Two Dao Fu (Daoist Talisman) Examples
August 26, 2008
As requested by Jessie earlier, I have attached two Dao Fu examples from ancient times.
This Dao Fu written on a wooden slip was discovered in 1957 in an Eastern Han (25-230 AD) tomb in Jiangsu Province. The talisman writing is located at the top with a sign of the Big Dipper.
Above it is written the characters “Fu Jun” (Talisman Gentleman) and below it are the distorted Chinese characters that formed the main body of the talisman.
The only recognizable character is “Gui” or Ghost (second from the bottom), written as usual for Fu writing, without the first stroke.
On the lower pat is the three columns of writing, which identified the day it was written (Yi Si), the ghost name of the deceased (Tian Guang) and the purpose of the talisman (a safe journey to the Underworld).
This is most likely to have been used in a Doaist funeral rite and is a typical example of the long rectangular Dao Fu passed down to us; the only difference is the design got more colourful and complicated as time went by.
This Dao Fu is again written on a wooden slip and was discovered in the Dunhuang Caves dating from the Western Jin period (265-316 AD) with most of the characters recognisable and not distorted in the usual way.
Since “Xian Shi”, or the Celestial Master, were the first two characters written, it is called a Xian Shi Fu or the Celestial Master Talisman. I have made a rough translation below:
“An Imperial Order from the Celestial Master: The San Tian (one of the highest of the Daoist deities) demands the Long Xing (the Dragon Star – an auspicious star that is responsible for rain and agriculture) to pacify the atmosphere (and give rain)”
Most likely this Dao Fu was used in a Daoist ritual to pray for rain and safe guard agriculture. Dunhuang is located to the northwestern part of China where it is dry and often had severe draughts.
Both examples came from Prof. Wang Yu-Cheng’s article, “A Discourse on the Ancient Chinese Daoist Talismans based on Cultural Relics”.