Exorcism in Daoism







Origins of Daoist Exorcism

John Lagerwey



Killing-Spirits from the Dead

Chang Chaojan



Northern Fen Mountain




Exorcism Transsubstantiated

Stephen Bokenkamp



Exorcising the Six Heavens

Terry Kleeman



Ritual Canon Fa-yan & Tradition

Volker Olles



Pu-an Ritual Specialists

Tam Wai-Lun



Boiling Oil to Purify Houses

Lin Wei-Ping



Marshal of the Central Altar

Lee Fongmao



Heart-Sigils in Thundre-Ritual

David Mozina



Luminous Agent Marshal Ma

Hsieh Shuwei



Exorcist Rituals in Northern Taiwan

Florian C. Reiter


artt. 1-2


pp. 1-10 John Lagerwey : "The Origins of Daoist Exorcism".

pp. 1-6 quotations from "ThSDhED"

p. 1

["ThSDhED", pp. 1108-9] "The primary cause of disease in the Shuihudi daybooks is ... "being haunted by ghosts like ‘external ghosts’ or ‘external ghosts that have died prematurely’ "".

p. 2

["ThSDhED", p. 1144, quoting the Z^u-bin Yuan-hou Lun of the Sui] "When a person with vacuity in the body comes close to a corpse at a funeral, he will receive the corpse’s qi, and it will lodge in his channels ... . If he later touches or sees a coffin, this will make it move. ... That ... is called "funerary infixation ... ."


["ThSDhED", p. 1145, quoting Xu Si-bo of the 5th century Chr.E.] "Corpse infixiation means that ghost qi is latent and has not yet risen. ... Throw a dead person’s pillow at it and the qi of the hun soul will fly off and be unable again to attach itself to the body ... . Thus, the corpse infixation will be cured."

p. 3

["ThSDhED", p. 1127, quoting from the Tai-pin Jin] "Heaven does ... know. Reports on good and evil deeds are noted in registers, which are thoroughly collated on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis, and years are subtracted from [each human’s] count (suan ..., i.e. life span allotment). [Those] whose evil deeds never stop then see the Gate of demons ... . Earth gods summon and question them ... . ... Their names are transmitted to the bureau of fate (mingcao ...) for a final comparison [of their records and, if their] count (suan) is exhausted,

p. 4

they enter earth (i.e. the realm of the dead), and their transgressions are passed on to their descendants."


["ThSDhED", p. 1127, quoting from the Tai-pin Jin] This work of collation of all these records being done in the Hall of Light, the names of the guilty are passed on to the officials of Greater Yin (Greater Darkness), who

"summon [the wrongdoer’s] ancestors, ... and order them to return to their household to tell [the wrongdoer] ... that his conviction is underway and cannot be stopped, which is why disease is sent to him. A household stricken with disease must ... have the indictment repealed".


["ThSDhED", pp. 1139, quoting the commentary of Z^en Xuan on the Zhou-li] "From the late Eastern Han on, the director of destiny and the corpse worms formed a single system ... . The Baopuzi explains that on every gengshen day and the three corpses inside the human body ascend to heaven to report to the director of destiny any wrongdoings committed by their host".

p. 5

["ThSDhED", pp. 1109] Among the names of books in the Han-s^u bibliographical section on techniques (s^u-s^u),

"We find titles like ... "capturing the inauspicious and investigating demonic entities" ..., that is, books that are related in content to the excavated daybook manuscripts."

p. 6

["ThSDhED", pp. 1115, quoting Wan C^on] "People suffering from illness ... say that demons are assaulting them with whips and staffs. ...

At the onset of disease, ... they see demons arriving.

Suffering from illness, ... they see the demons’ anger.

Experiencing the pain of disease, they see demons’ beating."

"ThSDhED" = Li Jianmin : "They Shall Expell Daimones". In :- John Lagerwey & Marc Kalinowsky (edd.) : Early Chinese Religion, Part I. Brill, 2009. pp. 1103-50.

p. 7 (contemporary) Lu:s^an-inspired thundre-ritual done in the Hunan-Jianxi border region of C^onyi county

"The "promising the incense" ritual ... begins with ... the Fabrication of Water, and the Hiding of the Souls of all local people and domestic animals in the holy water (a deep sea) where the demons cannot find them.

Then, to Capture the Perverse, a cock is turned into a "perversity-devouring lion", the evil spirits are first stuffed into its mouth and then into the pot, which is turned into an earth-prison, sealed, and placed under the lineage masters’ table, held in place by a rock which represents the Great Immortal Pangu.

After a military invitation which begins with the Three Pure Ones and includes all the Lu:shan gods, among whom is one Zhang Wulang who "overturns altars and destroys temples", the Soldiers are Summoned and fed for the first time.

The next day, having converted three of the five generals into the generals of the Three Primes (and having hid their souls), the Taoists and generals set out to music and percussion to the house of the "chief of the incense". The main Taoist ... as he walks, ... transforms :"

the __

into __


"snakes that lead to the Great Office" of Yan-pin

stones in the fields


trees in the forests

"troops which will help hail [hale] all perverse gods off" to the Yan-pin gaol

"At the house, he blows his horn to summon the troops, then enters the house and settles them in place ... .

That afternoon, ... one group of Taoists ..., having first asked Luban to make a boat, forces epidemic gods into the mouth of a cock and then on to the straw boat. After going to each local water exit temple in order to fetch the tablet of its Lord of Fortune and, with the boat, to each incense head’s house to gather disease, they proceed to the site of the confluence of two rivers to throw the burning boat into the water and send it to Yangzhou."

p. 8 in the springtime rite, roads become snakes : "transforms the big and little roads into nammu snakes big and little."

p. 8 the autumn rite

"Day ... begins with the setting up of the Lu:shan Tribunal, where the master playing Jiulang of Lu:shan hears complaints ... from the local earth god about the Shegun under his orders. The She gun is summoned ... .

Another Taoist in the role of Wangmu uses her beauty to seduce the demons in the village in preparation for sweeping them into her net.

Twenty young lads representing demons run about stealing food from the ambulatory merchant stands, while on the inside altar investigation is being made into how many villagers have died untoward deaths and why ... . The Three Generals ... chase the scattering demons while ... going to fetch the straw persons. They bring them back and put them in a prison [fn. 9 : "Cf. the book mentioned by Ge Hong in his Baopuzi : "Classic on the capture of mountain ghosts and old goblins to treat evil specters" ... (mentioned by Li Jianmin, p. 1125)."] drawn by the master on the ground in front of the jiao shed.

At noon, the demons are judged by three fully ordained Taoists representing Jiulang of Lu:shan, Qilang of Hengshan, and Shilang of Mengshan [fn. 10 : "’according to Bo Yuchan, writing in the early 13th century, "The method of the shamans began with King Potan, who transmitted it to King Pangu, who transmitted it to King Axiuluo, the King of Changsha, King Toutuo, Lu:shan jiulang, Menshan qilang, and Hengshan shilang" (Daozang no. 1307, Haiqiong Bo zhenren yulu 1.8b)."] ... . ... At the last, all the straw persons are carried to the river confluence, ... and then all is burned and the ashes thrown into the river.

At the day’s end, ... the Wushang wulang ... burst in on the banqueting Three Generals and chase them and their troops to the river. There the generals drop their command flags, ... and head back by another route; the master and the Wulang burn the flags, put the oblong stone(s) back together".

p. 9 figurines as substitutes for the dead

There were "the lead and pine persons placed in 3rd-4th century tombs to serve as substitutes for the dead, to pay their taxes, perform their corve’e labor, and suffer in their place (p. 1142)".

{Similar sorts of work-functions were performed by ws^3bty stone figurines placed in antient Kemetic tombs.}

fn. 12 "see Bai Bin, "Religious beliefs as reflected in the funerary record," Early Chinese religion, Part Two ... (Brill, 2010), pp. 989-1074, esp. 1031-35."

p. 10 "holding onto unity"

"by means of shouyi ..., "holding on to unity", the adept kept the good vital spirits inside his body and, thereby, prevented evil spirits from entering it. Thus Ge Hong mentions a "Classic on calling the body’s spirits to treat the hundred diseases" ... (p. 1125). ... it ... like the Laozi zhongjing, ... teaches how to visualize and thereby retain within his body a complex multiplicity of gods. ... . ... in response to inspections conducted by the heavenly bureaucracy, the adept ..., for three days and nights, holds in his mind’s eye the multiple vital spirits in his body, ... preventing them from deserting him ... . According to ... the Wushang biyao, once the 18,000 internal spirits had been thoroughly integrated into the adept’s person, another 18,000 external spirits would come "attach themselves to his body – ... Daoist "self-possession", like the Confucianist form studied by Csikszentmiha`lyi, is a form of "controlled possession"."


pp. 11-30 Chang Chaojan : "Killing-Spirits from the Dead : the Object of Exorcism in Mediaeval Daoist Funeral Rites".

p. 11 soul of the dead as a killing-spirit

[Z^ZWL, p. 203, quoting Z^ou Zuo-ren : "The Fancy Killer"] "A killing spirit is the deceased himself. Originally it was just his whitesoul, later it was considered his cloudsoul. Its form is like a domestic chicken. ... Later it came to be called a killing spirit, as if it were something like a transport guard, and there were two, male and female."

Z^ZWL = Zhong Shuhe (ed.) : Z^ou Zuo-ren Wen Lei-bian : Hua-s^a. C^ans^a : Hunan Wenyi, 1998.

pp. 12-4 the killer-spirit, and how to evade it

p. 12

"In texts from the Six Dynasties or later we find many account of the deceased transforming into killer spirits (yangsha ...) and harming the living, usually appearing in the form of a bird ... . This even developed into the persistent custom of the grieving family, under the instruction of an occult specialist, temporarily leaving the home in order to avoid the harm of the killer spirit and the danger of more deaths in the family."

p. 13

A dead woman , although she "had entered into the of the transcendents, ... is still being pressed by the Water Office ... because her mourning period was not yet complete and her "cursed pneuma" (yangqi ...) was still linked to the living. ... This sort of cursed pneuma that can cause harm to the living can also be called a "killer spirit."

"The belief that a killer spirit is produced after death and will return to the home of the deceased at a specific date and time (called "returning killer," guisha ...) and the custom of avoiding this (called "avoiding the killer," bisha ...) were popular in North China around the sixth century. Yan Zhitui ... (531-603)

p. 14

recorded this belief and custom ... :"


[quoted from "C&C", p. 201, translating from YJJ, 98] "a few days after a man’s death, his soul returns to his home. On such a day, his sons and grandsons stay outside the house, no one daring to remain within : they draw charms on tiles, and make use of all kinds of magic spells to fend off the inauspicious. On the day of the burial, a fire is lit in the doorway".


["Treatise on Geography" of the Book of the Sui 29/829] "among those people of the Hanzhong region who "revere Daoism," as soon as a family member should die, they would temporarily leave the home."

[according to the Ji-wen by Niu Su (his record of events of the Kaiyuan and Tianbao reign periods (713-755)), cited in the Tai-pin Guan-ji, vol. 7, 2624-5] "the following custom : At that time, when a person died, family members would visit a spirit medium, who would tell them the date on which the killer spirit would appear ..., and family members would usually go out on that day to avoid it."

"C&C" = Jianmin Li : "Contagion and Its Consequences : the Problem of Death Pollution in Antient China". In :- Yasuo Otsuka; Shizu Sakai; Shigehisa Kuriyama (edd.) : Medicine and the History of the Body. Tokyo, 1999.

YJJ = Wang Liqi (ed.) : Yan-s^i Jia-xun Ji-jie. Beijing : Z^on-hua, 1993.

pp. 14-6 particular apparitions of killer-spirits





[according to the Xuan-z^i-z^i by Z^an Du (fl. 853)] "Zheng ... in Xichuan ... (modern Linfen, Shanxi) ... caught a huge, grey bird; ... it suddenly disappeared. Inquiring ..., Zheng discovered that what he had caught was in fact the killer spirit of a recently deceased local person. Because the

Tao Zon-xi : S^uo-fu, vol. 4, 2698-9


family had learned from a diviner the time when the killer spirit would leave, they had been watching when it emerged from the coffin and flew away, and their description matched the bird Zhang had caught.

Zhang Du ... remarks : "It is commonly said that a few days after someone dies, there will be a bird that emerges from the coffin, called a ‘killer.’ ""


[according to the Yuan-hua-ji by master Huan-fu] "the killer spirit ... is a fleshy ball with eyes on four sides {cf. the eyes on 4 sides of a box jellyfish?} that emit when open, and although it has no wings, it can fly."

Tai-pin Guan-ji, vol. 8, 363/2882


[according to Wan C^on of the Han dynasty] "ill-fated people often see moving, flickering lights gather in one of their rooms or see a creature that resembles a bird fly into their main hall or bedroom, both being different manifestations of ghosts."

Huang Hui : Lun-hen Jiao-s^i, 936-7


[according to the Ji-s^en-lu by Xu Xuan (916-991)] "When the ... family experienced the death of their mother, they had turned to a spirit-

Tai-pin Guan-ji, vol. 7, 318/2521


medium, who helped them calculate the day the killer spirit would return ... . However, ... the killer spirit ... is ... an otherworldly emissary sent to escort the deceased back and to look for someone to attack. The deceased mother ..., when the killer spirit wants to attack, ... strives to protect her son."


["sepulchre plaint case of Xu Mi’s family"] "the deceased is escorted back to the family home in order to harm the living".

Z^en-gao 7/10b

p. 16 ghost is accompanied by killer-spirit

"Qian Daxin ... (1728-1804) ... notes [YHL, vol. 5, 121], "A few days after someone has died, the soul return to the former home accompanied by a killer spirit".

YHL = Qian Da-xin : Hen-yan Lu. Beijing : Z^on-hua, 1985.

p. 16 footprints of a killer-ghost

[according to the YJZ^ (vol. 1, 352)] "they ... would scatter ashes on the ground so that they could see the footprints of the returning killer,

{"The Philippine islanders expected the dead to return on the third day to his dwelling, wherefore they ... strewed ashes to see his footprints. ... . ... the Hos of North-East India ... call the spirit home; and look for spirit-footprints in the ashes.

using this information to determine whether the deceased could be reborn as a human or some other animal."

In Yucatan ... alone at night in a place strewn with ashes; if the footprint of an animal were found next morning, this animal was the guardian deity of the child." (PC, vol. 2, p. 197)}

YJZ^ = Hon Mai (ed. by He Z^uo) : Yi-jian-z^i. Beijing : Z^on-hua, 2006.

PC = Sir Edward Burnett Tylor : Primitive Culture: researches into the development of mythology. 2nd edn. http://books.google.com/books?id=cHQPAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA197&lpg=PA197&dq=

pp. 17-8 calculating the day of the return of the killer-spirit

p. 17

"The Baijili [fn. 23 : "Today the only surviving edition is ... in the National Diet Library of Japan."] ... of the Tang Erudite of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices Lu: Cai ... (605-665) includes a "Method of Calculating the Harm of the Mortuary Killer", which is a manual for this sort of calculation ... which day the killer will return. ... This method ... is similar to that of the Liulunjing ..., as well as modern Taiwanese practice".

p. 18

"Dai Guan ... (1442-1512) ... recorded [Z^uo-yin-tin Bi-ji, cap. 7, quoted in HXZ^S^J, 119] that in his day geomancers still used the date of death to predict when the killer would return, and applied the theory of the five agents to determine ... whether to demand that the mourning family leave the household to "avoid the killer.""


The QLD [cap. 12; cap. 70, 734-5] by "by Li Haiguan ... (1707-90) also discussed the current custom of "hiding from the curse" (duoyang ...), and recorded a divinatory document used by a contemporary geomancer to predict when the killer spirit would take form ..., called the "Curse Formula" (yangshi ...) : ...

"Quelling objects to be placed in the coffin : one dough figurine, one piece of charcoal, five pieces of Five Essences stones, one length of Five-colored Thread. At the zi hour (11 P.M. – 1 A.M.) of the seventh day, the killer spirit will arise, fifteen feet tall, and facing southeast, it will transform into a yellow pneuma and leave. ...""

HXZ^S^J = Ma S^u-tian : Hua-xia Z^u-s^en Juan. Taipei : Yun-lon, 1993.

QLD = Li Hai-guan : Qi-lu-den. Taipei : Xin-wen-fen, 1983.

p. 17, fnn. 25-7 examples of such calculations





"Dunhuang manuscript P. 3028 says, "Those who die on a wu or wei day will harm people born in a shen or you year.""

Huan Z^en-jian : Dun-huan Z^an-bu Wen-s^u ..., 151


"Those who die an a zi day will kill or harm males in the North aged between thirty and forty; those who die on a jiazi day will during the encoffinment period kill or harm males born in xin or chou years."

"C&C", 220, citing fascicle 59 of the Z^en Bian Wan by Li Du-xun


"If there is someone whose birth zodiac conflicts with the date and time of encoffining, they must ... avoid encountering a killer and having their person ensnared with misfortune."

S^Z^Z^Y, 57

S^Z^Z^Y = Yan S^i-xian : S^en-z^on Z^ui-yuan. Taipei : Bo-yan Wen-hua, 2008.

pp. 19-20 mortuary exorcism of sprites

p. 19

"Even before Daoism emerged, ... exorcisms had been performed by the Fangxiangshi ... or Qitou ... during the course preparing the corpse and burying it. The primary object of such exorcisms was the Fangliang ..., i.e. sprites or wood or stone or evil spirits from the underworld or watery realms that might be summoned in the course of constructing the mortuary chamber, in order to prevent them from harming the deceased."

p. 19, fn. 36

"In the Rites of Zhou under "Summer Offices, Subordinates of the Marshal" ... we read : "The Fangxiangshi, covered in a bearskin with four golden eyes over a black robe and

p. 20, fn. 36

vermilion skirt, grasps an arrow and brandishes a shield, leading the hundred clerks to perform the seasonal Nuo dance in order to search through the room and expel ... demons. In the Great Funerals, he precedes the coffin. Reaching the tomb, he enters the pit and, taking an arrow, strikes the four corners, expelling the Fangxiang"". ("TD&B", 105-8)

"TD&B" = Peter S. Nickerson : "Taoism, Death, and Bureaucracy in Early Mediaeval China". 1996.

p. 22, fn. 46 the 3 corpses

"in the body there are three corpses. These three corpses ... want to cause a person to die early, so that the corpse can become a ghost and will be free to travel about enjoying the sacrificial offerings of others. ...

If you have only the intention of believing in the Dao, but do not have the works that improve yourself, your fate is controlled by the "orphan void", and your body is in danger of being harmed;

{"faith, if it hath not works, is dead" (Epistle of Iakobos 2:17); "faith without works is dead" (Ibid. 2:20, 26)}

then the three corpses use the ... perilous days, enter during the hours ... that can cut off the lifeforce, ... recklessly welcome demons, who come to create disaster and harm." (Wan Min : Bao-pu-zi Nei-pian Jiao-s^i 114, 247)

p. 27 occult characteristics of dying

[quoted from Master Redpine’s Petition Almanac, cap. 6 (C^i-son-zi Z^an-li 6/19a)] "When persons are about to die, the gleam from their eyes falls out,

male from the left, female from the right, and

this is called the "earth curse."

From the first to the third [day],

the male becomes white and the female becomes yellow;

on the second[,] seventh or fourteenth day,

it grows feathery wings and flies up in the air. Its wings and feet hold poison, and when it moves, light flashes.

In its mouth it holds a golden killer, and all who face it die.

Moving east or west it follows the weft-lines,

going north or south it follows the warp lines.

If it encounters the Great Year-star, the Great Yin, a General, or Wang Hao god, it stops and dare not proceed. ...

When it flaps its wings, it spews poison, which infuses and harms the living."


ASIEN- UND AFRIKA-STUDIEN DER HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSTITA:T ZU BERLIN, Band 36 = Florian C. Reiter (ed.) : Exorcism in Daoism. Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2011.