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Ruyi, According to Your Wishes


Ruyi, literally "according to your wishes", is a curved decorative object that is a ceremonial scepter in Chinese Buddhism or a talisman symbolizing power and good fortune in Chinese folklore. Some experts speculate that the Ruyi came to China along with the Buddhism from ancient India in the Eastern Han Dynasty. According to the history, Ruyi used to be a back scratcher for the monks. Together with an ear pick, a tongue-scraping tool, and a walking staff with rings, Ruyi was one of the items in a monk's paraphernalia.


In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Ruyi was very popular in the royal family and became luxuriant symbols of political power. They were regularly used in imperial ceremonies and were highly valued as gifts to and from the emperors of China. On the 60th birthday of Emperor Qianlong, for instance, the ministers presented him with 60 Ruyi of gold filigree. The Qianlong Emperor also presented a Ruyi to British ambassador George Macartney. In addition, the emperor used the Ruyi in choosing a mistress out of a number of candidates by giving his Ruyi to the one he fancied.


A traditional Ruyi has a long S-shaped handle and a palm-shaped head fashioned like a fist or cloud. People could hold a piece in one hand vertically, horizontally or sidelong. Some Ruyi scepters are held in two hands or in arms. The direction of the head is not fixed, yet the fingers of the arm-shaped head primarily face the ground or opposite to the holder's body.



Ruyi are constructed from diverse materials including jade, gold, iron, silver, ox horn, and crystal. Craftsmen also used other things such as jade crystal, amber, bamboo, bamboo root, and rhinoceros horn to carve. For example, the Palace Museum in Beijing has nearly 3,000 Ruyi made from various valuable materials. Todaiji Temple in Japan's Nara city also remains several luxuriant rhinoceros horn Ruyi scepters of the Tang dynasty with gold or silver inlays


In art, the Ruyi image frequently appeared as a motif in ancient Chinese products. Ruyi scepters often appear as attributes of Buddhist saints and Daoist immortals. The god of Prosperity Cai Shen, an imaginary character in the Chinese folklore, is often depicted holding a Ruyi. In addition, stylized repetitions of the shape are incorporated as a motif in the depiction of heavenly clouds. In today’s decorative knots, Oriental rug patterns, folk artifacts, and even modern corporate logos, the influence of the Ruyi shape is still significant.


Although Ruyi scepter carries significant religious meanings and used to be the symbol of political power, it still retains its original form of a back scratcher with its beautiful "as you wish" name. Nowadays, Ruyi becomes an artifact without practical function, made of precious materials, with beautiful designs and auspicious meaning of ten-thousand things according to your wishes.

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