New York University
Timing is Everything: The Role of Day Books in Early China
In recent years, the archaeological record of excavated Early Chinese manuscripts has revealed that texts known as rishu 日書 (“day books”) circulated widely in the Chinese cultural sphere during the late Warring States, Qin, and Western Han periods (ca. 3rd – 1st centuries BCE). While primarily concerned with practical methods of selecting auspicious times and places for a variety of activities in daily life – activities such as travel, marriage, planting crops, seeking an audience, or burying the dead – the manuscripts also tended to incorporate a range of other miscellaneous contents with the result that no two day books are precisely alike. In this talk, I will introduce select passages from day-book manuscripts with an emphasis on the links and divisions they imply between different forms of knowledge circulating in the formative years of the Chinese Empire.