Chinese Healing Talismans

  Chinese talisman developed as an occult artistic and healing tradition rooted in shamanistic practices of the first and second centuries B.C.E. They evolved into ritualistic symbols used in Taoist practices intended to communicate with the spirit world and influence the invisible forces of nature. One can see the traces of this unusual abstract art in Chinese geomancy, astrology, palmistry, physiognomy, alchemy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and the arts of movement (Tai ch’i chuan, kung fu, etc..). The diagrams and symbols themselves represent a completely different type of calligraphy, separate from the Chinese language. Many of these evolved as secret scripts created to protect talismanic mystery and power, and many were in perishable form: drawn in dust, burnt as offerings, swallowed as medicine, or danced in particular patterns that disappeared along with the ancient singers, drummers, and dancers who used them. The people who actually drew these talisman did so for specific purposes and participated in rituals that empowered the talisman as repositories for all the spiritual powers directed into them. From there, the recipient was given direct contact with the spirits of the talisman. This strong belief in the spiritual and healing power of calligraphy was so prevalent in the first millennium B.C.E. that many historians feel it is largely responsible for the survival of Chinese ideographic script. Although I am not qualified to use these talismans for their medicinal benefits, I cannot ignore the experience of the tremendous healing powers of this lineage.