Mysticism and Kingship in China: The Heart of Chinese Wisdom

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The Spring and Autumn Annals differs markedly in almost every way from the Changes, except in its strong divinatory connections, already noted Yet the terms used by Confucian commentators to express the two classics 'cosmic comprehensiveness are remarkably similar. Thus, the assumption of cosmic comprehensiveness helped to transform the Annals into a natural set of signs that could serve as a kind of instrument of divination.

And indeed the Annals was used for such divinatory purposes, as discussed in the previous section of this article, for predicting the future and for judging legal cases.

Ching | Mysticism and Kingship in China | | The Heart of Chinese Wisdom | 11

That the quality of comprehensiveness accords quite naturally with divinatory systems may receive a further confirmation from the history of commentary on Vergil's Aeneid. Although not originally composed with a divinatory intent or system in mind, it was widely used as a divinatory manual in the European middle ages because it was thought to be comprehensive in the sense that it covered all of life's situations. Thus, while canonical texts that trace their origins back to divinatory systems, such as the Changes, may retain the aura of comprehensiveness characteristic of such systems, other canonical texts that had no divinatory origin, such as the Aeneid, may become over time instruments of divination as they develop an aura of comprehensiveness.

The obverse of the comprehensiveness attributed to divinatory systems is their alleged compactness, their lack of any trivial or superfluous elements. The diviner shares with the ritualist and the classical exegete the assumption that every detail of the system, performance or text bears some significance, which one ignored at one's own peril. Overlooking an allegedly minor detail in a dream or oracle, for example, could have serious consequences, as might be illustrated by cases from the Bible and classical literature. As St.

Mysticism and Kingship in China the Heart of Chinese Wisdom

Jerome ? But in the Chinese Confucian tradition, such expressions of the non-superfluous nature of every detail are, again, most frequent and fervent with respect to the two classics with the most distinguished divinatory pedigree, the Changes and the Annals. A statement attributed to Confucius in the Ku-liang commentary to the Annals emphasizes that even the most mundane details in the language of this canonical text are fraught with significance, and thus can hardly be overlooked :.

The stones, having no intelligence, are mentioned along with the day [when they fell], and the fish-hawks, having a little intelligence, are mentioned along with the month [when they appeared].

Mysticism and Kingship in China: The Heart of Chinese Wisdom

The superior man [even] in regard to such things and creatures records nothing rashly. His expressions about stones and fish-hawks being thus exact, how much more will they be so about men! Later exegetes of the Annals divined some significance even in the purported omissions and inconsistencies in the text.

How the WORLD Was Created According to Chinese Legends

Commentators divined cosmological as well as moral lessons from such omissions. The reading of such omissions in the text as being fraught with significance is again reminiscent of the art of the diviner, for whom absence may be as significance as presence.

A final and most notorious feature of oracles and other objects of the diviner's art, which was also carried over into classical exegesis, is the assumption that the oracle is subtler than meets the eye or ear and in need of careful interpretation. While the subtlety and ambiguity of the Spring and Autumn Annals was less apparent than that of the Changes, commentators contended that it too had a deeper oracular meaning.

But why should the Sage Confucius have deliberately included ambiguities and obscurities in the Spring and Autumn Annals as well as in the canonical commentaries to the Changes attributed to him? The Sage feared that the Way would be rejected and that the world would return to chaos. Thus, he created the Changes. Later exegetes thus celebrated the oracular character of the Changes and incorporated it into the classical commentarial tradition.

Far from being two distinct forms of exegesis, as Todorov's statement indicates, divination and textual commentary are thus interwoven in several intricate ways.

In fact, the latter may actually have articulated and intensified tendencies that were only implicit in early forms of divination in China. On the contrary, the world view of the diviners of ancient times may have received its finest and most complete articulation in some of the textual commentaries written by Confucian exegetes of the post-classical era.

These commentators, in any case, bear a stronger resemblance to the diviners of yore than they do to their modern successors or counterparts. By virtue of their close relationship to the sages, they were qualified to judge the past and predict the future, as well as to elucidate the obscurities of the classical canon, the source of wisdom and the fount of truth.

Catherine Porter Ithaca :. Cornell University Press, , p. My transcriptions of Chinese characters into Latin letters use the Wade-Giles system rather than pinyin. Edward L. Barry W.

The Heart of Chinese Wisdom

Holtz New York : Summit Books, , p. Shchutskii, Researches on the I Ching, trans. William L.

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    Divination and Confucian exegesis

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