September 28, 2003                        S.Shevtcov


I’ve looked through my reference books on Chinese numismatics and mythology and found out that such charms (, items #1606 and #1652) are do listed in some of them. The problem is that no one of the sources gives any exact information on reading of the legend and dating. I’ve found three of such charms in “Zhongguo Gudai Yashengqian Pu”, Lu Zhenhai, Shenyang, 1991, p.1-823, about 2000 images (“The Catalogue of Chinese Charms”). Please see pictures 1-3. All three charms are listed in the “Taoist charms” section but on different pages (?).


1. A charm with Dragon. Page 452.

The source says, that inscription is written in “Fu Wen” – magic writing used by Taoist priests. No comments on the meaning of the inscription (may be it is difficult even for Chinese specialists….). 

Reverse picture. Said that there is a “Xing Guan” (The Spirit of The Kind Star) on the right, a tablet with inscription “Ben Ming Xing Guan Si” ( The Spirit #4 (??) Determining My Fortune ) at the bottom (though hardly visible…). A Dragon (The fifth of 12 zodiacal animals) and The Horse ( Where??) at the left.

It seems to me that there is another image above – a Rabbit (??) –the 4th of 12 zodiacal animals.

Note 1:Xing Guan” (The Spirit of The Kind Star) – in the mentality of ancient Chinese Xing Guan was the Saint who had the power of determining of man’s life, so was highly respected. In Chinese mythology Xing

 Guan could send down and grant Happiness. It is also said, that Xing Guan associates with Shou Xing – the God of Longevity – since the South Song Dynasty.  But before (Han Dynasty) there was a star named Nanji Lao Ren (The Old Man of the South Pole) who determined the fate of a state. Later on since the South Song Dynasty this star was associated with the God of Longevity - Shou xing, represented in Chinese art as a smiling  old man with high forehead.


2.Ñharms with Dog and Monkey. Page 466.

Said that the charms are decorated with Zhou (??) dynasty ornaments and inscriptions are written in “Fu Wen” – magic writing used by Taoist priests. One of the charms bears the image of Dog and another one of Monkey.

Note 2:Fu Wen” – magic writing used by Taoist priests.

The inscription on these charms do nor belong to the  magic writing used by Taoist priests. It is a script named Miu Zhuan – “Clew Seal Script” with elements of  so called “Tadpole Seal Script” used in the Southern States of China ( including Chu State, now the territory of Fujian) during the period of Warrior States (Zhou dynasty). Because of it’s highly decorative features, it’s still in use in Chinese art till now. Magic writing used by Taoist priests really existed and  relates to artificially invented non–systematic characters used by Taoist priests for  special sacral purposes and not known by majority of common people. We can see such writings on a lot of Taoist charms,  for example, on Schjoth charms # 67 (right image) and #78 (right). Such sacral writings  usually consist of 2-3 characters joined together with the meaning known only by limited number of people.


We can suggest that these charms make a series of 12 charms with images of 12 zodiacal animals. As written in Chinese sources on mythology, such charms were presented as a birthday present with complements of longevity and happiness. If a person’s birthday was at the year of Dog, he was presented with the charm bearing the image of the Dog etc.

 No comments on the meaning of the inscription in this source.


3. Schjoth’s comments.

               I can not agree with his suggestion about the meaning of the writing. But unfortunately, I can not give any of my own  suggestions on the meaning now.

               This charm can not be made before the South Song dynasty (see Note 1). The style of the charm is similar to the charms made during Ming and Qing dynasties


4. Similar style charms

Please find an image (pic.4) of a similar charm (I mean similar script) listed in "Zhongguo Huaqian" ("Chinese Charms") - another big catalogue, Xu Liuliang, Shanghai, 1992,  pages 1-509, about 2200 images.

Inscriptions: This charm called "Chang Shou" - Longevity, i.e. right character is Chang (Long) and left - Shou (Longevity). Upper and lower characters are not deciphered. On the reverse - Big Dipper - above and Xuan Wu (Tortoise and Snake ) - the symbol and the God of  North - below.


Pic.1 Zodiac charm, Dragon on the reverse

Pic.2 Zodiac charm, Dog on the reverse

Pic.3 Zodiac charm, Monkey on the reverse

Pic.4 ‘Chang Shou’ charm