Chris Foster, Ancient Chinese “daybooks” from Zhoujiazhai

Rishu 日書 or “daybooks” are one of the most prevalent types of text discovered among recently unearthed early Chinese bamboo-strip manuscripts. These popular hemerological manuals were consulted to determine auspicious times for a large variety of life events, from when to marry and birth children, to when best to embark upon a journey or wear new clothing. Daybooks often incorporated multiple (and separate) divinatory systems on the same manuscripts, while also utilizing running text, enumerated lists, charts, and diagrams. Guiding a reader through this confusion of information was imperative, and therefore daybooks adopted certain strategies to help define distinct textual units. This paper explores these strategies, taking the Han period Zhoujiazhai 周家寨 manuscript as a case study.