When he was born, a fragrance filled the room. Still unmarried by the age of 20, Lü tried to take the civil service exam to become an official twice, but never succeeded.
A night when Lü Yan was in Chang'an or Handan (邯鄲 hán dān), he dreamed of that he took the imperial exam and excelled, hence was awarded a prestigious office and soon promoted to the position of vice-minister (侍郎). He then married the daughter of a prosperous household and had a son and a daughter. He was promoted again to be the prime minister. However, his success and luck attracted jealousy of others, so was accused of crimes that caused him to loss his office. His wife then betrayed him, his children killed by bandits, and all wealth lost. And as he was dying on the street, he woke up.
Although in dream, eighteen years passed, the whole dream happened in reality during the time of cooking yellow millet. Actually, characters from his dream are actually played by Zhongli Quan. Realizing the emptiness of the human world, Lü went with Zhongli to discover the Dao. This dream is known as "Dream of the Yellow Millet" (黃粱夢 húang líang mèng) and is described in a writing compiled by Ma Zhiyuan (馬致遠 mă zhì yŭan) in Yuan Dynasty.
In volume 82 of Song's Li Fang (李昉 lĭ făng)'s Extensive Records of Taiping (《太平廣記》), an earlier version of the story, Lü Dongbin was replaced by Student Lu (盧生 lú shéng), and Zhongli Chuan by Old Man Lü (呂翁 lü wēng).
The kindness of Lü Dongbin is demonstrated in the Chinese proverb "dog bites Lu Dongbin" (狗咬呂洞賓 gŏy yăo~), which means an inability to recognizes goodness and repays kindness with vice.