Daoism And Its Myth Figures
While Confucianism has only a small religious aspect that focuses on ancestor veneration and the yearly worshipping to Heaven and Earth by the emperor, Taoist philosophy makes man free from being concerned about his ancestors or deified natural forces. For Taoists, man lives among the wild beasts and the free nature. He is only concerned about himself and his own happiness.
The highest happiness for a Taoist is, similar to Buddhism, to make himself free from worldly thought and the sorrow of having to die. Several techniques help the Buddhist to get rid of these sorrows, even to make him immortal. Taoists developed ways to enlighten their mind with breath techniques, body movements, medical herbs or chemical materials.
In popular belief, many persons have already obtained immortality, becoming fairies or deities. The highest deity of Daoism is, of course, the "Old Master" Laozi, who is called in temples "Old Lord" Lao Jun, or "Holy Lord" Shengjun. He and the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi), who made order in the world and who was the first to create the traditional way of Chinese rulership, are the main persons of the Taoist religion that developed during the late Warring States period on and was called Huang-Lao thought.
There are many other fairies that have obtained immortality. Many of them are assembled in groups like the Eight Fairies (Ba Xian: Li Tieguai, Zhong Liuquan, Lan Caihe, Zhang Guolao, He Xiangu, Lü Dongbin, Han Xiangzi and Cao Guojin) that were able to cross the sea on a tree-trunk.
Other fairies are able to fly on clouds or to transform into the shape of an animal or a fire. Some of them are historical persons, like "Duke Guan" Guan Yu, a general of the Three Kingdoms period, or Dongfang Shuo.
Many Taoist fairies and deities are heroes in popular theatre plays and novels. Most of these deities are admired and venerated all over China, like the hero Zhong Kui, but some are simple products of local religion, like the southern fishermen deity Mazu, or the wise tactician of Shu (Sichuan), Zhuge Liang. Some deities are no concrete person, but types of benevolent deities that bestow luck and health, like the Heavenly Official (Tianguan), the Jade Emperor (Yuhuang), the Dragon Emperor (Huolong Dadi), the God of Wealth (Caishen), the Door Guardians (Menshen) or the Star Trinity of Luck (Fulushou Sanxing) that bring longevity, children and prosperity, all with their followers attributes like the Saints in Christianity.
Children, peaches, balls and fish are symbols of familiar prosperity, pine and stone are symbols of longevity, crane and deer are followers of fairies that hold gourds in their hand containing a medicine bringing immortality. The bat is a symbol of happiness because the Chinese word for "bat" fú sounds like the words for "luck" fú, although the characters are different except their phonetical part. In this field, we already see that religious Daoism is a fertile combination of popular belief in heroes and immortals, bringing luck, happiness and wealth to them.