Cao Guo-Jiu

Cao Guo-Jiu is the most recent addition to the party of spirits known as the Eight Immortals. There are strikingly different versions of how he came to attain this role.

Before Cao Guo-Jiu was an Immortal, he was a powerful and very well connected courtier.

His father was a prominent military commander. His sister married one emperor and was the mother of another. Cao Guo-Jiu was the uncle of a Song Dynasty emperor.

In one version, Cao Guo-Jiu just wasn’t suited for court life or, as an honest man, he disapproved of the corruption he witnessed. He abandoned court for a quiet, ascetic, meditative existence devoted to learning. Another version suggests he left court because his younger brother was a libertine and murderer. In shame and sadness, Cao Guo-Jiu, an extremely ethical man, the opposite of his brother, resigned his imperial post and embarked on a life as a holy man.

In yet another version, although Cao Guo-Jiu disapproved of his brother, his priority was protection of their family honour. When he learned that his brother had murdered a man in order to possess his wife, Cao Guo-Jiu ordered the woman arrested and executed so as to eliminate any witness who could sully their family name. Miraculously rescued by a celestial being, the woman petitioned the imperial court for justice and damages. Again, Cao Guo-Jiu had her arrested and sentenced to death. Again, she was miraculously rescued. This time, she was allowed to plead her case with the court. The brother was executed and Cao Guo-Jiu placed in the stocks for months. When finally released, he abandoned all his worldly goods, left court, and headed for the mountains to repent. He lived in a cave and devoted himself to the Tao. His repentance was so sincere that eventually Lu Tong-pin and Zhong Li-Quan invited him to join the Immortals.


Royal Uncle Cao; Cao Guojiu




He is the patron of those in theatrical professions as well as those who, ashamed of their past, seek salvation and expiation and desire to make amends.


Cao Guo-Jiu is depicted as an elderly, bearded man wearing traditional Chineseimperial court dress. He carries a tablet that gains him admission to the imperial court.


Jade tablet; castanets


The Qilin or Chilin, also known as the “Chinese unicorn,” which is emblematic of perfect righteousness


  • Chang Kuo Lao
  • Eight Immortals


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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