Daoist Attitudes Toward Mantic Practices

Prof. Dr. Terry Frederick Kleeman

Daoism, China's indigenous organized religion, has an ambiguous attitude toward divination and other mantic practices. The early church, roughly from the mid-second to through the fifth century, rejected all such divinatory and also medical practices as being incompatible with their belief that fate was determined solely by moral conduct. The only appropriate response to illness or misfortune was a ritualized confession of sins and penance, and repeated illness or misfortune was a sign of deep moral failings. Later Daoist priests make use of a full range of divinatory and medical services, and many have a subsidiary speciality as a diviner, geomancer, or Chinese medical doctor. Key to this transition is the wholesale importation of elements of the South China occult tradition into Daoism beginning in the late fourth century. My project seeks to trace this transition through the Daoist scriptures and secular literature of the Six Dynasties period, roughly fourth through seventh centuries.