Hermits (仙人 sennin, literally "wizard", "transcendent person" or "mountain person") are beings endowed with supernatural abilities acquired through religious training. Like celestials, they may live for thousands of years without being actually immortal. However, unlike celestials whose bodies are poisonous to youkai, hermits of earth are considered a delicacy; an animal who consumes the flesh of a hermit would become a youkai, while a youkai who does so would ascend to a higher rank or form.
Hermits spend most of their days reciting sutras every sunrise and sunset. They consume very little food, and those older than 500 only have to ingest mist and haze to survive. Occasionally (about once every century), an assassin from Hell will attack the hermit; if the hermit has slacked off even the slightest in their training, the hermit will not be able to fight them off and will fall to hell. While this assassin is commonly believed to be a shinigami, this is a deception - it is actually one of the chiefs of the kishin.
Since hermits have not completely discarded all their worldly desires, they may often come to help humans in need. It is said that some youkai exterminators become hermits as a result of their work.
- Main article: Celestial
Celestials (天人 tennin, literally "sky person", "heaven person" or "deva") are a higher class of hermits who reside in Heaven. An earthly hermit can become a celestial by further advancing their training, or a normal human can be transformed into a celestial directly.
Xian (仙, 仚 or 僊, Pinyin: Xian/Xiān/Xiān) is a Chinese word for an enlightened person, usually translated as "Taoist immortal". The Japanese word for hermits, sennin (仙人), is a borrowing of the less common term xianrén, which combines the characters for "xian" and "person". Xian develop roughly the same abilities as their Japanese counterparts, and are similarly long lived; they are described by Victor H. Mair as such:
They are immune to heat and cold, untouched by the elements, and can fly, mounting upward with a fluttering motion. They dwell apart from the chaotic world of man, subsist on air and dew, are not anxious like ordinary people, and have the smooth skin and innocent faces of children. The transcendents live an effortless existence that is best described as spontaneous. They recall the ancient Indian ascetics and holy men known as ṛṣi who possessed similar traits.
Shikaisen (Shijie xian)
Shikaisen (尸解仙, Pinyin: Shījiě xiān, Japanese: Shikaisen, lit. "Corpse Untie Xian") is a class of xian mentioned in Baopuzi. Considered the lowest level of immortality one can attain, it is required that a person "fake" their own death by substituting a bewitched object like a bamboo pole, sword, talisman or a shoe for their corpse or slipping a type of Death certificate into the coffin of a newly departed paternal grandfather, which deletes their name and allotted life span. Mortals who choose this route must cut off all ties with family and friends, move to a distant province, and enact the Ling bao tai xuan yin sheng zhi fu (靈寳太玄隂生之符 -- “Numinous Treasure Talisman of the Grand Mystery for Living in Hiding”) to protect themselves from heavenly retribution. So, the body is considered immortal, but immortality may only last as long as a sīmìng (司命) -- "Director of allotted life spans", lit. "Controller of Fate" allows, agents of death from the underworld can be fended off or life prolonging talismans found. Like hermits and celestials, it is not "true" immortality. Also like celestials, some shikaisen may also serve heaven.
Hermits in Touhou
According to Seiga Kaku's profile in Ten Desires, at one point in time, hermits of Taoism were common in her land in the outside world. During her conversation with Youmu Konpaku, Seiga refers to Toyosatomimi no Miko's resurrection as similar to the western prophet Jesus Christ, claiming Miko's to have been far more grand and divine. It is unknown if Seiga witnessed this event or simply heard of it some time later, but if the first were true then this form of resurrection through Taoist teachings or its equivalent may have been common throughout the old world (or Seiga just wasn't impressed).
Japan appears to be one of the few places around this area that wasn't sufficiently populated by Taoist immortals presumably due to the Yaoyorozu no Kami of Shinto and competition from the more recent arrival of Buddhism. Miko mentions that the Taoist philosophy, aiming to achieve immortality and power is more appealing than overcoming suffering through Buddhism.
Characters under this Bestiary
- Junko? (Unclear; has referred to herself as a senrei (仙霊))
- Kasen Ibaraki (Disguises herself as a hermit)
- Mononobe no Futo (Shikaisen)
- Seiga Kaku (Shikaisen/"Wicked" Hermit)
- Tenshi Hinanawi (Celestial)
- Toyosatomimi no Miko (Shikaisen/Saint)
Books and articles
- Wikipedia entry for Sennin
- Wikipedia entry for Xian (including Shikaisen/Shijie-xian)