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Focus ‘Buddhism’: The Research Field ‘Buddhism and Divination’ at the KHC Erlangen



As research fellow and research coordinator at the KHC Erlangen, Dr. Esther-Maria Guggenmos overviewed research in the field of Buddhism and Divination since the KHC’s inauguration in 2009. Working herself on a divinatory Buddhist text from medieval China created toward the end of 6th century, Dr. Guggenmos enlarges on the state of the field and identifies several research threads that inform research on divinatory practices in Chinese Buddhism at the Consortium.

The Consortium is inspired by the groundbreaking studies of Michel Strickmann (1942-1994), who draws attention to Buddho-Daoist mantic practices. Broad research has been conducted previously in the so-called field of Yi-ology, i.e. Studies on the Book of Changes, and the field of astrology. As both disciplines have developed a shared tradition with Buddhist history, the KHC Erlangen can build upon previous research in these areas and has developed three main focuses:

  1. Through the cooperation between Dr. Li Wei and Dr. Guggenmos, a research project on divinatory projects in the biographies of Buddhist thaumaturge monks has been developed (http://www.ikgf.fau.de/research/research-projects/ritual-and-religion/divining-monks.shtml), that aims to analyze the geographical and temporal stratification of the spread of divinatory practices in the monastic community.
  2. The analysis of the legitimation of mantic practices in the Chinese Buddhist tradition, especially the codes of monastic discipline, shows that mantic practices were especially forbidden in order to secure the reputation of the monastic community.
  3. In her research on the ‘Sutra on the Divination of the Effect of Good and Evil Actions’, Dr. Guggenmos translates and elucidates the cultural history of the sutra itself. The sutra integrates a repentance ritual with divinatory practices by throwing dice in order to improve the practitioner’s karma.


Dr. Guggenmos shared impressions from her visit to Luoyang that greatly profited from the onsite expertise of Prof. em. Dr. Luo Zhao, and hints at an unexpected detail - dice from the Song dynasty have been found at the location that hinted back to the material development of dicing.