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Thursday, October 30, 2014

[Dissertation] Divining Bureaucracy: Divination Manuals as Technology and the Standardization of Efficacy in Early China

Author :
Fodde-Reguer, Anna-Alexandra

Publication Year:
2014

School:
University of Michigan

Abstract:
The authors of divination manuals dating to early China (c. 220 B.C.E.-c. 400 C.E.) treated divination as a technology to gain access to hidden empirical knowledge. By transcribing this knowledge in cosmological language and through the use of diagrams, the authors of these manuals attempted to standardize knowledge for capable readers. The manuals thereby mark a crucial departure from ancient China (c. 1600-c. 300 B.C.E.), when divination authority was invested in privileged individuals, whose skills were monopolized by the wealthy and powerful. The standardization of divinatory techniques and hidden knowledge in these manuals fits the context of bureaucratic expertise and the expanding scope of influence of written culture in the early imperial period. 

Using an historical approach, I argue that the knowledge recorded in divination manuals points to a view of divination as a perfectible technique for the discovery of practical knowledge. I carefully differentiate such information from the imagined perspective of the manual authors and the manual users. Each chapter focuses on selections from texts containing divination manuals. 

The texts I will draw on originate from three caches: the "Dream Divination Book" from the Yuelu cache of bamboo slips dating to the Qin dynasty (221 B.C.E.-206 B.C.E.); five divination sections from tomb 6 at Yinwan, Jiangsu Province and dating to 11 B.C.E. (the Han Dynasty 206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.); and a section from the manuscript Pélliot-Chinoise 2856 (Recto) discovered in the Mogao caves at Dunhuang, Gansu Province, dating to c. 400 C.E. 

Using specific examples from each cache, I discuss how the texts disclose specific methods for using divination as a technique for readers to interpret their dreams, choose auspicious dates for various activities, and heal their bodies from illness. 

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