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The Art of Fate Calculation: Practicing Divination in Taipei, Beijing, and Kaifeng

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Volume 14

Asian Anthropologies

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The Art of Fate Calculation

Practicing Divination in Taipei, Beijing, and Kaifeng

Stéphanie Homola

Foreword by Michael Lackner

374 pages, 42 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-80073-812-6 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (January 2023)

eISBN 978-1-80073-813-3 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“Divination has been extremely common and important in Chinese culture since earliest times, but surprisingly little information appears in the Western-language literature. This excellent ethnography goes a long way toward remedying the gap… Most ethnographically exciting in this book are Homola's accounts of fortune-casting sessions in Taipei, Beijing, and Kaifeng, especially her warm and empathetic accounts of particular practitioners, ranging from highly successful heads of large corporate operations to wandering seers who depend on small donations. The practice has been condemned as misleading for 2,000 years and as ‘superstition’ (mixin) for at least a century, yet it persists: people demand any lead, however small and tentative. - Highly Recommended.” • Choice

“Represents an extremely valuable resource, both as a one-stop account of the politics of divination in modern China (the Republic pre-1949, PRC, and Taiwan), its intellectual history, and some key methods, and as a detailed ethnographic account of how diviners and clients engage with divination as a decision-making process and set of cosmological ideas. • William Matthews, London School of Economics

“Excellent and very timely survey of the broad field of Chinese divination. And so much more than "a survey"! A comprehensive, detailed review of a complex and fascinating subject.” • David Zeitlyn, University of Oxford


From housewives to students and high-ranking officials, people from all social backgrounds in China and Taiwan visit fate calculation masters to learn about their destiny. How do clients assess the diviner’s skills? How does one become a fortune-teller? How is a person’s fate calculated? The Art of Fate Calculation explores how conceptions of fate circulate in Chinese and Taiwanese societies while resisting uniformization and institutionalization. This is not only due to the stigma of “superstition” but also to the internal dynamic of fate calculation practice and learning.

Stéphanie Homola is Researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and member of the French Research Institute for Eastern Asia (IFRAE). She was previously Assistant Professor for Ethnology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Director of the Elite Master's Program "Standards of Decision-Making across Cultures".

Subject: Anthropology (General)Anthropology of ReligionSociology
Area: Asia


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