He was said to inhabit Mount Penglai. Anqi appears to have been a taoist wizard, and was able to render himself visible or invisible at his pleasure. According to the Daoist hagiography Liexian Zhuan, Qin Shi Huang spoke with him for three entire days (including nights), and offered Anqi jade and gold. Qin Shi Huang feared death, and sought immortality, without success. In 219 BC, he sent an expedition under Xu Fu to find Anqi and to bring him back, along with the elixir of life, which grants immortality or eternal youth. When Xu Fu reported that a sea creature blocked the expedition's path, Qin Shi Huang sent archers to kill it. In 210 BC, Xu Fu continued his journey. Legend says he found Japan instead, proclaimed himself king, and never returned. The Records of the Grand Historian state that Li Shaojun (李少君) visited him[clarification needed] during his travels. There is no record, however, of where they met or of Mount Penglai itself. In 130 BC, Emperor Wu of Han also sent an expedition to find Anqi, which proved unsuccessful.
The location of Mount Penglai, and the existence of Anqi Sheng, are still debated by scholars.
Anqi holds an important place in the Taiqing and Shangqing Schools.
- This article incorporates material from Herbert Giles's A Chinese Biographical Dictionary (London: Arthur Probsthain, 1898), which is now in the public domain.
- Fabrizio Pregadio. The Encyclopedia of Taoism. Routledge, 2008.
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