Research Project


Reading the Future in the Past: Time, Prediction, and History in Early Chinese Historiography

Dr. Piotr Gibas

My research examines the relationship between prognosticating and historiography in Early China. I argue that history writing aspired to control and manipulate historical time; by creating a narrative of the past and consolidating its multiple links to the future, the early Chinese writers of history—like (and in concert with) the diviners about whom they wrote—strove to explain it and, thus, conquer it. Seen in this light, “knowing history” implies understanding and mastering the mechanisms that drive it; and, looking into the past is tantamount to “knowing” the future. In effect, history writing can be regarded as a form of prognostication.

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