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Monthly Archives: November 2020

The crane, her young and the wine vessel.

The crane, her young and the wine vessel.
This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Hidden gems

In my last post, I mentioned how ten pairs of tortoises hexagrams lead us from Hexagram 41 to 61, where the crane calls back across the space between hexagrams.

This line is a not-so-hidden gem, beautiful in its own right:

‘Calling crane in the shadows,
Her young respond in harmony.
I have a good wine vessel,
I will share with you, pouring it all out.’

This is simply poetry, showing us the crane and her chick alongside the people sharing wine, inviting us to feel what they have in common.

The same parallel is used – a bit more heavy-handedly – in Song 165:

‘Look at the bird,
Bird as it is , seeking with its voice its companion;
And shall a man
Not seek to have his friends?
Spiritual beings will then hearken to him;
He shall have harmony and peace.’

Song 165, Legge’s translation

This Song has a great deal in common with Hexagram 61: it describes the birds calling from a dark valley, and celebrates sharing good wine with dancing and drumming.

But this is the Yijing, so there is more here than meets the eye. Stephen Field points to how the image of the crane represents the name of Hexagram 61 itself, zhong fu, 中孚:

‘The graph of fu 孚 depicts a claw or hand above a child, and literally means “to hatch,” or “hatchling,” and by extension, the “trust” of the hatchling for its mother.’

Stephen Field, The Duke of Zhou Changes

And then there is the ‘good wine-vessel’ to share – apparently a quite new image for the second half of the line. And yet…

The wine-vessel in question is a jue, used for pouring wine in rituals for the ancestors. Yet oddly, Schilling suggests the word could be read instead as ‘sparrow’. How come? Here’s a quotation from Karlgren’s dictionary:

“The cup had the form of a bird (see Couvreur) and our tsiak here and 雀 tsiak small bird are etymologically the same word, hence [爵 is] sometimes used for 雀.”

Karlgren (1923) as cited in Wenlin

I find it hard to see how this…

… is especially bird-shaped, but still… interesting coincidence?

The jue vessel in 61.2 is hao, ‘good’. Here is the character hao, as it was written on oracle bones:


It shows a mother and child.

I can’t put it better than this recent comment from Bronwen: ‘Gosh the layers within this wonderful book!’

I Ching Community discussion

Ten pairs of tortoises

Ten pairs of tortoises
This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Hidden gems

I’ve written all about this before, so now I’m simply going to repeat myself. In my defence, I will point out I’m in good company: ‘Maybe increased by ten paired tortoise shells,Nothing is capable of going against this.From the source, good fortune.’ Hexagram 41, line 5 ‘Maybe increased by ten paired tortoise shells.Nothing is capable… Continue Reading

Trigram pictures

Trigram pictures
This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Hidden gems

There’s more than one way to engage with the trigrams that make up the Yi’s hexagrams. The one that I find most engrossing – that most often shows me hidden beauties of the book, and most often makes for powerful, transformative readings (not unconnected!) – is to look at them in relationship. When two trigrams… Continue Reading

An interruption

An interruption
This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series Hidden gems

(This post’s one of a series about the hidden gems of the Yijing. They may quite often describe things I’ve mentioned before, but I think they bear repeating. The idea is to point to especially lovely or ingenious or playful ways that the Yi creates meaning and speaks to us – ways that we can… Continue Reading

Skip or symphony

Skip or symphony
This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Hidden gems

Lately, I’ve been noticing differences between approaches to the Yi. We might describe what we do in the same words – we all ‘consult the oracle’ – but what actually happens next is not at all the same thing. And I think these differences come down to how we conceive of the oracle we’re consulting.… Continue Reading

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