Classic Chinese Stories: The Eight Immortals Cross The Sea
The 8 Immortals Cross the Sea
The figures of the 8 Immortals are very well known in Chinese Culture. For a general introduction to the characters themselves you can read this page about the 8 Immortals first.
Being so popular there were many stories created over the years that featured them. One of these is the story of the 8 Immortals Crossing the Sea which appears in the text The Journey to the East by Wu Yuantai. There are longer and shorter versions.
The shorter version
After attending a feast given by the Queen Mother of the West (西王母 Xiwangmu) that featured the peaches of immortality the 8 Immortals found themselves by the Eastern Sea. Lu Dongbin suggested travelling across it. Rather than using the customary means of travelling on a cloud, he suggested that each immortal used their magical object and power to cross the sea.
Thus Lu Dongbin threw his sword into the sea which became a boat, Tieguai Li used his crutch to change into a piece of wood that he stood on, Han Xiangzi had a basket which increased in size, to become, in effect, his boat, He Xiangu did the same with her lotus, Lan Caihe changed his jade board into a canoe and Cao Guojiu teurned his imperial tablets into a raft, Zhongli Quanj used his banana leaf and Zhang Guolao used his magical donkey.
For the short version that is it, and the story has been given the metaphorical meaning that we can accomplish things in different ways.
The longer version
This starts in the same way as the short version with the 8 Immortals crossing the Eastern Sea using their individual magic powers. However in the longer version their travel creates a blinding light which attracts the attention of the Dragon Crown Prince who was living below, in the sea. Again versions differ and in one stream of the story the Dragon Prince is enchanted by Lan Caihe's magical object and kidnaps Lan Caihe in order to steal the magical object. Eventually the other immortals noticed Lan Caihe's absence. Lu Dongbin went down to the Dragon Palace and fought with the Dragon Prince, defeating him, but unable to recapture Lan's magical object.
Thus the whole group of immortals went to the Dragon Palace and fought with the Dragon King, his sons and their troops. After a long conflict the Immortals were winning until the Dragon King of the East called the Dragon King of the South for help forcing the Immortals to temporarily retreat. However, the 8 Immortals combined their powers to throw a mountain into the sea and it was at this point that the Bodhisattva Guan Yin intervened and mediated a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Another version has it that it was He Xiangu that was kidnapped by the Dragon Prince in order to be his concubine, the rest of the story being basically the same.