Synchronicity, luck and chance .


Turtle shell oracle of the Shang dynasty:


Royal divination was one of the central institutions of the Shang dynasty and the names of more than 120 Shang diviners, serving the last 9 kings, are known to historians. Topics of divination ranged from the performance of the ancestral cult, apotropaic wishes for "no harm" in the next 10-day week, questions regarding the outcome of royal hunts, harvests, or childbirth, queries on impending disasters, enemy invasions, victory in battle, good fortune, or bad omens. Royal diviners obtained the scapulae (shoulder blades) of cattle and sheep that had been ritually sacrificed and turtle plastrons (ventral shells) or carapaces and cracked them by applying hot metal rods or heated sticks of chaste wood to hollows on the rough (back) sides, which would produce T-shaped fissures on the smooth (front) sides.

Although the diviners formulated the charges and oversaw the divinatory rituals, with few exceptions, only the king had the prerogative to make pronouncements regarding the cracks, which could be interpreted as auspicious, inauspicious, or neutral. The Shang king's monopoly of the critical act of interpretation may well be understood in terms of his ancestry. After the king had made his forecast or interpretation, the number of each crack, along with the occasional "crack notation" about the auspicious quality of a particular crack, was incised beside it. A complete record of the divination, probably drafted on perishable material, was then incised into the bone or shell. The incised characters and cracks occasionally were filled with pigments.