Liu Qian was the older brother of Tang Dynasty Prime Minister Liu Zhan. Liu Qian’s family was poor, but he liked to learn about Taoism. Once, there was a Taoist passing by who recognized Liu’s uniqueness. He asked Liu Qian whether he knew about the cultivation of Tao. Liu Qian replied: “Yes, but my nature is too worldly and my inborn quality is not that good, so how can I learn?” The Taoist said: “We can learn from each other.” Liu said: “It will be a great honor.” Liu became the Taoist’s pupil and followed him into Luofu Mountain.
When he was young, Liu Qian went by the nickname of Yi Ge and he studied together with his brother, Liu Zhan. Liu Qian admired noble things and Liu Zhan envied officialdom. Liu Qian said to Liu Zhan: “I will not take the national exam to become an official. I want to live in seclusion in the forest. After you take the exam, you will be busy with the affairs of the world. However, you must be careful when you are prosperous and rich. You’ll know better forty years from now.” Liu Zhan replied: “Immortality is too far away for me. Many ancient emperors also asked for and desired it, but none of them actually got ahold of it. It is more practical to be an official in the imperial court.” After that, Liu Qian whole-heartedly cultivated the Tao and became a hermit in Luofu Mountain. Liu Zhan, on the other hand, passed the official exam and moved up, step by step, to become prime minister, and was well known for his cautiousness.
Later, Liu Zhan was demoted and was exiled to Rinan. When he passed through Guangzhou, his boat stopped overnight at Chaotai. Out of nowhere, a young man wearing cotton clothes came to the boat in a rainstorm, wanting to see Liu Zhan. Strangely enough, the young man’s clothes and shoes were completely dry. When Liu Zhan’s follower asked him who he was, he said: “Just tell Liu Zhan that Yi Ge is here.”
Liu Zhan was surprised to see his older brother, Liu Qian, appearing to be in his twenties. Liu Zhan already had grey hair and looked old. Liu Zhan had mixed feelings of grief and joy upon seeing that his brother hadn’t aged.
Liu Qian said: “We are brothers and have brotherly affection for each other. Do you remember what I said forty years ago?” Liu Zhan sighed with emotion and asked: “Is it too late for me to start on the path of cultivation?” Liu Qian said: “You are already wealthy and a part of the nobility. I’m afraid that you would have difficulty letting these things go with a peaceful mind. Even if your own brother becomes a divine being, it cannot save you. Today, I come here to say goodbye to you, not to save you.” So the two brothers stayed on the boat and talked about many things for a long time. One night, Liu Qian simply disappeared.
People saw Liu Qian from time to time at Luofu Mountain. Liu Zhan died at the place where he was exiled.
(Source: Biographies of the Immortals Continued)
Translated by Yi Ming