The Chinese Tarot by Jui Guoliang

click images for zoomed-in view

So… funny– I’ve had The Chinese Tarot by Jui Guoliang, first published back in 1989 then reprinted in 2012, brand new, still shrinkwrapped, for years. Years. I probably set it aside with the intention of sitting down to open it at some point, but forgot about it. The deck then got swept into a pile with others and only last month when I decided to do a total spring cleaning did I stumble upon this brand new deck of cards. And I thought, you know, this is worth sharing as a deck review on my blog.

The card back design is… not my favorite, but the two mirror images of dancing apsaras is kind of a cute idea. [Apsaras are sensual, beautiful female spirits that can inspire artistic and musical creativity. Celestial apsaras dwell in heaven and worldly apsaras dwell in the waters on earth.]

The Fool card seems to be a reference to the beggar who became the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, but I could be wrong. The reason I think that is because the beggar king trope would be a nice play on the Fool’s Journey. Or it could be Sū Càn (蘇燦), a martial arts folk hero who lived the life of a beggar.

Sometimes the Little White Book included with this deck (written by the late Stuart Kaplan) offers specific insight. For example, The Hierophant features Zhang Daoling. I make several references to him in The Tao of Craft (which can be easily referenced via the index) because he’s, well, inarguably an important figure in the history of Taoist magic.

The Lovers card features what the LWB calls the “Cupids of China,” or more specifically, Hé Hé Er Xiān (和合二仙), the Immortals of Harmony and Union. Fun fact: the Immortals of Harmony and Union were historically depicted as two effeminate monks (as in both male) who lived together in seclusion up in the mountains, and they found such joy and happiness with each other that it became their divine powers that they could bless people with. Over the centuries, the depiction evolved with societal norms, and they were changed to a male and female pairing. Sigh.

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