An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

lingzhi 靈芝, magic mushroom

Aug 20, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

The lingzhi 靈芝 was in Chinese mythology a fabulous magic mushroom. It is also called sanxiu 三秀 and is first mentioned in Cao Zhi's 曹植 poem Lingzhi pian 靈芝篇 from the Wei period 曹魏 (220-265). Zhang Heng 張恆 from the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) called it lingcao 靈草 "magic herb". It is a red plant that, if consumed, rendered eternal youth or was even able to revive deceased persons. The emperors of China therefore used a "scepter" in the imaginary shape of a lingzhi mushroom which was called ruyi 如意 "fulfilment of wishes".

Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 217.