Magical Swords

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Origin of the Use of the Magical Sword

The Magical Sword is a Magical Instrument ( 法器 Faqi ) often used in Daoist rituals of Fasts and Offerings ( 齋醮 Zhaijiao ). The sword was an important weapon in ancient China. It is said that in the time of the Yellow Emperor ( 黃帝 Huangdi ), Chiyou smelted and produced swords on Mt. Ge Tianlu. There are also stories about Ganjiang and Moye, famous craftsmen who cast swords during the Warring States Period. Ancient custom dictated that the Emperor should wear a hat and carry a sword at the age of twenty, dukes at thirty, and senior officials at forty. Slaves could never wear hats, and the common people could carry swords only in formal occasions. It was regulated in the Han dynasty that when subjects of the Emperor went to court, those carrying swords should remove them upon reaching the steps. It was in the Jin dynasty that swords were replaced by wooden swords and were decorated with gold, silver and jade. By the Liu Song dynasty of the Southern Dynasties, swords began to be used as magical instruments in Daoist rituals of Fasts and Offerings.

Functions

The Daoist Rituals of the Pervasive Mystery and Numinous Treasure ( 洞玄靈寶道學科儀 Dongxuan Lingbao Daoxue Keyi ) written in the Southern Dynasties contains a "chapter on the skills of casting divine swords". It says that "all those who study Daoism must know the skills of casting great swords. After the fast of one hundred days, people who cast swords are required to make sharp swords with quick iron on the day of Gengshen in the ninth momth and the day of Xinyou in the eighth month. The sword should be two cun and six fen in circumference, the handle of the sword shoud be one chi, one cun and seven fen in length, the edge should be two chi, four cun and seven fen in length, and thus the whole sword should be three chi and nine cun long". When casting swords, people should chant secret incantations to the handle of the sword, and carve the Dippers and stars in the sword, "which must be equally distributed over the whole sword". If this Divine Sword is always carried, it can dispel all the evil ghosts and spirits. After the Sui and Tang dynasties, Magical Swords made of peach wood were widely used in Daoist rituals to order and summon heavenly generals, destroy hells and save the dead, and dispel the evil spirits and control ghosts.