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A Chinese Legend of Hemp

A Chinese Legend of Hemp

During the course of its long history in China, hemp found its way into almost every nook and cranny of Chinese life.

It clothed the Chinese from their heads to their feet, it gave them material to write on, such as paper and it became a symbol of power over evil.


We pointed out in previous articles that China has been the first country on record to use Marijuana for various things such as: clothing, writing materials (paper), for "confrontation" with evil spirits in spiritism sessions, in medicinal purposes such as treatment of pain and disease, so it doesn't come as a surprise the fact that Chinese people were also the first ones on record to experience Marijuana's peculiar psychoactive effects.

China's early flirtation with Marijuana's intoxicating chemistry was found buried away in an ancient tomb, possibly because people think they get to "die with their secrets" but little did these Chinese people know.

The evidence appeared as a form of an inscription containing of course the symbol of Marijuana alongside the connotation word meaning "negative". Unfortunately, one cannot tell what other people had in mind when they engraved these words in granite, but one thing is sure: the Chinese people were well aware of Marijuana's unusual properties from very ancient times, whether they approved of them or not.


Like the practice of medicine around the world, early Chinese doctors mentioned very much the concept of "demons".

For example, if a person were ill, it was because some demon had invaded his or her body. The only way to cure him was to drive in a way the demon out of their bodies. This meant resorting to all things like charms, amulets, spells or incantations. Among the "weapons" to come out of the magical kit bag of ancient Chinese people were Cannabis stalks conjured into snake-like figures.

Armed with these war hammers, they went to battle with the unseen enemy.

Although there is no way of knowing for sure how this rite came to life, the Chinese tell a story about one of their emperors named Liu Chi-nu, a story that somehow explains the connection between Cannabis, snakes and illness.



hemp goddess


"One day Liu was out in the fields cutting down some hemp, when he saw a snake. Taking no chance that it might bite him, he immediately shot the serpent with an arrow. The next day he returned to that same particular place and heard the sound of a mortar and pestle. 

Tracking down the sound, he ended up finding two boys grinding Marijuana leaves. When he asked them what they were doing, the boys told him they were preparing a medicine to give to their master who had been wounded by an arrow shot by Liu Chi-nu. The emperor then asked what the boys would do to Liu Chi-nu if they ever found him. Surprisingly, the boys answered that they could not take revenge on him because Liu Chi-nu was destined to become the emperor of China. Liu then started yelling at the boys for their foolishness, pushing the boys to run away, leaving all the medicine they had prepared behind. 

Later in time, Liu himself was injured and he applied the crushed Marijuana leaves to his wounds. The medicine healed him and Liu announced his discovery to the people of China and so, they began using it for their injuries."


Due to the growing spirit of Taoism which began to rise in China around 600 B.C. Marijuana intoxication was not very well embraced by the people, often views with special disdain. Taoism was basically a "back to nature" philosophy which sought ways of extending life. Anything that contained "yin", such as Marijuana, was therefore regarded with contempt.  Only substances filled with "yang", the invigorating principle in nature, were looked upon favourably.

However, the first century Taoists became very much interested in magic and alchemy and they were recommending addition of Cannabis seeds to their incense burners. The hallucinations they produced were seen as a highly valued means to achieving immortality.

For some of them, seeing spirits was the main reason for using Cannabis.

Meng Shen, a 7th century physician, adds, however, that if anyone wanted to see spirits in this way, they would have to eat Cannabis seeds for at least 100 days. Temperance and restraint have always been qualities that belonged to the core of Chinese people.


This article contains fragments, bits and crumbles from

Marihuana The First Twelve Thousand Years, by Ernest L. Abel (1980)


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