...life can be translucent
Menu

Laws of Yijing Practice

Here’s a challenging post from Harmen Mesker: Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained. While I’m unlikely ever to call anything to do with the Yi a ‘law’ (there’s a distinct shortage of rules graven on stone tablets for divination), this is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking article.

Law 1:

If you receive the same hexagram three times you have three different answers.

The meanings of the hexagrams are not fixed, they change according to your situation. Hexagram 3 can mean that you are experiencing initial difficulties, but it can also mean that initial difficulties elsewhere have to be addressed. A friend of mine was asked to give a beginners course at the upcoming Yijing Symposium in Ruigoord. He asked the Yijing whether this was a good idea, and he received hexagram 3 (5th line moving). You could see this as a difficult start, leading to a troubled course, and be tempted not to do it. But who were the targets of the course? Indeed, those people who experience difficulties when starting to use the Yijing. Therefore, “if you receive the same hexagram three times you have three different answers”.

This is very often true. Its corollary is that when we receive that same hexagram again, we still need to go read it afresh as a new response. There is a risk of getting stuck in a mental groove: ‘Oh, that one, I know what that means,’ substituting what we ‘know it means’ for what it says.

A related and trickier question: when you receive the same hexagram three times, should you assume that you have three connected, related answers, and Yi is pointing out a connection between your questions?

Or if you form a strong personal association between, say, Hexagram 53 and marriage, is it reasonable to assume that when you ask a work question and receive Hexagram 53, this is a reminder to consider your marriage?

I think this can only be answered by intuition, in the moment. Repeating hexagrams is one way Yi can point out connections you’d otherwise miss; however, rather than saying the Hexagram 53 reading is about your marriage, not your work, I’d be more inclined to look for a pattern of Gradual Progress that’s common to both areas of life. Those personal thematic associations need to be taken lightly and allowed to come and go, so the conversation stays free and alive.

However… sometimes when you receive the same hexagram three times, you might have one answer and two reminders that it would be a really good idea to take notice of that answer. (For example, there have been a couple of occasions when I’ve spent a long time thinking about a reading’s primary hexagram, finally asked a clarifying question, and received in response, with no lines changing, the relating hexagram from the original reading. I imagine the oracle speaking to me extra – slowly – and – clearly… ;))

Law 11 of Yijing Practice: there are not many laws.

Law 2, from Harmen:

Moving lines do not move.

Many users have the habit of immediately changing the moving lines in the received hexagram to generate a second hexagram. Apart from the fact that moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice (Rutt, p. 154-155; Nielsen, p. 22), the habit of generating a second hexagram makes it tempting to bypass the original answer of the Yijing if the second hexagram is more to your liking. But you do not receive the second hexagram as answer from the Yijing, you receive the first hexagram. And that’s the hexagram you have to deal with. An example from Clarity’s forum:

I got 39.3>8. Then, my I Ching book asks me to throw again when I receive hexa 8, so I asked for clarity and I got 37 “Family”.

The querent seems to skip hexagram 39 completely, going right over to hexagram 37 which could be called the third hexagram. But that is not the initial answer that she got from the Yijing and that she should have started with. Therefore, “moving lines do not move”.

  • Bent Nielsen, A companion to Yi jing numerology and cosmology
  • Richard Rutt, Zhou Yi – the Book of Changes

Well, this is more contentious!

As far as I know – which is nowhere near as far as Harmen knows – line texts have been described in terms of the hexagram they lead to for a long time. 39 line 3 is 39 zhi 8, 39’s 8. Impossible to tell from this, of course, whether or not this implied that people would actually go on to read Hexagram 8.

More important for me is what I find works in divination, which is that if you receive 39.3 changing to 8, you have received the combination of both hexagrams, and the relationship and ‘conversation’ that takes place between the two. You could also say that you’ve received Hexagram 39 in a context of 8: Difficulties and Limping as seen from or through a perspective of Seeking Union, the Seeking Union experience of Difficulties. So you might expect this to focus on how, when you are struggling, you seek people with whom you have a natural affinity. (Hexagram 39 already contains the idea of changing direction and going ‘southwest’; Hexagram 8 accentuates that aspect of its meaning.)

If Harmen finds that this second, relating hexagram often draws people’s attention, that would be because it tends to describe them: where they are, how they relate to the situation, what the reading is about for them. In this case, the reading was about a woman’s strong desire to leave an environment where she was struggling and move back home to her family and friends. Her moving line reads,

‘Going on, limping; coming back, turnaround.’

– endorsing her desire to change direction and go home, as the readers on her thread agreed.

Generally speaking, hurrying to ask again – not necessarily what Hexagram 8 advises – is not recommended. However… if this reading is an example of a broken ‘law’, it’s also an example of Yi’s flexibility and responsiveness to the sincere questioner. After she skimmed over her first reading, she was given a second answer that carried the same message, clear as day.

(More later on laws 3-10.)

69 responses to Laws of Yijing Practice

  1. I should probably qualify slightly – the Yao Ci or Changing Line Text describes a vector, a direction to the change. The Ben or Original Gua is like the momentum or inertia that is moving in that direction. But just because you are moving in a direction doesn’t mean that you are going all the way there. You can head North without having to go to the North Pole. You can go North for only a millimeter and yet the journey would have a northerly quality. Therefore the Zhi Gua should not be taken as a prediction of the future.
    The theory that line changes weren’t in the original is just another example of what happens when you make your theories about a text without referring to the text in question. The theory falls apart when you look at the context. There are a multitude of obvious examples in both Zhi Gua and Fan Yao analyses to show that the Yao Ci were constructed as images of a relationship between two Gua.

  2. Oh, quite. What that doesn’t altogether prove is that people originally read the second hexagram as part of their answer, as well as the line.

    For myself, I’m open to and fascinated by discussion of what might have been part of the original (??) concept; I just don’t see any necessary connection between that and what works and helps now.

  3. “There are a multitude of obvious examples in both Zhi Gua and Fan Yao analyses to show that the Yao Ci were constructed as images of a relationship between two Gua.”

    No, there aren’t. I mean, using trigram and line associations and the changes between them (and I assume that is what you ‘analyse’) it is possible to see connections everywhere. I have seen Chinese books where trigrams are changed and turned over, just to explain why a certain word is mentioned in the text. It is all in the eye of the beholder, and the ‘obviousness’ quickly disappears if you examine the text for what it is. After all, if you discard the traditional commentary like the Shuo Gua etc., then suddenly all the imagery of the trigrams and lines is gone! We do not know if these images are the original foundation of the Yi, and therefore it is impossible to tell whether they shaped the text or not. You can use them to explain the text, and if you succeed in that you will become convinced that they trigram and line images are the basis of the text. In the same way it is possible to explain the text in terms of wuxing, but as you know it is very unlikely that the wuxing played a part in the emergence of the Zhouyi.

    There is nothing ‘obvious’ in the Yi. Taking one door as ‘obvious’ closes several other doors.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  4. I find zhi gua and fan yao are far, far better candidates for finding striking (better word than ‘obvious’?) examples of connections than any amount of trigram-based analysis. (They are not the same thing.)

  5. Incidentally, on Richard Rutt’s statement concerning his doubt that moving lines were originally used, I have in the past discussed this with him. I simply asked him whether he knew at what date the sixes and nines became attached to the Zhouyi text, because movement is implicit in those numbers. There was a long silence from him at that point. Date the sixes and nines.

  6. Thanks Steve, but one (striking) example does not make a pattern. If there really were textual links between hexagrams I would expect more of these. Like, the name of hexagram 32 appears in the 6th line of H42. But changing that line does not bring you to H32.

    I don’t see how ‘movement’ is implicit in the numbers 6 and 9, but I do believe that these are a later simplification of the original oracle that we find on the oracle bones, bronze inscriptions and bamboo slips. They are the result of a numerical method of divination. I have a (Chinese) book here somewhere which has a table which shows that the amount of different numbers that were used gradually became less and less. First the numbers 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 were used, and later mostly 1, 5, 7, 8, etc., or something like that. It is possible (but not demonstrated) that the Yi oracle originated from this system.

    I would like to see the oldest book which clearly talks about changing lines. If I’m correct not even Wang Bi talked about changing lines. If it is such a vital concept in the application of the Yi, shouldn’t it be more apparent in the oldest commentaries? The example from 57/5-18 is mentioned in Li Dingzuo’s Zhouyi Jijie from the Tang Dynasty, in which he clearly says that 57-5 changes to become 18. But do we have older sources? Me ponders a lot about this.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  7. A single example never establishes anything, I posed that one simply because it is the singular example most hard to dismiss out of hand. Still, you’ve managed to do so anyway. There are other examples of linkage via changing lines, but no point mentioning any unless you address that one. You sound like you have your mind made up, and on the basis of what? Two learned opinions, no facts.

    The question is not what is the evidence for changing lines being taken into account from the earliest times, but rather what is the evidence against it? Are you being as objective as you would like to believe you are? I don’t think so. I think you have your mind made up, probably on the basis of the dismissal by Rutt and Nielson of the meaningfulness of the Zuozhuan references. Yet actually they are fairly convincing, since how do you account for the second hexagram when it has come from a change occurring in the first? How was it derived if not from changing the lines in the first? At the very least you would have to concede that a connection between hexagrams is posited on the basis of line change from firm to yielding and vice versa. Is this not sufficient evidence of the notion of line change? You don’t have to consider whether people read the second hexagram or not, or whether the method gave it as a result, what you have to consider is whether the concept of connection of hexagrams via change of a line’s nature (solid or broken) is reasonable. Why are you talking about the Tang dynasty when the Zuozhuan already establishes that principle?

  8. ‘How was it derived if not from changing the lines in the first?’

    That should be: ‘How was it derived if not from changing a line in the first?’

    In other words, the notation ‘Qian’s Gou’ as a way of referring to the beginning line of hexagram 1 involves the clear evidence of the concept of changing a solid line to a broken one, since Gou is the hexagram (44) that results when that solid line in the first place is exchanged for a broken line.

    The rest doesn’t matter. But then, you can come onto the rest, such as 57/5 to 18 showing a clear textual link via a changing line. The fact that you found a far lesser link between two hexagrams not via a changing line is pretty poor thinking in my book. What is the repetition of a character compared to the repetition of a highly specific idea?

  9. I might also add that your reference to Nielsen p22 isn’t so hot, as the example he gives is ‘Hexagram 1’s Hexagram 2’. That is a six-line change that requires the seventh line of hexagram 1 to make it intelligible as a referent to a single line, without basis in the actual Zuozhuan. An odd example really.

  10. Actually, Harmen, this example above clinches it. Though ‘Hexagram 1’s Hexagram 2’ is not one of the divinatory examples in the Zuozhuan, it does in fact appear in the discussion on dragons in the Zuo. This phrase is specifically used to refer to that seventh line of hexagram 1, which is quoted (Rutt, p 196). Now look, this shows that it was realised in the Zuozhuan that that seventh line was to be invoked when all six lines of hexagram 1 changed. Otherwise, how would they know that it was Qian’s KUN? Because that is nowhere stated in the Zhouyi text. Therefore it is obvious that in the 4th century BCE the notion of changeable lines was not only prevalent it extended to the changing of all six lines.

  11. Harmen-
    I’ve listed approximately a hundred examples of each on Page 13, Volume Two of my work. That you will refuse to see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.
    I’ll bet if Rutt told you the world was flat you’d believe him, as long as he had a few other academics and some footnotes to “prove” it. Your school of analyses is really good at one thing – finding old meanings for Old Chinese words, even if you can’t acknowledge that these words were polysemous. But beyond that the academics are incapable of the perspective needed even to translate whole sentences, let alone understand either a whole divination text or the process of divination. For that the eyes need to be more than three inches from the page.

  12. I am trying to be as objective as possible Steve, you should know that by now. I am trying to get all the points of view together, and the fact that moving lines might not be used in the early days of Yijing usage is one point of view which, I must admit, is a view which attracts me very much. But I do not find Rutt, Nielsen, Shaughnessy, Kunst etc. views conclusive – there is one issue they seem to avoid: if lines in the initial hexagrams weren’t changed, then why are the trigrams in the second hexagram so often discussed in the Zuozhuan? On the other hand it does not seem to be a one-way change; there is one ‘story’ where it is said that “Zhen it’s Li vice-versa Li it’s Zhen” (Legge, p. 165; Rutt, p. 181), implying that the trigram in the Li in the second hexagram can become Zhen in the first hexagram. To me it seems the two hexagrams were 1 outcome of a divination process, instead of 1 hexagram changing to make another. We also see this in the Baoshan divination records. It does not necessarily mean that one hexagram changes to another.

    Nevertheless, if we accept that ‘changing lines’ are used in the Zuozhuan, then why does there seem to be a gap in their usage from that time onwards to the Tang dynasty? I cannot find any mentioning of ‘changing lines’ in works between that period. If it was such an important part of the divination, then why is so little said about it in the oldest commentaries? Why doesn’t Wang Bi talk about it?

    Brad, if I quote an ‘academic’ you will immediately dismiss it because it is said by an ‘academic’. The examples in your book that you refer to are interesting interpretations – no more, no less. I cannot see anything else in them; with other interpretations it is easy to refute them. Conclusive findings should not be based on interpretation of the text, is my opinion.

    I don’t think Hilary’s blog is the proper place to discuss the ‘changing lines’ issue. We could start a thread about that on her forum.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  13. I don’t think one can necessarily conclude from the Zuozhuan references that the first hexagram changed into the second named hexagram at all, I merely say it is a way of referring to a single line in the first hexagram in terms of what hexagram would result if that line and only that line changed. This form of notation always refers to a single line, even for ‘hexagram 1’s hexagram 2’. We simply don’t know what changing lines were received or how many changing lines, all we know is that the concept of changing lines existed then and the diviner chose to interpret in terms of a single line, as indeed do I, no matter how many lines change. The fact is that changing lines are in the Zuozhuan as a concept and any reason for why others after that didn’t discuss them much can only ever be a matter for supposition, if indeed it is true that they weren’t discussed. I don’t see Wang Bi, for instance, being perplexed by the presence of seventh lines in hexagrams 1 and 2. I don’t see him saying why are these extra lines here, what can be their purpose? Yes, he is remarkably uninterested in talking about line connections, but then he was dead by 23 and wasn’t actually all that insightful about the Changes really, despite all the plaudits he receives. We each have our interests, he talks a lot about trigrams, whereas I have hardly any interest in them at all. What can be deduced from this? That trigrams hardly exist for me. So what? Only a fool would think I had never heard of them. But the fact of the conceptualisation of line change in the Zuozhuan is plain. So who is really being objective here? I am only talking about facts, you appear to want to deduce something from a lack of interest in discussing changing lines after the Zuozhuan. You are using lack of facts to support an argument you appear to prefer.

  14. “The fact of the conceptualisation of line change in the Zuozhuan is plain.” When you say that you are not being objective, as ‘line change’ is not a ‘fact’ in the Zuozhuan – nowhere in the Zuozhuan is said that ‘this line changes to make that hexagram’. But I am aware that Shaughnessy e.a. didn’t do their homework properly when they talked about the ZuoZhuan ‘stories’. So let’s re-evaluate these stories by looking at what the original text says instead of what others said about them. I will try to gather the original Chinese text of these ‘stories’ and we’ll start from there, ok?
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  15. Merely talking about a line in terms of another hexagram that is related to the first by the change of the quoted line is precisely the fact of the concept of changing lines. It is irrelevant whether it was an actual divinatory practice. This has never been my argument.

  16. Hilary-
    When you start something here and then move it over to the Forum as well you get two separate threads going that never interact with each other. hat can be done about this?

  17. “I cannot see anything else in them; with other interpretations it is easy to refute them. Conclusive findings should not be based on interpretation of the text, is my opinion.”

    That is precisely the problem. But like I said, your inability to see is not a negation. I took at least 25 pages to point out and describe the twelve to fifteen logical fallacies that your colleagues, from Gao Heng onward, are building their “conclusive findings” upon. I can’t just keep rehashing that. And the fact that arguments with clever theologians are un-winnable does not mean that God exists. The premises and the universe of discourse are all wrong. If you refuse to look within the Zhouyi text, or try to understand it by interpreting the text, and if that text was not surrounded in its day by news stories that described it, then you are stuck with nothing but truly extraneous material, and you are stuck with doing nothing or making the false assertion that “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”. It’s the same specious reasoning that ignores all of the indications of trigrams within the Zhouyi, however embryonic they were.
    You are not going to get away with dismissing two hundred examples as “mere interpretation” and nothing else. I am, however, afraid that you have locked yourself out of any possibility of understanding them. You have done this by atomizing the text into rigidly narrow glosses that can no longer form intelligible sentences, at least without ignoring half of the particles and moving text around like Rutt had to do to support his preconceptions. Not only that, you also probably support the notion that the Yao texts contain independent and unrelated layers, that the phrase Yuan Heng is unrelated to the image that follows it, or that Wu Jiu is unrelated to the metaphor that precedes it (if you even think the authors were capable of metaphor). I am, as is usual with us, of the opposite opinion – that a real core understanding of a line text is a gestalt that will account for every single word of that text, and that gestalt is necessary to see many of the connections in my 200 “mere interpretation”. And,if you can’t account for every single word of the text in a coherent and meaningful whole, that is a sign that you need to go back and look closer, and broaden your glosses if need be. {But I am not asserting by this that pareidolia and ambiguity are not big parts of how the Yi works}.
    Do you really believe that the academic parrots are building an edifice of conclusive findings? The logic alone that they lack is fully explained in Logic 101 at any two-year college. It’s a collective fantasy. What they have is not a competent, peer-reviewed body of conclusive findings – it’s am incestuous clusterf**k.

  18. Brad, you can’t write off a whole bunch of scholars as having nothing to offer. Each person has ideas, some good some bad. You are just entering the debate from the perspective of polarisation. Calm down, have a herbal tea. But just to annoy you further I might add that I see absolutely no indications of trigrams in the Zhouyi. If they are there, persuade me with your best example, don’t refer us to a myriad of examples you say backs up your case, give just one you regard as indisputable.

    Certainly plenty of your hundred examples of change line connections (what you call ‘Zhi Gua’, Vol 2, p13) I either find unconvincing or can’t even see what you regard as a connection. There are connections, but for the purposes of argument for me the best example is the one I have already put forward (57/5 to 18). I don’t see any point bolstering that excellent example with a bunch of lacklustre examples just for the sake of ‘bumping up the numbers’. We each have our own criteria for deciding what is convincing and what isn’t. Yours appears to be quite loose. I like to place the bar fairly high. Harmen sometimes places it so high that nothing can convince, which is self-defeating. There is an art to placing the bar. Your constant harping on about Richard Rutt, for instance, quite ignores his splendid contributions to the subject and his real insights. So actually Brad, I am saying you have lost perspective, so your own views will lack bite because of that.

  19. Hilary-
    When you start something here and then move it over to the Forum as well you get two separate threads going that never interact with each other. hat can be done about this?

    Not a great deal, afaik.

    I’ve set things up so posts to the blog automatically show up as new forum threads. Advantage: more comments on posts. Disadvantage: the possibility of two separate unconnected threads of discussion. The only ‘solution’ I’ve seen is to turn off blog comments and tell people to go look for the relevant thread at the forum; I don’t think there’s even an automated way to link straight to the relevant thread from the blog post.

  20. Hi Steve-
    I’m referring specifically to a school that refers to itself as Modernist, that began in China in the 1920’s-1930’s, and to a subset of that approach called Context Criticism. I should have qualified that but I thought it was understood by folks in this context.
    As to the Trigram issue, it’s off topic here, but I try to ‘splain myself in Volume One, pp 447-8 and on p.505, paragraph 2.
    As to looseness, that is certainly the case, but I think it must be. We are just not in a position in history to nail this book down any tighter. Only to prematurely think that we have done so. If you look closely, just about all of my rants are directed at pretensions of certainty, rather than being claims that I have definitive answers. My arguments are generally to try and keep some of the doors and windows open.
    My 200 examples were not presented in the book as proof, but as thought experiments or exercises to help the student understand these two dimensions by playing with the easiest examples. But they remain only the easiest examples. This evidence is not proof, but I am arguing instead for a benefit of doubt.

  21. I know you are talking about the so-called Modernist School Brad, no need to qualify. But within that school of thought there are many good ideas, probably more than in any school of thought down the ages. You are writing it off as a whole on the basis of its bad ideas. That’s just being curmudgeonly and pointless. Context criticism has given rise to a lot of great insights into the meaning of the text.

    I enjoy your ranting though, when all is said and done. Predictability is always amusing and one comes to expect it as a form of light entertainment.

    Nothing is off topic here if it is to do with the Yijing, surely. But fine if you don’t want to discuss your belief in trigrams in the Zhouyi. I couldn’t see anything in the mentioned pages that says anything about this. I can’t argue with waffle, I need specific examples to look at.

    As for turning off comments here and directing to the forum, it just means that the comments that come here won’t come on the forum. Sometimes the better discussions happen in the quieter glades.

  22. If Yi diviners, interpreters, and scholars cannot learn anything from the Zuozhuan then they may not be worth their salt.

    We each have a chance to learn from among the best Yi diviners of the Zhou Court during the Spring and Autumn era and yet want to follow some modern Yi scholars in dismissing their professional way of interpretation on moving lines? It appears that the two named scholars do not have sufficient Yi divination practice to correctly interpret prognostications and therefore made a wrong call.

    It is a fallacy to say that moving lines do not move or line changes do not change. At times the resultant hexagram or trigram tells a story or provides a subset answer too, especially in omens and/or Heaven’s secrets.

    To me, from extended divination experience, Law 1 is also a fallacy. The Yi gave Hexagram Kan / The Abysmal three times consecutively as the answer to my questions on buying shares just before and during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 / 98. Each time the particular shares in question fell into the bottomless pit (abyss).

    In the interpretation of Yi prognostications, always read the diviner’s question and ponder the answer given. Do not ignore the basics and your previous experiences.

    The provision of beginners’ divination experiences and/or interpretations is good for them to correct mistakes. But those with more experience must also ensure our ‘laws’ or ‘rules’ do not mislead.
    .-= Allan Lian´s last blog ..The Ancient Tao =-.

  23. As for turning off comments here and directing to the forum, it just means that the comments that come here won’t come on the forum.

    That’s what I thought – it’s why I didn’t turn comments off. I’m enjoying reading the discussion here very much indeed.

  24. Hi Steve-
    I’m not writing off the whole Modernist thing, just their unearned self- confidence. I would be an idiot to question their huge contributions to our knowledge of the OC vocabulary (as additions to our glosses, not substitutions). I have also acknowledged my appreciation for their bringing a more realistic historical sense to Yixue.
    But to know where to stop is the highest attainment. They are not equipped with the right cognitive tools to rewrite the whole of Yixue and then teach their students that they have all the answers in every area, all “conclusively found.” It’s a common problem with schools that they go much farther than their strengths do. I really want some day to read a translation by our young but exceedingly gifted Harmen, but I’m still hoping to see something that makes a lot more sense than Rutt’s Zhouyi {Rutt’s Wings aren’t bad}. I’m hoping to see meaning in Harmen’s translation, something that honors the authors. If I thought there was a single right translation, in a book that requires ambiguity, I wouldn’t have done my main translation as a matrix that gave a hundred ways to translate each sentence. There’s still lots of room for expansion, so I don’t have my own limited version to defend. But meanings that are too narrow to make any sense in their contexts won’t add much to the puzzle’s solution.
    As to the polemics and the rants, you probably know better than anyone that I’m mainly having fun. I’m pretty sure it’s a side effect of having read too much Nietzsche in my yoot.
    Trigrams are discussed Vol 1, p. 447-8 and p. 495 (sorry) in the printed book. I sent you those. In the pdf’s just search for the word “reiteratives”.

  25. I’ve read what you say on trigrams Brad. If all you are saying is that someone a long time ago must have noticed that a six line figure was composed of two three-line figures, then fine, I have no argument with that. I thought you had something a bit more juicy on the boil, such as some textual evidence that trigrams were taken into account in the composition of the text itself.

    It’s certainly true that there are some pretty bad ‘modernist’ ideas and in certain cases I am in sympathy with what you say about ‘unearned self-confidence’. Sure, there is a fair proportion of ridiculousness that goes completely unchallenged (Shaughnessy’s interpretation of the ‘sleeves’ of hexagram 54/5 comes to mind). But Rutt, for instance, often explained his translation choices in his notes and never put forward his work as any kind of definitive statement. And are you telling me that Gao Heng never had a good idea, for all he was thinking about the dogs in his home town a little too much when he came to the top line of hexagram 43.

  26. Steve-
    I think what I’m saying is that there was a long period of time during which the meanings for the eight trigrams were developing and that period extended back into the original Zhouyi. They certainly didn’t appear fully formed, and they were still fairly primitive in the Shuogua. There’s a lot of black-and-white fallacy that gets used in Yixue too. Same argument goes for Yin and Yang – the Zhouyi certainly plays with interactive and complementary opposites but without a yin-yang cosmology. We can maybe say that yin and yang were embryonic in the Zhouyi, but we can’t say that it was fundamental any more than we can say that about the bagua.

  27. Hey Harmen-
    I really hope you didn’t take any of that personally. In spite of our many philosophical differences, I really do have a respect that borders on awe for the depth and detail of your scholarship, and also an affectionate regard for you and your contributions. It was simply that bonehead idea that I was reacting to, and I would have tried to be more tactful had it been your idea.

  28. Bradford,

    It is very difficult not to take it personally when there is no room for proper arguments and discussion – it seems I am being judged by the mere fact that I refer to Rutt & Nielsen, and it is immediately assumed that I agree with everything they say. As Steve says:

    “You sound like you have your mind made up, and on the basis of what? Two learned opinions, no facts. (…) I think you have your mind made up, probably on the basis of the dismissal by Rutt and Nielson of the meaningfulness of the Zuozhuan references.”

    I hate it when I have to defend myself against such narrowmindness. The fact that I refer to Rutt & Nielsen does not mean that I only look at what they say and look no further. There are other sources that support (I do not say: ‘proof’) the idea that changing lines were not used in the early days of Yi practice. I am specifically referring to ‘changing lines’ as a part of the divinatory procedure. Steve says:

    “Merely talking about a line in terms of another hexagram that is related to the first by the change of the quoted line is precisely the fact of the concept of changing lines. It is irrelevant whether it was an actual divinatory practice.”

    But I am referring to changing lines as a ‘divinatory practice’, after all, that is what my second ‘law’ was all about. But when I talk about ‘changing lines’ I mean changing (one or more) line(s) in the received hexagram to generate a second hexagram which is viewed as a follow-up of the received hexagram. In other words, ‘changing lines’ as a one-way street: A –> B. This is how ‘changing lines’ are applied today, and this is what I object against. So, when Shaughnessy concludes,

    “In short, the phrase “X1 zhi X2” is but the original manner of identifying one particular line of a given hexagram and has absolutely nothing to do with any divination procedure in which one hexagram “changes into” another hexagram.” (p. 92 in his dissertation)

    …I do not entirely agree. It would imply that the second hexagram has only the function of a ‘pointer’, a ‘label’ to identify a specific line in the first hexagram, without any special meaning for the interpretation. But if that were the case, why does the Zuozhuan refer to the trigrams in the second hexagram so often? Many times the second hexagram is used in the interpretation, mainly by referring to its trigrams. And yes, it is often said that trigram A in the first hexagram becomes (‘wei’ 為) B in the second hexagram. But that this is not seen as a one-way street can be seen in two comments in the Zuozhuan:

    震之離,亦離之震
    “Zhen (…) turning to the trigram Li (…) is like Li turning to Zhen…”
    (Rutt, p. 181; Legge, p. 169)

    Rutt translates 亦 as ‘is like’, but the meaning is more ‘and, also’, in other words Zhen < ---> Li.

    遇大有之睽 (…) 不亦可乎,大有去睽而復,亦其所也
    “…obtained the line of Dayou (hexagram 14) that changes to make Kui (hexagram 38). (…) Furthermore if we turn back from Kui to Dayou, the same is true there too.”
    (Rutt, p. 183; Legge, p. 196)

    These two citations show that changing lines were not used as indicating a hexagram that changes from A to B, instead it chains the two hexagrams together into one answer. The following statement might also indicate this, although not 100% convincing:

    遇歸妹之睽 (…) 寇張之弧
    “…received (…) Guimei (hexagram 54) that turns into Kui (hexagram 38). (…) the enemy will stretch his bow.”
    (Rutt, p. 181; Legge, p. 169)

    The last sentence might be a reference to the changed top line in the second hexagram 38, where it talks about a bow being stretched. Legge also noted this link, as he says “see the Yih, on the top line of the diagram K’wei. But it seems to me of no use trying to make out any principle of reason in passages like the present.” If 寇張之弧 is indeed a reference to the top line of hexagram 38 it indicates that even a changed line can be used in the interpretation, which is opposite of todays practice to only read the Judgment text in the second hexagram.

    The second hexagram was clearly used in the interpretation of the answer, which gives me the impression that both hexagrams were used as two parts of one answer, in other words, the first hexagram does not but change into the second hexagram, but the changed line(s) also ties the two together. As such the two hexagrams have to be viewed as one. The character that is used to link the two hexagrams is zhi 之, which Shaughessy reads in its possessive meaning, and from there he builds his conclusions. But it can also be read as 與, 和 – ‘and, with’ (漢語大詞典, Vol. 1, p. 676).

    On oracle bones and bronze inscriptions, as well as in records of divination practices we often find two hexagrams (or what is seen as their forerunners) mentioned together. At the moment we have no information that shows that in these records the first ‘hexagram’ necessarily changes into the second, so it is possible to view them as separate answers. It is also possible to see them as two parts of one answer, which in my opinion is more likely.

    Were ‘changing lines’ used in the Zuozhuan? Most likely, although we can only be sure about that when we know how the divination procedure for generating a hexagram actually went.

    Is in the Zuozhuan the second hexagram merely an indicator of a specific line in the first hexagram? No.

    Does in the Zuozhuan the first hexagram change into the second hexagram? Personally I don’t think so, considering the fact that some interpretations in the Zuozhuan show that you could also go back to the first hexagram.

    Were changing lines used in the same manner that most people use them today? No.

    This is what I meant when I said “that moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice”. Probably I shouldn’t have referred to Rutt & Nielsen, on the other hand, if one of you should have asked “why do you support their views?” you would have had the above answer. It was readily assumed that I am a follower of their ideas without thinking for myself. It is hard not to take that personally, especially when rubbish like “I’ll bet if Rutt told you the world was flat you’d believe him, as long as he had a few other academics and some footnotes to “prove” it” is thrown in your face.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  29. Harmen, don’t lump me in with what Brad said in a general personal offence statement. I stand by what I said, I think you were overly influenced by Rutt’s view in particular, otherwise why quote him as a reference?

    To me the concept of changing lines is more important than what the practice may or may not have been. There is not enough information to go on to make a statement about what the practice was (not even to say that it was different to today, and in any case there are many approaches to changing lines today).

    Your conclusion appears to be a turnaround. Now you believe it ‘most likely’ that changing lines were used in the Zuozhuan. Hence, it cannot be said to have been a waste of time to have had this discussion. You were annoyed to be accused of not doing your own thinking, but isn’t it the case that you have done your own thinkiing after you made your assertion concerning moving lines? You have conceded that you don’t know. Therefore ‘law 2’ you can cross out for lack of information.

  30. Hi Harmen-
    Speaking calmly now, I don’t think I was the one who brought up the Zuozhuan. I was still referring to internal references. Maybe the most idiot-proof of these, out of all of my examples, are 57.5 for the Zhi Gua dimension and 32.5 – 28.5 for the Fan Yao.
    I agree with you and Steve that these scholars have made many major (if narrow) contributions to Yixue (though I have more respect for Kunst and Shaughnessey). It’s just that they aren’t equipped with the tools of rational thought for the larger exercise of putting the greater puzzle together, and they certainly aren’t constructing an unassailable edifice, even if they are trying to give their followers the illusion of security, stopping some from questioning further. Nor do I think that a scholar alone is equipped to grasp the images of the Yijing. And not just the logic is missing. You shouldn’t translate 56.4 until you’ve spent a cold, wet night trying to sleep under a bridge in a strange town, or 38.3 until you’ve been kidnapped, mugged or raped, or 28.5 until you’ve enjoyed the grateful affections of a cougar. Nor do you have any business explaining shamanism to the world until you’ve sat down with a shaman and shared some magic mushrooms. You can’t do these things from a library cubicle – you need to get the face up off the page and look around. That was the generic you, BTW, meaning me too.
    Now, I said this already, but to repeat in other words – I agree with you insofar as I see the Zhi Gua primarily as vectors or pointers (or tensors), not as “the predicted outcome”. I do think that the text should still be read because it helps to understand the direction you may be going.

  31. “I think you were overly influenced by Rutt’s view in particular, otherwise why quote him as a reference?”

    Because he is one source which talks about this issue, that is why.

    “Your conclusion appears to be a turnaround. Now you believe it ‘most likely’ that changing lines were used in the Zuozhuan.”

    In light of what I wrote before that sentence I don’t see it as a turnaround. Taken out of context it can seem that way, yes.

    “You were annoyed to be accused of not doing your own thinking, but isn’t it the case that you have done your own thinking after you made your assertion concerning moving lines?”

    No, it only made me substantiate it with the material that I already had gathered earlier.

    “Therefore ‘law 2? you can cross out for lack of information.”

    No, because this ‘law’ is not based solely based on my view of the ‘changing lines’ matter. I invented this law because I see many people immediately jump to the second hexagram, instead of delving into the first hexagram.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  32. Regarding ‘clear textual links via changing lines’ it is said that the ancient Chinese observers were noticing mainly a-causal connections. I don’t think we shall ever find a-causal connections indicated very well in language . . . except in rare instances. The implication of this is that the ‘connection’ between any given changing line and the second hexagram will probably always retain the potential to startle and perplex us.

    This is a very erudite thread indeed. I’m out of place posting here, but I’d like to add something completely out of left field.

    Some say we are actually living in a past that is long gone . . . that all of Time ended in the far distant past.

    If that is true, that would explain why Yi has no trouble responding so accurately to our ‘present’ questions as it does. Yi resides in the Present — and we do not. Yi is aware of what has already happened with us, we who are stuck for the time being here in the Past.

    The question was asked: “How was it [the second hexagram] derived if not from changing a line in the first?” I think we have learned how to derive it secondarily from our primary hexagram. But, in accordance with what I wrote above, it was probably ‘there all along’ as the context behind the question we asked. We have learned that we can reveal the second hexagram or make it come to light by reversing certain lines, and sometimes this second hexagram has relevance . . . And of course the second hexagram often clearly ‘comes before’ the primary hexagram, as the set-up out of which we were asking our question in the first place.

    As I sit with my question and my book (or my several books) (or my pile of books) — maybe the process is more like looking at clouds as they are forming shapes in the sky. Don’t they sometimes seem to form themselves into shapes? If the shapes they form mean something to me, then my attention pauses on what seems meaningful. Sometimes it is the trigrams that are most important to me. Sometimes it is the zhi gua that are most important. Sometimes the relating hexagram is the most important thing. Sometimes it is something else that is most important.

    Here is an example of when the trigrams were recently most important to me: I asked Yi if there was anything I needed to know about the upcoming weekend. It responded with H59 with four moving lines. I puzzled a bit about all these moving lines. However, all that turned out to be significant was that hexagram 59 is constituted of the trigrams water and wind. I couldn’t do anything outdoors that whole weekend because there was a rainstorm with terrific winds!

    For this reason, because we do see our reality as being divided into levels, and because people do consult the I Ching about everything, I think all points of view regarding the I Ching are welcome and relevant.

  33. “It’s just that they aren’t equipped with the tools of rational thought for the larger exercise of putting the greater puzzle together, and they certainly aren’t constructing an unassailable edifice, even if they are trying to give their followers the illusion of security, stopping some from questioning further. Nor do I think that a scholar alone is equipped to grasp the images of the Yijing.”

    That sounds as if the Yi should be regarded as different from all other ancient Chinese works, as if you need different rules, views or vocabularies to translate it, instead of the rules you use for other books like the Shijing etc. I don’t think so, I (try to) regard the book as any other ancient Chinese book. That enables me to get a broader picture of its contents – if I already narrow it down to an oracular text it would influence how I analyze the contents. I leave all options open, I look at the grammar, the known meanings of the characters, the variant texts, in short, all the material that is used when you translate other old works. And then I see what picture emerges from it. If no picture emerges then I put my findings aside, hoping that I will have the opportunity to learn more later. Yes, at the moment there are huge gaps in my translation. Every year I say it will take me about 10 years to finish it.

    About “You shouldn’t translate 56.4 until you’ve spent a cold, wet night trying to sleep under a bridge in a strange town etc.”: that would be a tough but enlightening way to experience the Yi. But fortunately it is not a prerequisite for translating the book. Likewise you could say that you have to be Laozi to be able to translate the Daodejing. The mental hospitals would be overbooked if that really were the case.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  34. Harmen, how have I taken your comment that you believe it ‘most likely’ that changing lines were used in the Zuozhuan out of context? The context is plain here for everyone to see and draw their own conclusions.

    I believe the whole problem with this issue is that too much weight has been given to the idea that the character zhi in the Zuozhuan was taken to mean ‘move to’ rather than being a genitive apostrophe. Those who wish to disprove the idea of changing lines have seized upon that to say that therefore changing lines were not known because ‘move to’ can’t be fully justified. However, this misses the point I have already raised: ‘Merely talking about a line in terms of another hexagram that is related to the first by the change of the quoted line is precisely the fact of the concept of changing lines.’

    This shouldn’t be so lightly ignored. This is clear evidence of the conceptualisation of the idea of changing lines as a principle from around the 4th century BCE. The rest is neither here nor there.

    Kindly explain to me how your statement that it is ‘most likely’ that changing lines were in fact used in the Zuo can possibly be squared with your reference to Rutt, who, in fact, on close inspection, does not actually support your original reference to him. He in fact says: ‘Completely convincing conclusions cannot be reached’ (p 155). Which is precisely what I say in terms of knowing what the practice was, though I think the evidence for the conceptualisation of changing lines is clearly there and Rutt overlooked it.

    However, I am starting to feel this whole exercise of ‘Ten Laws’ was just an exercise in ruffling the feathers of the less knowledgeable, so maybe this debate has gone on long enough. I take nothing here personally, and I don’t expect you to either (though feel free to take what Brad said personally, that’s between you two).

  35. Brad, having spent quite a few cold wet nights trying to sleep under a bridge in a strange town I wouldn’t say it has given me any special ability to translate hexagram 56/4. Besides which, that one’s pretty straightforward Chinese. Just to call the lie on that one too.

  36. “Kindly explain to me how your statement that it is ‘most likely’ that changing lines were in fact used in the Zuo can possibly be squared with your reference to Rutt, who, in fact, on close inspection, does not actually support your original reference to him. He in fact says: ‘Completely convincing conclusions cannot be reached’ (p 155).”

    The fact that I refer to Rutt does not mean I have to agree with everything he says. I referred to Rutt (and Nielsen) because they discuss the matter of moving lines and its usage in the Zuozhuan, but I don’t agree that zhi has to be read only as a genitive particle. In my article I said “apart from the fact that moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice (Rutt, p. 154-155; Nielsen, p. 22)…”, and I believe that Rutt (and Nielsen) agree with this view, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree entirely with their way of thinking. After all, Nielsen is following Rutt is following Shaughnessy, and I don’t agree with Shaughnessy either. But he does show that ‘moving lines were probably a later invention’. It is true that ‘completely convincing conclusions cannot be reached’, but the usage of the second hexagram does show that line changing was applied: not as ‘hexagram A into hexagram B’, but as ‘hexagram A and hexagram B’. That is way I find it ‘most likely’ that changing lines (as A < --> B, instead of A –> B) are used.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  37. Okay Harmen, I guess that’s as good as I’m going to get from you on that. But you are aware, presumably, that saying it is ‘most likely’ that changing lines were used in the Zuozhuan is a radical departure from your initial statement concerning ‘the fact’ that ‘moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice’. It’s just that I wonder whether there is still some obscuration of this going on for the sake of saving face, or whether you have fully acknowledged what appears to be a statement made in error. I think clarity is important, and on this I still can’t grasp what you’re actually making a case for, if anything. It seems the real issue is being ducked.

    I take it you neither wish to support nor decry my assertion that merely talking about a line in terms of another hexagram that is related to the first by the change of the quoted line is evidence of the conceptualisation of the principle of changing lines in circa 4th century BCE. That this is completely uninteresting to you, despite the fact this is the first time anyone has said look, here is the evidence, in plain sight. Really, I expected more excitement… Personally, I like my ideas to be challenged, as I can sooner discard them if there are any flaws. But in the absence of any takers, we’ll call it a fact, yes?

  38. “That sounds as if the Yi should be regarded as different from all other ancient Chinese works, as if you need different rules, views or vocabularies to translate it, instead of the rules you use for other books like the Shijing etc.”

    Harmen-
    This is in fact one of my major criticisms of the ironically named “context criticism” – that the words are utterly fungible things and mean the same thing regardless of context, that the protocols require the scholar to ignore the context in which a word sits, such that this word can be plunked down in any context and still mean the same thing. But the Zhouyi is of a different genre of literature- it was written in a completely different sub-culture than the guy who engraved ceremonial bronzes or reported court proceedings or the outcome of a battle. In Chinese, context is half of the meaning and polysemy is everywhere. You know this – I know you do. Context doesn’t simply determine the part of speech.

  39. It is good now and then to discuss ancient divinatory practices with fellow Yi aficionados. A quick perusal of the Zuozhuan, also available in the links provided by Steve’s Yijingdao website and/or in my blog, would refresh our memories on some of these practices.

    Just like the ancient professional Yi diviners during the Chun Chiu, it is a correct practice for modern diviners to write down or referred immediately to the received hexagram, the changing or moving line(s), and the resultant hexagram.

    It provides for clarity to the diviner, the interpreter(s) and the listener(s) – including the client. There are a few such examples in the Zuozhuan. And it is encouraging to hear that many modern diviners do that since it is a good habit to nurture. (It is understandable that beginners make more mistakes than the experienced.)

    Even in those ancient times, the professional Yi diviners and/or interpreters differ in their method of interpretation of the prognostications.

    Like these ancients, to explain the answer from the Yi, modern practitioners depending on their skills of interpretation use the moving or changing line(s), some use the trigrams, while others use the received hexagram and/or the resultant hexagram, or more (like using both moving and unchanging lines for example). And as long as the Yi prognostication unfolds accordingly to their interpretation, who can say that the method used is wrong?

    Therefore ‘Law’ 2 does not hold water at all.
    .-= Allan Lian´s last blog ..The Ancient Tao =-.

  40. “But you are aware, presumably, that saying it is ‘most likely’ that changing lines were used in the Zuozhuan is a radical departure from your initial statement concerning ‘the fact’ that ‘moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice’.”

    The latter statement was made in an article which had a subject of which the ‘moving lines’ topic was just a small part; I did not find it the right place to explain in detail what my thoughts on it are (I didn’t even think of doing that) and I did not want to make a big fuss out of it; nor would I have guessed that people would ask me to defend that ‘statement’. BTW, I don’t think that a sentence with the word ‘probably’ in it can be called a ‘fact’.

    “It’s just that I wonder whether there is still some obscuration of this going on for the sake of saving face, or whether you have fully acknowledged what appears to be a statement made in error. I think clarity is important, and on this I still can’t grasp what you’re actually making a case for, if anything. It seems the real issue is being ducked.”

    I do acknowledge that things would have been more clearer if a) I had not referred to Rutt/Nielsen, and b) I immediately had shown my thoughts about the Zuozhuan moving lines matter in more detail. But as said, I did not find my article the right place for it, and I wanted to save it for another article on my weblog; what I have shown so far is just a part of the entire chain of thoughts that I have on the subject of the Zuozhuan ‘stories’. The original article that I have written so far has all the Zuozhuan ‘stories’ in it, and for every ‘story’ I want to give an explanation of what I see the diviner do with the given answer, where applicable. That part is not yet entirely finished, it lies waiting on my computer for – I think – more than three years or so. I also want to finish my article on the hidden water stream of hexagram 48, the Chinese invasion alarm of hexagram 29, etc. Focusing has always been an issue with me.

    “I take it you neither wish to support nor decry my assertion that merely talking about a line in terms of another hexagram that is related to the first by the change of the quoted line is evidence of the conceptualisation of the principle of changing lines in circa 4th century BCE.”

    I have nothing against that statement, it doesn’t clash with my (current) view of the usage of moving lines at that time. Although I wouldn’t be so sure to tie it down to ‘circa 4th century BCE’, at least not by using the Zuozhuan as the only source. The so-called Ji Zhong texts contained a scroll which had only the divination records from the Zuozhuan on it; the Ji Zhong texts are dated 296 BC (Shaughnessy, ‘Rewriting Early Chinese Texts’). I have never heard of such an excerpt before, could it be that this so-called Shi Chun text was separated in a later time and inserted in the Zuozhuan? Me ponders….
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  41. ‘BTW, I don’t think that a sentence with the word ‘probably’ in it can be called a ‘fact’.’

    Me neither, but actually it’s what you wrote: ‘Apart from the fact that moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice (Rutt, p. 154-155; Nielsen, p. 22)…’

    I’m not defending ‘circa 4th century BCE’. That’s Rutt’s dating. In ‘The Mandate of Heaven’ I give 3rd century BCE as a rough idea.

    I look forward to your article.. There’s also the consideration that actually none of the divination records in the Zuozhuan are either actual records or even representative of how any diviners are the time thought. Could just be semi-fictional literature.

  42. “This is in fact one of my major criticisms of the ironically named “context criticism” – that the words are utterly fungible things and mean the same thing regardless of context, that the protocols require the scholar to ignore the context in which a word sits, such that this word can be plunked down in any context and still mean the same thing.”

    Bradford, you view ‘context’ different from me, but ‘context’ can also change, depending on what you are dealing with. ‘Context’ for a Chinese character in the Yijing is the sentence in which the character is used, or, when a clear link can be found, the text of the hexagram. To me, ‘context’ does not extent beyond these borders – most of the time. But the context for the phrase ‘wu jiu’ which you mentioned earlier, is defined by the other literature in which we find this exact phrase – namely the oracle bones, but also the records of divination results. These sources show (to me) that ‘wu jiu’ is an additional statement that explain a received oracle, and that it originally was not part of the Yi itself. I do look at context, but even context can be flexible. However, I do not believe that characters have a multiple range of meanings in the Yi. This isn’t the case with other books, so I don’t see any reason why it would be valid for the Yi. After all, the context narrows the meanings of a character down. That is why I find these long lists of meanings that Ritsema & Karcher give, but which you also provide, useless because a lot of the given meanings are not applicable in the context for which the character is used. For instance, ‘to need’ is a meaning of the name of hexagram 5, but this meaning is only used from around 500AD onwards (says my memory; don’t crucify me if I have it wrong), so it could never have that meaning in the Yi. Yet many books give it as a meaning related to hexagram 5.

    “But the Zhouyi is of a different genre of literature-”

    Sure, just like poetry, legal records and philosophical writings are. But I don’t believe that you need a specific education for every genre. I can’t imagine that a father told his son, “son, I have taught you to read, well, what you learned is completely useless if you want to read this book: it is called the Yijing.”

    “In Chinese, context is half of the meaning and polysemy is everywhere.”
    But that is not an excuse to do with the text as you please, yet I see it often used as such: “oh, these Chinese thingies have multiple meanings, let’s choose the one I like best”. As you say, context cannot be ignored.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  43. “Me neither, but actually it’s what you wrote: ‘Apart from the fact that moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice (Rutt, p. 154-155; Nielsen, p. 22)…’ ”

    Ah? I thought that ‘apart from the fact’ was an expression which was not to be taken literally. At least I did not meant it like that. But then I’m not sure what I did mean with it. Apperently I’m seeing subtleties in the English language as if it’s Chinese.

    “I’m not defending ‘circa 4th century BCE’. That’s Rutt’s dating. In ‘The Mandate of Heaven’ I give 3rd century BCE as a rough idea.”

    I think that would be a better date.

    “I look forward to your article.. There’s also the consideration that actually none of the divination records in the Zuozhuan are either actual records or even representative of how any diviners are the time thought. Could just be semi-fictional literature.”

    When I read the ‘stories’ I do get that impression, but I can’t explain why. There is something in it which makes me think, did this really happen? For some reason I have my doubts. Can’t justify my doubts with facts though. So please consider it off the record.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  44. “These sources show (to me) that ‘wu jiu’ is an additional statement that explain a received oracle, and that it originally was not part of the Yi itself.”

    Hmmm. What is the reasoning for saying ‘wu jiu’ was not originally a part of the Yi itself? How do you know that?

  45. So, Harmen, here’s a question for you:
    You’ve done a few more years of research and you’ve got what you think are near-perfect English or Dutch glosses for all of the roughly 900 words of the Zhouyi vocabulary. You’re ready to translate. You substitute your glosses for the Chinese characters and make what adjustments you need to get the parts of speech and word order right. But then you discover that the text makes no sense at all. It sounds like a mental defective wrote it, or a paranoid schizophrenic, or monkeys playing with typewriters. It sounds, in short, like the Rutt or Gottshalk translations. Or the R-K. Do you leave it like that because the words are so perfect, or do you start jiggling and tweaking it, at least until the sentences start to make sense? How far do you compromise your conclusive semantic research? To what extent do you give the authors some credit for not being charlatans or superstitious idiots?

  46. Steve-
    Wu Jiu is pretty central to the meaning of 40.1, even if this is only a fragment. In fact, when translated “no blame” here it means ten times as much in this context as anywhere else, given that the Gua is about letting go and forgiveness.

  47. “What is the reasoning for saying ‘wu jiu’ was not originally a part of the Yi itself? How do you know that?”

    I do not ‘know’ that, but it is the impression that I get when I look how the character jiu 咎 is used in other sources. On oracle bones we see it used in affirmations that are tested by the divination: “惟父乙咎婦好”, “it is forefather Yi who is blaming (咎) Fu Hao”, in which 咎 is a calamity sent by the ancestors that the person in question suffers from, for instance a toothache. The character is regularly mentioned in the oracle bone inscriptions, but hardly appears in later bronze inscriptions. Then suddenly it reappears in the divination records like the Baoshan divination slips, in a manner that reminds us of the oracle bones:

    大司馬悼愲&#165035;楚邦之師徒以救郙之歲, 刑夷之月, 己卯之日, 許吉以駁靈為左尹佗貞: 出內侍王, 自刑夷之月以適集歲刑夷之月, 盡集歲, 躬身尚毋有咎? 許吉占之, 吉, 無咎, 無祟.
    During the year when the Grand sima Nao Hua led the Chu national army to save Fu, on Xingyi month, Jimao day, Xu Ji used the boling method to prognosticate on behalf of zuoyin Tuo: busy serving the king from one Xingyi month to the next, at the end of the year, has his person perhaps incurred any [spiritual] blame (咎)? Xu Ji divined about it (saying): “Auspicious, there is no blame (無咎) and no curse.”
    (Constance Cook, ‘Death in Ancient China’, p. 197)

    無咎 is used here as part of the interpretation of the oracle, and I assume that this is also the case in the Yi: it could be a diviners note about the auspiciousness of the received oracle, that was later added to the text. It would explain why the phrase 無咎 often occurs at the end of a Judgement or line statement. Likewise the 無咎 in 40.1 could be a conclusion of the diviners interpretation for that specific line. The adding of diviners notes to the regular text can be seen in the Fuyang variant text.

    The same could be possible for 吉, although I have not really examined that.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  48. “You’ve done a few more years of research and you’ve got what you think are near-perfect English or Dutch glosses for all of the roughly 900 words of the Zhouyi vocabulary. You’re ready to translate.”

    Que? That is not how I work. It would be pretty pointless to gather all the pieces first and put them together later – if you do it like that you are not working from context.

    “But then you discover that the text makes no sense at all. (…) Do you leave it like that because the words are so perfect, or do you start jiggling and tweaking it, at least until the sentences start to make sense? How far do you compromise your conclusive semantic research? To what extent do you give the authors some credit for not being charlatans or superstitious idiots?”

    If I cannot make any sense of my own translation, then of course that is my fault and not the fault of the authors of the original work. Should my work result in gibberish, then I would leave it for what it is and not tinker with it (and not publish it either). I might miss some information which pops up later and Makes Me Understand, who knows. But I work from the following premises:

    1. Originally the Yi was orally transmitted.
    2. The Yi is written down somewhere between 800-400 BC.
    3. It uses the language of that period.
    4. If we want to translate (and understand) the book properly we have to look at the language and history of that period, but because of the oral parts we might also have to look at earlier periods.

    Using these boundaries (I might have more that I am not aware of) I expect that I will more or less automatically arrive at a sensible translation. If that isn’t the case then I am doing something wrong. But of course there is more to it. The variant texts show that the text of the Yi wasn’t fixed, a lot of different characters were used through the centuries. I also use these texts to (try to) clarify the meaning of the Yi texts, as they are a part of the period in which the Yi was transmitted and gradually became a revered classic.

    What I find interesting in the Zuozhuan ‘stories’ (caution! preliminary finding from my unfinished Zuozhuan article coming up. do not attach value to it), is that some of the statements made by the diviners sound themselves like oracles:

    “His name will be You:
    At your right hand he’ll go.
    and between your two altars,
    serve your house from below.
    When the Ji die away,
    then Lu will decay”

    and

    “He will share his father’s grace, with honour in a prince’s place.” (Rutt, p. 179).

    Could the Yi originate from statements like this? Maybe (not ‘most likely’ or ‘as a matter of fact’).

    Last word about translation: it is not my goal to arrive at a sensible translation, all I want to do is examine the text as thoroughly as possible. Usually something in the text catches my eye, and I think, hm, let’s examine that. That is how I start. During the process I find interesting information which I try to tie together. If I find that impossible I leave it for what it is. I find this process far more rewarding than the conclusions that might be derived from its final results. It is because of this process that I translate the Yi. Every time I start with an unexplored sentence from the Yi I get a little excited: what will I find? What picture will emerge? If at the end I do not have a clear idea of the text I always think, look at what I have learned! And my day is made.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  49. “And as long as the Yi prognostication unfolds accordingly to their interpretation, who can say that the method used is wrong? Therefore ‘Law’ 2 does not hold water at all.”

    You are right. That is why I wrote the following on Hilary’s forum a few days ago, and I’ll repeat it here as it hopefully explains why I invented these ‘laws’:

    When it comes to the Yi there are no laws, and I thought of calling them ‘suggestions’, ‘guidelines’ or something similar. But if you call them laws they become larger – as if it is a major offense not to abide by them. As ‘suggestions’ you can glance at them without thinking. As ‘laws’ they can make you feel uneasy, and you have to think about the ‘laws’ you personally use, and if they align with my ‘laws’. Of course they are not laws. But if you consider them that way, are you capable of breaking them? If you can do that you have made a choice and you are defining your own path (and the ‘laws’ that accompany you), and nothing can be more rewarding. But many Yi-students just ‘do’ without knowing what they do, and why. I like to wag their fundaments a little.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  50. A prognostication as I see it arises at the same time as the oracular statement, it is a comment at the time on the statement in terms of good or bad fortune. Certainly the prognostication is a different sort of text, but there is no reason to suppose, as Waley did, that it is a different layer of text in the sense of coming at a different time. What is the point of a diviner prognosticating on an oracle from some time in the past, after the event? I think the idea that the prognostication represents a diviner’s comment on what actually happened after the facts are known at some time in the future is misguided and anti-oracular. The whole point of an oracle is to provide guidance beforehand. And the prognostication texts are precisely that, in my view, a clarification of what the oracle means in terms of what is to be expected, whether disaster or an auspicious event. You are surely not saying that you believe the prognostication was a later addition to the Shang oracle bones?

  51. I might also add that it may well be the case that some later diviners’ comments did end up in the Yi, but as a principle applied to all the wu jiu and other prognostication texts this is pretty unlikely. If true, that would fundamentally alter what the Zhouyi is.

  52. No problem. I would agree that a 55 page monograph around a single character is something a bit overwhelming, yes. However, the intention is to show that hanging on the meaning of a particular character, the narrow focusing of attention to it, could cause the misplacement of attention elsewhere, that which is in the background. Alas, that character seems to warrant special attention, and I do find the article useful and interesting, but not at the cost that zhi would mesmerize me. For me it is sufficient to know that zhi acts as a link between two parts. How the link works is important, of course, but, more important, is the “link” itself. That there is a correlation expressed.

    As for the Zhouyi/Yijing text itself, I think I am starting to understand a little where you are coming from regarding proper translation practices (I hope some basic HTML code works in the comments here…):

    1. Originally the Yi was orally transmitted.
    2. The Yi is written down somewhere between 800-400 BC.
    3. It uses the language of that period.

    4. If we want to translate (and understand) the book properly we have to look at the language and history of that period, but because of the oral parts we might also have to look at earlier periods.

    I am of the opinion that a line, physical or temporal, should be drawn somewhere as to what exactly constitutes the accepted text of the Zhouyi, if that is even possible I mean, given that it seems to be a nebulous concept that groups that “which came before the Yijing.” In default of that, let’s take the Yijing itself, an easier target if it wasn’t for the fact that most pre-Han scholars sneeze with contempt at anything Han. As archaeological findings keep popping-up with different “versions” of the text, adding to the origin’s speculation, we are risking falling to the temptation of placing everything in a blender and “averaging” texts to that which would make the most “sense,” something very fallible as “sense” doesn’t carry well over time. Or even worst, believing “age” is the decisive factor as we don’t really know where it came from other than it was a Zhou construct, the longest dynasty of them all. (Whoever comments here with an allusion to Wen Wang and family will receive a 10 points demerit from me… 🙂 )

    Alas, even in Han times, Yi exegesis speak of scholars talking of “accepted versions” of the Yi, like when the “Jing Fang version” is invoked, for example.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you (I wouldn’t be wasting so much time in my own studies of pre-Shang cultures if that wasn’t the case) that the study of epigraphy and philology of the time is key in the proper reading of what was actually written in that period (not what came down to us as scribe after scribe added their own spices to the pot) but it is there exactly where the problem lies: most of what’s come down to us is the prepared dish, not the ingredients, and, until such a time where the exact origin of the Zhouyi is pinned down and/or an “original, certifiable” Zhouyi is found (a nigh impossibility, IMO) we have no choice but to use what we have as original texts to come up with a workable translation. That further implies that working on a translation of a text written in contemporary Traditional Chinese using the grammatical rules of that time and a mix of current and old semantics would never work well. Which, I believe, given your scrupulous working standards, is the conundrum you are facing, right?

  53. However, the intention is to show that hanging on the meaning of a particular character, the narrow focusing of attention to it, could cause the misplacement of attention elsewhere, that which is in the background.

    I could have phrased that simpler and better, sorry, as in:

    “could cause missing the background”

  54. “A prognostication as I see it arises at the same time as the oracular statement, it is a comment at the time on the statement in terms of good or bad fortune. Certainly the prognostication is a different sort of text, but there is no reason to suppose, as Waley did, that it is a different layer of text in the sense of coming at a different time. What is the point of a diviner prognosticating on an oracle from some time in the past, after the event?”

    If the Zhouyi originally was a book of recorded omen verses, then I can imagine that a diviner added notes to it for later interpretation. Of course it is possible that the oracular statement and the prognostication were written down at the same time, but the latter could also be added later – in the same way as notes were added in the Fuyang Zhouyi. It’s an option I don’t want to rule out. The many verses with rhyme in it fit an orally transmitted text (the irregular quoted Yi text in the Zuozhuan, which appears to be drawn from memory, see ‘story’ 5, also hints at this), which might later be expanded. I know, it’s just hypothetical.

    “I might also add that it may well be the case that some later diviners’ comments did end up in the Yi, but as a principle applied to all the wu jiu and other prognostication texts this is pretty unlikely. If true, that would fundamentally alter what the Zhouyi is.”

    Why? The Yi could just be a book of cryptic oracle verses, partly drawn from actual happenings or known lore (compare the Wangjiatai Gui Cang and the Zuozhuan which both contain a oracular statement about the Yellow Emperor fighting with the Fiery Spirit/Emperor) with appended prognostications. I don’t find that in any way strange or different from how the Yi is viewed today.

    “You are surely not saying that you believe the prognostication was a later addition to the Shang oracle bones?”

    I confess. I added these when nobody was looking.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  55. “That further implies that working on a translation of a text written in contemporary Traditional Chinese using the grammatical rules of that time and a mix of current and old semantics would never work well. Which, I believe, given your scrupulous working standards, is the conundrum you are facing, right?”

    Yes. But you have to start somewhere. Nobody has all the answers, and you are as good as the sources that you use. Maybe I appear rigid in the way I study the Yi, but personally I feel like I’m walking a road that I can’t see. Only after I have taken a step the part that I have trodden appears.
    .-= Harmen Mesker´s last blog ..The Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained =-.

  56. “Why?” [would after-the-fact prognostications alter the nature of the Zhouyi]

    Well, we’d have to stop calling them prognostications for a start.

  57. “You are right. That is why I wrote the following on Hilary’s forum a few days ago, and I’ll repeat it here as it hopefully explains why I invented these ‘laws’”

    The next time, try to obtain a better set of ‘Ten Commandments’ from the mountain or summit, instead of using the current flawed one enacted on the flatlands of Holland!
    .-= Allan Lian´s last blog ..The Ancient Tao =-.

  58. We may need to keep an open mind to study the Zuozhuan to understand the stories and divinations therein, a tad deeper. If we are influenced by the thoughts of modern scholars instead of the ancients, we could place unnecessary obstacles or restrictions (‘laws’) to our Yi studies. Zouzhuan after all can be considered ancient.

    Try to figure out where Confucius was coming from in his comments on the lines and the hexagrams in the Book of Changes (as translated by W/B), and we may find understanding the Zouzhuan can turn out to be a breeze. Of course it would also help, if we have studied the Analects even if the Zuozhuan is not Confucian (Daoist, or Buddhist).
    .-= Allan Lian´s last blog ..The Ancient Tao =-.

  59. “What I find interesting in the Zuozhuan ’stories’ (caution! preliminary finding from my unfinished Zuozhuan article coming up. do not attach value to it), is that some of the statements made by the diviners sound themselves like oracles:

    “His name will be You:
    At your right hand he’ll go.
    and between your two altars,
    serve your house from below.
    When the Ji die away,”

    Could the Yi originate from statements like this? Maybe (not ‘most likely’ or ‘as a matter of fact’).”

    Harmen,

    If we read on further after the above interpretation of the tortoise-shell divination:

    ‘He also consulted the milfoil about the child and obtained the diagram Da You, and then Qian.

    “He shall come back,” said he, “to the same distinction as his father. They shall reverence him as if he were in their ruler’s place.” When the boy was born, there was a figure on his hand, that of the character “you,” and he was named accordingly. ‘
    [Legge]

    This episode depicts the accuracy of both the tortoise-shell and Yi divinations and their interpretation.

    If you want to read more into it, fine by me.
    .-= Allan Lian´s last blog ..The Ancient Tao =-.

  60. Regarding the debate about 6s and 8s, just a thought of an ignorant: if the only immutable is mutation, and Yi Ching aknowledges that, isn’t it logical to conclude that Yi Ching itself is subject to change?

    A mere translation is a change, an adaptation to a new situation and context. So, how possible is to draw a line and say “this practice was not ‘originally’ considered”? What means “originally” in the context of Yi Ching history?

    I know this might lead to justify ANY change as valid, which is not my intention. I just suggest, as a mere idea without any real grounds, that Yi Ching itself changes, and its study is the study of its changes too.

    Please, forgive my utter lack of knowledge, I’m just a “dilettante” and ask forgiveness in advance to all, for this late and meaningless intervention.

    Happiness for all 🙂

  61. Thanks for commenting! (It’s great to be encouraged to re-read this.)

    From one relative ignoramus to another… I think Harmen, Brad and Steve were specifically debating the state of affairs at or around the time when what we call the ‘Yi’ was written down. But I certainly agree that Change changes.

    Somewhere in this discussion, the question came up of when and how the concepts of the trigrams developed. Later than the text, probably, at least in their fully developed form – but no-one would deny that trigrams have proved to be a superbly useful tool in readings over the past millennium or two.

Leave a reply

Clarity,
PO BOX 255,
Witney,
Oxfordshire,
OX29 6WH,
United Kingdom

Phone/ Voicemail:
+44 (0)20 3287 3053 (UK)
+1 (561) 459-4758 (US).