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Many readers recognize "yuan heng li zhen" as the first four characters in the Yi. As such, they've come to have enormous significance. Some say they encapsulate the whole philosophy of the Yi. To understand "yuan heng li zhen" properly is to understand the underlying qualities of Heaven and Earth.
Suppose you wish to create the largest, most valuable object of a certain kind - something so rare and precious it belongs in the Guinness Book of Records. What to name it? If you are Chinese, you might call it Yuan Heng Li Zhen.
I wonder if they plan to make two more of these so they can be used for casting?
Acording to the oraclebones Yuan Heng Li Zhen is some kind of mantra or ritual taking place by making a sacrifice towards the ancestors and doing something with the outcome of that ritual..... With Yuan you call the ancestors... In Heng you are determend to handle the ritual correctly by calling them... (Another Chinese character used in this is Xiang, which looks very much as Heng, but means a slightly different thing... Heng is the ritual, Xiang is the fun in handling the ritual...), In Li, you receive the message from the ancestors, which can only give you profit... and by Zhen the gods / ancestors are expecting that you handle acordingly to the message they gave you... ´don´t stand there... do it´...
At the moment I´m experimenting for some months now, in a very succesfull way by the way, in practical usage of these therms... In the dutch books of Han Boering, the words are connected to the seasons... Yuan (Sublime)- Spring, Heng (Determination)- Summer, Li (Profit)- Autumn, and Zhen (Doing)- Winter. In these experiments, and they are based on solid Chinese and western literature (Han Boering - I Ching of 21st Century, in dutch, and ofcourse LiSe´s site...), Yuan is telling me something about the past, where the thrown hexagram is like calling the ancestor´s ´that what was there before´.., In summer, where the sun shines on everything I say Heng / Summer is NOW... Yuan / Spring is before that... Then Li tells you what needs to be done to make a ´profitable´ way ahead of the future (profit like in a harvest... that´s why autumn...), and Zhen is winter, still, but I call it ´thing that needs to be done, or accepted anyway...´By getting the thrown hexagram you get HENG... the Focus now... By changing the lower trigram you get Yuan, what´s before... By changing the upper trigram you will get the LI-hexagram, and by changing the received hexagram into it´s opposite you get the Zhen-hexagram... This is based on the Si Siang, the Four Forms...
Remember just this... Yang / Hot in the sky, hot on the ground...)
Yin / Cold in the sky, cold on the ground...)
Young Yang Spring +- 7 Yuan / Sublime
Old Yang Summer ++ 9 Heng / Determination
Young Yin Autumn -+ 8 Li / Profit
Old Yin Winter -- 6 Zhen / Doing this...
So ´Sublime determination... There is profit in just doing this...´
Spring Cold on the floor... Hot in the air... + -
Summer Hot on the floor... Hot in the air... + +
Autmn Hot on the floor... Cold in the air... - +
Winter Cold on the floow... Cold in the air... - -
Just a thought...
I find this very hard to believe, as the phrase Yuan heng li zhen does not appear on oracle bones. The characters appear in other contexts, but on oracle bones it surely is not a 'mantra' or 'ritual'. Not even the components 'yuanheng' or 'lizhen' are found on oracle bones, in other words the oracle bones are not very helpful in deciphering the true meaning of this phrase.Originally Posted by frank
What you give as explanation/interpretation, of the characters as well, seems to be based on assumptions. I wonder what your sources are in these. Just curious.
P.S. Lindsay, nice coin! You need a large wallet for that.
"The special coin is the largest one of its kind in China and is planning to apply for a Guinness World Record." A coin with plans? Not sure it's safe to cast another two...
Well, Hilary, I've often thought my I Ching coins had a mind of their own. Who knows what they're thinking? Now a coin weighing 10kg, that's a coin with a serious agenda! Imagine having three of them. Yijing divination could become an Olympic sport, like discus throwing. I wonder how such a sport would be scored? Surely more would be required than merely seeing who can throw their coins furthest? Perhaps the competition would begin with a question like "How can we establish world peace?", and whoever cast the most appropriate hexagram(s) over the longest distance would be the gold-medalist.
Frank, it's always interesting to talk about "yuan heng li zhen," so thanks for sharing your ideas! But Harmen is probably right about the silence of the oracle bones (Harmen usually is correct about these things). No matter, "yuan heng li zhen" is part of the Zhouyi, and occurs many times - especially in its components phrases "yuan heng" and "li zhen" - throughout the Yi. My sources say "yuan heng" originally meant "great sacrifice", perhaps in the sense of "let there be a great sacrifice". "Li zhen" is usually translated by modernists as "auspicious divination" or, more fully, "the results of the divination are favorable". The Confucian or shi interpretation was quite different. They favored something like "supreme success" for "yuan heng", and "beneficial to persevere" for "li zhen". Some commentators saw Yuan Heng Li Zhen as a list - the Four Virtues. In English, maybe they would be "fundamentality" (that which is fundamental or primal) for yuan, "completeness" for heng, "benefitting" for li, and "steadfast and true" for zhen.
Like many of these alternate translations offered by traditionalists and modernists, I'm not sure what this all adds up to. Personally, in the case of yuan heng li zhen, I think we are talking about ritual language that implies more than it says. Unfortunately we don't have any old Zhou diviners to help us out with the orally-transmitted lore of the Yi. My guess is that - like Zen and other Asian traditions - true understanding of the Yi was passed on from master to student by word of mouth. At some point the transmission failed, probably long before Confucius. Generally speaking, people in the Zuozhuan are as clueless about interpreting the Yi as we are. The oracular tradition was probably secret and probably confined to very few. Maybe everybody died. Maybe the secret knowledge was transmitted through the Egyptians to the Gnostics at Qumran and on to the early Christians, the Knights Templar, Leonardo DaVinci, and Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. What do you think?
"true understanding of the Yi" was passed on from generation to generations, indeed.
But there was not just one master... but an organization: "confined to very few" this is correct
Allegueded, this organization exists nowadays, with a laaaarge archive (I mean, not only paper-archive, but knowledge -archive).
Allegueded, what had been published on Yi Jing is no more than 20% of the traditional teachings.
ps. this organization was fighted by fang-shi... The great burning of books was part of this fight. Yi Jing was saved, not because respect, but because fang-shi used and twisted its traditional formulas. The sages of this organization go to secret since that age.
I thought the material came from a french chinese dictionary you gave to a mutual friend of ours. I am not shure if ALL the four characters came from the oraclebones, and it could be that it is from a slight later date, but acording to the entrances into that dictionary I made this up. It´s always experimenting in the Yi as people write books with a 100 percent certainty, and someone then digs something up and in the next new book the opposite is suggested... I know you want back up and to me that french dictionary is one of them. I also am found of working with the Yi ´as long as things work´... I know you are not satifsfied with an answer like that :-D...
Ah, well, then you answered my question. No problem with making things up, as long as it is mentioned.Originally Posted by frank
I know you mentioned Ricci's dictionary earlier as a resource for this or something similar. But what you say about 'yuan', for instance, does not agree with my sources, so I would like to know what the definitions are in Ricci. Lise, I know you also have Ricci, can you give the definitions of the characters in this dictionary?
Oh, I am satisfied already. But when someone presents something as a 'fact' I always like to see it backed up by sources - be it dictionaries, other books, assumptions or just plain imagination. Where does someone get his ideas from? That is what I want to know before I give his ideas credit. The phrase 'yuan heng li zhen' is not found on oracle bones, so when someone says "according to the oraclebones Yuan Heng Li Zhen is some kind of mantra" I am curious about his sources. Knowing that is more satisfying than just saying "you are wrong!".It´s always experimenting in the Yi as people write books with a 100 percent certainty, and someone then digs something up and in the next new book the opposite is suggested... I know you want back up and to me that french dictionary is one of them. I also am fond of working with the Yi ´as long as things work´... I know you are not satifsfied with an answer like that :-D...
Personally I believe that 'yuan heng li zhen' is two sentences, 'yuan heng' and 'li zhen', because these also occur seperately in the Yi. 'Yuan heng' 元亨 might be related to 'yuan shi' 元示, 'prime/first sacrifice', a phrase we do find on oracle bones. The 甲骨文簡明詞典 cites a sentence where 元示 is used to denote the first sacrifice, and 下示 to denote the following sacrifice.
Ah, in the new forum I can use Chinese characters without any problem. Wonderful.
Hi guys -
Here's what I think:
The earliest purpose of the Yi was to serve as a divination manual, and an archaic rendering of this text emphasizes the Yi’s mantic function. Yuan2 keeps its traditional meaning of “great, major, supreme”, but heng1 ? is read as an archaic form of xiang3 ?, which means “sacrifice, offering, sacrificial ceremony”. Zhen1 takes on its old and well-attested meaning of “divination, omen, augury, portent, divinatory determination.” Li4 still means “beneficial, advantageous”, but in the context of the practice of divination, this better translates to “favorable, auspicious”.
My sources are Richard Alan Kunst, the Huangs, Wu Jing-Nuan, Richard John Lynn, Fu Youde, Richard Rutt, Edward Shaughnessy, and Chan Chiu Ming.
I do not agree with Harmen's derivation of Heng1. But all of this is so highly speculative, it would be embarrassing in other, more rigorous historical disciplines. Chinese studies has a long way to go before it catches up methodologically with the standards of modern historical analysis in other areas.
For state-of-the-art work, you can look to subjects Westerners really care about. The very best work is available in Biblical studies and Near East archeology. A lot of very careful work has been done with Egyptian hieroglyphics, which are not unlike early Chinese characters - and I can tell you that the naive etymological approach offered by the Ricci (and Lise) was abandoned long ago in that study. Time for Chinese studies to grow up, I think.
By the way, the forum cannot read my Chinese - that's where the ? marks are. Too bad, I wanted to show the graphs I was talking about, but I guess this environment is Macintosh hostile.
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