Chinese Magical Medicine

pp. xi-xii Abbreviations :-

HY = Harvard-Yenching Index to the Taoist Canon

T. = Tais^o S^ins^u Daizokyo Japanese Bauddha Canon

T. Zuzo = Tais^o S^ins^u Daizokyo Zuzobu Japanese Bauddha Canon






Disease & Taoist Law






Literature of Spells






Genealogy of Spirit-Possession



Tantrists & Shamans





Disease & Taoist Law



Healing in the Taoist Tradition



The Sins of the Fathers



Heredity or Contagion?



Two Types of Karman



Apocalyptic Intimations



Healing in the Taoist Tradition


pp. 1-2 C^en-s^u San-kuo C^ih 8:263, quoting the lost 3rd-century Chr.E. Tien-lu:eh -- T>ien-shih Tao ('Caelestial Mastre's Way') in antient Sze-c^uan

p. 1

"The priests constructed "houses of justice," ["placed at regular intervals"] {along highways}. Inside, they put grain and meat, and travelers might take as much as they needed. ...

In addition, they had "chambers of quietness," where they made the sick stay to meditate on their transgressions. ... A priest ["director of spirits"] would pray on behalf of the sick person. The method of prayer was to write out the family name and the given name of the sufferer, and words explaining that he admitted his misdeeds. ...

p. 2

The family of the sick person was always made to pay out five pecks of the grainfor the treatment, and so the masters came to be called "Masters of the Five Pecks of Grain.""

pp. 3-4 & 286 traditional popular religion

p. 3

"Accompanied by drumming and dancing, the ritual reached a ... crescendo. The gods would be coaxed and cajoled ... by wild music and ... dancing ... . Such was the established pattern of curative ritual in ancient China."

{Drumming and dancing characterize the shamanic curative caerimonies (intended to coax and to cajole the deities) among the Altaic (Tungus & Turkish) tribes in Siberia; and antient Magian religion (in Iran) may have been similar.}

"the Taoists' program, ... to the ... gods worshipped by the people ... would be ... to rebut the common claim that those deities could help -- and heal -- their clients. According to the Taoists, ... these spectral beings themselves caused the diseases that they claimed to cure".

{According to the usual praemises of Siberian shamanic religion, the same deities as who caused the ailments would quite naturally be the one who would have to be cajoled into relenting and ceasing to afflict their human victims, in order to achieve any cures.}

p. 286, n. 1:8

"according to the Declarations of the Perfect Ones, the Three Offices are directly connected with the spirit administration located in the constellation of the Big Dipper (Pei-tou) : One of the six palaces that make up the otherworldly tribunal of the Three Offices houses a Lord of the Big Dipper responsible for the affairs of the dead (Kuei-kuan Pei-tou chu:n), and one subdivision of this office is in charge of supervising the temples of popular gods who receive sacrifices (HY 1010:13.4:3b-4a, 15:3a-6a)."

p. 4

"The Taoists' fundamental objection, then, turned on their perception that the supposed "gods" of the people were in reality only ghosts -- dead mortals wrongly deified."

{Actually, all the gods (e.g., Lao Tan) worshipped by the Taoists are merely deified ghosts of the dead (i.e., of dead canonized saints), whereas none of the deities of ante-Taoist religion (nor of Siberian shamanic religion) were, nor are, deified ghosts.}

"The chief rival of early Taoism ... was the despised and neglected "nameless religion" of the people,

{Thus, in suppressing the thitherto-standard traditional religion of the Chinese people, Taoists served in a similar guise as Muslims, who likewise destroyed the antient-and-traditional religion of literate <arabia.}

the scores of local deities and the hundreds of practitioners who invoked and embodied them."

{Each of the antient-and-traditional religions of antiquity (e.g., Hellenic religion, Akkadian religion, etc.) was of this nature : having "scores of local deities" and "hundreds of practitioners".}

{The Taoist cosmic bureaucracy in the main is a praeternatural replication of the inquisitorial imperial-government departments which were in charge of supressing hairesy -- such hairesy consisting simply in de facto productive two-way communication with the divine world (instead of the imperial method of sending artificial -- hypocritical -- prayers and receiving no response because the divine world consistently despiseth and therefore snubbeth the imperial regime).}

pp. 5 & 287 cosmic bureaucracy

p. 5

"The Chinese envisioned both heaven and hell as vast cosmic replicas of the imperial bureaucracy."

p. 287, n. 1:12

"Modern Western studies on bureaucracy in popular religion include Teiser 1993, 1994; and Shahar and Weller 1996."

Teiser 1993 = Stephen Teiser : "The Growth of the Purgatory". In :- Peter N. Gregory & Patricia Ebrey (edd.) : Religion and Society in T>ang and Sung China. U of HI Pr. pp. 114-57.

Teiser 1994 = Stephen Teiser : The Scripture of the Ten Kings. U of HI Pr.

Shahar & Weller 1996 = Meir Shahar & Robert P. Weller : Uruly Gods : Divinity and Society in China. U of HI Pr.

pp. 5 & 287 HY 421, 3:15b -- instance of Mao-S^an-style supposedly efficacious curing-by-recitation (this being the droning, crooning style which supplanted the shamanic curing by true visitation by a shaman to a divine world for bargaining with divinities therein in favor of the patient's prospective health)

p. 5

against __

invoke __

controlling __


pains of the chest

"Lord Great Pivot of the Northern Quarter"

"Mansion of the Great Balance"

besoms, paper, writing-brushes

distension of stomach with pain

12 Fen-li Lords

beneath the waistband

raw rice

p. 287, n. 1:14

Ten-c^en Yin-c^u:eh ('Ascent-Perfection Secret-Insructions') of the Mao S^an (late 5th century Chr.E.), from C^>ien-erh-pai Kuan I ('1200 Officials[-and]Generals Manual'), another version whereof is transmitted in HY 1208, C^en-i Fa-wen C^in C^an-kuan P>in

p. 6 HY 421, 3:7a-b invocation for "opening of the incense burner"

p. 6

"O .... Spirit-Powers of the Five Directions ..., I am about to summon the emissaries of the Merit-Officer, the Dragon-Lord of the Left and the Tiger-Lord of the Right, the Incense-Bearing Emissary and the True Spirit of the Three Vital Breaths (ch>i), and cause them speedily to inform the Lord of the Tao, the Mysterious, Primordial, Most High of the Three Heavens, that I have burnt incense in the proper manner and now enter the oratory to do homage to the spirits. I beg that the true ch>i of the eight directions may come and enter my body, and that my request shall speedily be made known to the Monarch of Heaven."

p. 288, n. 1:18

"See HY 788:12a. According to this early source, ... 255 B.C.E., the three breaths of the Tao

constituting ... the universe

{surely the universe must be constituted of multitudinous other entities in addition to these!}

are called the Mysterious, the Primordial, and the Initial."

pp. 7-8 HY 421, 3:10-11a -- prayers to the spirits of the cardinal directions

p. 7



prayer to its spirit (made while facing its direction)



"I ... desire that the Lords and Elders of Heaven grant me prolonged survival, extended years, increased longevity."



"I desire that ... the Single, Supreme Lord of the Great Darkness ... keep far from me oppressive government officials."

{Such darkness is evidently intended to assist in concealment from governmental officials.}



"I desire that the Celestial Master ... cause ... my mind to understand, my eyes to be clear and my ears perceptive."



"I desire to receive from the Lord of the Tao and its Power ... money and goods ..., things that promote my livelihood".

p. 8

"The prayers were accompanied by prescribed visualization of the ... several directions and the deities stationed there ... . Details of the meditations are only found in somewhat later, amplified versions." [p. 288, n. 1:25 : "in as early a source as the third-century Wu-fu hsu: ... HY 388, 3:4a-b".]

p. 9 "The written memorial ... is directed to the appropriate agency among the Twelve Hundred Officers and Generals. It ... is expedited by the little band of emissaries formed ... from {or rather, abiding in} the officiant's own vital breaths. ... Through the action of fire, the priest's writing is transmuted into a gigantic, otherworldly script bearing a command that can move the gods."

pp. 9 & 289 non-ingesting of medicinal herbs in the earliest Taoist medical practice

p. 9

"there is no doubt that, in the early years, Taoists studiously spurned the great resources of the Chinese pharmacopoeia; they had a method all their own."

p. 289, n. 1:34

"T>ao Hung-ching in his preface to the Pen-ts>ao ching ... . For a clear rejection of traditional drug-based cures in a fifth-century work on Celestial Masters rules and liturgy, see the translation by Nickerson 1996:352. ... The list of "a hundred" medicinal herbs ... was to be recited by learned initiates who had vowed never to use them {but rather to use the divinities of them instead}. ... In fact, ... it is found in the work of ... T>ao Hung-ching (456-536), recoverer and editor of the original Mao Shan manuscripts, effective creator of the Shang-ch>ing".

Nickerson 1996 = Peter Nickerson : "Abridged Codes of Master Lu for the Daoist Community". In :- Donald S. Lopez (ed.) : Religions of China in Practice. Princeton U Pr. pp. 347-59.


The Sins of the Fathers


pp. 10-11 origin of the Mao S^an manuscripts

p. 10

"between [Chr.E.] 364 and 370 ..., a man in his thirties named Yang Hsi, transcribed a dozen scriptures and half as many substantial hagiographies from divine originals brought to him by a group of saints (chen-jen, "Perfect Ones") from the newly discovered heaven of Supreme Purity (Shang-ch>ing). Yang kept a record of his visions, including transcripts of the poems sung by his visitors. He also recorded their answers to his questions about the invisible world and the means of obtaining honorable rank and office there. The Perfect Ones explained that ...

Yang ... was destined ... to wed one of their number

[p. 289, n. 1:36 : "For ... Yang's first meeting with his future celestial spouse, see HY 1010, 1:11b-18a."]

{Marriage, even while living, to a divine spouse, is usual in many varieties of shamanry worldwide.}

and enter into a plenitude of power once his earthly life was done. ...

p. 11

Yang Hsi's patron and employer, an official in his seventies named Hsu: Mi, was also destined for high office in the celestial hierarchy of Taoism. We know of this from the surviving dossier of night-by-night transcripts". [p. 289, n. 1:37 : "These night-by-night transcripts are found in HY 1010, 1-4."] ...

Their physical land-base was a low mountain range rising southeast of the capital (Chien-k>ang, the present-day Nanking). Known as Mao Shan (Mount Mao, for the three Brothers Mao said to have ascended to heaven from that point in 98 B.C.E.), the peak ... later witnessed the founding of the Mao Shan lineage of Taoism".

pp. 12-13 abode of the dead

p. 12

"According to medieval Taoists, the principal pathogenic agents are "worn-out breaths" (ku ch>i). ... Taoists spent much of their time attempting to absorb the living ch>i of the stars and planets. [p. 289, n. 1:46 : "On the ... absorption of the ch>i of the stars and planets in Shang-ch>ing Taoism, see Bokenkamp 1997a: 275-372."]... The home of such mephitic exhalations was naturally in the ... realm of the dead in the far north. This land ... was known as Ultimate Yin (T>ai-yin [p. 289, n. 1:47 : "T>ai-yin ... is ... a station in the travels of Lu Ao (in the Huai nan tzu), an aspirant for immortality."]) and the Citadel of Night. There were ... Six Palaces there". [p. 290,n. 1:49 : "A detailed description of the palaces and administration of the realm of death as revealed by Yang Hsi was included by T>ao Hung-ching in his Chen-kao; see HY 1010, 15-16.]

"the world of the dead ... was a complete world in its own right, with (for example) a flora all its own, appropriately including the plant of forgetfulness. The ghosts had their own special writing-system, too. [p. 290, n. 1:52 : "T>ao Hung-ching's commentary in HY 1010, 16:7b. ... the writing and language of the ghosts were too difficult for Yang to copy or transcribe directly from an underworld".] ... The ruler of this teeming kingdom was the Dark Monarch, or Emperor of the North".

"the officials of the dead, as listed by Yang Hsi's celestial informants, ...

p. 13

all ... were receiving sacrificial offerings : ... they were all treated ..., outside the context of Taoism, as gods. (In traditional China, a god is someone who receives public sacrifice after death.)"

Bokenkamp 1997a = Stephen R. Bokenkamp (transl.) : Early Daoist Scriptures. Berkeley : U of CA Pr.

pp. 13-14, 290 sepulchral plaints

p. 13

"the ghosts were especially given to intricate and protracted litigation. ... ... one ghost would bring charges against another ... .

The dead themselves had, of course, already been investigated and judged by the Three Ofiicers. ...

p. 14

This meant that as soon as one of your dead ancestors had been arraigned by some discontented ghost, you yourself would being to suffer. A variety of symptoms might be interpreted as probable signs that a plaint had been filed with the judges of the dead, and that a "sepulchral lawsuit" or "plaint from beyond the tomb" (chung-sung) ... was getting underway. ...

Thus ... in the Declarations of the Perfect Ones, ... "pathogenic" sins or transgressions ... could more frequently be traced back to one of the patient's forebears in ... the world of the dead. Finally ..., the charge did not need to be substantiated for the living victim to suffer. As soon as the plaint had been lodged, his miseries would begin. It was the Taoist priest's task to fight the charges, dispute the allegations, and, if possible, file a countersuit against the plaintiffs."

p. 290, n. 1:56

"Many "sepulchral lawsuits" (chung-sung) were recorded under the Sung, in particular with the recrudescence of Taoist practices in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries [ChrE], during the so-called Taoist renaissance. See, for example, HY 1214, Tao-men ting-chih ... 1.27b-38b".

p. 15 communication with the world of the dead prior to Yan Hsi

"Hsu: Mi's father ... had employed one of his Hua in-laws to communicate with the invisible world. ... The earlier medium, named Hua Ch>iao, was a devotee of the local gods, who responded to his attentions with enthusiasm. Hua would go off in his dreams ... with his infernal visitors ... . It was also said that the gods used him ..., making him name living men of administrative talent for immediate employment {during their own dreams?} in the realm of the dead. ... The result was [C^en-kao, HY 1010, 7:6a] that "Hua Ch>iao ... was long ago removed from the Registers of Life, and in the end his head and skin were transported to the Water Office.""

p. 16 rejoinder to an indictment filed in the world of the dead

[HY 1010, 7:10b] "you should make every effort to submit a rejoinder to the indictment from beyond the tomb ... . Once this has been done ..., the persecutors will skulk away.

The success of such persecutions is always due to the timidity of their victims ... . Thus their essential spirits and embryonic spirits tremble within them, causing serious ailments to develop."

p. 22 resentment? frustration?

"Across the centuries, the invariable rule has been absolute obedience to one's father during his lifetime and "three years' mourning" after his death."

"the outside observer can hardly avoid wondering where all the resentment has gone. ... into what corners of his psyche did the Chinese male sweep his frustration ...?"

{In their vicious effort to turn family-members against each other, Sigmund Freud, and Freudian psychologists generally, falsely accuse family-members of secret "resentment" against, and "frustration" about, each other. Freudism hath, however, often been utterly refuted.}


Michel Strickmann (ed. by Bernard Faure): Chinese Magical Medicine. Stanford U. Pr, 2002.