The law of Da-ya-is the oldest method of YI JING in the present study, which is also the source of many of the principles of Yi-jing-gua theory.
The 2,500 year old Yi-jing or I Ching, translated as The Book of Changes, is a Chinese work of divination and prophecy. Dating from the 4th century BC, it is traditionally consulted by performing complex routines of dropping bundles of dried grass stalks. The particular patterns formed when six stalks are dropped are represented by 64 symbols called hexagrams, which show every possible combination of broken and unbroken stalks. The Book of Changes tells the reader how to interpret the hexagrams to decide which is the best approach or action in a given situation.
This book features these 64 hexagrams, and their accompanying name in Chinese script, accompanied by an elegant translation of the interpretations. The book also features additional commentaries and explanations of ancient Chinese divination. Beautifully produced in traditional Chinese binding and with a timeless design, this book will allow anyone fascinated by the traditional philosophies of the East to follow in the footsteps of Confucius and use the I Ching to predict their destiny.
The History of I Ching
The Yi Jing dates back about 3,000 years when it was probably used purely for divination. Although it is claimed to date from the start of the Zhou dynasty there is no direct evidence to support this. The oldest text is called 周易 Zhōuyì after the name of the dynasty and attributed to legendary Emperor Fuxi (c.2800 BCE) and King Wen of Zhou ➚ 周文王. It was certainly used in China during the Zhou dynasty long before the birth of Confucius (551BCE). To the ancient text were added ten commentaries attributed to Confucius that are called the ‘ten wings’; but these were probably written long after Confucius during the Han dynasty.易 yì can be translated as 'easy' as well as 'changes' and it could be considered that this method of divination was quicker and easier than analyzing the original divination method of studying the pattern of cracks on oracle bones. It is the Yi Jing commentaries that have as great a value as the hexagrams themselves, they illustrate much about Chinese thought, history and philosophy. Daoists just as much as followers of Confucius hold the book in great esteem. All this has made it a much more sophisticated system than other mere ‘fortune telling’ systems such as Tarot cards ➚.
The slow, ancient method of casting a hexagram uses a bundle of 50 yarrow sticks 蓍草 shīcǎo (split six times to give each line - see below for a guide). In the Tang dynasty a faster method using three coins was introduced. However the probabilities are not the same in the two methods. The more complex system uses four choices rather than two, instead of just yin and yang this method produces both ‘continuous’ and ‘changing’ versions of yin and yang. Two readings are produced, one for the present and one for the ‘change’ representing either the past or future. The two readings in combination give 64x64 (4096) possibilities which make it a very large and complex system.
The I Ching has served for thousands of years as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, and an oracle of one’s personal future and the future of the state. It was an organizing principle or authoritative proof for literary and arts criticism, cartography, medicine, and many of the sciences, and it generated endless Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, and, later, even Christian commentaries, and competing schools of thought within those traditions. In China and in East Asia, it has been by far the most consulted of all books, in the belief that it can explain everything. In the West, it has been known for over three hundred years and, since the 1950s, is surely the most popularly recognized Chinese book. With its seeming infinitude of applications and interpretations, there has never been a book quite like it anywhere. It is the center of a vast whirlwind of writings and practices, but is itself a void, or perhaps a continually shifting cloud, for most of the crucial words of the I Ching have no fixed meaning.The origin of the text is, as might be expected, obscure. In the mythological version, the culture hero Fu Xi, a dragon or a snake with a human face, studied the patterns of nature in the sky and on the earth: the markings on birds, rocks, and animals, the movement of clouds, the arrangement of the stars. He discovered that everything could be reduced to eight trigrams, each composed of three stacked solid or broken lines, reflecting the yin and yang, the duality that drives the universe. The trigrams themselves represented, respectively, heaven, a lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, a mountain, and earth (see illustration below).
From these building blocks of the cosmos, Fu Xi devolved all aspects of civilization—kingship, marriage, writing, navigation, agriculture—all of which he taught to his human descendants.
Here mythology turns into legend. Around the year 1050 BCE, according to the tradition, Emperor Wen, founder of the Zhou dynasty, doubled the trigrams to hexagrams (six-lined figures), numbered and arranged all of the possible combinations—there are 64—and gave them names. He wrote brief oracles for each that have since been known as the “Judgments.” His son, the Duke of Zhou, a poet, added gnomic interpretations for the individual lines of each hexagram, known simply as the “Lines.” It was said that, five hundred years later, Confucius himself wrote ethical commentaries explicating each hexagram, which are called the “Ten Wings” (“wing,” that is, in the architectural sense).
The archaeological and historical version of this narrative is far murkier. In the Shang dynasty (which began circa 1600 BCE) or possibly even earlier, fortune-telling diviners would apply heat to tortoise shells or the scapulae of oxen and interpret the cracks that were produced. Many of these “oracle bones”—hundreds of thousands of them have been unearthed—have complete hexagrams or the numbers assigned to hexagrams incised on them. Where the hexagrams came from, or how they were interpreted, is completely unknown.
Sometime in the Zhou dynasty—the current guess is around 800 BCE—the 64 hexagrams were named, and a written text was established, based on the oral traditions. The book became known as the Zhou Yi(Zhou Changes). The process of consultation also evolved from the tortoise shells, which required an expert to perform and interpret, to the system of coins or yarrow stalks that anyone could practice and that has been in use ever since. Three coins, with numbers assigned to heads or tails, were simultaneously tossed; the resulting sum indicated a solid or broken line; six coin tosses thus produced a hexagram. In the case of the yarrow stalks, 50 were counted out in a more laborious procedure to produce the number for each line.
A diagram of ‘I Ching’ hexagrams sent to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz from Joachim Bouvet. The Arabic numerals were added by Leibniz.
By the third century BCE, with the rise of Confucianism, the “Ten Wings” commentaries had been added, transforming the Zhou Yi from a strictly divinatory manual to a philosophical and ethical text. In 136 BCE, Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty declared it the most important of the five canonical Confucian books and standardized the text from among various competing versions (some with the hexagrams in a different order). This became the I Ching, the Book (or Classic) of Change, and its format has remained the same since: a named and numbered hexagram, an arcane “Judgment” for that hexagram, an often poetic interpretation of the image obtained by the combination of the two trigrams, and enigmatic statements on the meaning of each line of the hexagram. Confucius almost certainly had nothing to do with the making of the I Ching, but he did supposedly say that if he had another hundred years to live, 50 of them would be devoted to studying it.
For two millennia, the I Ching was the essential guide to the universe. In a philosophical cosmos where everything is connected and everything is in a state of restless change, the book was not a description of the universe but rather its most perfect microcosm. It represented, as one Sinologist has put it, the “underpinnings of reality.” Its 64 hexagrams became the irrevocable categories for countless disciplines. Its mysterious “Judgments” were taken as kernels of thought to be elaborated, in the “Ten Wings” and countless commentaries, into advice to rulers on how to run an orderly state and to ordinary people on how to live a proper life. It was a tool for meditation on the cosmos and, as a seamless piece of the way of the world, it also revealed what would be auspicious or inauspicious for the future.
In the West, the I Ching was discovered in the late 17th century by Jesuit missionaries in China, who decoded the text to reveal its Christian universal truth: hexagram number one was God; two was the second Adam, Jesus; three was the Trinity; eight was the members of Noah’s family; and so on. Leibniz enthusiastically found the universality of his binary system in the solid and broken lines. Hegel—who thought Confucius was not worth translating—considered the book “superficial”: “There is not to be found in one single instance a sensuous conception of universal natural or spiritual powers.”
The first English translation was done by Canon Thomas McClatchie, an Anglican cleric in Hong Kong. McClatchie was a Reverend Casaubon figure who, in 1876, four years after the publication of Middlemarch, found the key to all mythologies and asserted that the I Ching had been brought to China by one of Noah’s sons and was a pornographic celebration of a “hermaphroditic monad,” elsewhere worshiped among the Chaldeans as Baal and among Hindus as Shiva. James Legge, also a missionary in Hong Kong and, despite a general loathing of China, the first important English-language translator of the Chinese classics, considered McClatchie “delirious.” After 20 interrupted years of work—the manuscript was lost in a shipwreck in the Red Sea—Legge produced the first somewhat reliable English translation of the I Ching in 1882, and the one that first applied the English word for a six-pointed star, “hexagram,” to the Chinese block of lines.
Professionally appalled by what he considered its idolatry and superstition, Legge nevertheless found himself “gradually brought under a powerful fascination,” and it led him to devise a novel theory of translation. Since Chinese characters were not, he claimed, “representations of words, but symbols of ideas,” therefore “the combination of them in composition is not a representation of what the writer would say, but of what he thinks.” The translator, then, must become “en rapport” with the author, and enter into a “seeing of mind to mind,” a “participation” in the thoughts of the author that goes beyond what the author merely said. Although the I Ching has no author, Legge’s version is flooded with explanations and clarifications parenthetically inserted into an otherwise literal translation of the text.
Herbert Giles, the next important English-language translator after Legge, thought the I Ching was “apparent gibberish”: “This is freely admitted by all learned Chinese, who nevertheless hold tenaciously to the belief that important lessons could be derived from its pages if only we had the wit to understand them.” Arthur Waley, in a 1933 study—he never translated the entire book—described it as a collection of “peasant interpretation” omens to which specific divinations had been added at a later date. Thus, taking a familiar Western example, he wrote that the omen “red sky in the morning, shepherds take warning” would become the divination “red sky in the morning: inauspicious; do not cross the river.”
Waley proposed three categories of omens—“inexplicable sensations and involuntary movements (‘feelings,’ twitchings, stumbling, belching and the like)…those concerning plants, animals and birds…[and] those concerning natural phenomena (thunder, stars, rain etc.)”—and found examples of all of them in his decidedly unmetaphysical reading of the book. Joseph Needham devoted many exasperated pages to the I Ching in Science and Civilization in China as a “pseudo-science” that had, for centuries, a deleterious effect on actual Chinese science, which attempted to fit exact observations of the natural and physical worlds into the “cosmic filing-system” of the vague categories of the hexagrams.
It was Richard Wilhelm’s 1924 German translation of the I Ching and especially the English translation of the German by the Jungian Cary F. Baynes in 1950 that transformed the text from Sinological arcana to international celebrity. Wilhelm, like Legge, was a missionary in China, but unlike Legge was an ardent believer in the Wisdom of the East, with China the wisest of all. The “relentless mechanization and rationalization of life in the West” needed the “Eastern adhesion to a natural profundity of soul.” His mission was to “join hands in mutual completion,” to uncover the “common foundations of humankind” in order to “find a core in the innermost depth of the humane, from where we can tackle…the shaping of life.”
Wilhelm’s translation relied heavily on late, Song Dynasty Neo-Confucian interpretations of the text. In the name of universality, specifically Chinese referents were given general terms, and the German edition had scores of footnotes noting “parallels” to Goethe, Kant, the German Romantics, and the Bible. (These were dropped for the English-language edition.) The text was oddly presented twice: the first time with short commentaries, the second time with more extended ones. The commentaries were undifferentiated amalgams of various Chinese works and Wilhelm’s own meditations. (Needham thought that the edition belonged to the “Department of Utter Confusion”: “Wilhelm seems to be the only person…who knew what it was all about.”)
The book carried an introduction by Carl Jung, whom Wilhelm considered “in touch with the findings of the East [and] in accordance with the views of the oldest Chinese wisdom.” (One proof was Jung’s male and female principles, the anima and the animus, which Wilhelm connected to yin and yang.) Some of Jung’s assertions are now embarrassing. (“It is a curious fact that such a gifted and intelligent people as the Chinese have never developed what we call science.”) But his emphasis on chance—or synchronicity, the Jungian, metaphysical version of chance—as the guiding principle for a sacred book was, at the time, something unexpected, even if, for true believers, the I Ching does not operate on chance at all.
The Wilhelm/Baynes Bollingen edition was a sensation in the 1950s and 1960s. Octavio Paz, Allen Ginsberg, Jorge Luis Borges, and Charles Olson, among many others, wrote poems inspired by its poetic language. Fritjof Capra in The Tao of Physics used it to explain quantum mechanics and Terence McKenna found that its geometrical patterns mirrored the “chemical waves” produced by hallucinogens. Others considered its binary system of lines a prototype for the computer. Philip K. Dick and Raymond Queneau based novels on it; Jackson Mac Low and John Cage invented elaborate procedures using it to generate poems and musical compositions.
It is not difficult to recuperate how thrilling the arrival of the I Ching was both to the avant-gardists, who were emphasizing process over product in art, and to the anti-authoritarian counterculturalists. It brought, not from the soulless West, but from the mysterious East, what Wilhelm called “the seasoned wisdom of thousands of years.” It was an ancient book without an author, a cyclical configuration with no beginning or end, a religious text with neither exotic gods nor priests to whom one must submit, a do-it-yourself divination that required no professional diviner. It was a self-help book for those who wouldn’t be caught reading self-help books, and moreover one that provided an alluring glimpse of one’s personal future. It was, said Bob Dylan, “the only thing that is amazingly true.”
——民国一百零六年 季冬 腊月 老猫
——民国一百零六年 季冬 腊月 老猫