The querents deck is arguably the most important of a tarot practitioner’s toolkit. It provides the querent with insight into their life. Often, the querent will have a question they wish to be answered, to help them make decisions in their life. The tarot will be used to help them see their life through a new lens, and also determine what their future holds.
Tarot cards are one of the oldest forms of divination. They have been used by many cultures around the world for thousands of years and still hold tremendous power today. The Chinese Tarot, by Jui Guoliang, features beautiful, traditional characters making it a perfect companion to learn about the past, present, and future.
The Chinese Tarot is a beautifully illustrated 78-card deck, rich in symbolism, and steeped in the traditions of traditional Chinese culture. It is the creation of the artist Jui Guoliang, and it has been in print for over a year now.
Click on the pictures for a larger view So… it’s funny – I’ve had a Chinese Tarot by Ju Guoliang for years, first published in 1989 and then reissued in 2012, brand new, still in shrink wrap. Years. I probably put it aside with the intention of opening it someday, but I forgot. Then this game was put in a shared pile with others, and it wasn’t until last month, when I decided to do some major spring cleaning, that I came across this brand new game. And I thought it was worth discussing the bridge on my blog. The pattern on the back of the card… Not my favorite, but the two mirror images of the dancing apsaras are a nice idea. Apsaras are sensual, beautiful and feminine fragrances that can inspire artistic and musical creativity. The heavenly Apsaras dwell in the heavens, and the earthly Apsaras dwell in the waters of the earth]. The jester card seems to be a reference to the beggar who became emperor during the Ming Dynasty, but I could be wrong. The reason I think this is because the Beggar King trope would be a good play for the Jester journey. Or Sū Càn (蘇燦), a popular martial arts hero who lived the life of a beggar. Sometimes the little white paper that accompanies this game (written by the late Stuart Kaplan) gives specific ideas. For example, in the film Hierophant, Zhang Daoling plays the lead role. I mention him several times in the book Tao of Craft (which you can easily find in the table of contents) because he is clearly an important figure in the history of Taoist magic. The lover’s card represents what LWB calls the Cupids of China, namely He He Er Xiān (和合二仙), the Immortals of Harmony and Union. Fun fact: The immortals Harmony and Union were historically depicted as two effeminate monks (i.e. two men) living together in seclusion in the mountains, and they found such joy and happiness together that it became their divine power with which they blessed people. Over the centuries, the image has evolved along with social norms, and these have been replaced by a male/female couple. Sigh. Click on the images in this article to enlarge them. These are the kind of ultra-specific themed games I buy to collect. So I don’t panic if the illustrations and meanings of the classic tarot cards don’t match. For example, the image of Yama (Yán Wáng, 閻王), king of the underworld in Buddhist eschatology, on the death card. (In fact, you can strongly argue that it makes sense, and you can strongly argue that it doesn’t). But I do appreciate the accompanying information that explains why the designer chose just these associations or similarities. I’m not going to judge whether it’s right or wrong, I just want to understand the thought process. =) For example, did you know that the Yoshi Yoshitani Divine Tarot comes with a storybook? Ju Guoliang’s Chinese Tarot is the kind of card game for which a full-fledged companion book would be most appropriate. Wu Song, 1 of the 36 celestial spirits of Water’s Edge, on the Force card. Continuation of the map overview… Force (key 8 in this game) represents Wu Song, one of the 36 celestial spirits from the Chinese novel Water Frontier. I discuss the importance of the waterfront to the creation of the Tarot in the Cultural Integration and Theology chapter of Priscus of the Revealed Edition of the card book. I compare the pictorial representations of the spirits and demons of the element water on Chinese playing cards from the Ming Dynasty with Dante’s Divine Comedy depicted on Italian tarot cards from the 15th century. It is worth noting that in the early twentieth century. You can read more about this in the chapter on cultural integration. Wei Tuo, the Buddhist warrior spirit on the justice map. Justice (key 11) is Wei Tuo (韋馱), a Buddhist guardian spirit who, though mortal, was a great warlord. Wei Tuo fell in love with the human incarnation of Quan Yin, but felt unworthy of her husband. Instead of following his romantic feelings, he swore unconditional loyalty to her and served as her protector. He is usually depicted with an angry face and a sword. Given this history, his role as a judge, which astrologically corresponds to Libra, is rather piquant. For the version of the Hanged Man, the Hanged Ghost shown here (scroll down and click on it if you want to see a close-up), I wanted to talk a bit about artistic interpretations of Key 12. I have always considered suspension by the leg as an essential element in the pictorial representation of the hanged person. And emotionally, the card does not evoke the feeling of pain and punishment, of suffering per se. I prefer the picture of the hanged man – okay, you can see he’s well washed – where he’s hanging from his leg, doesn’t look very concerned about his situation, and doesn’t have a noose around his neck. The implication is that the hanged man has the power to free himself, but for divine reasons beyond our human understanding, he voluntarily chooses to be hanged. When modern tarot decks choose the image of a hanged man, this image means disenfranchisement, suffering, punishment, choking around the neck, misfortune. I was just… I don’t know if I was invisible in tarot or what, but that’s not what attracted me. It doesn’t matter. He continues. I like that the Oxhead and Horseface mythics are represented in this deck, although I’m not entirely sure why they’re on the devil’s map. These two are the guardians of the underworld, but they do not have the negative connotation that Satan has as the devil, nor do they make sense as the equivalent of Baphomet as key 15. The ox head and horse head would be more appropriate for the death card, and the well for the devil card. I mean, it’s kind of a toss-up between the two. Dianmu, goddess of lightning, and Lei Gong, god of thunder, on the Tower card The tower card represents Dianmu, the mother goddess of lightning, and Lei Gong, the god of thunder (the calligraphy in the lower left corner indicates Lei Gong Dian Mu). I talk a bit about Lei Gong in an old Tinkering Bell video about Taoist thunder rituals. The star chart shows the Old Man (or Old Immortal) of the South Pole (南極仙翁). I also love the animal symbolism, for example the cranes here symbolise hope and healing, and earlier in the lovers card the two bats symbolise a happy marriage. Chang Er, Moon Goddess on Key 18: Luna The moon card represents the moon goddess Chang Er (the Chinese calligraphy on the left suggests this – Chang Er flies to the moon), and the sun card represents Howie, the moon goddess’s husband. Howie is a half-god figure and a superhero archer. This painting of Chang Er reminds me of the painting Chang Er Flying to the Moon (1955) by the artist Ren Shuai Ying. Isn’t that so? Chang Er flies to the moon (1955) Ren Shuai Ying Well, uh… I think all of Chang Er’s artistic performances look like this. Confucius for button 20: Arrest is an odd choice for me, and while I still like seeing Kuan Yin in a layout, I’m also a little uncomfortable with his presence on the world (or universe) map. I suppose the association with the world map is just to highlight its cultural importance to the Chinese? I show the cards in the exact order they came out of the box, brand new. In the sword process, the LWB does not cite specific mythological references for the figures depicted. It’s just a queen with a sword, or a brave page, an agile young man, a Taoist priest, four warriors, girls dancing with swords, etc. LWB offers a welcome insight into Chinese symbolism. For example, the coral held by the maid in King of the Poles symbolizes long life and official promotion. The peacock on the queen of the staff represents beauty and dignity. The tiger turned into a carpet on which the knight of the chopsticks stands evokes his prowess. The Page, represented as an old man, conveys the meaning of Staves’ Page (from Stuart Kaplan’s LWB): Emissary, trusted friend or stranger who brings important or good news. The Chinese inscriptions you see in the illustrations help you understand the meaning of the map, or at least the artist’s intentions, but unfortunately these inscriptions have not been translated into the LWB. For example, the Ace of Swords says: The body and the sword merge into one. But then the LWF simply says: A man practices martial arts, showing skill and discipline. Sometimes it seems that the person who wrote the values for the LWB cards doesn’t agree with the artist who illustrates the game. In the Four of Swords, the Chinese key words are: four swords; standing, ready for action. But then the description in the LWB says: In an autumnal landscape, two men rest after a martial arts fight. Divine Meanings: Get some rest. Recovery from illness. Get some rest. Supplies. Loneliness. A digression. As for the interpretation of the Four of Swords in this game, the key words in the Chinese calligraphy are not the same as those of the card in the LWB. The ten Pips cards show a Taoist priest or magician. And if you interpret the tens of the tarot in the way that popular books on the meaning of the cards interpret them, you will probably get nowhere touching those tens. Acting intuitively, based on the felt meanings of these four illustrations, I would say that the dozens in this set represent the culmination of the activated forces corresponding to the four colors. According to the LWB, the ten of cups represents Jun Kui (鍾馗), the legendary exorcist and demon hunter. The Chinese inscription reads as follows: Ten bowls of harmony. I don’t understand… I really don’t… It doesn’t make sense… The effigy of Zhong Kui is usually used as a talisman to ward off evil, to ward off demons, or, more pragmatically, in business settings as a talisman to ward off thieves and corporate spies. Why is it represented in the Ten of Cups Tarot? I don’t know. I’d like to know. I’d like a guide to the artist’s intentions….. From left to right: King of Cups, Queen of Cups, Nine of Cups. The nine of cups represents Zhuo Wenjun, a poetess from Sichuan in the second century BC. Chr. Nice story about him. She was born into a wealthy family, became a widow in her teens, and then fell in love with a poor poet. She ran off with a poor poet’s boyfriend, then had to live in the working class – I think she opened a liquor store, hence maybe the nine cups reference, I don’t know, just a thought – and then her poor poet husband wins the Emperor’s favor, gets promoted, and suddenly decides he’s too good for her and wants concubines. She writes him a heartbreaking poem that changes his mind, and he crawls back to her. From the Chinese inscriptions on each illustration, it is clear that the artistic intent was to illustrate a tarot deck. I assume that Jui was commissioned to illustrate these cards, knowing that the works were intended for the Tarot. The calligraphy indicates the number of, say, trophies or swords, coins, etc. for a given pip card. The inscription on the Ace of Cups means in Chinese loneliness, peace, admiration/appreciation of what is stored in this one bowl. The seven of cups speaks of seven cups [during] the dream state. In these Chinese inscriptions, one often senses that the artist has a very unconventional approach to the meanings of the tarot cards. Overall, the presentation leaves you wanting more, and that’s a good thing. A more comprehensive guide to true stories, legends, and Chinese mythology would definitely increase the value of this card game, especially if the potential is already there. The calligraphy of the illustrations tells you what is being depicted, but this meaning is not always conveyed to the non-Chinese reader who must rely on the LWB. As a tarot fan, I am naturally interested in the intentions of the creator of the deck and why certain deities or historical figures are depicted on certain cards. There is a lot of symbolism in this deck, and it is well done in terms of matching Chinese culture with the expressed meaning of the tarot cards. Compare this game to Chinese tarot with Jen’s art, which works more along the lines of Oh, pretty pictures, look at the pretty pictures. Whereas the Chinese tarot deck with Ju Guoliang’s drawing was meant more to illustrate a tarot deck and not just tarot cards the size of an artist’s portfolio. Ju Goliang’s Chinese Tarot is a more sincere homage to my culture, while Jen’s Chinese Tarot was more inspired by fantasy, a celebration of Asian aesthetics. I will come back to the comments on some of the more specific references on the maps. Zhao Gong Ming, who was later immortalized as Cai Shen, the god of wealth, is depicted on the ten coins and is also highlighted in the Tao of Craft. His name is often mentioned in Fu talismans for prosperity. And the Nine Pieces shows Liu Haichang calling the LWF a god. More or less. According to the myth, he was a rich and high-ranking official who gave up everything to devote himself to inner alchemy as a Taoist ascetic. He achieved immortality through his cultivation practices, and as an immortal he was associated with the three-legged toad, an omen of great prosperity. The accompanying inscription in Chinese reads as follows: Nine, a pleasure. (So native Chinese speakers will be disappointed….. my translation is terrible. I don’t know how to translate…. play?) There are so many cultural details I love, like the Fuo calligraphy (directly translated as Buddha, but in this context with a multi-layered esoteric meaning) behind the Buddhist nun in the Seven Pieces. Although, as I’ve noted before, in other cases I’m confused. For example, the illustration and lettering in Chinese calligraphy for the Double of Coins is more like the Double of Cups. You can see what’s there – a couple of lovers. The inscription reads as follows: Two pieces that are perfectly compatible [or in perfect harmony]. LWF description for this map image: A pair of coins symbolizes an engagement. Palm trees, weeping willows and a full moon indicate a happy marriage for this couple. But check this out: the value of the LWB card for double the parts – New problems. Confusion. There must have been a breakdown in communication or a miscommunication somewhere. Still, Chinese calligraphy at least resembles key words that convey the meaning of the card. For example, the ace of coins: a coin that brings saturation. If you are looking for a tarot deck that deals with Chinese mythology and imperial history, this deck might be for you. There is a balance between Buddhism, Taoism, folk religion, mythology, art and cultural history. I tried to find more biographical information about Ju Guoliang, but I couldn’t find anything. So I’m blindly speculating here: I bet Ju has knowledge of Chinese poetry or classical Chinese art, as many figurative references suggest a studied familiarity. The illustrations are beautiful, culturally appropriate, and made specifically for the tarot deck (as opposed to decks where the illustrations are crammed into the tarot structure and forced to conform to it, which often feels awkward). Perhaps the LWF would like to provide more details, but I hope this report will fill in some of the gaps.
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The term “taotie” is a direct translation of the Chinese word for “magic”. Legend has it, when the first emperor of China’s Han Dynasty, Emperor Huang Di, was born, it was said that a bird bearing a message from the deity Taotie came down to earth and dropped a taotie card on the emperor’s cradle. The emperor subsequently became a great leader, but was said to be so powerful that he could not be killed by any weapon. As a result, the people of China were in fear of him, and yet they were drawn to him.. Read more about chinese tarot destiny card and let us know what you think.
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