The People and the Dao, III



Legacy of Zi-gu & the Spirit-Writing Manual in Her Name

Judith Boltz


p. 349 names of Zi-gu

"Zigu (Purple Lady), the pre-eminent icon of the divinatory practice known as fuji (lit., supporting the planchette), or spirit-writing."

"Zigu, alternatively known as Cegu (Privy Lady)".

p. 349, fn. 1 "Zigu’s association with spirit-writing" : "Fuller accounts ... include those found in J. J. M. de Groot The Religious System of China, 6 vols. (Leiden : E. J. Brill, 1910; reprint Taipei, Ch>eng Wen Publishing Co., 1972), vol. 6, 1226-1230;

Chao Wei-pang, "The Origin and Growth of the Fu Chi," Folklore Studies 1 (1942):9-27".

p. 350 guidance of the literary by spirit-writing

"A rich Chinese narrative tradition ... offers considerable testimony on Zigu’s popularity as the mistress of the planchette among well-educated men and women seeking oracular guidance".

p. 350, fn. 4 "See, for example, episodes found in Frederic H. Balfour, "A Chinese ‘Plachette’ Se’ance," The China Review 9.6 (1881):362-370;

Herbert A. Giles (trans.), Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (Shanghai ... : Kelly & Walsh, Limited, 1908), 433-435;

John Minford (trans.) : The Story of the Stone, vol. 4 (New York : Penguin Books, 1982), 300, 304-306."

pp. 351-2 canonical praesence of manual of Zi-gu; a parallel non-canonical text


provenience of text


"The ... set of instructions on spirit-writing is titled Zhao Ziguxian fa (Ritual for Evoking Purple Lady Transcendent). It appears as the opening segment of juan 20 of the Fahai yizhu (Residue Pearls from the Sea of Ritual, CT 1166)".


There is "a comparable set of instructions titled Meng xiansheng qing Ziguxian fa (Ritual of Master Meng for Inviting Purple Lady Transcendent) ... found in the 1478 edition of the Shili guangji (Extensive Records of a Forest of Matters) ... originally compiled by Chen Yuanjing (ca. 1200-1266) of Chongan (Fujian)".

p. 354 Zi-gu in a hagiography

[quoted from Qin Zi-jin (of Huai-nan/An-hui) : Sou-s^en Ji (Records in Search of the Sacred), s.v. "Zi-gu-s^en"] "Purple Lady Deity was a native of Laiyang District [in S^an-ton]. She was surnamed He, with the given name of Mei and courtesy name of Liqing."

pp. 356-7 in a later (amplified) edition (dated 1593) of the Sou-s^en Ji

p. 356

[quoted from the Xin-ke C^u-xian Zen-bu Sou-s^en Ji Da-quan] "her corpse in the privy. The hun-souls of the deceased circled around and would not disperse. All who went to the privy heard the sound of wailing. There were times when she surreptitiously emerged in view. Weapons, moreover, appeared ... . ...

p. 357

When they suspended a basket, she came down and was able to foretell fortune and misfortune."

p. 358 format of the binding of the printed Daoist Canon of 1598

"Like the Canon of 1445, the format of this Canon followed the style of binding found in southern editions ...,

with the sheets of paper pasted together and then folded in accordion fashion.

{This is likewise the MesoAmerican (Maya & Aztec) traditional style of manuscript-binding.}

... the sheets of text in the Ming Canon encompassed twenty-five columns and were folded in five-column units."

pp. 365-6 Z^ao Zi-gu-xian Fa (Ritual for Evoking Purple Lady Transcendent) in the Fa-hai Yi-z^u

p. 365

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839a20-b2] "Set up a presentation tablet. The inscription reads : Purple Lady and transcendent multitudes of Penglai. ...

The basket moves when a transcendent arrives. ... As for illustrious worthies or earlier generations who may for their part descend, such as

Xiangshan (Bai Juyi, 772-846),

Zhexian (Li Bai, 701-762),

p. 366

Dongpo (Su Shi, 1031-1101), and

Yuhu (Zhang Xiaoxiang, 1133-1170),

... what they say can be fully inscribed ..., record it ... . ...

Quintessential deities will be stirred into action if you simply invite them time and again. None would [in the end] fail to descend."

pp. 367-8 witnesses to spirit-writing performances evoking Zi-gu-s^en/Zi-gu-xian

p. 367

[quoted from Z^u Yu (1075?-1119+) : Pin-z^ou Ke-tan (Chats of Pin-z^ou)] "I once observed the spirit descend as someone supported a small woven basket (shaoji), pierced by a chopstick, sketching out words in a tray of ashes. It would write on paper when a brush was added on top of the chopstick. When it responded to us, it called itself Penglai Daxian (Great Transcendent of Penglai)."

p. 368

Z^an S^i-nan (d. ca. 1230) of Po-yan (Jian-xi) in his You-huan Ji-wen (Memorabilia of a Traveling Official) "describes how a chopstick was inserted into a small woven basket, with ashes spread on a table for a writing surface."

pp. 369-71 formulary for evocation of the Primordial Goddess for spirit-writing session

p. 369

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839b3-8] "send up greetings to the Primordial Goddess, Sublime Maiden of the Ninefold

p. 370

Heavenly Realm. Now by reverently upholding the perfected codes [fn. 60 : variant : "adhering to the talismanic mandate"] and inscribing [a numinous talisman in] seal-script, we call upon the transcendent multitudes of Penglai, and will look forward to vital pneumas of authentic perfection [descending from afar], pouring down upon the body and mind [of so-and-so] ..., making the [talismanic] seal-script ... immediately permeate the numinous realm ..., the utmost in [extremely] devout prayer, [sincerely voiced]."


Commentary : "The Primordial Goddess, Sublime Maiden of the Ninefold Heavenly Realm (Jiutian Xuannu: Yuanjun) is identified as the mentor of the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huangdi), in the Yongcheng jixian lu (Record of Transcendents Assembled at Yongcheng, CT 783) compiled by the preeminent Du Guangting (850-933). The copy of this text in the Yunji qiqian (Seven Lots from the Bookbag of the Clouds, CT 1032), an anthology compiled ca. 1020 by Zhang Junfang, is accompanied by ... preface [CT 1032, 114.1a-4b] in which Du explains that Yuanjun (Primordial Goddess) is the ultimate rank to be gained by women who attain the Way. Jiutan Xuannu:’s ... assistance at childbirth is evoked in another set [CT 1166, 16.13b-15a] of talismanic teachings within the Fahai yizhu. ...

The "perfected codes" (zhenke) might be ... the Dongxian lingbao qian zhenke (One thousand Perfected Codes of the Numinous Treasure of Caverned Sublimity, CT 1410). ...

p. 371

The expression "vital pneumas of authentic perfection" (zhengzhen shengqi) occurs in "Formalities for Paying Homage to Perfected" (Chaozen li) recorded in the Zhiyan zong (Collection of Supreme Sayings, CT 1033). [fn. 68 : "The passage in the Zhiyan zong ... (CT 1033, 13a) may be compared with its counterpart in the copy of the Chaozen li in the Yunji qiqian ... (CT 1032, 41.12b-14b).] ...

The phrase : "pouring down upon body and mind" (guanzhu shenxin) appears as the seventh of a ten-line chant titled "Spell for Purifying Mind and Body" (Jing shenxin zhou). This chant in the first recitation prescribed in the Zhengnian bizhi (Secret Intent of Authentic Recitation) recorded [CT 1166, 42.15b] in the Fahai yizhu."

pp. 371-2 formulary for sanctifying the paper for having a talisman written on it

p. 371

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839b8-11]

"Lustre of mulberry jade,

Emerging prior to heaven and earth.

Phoenix seal-script on dragon petition, ...

Let the talisman soar, fast and swift,

Making the rounds of the bottle-gourd heavenly realm."


Commentary : "The word for mulberry (chu) is a common euphemism for paper (zhi). ... Han Yu (768-824) ... dubbed the writing brush as "Fur Tip" (Mao

p. 372

Ying) and paper as "Sir Mulberry" (Chu Xiansheng). The opening phrase ... also brings to mind the term "mulberry lustre" (chuying), a euphemism for paper in the Wenfang sipu (Fourfold Handbook for the Study) compiled in 986 ... . ...

The second line in the chant recalls ... the opening passage in the ... Huangting waijing jing (Outer-Phosphor Scripture of the Yellow Court) : "Laozi emerged prior to heaven and earth" ... .

The third line above matches the definition of "divine talismans" (shenfu) recorded in a text associated with the mid-sixth century teachings of the so-called Seven Perfected of Golden Luminescence (Jinming Qizhen), the Dongxuan lingbao xuanmen dayi (Great Meaning of the Sublime gateway of the numinous Treasure of Caverned Sublimity, CT 1124)." [fn. 76 : "The passage in Dongxuan lingbao xuanmen dayi ... (CT 1124, 1b) may be compared with its counterpart in the Yunji qiqian ... (CT 1032,, 6.20b)."]

pp. 373-4 formulary for sanctifying the ink for being written as a talisman

p. 373

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839b12-14]

"Ink divine, numen by numen,

Permeating darkness, extending radiance.

May the lord of pine take his post ... .

May a transcendent perfected descend and approach,

Swiftly driving cloud-borne chariot."


Commentary : "The initial line of this chant matches the second of a ten-line chant to be recited for the "Rite for Mixing Ink" (Hemo fa), as recorded in a manual on Tianxin ritual practice compiled by Yuan Miaozong ... in 1116, the Taishang zhuguo jiumin zongzhen biyao (Secret Essentials of the Most High on Assembling the Perfected ..., CT 1227[, 2.19a]). ... Another match may be found in the second line of a "Spell for Charging the Ink" prescribed for a "Rite for Inscribing Talismans" (Shufu fa) intended for therapeutic use by authority of a Jiutian Xuannu:Niangniang Shizu (Exemplary Ancestor[ess] and Goddess, Sublime Maiden of the Ninefold Heavenly Realm). The five chants in this sequence ... are dedicated to paper, water, inkstone, ink, and writing brush.

The "lord of pine" (Songjun) evoked in the third line above ... recalls a fanciful biography of the Commandant of Pine Moisture (Songzi Hou), cited in the Wenfang sipu [5.18a-19a]."

p. 374

The expression "descend and approach" (jiangge) in the fifth line may be found in the second of the three poems titled "Twelve time Periods" (Shier shi). This sequence is among the ritual verses ascribed to Song Zhenzong ... in the "Treatise on Music" (Yuezhi) of the Songshi. The expression also appears in the fifth of twelve poems titled "Shaoxing si dahuo" (Sacrifices to Great Fire ...) ... in the same treatise.

The expression "cloud-borne chariot" (yungping) in the sixth, concluding line of the chant appears in the biography of Pei Xuanren (d. 178 B.C.E.) recorded in the Yunji qiqian, the Qingling Zhenren Peijun zhuan (Biography of Lord Pei, Perfected man of Clear Numina)." [CT 1032, 105.9a]

p. 373, fn. 79

A textual variant [viz., in S^i-lin Guan-ji] of "yunping (cloud-borne chariot) reads yunxuan (cloud-borne high-riding carriage)."

p. 374

"The alternative expression found in Shilin guangji, "cloud-borne high-riding carriage" ..., occurs in a passage of a Jinhua Yunu: shuodan jing (Scripture of the Jade Lass of Golden Efflorescence Explaining the Enchymoma)."

pp. 374-5 formulary for sanctifying the brush for writing a talisman

p. 374

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839b17]

"May the cloud-borne chassis, whirlwind driven,

To this numinous site descend in haste."


Commentary : "The expression "cloud-borne chassis" (yunyu) in line five appears in the second of three poems titled "Six Regions" (Liu zhou), ascribed to Song Ningzhou ... . This ... is ... recorded ... within the "Treatise on Music" in the

p. 375


The expression "numinous site" (lingchang) in line six ... may also be found in the second of three poems titled "Twelve Time Periods," as cited".

{Whirlwinds are involved with some Old-Testament nabi>i^m (prophets), perhaps to the sanctifying of their writing of their prophecies.}

pp. 375-7 conjuration for supplicating the talisman

p. 375

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839b18-c9]

"Taiyi, numinous light,

Purple vapour, sparkling bright.

Courtyard chambers ...,

Halls brimming with gleaming splendour.

Purple Lady, Purple Lady,

True scholar[ess] of caverned chamber.

Nebulous chignons, auroral cape,

Flesh of ice, skin of jade.

You know our fortune, good and ill,

In verse and prose you can compose. ...

Pray let the chariot steeds be aligned,

And descend for now the causeway of the clouds."


A textual interpolation, viz. in S^i-lin Guan-ji, hath : "the Ritual Master concentrates the spirit and engages in visionary contemplation".

p. 376

Commentary : "The expression "concentrates the spirit and engages in visionary contemplation" (ningshen cunxiang) suggests ... a parallel expression, "concentrate the spirit and fix your intent" (ningshen dingzhi), ... recorded in variant manuals [CT 1166, 8.10b, 28.2b, 32.1b] ... .

The opening line of the "Spell for Supplicating the Talisman" calls on the radiance of Taiyi ... as reflected in Kochab, ... the brightest polar star of the so-called Beiji, or Northern Culmen. ...

The second line recalls the story of how the Gatekeeper [Guanling] Yin Xi detected a "purple vapour" (ziqi), alerting him to the arrival of Laozi on his journey west. Such ... is conveyed in a passage from the Liexian zhuan (Biographies of Assorted Transcendents) of Liu Xiang (77-6 B.C.E.), as cited by Sima Zhen in his commentary to the biography of Laozi in the Shiji [vol. 7, 63.241].

The expression "gleaming splendour" (fenshi) in the fourth line ... suggests ... the Jinfang duming shangjing (Supreme Scripture on the Salvation of the Golden Chamber) ... .

The locus classicus for the term "true scholar" (zhenru) in line six appears to be a passage in the Fayan (Definitive Sayings), a collection ...

p. 377

compiled by Yang Xiong (53 B.C.-18 C.E.).

The expression "flesh of ice, skin of jade" (bingji yufu) in line eight


[p. 375, fn. 95 : As textual variant in S^i-lin Guan-ji "yufu (skin of jade) reads yuefu (lunar skin)."] recalls a passage in Zhuangzi : "Xiao you," describing a "divine person," (shenren) with "flesh and skin like ice and snow" (jifu ruo bingxue)."

{In, e.g., the Book of Aradia, and in Muslim and Navaho lore, the moon is cold.}


[Jiao Hon (1540-1620) : Z^uan-zi Yi (‘Wings to the Z^uan-zi’) (CT 1487), 1.9a]

pp. 377-9 invitation to the talismanic envoy

p. 377

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839c10-19]

"We deferentially invite the talismanic envoy of [the transcendent chambers of] the three realms to be entrusted ... with this Talismanic Mandate of the Sublime Maiden of the Ninefold Heavenly Realm ... . We greet with deference

the Primordial Perfected Purple Lady,

Immaculate Maiden of Jade Flesh,

Jade Perfected of Sunlit Snow from [Lake] Taihu and three rivers,

Elder Transcendent Maiden of the Way of the Jade Axis,

Nebular Younger Sister Transcendent Maiden,

Guiying, Qingnu, Xuenu, Shounu, Perfected Chamberlains, and

all transcendent multitudes of the past and present within the solar realm and the waterway chambers of the

p. 378

earth below and the heaven above. ... We humbly pray let

cranes be driven,

simurghs mounted,

clouds take flight, and fog be gone."


Commentary : "provenance ... alluding to Lake Taihu (Jiangsu) and "three rivers" (sanjiang) ... the Songjiang, Loujiang, and Dongjiang that flow into Lake Taihu. These place names alone suggest that the manual in the Fahai yizhu may well be ... originating in the region of Suzhou (Jiangsu). ...

The expression "jade axis" (yuzhou) is a euphemism for precious books ..., as exemplified by a passage in the "Rhapsody in a Lament

p. 379

of Jiangnan" (Ai Jiangnan fu) by Yu Xin (531-581), cited in the Yiwen leiju."

p. 379 invoking of a transcendent to descend to the spirit-writing basket

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 839c20-840a6]

"Feathered canopies with rainbow pennants,

Kindly descend the nebulous empyrean."

Commentary : "A match to line five above, "Feathered canopies with rainbow pennants" (nijing yugai), may be found in the third of nine verses ... of the Shaoding period ... recorded in the "Treatise on Music" in the Songshi."

pp. 380-1 disclosure of gratitude to the transcendent for deigning to attach to the spirit-writing basket

p. 380

[quoted from the Dao-zan, vol. 26, 840a7-14]

"Transcendent multitudes of caverned chambers throughout all celestial and terrestrial realms have in timely fashion yielded to our summons. Now that transcendent perfected have already graciously favoured us with descent, it is hard to detain them ..., clinging in escort to the chariot steeds."


Commentary : "The expression "clinging in escort" (pansong) denotes a reluctance to part, as exemplified by a passage in the Memorabilia of a Travelling Official by Zhang Shinan.

The variant reading in the Shilin guangji manual ...

p. 381

is meant to express a release of one’s attachment. It is a prescribed response in official communications for declining to take action, according to the explanation given by Zhuang Chuo ... in the Jile bian (Chicken Rib Selections)."

p. 385 woodpecker-writing

In discussing "the Wanfa guizong ... Ji [Yun] did express amazement at finding a similarity between the talismanic script in the book and what he had seen a woodpecker scratch in the sand, leading to an apparently miraculous removal of an obstruction to its treetop quarters."

{Carmentis, who according to Huginos 277:2 and Isidorus 1:4:1 taught writing to the Aborigines (OCD, s.v. "Carmentis"), was mother of Euandros, for whom Heraklees slew Cacus [cf. Hellenic /kakke/ ‘ordure’] : ‘dung-heap’ is the meaning of the name of Sterces/Sterculus, the father (CDCM, s.v. "Picus") of Picus (‘Woodpecker’).}

OCD = Hammond & Scullard : Oxford Classical Dictionary.

CDCM = Pierre Grimal (transl. by Maxwell-Hyslop) : A Concise Dictionary of Classical Mythology. 1990.

p. 388 musical accompaniment to spirit-possession

[quoted from Hsu 1967, p. 171] "The music continues intermittently throughout the se’ance under the direction of the priests."

Hsu 1967 = Francis L. K. Hsu : Under the Ancestors’ Shadow. Stanford U Pr.



Hagiographical Accounts of Z^ao Dao-yi

Stephen Eskildsen


p. 390 Z^ao Dao-yi; Quan-z^en personal names

p. 390

"Zhao Daoyi himself, ... the most prolific Daoist hagiographer of all time ... was a cleric at the Shengshou Wannian Gong Taoist temple on Mt. Fuyuan. He was quite likely affiliated with the monastic Quanzhen School ..., judging from his name".

p. 390, fn. 6

"Dao, together with zhi and de, was one of the standard characters given to disciples ... as the first character in the personal names of Quanzhen monks ... .

Nuns were given personal names starting with miao, shou, or hui."

pp. 411-2 projection of praeternatural infant during sleep; non-dreaming by nei-dan adepts

p. 411

[according to Hou-ji 6.13a-15b] "Wu Yuanzhao ... was a woman of Guiji (Shaoxing, Zhejiang). ... . ... as she slept, Wu Yuanzhao did not appear to be breathing. Gradually blue clouds arose, and a baby three inches tall appeared on the tip of her nose. The baby was the colour of azure lapis lazuli, and was shiny. The baby circled above the belly of Wu Yuanzhao for a while, and then disappeared."

p. 412

"The Chen xiansheng neidan jue [14a-b] ... claims that a competent neidan adept distinguishes himself in part by his ability to keep the Spirit/spirits inside his body while asleep (thus does not dream), while enjoying frequent Spirit travels while awake and in meditation."

{The blue baby was not the female adept’s dreaming self; but was, instead, a divine embryo distinct from that female adept’s self, and was invited into the female adept body as a pseudo-incarnation.}



C^en S^i-yuan

Roberto K. Ong


p. 421 C^en S^i-yuan

C^en S^i-yuan "was a native of Yingcheng in Huguang (now Hubei province). He himself also compiled the gazetteer of Luanzhou in Bei Zhili (now Hubei province). ... Chen’s zi, or courtesy name, was Mengqing, ... a reference to Mencius. The story goes that before his birth, his father dreamed of being honoured by a visit, in person, from the sage."

p. 421 the book by C^en S^i-yuan

"The Mengzhan yizhi, provisionally translated here as the The Vagrant Import of Dream Prognostication, consists of thirty chapters (pian). ... The first two fascicles comprise the ten inner chapters or neipian, and the remaining six, the twenty outer chapters or waipian. The book begins with ... how, ... on the night of the full-moon, he dreamt of an old man with white eyebrows wearing a brocaded robe. The old man gave him a book in an archaic script that he could not read. He asked the old man if this encounter was not in reality taking place in a dream. The old man laughed and said, "But what encounters are not dreams, and what dreams are not real?""

p. 422 origin of hun & of po

the __ qi

becometh the __-soul





p. 422 limpid vs. turbid qi-s

for the __ qi

the __

is subservient to the __

qin (‘limpid’)



z^uo (‘turbid’)



p. 422 foreknowledge & memory; location of hun & of po

"The hun is capable of understanding the future

and the po stores past experiences."

"During the day, when we are awake, the hun adheres to the eye and we see;

while at night the po dwells in the liver and we dream."

p. 432 dream-incubation in temples

The Men-z^an Yi-z^i "mentions ... the practice of dream incubation, notably in a Taoist temple at the Nine-Carp Lake (Jiuli hu) in the north-eastern part of Xianyou county, Fujian province.

fn. 20 "Another shrine well-known for dream incubation was the Cave of the Immortals’ Gate (Xianmen Dong), also located in Xianyou county".

People would go there to pray for dreams, which were portentous because, Chen thinks, the numina (ling) of the rivers and mountains know the good and ill fortunes of human beings that are thus revealed through drams."


MONUMENTA SERICA MONOGRAPH SERIES, LX = Philip Clart & Paul Crowe (edd.) : The People and the Dao : new studies in Chinese religions in honour of Daniel L. Overmyer. Institut Monumenta Serica, Sankt Augustin, Nettetal, 2009.