The Chenwei Riddle: Time, Stars, and Heroes in the Apocrypha

Licia Di Giacinto

Deutsche Ostasienstudien 13
Paperback (23,0 x 15,0 cm), xi +332 Seiten, mit 25 SW-Abbildungen
2013. € 36,80.
ISBN-13: 978-3-940527-72-1 (978-3940527721, 9783940527721) ISBN-10: 3-940527-72-6 (3940527726)
Vertrieb: CHINA Buchservice / Vormerken


The present study is devoted to the Han (206 BC–AD 220) chenwei writings, cryptic fragmentary documents that are usually referred to as “Confucian” (ru) apocrypha. The chenwei are famous for being one of the most enigmatic subjects in Han studies. This book proposes a different methodological approach to the riddle: the contextualization of the main chenwei contents – the starry sky, the notion of time, and the political hero – in Han culture. This approach generates, first, a new definition of the apocryphal phenomenon and, second, a rumination about the role of the received chenwei material within contemporary sinology.

The chenwei corpus is presented here as a hybrid collection of political documents of inverse predictions with the idea of messianic politics at the core. The chenwei phenomenon was born as a political branch of a pre-existent technical-religious imagery. People moving in the technical milieu and popular ru played a relevant role in the drafting of the documents. Although certainly complex and often very problematic, these writs definitely deserve more attention than they usually receive. Indeed, they offer here and there a glimpse beyond Han elite culture.

Licia Di Giacinto is a postdoctoral researcher at the Bochum-based Käte Hamburger Consortium for the study of the Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe. She received a Master Degree from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice and a Ph.D. from the Department of Chinese History and Philosophy at the Ruhr University Bochum.