An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Lingqijing 靈棋經

Nov 30, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Lingqijing 靈棋經 "Classic of the numinous chips", also called Lingqi benzhang zhengjing 靈棋本章正經 "Correct classic on the basic stanzas of the numinous chips", is a book on divination traditionally attributed to the Former-Han-period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) master Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (154-93 BCE), or to Prince Liu An 劉安 (179-122 BCE) of Huainan 淮南. The content of the book of 2 juan is not very consistent and therefore provided material for many different schools of diviners.

In the imperial bibliography Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書, it is included in the section on book on the Five Agents (wuxing 五行), under the title of Shi'er lingqi bujing 十二靈棋卜經 "Classic on prognostication by the twelve numinous chips". There is a version of the book preserved in Japan that is called Bagong lingqi bujing 八公靈棋卜經 "Classic on prognostication by the eight strong numinous chips". In the preface to this version it it said that the 1-juan-long book was "transmitted" (chuan 傳) by master Fawei 法味 who lived in Xiangcheng 襄城 under the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420). Yet it seems that Fawei was in fact the author of the received text, and not only the "transmitter".

The Lingqijing makes use of twelve chips similar to chess pieces that are inscribed with the characters "upper", "middle", and "lower", each character written on four chips. In the beginning of the divination ceremony, incense is burnt and incantations sung, then the diviner throws the inscribed chips and interprets the position of the twelve pieces and the characters as one of 124 hexagrams. For each hexagram, the particular text is read and then interpreted according to the individual situation. The main text of the Lingqijing is written in four-syllable rhymes. Compared to the famous divination classic Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes", the text to the hexagrams in the Lingqijing is rather short and easy to understand.

The Lingqijing was commented on by Yan Youming 顏幼明, He Chengtian 何承天 (370-447), Li Yuan 李遠, Chen Shikai 陳師凱 and Li Jin 李進, but most of these commentaries are lost. The most widespread commentary is that of the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Liu Ji 劉基 (1311-1375).

The Lingqijing is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Mohai jinhu 墨海金壺, Fang zhibuzuzhai congshu 仿知不足齋叢書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1788.