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Editors: Michael Lackner and Zhao Lu
This is the first comprehensive book that presents the manifold aspects of divination and prognostication in traditional and modern China, from the early period of oracle bones to present-day fortune-tellers. It introduces what is out there in the field of Chinese divination and prognostication, and how we can further explore it especially through different disciplines. Eminent specialists outline the classifications of divination, recently excavated texts, the relationship between practitioners and clients, the place of the “occult” arts in cosmology, literature and religion, and the bureaucratic system.
Contributors are: Constance Cook, Richard J. Smith, Marc Kalinowski, Stephen R. Bokenkamp, Lü Lingfeng, Liao Hsien-huei, Philip Clart, Fabrizio Pregadio, Esther-Maria Guggenmos, Andrew Schonebaum, and Stéphanie Homola.
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China
In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China

Abstract

Divination is a living tradition in China, and globally in the Chinese world, that includes Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Chinese populations within Southeast Asian countries. The exceptional diversity of this tradition constitutes a gold mine for ethnography – although still largely un-exploited – but also a challenge if one wishes to present a general overview, as is the purpose of this chapter.

A characteristic which has been noticed by historians of Chinese divination gives some consistency to this task: divination is a factor of cultural unity. Similar mainstream mantic techniques can be found in today’s Northern China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. They convey a shared language and cosmology and reveal a widespread belief that cosmological factors influence human destiny, although conceptions on the scope and precise workings of such an influence may vary greatly among individuals and contexts. While divination represents a factor of cultural unity, it also reflects the social diversity of Chinese society. All kinds of people (amateurs, professionals, religious specialists) from all kinds of social backgrounds (elite, commoners) perform all kinds of techniques (from the simplest to the most complex), in all kinds of contexts (religious, secular, para-academic, entertainment, family…).

To describe such diversity, this chapter is organized into four main sections. First, it examines the terminology and classification of present-day techniques and practices. Second, it analyzes the living traditions of prognostication from the perspective of people who consult diviners and reviews various questions raised by divination as a social phenomenon. The third section identifies several milestones in the recent historical development of mantic arts in China and Taiwan in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The last section is dedicated to practitioners and what is often referred to as the “world of horoscopy” (mingli jie 命理界). While exploring these four main themes, this chapter also reviews existing literature and highlights topics requiring further research.

In: Handbook of Divination and Prognostication in China