan can bring the dead back to life or transform worthless stones into silver or gold.
“Han Xiangzi” studied Taoist magical arts. He is the patron deity of flutists and often depicted carrying a dizi (Chinese flute).
“Lü Dongbin” is a Chinese scholar and poet who is considered to be one of the earliest masters of the tradition of neidan or internal alchemy. He often bears a sword on his back that dispels evil spirits.
“Lan Caihe” the strolling minstrel is transgender, a boy or girl dressed in sexually ambiguous clothing and carrying a bamboo flower basket and/or a pair of bamboo castanets. Lan left the human world by riding on a celestial swan or crane into Heaven.
“Li Tieguai” is irascible and ill-tempered, but also benevolent to the poor, sick and the needy, whose suffering he alleviates with special medicine from his gourd. Often shown as an ugly old man with dirty face, he walks with the aid of an iron crutch.
“Cao Guojiu” dresses in official robes and holds a jade tablet or castanets. He is the patron deity of acting and theatre.
“He Xian Gu” holds a health giving lotus flower, she may also carry a musical instrument known as a sheng, a bamboo ladle or fly-whisk.
“Zhang Guo Lao” rides backwards on a mule, which carries him through time and space to a situation which can only be resolved by his ‘superpower’ of thought. Zhang Guo Lao can fold the mule up and put it in his pocket. We believe him to be the original archetype and inspiration of the TV time traveller, Dr Who.