Fuji (planchette writing)

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Fuji (Chinese: 扶乩/扶箕; pinyin: fújī; Wade–Giles: fu chi) is a method of "planchette writing; spirit writing; automatic writing" using a suspended sieve or tray to guide a stick which writes Chinese characters in sand or incense ashes.

Development[edit]

Beginning around the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), the fuji method and written characters changed from 扶箕 "support the sieve" (spirit-writing using a suspended sieve or winnowing tray) to 扶乩 "support the planchette" (directing a stick or stylus, typically made from a willow or peach branch, and roughly resembling a dowsing-rod, see De Groot 1910 6:1296). Sieve divination or coscinomancy is culturally widespread, and Chao (1942:21) compares practices in ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, and India.

Vocabulary[edit]

Chinese fuji spirit-writing involves some specialized vocabulary. Luan 鸞 "a mythical phoenix-like bird" (see Jordan and Overmyer 1986:36-88; distinguish the fenghuang "Chinese phoenix") is used in synonyms such as fuluan 扶鸞 "support the phoenix," feiluan 飛鸞 "flying phoenix," and jiangluan 降鸞 "descending phoenix". The fuji process involves specialized participants. The two people (or rarely one) who hold the sieve or stylus are called jishou 乩手 "planchette hands", only one of whom is ostensibly possessed by a shen 神 "spirit; god" or xian 仙 "immortal; transcendent". Their assistants include a pingsha 平沙 "level sand" who smoothes out the shapan 沙盤 "sand table", a dujizhe 讀乩者 "planchette reader" who interprets the characters, and a chaojizhe 抄乩者 "planchette copyist" who records them. Jiwen 乩文 "planchette writing" is a general reference to texts produced through Chinese fuji spirit-writing.

Folk history[edit]

Spirit-writing has a long history in Chinese folk religion, and is first recorded (Chao 1942:12) during the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479 CE). Fuji planchette-writing became popular during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when authors like Shen Kuo and Su Shi associated its origins with summoning Zigu 紫姑 "Purple Maiden", the Spirit of the Latrine. Fuji divination flourished during the Ming Dynasty, and the Jiajing Emperor (r. 1522-1566) built a special jitan 乩壇 "planchette altar" in the Forbidden City (Despeux 2007:428). Although the practice of fuji planchette-writing was prohibited by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) Legal Code, it has continued and is currently practiced at Daoist temples in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia as well as folk shrines in China.

Uses[edit]

Fuji is particularly associated with the Quanzhen School of Daoism. The Daozang "Daoist Canon" contains several scriptures supposedly written through spirit-writing. Two examples are the Zitong dijun huashu 梓潼帝君化書 "Book of Transformations of the Divine Lord of Zitong" (tr. Kleeman 1994, see Huashu) and the Taiyi jinhua zongzhi 太一金華宗旨 "Great One’s Secret of the Golden Flower" (tr. Wilhelm 1931).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Chao Wei-pang. 1942. "The origin and Growth of the Fu Chi", Folklore Studies 1:9-27.
  • Clart, Phillip. 2003. "Moral Mediums: Spirit-Writing and the Cultural Construction of Chinese Spirit-Mediumship", Ethnologies 25.1:153-190.
  • de Groot, J.J.M. 1910. "Spirit-Writing, and other Oracular Work", in The Religious System of China, 6:1295-1316, E.J. Brill.
  • Despeux, Catherine. 2007. "Fuji 扶乩 planchette writing; spirit writing," in The Encyclopedia of Taoism, ed. Fabrizio Pregadio, Routledge, 428-429.
  • Jordan, David K and Daniel L. Overmyer. 1986. The Flying Phoenix: Aspects of Chinese Sectarianism in Taiwan. Princeton University Press.
  • Kleeman, Terry F. 1994. A God's Own Tale: The Book of Transformations of Wenchang, the Divine Lord of Zitong. State University of New York Press.
  • Lang, Graeme and Lars Ragvald. 1998. "Spirit-writing and the Development of Chinese Cults", Sociology of Religion 59.4:309-328.
  • Russel, Terence C. 1990. "Chen Tuan at Mount Huangbo: A Spirit-writing Cult in Late Ming China", Asiatische Studien/Études Asiatiques 44.1:107-140.
  • Wilhelm, Richard. 1931. The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life. Harcourt Brace.

External links[edit]