Divination and Power: A Multi-regional View of the Development of Oracle Bone Divination in Early China

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Divination and Power: A Multi-regional View of the Development of Oracle Bone Divination in Early China

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Title: Divination and Power: A Multi-regional View of the Development of Oracle Bone Divination in Early China
Author: Flad, Rowan
Citation: Flad, Rowan. 2008. Divination and power: A multi-regional view of the development of oracle bone divination in early China. Current Anthropology 49(3): 403-437.
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Abstract: Divination is a form of ritual practice frequently employed as an important source of social and political power. Elaborate forms of divination can be crucial to state control, and the power of elaborated divining techniques has widespread influence. In ancient China, as elsewhere, divination was the domain of ritual specialists who used their skills to mediate uncertainty, but the role that these specialists played in society differed considerably from one place to another. Using divination remains from the Neolithic, Shang and Zhou periods of China, the relationship between divination elaboration and power is examined. The paper proposes that more elaborate divination procedures are associated with bureaucratic institutions as a source of state power, whereas other contexts involve more heterogeneous divination practices. A survey of consecutive periods of the Chinese Neolithic and Bronze Age demonstrates such a relationship between elaboration and state control of divination.
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/588495
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:2797431

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  • FAS Scholarly Articles [6463]
    Peer reviewed scholarly articles from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University
 
 

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