All through human history, there have been beliefs and traditions that pegged on the use of objects for protection, support and other attributes. The belief is that a higher divinity bestows a level of power to the object. Talismans are those objects believed to possess magical powers and ability to draw good luck. They have been around many communities and cultures, particularly among Asian communities, for thousands of years. Traditions have evolved but there are many of these power objects, talismans and amulets that still play a big role today.
Historically, spirituality has been a big part of Asian culture for centuries. In fact, Asia is the origin of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism (the oldest religion dating back to between the 15th and 5th centuries BCE),Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism and more. Practices like Shamanism are popular all around Asia for healing, divination, to cleanse haunted homes and as a way to control natural events.
Asia is even considered home to some of the most amazing mystical attractions on the planet. From the mysterious Phnom Kulen in Cambodia to the mystical Phraya Nakhon Cave and Pavilion in Thailand.
No wonder, Asia has some of the world’s oldest and popular talismans that have stemmed from religious practices and traditions. They are often believed to be good luck charms. They are also used to ward off diseases and different forms of evil spirits.
Popular Talismans in Asia
Talismans Repel COVID19 in Bali, Indonesia
At the height of Covid-19, a talisman known as tumbal penolak mala was used to guard against the disease among communities in Bali, Indonesia. It is made of Tapak Dara Gesing, an amulet believed to prevent powerful forces from entering a home and causing illnesses. The bamboo cross with limestone markings are used in rituals aimed at asking the goddess of disease, Durga to stay away. Most people hung this talisman on their houses as a way of protecting against surging Covid-19 infections.
Elephant Symbol in Thai Tradition
In Thailand, elephants are considered an occult and symbol of good fortune. The country’s love affair with these intelligent creatures dates back to 1292. In an inscription carved in stone, King Ramkhamhaeng the Great of Sukhothai describes how his elephant Bekhpon helped him win a battle against his nemensis chief Khun Sam Chon.
It is no surprise that today the elephant is a national symbol. You will find its image engraved on Thai’s stamps, coins, flags, buildings, artwork and the likes.
The Popular ‘Chinese Waving Cat’
One of the most popular talismans in Asia is the maneki-neko, often known as the Chinese Waving Cat, a figurine that is believed to have brought luck and prosperity for centuries. It actually has its roots in Japan and contrary to common misconceptions, the cat is beckoning rather than waving!
Now, legend has it that at around the Edo Period in Japanese history (1603–1868), the ruler Ii Naotaka was out hunting with his falcons. After spending the day hunting, he was passing by Gōtoku-ji when the abbot’s pet cat Tama beckoned him from inside the temple’s gate. He decided to follow the cat inside and as he was relaxing, having tea with the abbot, heavy rain started pouring. This was followed by a lightning strike right where Li Naotaka would have been had he not decided to follow the cat!
As a gesture of gratitude to the cat for saving his life, he decided to donate money to the temple. The temple later honoured that cat on its passing by creating the first beckoning cat statue.
To this day it has become one of the Japanese folklore supernatural cats. The Gōtoku-ji temple also features thousands of beckoning cat statues of varying sizes. It attracts thousands of local and international visitors who go to see spiritual cat symbols and to pray for luck. Many take them even buy the statues as souvenirs and good luck charms.
Chinese numismatic charms
Yansheng coins, widely known as Chinese numismatic charms, are decorative coins used as one of the Shaman Supplies in fortune telling rituals like Feng Shui (an ancient practice used to attract luck) among other Chinese superstitions. They are believed to have started in the Western Han dynasty and have since evolved, now coming in several shapes and sizes. Chinese numismatic coins may not be a legal form of currency but their circulation in the market mirrors that of government issued coins.
The coinage charms were made from copper alloys and valued by their weight in bronze or brass. Yansheng coins often have complicated engravings that people associate with good luck, fortune and wealth. These talismans are also quite popular outside of China. There are similar traditions inspired by Yansheng coins all over Korea, Vietnam and Japan.
Daruma, Japan’s Symbol of Perseverance and Luck
Darumas are other traditional Japanese dolls that symbolize perseverance and luck. The dolls are modelled after the monk Bodhidharma, who is known for the founding role of Zen Buddhism. The goofy looking Japanese dolls have a rich heritage and long history of use in Japan that dates to the 17th century.
Local farmers crafted the dolls to assist them in their harvests and the practice spread to different regions in a span of decades. Darumas have evolved with colors changing and the introduction of female representation, Lady Daruma and Princess Daruma.
Darumas may be a good luck charm, but they are said to reward sacrifice and unwavering will. You should be ready to put in work to uncover the magic of the Japanese doll!
Omamori, Japanese Lucky Charm
These are good luck pouches. They often have sacred inscriptions inside and are commonly purchased at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. They are believed to help protect the owner from back luck, a ghost and evil forces.
Although popular in Japan, Omamori amulets did not originate there. They were brought by Buddhist practices and have taken off as one of the most popular Japanese lucky charms. Omamori have different types and meanings depending on where one gets them. The most popular ones you can get are Prosperity (shoubai-hanjou), success ( katsumori), happiness (shiawase), traffic safety (kotsu-anzen), etc.
As a good luck charm, it comes in many forms, including yarn bracelets worn around the wrist as a symbol of magic and godly power. The charms are often blessed with prayers which endow the owner with longevity and purity. The magic power of Tridatu is believed to cleanse the mind, keeping thoughts crystal clear and warding off negative influences in life.
Talismans do play a great role in Asian culture today. Despite the stigma and scrutiny in the modern world, they are still considered to be divine lucky charms with an ability to shield against evil. They are also popular souvenirs used by tourists and adventurers exploring the continent’s rich history and culture.