Dr. Stephan N. Kory

Bild von Stephan N. Kory

Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung "Schicksal, Freiheit und Prognose. Bewältigungsstrategien in Ostasien und Europa"
Hartmannstr. 14
91052 Erlangen

Home Institution: College of Charleston, School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs, Asian Studies

IKGF Visiting Fellow June 2016 - May 2017

IKGF Research Project

Letting the Right Ones In: State-Sanctioned Memories of Diviners, Healers, and Artisans in Five Mid-Sixth to Mid-Seventh-Century Dynastic Histories

Curriculum vitae

Dr. Stephan N. Kory holds an MA in Chinese Literature from the University of Colorado Boulder and a PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Indiana University Bloomington. He has recently held visiting assistant professorships in the fields of Religious Studies and Chinese Literature at Reed College and Swarthmore College, and has also taught at Indiana University and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. As Fulbright Fellow, he spent a year researching textual images of doctors and diviners at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, where he was hosted by Professors Liu Lexian 劉樂賢 of Capital Normal University and Li Ling李零of Peking University.

Dr. Kory’s dissertation “Cracking to Divine” questioned the “obsolete after Han thesis” that many have applied to the archetypal form of divination in China, <i>bu</i> 卜 or pyro-osteomancy. Drawing from recently recovered evidence of the technique dating to the eighth or ninth century CE, along with a variety of Han and medieval Chinese received and recovered texts, his study revealed the surprising survival of pyro-plastromancy, or the divinatory cracking of turtle plastrons with fire in medieval and early modern China. His research continues to focus on relationships between premodern Chinese material culture and literature, particularly as they pertain to the diachronic development of different forms of divination and prediction. Recent articles by Dr. Kory examine the transmission of pyro-plastromancy into Japan and its significant place in eighth and ninth century Japanese religion and geo-politics; the place of female diviners in medieval Chinese society; and the the emergence and development of a learned form of “seeing” known as<i> zhanhou</i> 占候or “prognostic observation” in Han and medieval received and archaeologically recovered texts. His project at the IKFG questions state images of doctors and diviners in the sixth and seventh centuries of the Common Era.

Selected Publications


Learning to ‘See’: Prognostic Observation in Late Han and Medieval China, in: East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine (forthcoming).
Presence in Variety: De-Trivializing Female Diviners in Medieval China, in: Nan Nü (forthcoming).
2015 From Deer Bones to Turtle Shells: The State Ritualization of Pyro-Plastromancy During the Nara-Heian Transition, in: Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 42.2, pp. 339–380.
2008 A Remarkably Resonant and Resilient Tang-Dynasty Augural Stone: Empress Wu’s Baotu, in: T’ang Studies 26, pp. 99–124.


  • Michael John Paton, Five Classics of Fengshui: Chinese Spiritual Geography in Historical and Environmental Perspective (2013), in: Monumenta Serica (forthcoming).