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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

158 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-994-3 $120.00/£89.00 / Hb / Published (March 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78533-995-0 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“As one of the few book-length studies on Chinese contemporary divination, this work does justice to the importance of divination as a social phenomenon in the Chinese world… With its fluid style avoiding technical jargon, this monograph will appeal to specialists of Chinese religions as well as to anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of quotidian morality in China… This work is essential for anyone interested in further research that might link the social and political status of divination to its cognitive dynamics.” • JRAI

“[The author’s] familiarity with key research partners has resulted in rewarding case studies on the morally conservative pronouncements that Chinese diviners tend to make for their clients. Readers will enjoy following her ethnographic episodes.” • Religion and Society

“In this book Geng Li dissects the ways in which diviners legitimate their practice in China. In so doing she generates deep insights into the modes of legitimization in contemporary China, the fault-lines of contemporary politics and the types of anxieties that are generated in a society that is rapidly modernizing while reinventing strict codes of hierarchy, growing in wealth while generating inequality, and dreaming of a new world order while reminiscing about an idealized past.” • Andrew Kipnis, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

“[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 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: Anthropology (General)Anthropology of Religion
Area: Asia-Pacific


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