Plate Spirits

By: Lily Wu

This post includes topics of religion, spirits, and culture viewpoint. Plus, a video of the game in process. You’ve been advised.

A Short Introduction of the Game itself

Similar to Oujia board, the plate spirit, (die xian) is a divination that is famous and popular in Asia. The divination can also be performed with pen, chopsticks, or coins. As silly as the name of the divination might sound, the plate spirit is a dangerous game of summoning the spirits.

Brief history of the Game

Dated back to China in around 1100 AD, a method called “fuji” was used to summon god and goddess. In Asia, most people believe in a multi-god system. Every year, during the New Years on the lunar calendar, temples would have a festival of “fuji”, where people can ask god or goddess questions. The plate spirit game is known to be a variation of “fuji”. The game was extremely popular in Taiwan during the 1960s. The game was mostly played by middle and high school children, sometimes college students. But due to the infamous nature of the game, the government banned the selling of the plate spirit games.

Process of the Game

  1. Put a paper that has 1000 basic Chinese words and a dot in the middle of the paper on a table.
  2. Draw a tiny arrow on the plate to indicate the word that the plate might point to.
  3. The participants must all hold out one finger and put it gently on the rom of the plate and chants together “plate spirit, plate spirit, please come quickly.” (Spoken usually in the form of Chinese proverb.)
  4. The participants must not let their fingers leave the plate once the game has begun, until the plate spirit has been sent away.
  5. The participants believe that once the plate starts moving, then the plate spirit has been summoned.
  6. People can begin asking questions. (Of course, there are many taboo questions.)
  7. Once the game is complete, the participants must move the plate back to the dot and chants “plate spirit, plate spirit, please return to the other world.” (In a very polite matter and also in the form of Chinese proverbs. The Chinese proverb says, it’s easy to summon a god, but hard to make it leave. Those who can’t make the spirits leave are usually screwed.)

Common Belief About the Plate Spirits

People believe that the plate spirit is the spirit of those who passed away. Those who play the game think that the plate spirit has the ability to know into the past and present. But many believed that for questions pertaining to the future, the plate spirit does not have accurate answers because its ability is not as powerful as the gods in the temple (thus, this is why “fuji” ritual exist). Usually, the participants would ask things that they already know to test the plate spirit’s ability. Then, the participants would ask the questions they really want to know.

Aftereffects of the Game

Some believed the game to be just a fun and mysterious game. But for a small group of people, after they performed the summoning rituals, there would be aftereffects from the game. The aftereffects included uncontrollable crying, depression, vomiting, hallucinating, losing consciousness or even committing suicide. People claimed that this happened because of the spirits possessing during the game. But the medical world believed that the aftereffects happened due to the power of hinting which caused mental issues. Interestingly, the participants who endured aftereffects are mostly middle or high school girls.

Taboo and Cautions

  1. Do NOT ask anything about the spirit, or any stupid question like are you dead or alive?
  2. Respect the spirit, absolutely no profanity allowed.
  3. You can’t push the plate with force. It’s obviously fake if one pushes the plate.
  4. Do not destroy the plate after the game or because you don’t like the answer.
  5. You can’t randomly give out promises and break it.
  6. You must send the spirit back after the game ends.
  7. You’ve summoned the spirit out, and thus, you must send it back. If it doesn’t want to go back, then there are usually two situations. One, you’ve made a taboo; or two, the spirit wants your help with a wish. You must complete the wish since you’ve summoned it. If you didn’t complete the wish, the spirit will stick to you like a crazed stalker.

Real Incidents of Plate Spirit or Its Variations

In Houbi High school, a high school in Tainan Taiwan, eight high school girls played the plate spirit. The girl had been playing since midnight until the morning. After the game, the girls were all traumatized and send to the hospital. Some were screaming, crying, or mumbling to themselves when they were sent into the ambulance. After medical diagnosis, the hospital stated that the girls endure mental problems. The students then claimed that they saw horror visions, but they refused to talk about the incidents, and the visions that they saw.

*There are many more incidents mentioned in the video, but I’d go over the word limit.

References

All the story and incidents were translated from the Youtube Video of the once popular show “The Incredible World.” The show is a talk show where daoist priests and news reporters talk about incidents of spirits, taboos, strange events, or culture beliefs. The show was popular in 2005, but it was called to an end because of its content. The Fuji culture was from personal experience and past knowledge of what I learned in the temple.

YouTube Links

Part 1 to 5 of all kinds of ghost summoning game (In Chinese):

Ending Notes

I am having a mild headache after writing this article. But I will come back next time with the hell and reincarnation system, possessed spirits, real life ghost stories and what to do if you actually encounter a ghost in Asia. There are honestly too many topics to write about. In addition, I think it’s an Asian thing. But people in Asia don’t generally believe in the devils, we believe in ghosts since it appears more common. Until next time.

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13 thoughts on “Plate Spirits

  1. Very interesting. I’m curious – have you ever played and, if so, what was your experience like? Also I’m wondering if there are any theories as to why young girls seem to be affected more than boys, or if girls are just more apt to play the game. Finally, in terms of the government banning the game, did you think this had much of an affect? Do most people play with a store bought game (like Oujia board) or a homemade game?

    • I’ve never played this since when I learned about the plate spirit (which was around 5th grade), the government already banned the selling of plate spirit game. I feel girls are more apt to play the game since they tend to believe tarot card, “bloody Mary” game more than guys (or is it just me?). I think government banned the game because many people were affected by the aftermath of the game. Plus, since some do not believe in spirits, the government would not want the press to report something that doesn’t have tangible proof.

      Plate spirits and its variations could still be played with homemade sheets. The government banned the selling not necessarily the playing of the game. But many private and public schools had banned students from playing the game because some students suffered mental issues and died because of playing the game.

    • There’s no way to make it stop stalking you unless it leaves by itself.

      As mentioned, since the player has summoned spirit, the player must sent it back. If the plate spirit refuses to return, the player must complete the wish of the plate spirit in order to send it back. Or, if the wish is not something the player can complete (like killing yourself?), the player can go to a temple and seek help from a Daoist priest.

      But at times vengeful spirits are even more powerful than god. There are many stories about people making promises to spirits and breaking them. They ended up pretty badly.

  2. This game feels like something I should probably not play for fear of going crazy (like those girls from Taiwan). And having a crazed stalker that is a ghost sounds worse than a real stalker. While I believe the Oujia board game is about as fake as it comes, this game sounds like the real thing. My only question is if you aren’t allowed to ask the spirit questions about themselves, wouldn’t testing their spirit abilities come off as asking them about themselves?

    • Testing their spirit abilities doesn’t necessarily means asking questions about themselves. For example, you can ask if the plate spirit knows your name, your birthdate, or something crazy that happened to you in the past.

      • Oh also, I think for the Ouija board, some TV shows have recorded the participants cheating (moving the triangular thing by themselves) while playing.

  3. Just like a Ouija board, I would never play this game out of fear of it actually working. My sister loved occult stuff and she had a Ouija board, and while part of me wanted to try it, I was too terrified because I believe that there are ghosts in my house and I didn’t want it to be acknowledged. The after effects of the plate spirit game are interesting, and I wonder if the same occurred with Ouija boards. I also think it’s interesting that you can’t ask about the spirit. I would want to know if it was a relative or someone else, but I guess that’s meant to be kept secret. Then again, if it were a harmful spirit, it could lie about itself anyways.

  4. The variations on ghost/supernatural belief that vary from country to country are extremely interesting to me. I think it’s fascinating that so many different cultures have so many different ideas as to how and why ghosts exist. And with every different culture’s beliefs about ghosts come different rituals, games, stories, etc. about ghosts or experiences with them. And it’s not just ghosts – different sorts of supernatural beings have their roots in different cultures. For example, countries in Eastern Europe popularized the idea of the vampire. It’s interesting to note the differences in cultures and how those differences correspond to the supernatural beings that characterize their stories and legends.

  5. Wow. Thank you for sharing. This is very interesting. I’m wondering- if the spirit refuses to go back because it wants you to complete a wish how do you find out what it is? Does the spirit talk? I can only imagine how horrified the girls who played the game must have been. In 9th grade my group of friends and I stayed in a cabin in Santa Barbara for a night and we use a ouija board and we had to stop because we were all too scared.

  6. I would never play with a Ouija Board and this sounds like a just as awful idea. I’ve never heard of the Plate Spirit game, so this post was quite the education, and really excellently written! I’m very superstitious about things like that; and though I often play chicken with myself at night in the bathroom, by looking in the mirror and beginning “Bloody Mary,” I never say it a third time, I always stop at two, turn around and walk (sprint) back to my room.

  7. This really creeped me out a lot reading this. Something about Asian horror stories has always scared me more, maybe since my mom is so superstitious and tells me all kinds of scary stories from when she was still living in Asia. I can’t think of anything that is similar to this game, but there’s a superstition in Vietnam (and maybe other parts of the world) that if you play with your shadows, like make shadow puppets, then the shadows will come for you after you’ve gone to sleep. This actually really scared me growing up and I tried to not ever even look at my shadow. But I was wondering (and I don’t know if anyone else has asked this yet), but do the spirits that the people summon with this plate spirit game ever end up being demons? Or do the spirits tend to not want to inflict any harm/tend to not be malevolent?

  8. Ever since I watched the first paranormal activity I will never even look at an Ouija Board. But reading this did make me a little bit scared, especially the part about what the possible side effects of playing this game could be. Even the cautions of what to do and what not to do scared me. Are there more cases in which people end up summoning bad/scary spirits rather than the opposite of this?

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