Morisset Hospital Historic Sculpture
Many years ago, this interesting Chinese rootwood carved sculpture was on display in the Administration Office area of the Recreation Hall. Various stories about the sculpture abound – mostly hearsay for there is no substantiated facts about the sculpture. We know little about the sculpture’s origin, however we do believe that the Li Tieh-kuai has probably been at the hospital since the Recreation Hall and Administration Office were first in use around 1909.
In 1998 MHHS contacted the Art Gallery of NSW to have the sculpture assessed. That assessment confirmed that the Morisset Hospital sculpture was probably a depiction of the fifth of the Eight Immortals of Chinese mythology and that the sculpture is circa 1900.
The sculpture fits together a bit like a 3D jigsaw, unfortunately there are some pieces missing. If those pieces were returned to the sculpture it would be a most unique piece.
The Story of Li Tieh-kuai, (Iron-crutch Li)
This Fifth Immortal is Li Tieh-kuai, (Iron-crutch Li). He is the emblem of the sick, hence his significance to Morisset Hospital. He always carries a crutch. His recognized emblem is the bottle-gourd or calabash that forms part of the equipment of every Immortal.
There are several versions of the stories of the Eight Immortals. Li Tieh-kuai is the most ancient of the Eight Immortals; his calabash relieves suffering. Prior to becoming an immortal, his spirit once travelled to the heavens. When his apprentice came across the lifeless looking body of Li Tieh-kuai, the apprentice mistakenly presumed that he had died and so cremated him. In another version, the apprentice was told that Li Tieh-kuai spirit was visiting the heavens and that his spirit would return in seven days, but on the sixth day, the apprentice had to leave his master's body as his mother was gravely ill and he had to return home, so he cremated the body. When Li returned to find his body had been cremated he had no choice but to enter the corpse of a homeless man who died of starvation. Unfortunately the man's head was "long and pointed, his face black, his beard and hair woolly and dishevelled, his eyes of gigantic size, and one of his legs was lame." Li Tieh-kuai gave him a gold band to keep his hair in order, and an iron crutch to help his lame leg.