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

The Oracle Inscriptions of Chou-yuan and the Book of Changes

Ning Ch’en

Department of Chinese Literature, Singapore National University

Li Ching-ch’ih claimed that the Book of Changes was, like the Shang oracle texts, records of divination, for both share some similarities in style and subject. The Chou oracle inscriptions discovered at Chou-yuan afford a new perspective to observe the sources of the Book of Changes. In the present paper it is stated, on the basis of a comparison, that the Chou-yuan oracle texts have a closer relation with the Book of Changes than do the Shang oracle texts. In style, both have five similar patterns: 1)a prognostication only, 2) an event only, 3) an event followed by a prognostication, 4) a prognostication followed by a event, and 5) a mixture of several events and prognostications in different sequence. Among the five patterns, the second is the most significant. It characterizes both the Book of Changes and the Chou-yuan oracle texts in that it records the topic, sometimes detailed topic, of an event taken for divination rather than the exact statement or “charge” announced by the diviner during a divination. In regard to the subject of divination, there is also a strong resemblance between the Book of Changes and the Chou-yuan texts, such as sacrifice, warfare, health, construction, and of more importance, omens. Another similarity between the two is the divinatory term wang-chiu which cannot be seen in the Shang oracle texts. The conclusion of this article is that Chou divination records such as those found in Chou-yuan constitute one portion of the sources for the compilation of the Book of Changes.


Key Words: divination charges, divinatory terms, topics of divination omens