PhD Erling Agoey

Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung "Schicksal, Freiheit und Prognose. Bewältigungsstrategien in Ostasien und Europa"

Curriculum Vitae

Erling Agoey holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental languages at the University of Oslo. After graduation, he has worked as a Junior Research Fellow at the IKGF, University of Erlangen–Nuremberg, and has been engaged as a senior lecturer teaching Classical Chinese and environmental history in China at the University of Oslo. His research interests encompass various topics related to Late Imperial China and Chinese environmental history, including the impact of climate change on history, adaptation to climatic challenges, historical perceptions of climate (all of these topics were covered by Agoey’s doctoral dissertation) and prognostications for weather conditions by farmers and elites (the topic for his IKGF research), in both cases with a focus on the 17th and 18th centuries.  
Agoey has previously presented his research at various scholarly meetings including the EACS (European Association for Chinese Studies) conferences in 2018 and 2020 (2021) and the EAEH (East Asian Environmental History) conferences in 2019 and 2021. He has received awards for both his MA thesis (on Chinese perceptions of foreigners throughout history) and for his Ph.D. work, and he is currently working on a book manuscript based on this doctoral dissertation. He aims to continue working on Late Imperial Chinese environmental and intellectual history.


IKGF Research Project:

Weather prognostication in Late Imperial China as presented in Local Gazetteers (1644-1722)
Pre-modern societies lived with an uneasy relationship to the weather and climate, which were decisive in determining their livelihoods. Therefore, weather conditions were among the most frequently prognosticated matters. In China, a complex and varied tradition of how to interpret and deal with the weather had been inherited by the Ming 明 (1368-1644) and Qing 清 (1644-1912) dynasties. This tradition, which was often termed "farmer's prognostications 農占 (nongzhan)," was partially a form of early meteorological knowledge and partially popular beliefs. It concerns in particular prognostications using observations of certain natural phenomena (often phenological, that is, periodic signs) on specific days as indicators for harvest yields, calamities and grain prices. Some of it was based on ancient Confucian heritage, some on more recent scholarship or folk culture.  
This project continues part of Agoey's PhD project (2017-2020), where he addressed perceptions of climate in Jiangnan, East China, in the 17th century. It examines the Late Imperial Chinese prognostication practices as they relate to the weather and climate (attempting to cover all major Chinese regions, excluding most non-Han areas) as they were recorded in local gazetteers 方志 (fangzhi) from the first two Qing reigns (1644-1722). Working with the premise that farmer's prognostications were present almost everywhere in Qing China as a not insignificant part of popular culture, though also of interest to social elites, this project discusses the regional distribution of certain practices (and tries to explain the reasons behind it), with a particular focus on prognostications for the year's harvest. It also probes into the history and origin of weather prognostication in China, but cannot comprehensively address this topic. Some practices were widespread across large regions, while others appear unique to certain localities. On this basis, it is possible to identify certain regional groups of prognostication practices.