Livre “Divination, Fate Manipulation, and Protective Knowledge in and around ‘The Wedding of the Duke of Zhou and Peach Blossom Girl’, a Popular Myth of Late Imperial China”, Vincent Durand-Dastès

Vincent Durand-Dastès, « Divination, Fate Manipulation, and Protective Knowledge in and around The Wedding of the Duke of Zhou and Peach Blossom Girl, a Popular Myth of Late Imperial China », in Michael Lackner (ed.), Coping with the Future: Theories and Practices of Divination in East Asia, Leiden: Brill, 2018 (Sinica Leidensia, 138), p. 126-148.

xiaoshuo Taohua nü


The chapter focuses on the depiction of mantic arts and fate in the popular late imperial popular myth “The Wedding of the Duke of Zhou and the Peach Blossom Girl”. After discussing the role of divination in vernacular (tongsu 通俗) narratives in general, it turns toward the particular plot that pits the magician Peach Blossom Girl (Taohua nü 桃花女) against a diviner named Zhougong 周公 , ‘Duke of Zhou’, a reference to one of the most eminent and respected figure of Chinese culture. Peach Blossom Girl allows several people doomed to die by Zhougong to escape with their life. Angered and humiliated, Zhougong decides to get rid of his young opponent by asking her to marry into his household: he has secretly used beforehand all his divining science to choose the most inauspicious day and directions of space for the bridal cortege, hoping for Peach Blossom to fatefully perish. The girl, however, not only succeeds in avoiding the deadly trap, but eventually further humiliates and defeats Zhougong. In the end, both opponents resume their rightful place in the pantheon of divination deities as complementary figures impersonating yin-yang 陰陽. By showing a lowly girl able to ward off and defeat an eminent diviner at every point of their struggle, reversing in the process what seemed to be fated deaths, the story turns cultural hierarchies on their head, and calls into question the immutable nature of fate. The editorial history of the tale also shows us that it was sometimes assimilated to therapeutical or exorcistic treatises, proving that vernacular narratives where used in late imperial China to expand and strengthen “serious” religious or therapeutic knowledge.


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