12. Divination


Arrault, Alain. "Les activités, le corps et ses soins dans les calendriers de la Chine médiévale (IXe-Xe s.)." Études chinoises 33, no.1 (2014): 7-56.

Abstract: Les activités, ce qu'il est conseillé de faire ou de ne pas faire, apparaissent dans les rubriques journalières des calendriers chinois à l’aube de la dynastie des Tang (618-­907). Nous est parvenu, grâce aux documents retrouvés à Dunhuang, un nombre relativement conséquent de calendriers, environ une cinquantaine, répartis sur une période de temps parfaitement délimitée, du IXe au Xe siècle. L’extrême foisonnement des méthodes divinatoires mises en oeuvre dans le calendrier pour déterminer, entre autres, les activités, nous amène dans un premier temps à nous interroger sur la manière dont les calendriers étaient fabriqués, en faisant notamment appel aux sources japonaises. Dans un second temps, face à la centaine d’activités répertoriées, nous tentons d’en dégager des catégories pertinentes pour en faire une analyse statistique sur une durée de quelque deux cents années. Toutefois, en dehors de ces approches quantitatives, comment faire parler ces activités qui nous apparaissent dénuées de contexte ? Nous prenons ici l’exemple des soins du corps, essentiellement résumés dans les calendriers par les expressions « laver les cheveux et le corps » (muyu), « raser la tête » (titou), « laver la tête » (xitou), « enlever les cheveux blancs » (ba baifa), « couper les ongles des mains et des pieds » (jian shou zu jia). En convoquant diverses sources, littéraires, médicales, religieuses, etc., nous tentons de répondre aux questions suivantes : quelles conceptions avaient les Chinois de ces activités d’une manière générale et plus particulièrement dans l’hémérologie ? Existe-­t-­il une solution de continuité entre les discours sur les soins du corps et ce que laisse transparaître le calendrier ? Enfin, le calendrier développe-­t-­il un discours spécifique sur le corps ?


Baptandier, Brigitte, "Entrer en montagne pour y rêver. Le mont des Pierres et des Bambous." Terrain 26(1996): 99-122.


Baptandier, Brigitte. “Writing as a Threshold between the Worlds: Glyphomancy in China.” Daoism: Religion, History and Society, no. 8 (2016): 251-284.


Burnett, Charles. “East (and South) Asian Traditions in Astrology and Divination as Viewed from the West.” Extrême-Orient/Extrême-Occident 35 (2013): 285-293.


Bruun, Ole, "Fengshui and the Chinese Perception of Nature." In Ole Bruun & Arne Kalland [eds.], Asian Perceptions of Nature: A Critical Approach. Richmond, Surrey : Curzon, 1995. Pp.173-188.


Bruun, Ole, "The Fengshui Resurgence in China: Conflicting Cosmologies Between State and Peasantry." The China Journal 36(1996):47-65.


Bruun, Ole, Fengshui in China: Geomantic Divination Between State Orthodoxy and Popular Religion. Foreword by Stephan Feuchtwang. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003.


Burton-Rose, Daniel. “Establishing a Literati Spirit-Writing Altar in Early Qing Suzhou: The Optimus Prophecy of Peng Dingqiu (1645-1719).” T’oung Pao 106 (2020): 358-400.


Campany, Robert Ford. The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2020.

Abstract: Dreaming is a near-universal human experience, but there is no consensus on why we dream or what dreams should be taken to mean. In this book, Robert Ford Campany investigates what people in late classical and early medieval China thought of dreams. He maps a common dreamscape—an array of ideas about what dreams are and what responses they should provoke—that underlies texts of diverse persuasions and genres over several centuries. These writings include manuals of dream interpretation, scriptural instructions, essays, treatises, poems, recovered manuscripts, histories, and anecdotes of successful dream-based predictions. In these many sources, we find culturally distinctive answers to questions peoples the world over have asked for millennia: What happens when we dream? Do dreams foretell future events? If so, how might their imagistic code be unlocked to yield predictions? Could dreams enable direct communication between the living and the dead, or between humans and nonhuman animals? The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE sheds light on how people in a distant age negotiated these mysteries and brings Chinese notions of dreaming into conversation with studies of dreams in other cultures, ancient and contemporary. Taking stock of how Chinese people wrestled with—and celebrated—the strangeness of dreams, Campany asks us to reflect on how we might reconsider our own notions of dreaming.


Chemla, Karine, Donald Harper & Marc Kalinowski [eds.] , Divination et rationalité en Chine ancienne. (Vol.21 of Extrême-Orient/Extrême-Occident: Cahiers de recherches comparatives, Saint-Denis: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 1999)


Choo, Jessey J. C. “Shall We Profane the Service for the Dead? Burial Divinations, Untimely Burials, and Remembrance in Tang Muzhiming.” Tang Studies 33 (2015): 1-37.

Abstract: Though various divinatory practices were central to all burial arrangements in Tang China, scholars have paid scant attention to these practices and their social context and effects. This article reconstructs burial divination practices, discusses their ritual and social functions, and examines the social attitudes that influenced and were in turn influenced by them. Focus is on the following questions: why and how did families perform burial divinations? How were the divinatory oracles interpreted, and by whom? Why and to what extent did families subject themselves to these oracles? And what does the practice of burial divinations tell us about the culture of remembrance in Tang China? The article proposes answers to these questions through reading muzhiming (entombed epitaphs) against other transmitted and excavated sources and examining one common, but rarely studied, effect of divination practices on burials: their being rushed or much-delayed. Finally, the article examines a case involving both expedited and postponed burials and reconstructs Tang interpretations and responses to negative oracles in efforts to (re-)create memory. (Source: journal)


Chou, Hansen. “Politics of the Periphery: Religion and Its Place at a City’s Edge in Taiwan.” MA thesis, University of British Columbia, 2009.

Abstract: This thesis explores the recent revival of popular religion in Taiwan through broader anthropological concerns regarding place and space. Swift industrialization and rapid urbanization of past decades have not dissuaded religious practice; instead they have flourished on the island. This study pays specific attention to their proliferation at the urban margins. Drawing on historical and ethnographic data based on field research conducted in 2007, the present work examines the spatial politics of place at a community on the urban periphery, just outside of Taipei in northern Taiwan. More specifically, it analyzes two key sites within the community that locals often evoke as crucial locations in their cultural and social imaginings of place: a cultural heritage district and the local communal temple. It documents various “spatial practices” (de Certeau 1984) of place, and focuses particularly on the divination ritual at the temple. This work draws upon some of the ideas advanced by Henri Lefebvre (1991) in his theorization of urbanization, particularly his notion of “abstract space”: the expanding spaces of homogeneity created in the wake of global capitalism’s spread. By addressing the everyday experiences of space, this thesis addresses the dynamics between histories, affect and place. In all, it argues that, amidst the uncertainties of change brought on by their modern(izing) surroundings, people resort to rituals like divination in hopes to mitigate their maladies and misfortunes. By turning to the past in their attempts to make sense of the present, they further engage in a form of local production.


Clart, Philip, "The Ritual Context of Morality Books: A Case-Study of a Taiwanese Spirit-Writing Cult." Ph.D. dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1996. [See esp. chap. 4.1.1 on forms of spirit-writing.]

Abstract: The present study focusses on the description and analysis of the religious beliefs and practices of a central Taiwanese spirit-writing cult or "phoenix hall" (luantang). A phoenix hall is a voluntary religious association of congregational character centring upon communication with the gods by means of the divinatory technique of "spirit-writing" (fuluan). While spirit-writing can be and is used as an oracle for the solving of believers' personal problems, its more high-profile application is for the writing of so-called "morality books" (shanshu), i.e., books of religious instruction and moral exhortation. Spirit-writing cults are nowadays the most important sources of such works. Much attention has been given to morality books as mirrors of the social concerns of their times, but comparatively little work has been done on the groups that produce them and the meaning these works have for them. An adequate understanding of the meanings and functions of morality books, however, is impossible without some knowledge of the religious groups that produce them and the role played by morality books in their beliefs and practices. It is the objective of this thesis to provide a detailed description and analysis of one such group, the "Temple of the Martial Sage, Hall of Enlightened Orthodoxy" (Wumiao Mingzheng Tang), a phoenix hall in the city of Taizhong that was founded in 1976 and has played a significant role in the modern development of the shanshu genre through the active and varied publications programme of its publishing arm, the Phoenix Friend Magazine Society. The study utilizes data extracted from the Hall's published writings as well as interview, observation, and questionnaire data collected during an eight month period of field research in Taizhong.

Part I provides a macrohistorical overview of the development of spirit-writing cults on the Chinese mainland (chapter 1) and on Taiwan (chapter 2) since the nineteenth century, leading up to the case-example's microhistory (chapter 3). Part II is devoted to an account of the beliefs and practices of the Wumiao Mingzheng Tang, including descriptions and analyses of its organization, deities, ritual activities, concepts of moral cultivation, and of the body of morality book literature it has produced over the years. The appendix contains samples of the cult's morality book and scriptural literature, as well as of various liturgical texts. [Source: author.]


Ebrey, Patricia, "Sung Neo-Confucian Views on Geomancy." In: Irene Bloom & Joshua A. Fogel [eds.], Meeting of Minds: Intellectual and Religious Interaction in East Asian Traditions of Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Pp.75-107.


Field, Stephen L., "The Numerology of Nine Star Fengshui: A Hetu, Luoshu Resolution of the Mystery of Directional Auspice." Journal of Chinese Religions 27(1999): 13-33.


Field, Stephen L., "In Search of Dragons: The Folk Ecology of Fengshui." In: N.J. Girardot, James Miller & Liu Xiaogan [eds.], Daoism and Ecology: Ways Within a Cosmic Landscape. Cambridge, MA: Center for the Study of World Religions, distributed by Harvard University Press, 2001. Pp. 185-200.


Field, Steven L. "Who Told the Fortunes? The Speaker in Early Chinese Divination Records." Asia Major, 3rd series, 13, pt.2 (2000): 1-15.


Führer, Bernhard, "Die Projektion der Zukunft in die Vergangenheit. Ein Versuch über 'Die Ballade vom angebissenen Shaobing' (Shaobingge)." In: Christiane Hammer & Bernhard Führer [eds.], Tradition und Moderne - Religion, Philosophie und Literatur in China. Dortmund: projekt verlag, 1997. Pp. 113-142.

Abstract: This essay provides some glimpses at textual traces of the allegedly prophetic text Shaobingge, commonly attributed to Liu Ji (Liu Bowen), strategist and advisor to Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the Ming dynasty. In the light of its development, the Shaobingge is presumed to be a compilation based on legends and predictions scattered in various sources mainly dated post eventum. The current version of the Shaobingge is presumed to have been assembled around the downfall of the Qing and attributed to the celebrated Liu Bowen, shrouded in mystery in order to reinforce its authority in the anti-Manchu propaganda. This essay further investigates some of the linguistic devices used by the unknown compiler(s), who translated the accounts events past into dark and cryptic language riddles pretending to predict the end of both the Ming and the Qing dynasties. [Source of abstract: article]


Goossaert, Vincent. "Modern Daoist Eschatology: Spirit-Writing and Elite Soteriology in Late Imperial China." Daoism: Religion, History and Society 6 (2014): 219-246.


Goossaert, Vincent. “Spirit Writing, Canonization, and the Rise of Divine Saviors: Wenchang, Lüzu, and Guandi, 1700–1858.” Late Imperial China 36, no.2 (2015): 82-125.

Abstract: This article aims to define one stage in the long history of the production of texts by Chinese elites using spirit writing. This stage lasted approximately from 1700 to 1858. It is characterized by processes of canonization, evidenced by two interrelated phenomena: the compilation of “complete books,” quanshu, for major savior gods (textual canonization), and their being granted very high-ranking titles by the imperial state (state canonization). Such processes were spurred by the activism of elite groups that promoted their values through their chosen divine saviors and their scriptural canons. The paper focuses on three gods in particular: Patriarch Lü, Wenchang, and Emperor Guan. The article discusses the textual and state canonizations of these gods and examines the social, doctrinal, and political dynamics that made them possible. (Source: journal)


Goossaert, Vincent. "Divine Codes, Spirit-Writing, and the Ritual Foundations of Early-Modern Chinese Morality Books." Asia Major, 3rd ser., 33, no. 1 (2020): 1–31.

Abstract: In China's early-modern period (11th–14th centuries), a large number of divine codes (guilü 鬼律, or tianlü 天律) were revealed to adepts in the context of the new exorcistic ritual traditions (daofa 道法) of that period. Their texts prescribed how hu-mans and spirits should behave; and laid out the mechanisms of divine punishments in case of any breach. After introducing the corpus of these codes, the article ex-plores the moral charter they outline for priests. It argues that this moral discourse is contiguous with that of a genre called morality books (shanshu 善書), and shows how priestly codes gradually entered general circulation and thereby became morality books. An important link between the two genres is spirit-writing. During the early-modern period priests used spirit-writing for producing ritual documents (including moral exhortations from the gods), but later the technique became generalized and was used to mass-produce morality books.


Greene, Mark. "The Alchemical Lore of Wong Tai Sin and the Contemporary Pursuit of Transformational Wellbeing." Chinese Cross Currents 5, no.4 (2008): 90-102.


Greene, Mark. “Wong Tai Sin: The Divine and Healing in Hong Kong.” In Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Collaborations and Collisions, edited by Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan & Zhou Xun, 54-68. London & New York: Routledge, 2015.


Harper, Donald. “The Zhoujiatai Occult Manuscripts.” Bamboo and Silk 1, no.1 (2018): 53-70.

Abstract: Bamboo-slip manuscripts from Zhoujiatai tomb 30, Hubei (burial dated ca. 209 B.C.E.), provide important evidence of ancient Chinese occult manuscripts belonging to a man of modest status. One manuscript, identified as a rishu “day book” by the modern editors of the Zhoujiatai manuscripts, treats of hemerology and astrology and is the focus of this study. The bamboo slips of a calendar for years corresponding to 211–210 B.C.E. can be associated with the rishu and may have formed one manuscript unit. The contents of the rishu include two large-size diagrams related to hemerological and astro-calendrical systems. The first diagram involves calculations based on the position of the handle of the Dipper constellation and the second diagram is notable for reference to one of the years (211 B.C.E.) of the associated calendar. A third diagram, for which the title rong liri “rong calendar day [divination]” is written on the manuscript, has a slightly different form in a second occurrence on the manuscript. Both forms of the diagram show thirty lines arranged in a vertical column, corresponding to the thirty days of the ideal month, with some lines enclosed in boxes. Days of the month are counted in the sequence of lines on the diagram in order to determine the lucky and unlucky aspects of a given day. A related hemerological system is attested in a manuscript from Mawangdui tomb 3, Hunan (burial dated 168 B.C.E.), and in medieval occult manuscripts from Dunhuang. (Source: journal)

Hatfield, Donald J. "Fate in the Narrativity and Experience of Selfhood, a Case from Taiwanese chhiam Divination." American Ethnologist 29(2002)4: 857-877.


Homola, Stéphanie. "La relation de maître à disciple en question: transmission orale et écrite des savoirs divinatoires en Chine et à Taiwan." Extrême-Orient, Extrême-Occident 35 (2013): 11-43.

Abstract: This paper explores two contrasting modes of transmission of divinatory knowledge in contemporary Taiwan and mainland China. One is built on the academic model which emphasizes written communication and the other one on the teacher to student relationship which favors oral transmission. In Taiwan, faced with the declining quality of teaching and the multiplication of schools of thought, divinatory arts specialists tried to reform their knowledge and teaching methods to make them fit with the scientific requirements of contemporary society. This endeavor which had already been launched in mainland China in the Republican era, resulted in Taiwan in a boom of popular handbooks and a standardization of training. Then, I qualify this evolution through a case study conducted in mainland China which, on the contrary, highlights the importance of personal relationship and orality in the transfer of mantic techniques. In this context, methods and know-how are taught through predestined affinities, initiatory journeys and legends. (Source: journal)

Homola, Stéphanie. “Pursue Good Fortune and Avoid Calamity: The Practice and Status of Divination in Contemporary Taiwan.” Journal of Chinese Religions 41.2 (2013): 124-147.

Abstract: This article describes divination practices and analyses the evolution of their status in contemporary Taiwan. Unlike classical studies on divination, which focus on fortune tellers and aim to explain the symbolic system on which divination is based, this research carries out an ethnography of clients’ practices.1 Thus, in the first part of the article, I put divination practices in the context of the clients’ life stories and commitments of daily life to underline how they are led to consult, and how they process divination results. In the second part, I rely on the historical factors that have shaped the social status of divination as “superstition” from the beginning of the twentieth century onwards, and on the development of scholarly studies of divination, to account for the current evolution of its meaning in Taiwanese society. Indeed, Taiwanese social science researchers have shown a growing interest in this subject, particularly in the context of the “indigenization movement” (bentuhua), which advocates a new approach to the study of divination practices. (Source: journal)

Homola, Stéphanie. "Les usages de la main dans les calculs divinatoires." Études chinoises 33, no.1 (2014): 113-132.

Abstract: Les praticiens des arts divinatoires chinois ont l’habitude de s’aider de la paume de la main pour effectuer diverses opérations en parcourant avec le pouce les positions matérialisées par les phalanges des quatre autres doigts. Deux techniques sont ici examinées : la méthode du petit liuren, pratiquée par tout un chacun dans la vie quotidienne, et le calcul des signes horoscopiques par les spécialistes des arts divinatoires. En facilitant la manipulation et la mémorisation des réseaux complexes de symboles cosmologiques, le dispositif de la main opère comme un outil de communication entre le microcosme et le macrocosme. Il est également l’expression d’un savoir commun sur le destin et peut ainsi être mis en parallèle avec les arts de la mémoire occidentaux qui renvoient non seulement à une mnémotechnique mais également aux valeurs partagées par une communauté.


Homola, Stéphanie. "Le cas du « dragon chinois » : légende, destin et chance autour d’un jeu divinatoire." Études chinoises 33, no.2 (2014): 153-175.

Abstract: Le « dragon chinois » (Zhonghua yitiao long) est un jeu divinatoire contemporain qui se pratique avec des cartes à la manière d’un solitaire. Ce cas soulève tout d’abord la question de la circulation et de la transmission des jeux. On s’intéressera ainsi aux légendes qui accompagnent les jeux ainsi qu’aux conditions de l’enseignement des règles à de nouveaux joueurs. Rituel d’interrogation du destin ou jeu pour attirer la chance, cet exemple permet également d’examiner les catégories de jeu et de rituel, de mettre en évidence les mécanismes qui les rapprochent et ceux qui les distinguent. On s’interrogera en particulier sur la nature de l’instance qui préside au résultat du jeu, sur l’effet qui est attendu du jeu et sur l’analogie entre la manipulation des cartes et celle du destin. Le cas du « dragon chinois » peut ainsi être utilement confronté aux réflexions théoriques récentes menées par Roberte Hamayon sur les mécanismes fondamentaux des jeux divinatoires ou des rituels pour attirer la chance.


Homola, Stéphanie. "Ce que la main sait du destin : opérations et manipulations dans les pratiques divinatoires chinoises." Ethnographiques.org, 2015, n° 31 - La part de la main [en ligne]. URL : http://www.ethnographiques.org/2015/ Homola.


Homola, Stéphanie. "Judging Destiny: Doubt and Certainty in Chinese Divinatory Rituals." In Of Doubt and Proof. Ritual and Legal Practices of Judgment, ed. Daniela Berti, Anthony Good & Gilles Tarabout, 39-58. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2015.


Kalinowski, Marc, "Technical Traditions in Ancient China and Shushu Culture in Chinese Religion." In: John Lagerwey [ed.], Religion and Chinese Society. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press / Paris: École française d'Extrême-Orient, 2004. Pp.223-248.


Kalinowski, Marc. “Diviners and Astrologers under the Eastern Zhou: Transmitted Texts and Recent Archaeological Discoveries.” In: John Lagerwey and Marc Kalinowski [eds.], Early Chinese Religion: Part One: Shang through Han (1250 BC-220 AD). Leiden: Brill, 2009. Pp.341-396.


Kalinowski, Marc. “La divination sous les Zhou orientaux (770-256 avant notre ère).” In: John Lagerwey [ed.], Religion et société en Chine ancienne et médiévale. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf/Institut Ricci, 2009. Pp. 101-164.


Katz, Paul R. „Spirit-writing Halls and the Development of Local Communities: A Case Study of Puli (Nantou County).“ Min-su ch’ü-i / Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre and Folklore 174 (2011): 103-184.


Keightley, David N., "Theology and the Writing of History: Truth and the Ancestors in the Wu Ding Divination Records." Journal of East Asian Archaeology 1(1999): 207-230.


Kory, Stephan N. "Presence in Variety: De-Trivializing Female Diviners in Medieval China." Nan Nü 18. no.1 (2016): 3-48.

Abstract: This article argues that the relative absence and trivialization of female diviners apparent in medieval Chinese texts does not accurately reflect the presence of these figures in medieval Chinese society. It further contends that this dearth in representation is the direct result of a more comprehensive and sustained annihilation or marginalization of women in third- through ninth-century Chinese texts. Narrative accounts and the institutional perspectives on divination informing them are critically analyzed and compared to help de-trivialize the roles that female diviners played in medieval China. Comparative theories of divination will be considered to help expand the scope of our inquiry beyond activities explicitly identified as such, and the geographical, social, and practical variety one finds in medieval depictions of female diviners will be used as evidence of a much wider and more pervasive social presence than one finds today in received medieval records. (Source: journal)


Kuo, Cheng. “A Study of the Consumption of Chinese Online Fortune Telling Services.” Chinese Journal of Communication 2.3 (2009): 288-306.

Abstract: This study examines consumer behavior in the online fortune telling market. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed through a content analysis of websites, in-depth interviews with website owners, and online consumer surveys. Focus group discussions were conducted to uncover a general profile of and the motives for users who visited fortune telling websites in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China. In addition, a survey of 6,088 members of major fortune telling websites was conducted in order to identify a dynamic psychological model to explain online fortune telling behavior and attitudes. Three types of explanatory variables were used as predictors - demographics, psychological orientations, and motivations. Results from the analyses indicate that the majority of users were attracted to the fortune telling websites by free trial services. Personal relationship fortunes were the most popular service item consumed by both male and female users. Some consistent patterns regarding the effects of the predictor variables on online fortune telling behavior and attitudes were reported and discussed. The three types of predictors in question all contributed to different online fortune telling behavior and attitudes. Results and implications are reported and discussed.


Lackner, Michael. "Die Renaissance divinatorischer Techniken in der VR China - ein neues Modul chinesischer kultureller Identität?" In China, Japan und das Andere: Ostasiatische Identitäten im Zeitalter des Transkulturellen, edited by Stephan Köhn and Michael Schimmelpfennig, 239-263. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011.


Lai Chi-Tim. “The Cult of Spirit-Writing in the Qing.” Journal of Daoist Studies 8 (2015): 112-133.


Lai, Whalen W. "The Earth Mother Scripture: Unmasking the Neo-Archaic." In: Jacob K. Olupona [ed.], Beyond Primitivism: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity. New York, London: Routledge, 2004. Pp. 200-213. [Note: On a spirit-written scripture.]


Lang, Graeme; Chan, Selina Ching. "Divination in Chinese Temples." Chinese Cross Currents 4.3 (2007): 56-77.


Levi, Jean, "Pratiques divinatoires, conjectures et critique rationaliste à l'époque des Royaumes Combattants." Extrême-Orient, Extrême-Occident 21(1999): 67-77.


Li, Geng. “Diviners with Membership and Certificates: An Inquiry into the Legitimation and Professionalisation of Chinese Diviners.” The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 16, no.3 (2015): 244–259.

Abstract: In wrestling with the precariousness of their legitimacy and reputation, diviners in China have developed their own approaches to legitimating and professionalising their business and occupation. This paper discusses the strategy of incorporating the occupation of divination into modern knowledge production and expert systems by forming academic associations and purchasing professional certificates. Diviners ’ imitation of professionalism is interpreted as a struggle towards gaining membership of modern society. The efforts of diviners to seek legitimacy also provide an opportunity to observe how a marginalised social group whose behaviour is generally stigmatised justifies their role in society. (Source: journal)


Li Geng. “Rivers and Lakes: Life Stories of Diviners in a Northern Chinese City.” In Religion in Taiwan and China : Locality and Transmission, edited by Hsun Chang & Benjamin Penny, 393-419. Taipei: Academia Sinica, Institute of Ethnology, 2017.

Li Geng. “Divination, Yijing, and Cultural Nationalism: The Self-Legitimation of Divination as an Aspect of ‘Traditional Culture’ in Post-Mao China.” The China Review 18, no. 4 (2018): 63-84.


Liao, Hsien-huei. "Exploring Weal and Woe: the Song Elite's Mantic Beliefs and Practices." T'oung Pao 91(2005)4-5: 347-395


Lin, Szu-Ping. “The Woman with Broken Palm Lines: Subject, Agency, Fortune-Telling, and Women in Taiwanese Television Drama.” In Multiple Modernities: Cinemas and Popular Media in Transcultural East Asia, ed. Jenny Kwok Wah Lau. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003. Pp. 222-238.


Lip, Evelyn, Fengshui: Environments of Power. A Study of Chinese Architecture. London: John Wiley & Sons, 1995.


Lip, Evelyn, Choosing Auspicious Chinese Names. Torrance, CA: Heian International Publishing Co., 1997.


Lip, Evelyn, What is Feng Shui? London: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.


Lippiello, Tiziana, "Interpreting Written Riddles: A Typical Chinese Way of Divination." In: Jan A.M. De Meyer & Peter M. Engelfriet [eds.], Linked Faiths: Essays on Chinese Religion and Traditional Culture in Honour of Kristofer Schipper. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2000. Pp.41-52.


Lippiello, Tiziana, Auspicious Omens and Miracles in Ancient China: Han, Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties. Nettetal: Steyler Verlag, 2001.


Liu Xun. “Of Poems, Gods, and Spirit-Writing Altars: The Daoist Beliefs and Practice of Wang Duan (1793–1839).” Late Imperial China 36, no.2 (2015): 23-81.

Abstract: While recent studies have illuminated elite women’s Buddhist piety and practices, we remain limited in our understanding of elite women’s relations to and involvement in other religions, especially Daoism and local cults and practices. This article fills the gap and furthers our understanding of late Qing elite women’s religiosity and practices with a focused study of the Daoist beliefs and devotional practices of Wang Duan (1793–1839). Based on close reading of poems and other writings produced by Wang Duan, her relatives, and fellow poets, I reconstruct Wang Duan’s Daoist religiosity and devotional practices in the context of her marital household’s religious milieu, and the larger literary and religious community she was involved with. I show that Wang Duan’s exposure to the Daoist practices of her relatives by marriage such as Chen Wenshu and Lady Guan Yun led to her own life-long practice of reciting Daoist scriptures for the sake of saving the soul of her husband and of pacifying the local dead and the martyred worthies of Suzhou. Through the initiation by her aunt-in-law Chen Lanyun, a Quanzhen Longmen priestess, she also developed strong institutional ties to the Daoist monastic center based on Mount Jin’gai in Huzhou, the epicenter of Quanzhen Daoism in late Qing Jiangnan. Her active participation in local spirit-writing altars in Suzhou and Hangzhou, her literary homage to Gao Qi (1336–74), and her frequent recitation of the salvational Daoist Jade Scripture of the Great Cavern by the Primordial Origin contributed directly to elevation and consecration of the martyred early Ming poet as a patron god of local spirit-writing altars and rain-making cults in Suzhou and Yangzhou. Consistent with her status and role as a well-known and creative poet, Wang Duan used poems as a medium to express her multifaceted religiosity and identity. I argue that Wang Duan’s Daoist religiosity not only attests to the extent of Daoist practice in many elite women’s daily life, but also demonstrated that through their religious commitment and participation, elite women such as Wang Duan, exerted their agency and power in shaping Quanzhen Daoism and local religious practice in late Qing Jiangnan. (Source: journal)


Matthews, William. “The Homological Cosmos: Ontology, Epistemology, and Ethics in Yi Jing Prediction.” PhD Thesis, University College London, 2016.

Matthews, William. "Making 'Science' from 'Superstition': Conceptions of Knowledge Legitimacy among Contemporary Yijing Diviners." Journal of Chinese Religions 45, no. 2 (2017): 173-196.

Abstract: Yijing prediction is experiencing a popular revival in the contemporary PRC, ongoing since the beginning of the Reform era. At the same time, state and popular discourse continue to valorize “science” (kexue) as modern, accurate, and legitimate, against backward, false, and illegitimate “superstition” (mixin). Yijing prediction is widely considered “superstitious,” but is cast by diviners as a legitimate form of knowledge. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Hangzhou, this article identifies six common popular attitudes to “science” in relation to other knowledge systems, and examines them through case studies of two predictors. Predictors maintain a strong epistemological and ethical concern with accurately accounting for reality, identifying Yijing prediction positively as “scientific” or as compatible with “science,” against other forms of knowledge like religion and Marxism, which are considered “superstitious” and inaccurate. Predictors thus appropriate and redefine the prevailing discourse of knowledge legitimacy based on their individual epistemological perspectives. (Source: journal)


Matthews, William. “Ontology with Chinese Characteristics: Homology as a Mode of Identification.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7, no. 1 (2017): 265-285.

Matthews, William. "Fate, Destiny and Divination." In Handbook on Religion in China, edited by Stephan Feuchtwang, 156–183. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.


Matthews, Williams. "The Yijing Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics." Made in China 5, no. 2 (2020): 112–117.

Abstract: Since the early days of economic reform in the 1980s, China has witnessed a revival of religious beliefs and practices. One of the most pervasive is fortune-telling, which has flourished by offering a means of decision-making in a rapidly changing and uncertain society. This article describes a popular method of fortune-telling using the classical text of the Yijing. It shows how fortune- telling's naturalistic worldview provides an excellent method for people to navigate day-to- day economic decisions by forecasting fortune in a way that is trustworthy and morally blameless, serving as a compass for uncertain times.


Matthews, William. Cosmic Coherence: A Cognitive Anthropology Through Chinese Divination. New York: Berghahn Books, 2021.

Abstract: Humans are unique in their ability to create systematic accounts of the world – theories based on guiding cosmological principles. This book is about the role of cognition in creating cosmologies, and explores this through the ethnography and history of Yijing divination in China. Diviners explain the cosmos in terms of a single substance, qi, unfolding across scales of increasing complexity to create natural phenomena and human experience. Combined with an understanding of human cognition, it shows how this conception of scale offers a new way for anthropologists and other social scientists to think about cosmology, comparison and cultural difference.



Morgan, Carole. "I've Got Your Number. Hong Kong's Medical Prescription Slips." Sanjiao wenxian: Matériaux pour l'étude de la religion chinoise 4(2005): 1-81.


Mozias, Ilia. “Immortals and Alchemists: Spirit-Writing and Self-Cultivation in Ming Daoism.” Journal of Daoist Studies 11 (2018): 83-107.

Abstract: What role do immortals play in the life and practice of a community of alchemists? In this paper, I examine the role of immortals in the cultivation practice of a small alchemical community formed around the famous Ming alchemist Lu Xixing. Lu and his companions had no connection to any religious institution, and instead of looking for a human master, they turned to the practice of spirit-writing. In séances, they met numerous immortals and discussed with them various aspects of self-cultivation and personal life. Lu collected detailed records of these conversations in his key treatise, which documents how immortals became members of their community and transformed alchemical cultivation into a journey in the twilight zone between the human and immortal worlds. They accompanied Lu and his companions on all stages of alchemical cultivation and helped them enter a state of mind necessary for achieving enlightenment. Participation in spirit-writing séances allowed the Daoists to practice internal alchemy without leaving their habitual literati life. (Source: journal)


Ng, Emily. A Time of Lost Gods: Mediumship, Madness, and the Ghost after Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2020.

Abstract: Traversing visible and invisible realms, A Time of Lost Gods attends to profound rereadings of politics, religion, and madness in the cosmic accounts of spirit mediumship. Drawing on research across a temple, a psychiatric unit, and the home altars of spirit mediums in a rural county of China's Central Plain, it asks: What ghostly forms emerge after the death of Mao and the so-called end of history? The story of religion in China since the market reforms of the late 1970s is often told through its destruction under Mao and relative flourishing thereafter. Here, those who engage in mediumship offer a different history of the present. They approach Mao's reign not simply as an earthly secular rule, but an exceptional interval of divine sovereignty, after which the cosmos collapsed into chaos. Caught between a fading era and an ever-receding horizon, those "left behind" by labor outmigration refigure the evacuated hometown as an ethical-spiritual center to come, amidst a proliferation of madness-inducing spirits. Following pronouncements of China's rise, and in the wake of what Chinese intellectuals termed semicolonialism, the stories here tell of spirit mediums, patients, and psychiatrists caught in a shared dilemma, in a time when gods have lost their way.


Oguma Makoto. "The Village of 'Two Dragons' and the Village of 'Dragon and Tiger': A Field Study of Fengshui in Two Zhejiang Villages." In: Suenari Michio, J.S. Eades & Christian Daniels [eds.], Perspectives on Chinese Society: Anthropological Views from Japan. Canterbury: Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent, 1995. Pp.120-135.


Pankenier, David W. Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Abstract: The ancient Chinese were profoundly influenced by the Sun, Moon and stars, making persistent efforts to mirror astral phenomena in shaping their civilization. In this pioneering text, David W. Pankenier introduces readers to a seriously understudied field, illustrating how astronomy shaped the culture of China from the very beginning and how it influenced areas as disparate as art, architecture, calendrical science, myth, technology, and political and military decision-making. As elsewhere in the ancient world, there was no positive distinction between astronomy and astrology in ancient China, and so astrology, or more precisely, astral omenology, is a principal focus of the book. Drawing on a broad range of sources, including archaeological discoveries, classical texts, inscriptions and paleography, this thought-provoking book documents the role of astronomical phenomena in the development of the 'Celestial Empire' from the late Neolithic through the late imperial period. (Source: publisher's website)

Paton, Michael. “Fengshui: A Continuation of the ‘Art of Swindlers’?” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 34 (2007) 3: 427-445.


Paton, Michael John. Five Classics of Fengshui: Chinese Spiritual Geography in Historical and Environmental Perspective. Sinica Leidensia, vol.110. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Abstract: In Five Classics of Fengshui Michael Paton traces the theoretical development of this form of spiritual geography through full translations of major texts: the Burial Classic of Qing Wu, Book of Burial, Yellow Emperor’s Classic of House Siting, Twenty Four Difficult Problems, and Water Dragon Classic. This theoretical development is analysed through the lens of history, philosophy and sociology of science in an attempt to address Joseph Needham’s conundrum of the "great beauty of the siting" in traditional China being based of such a “grossly superstitious system” and to understand what part fengshui played in the environmental history of China. (Source: publisher's website)


Raphals, Lisa. “Divination and Autonomy: New Perspectives from Excavated Texts.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37 (Supplement) (2010): 124-141.


Raphals, Lisa. Divination and Prediction in Early China and Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Abstract: Divination was an important and distinctive aspect of religion in both ancient China and ancient Greece, and this book will provide the first systematic account and analysis of the two side by side. Who practised divination in these cultures and who consulted it? What kind of questions did they ask, and what methods were used to answer those questions? As well as these practical aspects, Lisa Raphals also examines divination as a subject of rhetorical and political narratives, and its role in the development of systematic philosophical and scientific inquiry. She explores too the important similarities, differences and synergies between Greek and Chinese divinatory systems, providing important comparative evidence to reassess Greek oracular divination. (Source: publisher's website)

Reiter, Florian C., ed. Feng Shui (Kan Yu) and Architecture: International Conference in Berlin. Asien- und Afrika-Studien der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, vol.38. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2011.

Abstract: Feng Shui (Kan Yu) and Architecture, edited by Florian C. Reiter, presents the results of a symposium with the same title that in 2010 was held at the Chinese Department of Humboldt-University (Berlin). The symposium assembled a number of specialists in the fields of Chinese, Japanese and Korean studies and also architects from Australia, China, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and USA. The interdisciplinary exchange of discourses on Feng Shui and its scientific impact on constructions and architecture as practiced today was the avowed purpose of the symposium. The results are presented in thirteen articles that range from aspects of Feng Shui and its reality in Berlin to theoretical excursions into numerology and other either practical or literary and abstract matters of Feng Shui, and also include religion (esp. Buddhism) with exploits of Feng Shui. With contributions by G. Anders, O. Bruun, H. Choy, S.L. Field/J.K. and I. Lee, E. van Goethem, E. Kögel, M.Y. Mak, M. Paton, F.C. Reiter, A.T. So, Tsai Sueyling, Wang Yude, and Hong-key Yoon. (Source: publisher's website)


Reiter, Florian C., ed., Theory and Reality of Feng Shui in Architecture and Landscape Art. Asien- und Afrika-Studien der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, vol. 41. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2013.

Abstract: Feng Shui is a practical reality that is rooted in Chinese life, merging the spiritual potential of human existence in life and death. The art of Feng Shui is not confined to houses but is also connected with landscape art. This fact becomes especially evident in traditional temple architecture and locations of Buddhist caves and statues that dot the scenery in Sichuan province and other locations. The volume, edited by Florian C. Reiter, presents the results of a symposium held in 2012, that assembled specialists to discuss theoretical and practical aspects of Feng Shui. Some analysis in the present volume shows the inseparable connection between the ancestors, the graveyards, and the housing for the ancestry at the home altars in residential quarters. It appears that the element of a religious connotation in building practice is a condition that characterizes genuine Feng Shui and must be considered by customers and architects. Some contributions show that comparable elements exist in European building practice, which seems to prove the impact of common notions about human habitation without being due to any intercultural stimulation. With contributions by Gyda Anders, Howard Choy, Huang Lan-Shiang, Michael Y. Mak, Florian C. Reiter, Ellen Van Goethem, Klaas Ruitenbeek, Tsai Sueyling. (Source: publisher's website)

Schinzel-Lang, Walter, "Feng Shui und die Kunst des azurblauen Raben. Entstehung und Anwendung kosmologischer Prinzipien." das neue China 27(2000)3: 8-12.


Schumann, Matthias. “Science and Spirit-Writing: The Shanghai Lingxuehui 靈學會 and the Changing Fate of Spiritualism in Republican China.” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 126–172. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Smith, Richard J. Mapping China and Managing the World: Culture, Cartography and Cosmology in Late Imperial Times. London & New York: Routledge, 2013.

Abstract: From the founding of the Qin dynasty in 221 BCE to the present, the Chinese have been preoccupied with the concept of order (zhi). This cultural preoccupation has found expression not only in China’s highly refined bureaucratic institutions and methods of social and economic organization but also in Chinese philosophy, religious and secular ritual, and a number of comprehensive systems for classifying every form of human achievement, as well as all natural and supernatural phenomena. Richard J. Smith’s Mapping China and Managing the World focuses on several crucial devices employed by the Chinese for understanding and ordering their vast and variegated world, which they saw as encompassing "all under Heaven." The book begins with discussions of how the ancient work known as the Yijing (Classic of Changes) and maps of "the world" became two prominent means by which the Chinese in imperial times (221 BCE to 1912) managed space and time. Smith goes on to show how ritual (li) served as a powerful tool for overcoming disorder, structuring Chinese society, and maintaining dynastic legitimacy. He then develops the idea that just as the Chinese classics and histories ordered the past, and ritual ordered the present, so divination ordered the future. The book concludes by emphasizing the enduring relevance of the Yijing in Chinese intellectual and cultural life as well as its place in the history of Sino-foreign interactions. (Source: publisher's website)


Stafford, Charles. “Misfortune and What Can Be Done about It: A Taiwanese Case Study.” Social Analysis 56, no.2 (2012): 90–102.

Abstract: Drawing primarily on ethnographic material from Taiwan, this paper focuses on misfortune, and more especially on the question of whether people are felt to deserve what happens to them - be it bad or good. I examine the cases of several people who have suffered misfortune in life, exploring ways in which they might actively try to make good things happen – as a way of convincing others, an d indeed themselves, that they are, after all, good. In considering these cases, I discuss three intersecting accounts of fate which are widely held by ordinary people in Taiwan and China: a cosmological one, a spirit - focused one, and a social one. (Source: LSE repository)


Strassberg, Richard E. [trsl]. Wandering Spirits: Chen Shiyuan’s Encyclopedia of Dreams. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

Abstract: Dreams have been taken seriously in China for at least three millennia. Wandering Spirits is a translation and study of the most comprehensive work on dream culture in traditional China–Lofty Principles of Dream Interpretation (Mengzhan yizhi), compiled in 1562 by Chen Shiyuan and periodically reprinted up to the modern era. The best introduction to the diversity of ideas held by the educated class about dreams, this unique treatise compiles various theories, Chen's own comments concerning the nature of dreams and their role in waking life, and almost seven hundred examples assembled from a wide range of literary sources. This annotated translation is accompanied by a full-length introduction that surveys the evolution of Chinese dream culture and the role of Chen Shiyuan and his encyclopedia. [Source: publisher's website]

Strätz, Volker, "Materialien zu Tierkreisen in China." Monumenta Serica 44(1996): 213-265.


Strickmann, Michel. Chinese Poetry and Prophecy: The Written Oracle in East Asia. Edited by Bernard Faure. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.


Szekeres, András Márk. "Early Roots of Chinese Astrological Thinking in the Religious Belief of Di." Studia Orientalia Slovaca 12, no.2 (2013): 207-226.


Tsu, Timothy, "Geomancy and the Environment in Premodern Taiwan." Asian Folklore Studies 56 (1997): 65-77.


Vance, Brigid E. "Deciphering Dreams: How Glyphomancy Worked in Late Ming Dream Encyclopedic Divination." Chinese Historical Review 24, no. 1 (2017): 5-20.

Abstract: Both the 1562 dream encyclopedia Mengzhan yizhi (Guidelines for Dream Divination) and the 1636 dream encyclopedia Menglin xuanjie (An Explication of the Profundities in the Forest of Dreams) consisted of individual examples of accurately divined dream interpretations whose cumulative weight proved that the divination techniques worked consistently and should be used. The content of the dream encyclopedias revealed the specific nature of the techniques. In the dream encyclopedias, individuals’ dreamed problems were solved using glyphomancy (the dissection of Chinese characters), demonstrating the importance of written Chinese characters in dream divination. I show that gly- phomancy not only revealed divinatory answers, but in some instances, accurately predicted the timing of life’s events. (Source: journal)

Vance, Brigid E. “Divining Political Legitimacy in a Late Ming Dream Encyclopedia: The Enyclopedia and Its Historical Context.” Extrême-Orient, Extrême-Occident 42 (2018): 15-42.


Wang Chien-ch’uan. “Spirit-Writing Groups in Modern China (1840-1937): Textual Production, Public Teachings, and Charity.” In Modern Chinese Religion II, 1850-2015, edited by Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely, and John Lagerwey, 651-684. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2016. (Handbook of Oriental Studies, section 4: China, vol.32)


Wang Xing. "Rethinking the 'Magic State' in China: Political Imagination and Magical Practice in Rural Beijing." Asian Ethnology 77, no. 1-2 (2018): 331-351.

Abstract: This paper discusses the local imagination of the Chinese state in rural Beijing using ethnographic evidence. In particular, it examines the process by which the state is internalized in people's lives through local magical practices and collective memories of traditional rituals, geomancy, and spirit possessions. I argue that the magical aspect of the Chinese state in people's imagination denies an understanding of a magic state as the alternative for a violent and hegemonic reality for the state. In this sense, the Chinese popular perception of the state challenges the established concept of the state as the consequence of an elitist discussion and definition, and at the same time also challenges the national discourse. Furthermore, magical practices and beliefs in rural Beijing in relation to the local comprehension of the Chinese state show that in many cases, the state is considered as powerless.


Wang Xing. Physiognomy in Ming China: Fortune and the Body. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

Abstract: In Physiognomy in Ming China: Fortune and the Body, Xing Wang investigates the intellectual and technical contexts in which the knowledge of physiognomy (xiangshu) was produced and transformed in Ming China (1368-1644 C.E.). Known as a fortune-telling technique via examining the human body and material objects, Xing Wang shows how the construction of the physiognomic body in many Ming texts represent a unique, unprecedented 'somatic cosmology'. Applying an anthropological reading to these texts and providing detailed analysis of this technique, the author proves that this physiognomic cosmology in Ming China emerged as a part of a new body discourse which differs from the modern scholarly discourse on the body.


Xu, Yinong, The Chinese City in Space and Time: The Development of Urban Form in Suzhou. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000. (See chapter 7: "The City in Fengshui Interpretations.")


Zhong Liang. “Les ancêtres dans les manuscrits divinatoires et sacrificiels de la tombe nº 2 de Baoshan.” Études chinoises 36, no. 1 (2017): 21-49.