Sunday, June 8, 2008

易 經 Yi Jing – I Ching, the Book of Changes

The book of changes or Yi Jing is the Chinese method of divination which has similar complexity and idealogy as compared to tarot.

Its origin goes back to mythical antiquity, and it has occupied the attention of the most eminent scholars of China down to the present day [i. e. around 1920]. Nearly all that is greatest and most significant in the three thousand years of Chinese cultural history has either taken its inspiration from this book, or has exerted an influence on the interpretation of its text. Therefore it may safely be said that the seasoned wisdom of thousands of years has gone into the making of the I Ching. Small wonder then that both of the two branches of Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism, have their common roots here.

In the course of time, owing to the great repute for wisdom attaching to the Book of Changes, a large body of occult doctrines extraneous to it – some of them possibly not even Chinese in origin – have come to be connected with its teachings. The Ch'in and Han dynasties saw the beginning of a formalistic natural philosophy that sought to embrace the entire world of thought in a system of number symbols. Combining a rigorously consistent, dualistic yin-yang doctrine with the doctrine of the "five stages of change" taken from the Book of History, it forced Chinese philosophical thinking more and more into a rigid formalization. Thus increasingly hairsplitting cabalistic speculations came to envelop the Book of Changes in a cloud of mystery, and by forcing everything of the past and of the future into this system of numbers, created for the I Ching the reputation of being a book of unfathomable profundity.

At the outset, the Book of Changes was a collection of linear signs to be used as oracles. In antiquity, oracles were everywhere in use; the oldest among them confined themselves to the answers yes and no. This type of oracular pronouncement is likewise the basis of the Book of Changes. “Yes” was indicated by a simple unbroken line , and “No” by a broken line . However, the need for greater differentiation seems to have been felt at an early date, and the single lines were combined in pairs. To each of these combinations a third line was then added. In this way the eight trigrams came into being.

These eight trigrams were conceived as images of all that happens in heaven and on earth. At the same time, they were held to he in a state of continual transition, one changing into another, just as transition from one phenomenon to another is continually taking place in the physical world. Here we have the fundamental concept of the Book of Changes. The eight trigrams are symbols standing for changing transitional states; they are images that are constantly undergoing change. Attention centers not on things in their state of being – as is chiefly the case in the Occident – but upon their movements in change. The eight trigrams therefore are not representations of things as such but of their tendencies in movement.

The definitive English translation; from Chinese into German by Wilhelm, into English by Baynes. Wilhelm was in prolonged contact with the oral tradition at the very end of the Imperial era, via his teacher Lao Nai-hsuan. He was the right man in the right place at the right time; this is not something that can be re-done, no matter how good fresh translations are. As Carl Jung put it, it is as if this book “delivered the last message of the old, dying China to Europe”. The quality of the language used is superb, it rates as a work of literature. Although beginners often feel that Wilhelm is too complicated and seek a simpler version to start with, what I would recommend is that they get Wilhelm as early as they can and just use Book I initially, ignoring Book II (The Great Treatise) and Book III (Commentaries) until they feel more confident to tackle them. Only Wilhelm has the necessary depth for a reliable interpretation. While it is true there are a few passages in need of revision, these are far fewer than in any other translation, and in general Wilhelm manages to convey the essential meaning via his summaries of the Neo-Confucian commentary material, which is without equal in any other version. » Cf. this page about I-Ching translations.

Taken from the following website.

Legendary History of the I Ching
The folklore of the Chinese people includes fantastic legends of their history. Although they have been discredited by modern scholars, they are less exaggerated than corresponding tales of other cultures, and frequently reveal true insights. In any case, according to tradition (see Figure 1):
Chinese civilization began around 3000 B.C. with the culture hero Fu Hsi. He invented fishing, trapping, cooking, the calendar, angular measurement, writing, and the trigrams found later in the I Ching. These were originally symbols for the eight primary constituents: heaven, earth, thunder, wind, fire, water, wood, and mountain. He is sometimes represented as a mountain with a human head, crowned with leaves, and accompanied by the eight trigrams, a carpenter's square, or similar artifacts (see Figure 2). During his regency, a dragon-like horse emerged from the Meng River, with a mystical diagram on his back. This was the Ho-Tu, or Chart of the Rivers (see Figure 3). Later, the heroic Shen Nung invented agriculture and commerce. Subsequent culture heroes were Huang Ti--the Yellow Emperor--and the Sage Kings: Yao, Shun, and Yu.
The rivers of North China are geologically young, and therefore tend to produce disastrous floods. Thus the Yellow River is known as "China's Sorrow." During a flood of the Lo River in the time of Yu the Great, a spirit tortoise crawled from the waters with another mystic diagram on its carapace -- the Lo-shu, or Lo Writings (see Figure 4). By tracing its steps, Yu was able to control the flood. Thus he invented hydraulic engineering, and founded the Hsia Dynasty. In addition, he invented bronze casting, and cast nine bronze tripods. [Waley, 1934, p. 134]
During the Hsia, the trigrams of Fu Hsi were combined into the sixty-four hexagrams, and brief divination texts were added. This became one of the first books, called the Lieu Shan, or Manifestation of Change in the Mountains, and was consulted with the yarrow oracle. Yarrow was a sacred plant, as it was known to grow only in sacred places. [R. Wilhelm, 1923, p. xlix]

After five centuries, this dynasty declined under the rule of the degenerate King Chieh, and the Shang Dynasty was founded by King Thang. The Lieu Shan was rearranged, and renamed the Kuei Tsang, or Flow and Return to Womb and Tomb. The Shang declined under the hideously sadistic tyrant, King Chou. He imprisoned Wen, who used his forced leisure to write new divination texts for the hexagrams of the Kuei Tsang, and arranged them in their present order. This book, the Pem Ching, consists of the Kua (hexagrams) and Thuan (Judgements) only.
The Chou people, led by Wen's son Wu, waged war against the Shang. Consulting the Pem Ching with the yarrow oracle, Wu was prophesied victory. Ignoring an unfavorable augery by the tortoise shell oracle, he defeated the Shang. Thus he established simultaneously the Chou Dynasty and the supremacy of the yarrow oracle over the contemporary plastromancy which, along with scapulimancy--the bone oracle--had been favored by the Shang people. [H. Wilhelm, 1943, p. 94; Waley, 1934, p. 17] Following this victory, King Wu's brother Tan added further texts to the Pem Ching, called the Hsiao (Lines), and completed the I Ching as it survives to the present day. After Wu's death, his young son Chhen succeeded to the regency, which was carried for him during his childhood by Tan, henceforth known as the Duke of Chou.

After five centuries, Confucius became fascinated by the I Ching. His copy, a set of bamboo tablets fastened by a leather thong, was consulted so often that the binding had to be replaced three times. He said that if he had fifty years to spare, he would devote them to the I Ching [Needham, 1956, p. 307]. In one consultation, the oracle advised him to care for his beard [H. Wilhelm, 1943, p. 97]. He wrote ten commentaries on the classic, called the Ten Wings, transforming it from a divination text into a philosophical masterpiece. In this form, the I Ching inspired the later Taoists, including Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu, as well as the Confucians, and other philosophers and scientists ever since.

Although nowadays hardly anyone believes a word of it, this is the legendary history of the I Ching. But skepticism of the ascriptions of dates and authors does not invalidate the sequence of steps in the evolution of the text, and other fantastic legends have sometimes been verified by archeology. For example, according to legend, the early Chou ministery Hung Yao had face and body completely covered by hair. This became plausible after archeologists discovered Neolithic skeletons of a hairy race in a cave of about 15,000 B.C. [Li Chi, 1957, p. 7].

SHIMURE's NOTES: Although i have not started or began with iching, i have recently began to explore the books and theories of this divination system and the daily draws and divination with this method points to answers which i get as in the tarot. For instance, on 9th June 2008, i drew the 10th lot which is 10. Lü / Treading [Conduct] to be careful of my deeds in the past. and judgement card 20 in the tarot.

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