Why Was the Chinese Historian Shen Yue 沈約 (441–513) So Fond of Auspicious Signs and Prophecies?

In: International Journal of Divination and Prognostication
Tiziana Lippiello Dipartimento di Studi sull’Asia e sull’Africa Mediterranea, Università Ca’ Foscari Venice Italy

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Shen Yue 沈約 (441–513), who compiled the Songshu 宋書 (History of the Song), one of the dynastic histories of China, dedicated three chapters (juan) of this work to auspicious signs and prophecies, which were evidently an issue of discussion and interest among the scholars of his time. In this article, I will first give an overview of the discussion of inauspicious and auspicious omens during the Han dynasty, which provided an influential model for later works on the topic. I will then address the question why Shen Yue devoted so much attention to the subject and how he related it to the succession of the short-lived regimes of the southern dynasties. By analyzing Shen Yue’s “Furui zhi” 符瑞志 (Treatise on auspicious signs), his biography, and his historical background, I aim to demonstrate why Shen Yue treated auspicious omens and prophecies as positive messages from nature, which were addressed to both his contemporaries and future generations.

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