Research Project


Early Chinese Divination Texts and Bronze Inscriptions

Michael Puett, Lothar von Falkenhausen, Ken'ichi Takashima, Marco Caboara, David Sehnal

This project is based on a comprehensive database of ca. 115 000 oracle bone insciptions as well as 14 000 bronze inscriptions that will be available within the context of the Thesaurus Linguae Sericae. The digitized corpus provides close as well as normalised transcriptions of all documents. In addition it offers picture files of the original rubbings on which the large standard Heji-edition of divination texts is based, and also rubbings of the bronze inscriptions.

Building upon this large corpus, several scholars including Prof. Dr. Michael Puett, Prof. Dr. Lothar von Falkenhausen and Prof. Dr. Ken'ichi Takashima collaborate on creating a systematic lexicographic, rhetorical as well as grammatical analysis of selected inscriptions. The aim will be to compile the first dictionary of oracle bone and bronze inscriptions in digitised form and the first systematic account of rhetorical devices current in the sources mentioned.

In this way the research team aims at providing a philological basis for the systematic study of divination procedures and the ritual control of the future within lineage systems at the formative stage of literate Chinese culture.

The core of this work will be a comprehensive account of the conceptual history within the semantic fields of prognostication, fate, necessity and contingency both in the earliest divination and bronze texts and more generally in pre-Buddhist literature and selected pre-modern texts that are at hand through the Thesaurus Linguae Sericae.

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