“Doctors, Diviners, and Magicians of Ancient China: Biographies of Fang-Shih” by Kenneth J. DeWoskin

"Doctors, Diviners, and Magicians of Ancient China: Biographies of Fang-Shih" by Kenneth J. DeWoskin

"If there is one common factor which unites Chinese divinatory methods and sets them apart from corresponding Western practices, it must be the prime importance attached to the significance of direction, whether in the taking of auspices, or their interpretation.

The term fang-shih means, literally, 'direction-scholar', that is, one versed in interpreting omens from their orientation, but what the term actually came to mean can only be gleaned from the several accounts of fang-shih to be found in the classics. It is apparent that their renown did not always lie in their prowess at reading 'wind angles' but also in their skill in such diverse arts as physiognomy, dream-interpretation, or even surgery. Doctors, Diviners and Magicians (to which might also be added charlatans and mountebanks) is in any case an improvement on the quaint 'gentlemen possessing magical recipes.'

Kenneth J. DeWoskin has here assembled all the accounts of fang-shih to be found in the Hou Han Shu, the San Kuo Chih, and the sole representative from the Chin Shu. This collection will provide considerable source material for the growing band of students of Chinese divination, whose burgeoning interest is amply testified in the bibliography. The introduction includes some useful remarks on the major divination methods referred to in the biographies, and there are half a dozen pertinent illustrations. Nevertheless, the real value lies in the accounts of the fang-shih themselves. And a motley bunch, they were, to be sure!"