A Daoist Fu (符) is a form of talismanic transmission. Originally, the term itself denotes a contract that exists between two people; it was taken from the practice of breaking a piece of Jade or precious stone in half as a sign of mutual agreement. Both parties within an agreement would take half of the stone as a sign of their contract, their Fu, and by placing the two halves together could prove that said agreement existed.

Within the esoteric Daoist tradition the ‘Fu’ was taken out between the practitioner and the realm of Heaven, the abode of the immortals. This contract enabled the skilled Daoist practitioner to utilise the power of Dao (道) to establish a directed form of transmission into the talisman. This transmission would serve to change the quality of Qi within it’s immediate vicinity which would then in turn generate a shift within the realm of manifestation. It can be thought of a placing a type of vibrational information into the symbol itself which then sends this vibratory information out into the energy of the surrounding area. This information then causes a change within the ‘flow of life’ or ‘Ming (命), this change could be to affect either an area, an event or the Ming of a specific person.

Often times Fu talismans were used as a way to ward off evil spirits, to increase the power of energy within a space or to tackle specific pathogenic imbalances within a person. In the case of the latter, the Fu was often either drawn on to the patients body by a medically trained Daoist or burnt in pure water which was then applied onto the patients body or drunk. When the Fu was placed into water in this manner it created Fu Shui (符水) which can be translated as meaning ‘talismanic water’. If we think of how water can be absorbed into the human body it is not so much of a stretch of the mind to see how energetically charged water could be useful for healing if generated in this manner.

In the case of magical Daoist traditions such as the Mao Shan (茅山) tradition it was common for the practitioner to wear the talisman on their body for prolonged periods of time in order for the effects of the Fu to begin changing their own energetic flow. In the majority of these cases the Fu was seen as a spiritually binding contract between the Daoist and the deities that are such a large part of the more magical Daoist traditions. These Fu are generally placed upon the forehead of the Daoist, the arms or their abdominal region as these areas correspond to the spirit of the practitioner, their ability to commune with the energetic environment and their personal power centre. Magical Fu such as these were highly prized and it was understood that only the most powerful Daoist magician could create Fu of this magnitude. In many cases this level of Daoist practitioner was sought out by the emperors of China who would use their Fu to bind deities to their will in the hope of securing power in battle as well as in politics.

Within alchemical Daoism the Fu is often used to purify the area of practice as well as to help free the spirit from it’s bondage within the body. By placing the correctly formed Fu on certain areas of the body it was understood that the consciousness of the practitioner could begin to elevate itself above the lower realms of being. These Fu were generally placed upon the chest, the hands and the feet. Variations of this practice were also used to develop skills such as astral projection and remote viewing though few Daoist schools in modern times still either recall or use these alchemical Fu practices.

In many parts of Asia, especially Hong Kong and parts of Malaysia, Fu can be bought in temples for varying amounts of money. In the majority of cases, these Fu are produced in batches and obviously contain little in the way of any power. Despite this, they sell to more traditional families who will place them around their house in order to improve the quality of their luck or protect them from evil spirits.

A true Fu can only be generated by a practitioner who is able to enter into the correct meditative state. By taking their consciousness to a point of compete stillness they connect to the point at which Dao comes forth into the realm of conscious manifestation. Entering this state is challenging enough but remaining in this state can be even more difficult. For many practitioners it is a challenge to get to this point but even more difficult is retaining a certain degree of mental focus at the same time. The tendency for intermediate level practitioners is for the entering into this state to come with a complete dissolving of the mind; a temporary state which results in a complete stilling of all conscious activity. With the potential for controlled focus lost, there is no way for any kind of vibrational information to be generated within this space. It is this information which must be created by the practitioner if they wish to empower a Fu. The correct balance of stillness and focus is a high level attainment.

For those who can attain this stage, the information held in their focus begins to manifest into various spiralling shapes which look much like mandala. With time and mental steadiness these mandala begin to stabilise and form themselves into more constant isometric patterns which essentially are the basis for the creation of Fu within the realm of manifestation.

The Fu are then drawn out according to the image perceived within the Daoist practitioners mind and then they are empowered through projection of energy into the symbol itself. Classically they were drawn onto rice paper or thinly sliced bamboo though they were also often carved into rock faces within sacred spots as well.

For many, the idea of Fu and their usage can sound like complete fantasy or too far-fetched to even consider but for many across Asia the power of the Fu is absolute.

For myself I came from a point of viewing the Fu as out-dated superstition but as my comprehension of the power of vibratory information increased through alchemy training I began to understand how they could work. Now I have Fu around my living and training spaces as well several that are tattooed onto my body. These symbols are there to adjust facets of my nature as well as to change aspects of my health. For me they are an adjunct to the Daoist internal process and an interesting aspect of an arcane tradition that hails back to its Shamanic roots. It is the nature of all societies to view those in the past as more ‘primitive’ and less ‘advanced’ when in actual fact it seems to me that the mind-set was just very different.

The Fu are an element of this ancient way of thinking that has made it’s way through into modern times, though it is rarely understood any more, and it is interesting for me to see how the more time I spent around this tradition the more I have embraced their approach to life. I no longer find a clash between the thinking behind the Fu and modern logic; something which I would never have though would be the case when I was younger.