Charms and Chinese Superstitions
The charm has a prominent part in all primitive religions, especially in those that worship spirits and live in fear of ghosts and spectres. In the earliest times the Chinese people believed in Shnngti, the Supreme Ruler, the genii presiding over mountains and rivers, and the host of spirits that filled the sky. Some of these spirits were considered good, others bad. The good were the protectors of man, the bad, the harbingers of evil, there solely to torment and unsettle. The malignant influence of bad spirits had to be diminished, and charms were used for this practice. The charm is the most effective way of calling spirits, expelling them, warding off and restraining demons, ghosts and entities of all kinds.
Exorcising magic is very old in China, going as far back to Hwangti, the legendary founder of the Chinese Empire, who is said to have lived 2697 years before the Christian era. Others attribute exorcising magic to Lao-tze, the old philosopher, born BC 604, he was the founder of Taoism. Under the Chow Jg) dynasty (BC 1122-249) it was customary for the “Son of Heaven”, rulers and high officials, to be preceded by armed exorcists and sorcerers, there to protect them from malice.
Exorcising ceremonies were performed in Spring, and again in Autumn. In the time of Confucius (BC 551-479), the ridding of demons, and exorcising processions took place on a large scale. Spells were chanted in these processions, they were used against spectres, threats were hurled at the evil beings and they were commanded to “be gone.”
Under the Han gf dynasty (B.C. 206 AD. 221), a system of charms was evolved, this was due to Chang Tao-ling, the first official head of the Taoist church. His followers referred to him as grand “Heavenly master” T’ien-shi. By the age of seven he had mastered all the writings of Lao-tze, and later on received from him a complete knowledge of charms and spells.
After retiring to the “Dragon and Tiger mountain”, Lung-hu-shan, in the province of Kiang-si, created a book of charms to guide the reader in the ways of expelling demons and curing disease.
Taoism is a system of religious magic for expelling and killing evil spirits, ghosts and spectres, and exercising influence over Heaven and Earth, whose regular order, Tao, is destroyed by evil spirits.
Buddhists have their own system of charms which has its, Dlianmi, (formulas) for removing, Mara, (daemons) and ensuring good karma for mankind. Taoist and Buddhist charms are placed beside each other. Buddha’s name is engraved on these charms, he is called the, light of the world, and the universal expeller of demons. They also bear the name of Wei-Vo, or the initial and final syllables of the mystic formula, ilOm! mani padme hum Oh!, the jewel of creation in the Lotus.
The old belief regarding the nature of charms deemed all nature to be animated. Confucianists, Taoists, and Buddhists, all inhabit the world along with countless spirits. These spirits are divided into two classes, Shen and Kwei, the Shen’ are the intelligent, etherial, part of the universe, the spiritual energies and influences, the benevolent protectors of man and the creators of happiness. The A’wei, belong to a low standard of spirits, they are evil, malignant anarchists, lawless disturbers of the order of the universe. They generally disrupt the world, fostering evil, bringing disease, creating anarchy and mayhem. They are lawless disrupters of the harmony of the Universe who incite evil and disharmony, bringing disease to mankind, causing plagues and epidemics. Ripping away the souls of children and adults, these souls may be restored through animistic magic. The, Sheii, being good and kindly, protectors of man, and the, vwet, evil and malignant, the, Sheii, are called upon as allies in the struggle against evil. Charms are used to activate Divine powers, the, Sheii, are called down to receive sacrifices and bestow benevolence, and to become involved in the wellbeing and balance of mankind. The, Sheii, also command, expel, and counteract the evil intentions of daemons, ghosts, and spectres.
Charms are mandates (orders), issued under seal and painted, or written with a cinnabar pencil. They are the principal means of commanding spectres, expelling and killing, Kwei. They help to catch, restrain, imprison, torture, drown, behead, kill and burn all kinds of spectres and ghosts, the written charms are then burnt.
The Chinese world of spirits is modelled after man’s own image, they appear in human shape, have human passions, may be pursued, caught, warded off, and can may be killed. When a, vwe, dies, it becomes a,Tsih, something malevolent and hideous, it terrifies all spectres when they see this character posted over a door during times of evil chaos. The charm is an instrument of religious magic, used to command the evil spirits submission, disarming them, counteracting their influence, and preventing them from injuring man in his present and future life.
Thousands of individuals in China wear charms as amulets, they are posted up over doors, placed under the eaves of houses, attached to beds, curtains, worn in the hair, or put into a red satchel. They are also burnt, the ashes mixed with wine, tea or hot water, and administered as a repellant against bad influences, diseases and attacks from evil spirits. The Chinese attribute them with enormous power, they call down gods to receive sacrifice, and bestow kindness. They promote happiness here and in the afterlife, they promise longevity and a serene old age. They bestow benefits on man, promise a lush harvest, fine weather, sunshine and rain, they end snowfalls, droughts and famine. They protect buildings and houses from evil influences, and expel all kinds of spirits, daemons and spectres, they protect mankind from epidemics and pestilence. They cure almost all diseases which erupt from the flesh, from stomach-aches, headaches, stitches in the side, sore eyes. They cure sadness, fear and anxiety, they can bring back departed souls, or if impossible, improve at least their condition in the “world of shades”. Charms are used to create a happy marriage, promoting harmony, love and understanding, between husband and wife.
Charms have been used to invoke the gods to assist mankind, and to help him overcome the influences of evil. This worship has fostered interest and fear among people. Healing charms, lucky charms, petition charms, have been created by Buddhist monks and Taoist priests, specifically to cure disease, prevent epidemics, expel daemons, dispel evil, and to garner the protection of the gods for all human ills, and for mankind as a whole. Misfortunes which befall mankind are countless, and the drawing up of charms is one of the chief pursuits of Taoist priests, Tao-shi, have some ready for every imaginable situation, disease and condition, to which mortals are exposed.
Taoism has a system of religious magic for expelling and killing Kwei, (evil spirits, ghosts and spectres), and exercising influence over Heaven and Earth, whose regular order Tao, is destroyed by these evil spirits. The making and use of charms and spells, are inseparable from Taoist ritualism. Its priests are wizards and magicians, along with some charlatans thrown in.
During the reign of the Emperor Shun-ti, of the Eastern Han dynasty, Tung-Han, Chang Tan-ling, the first official head of the Taoist magical church, and grand Heavenly Master T’ien-shi, created a book on charms in the mountain of Lung-hu-shan, (the dragon and tiger mountain), in the province of Kiang-si. The book contained ingenious ways of expelling daemons, curing all diseases, and deceiving naive people, who had to give him five bushels of rice, earning him the nickname of “rice-grabber” Mi-tseh.
Magic writings are suspended in homes to ward off evil. Buddhist monks create magic charms, they are written on white, yellow, or red paper, and are written in vermilion ink along with the picture of the God Weit’. They are said to have the power to ward off evil influences, they are made of peach-wood, multicolored and have images of Kiang T’ai-kung, or the God of Riches, Tsai-shen, printed on the charms. They are paid for in rice or money, this payment referred to as the golden revenue derived from charms.
The origin of charms can be traced back to the times of Chang Tao-ling , who used them as a way to extort rice. The Taoist priesthood has followed in his footsteps, and trade in them to-day to earn a living. Buddhist monks, seeing that the business brought in money, imitated the Taoists. Preparing their ink-slabs and cinnabar pencils, began to draw up their own charms, they were intricate tracings, or letters elaborately entwined, with the purpose of exhibiting the benefit and usefulness of their wares. They took them to towns and villages, distributing them to everyone they met, proclaiming aloud their effectiveness in warding off all kinds of evil influence and misfortune.
The Chinese people readily accepted the monk’s scripts, and suspended them in their homes. Buddhist and Taoist priests, Tao-shi made an agreement in favour of their charms, which local officials follow, when they issue a proclamation. Once the people see that it bears the official seal they dare not resist it, knowing that it comes from a lawful government representative. Charms are also given the official government seal of approval. Charms, with a government seal are used to protect man from malignant daemons, causing evil genii to fear the very sight of these Divine mandates, rendering malevolent entities powerless over families who use the charms for protection. All daemons and evil entities fear these charms with their official seal. With these legally sanctioned charms, families are protected from all and any evil intentions and evil entities. The charm is hung up over the entrance to the home, or it may be placed inside the doorway. These protective charms are suspended in houses, placed over doorways, attached to trees and worn as amulets.
Huge tridents drawn with lime-water on city walls, or found on each side of the city gates and beside the doors and windows of private houses, are charms endowed with magic power. These white tridents are effective for driving away malicious daemons who venture into the city, or come near people’s homes. These charms are used during prolonged drought, epidemic, officials have them traced on walls to dispel evil influences, and to restore harmony, balance and wellbeing among the people. Charms are divided according to the purpose for which they are used. Drawings are in harmony with the colour of the paper they are written on. These charms are exceptionally powerful against ghosts and demons, whom they scare away.
There are charms made specifically for exorcising. Buddhist and Taoist priests, Tao-shi, burn these charms and the petition written on them, during the ceremony known as Ta-tsiao, thanking the Gods for the deliverance of souls in Hades, and also during the ceremony called, Begging for Peace, P’ing-ngan-hsiang. It is an all-powerful charm specially for expelling malicious daemons who harm and injure mortals. The name of the person for whose benefit the ceremony has been performed, as well as the date at which it has taken place, are written on the space left blank for that purpose.
Charms are made to protect people’s homes from fire, they are used by Taoist priests, Tao-shi, to inform, Yen-li, the God of Fire, when a family has suffered an incident. The person whose house has been burned must not enter the house of others during the three days subsequent to the fire. It is only when the Taoist priests, Tao-shi, have completed the expiatory ceremony at the scene of the disaster, after this time they may resume their usual interactions with their neighbours. The priests suspend the five charms, each with five different colours, placed towards the five directions of the compass. Green towards the East, red towards the South, yellow towards the West, blue towards the North, and violet in the Centre. Each sheet bares one of the names of the Five Elements, metal, wood, water, fire and earth, Kin, muh, shui, hwo. When Buddhist priests are summoned to pray on the scene of the disaster, they write on the charred buildings the character, water, Shui, enclosing it within a circle. As the walls are generally blackened by the smoke and flames, they use lime-water to trace these circles, and write out the characters.
Therapeutic charms are the most sought after, and are one of the most profitable for the monks. The magic scripts for these charms are the most prolific. They can prevent and cure disease. Every kind of illness has its own particular energy.
Buddhist priests, with their magic spells and prayers, pretend they have the power to transfer the disease of a child into a paper puppet picture, male or female, printed on a paper charm. The charm is burnt afterwards, and the trick is played, the disease then vanishes. This charm is called a substitute-charm, as a paper-puppet is substituted for a living person, and the disease of the person is transferred to the paper puppet and the charm burnt. This paper-puppet is taken outdoors to an isolated location, where it is burnt.
A soul restoring charm, is considered one of the most important charms, this charm is used when a disease endangers the life of a child, parents obtain the charm and place it beneath the pillow to bring back the soul as quickly as possible. A gourd-shell, hermetically closed, is attached to a horse’s saddle. This contains the soul and brings it back to its rightful owner.
Therapeutic charms are made corresponding to the twelve animals of the Chinese astrological chart. The Buddhist priest writes the name of the patient, and the name of the animal presiding over the year they were born. When the Buddhist priest comes to the home of a sick person, they burn the relevant charm during the ceremony. If the patient is born in the year of the “Rat,” the Buddhist priest takes a charm and writes the name of the Rat in the blank space and adds the date. The charm is then burnt and the patient cured.
Charms to ward off contagious diseases are made by Taoist priests, they suspend the charm in a house, and burn it while chanting magic words to ward off diseases. Charms were suspended over the doorways of pagan households in 1907, this was done to protect the inhabitants from an epidemic.
Buddhist or Taoist priests, Tao-shi, write out the name of a person, also the year, month and day it was drawn up. It is then attached to a wall in the shape of a proclamation. Finally it is burnt to ensure their safe passage into the afterlife.
To cure a cough, the carefully prepared charm is burnt, the ashes are then steeped in a mixture of turnips and taken by the afflicted person, the cough is then relieved.
For the relief of excessive heart throbbing, a charm is pasted over the chest, then burnt, the ashes mixed with wine or tea, the mixture is then given to the sufferer.
To eliminate typhoid fever, the Spirits of the “Five Directions” are summoned to eradicate the disease. The charm is hung up to scare away the daemons causing the epidemic. After the charm has been placed and seen by the evil entities, it is burnt, the ashes put in tea and ingested by the sick person.
To stop stomach aches, turnips are boiled to a pulp and strained, the paper charm burnt, and the ashes mixed with tea, then given to the sufferer to drink. A multi charm is used to cure heart problems and headaches, the priest places the written charm onto the affected area, the charm is then burnt and the ashes mixed with tea or wine and given to the sufferer.
This charm for sore eyes contains various incantations designed to conjure up the Dragon, waters, and all cleansing sources. The eyes must be first rubbed with the charm, it is then burnt and the ashes steeped in tea and given to the sufferer. An asthma charm is used to dry up inflamed membrane and reduce constricted breathing passages. The charm is written then burnt, the ashes steeped in tea and given to the sufferer. To cure a fever and bring down the temperature, The Gods of the Nine Great Rivers of the Universe, are summoned, and the divinities that watch over the canals of the country. The gods and Divinities are pleaded with to cool the atmosphere quickly.
A charm for dispelling sadness and anxiety, is suspended in the patient’s room then burnt, the ashes mixed with tea and given to the patient to drink. To dispel fear a charm is written, then suspended over a door, burnt and the ashes mixed with tea and drunk. This is a very popular charm, especially among the older generation.
Buddhists make up a specific charm to ensure a pregnant woman a safe delivery and a healthy baby. The charm is sold by the priests, it is attached to the bed head and once the mother has delivered, the charm is burnt and the ashes scattered to the four winds. For hastening delivery during a difficult childbirth the Buddhist priests use a specific charm exclusively for this purpose, the Buddhist priests, invoke Jil-lai Buddha, the priests beg the Dragon to come to the aid of the woman and help her bear a male child. This is a particularly effective and often used charm.
There is a very special charm used for women who are pregnant, to help protect them and their baby during the confinement. The priest prepares the charm and attaches it to the pending mother’s stomach, it is then removed and burnt, the ashes are placed in the soil.
To protect from malevolent ghosts, the charm is worn on, or sewn on to the person’s clothes to secure protection from the evil spirits, and attacks from ghosts and any other malevolent entities. A women who lived in the district of Hanshan-hsien, Nganhwei province, pretended she saw a ghost leave its tomb carrying a bunch of flowers. When news of the apparition spread around the world, thousands of people flocked to the spot where the sighting occurred. A small hole was discovered in the coffin as the decaying wood had been falling apart over the previous ten years. Buddhist and Taoist priests, Tao-shi, were immediately summoned, and endless charms were written out in order to secure protection from ghosts.
To restore the soul that has recently left the body, the spirit must immediately be pursued and grasped. When this is done, the soul is compelled to re-enter the body it has just left. To accomplish this purpose the charm is burnt and the ashes mingled with some tea and ingested by the soul’s owner.
A charm to cure all disease is prepared and used by Buddhist priests. The Taoist charm has the names of the Three Taoist Heavens, the Three Divinities, which are the Taoist Trinity. It is then burnt and the ashes scattered.
There are five particular charms used exclusively by Taoists, while performing the ceremony known as Ta-tsiao, thanking the Gods for the deliverance of souls from Hades. These charms are hung strategically towards the five directions. With each sheet containing a prayer to the Taoist Gods. They are all burnt during the ceremony, this conveys the petition to the proper divinity.
Charms to ensure a bountiful harvest, take place when the first blade of corn sprouts. The priests go into the fields and suspend five written charms of five different colours, from reeds. The priests then place them at the four cardinal points and one in the centre. They chant then burn the sheets. The charm is divided into four parts, each part bearing an animal picture, dragon, horse, phoenix and the stork.
A very popular charm to call down heavenly consolation, is said to bestow sweet dew from above. Drawing down from the blissful home of the Gods, the sweet dew of consolation upon all desolate of heart. A charm hung in almost every pagan house is a charm that holds a wish for prosperity and good luck. There are four special characters written distinctly, they are entwined to form a magical cipher.
There is a very special charm, known as the charm of “universal efficacy.” The charm is called, Wan-ling-fu, and used by Taoist priests as they perform the ceremony called, Ta-tsiao, (delivering souls from Hades). A powerful charm ensuring the three blessings, happiness, abundance and longevity is made with three characters to represent the three wishes.
The prayer charm for an increase of fortune sends a message to the Gods begging them for assistance. This charm is used exclusively by Taoist priests. A luck bearing charm is suspended from the ceiling of the home on the fifth day of the fifth month, this is to ensure peace throughout the year. The seal of one of the local deities is placed on top of the charm, it is a deity whose statue is placed in a local temple. Buddhist and Taoist priests go from door to door selling their charms and are very well paid for their wares.
The cipher, representing longevity, is beautifully drawn on a large scroll then suspended in the hallway of the home, it has a place of honour. The family worships it as some kind of God, they burn incense, candles and make offerings. They pray in front of it and are very superstitious in their reverence, believing they will be promised a long life, prosper, have health, happiness and abundance. This character is drawn on gilt paper and sent as a gift to those celebrating their sixtieth birthday.
The Pah-kwa or Eight Diagrams, are placed above the entrance to the home, they are mystical symbols, promising good luck, wellbeing and protection from evil spirits. The charm known as the “Ivie Poisons,” is used for protection and exorcising. It is hung on the fifth day of the fifth month.
The Buddhist priests of the temple do a wonderful trade in magic charms, thousands of pilgrims purchase them at the pilgrim resort, the shrine in honour of Ti-ts’ang-wang. On top of the charm is the seal of the God stamped by the Buddhist priests.
According to Taoist teaching, every human being is a living incarnation of a star. If someone is ill, the star incarnated within them is invoked, and a stellar charm is created. There are numerous stellar charms offering protection, good luck, healing and prosperity, the paper charms are burnt as part of the charm ritual.
Charms for any conceivable reason, or occasion, can be created by the Buddhist priests and Taoists. Your intention when using a charm, along with the magical elements called upon, activates the power held within.