More Books, page 1
Continued from the main page. I have varied reactions to these books as you can see. I don’t claim to be any sort of expert; these are just my own experiences based on where I’m at.
I Ching translations:
I Ching: The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Oracle and Book of Wisdom
by John Minford. The product of a vast amount of scholarship concerning the I Ching
and classical Chinese literature in general. A major focus of the work is the contrast between the ancient bronze age oracle, which ironically we have learned about mostly during the last hundred years; and the book of wisdom which grew by accretion over two millenia, and which many people today are the most familiar with. An example of the difference is the word heng
which is usually rendered as “success” or “fortune” in familiar-sounding translations. In the bronze age it meant “sacrifice,” probably literal, and possibly human.
However the Hexagrams and their related texts themselves may have evolved, at this early stage in its history the words of the Oracle were linked to no system of ideas, to no Confucian or Taoist philosophy or Yin-Yang cosmology. In other words, the early oracular Change of Zhou was not yet a Book of Wisdom. It provided its readers (the kings and aristocrats who consulted it) with glimpses (often puzzling ones) of the workings of the Universe and man’s part in it, glimpses descended from the ancient shamanistic dialogue with the unknown.
The work is thus presented as two separate translations: the book of wisdom, and the bronze age oracle. Each is accompanied by generous references to previous works, commentaries, other ancient sources such as the Book of Songs, and the latest archaeologic and linguistic discoveries.
The I Ching (Book of Changes): A Critical Translation of the Ancient Text
by Geoffrey Redmond. A “critical translation” that embraces modern research while taking traditional interpretations into account. Redmond holds modern scholars such as Kunst, Shaughnessy, and especially Richard Rutt in high esteem while at the same time freely disagreeing with them. (Conspicuous by his absence is Richard Gotshalk, who kept coming to mind as I read the text.) A frequent theme is rejection of “the tendency inspired by the Doubting Antiquity movement to substitute far-fetched meanings for received ones that are quite clear,” such as the supposed dodder plant in hexagram 4 which is commonly thought of as “folly,” and which Redmond translates as “neophytes.” Lots of attention to philology, the structure of the Chinese language, and alternate characters in ancient manuscripts. Maintains that “if the text could be understood 3,000 years ago it can be understood today,” while acknowledging that it is a collection of difficult fragments that at least sometimes contain an inherent ambiguity.
Like many, the translation is sometimes a little idiosyncratic, the author admitting to interjecting his own thoughts and feelings (concerning human sacrifice, “surely sometimes pity arose”) while at the same time seeking to avoid elements of Confucian morality, the concept of yin and yang, and other later developments. It is a terse, unembellished translation that sticks to the zhouyi; trigrams, images, and wings are not included. Word-for-word equivalents for the Chinese characters like Gregory Richter’s would have been helpful, but probably too limiting given the attention to alternate meanings of many of the characters.
The I Ching or Book of Changes
by Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes; brilliant foreword by C. G. Jung. Many people’s favorite, or at least first, I Ching.
Complete; includes all of the Wings.
The translation and commentary rely heavily on Confucian tradition, as seen through western eyes.
This, and the fact that it is so well written, probably explain why so many westerners like it. But in light of subsequent research, it must be seen as a derivative work, not bearing much resemblance to the original bronze age Zhou Yi.
The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang
I confess that the title of this book initially put me off. My doubts vanished after I actually read it, and the brief biograpical sketch of professor Huang, who was imprisoned for thirteen years during the cultural revolution in China. Interleaves the original text with commentary on the text, images, lines, and ancient ideographs. The ideograph explanations are illuminating, and one of the book’s distinguishing features. Commentary is deep and insightful, with attention to historical roots, although not necessarily reflecting the most recent research.
by Wu Jing-Nuan (Jing Nuan Wu). This is the Dr. Wu referred to in the song by Steely Dan, and he really is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. My kind of translation, simple and literal, accompanied by handwritten Chinese characters and English transliteration. Complete; includes the Great Appendix and Great Commentary. The introduction includes a lot of information about the etymologies of key words in the text, with comparisons to the oracle bone and bronze inscription ideograms, which are often different from the modern ones and shed light on the original meanings.
The Authentic I-Ching: A New Translation with Commentary
translated by Henry Wei, Ph.D. A native speaker and scholar, Wei’s stated goal was to improve on the accuracy of Legge, Wilhelm/Baynes, and Blofeld. Five of the ten wings are interspersed with the text; commentary is based on tradition, not modern scholarship. Introductory material discusses the history of the I Ching
and the structure of the hexagrams.
The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi
by Richard John Lynn. The major ancient non-Confucian treatment of the I Ching
, Wang Bi takes a Taoist approach, being the first to emphasize the yin and yang aspects of the lines.
The more I use this book, the more I like it. This and Wilhelm are like bookends; they each treat the I Ching
as a wisdom book, but complement each other. Contains the Great Treatise, Wang Bi’s third-century commentary, and notes by several of his successors. Printed in a narrow, almost “pocket” format for some reason; someday soon I will need a large print version.
Rediscovering the I Ching
by Gregory Whincup. A translation that seeks the Zhou Yi. Hexagram 36 is called “The Bright Pheasant.” Translation and commentary are very well-written and eminently readable.
Often strives to weave all of the hexagram lines together into a story, with interesting results.
by Kerson and Rosemary Huang make interesting companions. Note that Whincup has come up with new names for the trigrams based on the text.
Total I Ching: Myths for Change
by Stephen Karcher. Said to be the successor to
The I Ching Plain and Simple
How to Use the I Ching.
Includes lots of material about creative interpretation of consultation results, but doesn’t always credit his sources.
After using the “steps of change” that he describes, I added them to The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching
As for the translation, Karcher takes an unconventional approach, with a number of idiosyncrasies that color the text. For example, I don’t understand why the word “harvesting” should appear in practically every hexagram; it’s how he translates “favorable.” This sort of thing is reflected in the book with Ritsema below as well.
It looks as if he has interleaved the Confucian and Zhou Yi traditions and tried to cover them both; for example, hexagram 36 is called “Brightness Hiding/Calling Bird.”
And get ready for the ceremonial presentation:
“Charge to the Oracle”; “The Response”; “The Scholar Speaks”; “The Shaman Speaks.”
I Ching: Walking your path, creating your future
by Hilary Barrett. Finally, the translation by the legendary diviner and proprietor of the Clarity
site. A fairly free and very accessible translation, accompanied by a brief introduction and practical advice about consulting the oracle. Key questions concerning the subject of each hexagram, and some personal commentary, are interleaved throughout. If you like the look of Lise Heyboer’s site, you will like this; the book uses Lise’s images of the Chinese characters, and is attractively bound and illustrated in general.
CHANGING Zhouyi :: The Heart of the Yijing
by Liu Ming. A very terse, to-the-point rendering of the Zhouyi.
More a heartfelt reflection of the text than a translation. It reminds me of Nigel Richmond’s works, suffused throughout with a feeling of personal experience. In the author’s own words: “My translation is not a rigorous attempt to give the reader the ‘correct’ English word for each of the Chinese characters.” The sparse text is accompanied by a little line-by-line commentary, then an expanded commentary that includes notes on the image, and prognostications on various subjects.
Book of Changes: an Interpretation for the Modern Age
by Chan Chiu Ming. I am very glad to have recently discovered this book. Chan Chiu Ming (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) has set out to translate the I Ching
based on modern research into the original meaning of the ancient Chinese, rather than following the traditional, mostly Confucian, interpretations alone. He treats the judgment and line texts as the original Zhou dynasty oracle, conceptually separate from the much later moral precepts of the Ten Wings. Regarding the use of the former, his explanation nails it: the “omen texts” are often metaphoric; treat them as pictures, not logic, and “associate the metaphors freely with the persons and events in your life.” It’s an oracle, not an instruction manual for gentlemanly behavior. As a result, the translation is often unconventional, but always based on insight into the words themselves, and liberally footnoted. The original Chinese text is included as an appendix, and the text is accompanied by calligraphy by Xu Qinghua.
The Original I Ching: An Authentic Translation of the Book of Changes
by Margaret J. Pearson. The long-awaited “original” “authentic” translation, “based on recent discoveries” including the Mawangdui text. The title goes a little over the top; and like a number of other “unique viewpoint” versions, the translation is sometimes idiosyncratic; but the book is nonetheless an interesting look at modern knowledge of gender roles in Shang and Zhou China. I connected with the book from the start, as the acknowledgements begin with a quote from Xunzi, which I had just started reading. A major premise of this work is that, “The gendered yin/yang
interpretation by Wang Bi in the third century CE is an anachronistic addition to the text . . . . While Wang Bi referred to changing lines as yin
, the original Zhou Changes
[Note: “The way of the Creative brings about the male. The way of the Receptive brings about the female.” It’s right there in the Great Treatise . . . .]
Maintains that most of the language of the Zhou Yi
is gender-neutral, and Pearson’s goal is to level the playing field, so to speak. Includes practical advice on using the oracle, such as journaling, and some valuable material for further reading.
The Basic Yi Jing, Oracle of Change
by Dany Chin and Budhy Chen. This book has its good points. It succeeds as a plain and simple, honest translation. One very attractive feature is that some of the hexagram texts and lines are rendered in two different ways, generally a literal version followed by one that is more figurative, in the vein of Wilhelm. It would have been awesome if they were all translated like this, but unfortunately only about half of them are. The text is occasionally creative, such as 16:1, “Trumpeting elephant.” And interestingly, each line is accompanied by the line figure and number of its zhi gua
. The accompanying text, the introduction and the “twelfth wing,” sticks to the traditional Fu Xi story and trigram naming and ordering conventions, with no reference to modern scholarship. Several methods of consulting are described, including the use of a ten-sided die and the Plum Blossom method. The description of synchronicity and parallelity is useful, including what I believe is an accurate description of time: an illusion. “Change is Time and Time is Change
The Essentials of the Yi Jing
by Chung Wu, Ph.D. A thorough and in-depth treatment of the complete I Ching,
with serious attention paid to accuracy of translation and each and every wing. Includes perspectives from various schools
of interpretation throught the millenia, based on traditional ideas of authorship without reference to modern scholarship. Spends a good deal of time on binary and other numerologic line relationships, with a particular focus on hexagrams derived from all the constituent and derived trigrams. Unfortunately, he also spends considerable time on sometimes superficial criticism of his predecessors. For example, he ridicules most translations of hexagram 1, maintaining that “dragons without heads” paints a “grotesque, bloody, horrifying picture of dead, headless dragons,” when this image has been variously interpreted as heads hidden in modesty, or the head of a rotating constellation that has sunk below the horizon. Not to mention the fact that “headless” is equivalent to “leaderless,” in both English and Chinese.
The Duke of Zhou Changes: A Study and Annotated Translation of the Zhouyi
by Stephen L. Field. A useful new translation, if only for the historic and literary references in the commentary on the text. Field reveals at the outset his orientation toward modern scholarship by his acknowledgement of works by Richard Rutt, Richard Kunst, Edward Shaughnessy, and John Minford. After a summary of prehistoric Chinese culture comes a description of oracle divination, as opposed to other contemporary methods such as portents (eclipses, comets, earthquakes) and augury (astrology, geomancy or fengshui, oneiromancy or progonstication by dreams). The oracle-bone procedure is described, including the interpretation of the transverse crack in the heated bone or turtle shell. Then comes milfoil divination whose result was a sequence of digits, which seem to have eventually been transformed into odd and even, and thus the two kinds of lines that we are familiar with today. After a detour into Han dynasty numerology and mythology comes the actual translation. The hexagram statement and line texts are formatted as varying combinations of omen, counsel, and fortune, such as hexagram 28, line 2:
Omen: A dried-up willow sprouts a new limb.
Counsel: An old man will get his young wife.
Fortune: All signs are favorable.
An Exposition of the I-Ching or Book of Changes
title page and table of contents
by Wei Tat, brother of Henry Wei.
A meticulous and eloquent exposition of the sum total of traditional scholarship and commentary on the I Ching
, amply supplied with quotations and references, and frequently highlighted with historical and personal example. While he often uses analogies from modern science, such as the positive and negative constituents of the atom, Wei’s approach to the I
is throughly traditional, defending King Wen/Duke of Zhou authorship without reference to 20th
century scholarship. His goal is apparently to pay full attention to the symbolism used by the text, its ethical and philosophical teachings, and the relationships between the lines. Concerning the latter, “the Principle of Analogy and Correspondence” includes a comparison of a hexagram and line with the hexagram formed by carrying over that line unchanged into the original hexagram’s opposite, basically “negative” steps of change. Since he only applies this principle to hexagrams 1 and 2, it is not certain whether he intends the opposite hexagram to be the one formed by transforming all the lines, or the King Wen counterpart which is usually formed by physically inverting the hexagram. (I am personally more intrigued by the former, which results in what I call the anti-hexagram.) He spends 106 pages discussing general issues, then the next 434 on a more detailed examination of hexagrams 1 and 2 than you ever thought possible. An example of the level of detail at which he works: why are the first and last lines called “commencing” and “topmost” respectively? To indicate that the changes depend on both time
. The tragedy about this book is how difficult it is to obtain these days.
The “I Ching”: A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)
by Richard J. Smith.
Once you pick it up, this book is hard to put down. A fascinating journey through the history of the I Ching
from its Shang dynasty roots to modern times, it traces the variegated ways that the work has been read, understood, commented upon, and applied to fields such as statecraft, warfare, metaphysics, art, and science. It describes the context and influence of scholars such as the Confucians, Wang Bi, Shao Yong, and Zhu Xi, as well as westerners from Leibniz to John Cage. The emigration of the work into the surrounding countries of Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Tibet, and eventually the west, is of particular interest The only disappointment is that its breadth necessarily limits the depth of discussion of individual topics; one is left wanting more.
I Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change: The First Complete Translation With Concordance
by Rudolf Ritsema and Stephen Karcher. I own the latter; the former is said to have been slightly revised. This massive (816-page) book is a research tool, not a simple translation. Lots of introductory material; then the translation is made word-by-word, with associated lists of alternative meanings for each word. The sheer volume of information is almost overwhelming. It’s the kind of book you would use to make your own translation.
I Ching (Classics of Ancient China)
translated by Edward Shaughnessy. This book fills a niche, as it is a translation of the Mawangdui manuscript discovered in 1973 in the tomb of Li Cang, Lord of Dai, who died in 168 B.C.
The manuscript is by far the oldest that we have in existence, and also contains four previously unknown commentaries. The text contains a number of variations from our received text, including phonetic loan-words that shed light on the original meaning of some passages. Plus, the hexagrams are in a different order.
Unearthing the Changes: Recently Discovered Manuscripts of the Yi Jing (I Ching) and Related Texts
by Edward Shaughnessy. Something of a sequel to the above, this one includes transcriptions and translations of two more ancient manuscripts of the Zhouyi
, and one of the mysterious Gui cang
, believed to have been the divination manual of the Shang dynasty and a precursor to the Zhouyi
. Unfortunately, all of the manuscripts are fragmentary, and all were written on bamboo strips and so do not provide direct evidence for the order of the hexagrams (but circumstantial evidence favors the traditional sequence for the Shanghai Museum manuscript). The Gui cang
is the one that piques my curiosity the most. What survives consists of fifty-three hexagrams, their names, and associated statements, most of which follow a specific formula. Many of the names are similar to those in the Zhouyi
, but others are not. Only one statement is present in its near-entirety: that for Zi
, “The Small-Mouthed Cauldron,” which corresponds to hexagram 50 in the traditional sequence. Its format is typical of most of the statements:
Zi “The Small-Mouthed Cauldron” says: In the past the Lord of Song divined about installing .. and had the stalks prognosticated by Wu Cang. Wu Cang prognosticated them and said: Auspicious. The small-mouthed cauldron’s grass snakes, the small-mouthed cauldron’s fragments. At first there is distress, later it is really in accord.
The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life
By Jack M. Balkin. Self-described as an explanation of how the I Ching
can benefit one’s everyday life, and an in-depth and scholarly explanation it certainly is. Treats the I Ching
as as a repository of ethical teachings, in a larger sense of how to deal with a changing universe, as opposed to a fortune-telling device. Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, Balkin offers what may be the clearest explanation of why an educated 21st
century westerner should have any interest in “divination”; in the final analysis, the I Ching
is a tool for creative thinking. Also includes a large amount of valuable background information, much of which is distilled from works such as
by Richard Rutt, but always credited with helpful references. For those who wish to dig deeper into the history of I Ching
interpretation is an account of the “feud” between the Wang Bi and Chu Hsi (Zhu Xi) schools of thought. Translation is based on Wilhelm;
includes concrete and advice-oriented commentary.
People who use the Book of Changes can believe that they are communicating with gods and spirits, as the Shang did; they can believe in the impersonal forces of Heaven, like the Zhou; or they can be agnostics or atheists who merely seek self-awareness and self-understanding.
I-hsüeh ch’i meng (Introduction to the Study of the Classic of Change)
by Chu Hsi; translated by Joseph A. Adler.
Chu Hsi (1130-1200), besides turning Neo-Confucianism into what would be the dominant school of Chinese
philosophy for the next six centuries, in 1186 published this distillation of the then-current wisdom concerning the origin of the trigrams and hexagrams, the use of yarrow stalks to consult the oracle, and rules of interpreting the outcome based on the number of changing lines. The part about putting the yarrow stalk remainders between certain fingers of the hand, for example, comes from this book. He describes in detail what is now our modern method of changing 6’s and 9’s to make the transformed hexagram, and illustrates all the possibilities with extensive charts. An invaluable work if you want to get down to the origins of things. Look out for a few misprints, such as missing dots from the River Chart.
Includes the Chinese text alongside the English translation.
[Note added 6/19/2011: sadly, the stitched binding on my edition is very poor; the pages are all falling out.]
The Original Yijing: A Text, Phonetic Transcription,
Translation, and Indexes, with Sample Glosses
by Richard Alan Kunst (available from UMI Dissertation Express
, order number 8525020).
This is Kunst’s unpublished 1985 doctoral thesis, and one of the most highly respected treatments of modern research into the I Ching
. Rutt says that it is “the most convincing translation yet made of the Bronze Age document”; he, Gotshalk, and Shaughnessy all make use of this work. The I Ching
text itself occupies only 128 of the 690 pages of the huge .pdf file; the rest address topics ranging from sociology, folklore, and metaphor, to a meticulous analysis of ancient Chinese phonology and grammar. The language is a little difficult for consulting; it is more useful for research. For example, the word usually translated as “sacrifice” or “offering” is now “treat.” And some ambiguous words are included as-is along with the English. Hexagram 1, line 3, begins:
Nobles throughout the day are “g’ian-g’ian” vigorous . . . .
Richter is a little easier to read:
NOBLE PERSON END DAY ENERGY ENERGY
The NOBLE PERSON WORKS and WORKS till the END of the DAY
The Composition of the Zhouyi
by Edward Louis Shaughnessy (available from UMI Dissertation Express
, order number 8320774).
Read this only if you are willing to have your entire understanding of the I Ching
thoroughly challenged. The goal of the work is to interpret the text within the context of the royal court of the late Western Zhou dynasty, using historical sources such as the Shang oracle bone and Zhou turtle-shell divinations, and records from the Spring and Autumn period. The work is notable for copious references to Chinese-language authors from ancient times down to the present day which appear little-known to most western authors. One important observation from the use of the Zhouyi
in ancient context is that “Shang practice seems to have gradually changed from inquiring by divination, to charging or commanding with declarative statements, as if using the divination ritual to communicate desires to the ancestors or spirits.” Divination ended up being not a request for a weather report, so to speak, but rather an attempt to influence the weather. For example:
Que Bian had Yu Da divine for the master: “Having had great chest pains and heart tremors, would that he not on this account have any great harm.” He prognosticated and it was auspicious.
Also, in ancient times there is no record of changing lines or transformed hexagrams. The hexagrams were originally represented by six numeric digits, not combinations of trigrams or even two kinds of lines. “Divinations resulted in the indication of just one line of one hexagram, with the prognostication based on that line’s line statement in the Zhouyi.” Having re-examined the general nature and context of the Zhouyi, the second part of the work is a detalied structural and lingustic analysis of a number of hexagrams and hexagram pairs. Shaughnessy’s admitted bias is to interpret the lines of a hexagram as part of a unified whole, given the evidence in at least some parts of the text of the conscious composition of an editor. The references to astronomy and the seasons are particularly interesting. Going to stop here because I have to stop somewhere; a brief review cannot possibly encompass the whole of this work.
The Book of Changes
by Arthur Waley (downloadable from Joel Biroco’s site
Originally published in “The Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities,” No. 5, Stockholm 1933, it is one of the earliest examples of modern I Ching
scholarship, and something of a forerunner to the two dissertations above.
I CHING / YI JING: Transcription, Gloss, Translation
by Gregory C. Richter. Downloadable from
A hard-core literal translation for getting down to the actual text; simpler and more accessible than Ritsema and Karcher/Sabbadini. The kind of book that you would keep handy to check any other translation against. It is the third translation included in The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching
You SEE a DRAGON IN the FIELD.
It is FAVORABLE to SEE the GREAT PERSON.
The Takashima Ekidan
by Shigetake Sugiura, translated from the work of Kaemon Takashima.
Published in 1893, this is a contemporary of Legge’s translation. It is something like the “Japanese Wilhelm-Baynes version,” having first been translated into Japanese, then English. Invaluable for another early, this time eastern, perspective on the I Ching
. The introduction describes the method of counting off yarrow stalks in groups of 8 to determine the trigrams, then in groups of 6 to determine one moving line, as described by several contemporary authors
this is also the “one moving line” method included in The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching
. Of note, the author points out that,
There are a great many styles of divination offered by different scholars, and no one knows which is the best of all.
The I Ching Oracle
by Nigel Richmond. Privately printed but available in facsimile form, along with its predecessor, Language of the Lines,
at Joel Biroco’s site
When I read the introduction to The I Ching Oracle
, I feel like I am looking at art made from broken bottles and crushed cans. The wonder is that the material was used so creatively. Richmond reasons in reverse, from symbol to concept, that since the common notation for a yang line is unbroken, yang must therefore be changless and static, and yin similarly changing and active.
The symbol logic that is used here is very simple and strict; it demands that the symbol and the thing it symbolizes are clearly seen to share characteristics (like the divided line and the divided reality) . . . .
The yang symbol, —, represents something undivided and so without change, and something that is unchanging is still and tranquil; here the flow of change that alone creates manifestation is withheld . . . . Yang came to mean strong, aggressive, and active, while the yin symbolized weak, dark, and passive. None of these characteristics fit the symbols — and - - to which they have been attached, in fact they are reversed in many respects.
Whatever the logic of this, somehow the resulting explanations of the trigrams make a curious sort of sense. Plus, I consider the terse and unadorned text to be a model for I Ching
translation, and have included it in The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching
The Zhouyi and the First Four Wings of the Yijing
by Bradford Hatcher (downloadable from Hermetica.Info
). First comes the “simple, literal,” word-by-word translation of the received text, accompanied by “the Rogue River Commentaries And Miscellaneous Notes.”
The commentaries are intended to be extensions of the original image or metaphor, based on everyday human experience, and often expressed in colloquial and iconoclastic language. From hexagram 43, line 1:
Maybe he wants to take a strong stand, or firm steps, or to stomp out that nameless threat, or even kick some troublesome butt here. There’s trouble afoot in these times, or something is stepping on toes and this makes him hopping mad.
Next comes the really invaluable part: the Matrix Translation, which includes multiple English translations of each Chinese word, as well as other textual information. I cannot say enough about this; it lets you dig for the meaning of all the words, especially when used to accompany a simpler version such as Richter or Kunst.
There are a number of accompanying documents as well, which are explained on the Hermetica page.
Yi Jing, Oracle of the Sun
by LiSe Heyboer. Viewable online at www.yijing.nl/i_ching
. A popular site which includes a number of articles about the I Ching,
, I searched for the phrase on Google and Clusty and only found it used in the description of software called “AudioElla.” But according to
discussion groups, it appears that LiSe’s site had existed prior,
although “not in an ideal environment.” Oh, well.
The translation is based on a lot of personal research. It is not downloadable per se, and is sometimes “innovative”; hexagram 33, for example, is called “Save your bacon.”
The Fortune Teller’s I Ching
by Man-Ho Kwok, Martin Palmer, and Joanne O’Brien. Meant to be the I Ching
of the streets, “based on the editions of the book as used by Chinese fortune tellers and ordinary people.
” The Chinese text, which is appended, was taken from a 1981 commentary by Sun Tsai Shang; the implication is that it is different from the imperial edition of 1715, but this is not explained in detail. Describes the modern Pa Ch’ien method of consulting the I Ching,
using eight coins to choose two trigrams, then six coins to choose one “line of change.” The ancient yarrow stalk method is compared to writing books with a quill pen: historically accurate, but not in current use. Modern commentary is said to have been distilled from the practice of contemporary diviners and interpreters as well as modern and contemporary commentaries.
I Ching: The Shamanic Oracle of Change
by Martin Palmer and Jay Ramsay, with Zhao Xiaomin. A sequel to the above, this time seeking the ancient roots of the I Ching
rather than its street use. The introduction describes the oracle as a grand epic comparable to the Iliad, a “Bayeux Tapestry of China in words.” It recounts the uprising of the Chou (Zhou), “crossing the great river” to overthrow the Shang, all through the voice of the shaman. For example, hexagrams 31-34 are said to describe adjusting to post-invasion victory. Each hexagram is accompanied by a poem by Jay Ramsay. Modern commentary is appended, rather than interleaved. A study of the radicals that comprise the hexagram names is included as well.
Books about the I Ching:
Yijing Wondering and Wandering
by Jane Schorre and Carrin Dunne. Describes itself as a “contemplation of Yijing.” Actually two books in one. First comes “Wondering,” Jane Schorre’s pair-by-pair examination of the Chinese characters that comprise the hexagram names, dissecting the ancient primitive figures into their components in order to shed light on their meanings. In “Wandering,” Carrin Dunne explores the arrangement of the hexagrams, in particular the differences between the pairs that are mirror images of each other, and those that are reversed polar opposites. I found her idea of “foursomes” so intriguing that I generalized it and included it in The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching
When compared to other versions, what is most striking about the received text of Yijing is that the hexagram is viewed primarily as a whole, and only secondarily as a component of trigrams. This fundamental difference is made apparent by the sequence, no longer goverened by the placement of trigrams.
What is the ordering principle in the sequence of the received text? Put simply, it is the play of opposites.
New Directions in the I Ching: The Yellow River Legacy
by Larry Schoenholtz. This book, published in 1975, is one of the earliest of the modern English-language analyses of the I Ching
. Several concepts in current use originated here, including “the sixteen system” of using sixteen colored beads to determine each line of a hexagram, and “phantom hexagrams” made by transforming multiple moving lines one at a time. Stephen Karcher later described the latter as “steps of change.” An extension of this concept is that of hexagram “first families,” the group of 6 hexagrams made by changing the polarity of each line in the base hexagram, one at a time; they are all “one line away” from the original hexagram, and actually consist of the first 6 changed hexagrams in each of the charts published by Chu Hsi in 1186.
A little bit of ’70’s new-age philosophy pops up here and there: “Now that ESP has been scientifically proved in the laboratory . . . .” And the best page of the book may be the representation of “a celebration of life” as an Appalachian dulcimer!
Language of the Lines
by Nigel Richmond. Language of the Lines
is a remarkable work, beginning with an analysis of two-, three-, four-, five-, and six-line binary relationships from a largely Taoist perspective (“the language”), and concluding with personal and emotional observations on the meaning of the lines of each hexagram, as well as both the outer and inner (consituent and nuclear) trigrams. The language is said to recognize “a self-contained pattern of reality in the way binary lines may be combined together.” Changing lines are described as part of a cyclic flow rather than the flick of a switch. If you are looking for deeper insight into the I Ching than simple paraphrase and self-help advice, this is a place to start.
What follows is the internal oracle and is complementary to the existing Chinese oracle and its translations. Principally it is the oracle of the yarrow stalks and as it is used our reality is seen from the inside, from the depth.
It is downloadable in facsimile form, along with its successor,
The I Ching Oracle,
at Joel Biroco’s site
The I Ching Handbook
by Mondo Secter. A summary of both traditional information and innovative techniques for I Ching
consultation and interpretation. Introduces the transitional and evolutionary hexagrams (which are included in
The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching
), and a coin method that is mathematically
equivalent to using yarrow stalks. Also describes a method of problem-solving without divination, by choosing
two trigrams based one’s own situtation. Contains some commentary on the hexagram and line texts, but no translation.
Heaven, Earth and Man in the Book of Changes
by Hellmut Wilhelm. These two books are a collection of lectures by Richard Wilhelm and his son,
Hellmut, about deeper historical and philosophical aspects of the I Ching
and their intimate understanding of it.
This is the kind of thing that is required to understand what the authors of the I Ching
were really talking about.
I wish there were a lot more books like this.
The Numerology of the I Ching: A Sourcebook of Symbols, Structures, and Traditional Wisdom
by Master Alfred Huang. A follow-up to
The Complete I Ching
but doesn't bear much resemblance. Master Huang says that the inital work follows the Moral and Reason School,
while the sequel follows the Symbol and Number School. It is a compendium of traditional lore about the arrangements
of the trigrams and hexagrams, cosmology and the five elements, line relationships, various hexagrams that have
special significance, nuclear hexagrams (mutual and core gua), and methods of fortune-telling.
Yin-Yang Code: A Introduction To I-Ching
The Boolean I Ching
I Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth
by Hua-Ching Ni. A free but well-written translation, introduced by a lot of Symbol and Number School material and folklore. Some of the latter is interesting, such as the relationship between the Big Dipper and the seasons, and diagrams of the 28 constellations of the Chinese zodiac. A major emphasis is rhythms of life and health, such as the effect of stress on the body, meridian systems, natural medicine, and mental illness. Describes using small seeds to determine a hexagram and one moving line. Ends with five brief tales of ancient I Ching
practitioners, and some personal notes.
The speech of spirits is at too high a frequency for the human ear to distinguish. They have a complete language, like human language, but it is spoken on the level of subtle energy waves, which a well-developed receiver may be able to understand after some training.
The sudden interference of an ill-intentioned ghost can cause vehicles or machines to stop and thus create land or air accidents . . . . Many diseases, both in men and women, are caused by ghosts, with or without reason.
Knotted Doughnuts and Other Mathematical Entertainments
by Martin Gardner. Contains 21 of his Scientific American
Mathematical Games columns,
including the one about the I Ching
. Expresses my preference for including user action in the method of
consultation, rather than simple mechanical generation of random numbers:
. . . if you believe in Jungian synchronicity you might suppose that whatever acausal forces are operating they would be
stronger on a hand division of sticks than on the way one flips a coin.
Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung
by Arthur L. Miller. It is kind of a dual biography, focusing on their interactions, with lots of material on Pauli’s physics and Jung’s archetypes. Pauli, besides being a great physicist (Pauli exclusion principle; predictor of the neutrino), was a rather tortured soul and turned to psychoanalyst Jung for help. Their collaboration influenced many ideas such as Jung’s synchronicity, and both of them used the I Ching. The latter is not a major theme of the book, but it is referred to a number of times.
When it comes to comparing the I Ching to the genetic code,
I just can’t get into the spirit of things.
To me, the differences outweigh the similarities, and many of the latter seem contrived. The I Ching is an 8 × 8 square of binary hexagrams, and DNA is a 4 × 4 × 4 cube of base-4 “trigrams” (codons). The similarity comes from the fact that 64 (26) happens to be both a square (2) and a cubic (3) number. But aren’t the hexagram lines actually base 4, if moving lines are taken into account? Could be, but then there are 4096 hexagrams, not 64. What about arranging the I Ching into a 4 × 4 × 4 cube of bigrams? Looks interesting, but this is not historical and doesn’t change anything. One more thing: DNA’s essential nature is to be arranged into a long string with an anti-sense opposite. The similarity would have been more convincing if the King Wen sequence gave priority to the antisense hexagram pairs, not the physically inverted ones. But don’t let me stop you from seeing for yourself.