The techniques of magic..

are wide and varied. We here give an excerpt from the forthcoming Luban Grimoire to explain a few of the methods employed in Chinese magic.


Luban indicates by internal evidence that the reader has some level of cultivation in the Taoist arts and would be familiar with many of the processes as well as having developed a certain amount of internal magical power often referred to as having ‘fa li’ which can be translated as Method Power or Dharma Power.

This would have involved the reading of scriptures, meditation and internal alchemy, as well as factors such as the daily cultivation of his or her relationship with the Gods and spirits.

Reading the Luban we ascertain several methods:

  1. Use of talismans

  2. Use of spells and mantras.

  3. Use of water.

  4. Self transformation.

  5. Use of hand seals.

The talismans are usually drawn on yellow paper and with cinnabar ink and represent commands to the Immortals and Gods who the wizard has communed with.

Sometimes they merely embody the intention of the spell itself.

Those that embody the spell intention are written in the Yu-Gui or Rain Ghost configuration. That is the character of rain , representing the powers of nature and in particular Heaven forms a kind of ‘canopy’ over the character of ghost, representing spiritual power. Within the body of the ghost character is written a word representing the spell intention.

Usually when writing these Rain Ghost Character Spells the wizard verbally says Yu and Gui and then the character of the spell intention. See diagram.

Spells and mantras are also usually employed.

These fall into two classes.

In the first class there is a direct appeal to Gods or Immortals to assist the wizard working the spell.

In the second class there is both an appeal but also an idea that the wizard himself becomes the God or Immortal in question. There is a unity between the invoker and the invoked.

Quite often there is colourful imagery associated with the spells, for example ‘’rising and scintillating fires of the vajra thunderbolt’’.

Or the spell dictates the actions desired in a far simpler narration.

Occasionally certain power words are used. These can include:

  1. Sanskrit- like mantras with no discernible meaning.

  2. Sounds that are onomatopoeia in nature such as thunder cracking, hissing and so on.

  3. Appeals to astrological ideas such as the Bing Ding to represent fire and Ren-Gui to represent water, to the Five Elements, Yin and Yang, and to the spiritual essences of the year, month, days and hours of time.

  4. The names of Gods, Immortals, Masters and of course various Tongzi (Spiritual Boys). Tongzi represent angelic beings of a pure, virgin and yang nature who often serve definite functions. For example there is a Tongzi for healing, a Tongzi for witchcraft and so on.

Spiritual Troops are frequently called. It is said a Daoist wizard with no ‘troops’ is unlikely to be considered as a true master wizard. Indeed there is a considerable period of time in his or her training that an apprentice wizard will be cultivating and forming relationships with Celestial Troops. This idea is similar to the use of familiar spirits in western magic. You cannot call what you haven't developed a reciprocal relationship with.

The final class of spirit dealt with in Luban are ghosts, the dead.

In Chinese belief the human soul has two aspects. The Hun and the Po.

The hun is the higher and immortal part of the human being and is essentially inaccessible to most wizards.

Wizards will employ the lower part the Po, which is in essence a part that is left behind on earth for a lot longer after death. The po however often consists of the lowest and meanest parts of human nature and on top of that, in most cases they only possess a rudimentary intelligence. However through a certain method of cultivation po can be developed to become powerful beings in their own right. That in a nutshell is the basis of Chinese ghost magic.