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The Amulet in Thunder Magic Rituals as Prism of Taoist Exorcist Power. The Amulet of Comprehensive Support due to the Commands of Thunders and Thunderclaps 雷霆號令總攝符

Pages 477 - 490


The presentation focuses on the chapters 122–124 in the Taoist canonical collection A Corpus of Taoist Rituals 道法會元 that contain two different exorcist traditions. The study analyses one major amulet in its dispersed form and establishes the connection between the two variant traditions that presumably are related to the activities of the Taoists and exorcists Wu Meng 吳猛, Hsü Sun 許遜 (3 rd ct.), and Wang Wen-ch'ing 王文卿 (12th ct.) and emerged in the regions of Kiangsi and Hunan in the 12th and 13th centuries. The study embeds the ritual production of amulets in the context of religious Taoism. Amulets are the crucial ritual device in Taoist exorcism.


1 P. van der Loon: “A Taoist Collection of the Fourteenth Century.” In: W. Bauer (ed.): Studia Sino-Mongolica. Wiesbaden 1979 (Münchener Ostasiatische Studien 25), pp. 401–405; also see K. Schipper / F. Verellen (eds.): The Taoist Canon, A Historical Companion to the Daozang. Chicago 2004, pp. 1105–1113.

2 See F. C. Reiter: The Beginning of the Subtle School of Taoism, An Official Perception of Taoism in the Early T'ang Period. Wiesbaden 2014 (AKM 94), pp. 1–12 (Introduction).

3 See F. C. Reiter: The Taoism of Clarified Tenuity, 清微道法 Content and Intention. Wiesbaden 2017 (AAS 48), “Foreword”; and see the same author: Grundelemente und Tendenzen des religiösen Taoismus, das Spannungsverhältnis von Integration und Individualität in seiner Geschichte zur Chin-, Yüan- und frühen Ming-Zeit. Stuttgart 1988 (Münchener Ostasiatische Studien 48), pp. 22–35.

4 Pao-p'u tzu 17, teng-she 登涉 1a-7b, ju-shan fu 入山符 8a-13a, ju-shan p'ei-tai fu 入 山佩帶符 13a-18b. Chong-hua Comp., ed: Ssu-pu pei-yao. Taipei 1966.

5 See Reiter 2017, pp. 92–94.

6 F. C. Reiter: “Daoist Thunder Magic (Wulei fa 五雷法), Some Aspects of its Schemes, Historical Positions and Development.” In: idem (ed.): Foundations of Daoist Ritual, A Berlin Symposium. Wiesbaden 2009 (AAS 33), pp. 31, 32; in this case it is all about the self-identification with the Heavenly Mother Marici. Also see for example TT 1220 Tao-fa hui-yüan 57.14a-14b; 60.1a.

7 TT 1220 Tao-fa hui-yüan 124.10a–11b.

8 TT 1220: 122.8 a-9 a features Wu Meng as the Thunder divinity Divine Emissary of the True Amulet at hai-time on the [Star-] Platform K'uei 魁臺亥時真符神吏吳猛. Concerning Wu Meng and Hsü Sun see TT 296 Li-shih chen-hsien t'i-tao t'ung-chien 27.1a–2a; and 26.1a–20a. Emperor Sung Hui-t sung 宋徽宗 granted in 1122 to Wu Meng the religious title: Adept Divine Ferocity 神烈真人 TT 296: 27. 2a, and Hsü Sun was titled: Perfected Lord of Subtle Help and Divine Efforts 神功妙濟真君 TT 296. 26: 19 b-20 a. Hsü Sun's biography informs us about the exorcist skills that he had a command of which are defined as: “rituals of Orthodoxy and Unity to execute evil sprites” 正一斬邪之法. This embeds the exorcist crafts within Heavenly Masters Taoism, and further on we read about the “skills of the soaring steps of Three-and-Five” 三五飛步之術 which points to the very title of the Great Rituals of chapters 122–123 in A Corpus of Taoist Rituals, compare TT 296: 26.4 a. Wu Meng and Hsü Sun are the legendary, almost notorious spiritual teacher-masters of Taoist exorcists, see for example the biography of Yeh Ch'ien-shao 葉千韶 (9th ct,) from Kiangsi, see TT 295 Hsü-hsien-chuan 2.16b–18b, for a translations see F. C. Reiter 2007a: Basic Conditions of Taoist Thunder Magic. Wiesbaden 2007 (AKM 61), pp. 5–10.

9 See below.

10 TT 1220: 122.2b.

11 TT 1220: 122.2b, 3a, 3b.

12 TT 1220: 122.1a. The term Three-and-Five is ambiguous and prone to individual, divergent interpretations. Wang Wen-ch'ing explained that Three-and-Five means “the mysterious operation of the [Northern] dipper”, see TT 1220: 67.23 b, see F. C. Reiter: “The Discourse on the Thunders 雷說, by the Taoist Wang Wen-ch'ing 王文卿 (1093–1153).” In: JRAS 14,3 (2004), p. 219.

13 TT 1220: 82.23a–29b. Also see Reiter 2009, p. 42.

14 TT 1220: 123.15b-19a 雷霆都司符璽.

15 This is a literary name for Kiangsi province. Wu Meng is famous for his activities on Mount Lu shan 廬山, see F. C. Reiter, “Die Ausführungen Li Tao-yüans zur Geschichte und Geographie des Berges Lu (Chiang-hsi) im ‘Kommentar zum Wasserklassiker’, und ihre Bedeutung für die regionale Geschichtsschreibung.” In: OE 28,1 (1981), p. 20.

16 This is an old name for Ch'ang-sha in Hu-nan, see H. A. Giles: A Chinese-English Dictionary. Taipei 1972 (repr.), nr. 10676.

17 Ting I was a perfected gentleman whom Wu Meng met when he was 40 years old. He received from Ting I divine recipes 神方 and after some other encounters he received secret methods, and finally around the year 229 he received in the region of Wu the Amulet of the White Clouds 白雲符 and then he greatly displayed his exorcist crafts, see TT 296 Li-shih chen-hsien t'i-tao t'ung-chien 27.1a.

18 TT 1220: 122.1b–2b, Preface.

19 See above note 7.

20 F. C. Reiter: “A Preliminary Study of the Taoist Wang Wen-ch'ing (1093–1153) and His Thunder Magic (lei-fa).” In: ZDMG 152 (2002), pp. 162–167.

21 TT 1220: 67.21a–25a; and 123.10b–11b.

22 TT 1220: 122.1a–2b; 124.1a–1b, this text is translated in Reiter 2002, p. 171.

23 TT 1220: 123.22a.

24 TT 1220: 124.10a-11a. For the sake of comparison see also for example TT 1220: 161.13a-17b.

25 Concerning the amulet see the Appendix.

26 For the Chinese text see TT 1220: 124.5a: The Six Instructions are part of the Amulet of the Fire Chariots that Unite the Thunders 火車總雷符, see below. A complete translation of this amulet presents Reiter 2017, pp. 77–78.

27 TT 1220: 122.9a–11b, p. 10b for the amulet in bronze.

28 F. C. Reiter 2007b: “The Management of Nature: Convictions and Means in Daoist Thunder Magic.” In: idem (ed.): Purposes, Means and Convictions in Daoism, A Berlin Symposium. Wiesbaden 2007 (AAS 29), p. 189.

29 TT 1220: 124.6a.

30 Compare TT 1220: 58.1b, also see below concerning the spell Pu-kang chou 步罡咒.

31 This means the netherworld.

32 Reiter 2009, pp. 42, 43.

33 The essential text Assembling the Divine Force 鍊神 in TT 1220: 124.1b–2a is translated in Reiter 2002, p. 172, and note 53.

34 Shih-chi 史記 1.1b (Wu-ti pen-chi 五帝本紀). Ed. Tung-hua Comp., Taipei 1970. See TT 1220: 56.5a 祭律令大神, for a translation see Reiter 2007 a, pp. 85, 86.

35 Concerning Anterior Heaven as basis of Thunder Magic rituals, following the perception of Wang Wen-ch'ing, see Reiter 2007b, p. 185.

36 TT 1220: 124.5a–6a.

37 TT 1220: 123.22a.

38 They are the Heavenly Worthy of Prime Beginning (Yüan-shih t'ien-tsun 元始天 尊), the Heavenly Worthy of the Numinous Jewel Ling-pao t'ien-tsun 靈寶天尊, and the Heavenly Worthy of Tao and its Virtue (Tao-te t'ien-tsun 道德天尊), the latter name stands for Lao-tzu or T'ai-shang Lao-chün. The divinities represent Anterior Heaven.

39 In fact, modern amulets in Taiwan, for example, usually show these three check marks at the top of an amulet to indicate the Three Pure Ones.

40 TT 1220: 58.1a. This is an example taken from the tradition of Wang Wen-ch'ing. There are many titles of this theme throughout A Corpus of Taoist Rituals with similar and also with some variant instructions.

41 For the paramount importance of the Northern Dipper in the tradition of Thunder Lord Shao-yang, see TT 1220: 123.10b-12b 邵陽心法.

42 Branch and stem are calendar indicators. Here they refer to the time of the ritual, implying a certain astronomical direction.

43 Quoted (abbreviated) from Reiter 2007 b, pp. 190, 191.

44 TT 1220: 58.1 b.

45 This can refer to an internal meditative vision see E. Rousselle: Zur seelischen Führung im Taoismus. Darmstadt 1962, p. 27, referring to the chart of the inner scenery within the human body Nei-jing t'u 內經圖. However, Wang Wen-ch'ing's Discourse on the Thunders describes a cosmic union following the reverse flow of the waters of the “Huang-ho”, see Reiter 2004, pp. 212–221.


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