Research Project


Divination, Fortune, and Kingship in Tibet

Dr. Brandon Dotson

Throughout Tibetan history, there are numerous examples where rulers have had recourse to divination and prognostication in making important decisions, and where control of such methods has been a matter of contention. A less commonly explored facet of the relationship between rulers and divination in Tibet concerns the parallel dynamics surrounding fortune, fertility, and the places of the wild and of the tame within Tibetan divine kingship and early Tibetan dice divination. In the first place, the vertical axis of the Tibetan kingship, in which the king descends from heaven to earth “like rain,” is parallel to the vertical axis of “fortune” (Tib. phyva and g.yang), conceived of as a quasi-visceral substance that is called down from the wild uplands into the lowland settlements. In the second place, one of the key performative aspects of early Tibetan kingship, the royal hunt, shares many features with dice divination in that there is an element of chance, danger, and play. Additionally, both technologies transfer sustenance and fortune from the wild and from wild animals to people and to their domesticated spaces. Considering these and other dynamics, this project will query the place of the wild, of wild animals, and of the feminine within dice divination and within Tibetan divine kingship, and situate this in the context of wider Tibetan economies of fortune.

back to "Notions of Fate and Prognostication and their Taxonomies" overview