Over the past century (practically yesterday in I Ching years), there has been a host of exciting discoveries about the origins of the I Ching: the culture behind it, the mythological and historical material it contains. This results in I Ching history books, and historically-based translations, that reach back beyond the origins of the commentary traditions to a different voice – perhaps hard to relate to, especially for people who’ve grown up in those traditions, but extraordinarily vital, and with great potential for divination that we’ve scarcely begun to explore. That same voice can be heard in the poetry of the Shijing, the Book of Songs, which I’ve also reviewed on this page. Bring your own creative intuition!
The Mandate of Heaven: Hidden History in the I Ching
Tradition says King Wen and his family wrote the Zhouyi. Those rediscovering the roots of the Yi have tended to leave this tradition out of the equation altogether, as if their work superseded it. Meanwhile traditionalists have ‘kept the faith’ and not taken too much notice of historical discoveries about the text. S.J. Marshall’s book bridges the divide. It is a compilation of original research and thought, discovering historical references ‘hidden in plain view’ within the text itself.
In fact, Wen and his son, King Wu, are historical characters as well as legendary…
The Book of Songs: the Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry
In amongst the many worthy I Ching tomes on my shelves is a modest paperback of poetry – offering more inspiration for readings than most of them. The Shijing is the classic book of songs, just as the Yijing (I Ching) is the classic book of change. Among them are the songs of the same Zhou people who first used and recorded the I Ching – and the later songs still evoke the same daily lives and beliefs that form the language of its imagery and advice.
It’s impossible to read far into the Book of Songs without finding it deepening and changing your understanding of the I Ching…