Fulu (simplified Chinese: 符箓; traditional Chinese: 符籙), is a term for Daoist incantations and magic symbols, written or painted as talisman or lingfu (simplified Chinese: 灵符; traditional Chinese: 靈符) by Daoist practitioners.
These practitioners are also called fulu pai (Chinese: 符籙派) or the fulu sect, an informal group made up of priests from different schools of Daoism. These charms and amulets are also not confined strictly to Daoism as they have been incorporated in to several forms of Chinese Buddhism, and have descendants such as the Ofuda of Japanese Buddhism and Shinto.
- Fu (Chinese: 符), or shenfu (Chinese: 神符) are instructions to deities and spirits, symbols for exorcism, and medicinal potion recipes or charms to assist with ailments.
- Lu (Chinese: 籙) is a register of the membership of the priests, as well as the skills they are trained in.
Fu symbols tend to have irregular strokes that resemble Traditional Chinese characters, often elongating existing words while incorporating non-hanzi symbols. Daoist priests are the main interpreters of this eclectic writing-and-symbol system, and the characters can differ from sect to sect. The method of writing down these characters is generally passed down in secret from a Daoist priest to their disciples and treated as a special craft with which to communicate to local deities and spirits.
Some magic script characters appear to have been formed by stacking one Traditional Chinese character atop of another character and compounding them into one. Fu styles vary from sect to sect and each sect has different incantations and mudras used to create Fu. Even the invocations for a single deity will vary between sects. This specific technique of linking or combining different Chinese characters was not used exclusively by the Daoists, however. Fu characters also appear on other types of Chinese charms such as Buddhist coin charms and woodblock print charms.
Talismans have for centuries been used in China as a healing method alongside medicinal drugs, meditation, acupuncture, astrology and massage. Known as zhuyou (祝由) in medical writings, talismans enjoyed official support between the Sui and the late Ming dynasties – before the imperial court recognised acupuncture as a medicinal discipline (ke 科) in the 6th century CE.
Whilst rejected by Traditional Chinese Medicine, zhuyou continues to be widely used amongst Chinese folk healers today. Following the popularisation of psychology in early-twentieth century China, zhuyou began to be interpreted as the Chinese version of Western hypnosis.
The second chapter of each of the three grottoes in the daozang is a record of the history and feats of the fulu sect, where it is described that the origin of fu script is from the condensation of clouds in the sky.
On talismanic coinsEdit
Fu script was also used on Daoist coin talismans (many of which resemble cash coins). Many of these talismans haven't been deciphered yet but a specimen where Fu was used next to what is believed to be their equivalent Chinese characters exists. On rare occasions Daoist fu writing has also been found on Buddhist numismatic charms and amulets. Most of these coin talismans that feature fu writings request Lei Gong to protect its carriers from evil spirits and misfortune.
Fulu characters are usually included at the beginning and the end of the inscription of a Daoist coin charm.
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