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Fate Calculation Experts: Diviners Seeking Legitimation in Contemporary China

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Volume 9

Asian Anthropologies

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Fate Calculation Experts

Diviners Seeking Legitimation in Contemporary China

Geng Li

186 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-994-3 $110.00/£78.00 Hb Not Yet Published (February 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78533-995-0 eBook Not Yet Published

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“[This book] provides a very rich ethnographic account of the legitimation efforts of diviners… It meets a pressing need for such an account in the field of Chinese religions, and also provides comparative material from mainland China which will make a significant ethnographic contribution to the comparative anthropology of divination.” • William Matthews, University College London


Having long been stigmatized as an immoral and even illegal “superstition”, the popular practice of divination is experiencing a revival in contemporary China. Fate Calculation Experts explores how diviners attempt to achieve legitimation in a society which identifies strongly with modernity, science, and rationality. As well as associating with modern knowledge production systems, diviners build a positive social image for their occupation via claims to moral authority and appeals to “tradition”. Beyond matters of image management, diviners’ efforts towards legitimation also figure in the social relationships and fundamental cultural values they develop in their practice.

Geng Li is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She received her Doctoral degree in Anthropology from the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University. Her research interests include popular religion, ethnic groups in China, built heritage, and vernacular architecture.

Subject: General Anthropology Religion
Area: Asia




Chapter 1. The Social and Political Status of Divination in China
Chapter 2. The Practice of Divination and Diviners
Chapter 3. Typical Customers of Divination
Chapter 4. The Moral Discourses of Divination
Chapter 5. Divination as an Aspect of ‘Traditional Culture’
Chapter 6. Divination as Counselling
Chapter 7. The Professionalization of Divination through Associations


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