Dragon Bones: Ritual, Myth and Oracle in Shang Period China (Paperback)
"Those who do not forget the past are the masters of the future" Sima Qian, Historian, 1st century BCE
Dragon Bones is a masterly and insightful exploration of ritual, myth and oracles in Shang Period China (16th-11th century BCE). Combining wide-ranging scholarship with pragmatic practicality, the author shines a light on one of the most obscure and least-known areas of ritual practice in the ancient world, demonstrating its value and connection to the development of magical practices in China over a period of many centuries.
Combining historical accounts, myths, practical meditation and the oracle bone inscriptions themselves, Dragon Bones elucidates an arcane system of divination and offers its wisdom to the modern world. To provide a relevant context for the dragon bone oracle, the reader is guided through a wealth of material by Chinese philosophers including Kongzi (Confucius) and Laozi, exploring philosophies such as Daoism and its cosmology.
The offerings, sacrifices and rituals which form the mystical matrix from which Chinese magic developed are considered with an elegant perspective which explores both the practices and their use and relevance, considering their development from early shamanic practices into more stylised forms of social and cultural ceremonies which contributed to the evolution of formal rites to serve communities.
As well as its detailed discussion of the historical and mythical figures, gods, spirits, ancestors, mountains, rivers, animals, types of weather and implements which provide the context and provenance of the development of the dragon bone oracle, Dragon Bones includes a dictionary of over three thousand inscriptions, the most comprehensive of its kind created. As the earliest recorded Chinese texts, the dragon bones reveal unique glimpses of a period where history and myth merge, shaped by philosophy, political power and magic, and whose lessons are as relevant today as they have ever been.