Iron-Crutch Lǐ Tǐe-guaǐ, Lii Tiie-guaii, 李鐵拐

As a part of the traditional Chinese spiritual world there is a group called Immortals.  No matter whether they are male or female, young or old, the immortals are usually worshiped as gods of longevity.

Iron Crutch Li Yuan

Iron Crutch Li Yuan

Iron-Crutch Li Tie-guai, Lii Tiie-guaii  李鐵拐 (AKA Li Yuan) is one of my favorite among this group.  You will often see him portrayed as one of the Eight Immortals.  The Eight Immortals are a very human (with all of the foibles and strengths of any human) and cheerful group who became particularly popular in the 14th Century through Yuan Dynasty dramas.

The 8 Immortals

The 8 Immortals

Iron-Crutch Li Tie-guai, Lii Tiie-guaii  李鐵拐 was the first of the eight to have achieved immortality through his Daoist practices.  Although he has a bad temper and a fondness for wine, he cares deeply for people and their troubles.  He is always portrayed as an ugly cripple who uses an iron crutch and carries a gourd from which he dispenses medicines.  As an indication of the benefits people gain from his medicines, a bat is usually seen flying out of his gourd.

Since Iron-Crutch Li Tie-guai, Lii Tiie-guaii  李鐵拐 represents the sick and disabled, he has become the patron of pharmacists. They often have pictures and carvings of him on their shop signs.

References: Bartholomew; Land of the Dragon, Chinese Myth. Metro Books; Eberhard; Tales of the Taoist Immortals by Eva Wong.

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