The Diversity of Eastern Zhou Views on Deities and The Divine Insight of Spirits and Gods

  • Zhongjiang Wang


Compared to the long arguments that the Mozi 《墨子》 presents concerning absolute faith in the gods in its “Shedding Light on Spirits” 《明鬼》 chapter, the discussion in the Shanghai Museum’s The Divine Insight of Spirits and Gods 《鬼神之明》 Guishen zhi ming on whether or not spirits and gods are insightful and powerful seems quite brief. 1 Nonetheless, this newly excavated text reveals an unusual conception of the divine that diverges from those of both Mozi and Confucius. This perspective affirms the existence of spirits and gods, while simultaneously asserting that these beings are inconsistent when bestowing rewards and punishments. This adds an extra layer of doubt to the Mohist and Confucian belief that spirits reliably “bless the good and curse the evil,” instead presenting what we might call an ambiguous view of spirits and gods. The discovery of this text thus add a fresh layer of color to the Eastern Zhou masters’ conceptions of spirits, expanding our understanding of the diversity and plurality of the religious beliefs in that period. In particular, it reveals the nuance of the complex religious transformations that occurred between the “Three Dynasties” and the Eastern Zhou. Here, we intend to focus on the unique vision of the divine in The Divine Insight of Spirits and Gods and its position in the religious world of the Eastern Zhou.


Ritual Propriety Shang Dynasty Fair Interaction Feudal Lord Intellectual Strength 
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  1. 3.
    As another explanation of “spirits,” the Mohist Zi Chan 子產 explains in the Zuozhuan that Boyou 伯有 became a spirit because of his violent death. See Mozi jiangu, 249; Yang Bojun 杨伯峻, Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu 春秋左传注 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), 1291–1293.Google Scholar
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    Cao Jinyan 曹锦炎, “Guishen zhi ming” 鬼神之明 in Shanghai Bowuguan cang Zhanguo Chu zhushu (wu) 上海博物馆藏战国楚 竹书 (五), ed. Ma Chengyuan (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2005), 307–308.Google Scholar
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  • Zhongjiang Wang

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