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Unformatted text preview: 9 Protective Talismans One of the earliest extant references to using a talisman ( fu ) for protection from demons is found in the third-century b . c . e . Qin bamboo slips excavated at Shuihudi ! in Hubei Province. There, in order to invoke spiritual protection prior to departing from ones home state, a person is told to throw the talisman of Yu ( Yu fu ) on the ground and then perform the ritual called the pace of Yu ( Yu bu ). 1 Such a procedure was necessary because, in Qin and Han popular culture, demons not only caused illness but were also potentially behind all sorts of events that today are often described as the result of bad luck. We do not know what the talisman of Yu looked like, but archaeologically discovered talismans from late-Han dynasty tombs routinely invoke celestial or terrestrial protection against the ghosts of the dead. Among the earliest transmitted stories about talismans are those in the Traditions Surrounding [the Masters of] Methods and Techniques (Fangshu zhuan ) chapter of the History of the Latter Han (HouHanshu ), compiled during the fi fth century by Fan Ye . Early descriptions of the use of talismans generally resemble the story told about Qu Shengqing , who excelled at writing talismanic warrants in cinnabar ink used to suppress and kill demons and spirits, and to employ and command them. 2 A talisman quoted in the History of the Latter Han was used by Fei Changfang . Feis discovery of a genie led to his education in matters of the spirits. 3 156 1. Rishu, Yi , Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian (Beijing: Wenwu, 1990), 240. 2. HouHanshu 72b.2749. 3. The term genie is used here since, in the story, Feis association with the spirit begins when Fei notices that at night it steps into a hanging gourd to sleep. Fei is allowed to leave home and study the Way only after the genie causes a fresh bamboo stalk to take Feis inanimate image, which his family CRH09.indd 156 CRH09.indd 156 6/20/2006 10:45:59 AM 6/20/2006 10:45:59 AM Chapter 9 Protective Talismans 157 Fei also received a bamboo staff and a talisman that read: With this, rule the demons and spirits on the earth. As a result, Fei was able to ! ! cure a multitude of illnesses, use a whip to lash the hundred demons, and submit requests to the Lord of the Earth Altar. Feis story has a tragicomic ending, however: ! Later he lost his talisman and was murdered by a mob of demons. 4 Talismans played an important role in the social changes of the last centuries of the Han dynasty. In the waning years of the Eastern Han, as the actual reach of the imperial court dwindled, debates about matters like the proper application of the penal code probably had little signifi cance for the ordinary person. Deprived of govern-cance for the ordinary person....
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