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Blog post: A patchwork of hexagrams

hilary

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A patchwork of hexagrams

Patchwork

Introducing the Zagua​


The Yi became the Yijing, a Classic book, as it grew its Ten Wings: ten bodies of commentary and reflections on the oracle and its hexagrams. The Zagua, ‘Mixed hexagrams’, is the tenth and last of these: a short, simple, rhyming description of the hexagrams in pairs. (Za 雜, ‘mixed’, implies a multi-coloured patchwork.) Each hexagram is associated with just one or two words, and contrasted with its pair:

‘Creative Force is firm; the Earth is open.’
‘Seeking Union means delight; the Army means grieving.’

…and so on.

Why it’s a favourite of mine​


The Zagua is one of my favourite Wings. To start with, this is because it’s the only Wing that describes the hexagrams in their pairs. Hexagram pairs are a vital part of Yi’s make-up and how it creates meaning, both within the miniature ecosystem of the pair itself, and also on a much larger scale: you typically find the big, beautiful patterns in the Sequence by looking at pairs instead of individual hexagrams.

The Zagua takes a straightforward approach: it draws a single contrast between two hexagrams. Many of these are very simple and direct –

‘Shock begins. Stilling stops.’

Others are less so –

‘Biting Through means eating; Beauty is without colour.’

(I think the underlying idea here is that Hexagram 21 takes things in, whereas 22 is about what’s projected outward.)

It’s always easier to grasp something when you can see what it isn’t. If it’s hard to relate to a reading, a simple thought experiment can help: ‘If I’d received the paired hexagram, what would that have been saying? What would I have thought? Well… that’s what it isn’t saying.’ The Zagua makes this contrast visible.

And finally, it does this in a very economical way. There are no explanations, no added theories, decidedly no metaphysical commentary – just the contrasts. I imagine this Wing might have been a teaching aid, something a wise teacher dreamt up to help their students recall the hexagrams. (Group them in pairs, and there’s less to remember.) We get to slip in – just a little late – at the back of the class.

Not everyone appreciates simple​


In my admiration for the Zagua, I seem to be in a rather small minority. Wilhelm includes it in Book III as ‘Miscellaneous Notes’, where he splits the text for each pair between hexagrams, making the contrast between them invisible. Hexagram 7: ‘The Army means mourning.’ Hexagram 8, four pages later: ‘Holding Together is something joyous.’ This seems to be a tradition – Lynn often does the same.

No wonder people find the Zagua ‘banal’, as Rutt puts it:

‘Western writers have generally found it banal, if not embarrassing. Legge concluded that it was a mere jeu d’esprit. Joseph de Prémare, however, “the father of sinology”, writing in August 1731…, said the last Wing was “the most profound of all the commentaries included in the Yijing.”

If it is indeed profound, the depths are obscure…’

Richard Rutt, Zhouyi

(This is the first I’ve heard of Joseph de Prémare, but I like him already!)

Examples (things I’ve learned)​


The simplicity of the Zagua can be deceptive: there’s a lot to learn from it, and there are definitely some contrasts I’ve yet to understand fully. Some of my favourites, though…

37/38​

‘Opposing means outside. People in the Home means inside.’

It was reading this that finally made the penny drop for me about inverse hexagram pairs (pairs that are the same pattern of lines, turned upside-down): they’re the same landscape, seen from a different perspective. The home has an inside and an outside; where there’s an ‘us’, there’s also a ‘them’. What you see depends on where you stand.

29/30​

‘Clarity is above, the chasm is below.’

Another example of two hexagrams in a single landscape, though of course this is an opposite, not an inverse pair. This reminds me of the Chinese mythical landscape: the suns carried through the sky above, and the dark waters flowing under the earth. You can’t have one without the other.

17/18​

‘Following has no causes. Corruption, and then order.’

Not a direct, crystal-clear contrast, this one. Following has ‘no causes’ because it simply is: one moment follows another, everything is unfolding as it should, and we can align ourselves with this and Follow. There’s absolutely no call to dig in and search for why this is happening, its origins, the point where we might best apply a lever to create change. Change is creating itself. Sometimes we experience this as perfect order and synchronicity, and sometimes as anything but – yet it is ‘no mistake’, however we perceive it.

Hexagram 18 has exactly the same sense of unfolding, one thing following from another, but now there are causes to be uncovered, so you can bring order from the mess.

33/34​


Just one more –

‘Great Vigour means stopping, Retreating means withdrawing.’

This one grabs me because it avoids the obvious contrast: not advancing vs withdrawing, but stopping. Great Vigour doesn’t move for the sake of moving, and won’t be pushed around; it stands its ground.
 

IrfanK

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This is the first I’ve heard of Joseph de Prémare, but I like him already!
I looked him up in the wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Henri_Marie_de_Prémare

De Prémare's writings also include a defense of figurism proposed by Joachim Bouvet, which held that the doctrines of Christianity were mystically embodied in the Chinese classics.
Sounds like he was one of those Jesuit priests who believed that 15 expressed the core message of the True Faith, that Yi proved that the Chinese had an intuitive understanding of Christianity that could be brought to the surface. There was some big ongoing fight between two orders, the Jesuits and ... I forget. But the former thought that missionary work could build on and work in alliance with the Chinese classics, and the latter thought they were either complete garbage or the work of the devil, or maybe both.
 

Trojina

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And finally, it does this in a very economical way. There are no explanations, no added theories, decidedly no metaphysical commentary – just the contrasts. I imagine this Wing might have been a teaching aid, something a wise teacher dreamt up to help their students recall the hexagrams. (Group them in pairs, and there’s less to remember.) We get to slip in – just a little late – at the back of the class.
I value these a great deal too. It always helps a great deal to think of the other in the pair in readings. They have to be more than a teaching aid since pairs are pairs not only teaching aids. I mean a pair is irrefutably a pair, 37 can't be a pair with anything other than 38.

(I feel a woman wrote these btw, something to do with the economy and subsequent lack of respect...until now. That's just a fancy of mine nothing scholarly)

In my admiration for the Zagua, I seem to be in a rather small minority. Wilhelm includes it in Book III as ‘Miscellaneous Notes’, where he splits the text for each pair between hexagrams, making the contrast between them invisible. Hexagram 7: ‘The Army means mourning.’ Hexagram 8, four pages later: ‘Holding Together is something joyous.’ This seems to be a tradition – Lynn often does the same.
Yes it's really hard to connect what is contrasting through Wilhelm's miscellaneous notes! Recently someone was asking 'where on earth do you get this from?' that's how overlooked this wing is.

It was reading this that finally made the penny drop for me about inverse hexagram pairs (pairs that are the same pattern of lines, turned upside-down): they’re the same landscape, seen from a different perspective. The home has an inside and an outside; where there’s an ‘us’, there’s also a ‘them’. What you see depends on where you stand.
What about 3 and 4, they are the same hexagram from a different perspective but it is far harder to sum up the contrast of the pair. Well you have in your book as like an infant viewing the world from the security of the cradle though I see little security in 3. Wilhelm's miscellaneous says 'Chun is visible but ha snot yet lost it's dwelling' which I guess amounts to your 'not letting go of your dwelling place'. For 4 he has 'Youthful folly means confusion and subsequent enlightenment.' while you have 'Not knowing: disordered and also clear.' I'm not very clear still about 3/4 as a pair.

I like 5/6 as a pair because there is conflict latent in Waiting and there is waiting latent in Conflict. But the 10th wing verse does not really highlight what I see in that. From your book

'Waiting means no progress, Arguing means no connection'

Hmmm I think 5 and 6 are as good an example of the same thing from a differetn perspective as 37 and 38 are.


Let's see how Wilhelm hacks it up

5. Misc notes. 'Waiting means not advancing.'
6. " " 'Conflict means not to love'


Wow that was a shock, the use of the word 'love' there which is nowhere else in Yi is it?

I'm not really with that one since they don't dovetail the way other examples do. 5 and 6 are the same landscape viewed from different angle as in if you walked up to the top of 5 and looked down you'd see 6 but the mnemonic (if that is what it really is) doesn't show the connection between the 2. 5 waits to get what it needs and 6 has to to accept not getting.
 

hilary

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What about 3 and 4, they are the same hexagram from a different perspective but it is far harder to sum up the contrast of the pair. Well you have in your book as like an infant viewing the world from the security of the cradle though I see little security in 3. Wilhelm's miscellaneous says 'Chun is visible but ha snot yet lost it's dwelling' which I guess amounts to your 'not letting go of your dwelling place'. For 4 he has 'Youthful folly means confusion and subsequent enlightenment.' while you have 'Not knowing: disordered and also clear.' I'm not very clear still about 3/4 as a pair.
The same basic situation of being at the absolute beginning, being the infant, but the difference between being the centre of the universe (everything I throw out of this pram always comes back!) and toddling off into huge spaces to see what happens. 3 struggles, but it's like the seed's struggle to break through the soil. It knows where it is, and the overall movement is radiating out from the centre.

Come to think of it, that sounds weirdly like the difference between hexagrams -3 and -4 (aka 62 and 61).

I like 5/6 as a pair because there is conflict latent in Waiting and there is waiting latent in Conflict. But the 10th wing verse does not really highlight what I see in that. From your book

'Waiting means no progress, Arguing means no connection'

Hmmm I think 5 and 6 are as good an example of the same thing from a differetn perspective as 37 and 38 are.


Let's see how Wilhelm hacks it up

5. Misc notes. 'Waiting means not advancing.'
6. " " 'Conflict means not to love'


Wow that was a shock, the use of the word 'love' there which is nowhere else in Yi is it?

I'm not really with that one since they don't dovetail the way other examples do. 5 and 6 are the same landscape viewed from different angle as in if you walked up to the top of 5 and looked down you'd see 6 but the mnemonic (if that is what it really is) doesn't show the connection between the 2. 5 waits to get what it needs and 6 has to to accept not getting.
Hm. It's interesting they both get defined by what they're not, and the general situation they have in common is one of not having what you need (I think).

It might imply that Conflict does advance, and Waiting does connect. I don't think 6 absolutely always has to accept not getting - its basic stance is not accepting, and sometimes (well, 1 time in 6) that works.
 

tacrab

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One thing you can do is copy out those shorter wings from Wilhelm to make your own united study material. Or, Legge and Rutt both have those wings as independent texts.
 

IrfanK

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One thing you can do is copy out those shorter wings from Wilhelm to make your own united study material. Or, Legge and Rutt both have those wings as independent texts.
Hmm, yes, Wilhelm and the wings. As a great fan of Wilhelm-Baynes, I couldn't agree more with Steve Marshall when he talked about the organization of the wings in W-B being a sinological maze from the department of utter confusion. He's got a whole chapter on it. It's very useful for working out where all those little bits of old commentary that are cobbled together in book three are actually coming from. And even if you still can't work it out, at least it's reassuring to know that SOMEONE thinks there's an explanation for it. It's also very reassuring to realize that other people have trouble with it too. I always thought it was just me, and that I must be just slightly more stupid than average.

Good to know that Rutt at least doesn't cut them up and spread the body parts all over the place. I'll have to brush him off and have a look.
 

tacrab

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Don't blame yourself! These are all traditional arrangements and alternatives. People have been confused for centuries.
 

hilary

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Ah, the great tradition of being confused about it all :) .

Yes, Rutt is a favourite of mine precisely because he lets you read through each Wing in its entirety, without any commentary interspersed. You also get them in their entirety in Lynn, at the front of the book, with Wang Bi's commentary. (I don't think I've ever read through those from end to end. I should!)
 

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