This lavish album from 1750 is written in gold text on a bright blue background, with pictures illustrating the magical stories of 15 famous Daoists.
The manuscript was probably intended as a present for someone who had reached one of the special Chinese birthdays of 60 or 80, and for whom immortality was an increasingly attractive prospect.
Chinese Daoism is over 2,000 years old. It is a system of thought comprising veneration of nature, a desire to accept and fit in with nature's patterns and cycles, together with a search for physical immortality, cheating death by ascending to heaven and becoming immortal, by alchemy or physical practices. Mr Liu and his wife were Daoist adepts (characters based on actual individuals) – Mrs Liu managing to fend off a tiger before they sailed to heaven on a phoenix and became immortals.
Other stories illustrating the album include that of Wang Qiao, an official for one of the Han emperors in the first century. Wang travelled to court on a pair of wild ducks, illustrating his superiority. In another story Wu Meng stays outside all night to attract mosquitoes away from his elderly parents – an example of filial piety much admired by Confucians in China – who rode through the sky with his disciples in a white deer cart.