Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation: Chinese Pyro-Plastromancy in Nara-Heian Japan

Stephan N. Kory (Visiting Fellow à IKGF project, Université Erlangen-Nürnberg) interviendra dans le cadre du séminaire de Frédéric Obringer Médecine, entretien de la vie et produits aromatiques sous les Ming et les Qing avec un présentation intitulée: “Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation. Chinese Pyro-Plastromancy in Nara-Heian Japan”. Son intervention aura lieu en anglais.


What is pyro-osteomancy and why is it significant in East Asian studies? How did the technique develop in China between the first century BCE and the eleventh century CE? How were medieval Chinese traditions transmitted to and transformed in Nara (710–794) and Heian (794–1185) Japan? My talk will attempt to answer these closely related questions. Its thesis is that bone divination, the archetypal form of Chinese divination, continued to develop through the first millennium of the Common Era in China, particularly with regard to methods of crack production and interpretation. Four Han to Song texts will be compared to illustrate these changes and to help situate the transmission of medieval Chinese techniques into Japan. The second half of the talk reviews received and recovered evidence of divination with bone and fire in early Japan to identify and investigate a shift from deer scapulae to turtle shells that took place during the Nara-Heian transition, particularly within the state cult. It questions why this shift occurred and analyzes a detailed explanation of it found in a purportedly early Heian treatise on the divinatory cracking of turtle plastrons known as the Shinsen kisōki 新撰亀相記 (Newly compiled record of turtle omens). The Shinsen kisōki claims to have been authored by a group of men descended from a common genealogical line of ancestral kami associated with pyro-plastromancy. It not only reveals much about why members of a handful of related clans would have promoted a change from traditional Japanese scapulimancy to medieval Chinese plastromancy at this point in history, but also much about how the state ritualization of the latter affected other changes in state and local religion and politics during the late Nara and early Heian periods.


  • Jeudi 4 mai 2017, 11h-13h


  • Salle A07_51  (7e étage) – EHESS, 54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris

Aurélia Martin

Chargée de communications et des médias pour l'UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS)

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Aurélia Martin

Chargée de communications et des médias pour l'UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS)

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