Chinese Character Manipulation in Literature and Divination

The Zichu by Zhou Lianggong (1612–1672)


In Chinese Character Manipulation in Literature and Divination, Anne Schmiedl analyses the little-studied method of Chinese character manipulation as found in imperial sources. Focusing on one of the most famous and important works on this subject, the Zichu by Zhou Lianggong (1612–1672), Schmiedl traces and discusses the historical development and linguistic properties of this method. This book represents the first thorough study of the Zichu and the reader is invited to explore how, on the one hand, the educated elite leveraged character manipulation as a literary play form. On the other hand, as detailed exhaustively by Schmiedl, practitioners of divination also used and altered the visual, phonetic, and semantic structure of Chinese characters to gain insights into events and objects in the material world.

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Anne Schmiedl, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Chinese Studies at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg. Her work and publications focus on Chinese script, religion, and philosophy.
"this volume's greatest strength lies in its fundamental mission: providing a rare and exciting insight into how divination practitioners utilized “graphic, phonetic, and semantic elements of writing.” - Joseph Chadwin, University of Vienna, Religious Studies Review 47/3 (2021).

Prologue: Script and Divination Intertwined

1 The Manipulation of Chinese Characters Cezi
 1  An Introduction to Cezi Vis-à-vis Divination and the Chinese Writing System
 2  A Chronological Overview of Historical Influences on Cezi
 3  A History of the Study of Cezi
 4  The Zichu by Zhou Lianggong

2 Surrounding and Extending the Zichu: The Paratexts
 1  Meaningful Designations: Linguistic Theory in the Paratexts
 2  A Scholar’s Leisure Time Activity: Divination in the Paratexts
 3  Visualising Character Theory
 4  Comprehending Characters by Observing the World
 5  Exhausting and Embracing the “Hidden” and the “Humorous”
 6  Divining with Characters on the Grounds of Encrypted Words
 7  Instructions on How to Use the Zichu

3 Different Approaches to Cezi: The Six Chapters of the Zichu
 1  Thought Based on Writing: Script-Understanding as Apparent in the Zichu
 2  Meaningful Correlations: Divination and Fate in the Zichu
 3  Hidden Messages and Prophetic Songs and Poems
 4  Temporal, Individual, and Morphological Coincidences
 5  Heterogeneous Examples of Character Manipulation
 6  Prophetic Dreams and Misinterpretations of Characters
 7  Witty Banter and Orthography Riddles
 8  Etymological Character Explanations

Epilogue: Character Manipulation, Then and Now

This book is of relevance to anyone interested in Chinese history, literature, philosophy, religion, and divination and particularly those involved in work concerning the manipulation and interpretation of Chinese characters.