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[Vol.27 (2017)] Who Answered the Shang Diviner?: The Nature of Shang Divination
Author : BACK Youngsun
Date : 19.03.25
Page : 1-22
Keyword : Shang, divination, oracle-bone, Di/di, sacred, profane
Abstract :

Generally speaking, Shang divination has been interpreted as a divine communication between human beings and spirits. Through crack-making, Shang kings and diviners, acting as intermediaries between the human realm and the spiritual realm, sought knowledge about issues that are beyond human control and comprehension. The cracks on the bones were thus deciphered as the spirits’ responses to the diviners. However, within the oracle-bone inscriptions we cannot find any clear evidence that Shang kings communicated with spirits. The question of who actually answered Shang diviners is the focus of this paper. I try to track down the identity of the one addressed in divination by investigating the nature of the Shang pantheon. In the first section, I propose three possible divinees: Di as a representative of the Shang pantheon, di as a collective body of all the spirits, and different spirits for different divinations. However, none of these possibilities seems to match the nature of the Shang pantheon. In the second section, I introduce another hypothesis by Sarah Allan that Shang divination was not a two-party communication between human beings and spirits, but a one-party interpretive act on the part of humans. This means that Shang diviners were not communicating with spirits but reading the cosmic signs revealed on oracle-bones. In the final section, I argue that the major reason scholars have regarded Shang divination as a divine communication is that they viewed the Shang cosmos based on a strict binary conception of the sacred and the profane, principally informed by Mircea Eliade. If we divest ourselves of this binary lens, a new hypothesis renders a different cosmological model of the Shang dynasty; that is, both spirits and human beings are parts of the Shang cosmos.


Attachments : 백영선.pdf

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