History of Magic – 5 – Ancient Chinese Magic



China is a land steeped in magical belief. From as long ago as 1600 BCE, divination, wizards, and alchemists were documented in ancient Chinese writings.  Psychic powers, evil spirits, potions and spells permeated daily life. The Chinese Zodiac was, and is, wildly popular. Astrologers were sought out to give answers to all kinds of questions as well as advice. Magicians were also welcome in the palace, and illusionists created reality-defying shows.


I Ching is commonly translated as The Book of Changes and is primarily used as a divinatory text both in ancient Chinese history and present day. Believed to be created as far back as 1600 BCE and no later than 800 BCE, it is one of the oldest texts still in use today. The book contains 64 chapters, each chapter commenting a hexagram which is a symbol composed of six horizontal lines arranged over one another either with a solid line (yin) or broken line (yang). Each hexagram has a name assigned to it which denotes a situation of which the hexagram is a symbol. Loosely speaking, the I Ching describes every possible life situation and prescribes a particular description of what is most likely to happen next.

One of the goals of using the I Ching is to align yourself more closely with the divine powers and their pre-etched path of fate. By taking the best possible actions and the best possible time you greatly improve your changes for happiness and success.

The I Ching is a totally self-contained divinatory system, requiring no additional or specialized knowledge on the part of the inquirer, which has lent to its ease of use. Kings, generals and lay people alike consulted the I Ching for matters important and mundane. Its continued use is testimony to the life benefit of this ancient magical practice.

For more information on the I Ching I recommend these books:

The Complete I Ching by Taoist Master Alfred Huang

I Ching for Beginners by Mark Elroy


Ritual and divination were present in ancient Chinese culture since as far back as we can discern. Divination was used to ascertain the will of the deities whose power controlled human fate. It was believed that man co-created the universe, that he actively takes part in the creation of his world as his own destiny. Fate was a main contender in ancient Chinese belief. Understanding, conforming to, manipulating and even frustrating the requisites of fate was a constant goal.

Ancient Chinese culture practiced ancestor worship, which meant that the deceased had the ability to shape and change the lives of the living. Ancestors were ritualistically worshiped, communed with, and appeased. Divination gave the ability to commune with the ancestors and figure out if they were angry or pleased, if they would help or approve of an arrangement, or unfold the pattern of fate. Techniques included the cracking of oracle bones, thrown sticks, the I Ching and astrological readings of the sky. A number of subjects were consulted, ranging from military campaigns, sacrifice, weather, hunting, agriculture, illness, dreams, construction, tribute, and requests for divine assistance.


Probably the most popular and widely practiced divination technique is ancient Chinese astrology. In Chinese astrology a person’s fate is not dictated simply by the influence of planets, but by a complex interweaving of the natural rhythm and alignment of planets, tides, seasons, stars and the phases of the moon.

The Chinese principle is based on the idea that three kinds of fate rule our lives: Heaven’s Fate, or time over which we have no control; Earth’s Fate, or place, which we can change to a certain extent; and Human Fate, our actions, which are entirely dependent upon ourselves. The purpose of Chinese astrology is to understand Heaven’s Fate and to align ourselves with its divine path.

For more reading on the Chinese Astrology I recommend:

Chinese Astrology: Exploring the Eastern Zodiac by Shelly Wu

The Chinese Astrology Bible by Derek Walters

The Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac is made up of a progression of 12 animals, the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each animal is chosen not for its characteristics in the natural world, but based upon qualities observed by Chinese astrologers for thousands of years, and then chosen for best symbolizing those qualities. The astrology is very scientific. Astrologers observed the motions of the planets, recorded comets and meteor showers, and noted that some stars varied in brightness. It was believed that this information was sent from the heavens and could be read to determine heaven’s messages. Other influencing factors in this complex system of divination include the five element, the four seasons, east and west, yin (masculine)/yang (feminine) dichotomy, and the stars.

The purpose of Chinese astrology is so that you can uncover and understand more deeply who you are, your relationships with other people, what the days and years ahead might hold and external influencing factors that may be out of your control. With understanding brings the possibility of change and control, and controlling your own destiny in a world locked in by fate can be very appealing.

3 thoughts on “History of Magic – 5 – Ancient Chinese Magic

  1. Kingmagic says:

    Really amazing work! Thanks for sharing this valuable information regarding magic specially chinese magic. Though now a days stage magic or illusion is a common form of magic instead of real one. For chinese magic spells and props at wholesale price check our kingmagic china platform at http://www.kingmagic.com

  2. cooktocure says:

    How did I miss this post?! I love learning this. Although I have been in conversations that mentioned the i ching, I never really understood what it actually ‘looked’ like and represented. Thank you!

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