Research Project


"Receipes and Techniques" (fangshu) Related Knowledge and Household Encyclopedias in Yuan and Ming Dynasty China

Dr. Dimitri Drettas

Postdoctoral member of the Centre de Recherche sur les Civilisations de l'Asie orientale (Paris), PhD École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris)
Research stay: November 2009 – November 2010

Lectures at the IKGF:

  • Daily-Use Encyclopedias and Fangshu (方術 , 'receipes and techniques')-related Knowledge in China under the Yuan (1271-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties", Tuesday lecture, February 9, 2010.
  • China Academic Visit 2010: 再谈"想因说" —张凤翼在其《梦占类考》(1585) 中所发表 的解释 (More on "xiangyin theory" – Zhang Fengyi's interpretation as expressed in his Classified Survey of Dream Prognostications (Mengzhan leikao)) (Chinese)
  • Round Table Feature, Annual Conference 2010: Divination, Magic and Health Practices in Chinese Domestic Encyclopedias.

Reading Sessions:

  • The case for oneiromancy in the prefaces of two dream prognostics texts from Dunhuang (MSS P3908 and Fragment 58), and a late Ming dreambook, Zhang Fengyi's 張鳳翼 Mengzhan leikao 夢占類考 (1585), June 16, 2010.
  • Multiple and Inter-connected Facets of "Observation" (guan 觀) in China. prepared in collaboration with Dr. Sophia Katz and Dr. Albert Galvany, November 2010.

Interdisciplinary Discussion Forum:

  • "Daniel and the Duke of Zhou – A Multidisciplinary Discussion Forum for the Study of Dream Divination", together with Dr. László Sándor Chardonnens, November 3rd, 2010 (details see below).

"Receipes and Techniques" (fangshu) Related Knowledge and Household Encyclopedias in Yuan and Ming Dynasty China

The research I undertook during my one-year stay (November 2009-November 2010) at the IKGF in Erlangen was primarily centered on the so-called "recipes and techniques" material found in the household encyclopedias (or 'daily-use encyclopedias') published in China during the Yuan (1271-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. This specialized content, which consists of mantic, magic and medical practices, is grouped with matters such as cooking or formal correspondence in those printed books which claim to present to a popular or moderately literate readership the basic knowledge necessary to domestic daily life. Keeping in mind its textual environment, I have investigated the criteria that determined the selection of this material, and the relationship between the methods described in textual form and the actual practices occurring in Chinese society while these encyclopedias were being propagated. The results of this stage of my work were presented in my first lecture and in my paper for the first annual conference.

In parallel to this main topic, I have also continued my earlier work on dream divination and dream theories in ancient China, by revising and updating the book based on my doctoral thesis, Le rêve mis en ordre. Les traités onirologiques des Ming à l'épreuve des traditions divinatoire, médicale et religieuse du rêve en Chine, in view of its publication. My continued research on this question was presented through a lecture in Beijing, as a member of the IKGF delegation in China and, on the occasion of the reading session I directed on manuscripts of medieval dream prognostics texts and a late Ming dreambook.

The arrival of Dr. Chardonnens, in March 2010, signaled the start of an extremely stimulating and fruitful scientific dialogue, since he was working on equivalent material from medieval Europe. Our thematic and methodological proximity allowed us to start a comparative study of dream divination in our respective cultural areas. We outlined the purpose and the principles of our project, which will be embodied by a collaborative article, in a discussion forum, which formed an opportunity to assemble both sinologists and medievalists for a common reflection on possible orientations of comparison in the field of mantic practices. Since dream prognostic texts are also included in most household encyclopedias, I focused on this part of the "recipes and techniques" chapters for my presentation at a conference organized by our "sister-IKGF" in Bochum (title of lecture: Dream Divination and Dream Exorcism in Chinese Household Encyclopedias", conference "Modes and Models of Religious Attraction", Nov 16, 2010).

The most recent project I contributed to while in Erlangen emerged from a discussion with Dr. Galvany and Dr. Katz on 'observation', a basic method of mantic practices in both China (where it is usually referred to as guan) and Europe. In the philosophical and religious field it corresponds to 'contemplation'. This reflection forms part of a long-term attempt at establishing a common terminology for the study of divination and has epistemological implications, since observation is a common ground for both mantic and scientific methodologies.

Participation in Ongoing Research Projects: "Chinese Daybooks (rishu 日書)", directed by Prof. Marc Kalinowski and Prof. Michael Lackner; "Daniel and the Duke of Zhou – Dream Prognostics Books in the Chinese and European Middle Ages" (with Dr. László Sándor Chardonnens); "Multiple and Inter-connected Facets of 'Observation' (guan 觀) in China" (with Dr. Sophia Katz and Dr. Albert Galvany).

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