One of the early functions of the talisman was for a ruler to authorize the conduct and scope of authority of a general (e.g., how many troops he could command). The military context of talismans later found a corollary in the spiritual realm and permitted their possessor to summon and control a variety of deities that could be drawn on in battles with spirits.

When it came to such significant acts, such as warding off disease demons and protecting or extending one’s life, Buddhist and Daoists were occupied with the same types of concerns and employed a similar arsenal of powerful techniques that drew on the powers embedded in esoteric talismans.