The Daoist Immortal Li Tie Guai
The Daoist figure portrayed is Li Tie Guai, one of the Eight Immortals. Though began life as human, Li Tie Guai reached a divine status by becoming one with the Dao or The Way. Li Tie Guai has the ability to release his spirit from his body and let it roam the universe. Once while his spirit was roaming, the student in charge of watching the body went home. The man who was set to watch the body in his place thought it dead and cremated it. When Li Tie Guai’s spirit returned it was forced to inhabit the freshly dead body of a beggar found in the gutter. The beggar had been crippled, so Li Tie Guai used an iron crutch so he could move around when he chose to inhabit his body. This painting situates the subject in the middle of the space, the robes of the immortal are a bright red and the drapes move in sync with the blue atmospheric mass flowing towards the upper right hand corner of the painting, representing his spirit exiting the body. Completing that iconography, the artist included the iron crutch and his medicinal containers. The face of the subject seems almost jovial as he watches his roaming spirit. The viewer follows the direction of the eyes and likewise observes the spirit. It is in this way that the viewer recognizes the immortal and observes his power.
Margie Gribbell, Colby ‘09