This article considers the depiction of immortals and transcendents, and the value judgments placed upon their pursuits, within English, French, and Chinese literary traditions, specifically Gothic-Rosicrucian tales from the early-nineteenth century, and zhiguai (records of the strange) and biji (note-form) literature from late imperial China. It traces a throughline from the Bible to authors such as Mary Shelley and Honoré de Balzac, and from Six Dynasties zhiguai to Pu Songling’s Liaozhai zhiyi. It also examines the religious origins and foundations of both literary traditions, and seeks to explain their convergences and divergences. Overall, the article finds that Taoism and Taoism-based literature are much less disapproving of the pursuit of immortality, and that their tales of transcendence serve the social function of fantastical escape rather than moral didacticism.

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