The origin of the ancient religion of China is unknown, and the faith has been handed down from generation to generation from periods many centuries B.C. It is based on the belief that the Universe was ruled by Divinities arranged in three groups, one ruling the heavens, the second the earth, (having dominion over mountains,) streams, and vegetation, and the third ruling the affairs of mankind. Illustration No. 21, Plate I is a Talisman that had its origin at this period, and was given to the Emperor Fu-hsi, the founder of the Chinese Empire, by a mystical dragon horse which rose from the waters of the Yellow River about 2800 B.C. These Trigrams, known as Pa-kwa, formed the basis of the written characters introduced by this wise Emperor. They are familiar to all Chinese, being worn as a Talisman for long life and to ward off evil influences. The Talisman is made of all sizes and shapes, from large ones on boards, one or two feet square, down to tiny medals for personal wear, no larger than a sixpence. It is also frequently used in circular form, as shown in the central part of the Bat Talisman (No. 20, Plate I), and is known as Tho, the symbol of longevity. The Pa-kwa Trigrams are based upon the ancient theory of the Yang Yin, or two first causes, indicated by the circular figure divided by a spiral line in the centre of the Talisman into two equal gadroons, which represent the Creative principle in its masculine and feminine manifestations; the active principle being Yang, and the passive Yin. This symbol also represents Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, Light and Darkness, and everything that is in contrast, or positive and negative.
The whole lines in the figures are described as strong in contrast to the short-divided lines, which are weak, the whole representing the two forms of subtle matter which forms the composition of all things. This Talisman is also a favourite in Japan and Thibet.
Confucianism, advocating the fulfilment of all duties to the utmost of one's power, in accordance with the position in life, socially and officially, ranging from the love of the child for his father to the Emperor's responsibility for his people's welfare, is still firmly believed in at the present time; and the Talisman of the five bats, the Weefuh, is for the five great happinesses that all men desire, Luck, Wealth, Longevity, Health, and Peace. The five bats are frequently used alone, but sometimes, as in Illustration No. 20, Plate I, the Trigrams, or some other symbol, is used in conjunction.
Two Bats signify good wishes; a Goose is depicted as a Talisman for domestic felicity, and a Deer for success and honour in study; a Stork, or Pine Tree, and a fabulous Peach which takes a thousand years in ripening, for longevity and good fortune. Another graceful way of wishing a guest good luck is to depict one of these symbols, or a lucky sentence, at the bottom of his tea-cup, such as "May your happiness know no bounds," enclosed by a border of the five bats.