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Best translation of 'zhen', 貞

hilary

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17,4,6 - 42
17 line 4, 13 characters:
This is a very dificult line to translate:
To follow [something] and capture [it] may be correct or wrong. But if you let inner confidence light up your way how can it be wrong?
This means that if you follow someone with a sincere heart, it is not wrong to follow.
17,6 this is tricky too:
You hold it tied up, so it can do nothing but follow. The King will use it for sacrifice on the Western Mountain.
This means a sheep won't go willingly, although a sacrifice should be a good way to end it's life. So you make it come by dragging it.

42 just means more or increase

I Ching could easily express if you didn't have the financial means, but it doesn't.
It could warn you against the situation as whole, but it didn't.
Who is it okay to follow and who should be dragged along?
42 means more or increase but what?
A completely wild idea would be to drag you sister or a friend with you and find a bigger place? Maybe too far out.

Sometimes you get ideas when you ask questions. Then ask I Ching about the ideas you get, and then you get a clearer picture. That's what I do. :)
Works for me, too :)

About 17.4 -
To follow [something] and capture [it] may be correct or wrong. But if you let inner confidence light up your way how can it be wrong?
I'm puzzled about the 'may be correct or wrong' part. Are you translating zhen (divination, constancy, determination, etc) as 'correct'? If so, do you think of that as a widespread meaning for the word?

(Very glad to have you here, by the way!)
 

larsbo_c

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Zhen - correct

Hi Hilary.
Thanks for a nice forum! I haven't had much chance to talk to others about I Ching before, so this is a good opportunity.

Zhen is a thing that everyone seems to agree on, except it doesnt work very well and it is also wrong.
For the Zhou period and actually also later it only meant to be correct or to correct as a verb. Even all the derived meanings are clearly derived from correct.
Search me why it happened that so many translations chose a definition that is so different. Probably because all later translations have been influenced by Legge and Wilhelm.
But it opens up a whole new world when you translates as correct or to correct.

All the definitions I choose from the dictionaries are the most basic, never the obscure derived meanings.
 

hilary

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So you would have 'mare's correctness' in 2, 'warrior's correctness' in 57.1, and so on? What's your view on zhen as 'divination'? Is that an older meaning you no longer find in other Zhou usage?

As for translation choices... my own feeling is that there are many factors, of which other Zhou usage is one (and the inherited tradition is another, and what turns out to make sense in readings yet another...). Zhen gets a variety of translations, from 'constancy' to 'determination' to 'divination' to 'chastity' :) .
 

Sparhawk

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I often use Bernhard Karlgren's Grammatica Serica Recensa, it doesn't get any better than this dictionary so far, no Chinese dictionary is better. It is dificult to use, but the entries are in English.

I bought mine, for good money, falling apart at the spine, fixed it, and is one of the best books on Chinese I have in my library. I also use Schuessler's
 

larsbo_c

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Exactly. "to be able to act correctly with the help of divination" or "to correct things with help of divination" is a derived meaning of zhen. But the original meaning is still correct. It's always like this in the development of characters from the most early forms.
If you look in a dictionary that excludes the later uses or have text examples from early texts like Hanyu Da Cidian, Guoyu Cidian, Karlgren, Jiaguwen Zidian etc. then have a look at the other possible meanings of Zhen, although not many, all comes from zhen;correct/rectify.

There are many other important words in Zhou Yi that this applies to I'm afraid.
I haven't seen a single translating yet translated like this, the most correct, logical and simple way, it's really weird! maybe a lack of classically trained sinologists with spiritually interests :)
 
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hilary

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You know, we've gone off-topic for 'Shared Readings' (my fault), and the people who will be particularly interested in this are more likely to look in 'Exploring Divination'. So I'll move these last few posts across to a new thread there.

(Done... *waves* to Brad, LiSe and everyone.
I transplanted these posts from this thread; hope the discussion will take root nicely here.)

I've been under the impression that zhen means 'divination' on oracle bones. (Which may or may not say much about its meaning in Zhouyi, of course.) If that's the case, then how could that be a 'derived meaning'?
 
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larsbo_c

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3,5 To accumulate fat, (gain wait); if you correct it with small (light healthy food) it will be good. If you correct it with big (heavy fat food)it will be bad.

10,5
18,2
20,2
25,4
etc. etc. etc.
 

larsbo_c

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I've been under the impression that zhen means 'divination' on oracle bones. (Which may or may not say much about its meaning in Zhouyi, of course.) If that's the case, then how could that be a 'derived meaning'?

Divination on oracle bones is another character "bu" 卜 a vertical line with a short downwards stroke to the right, looks like a crack. The original sound was most likely something like "buck" the sound of a bone cracking in the fire.
 
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Sparhawk

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There's much to quote from supporting the ancient "divination" meaning of zhen1. Here is just one of them to consider 貞 in the context of Zhouyi/Yijing:

Excerpt from: Chung-ying Cheng, INQUIRING INTO THE PRIMARY MODEL: YI JING AND THE ONTO-HERMENEUTICAL TRADITION (24 pages).

Fourth, divination stands for the Chinese concepts of divining with
milfoil stalks (shi), interpreting future in light of present symptoms as
revealed in cracks of burned oracle bones (tortoise back shells and
oxen shoulder bones) (bu), and oral divination from such action of
divination (zhan). There is also the ancient word “zhen,” which sug-
gests divination using seashell or tortoise shell. The words “zhen,”
“shi,” and “zhan” have appeared in the Yi Jing texts, but we know
that the general practice of divination (bu) have been recorded in
“divinatory judgments” (buci) traceable to the time of early period
of Xia (circa 2000 BCE).
Finally, the interpretation here is intended to stand for two
basic concepts in the Yi texts, namely the concept of clarification or
illumination (ming) and the concept of resolution ( jie). In the Tuan,
Xiang, and Xi Ci commentaries the word “ming” is used to clarify a
belief, an argument, a punishment, an administrative policy, the
meaning of a time, the moral implication of fortunate and misfortu-
nate (ji and xiong). It is clear that “ming” is to interpret and explain
in the German sense of “Auslegung” so that a point, a truth, a fact,
and a value could be made clear. But when we face a gua situation,
we also wish to find a way out or a way of resolution. The inter-
pretation of a gua situation faces the demand that we can make
an informed and enlightened decision on action in light of the
understanding of the situation and the action will bring out a relief
and resolution of the debacle present in the situation. Hence the
relevance of the concept of “jie,” which stands for resolution out of
difficulty.

Given the above explanation we can see the correspondences of
stages with levels of formation of the Yi texts as follows:

Observation guan / cha
Symbolization xiang / gua / yao /ci
Systematization tong/ wen/ yan/ shu
Divination bu / zhen/ shi /zhan
Interpretation ming / jie

Although I speak of stages of the development of the Yi text, it is
possible that in the process of systematization divination may play
a central role, because it is where form judgments (guaci) and line
explanations (yaoci) are generated to illuminate the gua symbols, and
correlating adjustments could be made in order to preserve a funda-
mental mode of understanding in terms of observations of yin-yang
forces and their alignments.As a matter of fact, during a long process
of time, each stage or level could feed back to enrich or rectify the
earlier stage or a presupposed level in order to achieve an organic
totality of interrelated parts. Here we have a primal form of the onto-
hermeneutic circle, namely a circulation of attribution and regulation
of meaning in light of experience and understanding of a given situ-
ation in the world-reality. It is not a matter of a hermeneutic circle
alone that consists in inter-determination of meaning of terms in a
holistic text-context of understanding in which reference to a dynam-
ical reality or any reality is not made or assumed.
In the following I shall concentrate on the key processes of obser-
vation, divination, and interpretation in the construction of the
primary model of interpretation in the Yi text formation as the foun-
dation and beginning of the onto-hermeneutical tradition in Chinese
philosophy.

CHUNG-YING CHENG, professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Specialties: Chinese philosophy, analytical philosophy, onto-hermeneutics.
E-mail: ccheng@hawaii.edu
Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30:3&4 (September/December 2003) 289–312
© 2003 Journal of Chinese Philosophy
 
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bradford

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I personally don't care for Correct as the major gloss for Zhen, even though it is one of the meanings that ought to be implied. Even here, it should carry the meaning "to test, to try out, to correct (the original meaning of our verb prove) as given by Schuessler and Karlgren. It should not be the adjective correct, which is the word Zheng.

In my Intro (more on p. 21) I argued for both Heng and Zhen being regarded as a species of Janus word which has two separate meanings that are best considered simultaneously.
This is part of the section:

Heng and Zhen, on the other hand, are not so simple and clear - they seem
to want to go in two directions at once. The context critics cannot find enough
examples of Heng outside of the Yi, and so to them it does not really exist yet and
thus it must be replaced with the graphically similar Xiang (as it is written in the
Mawangdui ms.): to prepare an offering or present a sacrifice. At least, as we saw
before with Fu, this is one of Heng's legitimate meanings, and in fact, as Kunst has
pointed out, it is used strictly in this sense in a few places in the Zhouyi. The
graph of Heng also appears in the character Peng, meaning to cook or to prepare
thoroughly, as if for a sacrifice. The other meaning for Heng refers what happens
when this offering is done properly. The presenter is then rewarded for doing the
right thing - he has fulfilled what is asked of him and so is fulfilled, has satisfied
the necessities and so he achieves satisfaction, he has pleased the spirits and so
becomes spirited or pervaded, saturated or infused with spirit. (See Kunst p181-9
for dissenting opinions on Heng & Xiang). Similarly, Zhen has the meaning of a
finding, a truth, an answer to a question, a specific divination or determination, or
the resolution of a doubt. But it also means to uphold this truth or determination,
to resolve to uphold this solution to the problem, to try or test it, to prove it (in the
original sense of prove). Resolution is a measure of the clarity of light in optics, as
well as a statement about firmness of purpose. And so Zhen is also glossed as
determination, persistence, resolve or verification. In the combination of these
meanings it might refer to something which exists on both sides of a Change, a bit
of continuity, something we can rely on or hang on to.
Heng and Zhen seem to belong to a category of terms called Janus words,
words having two sets of meanings which either come from or point in opposite
directions (e.g. cleave, sanction, oversight). And yet in this subset of Janus words
they are neither ambivalent nor polysemous. The fullest understanding of words
in this subtype seems to require simultaneous comprehension and integration of
both of the extremes. Consequently they are often treated with great respect as
paradoxes or mysteries. A good English example is the word "Fitness" as it was
used by Spencer and adopted by Darwin. People tend to jump to conclusions
here and think: Oh sure, the top of the food chain, the strongest survive, might
makes right, the victor writes the history, but this is far from the center of what
was meant. While Spencer was indeed saying that robust health, strength and
reproductive vigor were vital to genetic success, he was also insisting that the
survivor was the organism best fit into its niche in the environment. Fitness also
means mobility, opportunism and adaptability, an ability to change, every bit as
much as an ability to resist change. It is not only the alpha male who spreads the
seed around - it is also the sneaky little gamma who is able to take advantage of
clandestine encounters in the alpha's harem. Besides the Janus words Fulfillment,
Satisfaction and Success (for Heng) and Determination, Persistence and Resolve
(for Zhen) some other English examples are Awe (terror and wonder), Capacity
(emptiness is capacity, capacity is power, and emptiness is power), Responsibility
(similar to Fitness) and Concentration (as in concentric, being only in the enter,
focused, yet being in the center of everything and in the place which is handiest
to all options).
 

larsbo_c

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But it gets a bit theoretical right? It's a whole lot easier to discuss how it works in actual sentences.
The characters in the above example
3,5 To accumulate ones fat (or it's fat); if you correct it with small it will be good. If you correct it with big it will be bad.
are perfectly valid glosses, and a very simple sentence to translate. It also makes good sense in light of the overall meaning of the hexagram, (it can be harmful to rush the speed of progress, and we are still only in the beginning).
I can come up with more examples just as logical as this one.

Zhen occurs only 48 times in all The Thirteen Classics (apart from Zhou Yi), some are used as a verb in connection with divination, the rest means correct. In some cases zhen means loyal, but in the sense of acting correct. I believe that zhen came to be used for divination in the sense ”finding out what is the correct way to act” by divination or ”to correct things” with the help of divination.

If you apply ”divine for” to actual sentences in Zhou Yi it makes no sense does it?
 
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hmesker

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Zhen is a thing that everyone seems to agree on, except it doesnt work very well and it is also wrong.
For the Zhou period and actually also later it only meant to be correct or to correct as a verb. Even all the derived meanings are clearly derived from correct.
Looking at the definitions of 貞 in the 漢語大詞典 it seems to me that 'correct' is a generalization of the major meanings of 貞, meanings which centralize on being loyal, faithful in behaviour, etc. (vol. 10, p. 47). In other words, 'correct' can be seen as a derived meaning. The HYDCD does give 'correct' as a meaning of 貞, but the first usage of this is in documents from the Southern Dynasties (420-589) - see definition 17 in the HYDCD.

The oldest meaning is 'to divine'. On oracle bones we find it in the context of engaging in war, the results of hunting etc., but also in divinations for rain. The meaning '(to) correct' wouldn't fit the latter, and it also wouldn't fit the general sentence pattern on oracle bones (see for numerous examples of this the rubbings and transcriptions in 王宇信, '甲骨文精粹释译'). It still has the meaning of 'to divine' on bronze inscriptions (陳初生, '金文常用字典', p. 396). We see that 貞 is written as 鼑 (鼎 with 卜 on top) during the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.), but according to the 戰國古文字典 it should be read as (depending on the context) 信: 'faith, trust', 鼎: 'tripod', 頂/釘: 'top, summit' or 楨: 'post in framework in rearing walls, a support' [Karlgren, Loan Characters in pre-Han Texts, p. 36]; Glossy Privet' (The lady in the picture serves a function: Glossy Privet is called 女貞 in China, 'women's chastity').

Indeed, Karlgren says in his 'Loan Characters' that reading 貞 as a loan for 正, '(to) correct' in the Classics is 'plausible', but the Zhouyi predates much of the classics, and the contents is also different in style and grammar. The most convincing text that shows that 貞 should be read as 'to divine' are the Baoshan 包山 divination records, found in 1986. These texts date from around 316 B.C., and also use the word 貞:

宋客盛公邊聘於楚之歲,刑夷之月乙未之日,酤吉以保家為左尹佗貞: 自刑夷之月以適刑尸之月, 出內事王, 盡卒歲, 躬身尚毋有咎? 占之,恒貞吉,少有憂於躬身,且志事少遲得。以其古敚之, 思攻解於人害。占之: 尚吉,其中有喜。
During the year when the Song guest, Sheng Gong Bian, paid an official visit to Chu, on the month Xingyi, and the day Yiwei [32], Gu Ji used the baojia method to prognosticate for zuoyin Tuo: From Xingyi month up to the next Xingyi month, while going in and out (of court) to serve the king, by the end of the year, will his person not have incurred any [spiritual] blame? (Gu Ji) divined about it: the long term prognosis is auspicious, yet (Tuo) seems to have some personal concerns, hence the matters he intends (to accomplish) are somewhat slow to come about. (Gu Ji) performed an exorcism to get at its source. He willed and beat (the ghost), releasing (Shao Tuo) from human harmful influences. (Gu Ji) divined about it: "It is still auspicious. During this period there will be happiness."
(Constance Cook, Death in Ancient China, p. 154-157) See for a rough transcript of the Baoshan divination records this site. I have used the corrected version as given in Cook's book.

This text shows that during the Warring States period zhan 占 was used for the act of divination, while 貞 was used for the outcome, the prognostication. (恒貞吉 is translated by Cook as "the long term prognosis is auspicious"; Lisa Raphals translates it as "it is predominantly decisive and auspicious", see Divination and Medicine in China and Greece: A Comparative Perspective on the Baoshan Illness Divinations in East Asian Science, Technology and Medicine 23 (2005): 26-53. Raphals reading is different, but still shows that 'to correct' is not necessarily the standard meaning of 貞).

The Zhouyi is a divination text, so it is very likely that 貞 refers to divination, just as in the Baoshan divination texts. Translating it as 'to correct' seems more like a confucianist interpretation to me.
 

hilary

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Thank you for all the superb posts and food for thought. Harmen - really good to have your participation, even temporarily :) .

(*Patting myself on the back in a smugly self-satisfied way for moving the original posts*)

Translating zhen as 'divination' in the Zhouyi does make sense. 'For a divination about a mare...' or 'divination: misfortune' and so on. However, this makes it a perfectly redundant word and waste of the copyist's time: why not just say 'misfortune'? (We probably already noticed that we're divining...)

Did someone ask a few posts back whether we should make a special exception for Zhouyi translation? I think there's a good case for that. There are two distinct projects here: to translate a very ancient text as closely as possible to the original meaning, and to work out what lines are likely to be saying when received in readings. I don't think these two will necessarily yield the same results.
 
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hmesker

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However, this makes it a perfectly redundant word and waste of the copyist's time: why not just say 'misfortune'? (We probably already noticed that we're divining...)
Similar phrasing occurs in the mentioned Baoshan divination records, and it might show that these instances in the Zhouyi which talk about the result of the divination, like in the Judgement of hexagram 2(安貞吉, 'when diving about peace/stability: auspicious') or line 2 of H3 (女子貞不字, 'divination for a woman desiring a son: no pregnancy'), might be later additions to the core text. Similar additions are found in the Fuyang version of the Zhouyi. Of course this doesn't account for all instances of 貞, but it is a possibility to consider.
 

larsbo_c

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More examples please

I am not surprised that a text about divination uses zhen solely as ”to divine”.
Zhou Yi is a divination text about so many different subjects and small "stories"
Also, in Karlgren's Grammata Serica Recensa 834g ”correct” is not listed as a loan word or far out derived meaning, it is an early example from Shujing and ”proper” is from Zuo Zhuan.
The titles Karlgren cites are the earliest texts that he knew this particular meaning of the word to occur in. Both are very old texts.

Shaughnessy translates this sentence with determination:
”Hoarding it’s fat; little determination is auspicious, great determination is inauspicious.
I don’t agree with determination as a valid translation, but if you do I agree it could make some sense.

This one is certainly no good:
3,5: To accumulate ones fat (or it's fat); if you divine it with small it will be good. If you divine it with big it will be bad?
Could we have more examples in this very inspiring forum of the use of zhen as ”to divine” in Zhou Yi?
 
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hmesker

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Also, in Grammata Serica Recensa ”correct” is not listed as a loan word or far out derived meaning, it is an early example from Shujing and ”proper” is from Zuo Zhuan.
The titles Karlgren cites are the earliest texts that he knew this particular meaning of the word to occur in. Both are very old texts.
Yes, but Karlgren doesn't say if he means 'correct' as a verb or otherwise. Also, the problem with the GSR is that Karlgren doesn't give examples from the mentioned source, so you can't really check his definitions. The HYDCD does give sources, and at one definition it quotes the Shujing:

(16) 謂正軌,正道。
《書·旅獒》:“不役耳目,百度惟貞。”

You see that the meaning of 貞 is read as 'the proper path', the right way of conduct in a confucian sense - not 'to correct' as in 'repairing'.

Karlgren might not give 貞 as a loan for 正 in his GSR, but he does so in his Loan Characters. His GSR isn't all there is, and doesn't hold The One Truth. There are better and more complete sources.

Shaughnessy translates this sentence with determination:
”Hoarding it’s fat; little determination is auspicious, great determination is inauspicious.
I don’t agree with determination as a valid translation, but if you do I agree it could make some sense.
Nah, 'determination' is not in my dictionaries, as far as I can see.

This one is certainly no good:
3,5: To accumulate ones fat (or it's fat); if you divine it with small it will be good. If you divine it with big it will be bad?
Of course that doesn't make sense at all. Zhun 屯 might also refer to '(to) garrison soldiers', so for me it has to do with 'deciding/choosing your position'. Gao doesn't just mean 'fat meat', it also means 'the best, the ultimate' (漢語大詞典, vol. 6, p. 1361; 王力古漢語字典, p. 1008). So 屯其膏 could mean 'garrison at the/its best (spot)'. 小貞吉.大貞凶 might be a later addition, meaning 'Divination about small (matters): auspicious, divination about large matters: inauspicious.'

Could we have more examples in this very inspiring forum of the use of zhen as ”to divine” in Zhou Yi?
See my former message for two other examples.

元亨.利貞
Greatly received offering. Profitable divination.

貞丈人吉
(When) divining for an elder relative: auspicious.

etc.
 

bradford

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Did someone ask a few posts back whether we should make a special exception for Zhouyi translation? I think there's a good case for that.

I of course think it's a huge mistake to neglect the specific context of a word in determining it's meaning in that context. Zhou Chinese had only thousands, not tens of thousands of words, and so was necessarily polysemous (many words had many meanings). You had to use the grammatical context to learn both part of speech and the intended meaning. Further, I believe it is worthwhile to recognize the Zhouyi as belonging to it's own literary form, separate for example from court record and the lingo used on commemorative bronzes. Many expressions may belong solely to the "local dialect" of this particular literary form. Both of these will to some extent render the methodologies of context criticism useless and necessitate using the Zhouyi context in determining Zhouyi meanings. That is, if a translation is to make any sense at all.
 

Sparhawk

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Hi Lars,

I hope you realize that nobody is against your use of the word "correct" for 貞 or that it doesn't apply in interpretation. The argument is about the notion that "correct" is the original meaning for the character.
 

Sparhawk

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Funny and interesting trivia about zhen1: the 16th-17th C Jesuits in China, the first translators of the Yijing into a Western language (Ricci, de Mailla, et al), translated it into Latin as "solidum." Further, they rendered 元亨利貞as "magnum, penetrans, conveniens, solidum"
 

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If zhen originally meant "the outcome of divination", or in ancient view "the answer of the gods/spirits", which is how they experienced it, then 'correct' is a very logical derivation. One which has been felt at every 'answer'. If you did not follow what the spirits told you, you behaved very incorrectly. But the answer (where it came from) implied that it HAD to be followed, so one had to be correct.

Sometimes it is better not to divine, when a straight course -being correct - might bring one into trouble. Answering to every turn of the road occasionally works better. But right now too lazy to find the examples.
 

larsbo_c

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Hi Lars,

I hope you realize that nobody is against your use of the word "correct" for 貞 or that it doesn't apply in interpretation. The argument is about the notion that "correct" is the original meaning for the character.

There are plenty of clear cut examples for both way to use zhen. To be honest I have no idea what I think about what came first, lots of good arguments came up already though.
 

Sparhawk

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LiSe said:
If zhen originally meant "the outcome of divination", or in ancient view "the answer of the gods/spirits", which is how they experienced it, then 'correct' is a very logical derivation. One which has been felt at every 'answer'. If you did not follow what the spirits told you, you behaved very incorrectly. But the answer (where it came from) implied that it HAD to be followed, so one had to be correct.

Agreed, I believe that same train of thought is what derived in "correct" as one of the meanings for zhen1.

Now, something to ponder. Lars says:

Zhen occurs only 48 times in all The Thirteen Classics (apart from Zhou Yi), some are used as a verb in connection with divination, the rest means correct. In some cases zhen means loyal, but in the sense of acting correct. I believe that zhen came to be used for divination in the sense ”finding out what is the correct way to act” by divination or ”to correct things” with the help of divination.
I find that very curious. I never counted how many times zhen1 appears in the 13 Classics (not counting the Yijing), so I'll give that statement the benefit of the doubt. However, if that is correct, then the character appears a disproportionate 111 times in the received text of the Yijing. Assuming the received text got to us mostly untouched, and indeed dates back to Zhou times, then, as Bradford points above, the character must be interpreted in that context and from the perspective of what the book was originally: a divination manual.
Also, taking 3.5 as an example, something to consider are the divination practices in Zhou times. It was very common to divine many times about a single issue by both, cracking bones and using yarrow. Many times concurrently. 3.5 is perhaps a case where excessive divination, on any given issue (as far as current use of the oracle is concerned), is advised against.
 

larsbo_c

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or line 2 of H3 (女子貞不字, 'divination for a woman desiring a son: no pregnancy'),
One thing is very dificult with the examples we give each other; we don't necesarilly agree on editions and overall meaning of lines and heaxagrams:

H3,2: 屯如邅如乘馬班如匪寇婚媾女子貞不字十年乃字
I always use the received version with no change, it makes sense to me.
Wanting to propose marriage he starts out riding around [her house] in a four-horse carriage [showing off] like a bandit or robber. But a [chaste] women acting correctly will not agree, only after long time she will.
I'd say this is perfectly in line with the overall meaning of the hexagram, that we are in the beginning and should not rush things, but others may translate it in a completely different context. This makes it possible to find valid examples for nearly any argument.
 

larsbo_c

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Yes, but Karlgren doesn't say if he means 'correct' as a verb or otherwise. Also, the problem with the GSR is that Karlgren doesn't give examples from the mentioned source, so you can't really check his definitions. The HYDCD does give sources, .


Even with the best dictionaries you never know how often a certain meaning for a character is actually used, and most popular in what context. Shujing has 7 occurrences of zhen 貞 and Zuo Zhuan 28, it is quite easy to see the examples yourself, you get a broader picture that way, and I have been surprised more than once that even HYDCD had fuzzy definitions of very early texts.
元亨.利貞Greatly received offering. Profitable divination.
When did yuan 元 ever mean anything but original, basic, first or prime? The examples for ”great” in Karlgren and HYDCD are a rare usage of this character, I don't know but maybe one out 1000 times. You are not told how many in the dictionary.
 
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Sparhawk

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When did yuan 元 ever mean anything but original, basic, first or prime? The examples for ”great” in Karlgren and HYDCD are a rare usage of this character, I don't know but maybe one out 1000 times. You are not told how many in the dictionary.

Well, we could always blame the Jesuits in part for that, after all, they translated 元 as "magnum," which, I presume, is what was conveyed to them by the Chinese scholars that assisted them in those early translations... :D
 

bradford

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I never liked glossing Yuan as Da, although this error is made even in the Wings.
Yuan, when great, is more than great, it's the superlative, not the comparative, the greatest, the first, the original, the best.
 

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To be fair to Shaughnessy, who does indeed translate 貞 as “to determine” or “determination”, it is clear from his notes that he relies on Richard Alan Kunst’s dissertation “The Original ‘Yijing’”, which has a 12-page discussion of the graph zhēn and its scholarship up to the mid-1980’s.

Kunst employs “determination” in the sense of “to find out something, to ascertain something by investigation.” For example, “Holmes determined that Moriarty was the elusive culprit.” Or “They made their determination on the basis of the evidence presented.” On page 201, Kunst writes,”In the Yi we can say with confidence that the meaning of zhēn was from the beginning 'to determine an uncertain matter through divination.'"

It’s easy to understand how divination might be seen as a way “to determine” the answer to difficult questions. “Determination” is a more specific word in English than “divination”, in that it carries the sense of active inquiry and deliberate investigation into obscure matters. “Determination” involves effort and thinking, and implies the goal of resolving the issue at hand. Most users of the Yi will recognize these qualities from their own dealings with the Oracle.

Lindsay
 
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Sparhawk

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Hey! Welcome back, Lindsay!

You know, this morning, after Shaughnessy was quoted, I was looking in the Latin dictionary for "determino", the common root of "to determine" and "determinar" (in Spanish) and realized that what you said is what he meant and not as "the act of deciding definitely and firmly", but the act of "finding out" something.

I will reread those pages in Kunst. Thanks for the reminder.
 

hilary

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Hello, Lindsay!

I admire the 'determination' translation for zhen because it manages to mean 'finding out the truth' and 'being constant to the truth' at the same time, and the sheer ingenuity of finding an English word to resolve the 'divination vv constancy' thing boggles the mind. However, does zhen in readings tend to mean the act of finding out? It makes most sense to me as the act of sticking to what you've already determined and carrying it through.
 

heylise

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Hello Lindsay, happy you're here again!

I think there was no difference back then between 'finding out' and 'carrying it through'. Finding out was not something like pondering, investigating, doubt and clarity. It was asking the spirits and the answer was something very definitive. Nothing you ought to doubt or question. And you had to follow it, no resolve necessary: you just had to.

Just imagine, not doing what the spirits said... They would haunt you for the rest of your life, or make something awful happen.

I am not sure what I like more (or less). Those powerful spirits or the vacillating mind of now. There is a golden mean, somewhere in between, where you can trust what "it" says, however you call it. God, your intuition, the ghost of granny, or your own clear insight. It is the problem of these times, we can manipulate the mind and at the same time we are a victim of its powerlessness. I think it is a transition, a necessary one. Very interesting but not easy times to live. The Yi is a great assistant in such times. Our modern Warring States, but now mostly inside.
 

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