[Webinar] Yang Shen: "Self-Knowledge as Religious Knowledge: Lottery Divination in Buddhist Temples in Contemporary China"

Michael Luedke's picture
January 12, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Chinese History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

Self-Knowledge as Religious Knowledge: Lottery Divination in Buddhist Temples in Contemporary China

Speaker: Yang Shen (Cultural Anthropology; Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen)


Time: 12 January 2021, 6:15 pm–7:45 pm Central European Time (US East Coast: 12:15 pm–1:45 pm EST; China: 1:15 am–2:45 am CST) 

This talk is part of a series of virtual lectures hosted by the International Research Consortium “Fate, Freedom, and Prognostication” at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. The full schedule is available at http://ikgf.fau.de/events/upcoming-events/


For online participation, please register anytime at http://ikgf.fau.de/lectures



Qian or lottery divination in Chinese temples is a convenient self-help technique for generic temple-goers to generate creative self-knowledge. Previous studies and popular discourse focus more on standardized divinatory poems or text-interpreters’ role in qian practices. My recent fieldwork in East China indicates that divination-seekers clearly distinguish a lot from a poem. The most critical transformative moment occurs in the ritual action of seeking the lot, by which temple-goers performatively turn themselves into a divine communicator and an asking agent. Interpretive relationships are secondary; they happen between various actors who share the temple spaces contingently and are established case by case through a sequence of entrustment moves. Long-term temple residents are not equally committed to temple-goers’ particular life situations. Those who do serve to ensure divinatory self-knowledge’s efficacious addressability. The study develops a ritual attunement approach for re-considering generic participation in Buddhist temples in contemporary China. In a late socialist temple setting where specialized diviners are institutionally excluded, self-help lottery divination gives us a case to rethink the social constitution of religious knowledge.

Contact Info: 

Michael Lüdke, International Research Consortium “Fate, Freedom, and Prognostication—Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe," University of Erlangen–Nuremberg, http://ikgf.fau.de

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