2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Taboos: An Aspect of Beliefs in the Qin and Han

Tseng-kuei Liu

Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica

The issue of taboos in the Qin and Han is complex. Taboos are found not only in primitive witchcraft thinking and the worship of supernatural beings, but also in the “Five Agent” theory of the period. The issue of taboos reveals the plurality and the basic characteristics of beliefs in ancient China. This articles discusses Qin-Han taboos in three regards: taboos relating to Nature, relations among people, and gods and ghosts. People of the time believed that human destinies were closely related to Nature, so behavior contrary to the operations of Nature was prohibited. As for taboos regarding relations among people, these affected daily life. Taboos thus served as important social norms. And witchcraft and ritual could dissolve taboos, a notion which reveals much about the worship of supernatural beings and the concept of witchcraft. The plurality of taboos reveals that taboos not only reflected the beliefs of common people, but also formed a part of the literate tradition. This tradition remained influential in Chinese history and society over the next two thousand years.


Keywords: taboo, Qin and Han,beliefs, five agent theory, witchcraft