Poems of Xue Tao
Chanting 81 Beads
More vermillion than cinnabar, these clouds of morning,
in form like towering bamboo along a river bank.
Beginning these nine nines, it is as if I were counting
the birds who, in pairs, rise and fall above me.
This could be a poem from much later in Xue Tao's life when she was alone and independent. She eventually took Daoist orders after Wei Gao died. Buddhist mala had 108 beads. Tibetan beads had 81. Daoists do not generally use prayer beads. But throughout Chinese history, there was a back-and-forth influence between Daoism and Buddhism, as state religions. This entailed a sense of competition which would lead to one co-opting the current stronger symbols and forms of the other. While this interplay was more noticeable when China fell under the Khans, it would have also existed in the mid- and late Tang.