http://www.eng.taoism.org.hk/ Talismans are thought to be the strange writing of writs that can invoke spirits and control the ghosts. Talismanic characters, with their twisted strokes, look like drawings as well as calligraphy, and are not easy to recognize. They are applied quite a lot in Daoist skills. Where do they come from? According to the descriptions in Daoist scriptures, a talisman is a condensation of the clouds in the sky. In the Records of the Divine Talismans of the Three Grottoes1, it is written that " the talisman is originally condensed in the sky. The Supreme Perfection2 faced upward, wrote the heavenly writings, differentiated the directions, and distinguished pictures and drawings from the writings of the talismans." Later, the Supreme Venerable Sovereign3 and other immortals imparted them to this world. Recently Mr. Meng Wentong has suggested that the characters of talismans with twisted strokes originated from the scripts of the minorities of the southwest, but this hypothesis is questionable. As a matter of fact, the writings of talismans came from our ancestors' worship of Chinese characters. When the Collective Explanations of the Biography of Xie Gunu4 from the Stories of Magical Arts in the History of the Later Han5 quoted Hui Dong, it said that in ancient times, there were ways of controlling spirits. Therefore the Book of Master Huainan6 said that a long time ago when Cang Ji created Chinese characters, there was millet falling down from the sky, and spirits crying at night. In Gaoyou's commentary, he states that spirits were crying at night, afraid of being controlled by the talisman. So it is thus clear that the idea existed long ago that some special words or characters were able to impeach and control spirits. In civilized times, official documents such as mandates and decrees carried heavy authority, and their influence foisted the worship of the characters on the common people. Judging from the existing literature, Daoist talismans formed in the Eastern Han Dynasty, and resulted from the fact that the concept of absolute power over the common people in this world was transferred to the world of spirits. When Daoists made their own talismans, they actually imitated those made in the Qin and Han dynasties. And the talismans were mainly derived from the characters of central China. The talisman was originally a trust7 of the ancient sovereigns to invoke troops or deliver orders. At first, it was made of bamboo, and later of gold, jade, and bronze. Both the court and the generals held half of it, and applied it as a trust. The two halves of it put together indicated the fact that the messenger, with the talisman, represented the will of the ruler. So the generals had to follow the order he delivered. After talismans were transferred to the spiritual world, there appeared heavenly talismans and divine talismans. The witches and wizards might have been the first to put them into use, and the Yu Talisman was widely used in the Warring States period. In such activities as the dispelling of illnesses in the tomb, the witches or wizards of the Han Dynasty often applied them, and so we can call them " witch talismans" since they were the direct ancestors of the Daoist talisman.
The witch talismans we can observe today are written on receptacles unearthed from Han Dynasty tombs. Getting rid of ghosts with talismans was a sort of witchcraft to dispel the spirits. On such receptacles, the talismans and incantations have been discovered, which are a mixture of Chinese characters and diagrams of stars, which were thought capable of arresting ghosts. According to the records in the book On Judgements of Opinions8 of Wang Chong, it was the witches and wizards who conducted such activities. Most of the Daoist sects originated from sorcery and as a result the activities of dispelling the spirits became one of the magical skills of early Daoism. The book On the Two Teachings9 of the Buddhist Dao'an mocked the witchcraft of the Three Zhangs, in which he mentioned the activity of using talismans to get rid of errors that annoyed the ghosts. The early Daoist sects from the folk society inherited and developed folk sorcery, which became a part of the system of Daoism. So the witch talismans were turned into Daoist talismans, and developed into volumes and volumes of talisman books. Such books produced in the Eastern Han Dynasty are The Double Character Book of the Supreme Peace10, The Five Talismans of the Numinous Treasure11, The Perfect Writs of the Five Sprouts12, The Writs of the Three August Ones13, and so on. Of them, the Double Character Book of the Supreme Peace had most of its talismans made by doubling popular characters, in which the trace of witch talismans was easily seen.
Diagram 1. Copy of a receptacle for dispelling spirits, from Cao's family tomb of Hu County, on which the talismans and characters for dispelling spirits are written in red ink.
<1> Writing for dispelling spirits 14<2> The first talisman <3> The second talisman
Diagram 2. Copy of a receptacle for dispelling spirits15 from the western suburb of the city of Luoyang, on which the talisman and characters for dispelling the spirits are written in red ink. <1>The first talisman; <2> The first talisman; <3> The second talisman; <4> The writing for dispelling the spirits; <5> The receptacle for dispelling the spirits
Diagram 3. <1> Talisman characters from the Double Character Book of the Supreme Peace; <2> Talisman characters from the Writs of the Three August Ones.
As far as the implications of the writings of the talismans are concerned, Daoist talisman books illustrate certain religious ideas with coherent sentences. Compared to the witch talismans used by the folk witches and wizards, there are more characters in Daoist talismans, which are also more varied. This implies the transformation of Daoism from spontaneous folk witchcraft to a conscious religion with systematic theories. As far as the form of the talisman is concerned, there was a mixture or deformation of the official script of the Han Dynasty. Apart from it, the Daoist talisman borrowed seal characters and the worm-shaped and bird-shaped characters of the ancient times; these became the mainstream of the Daoist talisman. Such change began in the later stage of the Eastern Han Dynasty, the main representative of which is the Perfect Writs of the Five Sprouts and the Writs of the Three August Ones from the ancient Books of the Numinous Treasure. The talisman characters in the Perfect Writs of the Five Sprouts are in seal type writing. In the Great Skill of the Heavenly Immortal Gold Mother16 and the Numinous Treasure Golden Book of Salvation and Guidance17, the pronunciations of the seal characters were given, but they were different from the pronunciations of the corresponding seal characters in philology books. The talismanic writing style in the Writs of the Three August Ones is called Heavenly Cloud-shaped Seal Character18 or Cloud-shaped Seal Character19 in Daoism. It is mixed with seal type writing, ancient characters, and overlapped characters similar to double characters in the Double Character Book of the Supreme Peace. In Daoist thought, such a talisman was the secret of the supreme heaven, so it was called "Heavenly Seal Character". At the same time, the talisman was condensed with the vapor of clouds in the sky, and the Immortals in heaven imitated it and imparted it to the human world. So it was called "Cloud-shaped seal character" or "Cloud-shaped Writing", which was an imitation of popular seal characters and of the worm-shaped and bird-shaped characters of ancient times. And to focus on its features, the strokes are twisted like clouds that are winding around. Since such an idea was accepted, the Daoists tried to have the strokes of talismans twisted even when they drew double character talismans. Thus it became the general characteristic of the Daoist talisman.
Diagram 4. Example of Cloud-shaped Seal Character.
Diagram 5 Talisman composed of Cloud-shaped Seal Characters.
Since the Eastern Han Dynasty, more and more Daoist talismans were produced. The fifth chapter of the Inner Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity20 recorded that there were 56 kinds of great talismans, amounting to over 500 volumes. The new sects that appeared later often created their own talismans and compiled their own books of talismans. Daoist Talismans and Registers became the trust of the succession of Daoist sects.
Author: Liu Zhongyu Translator: Ginny Yue
Talismans, Registers and Magical Skills
Magical Skills 1 play a very important role in the religious activities of Daoism. Magical Skills refer to a sort of operational system for invoking spirits or ghosts or for producing supernatural changes. They are called Daoist Arts, Daoist Skills, or Secret Skills2 to indicate their mystery and secrecy. Sometimes they are called Great Magical Skills to indicate their exceptional uniqueness. Conducting Magical Skills is a chief religious behavior of Daoism, so that it plays an important role in Daoism.
Theoretically, Magical Skills are the demonstration of Dao whereas Dao is their foundation. Such an idea is expressed as follows: " Dao is the noumenon and Magical Skills are the phenomena", which means that Dao is the implicit underpinning of Magical Skills, and Magical Skills are functions and influences of Dao. The first volume of the " Great Collection of Daoist Skills" says that Magical Skills are the usage of Dao. Dao is immaterial while Magical Skills are capable of being touched; Dao is subtle and invisible while Magical Skills are demonstrable. So Magical Skills are not only an operational system to control spirits and ghosts or external things in mysterious ways, but also closely connected with the reverent belief in Dao. Moreover, Magical Skills depend on the personal cultivation and virtues of the master who conducts a certain magic art.
Dao can save man by Magical Skills.
The function of magical arts lies in the idea that they are capable of controlling external things, or spirits and ghosts. So it is thought that man can free himself from natural or social forces with their magical power. Especially when man encounters disasters or gets in trouble, man hopes to rely on them to dispel disasters or ghosts, or even to solve their problems thoroughly. Daoists think that Dao is the pure and perfect noumenon of emptiness, and that magic arts are esoteric means of transformations and changes. Dao is immaterial, but it can save man with its magic skills. Man is intelligent and he can mingle himself with Dao. Since man can learn Dao, he can control change naturally. Magic arts, which are quite influential among the common people, meet the need of the people who attribute disasters or illnesses to supernatural forces, and puzzle and fear about the mysterious forces. Therefore Magical Skills are one of the chief means for the Daoists to provide their religious services. In ancient times, ordinary people got to know Daoism through magic arts, and revered Daoists because of the legends concerning their powerful magical skill. Some of the Magical Skills were encouraged by the rulers, who used to establish cults by divinization3, as a means to control society in times of chaos when people were frightened by disasters.
Daoist magic arts, with their immense complexity, have formed an enormous system.
They began in history and have been developing and changing. Generally speaking, with Dao regarded as essential, the elementary means of Daoist Magical Skills are talismans, Incantations4, finger gestures5, and Big Dipper pacing6, together with such magical instruments as swords, stone seals, magical water, and some medicines. There are several classes of magic arts, including praying for happiness and blessings, offering sacrifices to exorcise evils, summoning and invoking spirits for dispelling ghosts7, curing diseases, raising dead souls from suffering, destroying the Darkness8, and doing divination and divinatory calculation9. Ritual Masters, on usual occasions, apply one or two skills, but on rare occasions will apply quite a few of them, follow certain procedures, and set up an altar. So the ceremony for carrying out some special Magical Skills is called " conducting of rituals".
Changes in Talisman and Register Daoism
As a popular religion, Talisman and Register Daoism is still very welcomed until today, especially in its function as healing method or through incantations and charms evoking luck and dispelling misfortune and calamities. But the Talisman and Register schools underwent changes, and new schools emerged: the Divine Heaven School (Shenxiao神霄派), founded by Wang Wenqing 王文卿; the Pristine Subtlety Sect (Qingwei清微派), founded by Zu Zhu 祖舒 already during the Tang period; and the Pure Brightness Tradition (Jingming淨明派), founded by He Shoucheng 何守澄 and venerating Xu Xun 許遜 of the Tang period as first patriarch. All combined talismans and registers with practice of Inner Alchemy (neidan內丹), the Jingming School even advocates moral behaviour (loyalty, filial piety – Confucian values) as expression of a purified mind. The old traditional schools of the Orthodox Oneness (Zhengyi 正一), the Highest Purity (Shangqing 上清) and the Numinous Treasure (Lingbao 靈寶) likewise combined the theories and philosophies of other Daoist and even Buddhist Sects and opened new fields of thought. Zhengyi patriarch Zhang Jixian 張繼先 incorporated the Chan Buddhist theory of the mind (xin心) the the rest (xiuxie休歇) of desires into the Daoist practice of freeing oneself from outside impressions to obtain quiety and emptiness (xujing虛靜) and the true nature (zhenxing真性). He also studied the techniques of Inner Alchemy Daoism that had been neglected by most Daoists until then. Practices to refine the qi (氣, by Daoists written 炁) of the Former Heaven (xiantian先天; i.e. natural endowments from a status before birth) within the body would be helpful to influence the spirits of weather, especially that of rain and thunder. The employment of the five thunder methods (wuleifa五雷法) would help to evoke rain or good weather (qiu yu qi qing求雨祈晴) and to avoid natural desasters (jiu zai救災). Xiao Yingsou 肖應叟, master of the Shangqing School, adopted Inner Alchemy thought to explain the potential of becoming an immortal. Du Daojian 杜道堅 wrote an exegesis of the Laozi 老子 by making use of Neo-Confucian numeral speculations (xiangshu象數) of the Former Heaven. The Donghua Sect 東華派 ("Eastern Flower"), a branch of the Lingbao Sect and founded by Ning Quanzhen 寧全真, exerted important Daoist ritual offerings (zhaijiao齋醮) at the court of Emperor Song Gaozong 宋高宗. Master Lin Lingzhen 林靈真 made intensive use of Inner Alchemy methods and declared these rites ase base for the talisman and register practice
Why do Chinese children often wear a talismans or small figurine of their god around their neck? The Chinese believe the talismans can ward off evil spirits. There are two types of talismans: the Buddhist and Taoist talismans. The Buddhist talismans is a piece of yellow cloth with sacred writing taken from the Buddhist scriptures. On the yellow piece of cloth is a picture of the Buddha drawn in black ink. The Taoist talismans is also yellow and the mantra written on it is taken form the I-Ching. The writing on the talismans is written in the blood of a chicken, dog or a human being. These talismans can also be worn or pasted on doors. It is customary for children to wear talismans. The Chinese believe children have weak spirits and have yet to reach the stage where they can fight off evil spirits and ghosts form possessing their body. With the talismans. the well-being of the wearer is preserved. A pakua is also hang on doors of the house of a Chinese to ward off evil spirits, It is a hexagonal-shaped mirror which the Chinese believe will reflect the ghosts images and frighten them away.
Talismans are structural links to energies that can trigger specific actions, or results. The person who carries the talisman is energizinging it continuously with his/her own life force. Talismans mean acces to Power!
EVA WONG ON TALISMANS :
CHILDREN PROTECTION VERY POTENT TALISMAN
2006 YEARLY TALISMAN AGAINST THE MALEVOLENT INFLUENCE OF THE TAI SUI IN THE NORTH WEST SECTOR