CASE 5:  Popular Belief in Ancient China

by Mu-Chou Poo (Academia Sinica, Taipei)

Have you ever consulted a horoscope or read the astrology column in your local newspaper? Nowadays we tend to class such things as fun or even superstition, but definitely not science. It’s easy to forget that, for much of human history, science, superstition, and religion weren’t so clearly separated. Indeed in pre-modern times it may be that most people sought to divine the future by looking at the stars, consulting an oracle, or reading an almanac. Such practices made up part of the daily lives of people all across Eurasia, including China. We are fortunate that, in 1975, an ancient almanac was found that gives us a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of people living in China more than 2,000 years ago. It tells us much about the religious and cosmological ideas people had back then, but it reveals as well how murky was the boundary between religion and science in traditional societies.

Want to know more? Have a look at the next section: WHAT IS THIS THING?

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