The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Friday, October 19, 2007

I Ching



In addition to the Dao De Jing, and Zhaung Zi, another pillar of Daoism is the I Ching. If you click on the title of this post, you’ll be directed to the Wikipedia article on the I Ching. I’ve extracted some sections of that article and present them below.

As an introduction to the I Ching, I’d recommend The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony, for some background information.

http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Ching-Carol-K-Anthony/dp/0960383220/ref=pd_bbs_sr_4/103-1104095-2784624?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192814495&sr=8-4

I’d also recommend The Portable Dragon by R.G.H Siu. The late Dr. Siu was a Chinese gentleman who was immensely educated in Western Literature and Science. I believe he was a Chemistry Professor at MIT. In this book, he uses quotes and excerpts from Western literature to help get across the meanings of the hexagrams to our Western minds.

http://www.amazon.com/Portable-Dragon-Western-Guide-Ching/dp/0262690306/ref=sr_1_1/103-1104095-2784624?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192815480&sr=1-1

The I Ching (often spelled as I Jing, Yi Ching, Yi King, or Yi Jing; also called "Book of Changes" or "Classic of Changes") is the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. A symbol system designed to identify order in what seem like chance events, it describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy that is at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs. The philosophy centres on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change (see Philosophy, below). In Western cultures, the I Ching is regarded by some as simply a system of divination; many believe it expresses the wisdom and philosophy of ancient China.

The book consists of a series of symbols, rules for manipulating these symbols, poems, and commentary.

History

Traditional view

Traditionally it was believed that the principles of the I Ching originated with the mythical Fu Xi (伏羲 Fú Xī). In this respect he is seen as an early culture hero, one of the earliest legendary rulers of China (traditional dates 2800 BCE-2737 BCE), reputed to have had the 8 trigrams (八卦 bā gùa) revealed to him supernaturally. By the time of the legendary Yu ( ) 2194 BC–2149 BC, the trigrams had supposedly been developed into 64 hexagrams (六十四卦 lìu shí­ sì gùa), which were recorded in the scripture Lian Shan (《連山》 Lián Shān; also called Lian Shan Yi). Lian Shan, meaning "continuous mountains" in Chinese, begins with the hexagram Bound ( gèn), which depicts a mountain (::|) mounting on another and is believed to be the origin of the scripture's name.

After the traditionally recorded Xia Dynasty was overthrown by the Shang Dynasty, the hexagrams are said to have been re-deduced to form Gui Cang (《歸藏》 Gūi Cáng; also called Gui Cang Yi), and the hexagram Field ( kūn) became the first hexagram. Gui Cang may be literally translated into "return and be contained," which refers to earth as the first hexagram itself indicates. At the time of Shang's last king, Zhou Wang, King Wen of Zhou is said to have deduced the hexagram and discovered that the hexagrams beginning with Force ( qián) revealed the rise of Zhou. He then gave each hexagram a description regarding its own nature, thus Gua Ci (卦辭 guà cí, "Explanation of Hexagrams").

When King Wu of Zhou, son of King Wen, toppled the Shang Dynasty, his brother Zhou Gong Dan is said to have created Yao Ci (爻辭 yáo cí, "Explanation of Horizontal Lines") to clarify the significance of each horizontal line in each hexagram. It was not until then that the whole context of I Ching was understood. Its philosophy heavily influenced the literature and government administration of the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE - 256 BCE).

Later, during the time of Spring and Autumn (722 BCE - 481 BCE), Confucius is traditionally said to have written the Shi Yi (十翼 shí yì, "Ten Wings"), a group of commentaries on the I Ching. By the time of Han Wu Di (漢武帝 Hàn Wǔ Dì) of the Western Han Dynasty (circa 200 BCE), Shi Yi was often called Yi Zhuan (易傳 yì zhùan, "Commentary on the I Ching"), and together with the I Ching they composed Zhou Yi (周易 zhōu yì, "Changes of Zhou"). All later texts about Zhou Yi were explanations only, due to the classic's deep meaning.

Western ("Modernist") view

In the past 50 years a "Modernist" history of the I Ching has been emerging, based on context criticism and research into Shang and Zhou dynasty oracle bones, as well as Zhou bronze inscriptions and other sources (see below). These reconstructions are dealt with in a growing number of books, such as The Mandate of Heaven: Hidden History in the I Ching, by S. J. Marshall, and Richard Rutt's Zhouyi: The Book of Changes, (see References, below).

Scholarly works dealing with the new view of the Book of Changes include doctoral dissertations by Richard Kunst and Edward Shaughnessy. These and other scholars have been helped immensely by the discovery, in the 1970s, by Chinese archaeologists, of intact Han dynasty era tombs in Mawangdui near Changsha, Hunan province. One of the tombs contained more or less complete 2nd century BCE texts of the I Ching, the Dao De Jing and other works, which are mostly similar yet in some ways diverge significantly from the "received," or traditional, texts preserved by the chances of history.

The tomb texts include additional commentaries on the I Ching, previously unknown, and apparently written as if they were meant to be attributed to Confucius. All of the Mawangdui texts are many centuries older than the earliest known attestations of the texts in question. When talking about the evolution of the Book of Changes, therefore, the Modernists contend that it is important to distinguish between the traditional history assigned to texts such as the I Ching (felt to be anachronistic by the Modernists), assignations in commentaries which have themselves been canonized over the centuries along with their subjects, and the more recent scholarly history aided by modern linguistic textual criticism and archaeology.

Many hold that these perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but, for instance, many Modernist scholars doubt the actual existence of Fuxi, think Confucius had nothing to do with the Book of Changes, and contend that the hexagrams came before the trigrams. Modern scholarship comparing poetic usage and formulaic phrasing in this book with that in ancient bronze inscriptions has shown that the text cannot be attributed to King Wen or Zhou Gong, and that it likely was not compiled until the late Western Zhou, perhaps ca. the late 9th century BCE.

Rather than being the work of one or several legendary or historical figures, the core divinatory text is now thought to be an accretion of Western Zhou divinatory concepts. As for the Shi Yi commentaries traditionally attributed to Confucius, scholars from the time of the 11th century A.D. scholar Ouyang Xiu onward have doubted this, based on textual analysis, and modern scholars date most of them to the late Warring States period, with some sections perhaps being as late as the Western Han period.

However it must be noted that the value of modern interpertations is still questionable to many people. Since Western civilization did not create the I Ching it can be said that it's interpertations of the book are next to irrelevant to those who believe only a work's original culture can truelly understand it's meaning. On the other hand an alternative view does give variety and life to a work and may be equally as relevant. The relevancy of this view as with the traditional one is up to the person reading it.

Structure

The text of the I Ching is a set of predictions represented by a set of 64 abstract line arrangements called hexagrams ( guà). Each hexagram is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines ( yáo), where each line is either Yang (an unbroken, or solid line), or Yin (broken, an open line with a gap in the center). With six such lines stacked from bottom to top there are 26 or 64 possible combinations, and thus 64 hexagrams represented.

The hexagram diagram is conceptually subdivided into two three-line arrangements called trigrams ( guà). There are 23, hence 8, possible trigrams. The traditional view was that the hexagrams were a later development and resulted from combining the two trigrams. However, in the earliest relevant archaeological evidence, groups of numerical symbols on many Western Zhou bronzes and a very few Shang oracle bones, such groups already usually appear in sets of six. A few have been found in sets of three numbers, but these are somewhat later. Note also that these numerical sets greatly predate the groups of broken and unbroken lines, leading modern scholars to doubt the mythical early attributions of the hexagram system (see, e.g., Shaugnessy 1993).

Each hexagram represents a description of a state or process. When a hexagram is cast using one of the traditional processes of divination with I Ching, each of the yin or yang lines will be indicated as either moving (that is, changing), or fixed (that is, unchanging). Moving (also sometimes called "old", or "unstable") lines will change to their opposites, that is "young" lines of the other type -- old yang becoming young yin, and old yin becoming young yang.

The oldest method for casting the hexagrams, using yarrow stalks, is a biased random number generator, so the possible answers are not equiprobable. While the probability of getting either yin or yang is equal, the probability of getting old yang is three times greater than old yin. The yarrow stalk method was gradually replaced during the Han Dynasty by the three coins method. Using this method, the imbalance in generating old yin and old yang was eliminated. However, there is no theoretical basis for indicating what should be the optimal probability basis of the old lines versus the young lines. Of course, the whole idea behind this system of divination is that the oracle will select the appropriate answer anyway, regardless of the probabilities.

There have been several arrangements of the trigrams and hexagrams over the ages. The bā gùa is a circular arrangement of the trigrams, traditionally printed on a mirror, or disk. According to legend, Fu Hsi found the bā gùa on the scales of a tortoise's back. They function rather like a magic square, with the four axes summing to the same value (e.g., using 0 and 1 to represent yin and yang, 000 + 111 = 111, 101 + 010 = 111, etc.).

The King Wen sequence is the traditional (i.e. "classical") sequence of the hexagrams used in most contemporary editions of the book. The King Wen sequence was explained for the first time in STEDT Monograph #5, where it is shown to contain within it a demonstration of advanced mathematical knowledge.

Philosophy

Gradations of binary expression based on yin and yang -- old yang, old yin, young yang or young yin (see the divination paragraph below) -- are what the hexagrams are built from. Yin and yang, while common expressions associated with many schools known from classical Chinese culture, are especially associated with the Taoists.

Another view holds that the I Ching is primarily a Confucianist ethical or philosophical document. This view is based upon the following:

  • The Wings or Appendices are attributed to Confucius.
  • The study of the I Ching was required as part of the Civil Service Exams in the period that these exams only studied Confucianist texts.
  • It is one of the Five Confucian Classics.
  • It does not appear in any surviving editions of the Dao Zang.
  • The major commentaries were written by Confucianists, or Neo-Confucianists.
  • Taoist scripture avoids, even mocks, all attempts at categorizing the world's myriad phenomena and forming a static philosophy.
  • Taoists venerate the non-useful. The I Ching could be used for good or evil purposes.

Both views may be seen to show that the I Ching was at the heart of Chinese thought, serving as a common ground for the Confucian and Taoist schools. Partly forgotten due to the rise of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, the I Ching returned to the attention of scholars during the Song dynasty. This was concomitant with the reassessment of Confucianism by Confucians in the light of Taoist and Buddhist metaphysics, and is known in the West as Neo-Confucianism. The book, unquestionably an ancient Chinese scripture, helped Song Confucian thinkers to synthesize Buddhist and Taoist cosmologies with Confucian and Mencian ethics. The end product was a new cosmogony that could be linked to the so-called "lost Tao" of Confucius and Mencius.

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