An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Liuren daquan 六壬大全

Nov 29, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Liuren daquan 六壬大全 "All about the Six-Ren method" is a book on prognostication. Neither the time of comppilaton nor the author can be told with certainty. The preface of the received version says that it was commented on by a certain Guo Dailai 郭載騋 from Huaiqing 懷慶.

The Liuren daquan was first printed during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). Liuren is an ancient method of soothsaying by combining cyclical characters with the designation ren 壬 with the theory of the Five Agents (wuxing 五行) and Yin and Yang 陰陽. It is one of the most important prognostication methods that survive until today, besides the Dunjia 遁甲 method and the Taiyi 太乙 method (together called the "three methods" sanshi 三式).

The liuren method makes use of the six cyclical combinations renjia 壬申, renwu 壬午, renchen 壬辰, renyin 壬寅, renzi 壬子 and renxu 壬戌. Time is divided into sixty-four parts (ke 課) that are applied to a Celestial disk (tianpan 天盤) and a Terrestrial disk (dipan 地盤) that are lying one above the other and are brought to congruence by moving according to the chosen date. The invention of this divination method is attributed to the Yellow Emperor 黃帝 and the Mysterious Maiden 玄女, and it seems that the use of disks is a borrowing from the geomancy compass luopan 羅盤. In fact the method cannot be older than from the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE), when various schools of magicians and diviners flourished.

The oldest list of mantic books is included in the imperial bibliography Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書, under the title of "books on the Five Agents". It seems that practically none of these books has survived.

The Liuren daquan is the only and also the most important transmitted text on the liuren method of divination. It is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1789.