Ruyi (zh-cpwl|c=如意|p="rúyì"|w="ju-i"|l=as [one] wishes; as [you] wish) is a curved decorative object that is a ceremonial scepter in Chinese Buddhism or a talisman symbolizing power and good fortune in Chinese folklore. A traditional "ruyi" has a long S-shaped handle and a head fashioned like a fist, cloud, or lingzhi mushroom. "Ruyi" are constructed from diverse materials. For example, the Palace Museum in Beijing has nearly 3000 "ruyi" that are variously made from valuable materials like gold, silver, iron, bamboo, wood, ivory, coral, rhinoceros horn, lacquer, crystal, jade, and precious gems. The "ruyi" image frequently appears as a motif in Asian art.


The Chinese term "ruyi" is a compound of "ru" "as; like; such as; as if; for example; supposing; be like; be similar; accord with" and "yi" "wish; will; desire; intention; suggestion; thought; idea; meaning; imagination".

Standard Mandarin uses "ruyi" either as a stative verb meaning "as one wishes, as one likes; according to one's wishes; following your heart's desires", or as an adjective meaning "satisfied, pleased, happy, comfortable". The word is combined with "suanpan" 算盤 "abacus" in the expression "ruyi suanpan" "wishful thinking; smug calculations".

Sinoxenic languages borrowed Chinese "ruyi" as a loanword: Korean language (Hanja 如意, Hangul 여의, Revised Romanization "yeo ui", McCune-Reischauer "yŏ ŭi"), Japanese language (kanji 如意, katakana ニョイ, Hepburn romanization "nyoi"), and Vietnamese language (Hán tự 如意, Quốc ngữ "như ý").


Chinese classic texts from the Former Han Dynasty (206 BCE-24 CE) have the earliest usages of the word "ruyi". For example, the "Shiji" history uses it both literally for "as one wishes" and for the given name of Liu Ruyi 劉如意 (d. 195 BCE), who was the son of Emperor Gaozu of Han and Concubine Qi.

"Scholars have proposed two basic theories for the origin of the "ruyi", writes Kieschnick (2003:141). The former is that "ruyi" originated from Sanskrit "anuruddha" "a ceremonial scepter" used by Buddhist monks in India, who later brought it to China, transliterated as "analu" 阿那律 or translated as "ruyi". The latter theory is that "ruyi" originated as a backscratcher in early China, and was amalgamated with the Buddhist symbol of authority.

During the Later Han Dynasty (25-220 CE) and Jin Dynasty (265-420 CE), literati and nobles often held "ruyi" during conversations and other social occasions. It was called a "tanbing" 談柄 "conversation baton" (cf. the Native American talking stick) and was used much like "zhuwei" 麈尾 "fly-whisk", which practitioners of the "qingtan" 清談 "pure conversation" movement popularized during the Six Dynasties period (220-589 CE).

The ca. 554 CE "Weishu" history records a story that when Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei (r. 471-499 CE) wanted to retire from the throne, he tested his sons by letting them choose among a number objects, and the one who selected a bone "ruyi" (symbolizing political rule) became Emperor Xuanwu of Northern Wei (r. 500-515). Kieschnick (2003:144) concludes "that by the end of the sixth century, now only was the "ruyi" common at court, but it had even begun to take on emblematic significance as the mark of a ruler." Although the "ruyi" symbolized imperial political power, it differed from the Western royal scepter because Chinese officials and monks commonly used it.

The ca. 886 CE "Duyang zabian" 杜陽雜編, which is a collection of Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) stories, records that Emperor Wenzong presented an ivory "ruyi" to the scholar Li Xun (d. 835 CE) and said (tr. Kieschnick 2003:145), "The "ruyi" may serve you as a lecture baton ("tanbing")." "Ruyi" were both emblems of power and tools of discourse.

In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), "ruyi" became popular as ornaments or gifts symbolizing blessings and good luck. The ca. 1627 CE "Zhangwuzhi" 長物志 "Treatise on Superfluous Things", by Ming painter Wen Zhenheng, discussed "ruyi" aesthetics.

The "ruyi" was used in ancient times to give directions or to protect oneself from the unexpected. It was for this reason that it was made or iron, and not on the basis of strictly aesthetic considerations. If you can obtain an old iron "ruyi" inlaid with gold and silver that sparkle now and them, and if it has an ancient dull color, this is the best. As for "ruyi" made of natural branches or from bamboo and so on, these are all worthless. (tr. Kieschnick 2003:151)

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 CE), "ruyi" scepters became luxuriant symbols of political power that were regularly used in imperial ceremonies, and were highly valued as gifts to and from the Emperor of China. Since 3 and 9 are considered lucky numbers in Chinese culture, Qing craftsmen elaborated the traditional handle and head type "ruyi" into two-headed "sanjiang-ruyi" 三鑲如意 "3-inlay "ruyi" with precious stones set in both heads and middle of the handle and "jiujiu-ruyi" 九九如意 "9-9 "ruyi" presentational sets of nine. The Qianlong Emperor presented a "ruyi" to the British ambassador George Macartney in 1793, and in his description (quoted by Kieschnick 2003:139-140), "It is a whitish, agate-looking stone, about a foot and a half long, curiously carved, and highly prized by the Chinese, but to me it does not appear in itself to be of any great value."

During the historical evolution of Chinese "ruyi" "as one wishes", they have been used as backscratchers, ritual objects in Buddhism and later Daoism, pointers for public speakers, prized icons of political power and wealth, and auspicious gifts expressing best wishes.


In art, "ruyi" scepters often appear as attributes of Buddhist saints and Daoist "xian". The god of prosperity Cai Shen 財神 is often depicted holding a ruyi. Stylized repetitions of the shape are incorporated as a motif in the depiction of heavenly clouds. "Ruyi" symbolize achieving prosperity in "fengshui" practice. The "ruyi" shape appears as a motif in decorative knots, Oriental rug patterns, folk artifacts, and even modern corporate logos. Stylized "ruyi" often function as a kind of of ante-fixae or a palmette in traditional and modern architecture.

Word usage in East Asian Buddhism

With the introduction of Buddhism in China, scholars used Chinese "ruyi" 如意 to translate Sanskrit terms, which Japanese Buddhism subsequently borrowed as "nyoi" 如意. The basic word "ruyi" ("nyoi") "as one wishes" translated three terms.
*"kalpavriksha" "wish fulfilling tree; the manifestation of what one wishes"
*"siddhi" or "riddhi" "spiritual power; supernatural ability to manifest things at will"
*"anuruddha" "a ceremonial mace; a priest's staff"

The legendary "cintamani" "wish-fulfilling jewel; jewel that grants all desires" is the most famous Buddhist usage, known as the "ruyizhu" ("nyoi-shu") 如意珠 "as-one-wishes jewel" or "ruyibaozhu" ("nyoi-hōju") 如意寶珠"as-one-wishes precious jewel". The Digital Dictionary of Buddhism's "ruyizhu" entry explains.

A "maṇi"-jewel; magical jewel, which manifests whatever one wishes for (Skt. "maṇi", "cintā-maṇi", "cintāmaṇi-ratna"). According to one's desires, treasures, clothing and food can be manifested, while sickness and suffering can be removed, water can be purified, etc. It is a metaphor for the teachings and virtues of the Buddha. … Said to be obtained from the dragon-king of the sea, or the head of the great fish, Makara, or the relics of a Buddha.
The ca. 1150 CE "Fusō ryakki" 扶桑略記 "Brief History of Fusang" by Kōen 皇圓, the teacher of Hōnen, recounts a Japanese "nyoi-hōju" legend involving the monk Foshi (Bussei) 佛誓 "Buddha's Vow".
There lived in Northern India a Buddhist abbot, "Buddha's vow" by name, who for the sake of mankind sought the "Precious pearl which grants all desires". He went on board a ship and, when in the midst of the sea, by Buddha's power called up the Dragon-king. After having bound him by means of mystic formulae (tantras), he required the pearl from him, whereupon the dragon, unable to escape, took the pearl from his head and prepared to hand it over to the priest. The latter stretched out his left hand, at the same time making the "sword-sign"', a mudrā (mystic finger-twisting), with his right hand. The Dragon-king, however, said: "In former times, when the Dragon-king Sāgara's daughter gave a precious pearl to Cākyamuni, the latter received it with folded hands; why should a pupil of the Buddha accept it with one hand?" Then the priest folded his hands, giving up the mudrā, and was about to take the pearl, when the Dragon-king, no longer suppressed by the mystic sign, freed himself from his bands and ascended to the sky, leaving the abbot behind with empty hands, and destroying his boat. The only man who was saved was the priest himself. Afterwards the same abbot met Bodhidharma, the patriarch, who came across the sea from Southern India (in 526), and together they went to Japan. (tr. de Visser 1913:189)
Erik Zürcher (1997:407) suggests that association between "ruyi" and the legendary "ruyibao" "wish-fulfilling gem" explains the dichotomy between it being both a mundane backscratcher and a Buddhist symbol.

Two additional Sino-Japanese Buddhist translations are:
*Ruyiwutan (Nyoi-muton) 如意無貪 "fulfill wishes without craving" translates Analu 阿那律 Anuruddha, one of the original disciples of Gautama Buddha
*Ruyilun (Nyoi-rin) 如意輪 "wish-fulfilling wheel", or Ruyilun-guanyin (Nyoi-rin-kannon) 如意輪観音 translates Chintamanicakra, a manifestation of Guanyin (Kannon) in Esoteric Buddhism, who is usually depicted with the "cintamani" magic jewel and the "falun" 法輪 "wheel of dharma" Dharmacakra

Several Buddhist temples in Japan are named "Nyoi".
*Nyoirin-ji 如意輪寺 is a Pure Land temple in Yoshino, Nara, famous for a Nyoi-rin image by En no Gyōja
*Nyoi-ji 如意寺 is a Tendai temple in Kobe, and a Shingon temple in Kyōtango, KyotoIn some schools of Zen like Sanbo Kyodan, the ceremonial scepter of a "roshi" is called "kotsu" 骨 "bone; relic" instead of "nyoi".

The scepter has a slight S-shaped curve, like a human spinal column. The rōshi uses the "kotsu", for example, to emphasize a point in a "teishō", to lean on when sitting, or also occasionally to strike a student. (Diener, Erhard, and Fischer-Schreiber 1991:119)

Other usages in Chinese

In addition to its use in Buddhist terminology, the Chinese word has other meanings. "Ruyi" can be a proper noun.
*Ruyi 如意 "as-one-wishes" was a 692 CE era name of Empress Wu Zetian
*Ruyniang 如意娘 "as-one-wishes mother" was the name of a Tang Dynasty Yuefu poem by Wu Zetian
*Ruyi Jingu Bang 如意金箍棒 "as-one-wishes gold banded cudgel" is a magical weapon of Sun Wukong in the ca. 1590 CE Chinese novel "Journey to the West"
*"Ruyiyou" 如意油 "as-one-wishes oil" or Yu-Yee oil (from Standard Cantonese) is a therapeutic preparation in Traditional Chinese Medicine
*"Ruyicao" 如意草 "as-one-wishes plant" is the greater burdock, "Arctium lappa"

Besides Prince Liu Ruyi (above), Ruyi is used in other personal names.
*Murong Ruyi 慕容如意 was a son of General Murong Baiyao 慕容白曜, both of whom were executed by Emperor Xianwen of Northern Wei in 470 CE
*Pang Ruyi 逄如意 is Gong Li's character in the movie Temptress Moon

"Ruyi" can also be a place name.
*Ruyiguan 如意館 "as-one-wishes palace" was a Qing Dynasty library in the Forbidden City
*Ruyihu 如意湖 "as-one-wishes lake" is "Lake Ruyi" located near Chengde in Hebei
*Ruyimen 如意門 "as-one-wishes gate" is a historical Siheyuan in Beijing
*Ruyixiang 如意鄉 "as-one-wishes township" is part of Shaoshan city

Other usages in Japanese

In modern Japanese usage, the loanword "nyoi" 如意 "as [one] wishes" means "ease; comfort; freedom" or "(Buddhist) priest's staff".

Besides the Japanese Buddhist temple names above, some other proper names include
*Nyoigatake 如意ケ嶽 "as one wishes peak" is located near Kyoto, and the site of a 1509 CE battle, the Nyoi-gatake no Tatakai 如意ケ嶽の戦い
*Nyoi-jizai 如意自在 "as one wishes, completely free and unconstrained" is the name of a yōkai spirit in Toriyama Sekien's 1781 CE "Gazu Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro"
*Nyoi no Watashi 如意の渡し "as one wishes crossing" is a ferry on the Oyabe River in Toyama Prefecture


*Diener, Michael S., Franz-Karl Erhard, and Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber. 1991. "The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen". Michael H. Kohn, tr. Shambhala.
*Kieschnick, John. 2003. "The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture". Princeton University Press.
*de Visser, M.W. 1913. [ The Dragon in China and Japan] . Johannes Müller.
*Zürcher, Erik. 1997. "The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China". Brill.

External links

* [ Ruyi Scepters in the Qing Court Collection] , Palace Museum Digital Exhibition
* [ Ruyi (Ju-i)] , Glossary of Terms for Antique Chinese Porcelain
* [ "As You Wish" (Ruyi)] , The Traditional China: China Culture Index
* [ Ruyi (Joo-i)] , The Literature, Culture, and Society of Singapore
* [ Ru-Yi Knot] , Chinese Knotting

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