Research Project


The Intellectuals’ Belief in Fate in Modern China (1840-1949)

Prof. Dr. Xiong Yuezhi

The belief in fate, which includes Divination (占卜), 8 Characters (八字), Bagua (八卦), Physiognomy (相术), Geomancy (风水)and so on, has a long history in China. The belief in fate was regarded as a folk belief, which means that it is the lower classes who believe in it, while the upper classes, the intellectuals, most of whom were gentry, did not, but in fact this was untrue. We find that most of the intellectuals were not excluded completely from a belief in fate, and that this lasted into modern times in China, even after the western learning began to prevail in China after the Opium War. This project will focus on the belief in fate among intellectuals in modern China, who can be divided into two groups: one had a traditional educational background, and were educated in private schools such as sishu (私塾), and Shuyuan (书院), while the other had a western educational background, and were educated in western countries or western pattern schools (新式学堂) in China. There is a large amount of material that shows that both the former and latter believed more or less in fate, which means that there is continuity in the intellectuals' belief in fate. What is the root of this continuity and its relation with traditional Chinese culture? All of these questions will be discussed broadly in this project.

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