A SAGE Journal


Sacrifice to the wind gods in late Shang China – religious, paleographic, linguistic and philological analyses: An integrated approach

Fa Li, Ken-ichi Takashima

发布时间:2022-08-24    点击次数:


There is a bewildering array of rituals and sacrifices performed by the aristocratic, ruling elite in late Shāng China (c. 13th–11th centuries BC). They range from major, regularly scheduled, ritual observances to unscheduled rituals and sacrifices directed to the ancestors and the nature gods such as the wind, rivers, mountains and other deities. They were often accompanied with apotropaic prayers. What might have been their rationale is a question that remains to be answered. Sacrificing to the wind gods, for example, is often encountered in oracle-bone inscriptions. Scholars do not seem to have examined the deeper, ontological problem of the raison d’être of various rituals and sacrifices. A closer reading of the inscriptions containing fēng 風 ‘wind’, fèng 鳳 ‘phoenix’ and other collocated words may restore their original meanings.

This paper distinguishes the ‘wind’ as a natural phenomenon from the ‘wind god’, even though they are written by the same graph. It also distinguishes between dì fēng 禘風 ‘dì-sacrifice to the wind (god)’ and níng fēng 寧風 ‘appease (unwanted) winds’. Identifying collocations of the words involved is an effective way for the distinctions we will be making. The paper also explores the need for the wind sacrifices accompanied by various other sacrifices. By addressing these issues, the paper is intended to stimulate further, in-depth discussion of the ritual and sacrificial system of late Shāng China. It covers a wide-ranging topic on late Shāng religious beliefs. They are analyzed in terms of paleography, linguistics and philology in an integrated manner.

【关键词】dì fēng 禘風, níng fēng 寧風, sacrificial animals, wind, wind god

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