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The Auspices of T'ang

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Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 945
Location: Australia

Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:37 pm    Post subject: The Auspices of T'ang Reply with quote

We have discussed at great length on this forum whether Christianity was hostile to astrology or not. But I came across something interesting in a journal article I have been reading on the attitudes towards Chinese auspices by the rulers during the T'ang Dynasty. The article was written some time ago (1963) but it has some very interesting information. The T'ang Dynasty lasted from 618CE to 907CE. I found the following passage particularly interesting.

Private citizens were not permitted to own or study astrological charts, or even books on astronomy, which were hardly distingushed from the former. The unauthorized possession of charts of the skies, astronomical instruments, divination diagrams, and oracular books, carried the penalty of two years hard labor in public works, since the arcane wisdom revealed by these documents and instruments was a prerogative of the Son of Heaven. Unlawful possession was, in effect, lèse majesté. Moreover, such knowledge offered a potential danger to the state, in that understanding the meaning of baleful signs could be turned to seditious ends by enemies of the realm.

For this reason, according to the article, there is very little information handed down from this time on unfavourable auspices. Methods of authenticating and recording tokens of divine displeasure were kept secret, and not handed down in the public histories of the dynasty. Only random notes taken down by inquisitive scholars survive. The responsibility for collecting and authenticating favourable auspices was placed on the officers of the Department of Properties, a bureau in the executive branch of the central administration of T'ang. This office examined all reports of divine 'responses'. There are extensive records of these auspices but almost none of those that were not auspicious. So the banning of individual involvement in the auspices (including astrology) had nothing to do with lack of belief in these matters but rather an issue of who actually controls this information.
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Joined: 25 Jan 2006
Posts: 142
Location: Long Beach, NY

Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tyrannical regimes have always wanted to keep "the people" as ignorant as possible. People thinking for themselves has always been very dangerous to autocrats.
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