The Elixir of Life

The Elixir of Life

The Elixir of Life is a Japanese folktale but also finds itself mentioned throughout Japanese history.

Emperor Kōrei

Text from the Jinnō Shōtōki states that during the reign of Emperor Kōrei the Chinese Emperor Ch’in sought out the The Elixir of Life in Japan. In response they asked for copies of the book of Five Kings and Three Emperors which were then sent to Japan.2

Folktale – Elixir of Life

The folktale centers around an Emperor of China, who heard that Mount Fuji came into being in one night. From this he instantly believed that Mount Fuji must contain the Elixir of Life. And so he set sail to Japan with a number of handsome youths and maidens for Japan.

They sailed through storms which luckily eventually abated and before them they could see the rising slopes of Fuji. They ascended the mountain, near it summit the Emperor running ahead, wanting to be the first one to take a sip of the fabled drink so that he may never grow old.

But later, once his companions caught up with him they only found his body lying on its back with a smile upon his face. He had found his Life Eternal, but would carry it out in the land of the dead.1

Folktale – Tale of the Bamboo Cutter

We also see the Elixir of Life mentioned towards the end of the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where she gives a vial of it to the Emperor. He later takes it to the summit of Mount Fuji where he burns it. This is said to be the reason why smoke rises from Mount Fuji.3

Footnotes

1. Davis, F. H. (1992) “Myths and Legends of Japan.” New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
2. Varley, H.P (1980) “A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa.” New York: Columbia University Press.
3. Ozaki, Y.T. (2015) “Japanese Fairy Tales” USA: Cavalier Classics.

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The Elixir of Life