Curious about the I Ching? Join our classes to learn more about this important and inspirational book. For newcomers, we offer Gateway to the I Ching, that covers “how-to”, the book’s layout, history, resources, and more. Elements of the I Ching surveys the sixty-four hexagrams’ themes and significance, discussing a pair per week.
Unveiling the Mystery of the I Ching Tuck Chang 774 pp paperback Amazon Books, 2016 Print US$28 Kindle US$14
Tuck Chang’s massive Unveiling the Mystery of the I Ching, is an immense labor of love. At close to 800 pages, his book is packed with insights of someone immersed in classical texts, use of the Yijing, and firmly grounded in Chinese culture.
Chang’s forty-some pages of very clearly written introduction has much helpful information. Chang walks the reader through the various concepts and terms (including character, pinyin, and tone) associated with the Yijing. He explains that he has based his work on the Confucian commentaries, i.e., the Ten Wings. An interesting section introduces a “cast of characters”: the sage, great lord, gentleman, and villian!
After his extensive and insightful introduction, Chang offers around ten pages for each hexagram. He gives a general preface for each hexagram before presenting its text, with Chinese characters and brief literal translation of the Wings related to that hexagram. All of the original material is clearly set off in bold type. Each part of the text is then explained in great depth, using the masculine and feminine paradigm (yang and yin), trigram characteristics and movement (including nuclear trigrams), and symbolism assigned to line positions. The book also includes Chang’s translation of the Great Treatise and Explanation of the Trigrams, and “The Scenes of the King Wen Sequence.”
Chang maintains a website (www.iching123.com) that contains the contents of this book, so readers can browse the book hexagram by hexagram. However, serious readers will want to order a print copy so that they may more easily read the copious material in a comprehensive manner. The print copy’s cover is lightweight, but can easily be reinforced to withstand repeated use.
In a specialized field like the Yijing, many books are priced beyond the average person’s reach. We should be grateful not only for Chang’s free online version, but for him setting such a reasonable price for the print edition. At just US$28, this book can take its place on the shelves of serious students of the Yijing.
The Daode jing: A Guide Livia Kohn Oxford University Press, 2019 US$26.95 paper, also available in hardcover, ebook
Livia Kohn, a leading researcher and translator of Daoist works, has produced a comprehensive, useful book about Laozi’s venerable Daode jing. Published by Oxford University Press, long known for its authoritative works, her book is part of their “Guides to Sacred Texts” series that covers ancient works from around the world. She is a retired professor of religion formerly at Boston University, and heads Three Pines Press, which publishes important works on Daoist traditions. She also edits the Journal of Daoist Studies.
Kohn’s volume is organized into twelve chapters that examine the Daodejing over time. In Part One, Kohn looks in detail at the Daodejing’s origins, development, concepts, and use. Part Two follows the Daodejing as it evolves into being an integral part of various sectors of Chinese society, used by religious groups, philosophers, scholars, and others. Part Three looks at the Daodejing in contemporary times, from academics to pop culture, and its translation into other languages.
Kohn helpfully explains terminology in her introduction, delineating the basic concepts of Daoism for health, philosophy, and religion, and how those delineations actually came into being. She describes the three branches as literati, organized (e.g., religious sects), and self-cultivation techniques (e.g., breathing, diet, exercise). She continues with discussion of the role of writing and how the once-new technology affected people’s thinking.
Each chapter has a short bibliography, which makes the book particularly useful for college students. A few reference items would have enhanced this volume such as a timeline of dynasties, rulers, and thinkers mentioned; a glossary and romanization conversion chart, since so many Chinese philosophy books for general readers use Wade-Giles as opposed to pinyin.
Kohn’s Daode jing has a minimum of specialist jargon, and is written in an approachable style that will make it perfect for anyone interested in Chinese philosophy, religion, medicine, arts, or martial arts. Readers of the Yijing, the Book of Changes, will find this volume helpful for better understanding the breadth of the Yi’s cultural roots. (A volume in the series on the Yijing will be out shortly.) Oxford also has published Gary DeAngelis and Warren Frisina’s Guide to Teaching the Daodejing (2008), for professors including China-related readings in courses.
Being an overview, Kohn’s Daode jing succinctly covers a wide range of materials, and, being written by one person, keeps nicely focused on its subject and audience. The book’s slick cover texture can be remedied by covering it with paper.
Gateway to the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes
Winter 2022 classes will be held Mondays, February 28–March 28, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (US) for 1-1/4 hours. The I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, is an ancient book of insight, divination, philosophy, that has inspired people around the world for thousands of years. These classes will give you a solid foundation in how to use and navigate the I Ching(the Wilhelm/Baynes edition in particular). You’ll get an understanding of its origins and ideas, and resources for further study. This class is led by Barbara Davis, M.A., editor of the Contemplating I Ching website.
Gateway to the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes Fall 2021
The I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, is an ancient book of insight, divination, philosophy, that has inspired people around the world for thousands of years. These classes will give you a solid foundation in how to use and navigate the I Ching, an understanding of its origins and ideas, and give you many resources for further study. This sequence of classes, led by Barbara Davis, M.A., is divided into three five-week levels:
• Level One: Introduction to the I Ching September 13–October 11, 2021 The I Ching has inspired people around the world for thousands of years. This class will give you a solid foundation in how to use and navigate the I Ching familiarity with its origins and ideas, and give you many resources for further study. Each session will consist of presentation and hexagram casting methods.
• Level Two: The Inner Workings of the I Ching October 18–November 15, 2021 How do the I Ching‘s hexagrams, trigrams, and lines work? What do they symbolize? How can we use them in interpretation?
• Level Three: The Ten Wings November 22–December 20, 2021 What are the Ten Wings? How do they help us understand the I Ching? Why are they significant and considered essential? Where can they be found?
Classes meet online on Zoom platform Mondays for 75 minutes beginning at 8 a.m. PDT / 10 a.m. CDT / 11 a.m. EDT / 4 p.m. BST / 5 p.m. CET / 11 p.m. CST (times will reflect daylight/standard time change). Note that classes are live, and are not recorded.
Numerous rare Yijing books are now available online in digital libraries. One, the World Digital Library, part of the USA Library of Congress, gives nice summaries of the particular edition. You can download a PDF of the original or view online. Among their Yijing offerings are Cheng Yi and Kong Yingda.
Large-print and audio editions are available through Bookshare.
Ctext (ctext.org) is another resource that offers all of the Chinese classics, with learning tools such as dictionaries, transcriptions into type, as well as original book images. They have a number of editions of the Yijing at their site.
I believe that finding a preferred method (and, possibly, building the corresponding device) for casting hexagrams, augments the feeling of connection between the question and the answer. This is what motivated me to start this collection.
Each entry has instructions, a bit about the method’s origins, and about the probabilities involved with casting.
One of the internet’s great gifts to those of us interested in the I Ching has been Hilary Barrett’s website community Online Clarity. There, she offers seminars, educational material, and hosts a very active and robust I Ching forum with room for discussing ideas, readings, news, books, and more.
The Zagua, the Yijing’s Tenth Wing, is a very short poem that succinctly describes the paired hexagrams. An example, translated by Richard Rutt:
“Bo (23) impies decay, Fu (24) the homeward way”
While these succinct descriptions of hexagrams are clearly meant as aides to memorization, there are a number of mysteries about the Zagua order itself, which is quite different from the standard “received” order. While almost all the hexagrams in the Zagua are presented in pairs, the pairs are often reversed from the received order. And, with only two exceptions, pairs are placed in different linear positions. The final mystery is the end of the Zagua, where four pairs are presented singly, in an intermingled fashion.
If you’d like to explore the mysteries of the Zagua, visit our Diagrams page to download a copy of its layout, along with the received order. You can compare the two, and see what you come up with!