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The Document on Rain: Predicting with Weather in early Han China

Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology (November 5, 2020)

SEMINAR SERIES : Online Sinology Fortnightly

MAJOR SPEAKER : Robinson, Rebecca
LENGTH : 89 min.
ACCESS : Open to all
SUMMARY : The Document on Rain (yushu 雨書) is a short manuscript that forms part of the Beijing University collection of Han slips. This text, divided into two sections, has thus far garnered little scholarly attention, however, it presents to us an unusual example of a daybook-type manuscript, one which is primarily concerned with the weather. The Document on Rain, while sharing many characteristics of excavated daybooks, is unique in its treatment of humans. Rather than providing advice on whether or not one should undertake activity on a certain day, or engaging in the discourse about whether or not humans can manipulate the weather, the Document on Rain takes a transcendent view, presenting to us an unfamiliar form of prognostication, which does not allow humans to take control of their own fate, as well as an understanding of weather as a phenomenon that cannot be manipulated by humans. In so doing, the Document on Rain attempts to integrate practices of prognostication based on calendrical and sexagenary cycles with theories about rain and its relationship to the twenty-eight stellar lodges. In this paper, I will discuss the integration of astro-meteorological knowledge into mantic understandings of the world as behaving in predictable calendrical cycles.  [Go to the full record in the library's catalogue]

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