This post contains spoilers for “The Gold Silkworm” at Fantasy Magazine. Please read the story first. Thanks!
Tattoos of Chinese phrases play an important role in “The Gold Silkworm”. I had originally intended to include them as visual aids, but the story worked without them. Also, it was difficult to embed Chinese fonts for electronic submissions to magazines. So, here they are instead as story extras.
Yan Xue’s tattoo is líng dān miào yào: “soul pill, mysterious medicine”:
Cao Shen, the Spirit of Grass, resides in the fourth word (‘medicine’) in the radical for ‘grass’, which looks like this:
Red-Chest’s tattoo is fó kǒu shé xīn: “Buddha’s mouth, snake’s heart”:
Hui Shen, the Spirit of the Worm, resides in the third word (‘snake’) in the radical that means ‘worm or insect-like thing’. This word can be pronounced as either huǐ or chóng. I decided to go with the more archaic pronunciation in this case. It looks like this:
The word for gǔ is literally ‘worms in a dish’:
Tattoo spirit magic is also featured in “The Character of the Hound”, another Strange Event of the Song Dynasty.