In the early years of the Dali era of the Tang Dynasty, there lived a man named Cui Xijin in the west of Zhongling County. He was good at playing the qin, good at painting, and liked to cultivate.
On the night of the first day of the tenth month in the second year of the Dali period, it snowed heavily. When Xi Zhen went out early in the morning, he saw an old man wearing a straw coat and a hat standing under the eaves of his house to avoid the snow and wind. Xizhen was surprised, so he asked the old man to come inside to warm himself. After taking off his straw raincoat and removing his bamboo hat, the old man looked furred and bony, not the same as ordinary people, and Cui Xi Zhen had more respect for the old man. He asked the old man: “I have barley noodles at home, all rely on it for food, I wonder if you can eat such things, old man?” The old man replied, “Barley is a good food among the grains because it receives the qi of the four seasons, and if you use it with black bean sauce, it is more beneficial to your health.”
Cui Xi Zhen asked his family to prepare a meal for the old man. In the meantime, he served him pine flower wine. The old man said, “This flower wine is astringent and tasteless. I can make it tasty.” The old man took a yellow and hard pill from his pocket. He cracked it with a stone and put it into the wine, and the wine became sweet. The old man gave a pill to Hsi Chen. The old man also took out a plain silk, as if he had smeared a few times on it, and instantly gave up.
Cui Xi Zhen soon prepared a meal and presented it to the old man, who accepted it without excuses. Cui Xi Zhen later entered the house and found that the old man had already left.
Cui Xi Zhen wanted to know the truth, so he stepped on the snow, looking for the old man’s trail, walked for miles, chased him to the river, into the reeds, and found a large boat with several people on board, all very peculiar in appearance. There was a woodcutter standing next to it. The man turned around and smiled and said, “Ge San was kept by this man!” And turned back to Cui Xi Zhen and said, “There is no need to adhere to the ritual of respecting the strict teacher of the Way.” Cui Xi Zhen hurriedly bowed down to thank him. When he went home, he went to the house and got a diagram. On the picture were three people, two trees, a white deer and a medicine chest. Two of them resembled people from outside the world, and they were medicine collectors with Xuanzhi in their hands. The other one is an immortal. The tree on the painting looks like a cypress tree, the branches have all been broken. The medicine box is also defeated by the wind and rain. The two trees look withered and their roots are connected. Everything on the painting is beyond the world’s imagination.
Later, Cui Xi Zhen took the painting and the pills to Maoshan Mountain and asked for advice from Tian Shi Li Han Guang. Master Li said, “This is the painting of the third son of the real Ge Hong.” The master also said, “The painting of the gods under the rotten wood means that if a person achieves the Way, his life span is longer than that of the pine and cypress. The medicine is a thousand-year-old pine gum.”
(Source: Taiping Guangji)