Research Project


Sages, Creation, and Fate

Michael Puett
Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University

In early China, a complex set of debates developed over the nature of fate, the nature of sagehood, and the relationship between the two. How does fate operate? Is it controlled and decided by divine figures? If so, which ones? And how can humans respond, alter, or determine this fate? Is the ability to alter fate a technical art, or is it something possessed by sages? If the former, how were these technical arts obtained and how do they work? If the latter, who are the sages and how did they gain this ability? My goal will be to explore why these debates developed, how they progressed over the course of the early period, and the historical implications of the ways they played out.

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