Research Project


Long-export Astrological Prognostication in China

David Pankenier

I plan to study the mutual astrological influences between China and the West, particularly with regard to "long-export" prognostication. Official Chinese astral omenology at court remained virtually impervious to external influences despite centuries of high-level exposure to Indian (Greek) and Babylonian astrology from the medieval period on. Although the early recognition of planetary resonance periods led to retrospective attempts to date China's earliest dynasties, the temporal parameters of Chinese astrological prognostication remained much more circumscribed than in the West, where astrological history prominently featured mathematically predictable epochal changes and the rise of prophets and empires at intervals of centuries and even millennia. Despite the early theoretical outline of an astrological history put forward in the "Treatise on the Celestial Offices" in Shiji, coupled with unmistakable allusion to numerological resonances, and in spite of the vast number of omens recorded over the centuries by the imperial Bureau of Astrology and the Calendar, mention of long-term future prognosticatory outcomes is not a feature of the standard monographs on astrology and the calendar. Due to political considerations, it may have been inconvenient for court officials to raise such ideas openly. Accordingly, in addition to studying Western influences on Chinese planetary astrology more generally, I also plan to focus on whether imperial scholar-officials and other literati might have privately speculated about the astrological longue durée.

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