Turtle-Shell Divination In The Zhou Dynasty

This is an Archive of a Past Event

Edward L. Shaughnessy, Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago

Pyromancy, the use of fire to cause cracks to appear in bone or shell, is one of the most prominent features of ancient Chinese religious life. It is best known from the inscribed oracle bones of the late Shang dynasty (c. 1200-1045 B.C.), though there is also an extended biography devoted to it in theRecords of the Historian of Sima Qian (c. 145-89 B.C.). It is less well known that turtle-shell divination continued to be practiced throughout the intervening Zhou dynasty (c. 1045-249 B.C.). In this talk, I will survey the evidence, both traditional and archaeological, for turtle-shell divination during the Zhou dynasty, including the very recently published Shanghai Museum manuscript Turtle-shell Divination Document.