Classification of Supreme Numinous Treasure Mushrooms (太上靈寶芝草品, Taishang lingbao zhicao pin)

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Just like the Vedic Soma and the Greek Ambrosia, the Chinese also had a magical, life-prolonging substance which they called Zhi (芝). [22] The Records of the Grand Historian (史記, Shiji, c. 90 BCE) mentions that the emperors Qin Shihuangdi (秦始皇帝, 260–210 BCE) and Han Wudi (漢武帝, 156–87 BCE) sent thousands of men over many years in search of magical islands housing this immortal herb. [23] It was during the time of the latter that the substance was equated with lingzhi (靈芝, Ganoderma), a genus of spade-shaped mushroom with a lacquered appearance (fig. 6).[24] This fungus became the subject of esoteric texts starting from the Han Dynasty, many of which are now lost. Drawing on these extinct texts, the Daoist adept Ge Hong (葛洪, 283–343) was the first to classify the lingzhi into five major types. [25] Methods For Planting the Zhi Plants (種芝草法, Zhong zhicao fa), a late Six Dynasties (220–589) text attributed to the Daoist god Laozi (老子), details how to seed this magical fungus by burying precious substances, such as gold or cinnabar, on a mountain side during solstices and equinoxes. [26] Originally written during the Song Dynasty, a Ming edition of Classification of Supreme Numinous Treasure Mushrooms (太上靈寶芝草品, Taishang lingbao zhicao pin) lists one hundred twenty-six different kinds of immortality-bestowing fungi. It’s important to note that this text became part of the official Daoist canon (道藏, Daozang) during the mid-15th-century. [27] This means immortal mushrooms are a central tenet of Daoism.

Journey to the West, Vol 1 (pdf)

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Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng’en.

The novel is a fictionalized account of the legendary pilgrimage to India of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, and loosely based its source from the historic text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions and traditional folk tales. The monk travelled to the “Western Regions” during the Tang Dynasty, to obtain sacred texts (sūtras). The bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin), on instruction from the Buddha, gives this task to the monk and his three protectors in the form of disciples — namely Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing — together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuanzang’s steed, a white horse. These four characters have agreed to help Xuanzang as an atonement for past sins.

Journey to the West has a strong background in Chinese folk religion, Chinese mythology and value systems; the pantheon of Taoist immortals and Buddhist bodhisattvas is still reflective of Chinese religious beliefs today. Enduringly popular, the tale is at once an adventure story, a spring of spiritual insight, and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India represents individuals journeying towards enlightenment.

Journey to the West, Vol 1 (pdf)