Research Project


Forged Prophecies: Liu Ji's Shaobingge and Late Qing Anti-Manchu Sentiments

Phillip Grimberg

- The Shaobingge 燒餅歌 or "Baked Cake Ballade" (SBG) is a collection of prophecies attributed to Liu Ji 劉基 (1311–1375), spanning the six centuries from the founding of the Ming to the end of the 19th century and the decades leading to the demise of the Qing at the beginning of the 20th century. Hailed as a master-narrative of prophetic lore the SBG has become one of the most influential - and controversial - works of political prophesy in China. The predictions it contains are imbued with allusive and obscure language that points to glyphomantic practices, yet when deciphered they appear to be oddly accurate in their prophecy of future events. With regard to the authorship and authenticity of the SBG most scholars today agree that it was probably compiled from various older sources during the closing years of the Guangxu era (1875-1908) or even slightly later - the first printed version of the SGB was published in Shanghai in 1912 - and was merely attributed to Liu Ji by anti-Manchu sectarian groups and secret societies that throve in China since the early eighteenth century in order to increase the historical legitimacy and credibility of its predictions and prophecies. In light of anti-Manchu sentiment that was rife throughout the country by the second half of the 19th century, the SBG resonates with widely spread nationalistic and restorative tendencies seeking to reinstate the house of Zhu and to replace the foreign rule of the Qing by a government of Han ethnicity, which was also reflected in the contemporary slogan of "oppose the Qing, restore the Ming" (fan Qing fu Ming 反淸复明). Thus, the SBG and its prognostications for the future attest to the inextricable correlation of prophecy and politics, while also demonstrating the psychological and propagandistic power of historically charged textual authority in (Late Imperial) China.

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