To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China

200-299 Religion  [ Browse Items ]
Publication Year
God -- Proof, Cosmological. Divination -- China. 
Series Name
Publisher Comments
Evidence from Shang oracle bones to memorials submitted to Western Han emperors attests to a long-lasting debate in early China over the proper relationship between humans and gods. One pole of the debate saw the human and divine realms as separate and agonistic and encouraged divination to determine the will of the gods and sacrifices to appease and influence them. The opposite pole saw the two realms as related and claimed that humans could achieve divinity and thus control the cosmos. This wide-ranging book reconstructs this debate and places within their contemporary contexts the rival claims concerning the nature of the cosmos and the spirits, the proper demarcation between the human and the divine realms, and the types of power that humans and spirits can exercise. It is often claimed that the worldview of early China was unproblematically monistic and that hence China had avoided the tensions between gods and humans found in the West. By treating the issues of cosmology, sacrifice, and self-divinization in a historical and comparative framework that attends to the contemporary significance of specific arguments, Michael J. Puett shows that the basic cosmological assumptions of ancient China were the subject of far more debate than is generally thought.
In explicating the unfolding notions of spirit and cosmos in ancient China, Puett engages extensively with the greatest authorities in the field...To this ambitious tour de force through the "world of thought in ancient China," Puett adds the comparative perspective of anthropologists such as Claude Levi-Strauss and Marshall Sahlins, and such diverse others as Mircea Eliade and Max Weber. Puett thus puts China solidly in a global comparative context. Chinese Historical Review

About the Author
Michael J. Puettis Professor of Chinese History at Harvard University.

Table of Contents

Secondary Scholarship

Method of Analysis

1. Anthropomorphizing the Spirits: Sacrifice and Divination in Late Bronze Age China

The Foundations of Chinese Cosmological and Bureaucratic Thought

The Agon of Humans and Spirits in the Late Shang

Placing the Ancestors: The Construction of the Shang Pantheon

Transforming the Spirits: Sacrifice in the Shang

A Moral Cosmos: The Zhou Conquest and the Mandate of Heaven

Pacifying the Spirits: Western Zhou Sacrificial Practice

The Art of the Sacrifice: The "Sheng mm" Poem of the Shijing and Hesiod's Theogony


2. Gaining the Powers of Spirits: The Emergence of Self-Divinization Claims in the Fourth Century BC

Spirits Within Humans: The Issue of Shamanism in Early China and Early Greece

Humans and Gods in Early Greece

Comparing China and Greece

Humans and Gods in Early China

Heaven and Man in the Lunyu

The Moral Cosmos of the Mohists

Separating Humans and Spirits and Dividing Heaven and Earth: The thu yu, xia" Chapter of the Guoyu

Becoming Like a Spirit: The Neiye" Chapter of the Guanzi


3. Accepting the Order of Heaven: Humanity and Divinity in Zhuangzi and Mencius

"Nothing Can Overcome Heaven": The Notion of Spirit in the Zhuangzi

The Resignation of the Sage to the Order of Heaven: The Cosmology of the Mencius

The "Naturalism" of Zhuangzi and Mencius

4. Descendants of the One: Correlative Cosmology in the Late Warring States

The One and the Many: Secondary Scholarship on Early Chinese Cosmology

Totemism and Sacrifice: From Granet to Lévi Strauss and Back Again

The Great Unity of the Cosmos: The Taiyi sheng shui

Becoming an Ancestor to the People: The Laozi

Using the One to Explore Heaven: The Shiliujing

Becoming a Spirit: The "Xinshu" Chapters of the Guanzi

Becoming Like Heaven: The Lüshi chunqiu

The Pattern of Heaven and Earth: The Xunzi

Submitting to the Trigrams: The Xici zhuan


5. The Ascension of the Spirit: Liberation, Spirit Journeys, and Celestial Wanderings

How to Read the Ascension Literature

The Liberation of the Spirit: Question Four of the Shiwen

Liberation and Ascension in the Outer Chapters of the Zhuangzi

Transcending Heaven and Earth: The Yuan you" of the Chuci


6. A Theocracy of Spirits: Theism, Theomorphism, and Alchemy in the Qin and Early Han Empires

Kingship and Sacrifice: From Granet to Dumezil and Back Again Through Sahlins

Competing Cosmologies in the Qin and Early Han

Emperors and Gods in the Early Imperial Courts

The Ascension of Huangdi: Divine Kingship in the Qin and Early Han

The Order of Textual Authority: Lu Jia's Xinyu


7. Aligning and Orienting the Cosmos: Anthropomorphic Gods and Theomorphic Humans in the Huainanzt

Following the Way: The "Yuandao" Chapter

The Ascensions of Huangdi and Fu Xi: The "Lanming" Chapter

A Cosmos Aligned by Spirits: The "Jingshen" Chapter


8. The Sacrifices That Order the World: Divine Kingship and Human Kingship in the Western Han

The Sacrifices of the Sage: Dong Zhongshu

The "Fengshan shu" Chapter of Sima Qian

Determining the Position of Heaven and Earth: The Ritual Reforms at the End of the Western Han


Conclusion: Culture and History in Early China 
Biblio Notes
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Michael J Puett

ISBN: 0674009592 9780674009592
OCLC Number: 469437890
Notes: Bibliogr. p. 327-343. Index.
Description: XV-358 p. ; 24 cm
Contents: Anthropomorphizing the spirits: sacrifice and divination in Late Bronze Age China --
Gaining the powers of spirits: the emergence of self-divinization claims in the fourth century B.C. / Accepting the order of heaven: humanity and divinity in Zhuangzi and Mencius --
Descendants of the one: correlative cosmology in the late warring states --
The ascension of the spirit: liberation, spirit journeys, and celestial wanderings --
A theocracy of spirits: theism, theomorphism, and alchemy in the Qin and early Han empires --
Aligning and orienting the cosmos: anthropomorphic gods and theomorphic humans in the Huainanzi --
The sacrifices that order the world: divine kingship and human kingship in the western Han.
Series Title: Harvard-Yenching institute monographs series, 57
Responsibility: Michael J. Puett.  
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