The Man-Bird Mountain: Writing, Prophecy, and Revelation in Early China

In: International Journal of Divination and Prognostication
Fabrizio Pregadio Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg Erlangen Germany

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The Taoist Canon (Daozang) contains a remarkable illustration entitled Renniao shan tu, or Chart of the Man-Bird Mountain, found in a text originally dating from the mid-fifth century. Other Taoist works describe this mountain as the ultimate origin of revealed scriptures and even of the entire Canon. In this article, I examine three main themes related to the Chart. The first is the role of birds in traditional accounts of the origins of Chinese writing. The second theme concerns the function of birds in the revelation of prophetic charts and texts, described in Han-dynasty “weft texts.” The third theme is the early narratives focused on the so-called “winged men” (yuren). This is followed by an analysis of the Chart, including its inscriptions, and of the text that contains it. An appendix provides translations of the inscriptions and of similar passages found in other Taoist sources.

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