Divination

Astrology, horoscopy, palmistry, physiognomy, foretelling the future by dreams,-all these forms of superstition are current in Japan; but the greatest favourite is divination by means of the Eight Diagrams of classical China. No careful observer can walk through the streets of any large city without noticing here and there a little stall where a fortune-teller sits with his divining rods in front of him, and small blocks inscribed with sets of horizontal lines, some whole, some cut in two. The manipulation of these paraphernalia embodies a highly complicated system of divination called Eki, literally "Changes," which is of immemorial antiquity. Confucius himself professed his inability to understand the matter thoroughly, and would fain have had fifty years added to his life for the purpose of plunging more deeply into its mysteries. The common fortune-tellers of to-day have no such qualms. Shuffling the divining rods, they glibly instruct their clients in all such thorny matters as the finding of lost articles, the propriety of removing to another quarter of the town, the advisability of adopting a child, lucky days for marriage or for undertaking a journey, occasionally-if those in power be not much maligned-even affairs of state. Mr. Takashima, one of the leading citizens of Yokohama, traces his wealth to his imprisonment when a lad; for in gaol a dog-eared copy of Confucius' venerable treatise on the Diagrams was his sole companion. He has not only realised a fortune by obedience to its precepts, but has published a voluminous commentary on the subject.

Few resident foreigners have any notion of the extent to whith the Japanese with whom they come in contact are still under the influence of this order of ideas. We will give but one among several instances of which we have had personal cognizance. A favourite dog of the present writer's was lost in November, 1892, and all search, advertisement, and application to the police proved unavailing. Meanwhile, the servants and their friends privately had recourse to no less than three diviners, two of whom were priests. One of these foretold the dog's return in April, and another directed that an ancient ode containing the words, "If I hear that thou awaitest me, I will forthwith return," should be written on slips of paper and pasted upside down on the pillars of the house. It was the sight of these slips that drew our attention to the matter. The best of it is that the dog was found, and that, too, in a month of April, namely, April, 1896, after having been missing for three years and five months. How then attempt, with any good grace, to discredit the fortuneteller in the eyes of these simple folk?

Books recommended - . The Yî King, by Rev. Dr. Legge, published as Vol. XVI. of the "Sacred Books of the East."-Sugiura's, translation of Takashima book entitled Eki-dan.