The Daoist skill system includes numerous Numerological Arts ( 數術Shushu ), such as Fortune-Telling ( 算命Suanming ), Physiognomy ( 看相Kanxiang ), Geomancy ( 風水Fengshui ), and Omens and Prophecies ( 符讖Fuchen ), which aim at Divination ( 占驗Zhanayn ) and capturing good luck. The origin of all these arts can be traced to ancient times. The Abstract of Numerology in the General Catalog of the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries says, "Most of the Numerological Arts arose after the Qin and Han Dynasties. Their essentials do not go beyond the mutual production and destruction of Yin and Yang and the Five Agents ( 陰陽五行Yinyang Wuxing ). These arts are actually branches of the study of the Book of Changes ( 《易經》Yijing ) to which various theories have been added." In fact, the Book of Changes is a philosophical book evolved from records of divinations, which does not hinder its use as a means of divination. The Numerological Arts, already spread in all classes of society, were absorbed into the Daoist skill system during the formation of this religion. Still, the arts were transmitted by some non-Daoists among whom some groups make a living by practising them. Among Daoists, the most popular are divination, Hidden Periods ( 遁甲Dunjia ), Fortune-Telling, Physiognomy, Geomancy, Telling Omens ( 說符命Shuo Fuming ), and Massage-Chart Prophecy ( 《推背圖》Tuibei Tu ).
Divination is one of the oldest Numerological Arts. As early as the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, people already practised tortoise-shell divination ( 龜卜Huibu ) and milfoil-stalk divination ( 筮占Xhizhan ). The Book of Changes, as the scripture of the latter method, later became one of the Five Classics. In tortoise-shell divination, good or bad luck is decided from the cracks in burned tortoise shells, while in the latter it is decided through the numbers gained from dividing or gathering milfoil stalks. Later, milfoil-stalk divination developed and the numbers used were fixed as 7, 8, 9 and 6 to form Trigram Images ( 卦象Guaxiang ). Because the change of numbers was more reasonable in this method, this kind of divination was superior to the other one. After the Southern and Northern Dynasties, in divination based on the Book of Changes, coins, instead of milfoil stalks, were used to simplify the divination method. From this came out many branches, such as King Wen Divination ( 文王課Wenwang Ke ), Plum-Blossom Numerology ( 梅花易數Meihua YIshu ), Supreme Oneness Divine Numerology ( 太乙神數Taiyi Shenshu ), etc. These are transmitted among many people inside and outside of Daoism.
The Unique Numerological Arts and Hidden Time ( 奇門遁甲Qimen Dunjia )
Among the Numerological Arts, the Nine Palaces of Supreme Oneness ( 太乙九宮Taiyi Jiugong ), the Six Ren ( 六壬Liuren ), and Hidden Time are called the Three Unique Numerological Arts ( 三奇Sanqi ) and occupy important positions. They are highly respected by Daoists and many books concerning them were collected into the Daoist Canon. Among these, Hidden Time is especially famous. It is a kind of Numerological Art for the choice of time and directions. There are various understandings and uses of this complicated art. Introduced here is an illustration by Mr. Hu Fuchen, a famous specialist in the study of Daoism, in Annals of Daoism. With Hidden Time, people make use of temporal and special elements to turn their luck from bad to good. Its essence is in the arrangements of Situation Boards, i.e. the Heavenly Board ( 天盤Tianpan ), the Earthly Board ( 地盤Dipan ) and the Human Board ( 人盤Renpan ). The Heavenly Board is composed of the Nine Stars ( 九星Jiuxing ) (Tian Peng, Tian Rui, Tian Chong, Tian Fu, Tian Qin, Tian Xin, Tian Zhu, Tian Ren, Tian Ying). The Earthly Board uses the Nine Palaces and Eight Trigrams ( 九宮八卦Jiugong Bagua ). The Human Board uses the Eight Gates ( 八門Bamen ) (rest, death, pain, refusal, opening, surprise, life, and auspiciousness). Along-Yi ( 順儀Shunyi ) (Wu, Ji, Geng, Xin, Ren, Gui) and Anti-Qi ( 逆奇Niqi ) (Yi, Bing, Ding) arrangements constitute a Yang Board ( 陽盤Yangpan ), otherwise they make up a Yin Board ( 陰盤Yinpan ). In the board of the Nine Palaces and Eight Trigrams, people arrange the Eight Gates, Nine Stars and Nine Divinities ( 九神Jiushen ) (Zhifu, She, Taiyin, Liuhe, Gouchen, Zhuque, Jiudi and Jiutian) in the order of year, season, month and hour, according to certain situations.
Yang Hidden Time ( 陽遁Yangdun ) is used from the winter solstice to the summer solstice when Yang Vital Breath ( 陽氣Yangqi ) increases; otherwise Yin Hidden Time ( 陰遁Yindun ) is used. In order to connect closely the Celestial Trunks and Terrestrial Branches ( 天干地支Tiangan Dizhi ) of time with the Twenty-Four Solar Terms ( 節氣Jieqi ), the Futou ( 符頭Futou ) (the first day of a 5-day Yuan) of the Upper Origin ( 上元Shangyuan ) (a 15-day solar term is divided into three 5-day Yuan called Upper Origin, Middle Origin and Lower Origin) and the solar term are adjusted. Thus people get a kind of calendar of Hidden Time for choice of time and direction and divination. Hidden Time is the most synthetic numerology most closely connected with the ancient calendar and astronomy. It absorbs the theories of Yin and Yang, Five Agents, Celestial Trunks and Terrestrial Branches, the River-Chart and the Writ of the Luo River ( 河圖洛書Hetu Luoshu ), and the Nine Palaces and Eight Trigrams, and form an organic whole.
It is also called the Four-Pillar Fortune-Telling Art ( 四柱推命術Sizhuuiming Shu ) for it is based on the Celestial Trunks and Terrestrial Branches of the year, month, date and hour of one's birthday. The Four Pillars are four pairs of Celestial Trunks and Terrestrial Branches, each pair being represented by two characters and four pairs making up eight. Altogether eight characters are used and so it is also called the Eight-Character Fortune-Telling Art ( 排八字Pai Bazi ). It is commonly traced back to Li Dezong of the Tang Dynasty, who could tell one's fortune by the Celestial Trunks and Terrestrial Branches of his birthday. But Li used only the year, month and date; the hour was added by Xu Ziping of the Song Dynasty. The art is thus commonly called Ziping Art ( 子平術Ziping Shu ). With the art, one's good and bad luck throughout his life can be foretold from the mutual generation and destruction of the Five Agents of the four pillars added with auspicious solar terms.
The origin of Physiognomy is very early, for some famous physiognomic masters were mentioned in the Pre-Qin period. With this art, one's fortune can be foretold through one's countenance and the forms of one's face, bones and hand. We are uncertain about the time when Daoism absorbed physiognomy, but Daoist Chen Tuan's physiognomy was greatly famous after the Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty. Legend said that Chen's teacher was a monk called the "Daoist in Hemp" ( 麻衣道人Mayi Daoren ). According to the Record of Shao's Experience and Knowledge ( 《邵氏聞見錄》Shaoshi Wenjian Lu ), Chen was once invited by Emperor Taizong of the Song Dynasty to read the face of the future emperor Zhenzong, who was then just one of many princes in the royal family. Chen returned immediately on reaching the prince's mansion gate. Asked for the reason, Chen said that even the attendants around the prince had the quality of premiers and generals, so there was no need to see the prince in person. Thus the prince was elevated to the rank of Crown Prince. We can deduce from historical materials that the Daoist in Hemp and Chen practised Bone Physiognomy ( 骨相術Guxiang Shu ). But the Divine Physiognomy of the Daoist in Hemp ( 《麻衣神相》Mayi Shen Xiang ), which became widespread in later times, was a book about facial physiognomy. Perhaps it was attributed to them because their fame could help spread the book. Someone in the Ming or Qing Dynasty compiled the Collections of Chen Xiyi's Physiognomy ( 《陳希夷心相編》Chen Xiyi Xin Xiang Bian ), which also borrowed Chen's fame. This book says: "The Heart is the root of countenance, so by examining the heart one's morality is clear; deeds are the appearance of the heart so by examining deeds one's luck is clear." Although it also talks about good and bad luck, the book is mainly about the philosophy of life leading to Confucian ethics. So it can be regarded as a change from physiognomy.
Telling Omens and Massage-Chart Prophecy
One of the Numerological Arts is omens and prophecies, or telling omens. In Chinese folklore, political struggles and even the change of dynasties were influenced greatly by omens. An omen tells a mysterious prophecy; if someone fit the heavenly decree and should be the emperor, some auspicious omens would appear, or prophecies could be found in ancient books. Telling omens used to be special talent of some Confucians in the Han Dynasty, but some Daoists also took the role after Daoism was formed. When Xiao Yan rebelled at the end of the Qi Dynasty, the famous Daoist Tao Hongjing sent his disciples to offer omens to Xiao. Xiao accepted his advice and named the new Dynasty "Liang". In the rise of later dynasties such as the Sui and Tang, some Daoists also offered omens.
Another Numerological Art concerning the change of dynasties and the peace of society is Massage-Chart Prophecy. It may also be said to have evolved from telling omens. It takes the form of explanations of Trigrams ( 卦辭Guaci ) to predict political events many years in the future. Each of its 60 charts has a Trigram and an explanatory poem. The 60th poem says, "thousands of years need endless telling, so we'd better stop and enjoy a conformable massage." The prophecy thus was called Massage-Chart Prophecy. The charts were attributed to Lin Chunfeng and Yuan Tiangang of the Tang Dynasty, but this is difficult to verify. The two men both had a close relationship with Daoism. Li Chunfeng, whose father was a Daoist, was an official in the court but wrote a Commentary on and Introduction to the Gold Lock and Flowing Pearls, which was a book about Daoist skills. The massage charts had great influence. Yue Ke of the Southern Dynasty said: " After Li Chunfeng wrote the Massage-Chart Prophecies, the marquises and kings rising in the turbulent Five Dynasties all had the idea of becoming emperor. So Li's theory became extremely popular. Zhao Kuangyin, on becoming the emperor, decreed to prohibit books about omens for fear that the people would be lured into punishment and death. But the massage charts, having been widespread among the folk for hundreds of years, couldn't be wiped out. Zhao ordered his men to rewrite the book, except some censored parts, in a different messy order. They made about 100 kinds of different editions to co-exist with original book. The transmitters, puzzled about the order, couldn't tell which one was wrong. But Yue said this couldn't stop the charts from spreading. Until the Qing Dynasty, some people still found the prohibited charts, such as the 33rd chart for the Bing Shen year predicting Emperor Shunzhi entering the Chinese interior, the 34th chart for the Ding You year predicting the rebellion of the Peaceful Heavenly State or commonly "long hair". Due to its close relationship with Daoism, some people regard it as a Daoist classic. Actually, considering its use, the book can only be said to be related to a Numerological Art shared by Daoists and folk people.
Other Numerological Arts related to Daoism include geomancy which is commonly known as "examining the wind and water". Interested friends may find relevant books for careful study.