A Vanished Dream


A legend from the early Tang dynasty (618–907) tells of a young scholar named Lu Sheng who changes the course of his life while dreaming at the dinner table.

The story begins one fateful evening in Handan. Lu Sheng enters a tavern, sitting down at a table with a kind-looking old gentleman. The white-haired man listens patiently as Lu Sheng laments about how he has repeatedly failed to pass the civil service examination.

The elderly man suggests that Lu Sheng abandon worldly ambitions and begin to study the Tao, or the Way. But Lu Sheng brushes the idea aside. Little does the young man know that the elderly gentleman at his table is none other than one of the famous Eight Taoist Immortals, Lü Dongbin.

As they wait for the innkeeper to prepare a meal of yellow millet, the Taoist offers the young scholar a pillow, upon which he immediately falls asleep.

In a vivid dream, Lu Sheng watches himself finally pass the highest imperial examinations! He then becomes a government official, is blessed with wealth, and marries a beautiful lady. At the height of his career, he is suddenly incriminated for corruption and condemned to death. In a dramatic scene, the emperor redresses the wrongful charge and spares his life. As the years pass, Lu Sheng becomes greatly renowned for his civil and military talents, and his family enjoys the security of fame and fortune. Then, at 81 years of age, a grave illness takes his life.

Watching the course of his life play out before his eyes, Lu Sheng awakens with a jolt. He looks about him wondrously and sees that the innkeeper’s bowl of yellow millet is not even ready yet. The white-haired gentleman next to him smiles: “A person’s life is just like a dream, is it not?”

Lu Sheng suddenly understands that this is no ordinary encounter. He gives up his earthly pursuits, takes Lü Dongbin as his master, and sets out to learn the Great Tao.

The Shen Yun dance drama entitled A Vanished Dream is an adaptation of this tale.

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