Five Poisons

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The Five Poisons (Chinese: 五毒; Pinyin: wǔ dú; Jyutping: ng5 duk6; Vietnamese: Ngũ độc), or the five noxious creatures, can refer to an ancient Chinese set of poisonous or otherwise hazardous animals[1] or five perceived threats the Chinese Communist Party sees for its rule over Mainland China.

Ancient Chinese Five Poisons[edit]

A Chinese Five Poisons charm with the inscription "Expel evil and send down good fortune" (驱邪降福) with a spider at the top and the three-legged toad, Jin Chan, at the bottom. There is disagreement with the figure on the right, either believed to be Liu Hai or Zhong Kui.[2] The charm is on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

The fifth day of the fifth month or Duanwu in ancient Chinese folklore symbolised the beginning of the Summer, this day also known as "Double 5 day" or "Double 5th day" or more commonly tiān zhōng jié (天中節) was seen as one of the most inauspicious and dangerous days of the year.[2][3] This was because all the poisonous animals and bugs would then began to appear.[2] "Double five" day was furthermore seen as the hottest day and it was believed that the heat would cause illness.[1]

The Ancient Chinese believed that the only way to combat poison was with poison, and one way they believed that they could protect themselves on this day was by drinking realgar wine which contains arsenic sulfide, another way to protect themselves on this day was by hanging pictures of Zhong Kui, another custom holds that the Chinese should mix mercury (cinnabar) with wine, or using Gu poison to combat these creatures, however by far the most common way of protecting themselves was using "Five poison" charms and amulets (五毒錢), it was also customary for Chinese parents to let their children wear these amulets that have pictures of the 5 poisons or otherwise hang small pouches filled with mugwort around the necks of these children.[2] The five poisons in this context don't refer to five actual toxins but to five animals that were perceived to be "poisonous", these animals according to various historical sources usually included:[4][2][1]

But in some variants toads were replaced by Jin Chan, and in other variants tigers are members of the 5 poisons.[2] Tigers are then considered members of the five poisons because they are solitary animals and the Mandarin Chinese word for "solitary" has a similar pronunciation as the word for "poison".[2] In some variations the tiger is not a member of the five poisons but is used to represent the Warring States period person Qu Yuan because he was born on a "tiger day".[1]

In Vietnam their variant of these amulets are used during the dragon boat festival.[1]

Wudu cakes[edit]

The Wudu cake is a traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival in north China.[5] Wudu cakes are traditionally believed to have talismanic powers and are traditionally eaten to stay healthy and attract good fortune.[5] Wudu cakes typically come in sets of five cakes with the design of each of the animals of the five poisons on them.[5]

Chinese Communist Party version[edit]

According to commentators and government documents, the Five Poisons are five perceived threats to the stability of the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.[6][7][8][9][10] These threat groups provide an alternative vision of China. Moreover, the reason they pose the threat is that they operate inside and outside China.[11]

The Five Poisons of the Chinese Communist Party[edit]

The 'five poisons' are:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Craig Greenbaum (2006). "Amulets of Viet Nam (Bùa Việt-Nam - 越南符銭)". Archived from the original on 16 August 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The Five Poisons - 五毒 - The Fifth Day of the Fifth Month". Gary Ashkenazy / גארי אשכנזי (Primaltrek – a journey through Chinese culture). 16 November 2016. Archived from the original on 9 May 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  3. ^ "The Legendary Chinese Poison Made by Forcing Snakes, Scorpions, and Centipedes to Fight. "Gu" was a mythological substance born from fear, with a dramatic backstory". Lauren Young (Atlas Obscura). 11 November 2016. Archived from the original on 18 June 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  4. ^ "天師收五毒錢 Heavenly Master Subduing the Five Poisons". Jave Wu - Jave Wu Taoism Place (孝華君道教百科資訊網) - A place for All people around the World to know more about Taoism. 一個讓全球同道認識道教文化的資訊站。此為"太初五斗米道觀正一道教學院"之屬下傳道網頁。 (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 30 May 2014. Archived from the original on 28 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Wong, Wing-Fai (2021). The talismanic custom of Wudu cake. Journal of Hebei Normal University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) 44 (5) 48-56.
  7. ^ "China's great firewall". The Australian.
  8. ^ "Managing the Power Within: China's State Security Commission". 18 July 2016. Archived from the original on 19 July 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  9. ^ "China's Fifth Poison". Archived from the original on 2016-09-22. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  10. ^ "Communist China's Overseas Suppression of the 'Five Poisons'". Archived from the original on 2016-08-15. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  11. ^ "Managing the Power Within: China's State Security Commission". War on the Rocks. 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2020-08-24.