If the formation of talismans is derived from the methods of making witch talismans, then the appearance of Daoist registers suggests the wisdom of the Daoist founders themselves. Daoist registers are also called Magical Registers or Treasure Registers. They are a kind of Daoist talisman book that is used as the foundation for conducting Magical Skills and the trust of membership. According to Daoist doctrine, the registers are condensations of the Vital Breath of nature and are transmitted by divine persons. The Simplified Rituals for Cultivating Perfection of the Orthodox Oneness ( 《正一修真略儀》 Zhengyi Xiuzhen Lueyi ) says that the divine talismans and Treasure Registers are condensations of the Vital Breath of nature. And at the very beginning of the Original Red Brightness Kalpa ( 元始赤明浩劫 Yuanshi Chiming Haojie ), the soaring breath of mystery and sublimity concentrated itself in the primordial chaos, and the writ of the Dragon Seal characters was formed. It is because the Primeval Divine Lord ( 元始神尊 Yuanshi Shenzun ) transforms His soul to interact with the Vital Breath. The functions of the registers lie in invoking and controlling spirits. "The registers are to operate the mysterious origin and inspect and impeach the officials of the three worlds, mastering their personalities, interrogating their merit or guilt and identifying their crimes or happiness so as to record them in the files. Moreover, the registers are used to check the writs of declaration, master the numinous charts, and deduct the number of the heavenly original kalpa of the Yang nine hundred and sixty." The registers are also applied to invoke the ten thousand souls of Heaven and Earth, to work them according to their achievements, and to differentiate the immortal ranks of officers and warriors with their horses. And registers are used to determine the number of immortal lads and jade maidens, and that of the officials and servants of various departments. The great chaos is endless and the supreme perfect sages of the ten directions can form the alliance, be masters for each other, and impart each other. Consequently they can ascend to the immortal world from this world with the skills of nourishing life" (See the Simplified Rituals for Cultivating Perfection of the Orthodox Oneness). Therefore a Daoist who has got a register can invoke the divine officers, warriors and generals listed on the register to protect his body, or work them to conduct Daoist skills. At the same time, registers can also restrain Daoists who have been imparted with them. So there is a saying that the registers can guard against your emotions and personality, stop your errors and control the evil root, and generate a Daoist karma for you. If you want to change from a common person to a sage, you must follow the commandments from the beginning to the end before you become Immortal.
The main body of Daoist registers is the names of the spirits together with the corresponding talismans, diagrams, and divine images. But at the beginning of all Daoist registers, there is always the oath of the Daoist candidates, which is the fixed form of the registers. For example, in the magical registers of the Supreme Clarity sect is the Register for Invoking Dragons by the Eight Divine Warriors ( 八威召龍籙 Bawei Zhaolong Lu ). In its first paragraph there is the oath:
" On a certain day of a certain month in a certain year, in a certain Daoist temple of a certain county, a certain candidate is ready to be imparted the Magical Register from a certain Perfect Man. I am honored to come to the Supreme Clarity Master of the Great Grottoes ( 上清大洞法師 Shangqing Dadong Fashi ) to acknowledge you to be the master and to be imparted the Highest Clarity Jade Clarity Secret Register of the Return of the Chariot from the Heavenly Way ( 上清回車畢道玉清密籙 Shangqing Huiche Bidao Yuqing Milu ) and the Perfect Books. I swear to cultivate myself and treat man and material things according to the mysterious rituals. If I break my oath, I am willing to be interrogated and to thank the Three Officials of Heaven, Earth, and Water without any hatred. Promptly, Promptly, in accordance to the Supreme Mysterious Ritual, Statutes, and Ordinances ( 太上玄科律令 Taishang Xuanke Luling )."
This fixed form is similar to other Daoist registers. " The Supreme Clarity Master of the Great Grottoes " may be replaced by the name of the specific altar or Daoist leader of other sects. In the register of the Orthodox Oneness, it is " The Celestial Master Descended from the Han Dynasty of the Mountain of the Dragon and Tiger" ( 龍虎山嗣漢天師 Longhu Shan Sihan Tianshi ). But the oaths are similar to one another except for this difference, as well as some other details on Daoist commandments that Daoists should obey and deeds that Daoists should perform.
Over a long time, each sect of Daoism formed its own registers, including the Orthodox Oneness Tradition, the Numinous Treasure Tradition, the Supreme Clarity Tradition, the Divine Heaven Sect ( 神霄派 Shenxiao Pai ), the Pristine Subtlety Sect ( 清微派 Qingwei Pai ), and the Pure Brightness Tradition. The registers became the trust of Daoist membership and the symbol of Daoist ranks. The Daoist sects which use registers as their trust of transmission and as the foundation for conducting Daoist skills are called the Talisman and Register Tradition ( 符籙派 Fulu Pai ). The registers of the different sects are classified into various types, each of which performs different functions when conducting Daoist skills. The Register of the Five Big Dippers of the Orthodox Oneness is matched with Big Dipper pacing, whereas the Register for Summoning and Invoking Spirits is applied to conduct the skill to summon and invoke spirits. At the same time, Magical Registers correspond with Daoist ranks. There are 24 ranks of Magical Registers in the Orthodox Oneness Tradition and 7 ranks in the Divine Heaven Sect. In the Tang Dynasty there were 120 complete ranks of the Magical Registers from the Orthodox Oneness, through the three August Ones, the Numinous Treasure, up to the Supreme Clarity. After the Yuan Dynasty, the registers of the Divine Heaven Sect and the Pristine Subtlety Sect were mixed together with those of the Orthodox Oneness. In the Yuan and Ming dynasties, the Great Perfect Man of Mt. Longhu became the leader of the Mt. Mao (the Supreme Clarity), Mt. Gezao (the Numinous Treasure), and Mt. Longhu (the Orthodox Oneness). It was called the Talisman and Registers of the Three Mountains ( 三山符籙 Sanshan Fulu ). So the Orthodox Oneness Tradition was regarded as the representative of the Talismans and Registers Tradition, and the registers of the Orthodox Oneness were increased to 36 types. So far the imparting of the magical registers is still an important activity of the Orthodox Oneness Tradition. A grand ritual is held when the Daoists are imparted with registers, at which point they obtain the qualification of a magical master.