Tortoise oracle

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Tortoise oracle. Ancient Chinese method of divination, similar in antiquity and use to the oracle bones. Unlike the latter, however, the tortoise oracle was not forgotten to later Chinese history and in fact enjoyed considerable fame in art, literature, and philosophy. The cosmic tortoise is known from ancient myths as the foundation of the world, but it is from traditions which coalesced around the I Ching (Book of Changes) that the sacred and mysterious significance of the tortoise is largely derived. The legend that the earth is supported by a tortoise is apparently attributable to the Lieh-Tzu; other legends explain the symbolism of the tortoise as more fully cosmic, since the round and vaulted shell represents the heavens, the flat underside the square earth with the four legs denoting the four quarters of earth.