The End of an Era, Seen Through Many Eyes: Eurasian Dimensions of the Great Chinggisid Crisis
1: Diviners in Dynastic Transitions
Friday, March 25, 2022
9:30am – 11:00am EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 313A
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Germany
While royal families, statesmen and military commanders dramatically coped with dynastic crisis and raptures, the little man also carefully navigated his way to continue his life and even seek new opportunities in changing political and social circumstances. This paper examines family strategies of Chinese diviners who lived from the crisis of the Mongol conquest (early 13th century) to the Yuan-Ming transition (mid-late 14th century). It conducts a prosopographic study of diviner families in northern and southern China to show strategies applied by these experts - on the one hand, expertise in divination was passed within the family from generation to generation; on the other hand, the family members adopted a fluid identity of state divination school instructors/scholars/scribes etc. to adjust to changing social situations and state institutions. This study complements the growing literature which inquires into the relationship between the Chinese state and society but has focused primarily on local elites in certain regions. By extending the research to a group defined by its expertise, this paper tries to see beyond dynastic rise and fall, and beyond the elite, to the longue durée and the continuity and changes of the little man’s life in times of political crisis.