The question comes from a popular ancient legend from "In Search of the Supernatural" (搜神記, 4 century CE) about a person asking for his lifespan extension.

Here's the whole of it:


The point of interest is this piece:


The Southern Dipper God did something (挑上) to "十九" turning it into "九十". I was wondering what exactly it was and the only satisfactory commentary I've found stated that he put a certain mark or nitpick (挑) above (上) the characters, signifying the character order reversal.

Since then I was trying to find any further reference to this orthographical practice and find out how that mark could look like. Any leads?

2 Answers 2


i think that “挑上” is a specialised term in taoism, describing an action in writing charm paper (劃符)







so, the verse in 搜神記


read it as, the southern dipper deity took a pen, made a remark, and promised a life of 90 years, verbally

further, the northern dipper deity was the in-charge of death, that the southern dipper deity need his counterpart’s help, to finish the formalities in the office 😸

have fun :)


I remember it is called a Reverse order marking (逆序標記), "挑上" describes the action of "drawing a pen stroke" (on a surface)

This indicates 十九 is changed to 九十

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Reverse order marking and insert word marking

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