The herb calamus and the transcendent Han Zhong in Taoist literature

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4 Scopus citations


The role played by mineral and herbal drugs in the early development of the Daoist religion is as complex as it is important. This paper explores some of the many ways calamus was employed in traditional China in an attempt to provide data for further studies on Daoism and medicine. Calamus was used to repel mosquitoes and fleas and to ward off evil on the Double-five holiday, but its roots were also ingested as part of herbal regimes designed to lead to the longevous state of Transcendent being 仙人. The plant even had its own patron. Like “Hemp Maid” 麻姑, the goddess who is the simulacrum of the hemp plant, Han Zhong is shown here to be a living embodiment of 菖蒲 (calamus).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-305
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in Chinese Religions
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 19 2015


  • Daoism
  • Han Zhong
  • Lingbao wufu
  • calamus
  • changpu

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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