I Ching-based Artwork on Display

The Book of Changes: Symbolic Landscapes of the I Ching
On view December 2nd- January 26th
Opening reception: Tuesday, December 5th from 4-6pm
64 works by Elizabeth Nelson inspired by the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching

Elizabeth Nelson is best known for her images of northeastern landscapes. Her work has been shown since the late 1980s and has been presented in juried shows for nearly as long. She is represented by galleries in New York and Vermont and has won commissions for public art. Neither a young nor obscure artist, one can believe her
when she says, “Every so often artists come to the end of what they’re exploring.” They have to ask, “Where do I go from here?” 2012 was one of those periods for Liz. She wanted to transform her work.

In January 2012, she started a series of “Symbolic Landscapes” inspired by the sixty four hexagrams of the I Ching. Incorporating chance even into the procedure, She threw coins to choose a hexagram each time a painting was started and would contemplate the result as she thought or dreamt an image. Her work has always referenced the landscape of northern New England and this new series continued that exploration, but with an interior dimension of symbols and geometric juxtapositions.

A friend showed her the book in the mid 1960s. “The language about the symbols connected so closely to unconscious thoughts I had been having.” She wears divination loosely; there are times she refers to the method frequently and times she puts it aside for years. Liz describes her use as “something I have used in different ways for different questions and in different intensities.”

The discipline of such a project is “very freeing.” Describing the freedom inside of discipline, Liz makes this analogy: “If you’ve cooked a souffle, one that’s followed the rules, and have had some success, then you start changing things.” She applies that thought to painting: “You have to keep pushing the edges of your knowledge and capabilities to grow as an artist. “Completing one idea,” she explains, gives her the “confidence to do a riff on it. It’s a physical skill, among other things. You have to have confidence in your skills; you keep practicing.”
For the first time all 64 of these new paintings will be on exhibit.
Free and open to the public. For more information, please call (802) 533-9075 or visit http://www.HighlandArtsVT.org.


Nederlands Dans Theater takes dance inspiration from ancient Chinese shamanic text, the Book of Changes

When Nederlands Dans Theater presents Safe As Houses during their Asian tour this autumn [2017], they will be following on a well-lit path of using the ancient Chinese shamanic text, the I Ching – (also known as the Yijing or in English the Book of Changes – to create an extraordinary modern dance piece.”

The director said, ‘We created a … theatrical space that also dealt with these ideas of the Book of Changes. The idea is that the stage is never still; it’s constantly altering its form. Therefore, the world around it must also go with it.’ ”
The company builds on previous works by such great choreographers as Merce Cunningham.

Read the full article in the South China Post

John Cage, Avant-Garde Musician and the I Ching

John Cage was a twentieth-century avant-garde musician who explored the edges of thinking and the arts, often using the I Ching. This lengthy review article in the Utne Reader discusses Cage’s life and own writings–his famous Silences, as well his diary and letters.

Oracle Bones Crowd-sourced

Chinese scholars are asking for help with deciphering thousands of oracle bones, and are offering rewards:
“The National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan province, has issued a worldwide appeal for help to decipher thousands of esoteric characters cut into bones and shells dating back more than 3,000 years to the Shang dynasty.
The inscriptions, resembling modern characters, are the earliest written records of Chin­ese civilisation and shed light on life and society at a time.
They were carved by fortune-tellers on turtle shells and ox shoulder blades known as oracle bones, and record questions on everything from weather to taxes.
So far, scholars have managed to crack the code to less than half of the roughly 5,000 characters found on excavated oracle bones. Around 3,000 of them remain a mystery.” Read the whole article here.

Yijing Research by Larry Schulz

Image result for "lai zhide"

Famed Yijing scholar Lai Zhide (Lai Chih-te, 1525–1604) of the Ming Dynasty was heralded for his in-depth investigation of the hexagram graphics and collection of a vast array of charts on the subject. His book has been in print, in many editions, continually since.

Dr. Larry Schulz wrote his dissertation on Lai, and has made his thesis “Lai Chih-te and the Phenomonolgy of the ‘Classic of Change’ (I Ching)” as well as more recent articles about the hexagram order available at his own website.

Review: A Companion to Yi Jing Numerology and Cosmology by Bent Nielsen

A Companion to Yi Jing Numerology and Cosmology: Chinese Studies of Images and Numbers from the Han (202 BCE–220 CE) to Song (960–1279 CE)

Bent Nielsen
Routledge, 2003, paper 2015
Paper, 391 pp
ISBN 9781138862678
Also available in hardcover and eboook

A better title for this splendid book might have been A Quite Comprehensive Encyclopedic Companion to the Yijing. Despite the focus on Han-Song dynasties, devotees of any era or type of Yijing studies will find this book invaluable. The author, Bent Nielsen, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen, has drawn from a good range of source material in covering the many schools of Yijing thought.

The book entries cover the gamut of Yijing topics, from the towering personalities such as Wang Bi and Yu Fan, to intriguing theories such as the Six Gateways (liu men), to obscure terms like the “Hexagrams of the Returning Souls” (gui hun gua), and to numerous explanatory charts and tables. The entries are in alphabetical order in pinyin, with traditional characters and translation.

A Companion assumes a certain level of familiarity with Yijing terms. One hates to quibble about such a wonderful book, however, given all the time periods, ideas, terms, and languages involved, a thorough index with cross-references would have been a nice addition. A small example: the word jing is explained as meaning “classic,” however, there is no entry or cross-reference under “classic.” Another example: the ideas of influential Ming dynasty Yijing writer Lai Zhide (1525–1604) feature in entries such as about hexagram order (guaxu) and “laterally linked hexagrams” (pangtonggua), yet there is no entry for Lai himself, presumably because he is from a later century beyond the scope of the book. We can only hope that Nielsen or another scholar will soon tackle creating the  companion to this Companion, one that will cover pre-Han and post-Song Yijing topics.

This book is highly readable on its own, or as a companion to others. Nielsen’s work is to be commended, and the publisher is to be thanked for issuing these new, affordable paper and ebook editions.

Review: Shchutskii’s Researches on the I Ching

Researches on the I Ching

Iulian Shchutskii
Translated by William MacDonald, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, with Hellmut Wilhelm, and introductions by Gerald Swanson and N.I. Konrad, and N.A. Petrov
Princeton University Press,  2017
paper, 324 pages
ISBN 978-0691605999

Iulian Shchutskii’s groundbreaking  Researches on the I Ching remains an inspiring work for anybody with an interest in the Yijing’s history, traditions, structure, and significance. While some of Shchutskii’s conclusions may be outdated given subsequent research and archeological discoveries, it is nevertheless still a very valuable book, written in a very approachable style, with much significant information and analysis.

Researches on the I Ching was originally written as Shchutskii’s doctoral thesis, defended in 1937. It was posthumously published in Russian in 1960, and in English in 1979. It has been out of print for a number of years. The publishers of the original English edition, Princeton University Press, is reissuing it as part of its print-on-demand program for classic works.

Part One of the book includes Shchutskii’s own introduction, a chapter on Western studies on the Yi, and a chapter on Eastern studies. In Part Two, Shchutskii gives in-depth analysis of questions about the Yijing’s content, history, place in literature, structure, dating, differentiation of strata, and the range of traditional interpretation and influence.

Shchutskii was born in 1897; his life story gives a picture of a gifted scholar with a sense of humor who met with an untimely end in a Stalinist camp in the late 1930s. Researches on the I Ching has an extensive introduction to the English edition by Gerald Swanson, an introduction to the Russian edition by N.I. Konrad, and a biographical sketch of Shchutskii by his friend N.A. Petrov. These introductions are compelling and valuable in their own right.



Review: Book of Changes: The Original Core of the I Ching by Lars Bo Christensen

Book of Changes: The Original Core of the I Ching
by Lars Bo Christensen
CreateSpace 2015
paperback, 392 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1508848400
audio edition available
Excerpt available as
I Ching: The Core Kindle Edition

The Book of Changes by Lars Bo Christensen is a compendium of material suitable for close study of the Zhouyi. The book has discussion of the historical backdrop of the Zhouyi, including selections from the Zuozhuan, one of the earliest texts that mentions the Zhouyi. Hexagrams are presented in Chinese with English translation and concordance, including discussion of the meanings of specific characters that allows the reader to follow Christensen’s thought process. Frequently occurring characters are  provided in a separate glossary.

The Zhouyi translation is repeated at the end of the book, for easy access for divination purposes, along with the author’s terse summary of hexagrams and line meanings. Instructions are given for yarrow stalks and coins. (It should be noted that, taking advantage of the flexibility of self-publishing, the author has since issued I Ching: The Core Kindle Edition, described as a “simpler and more handy alternative” aimed at general readers who may not be as interested in his in-depth analysis of the Chinese text.)

This translation is helpful for anyone exploring details of the core Zhouyi text, and can be used in conjunction with Richard Rutt’s Zhouyi, Richard Kunst’s thesis notes (available online), Stephen Field’s Duke of Zhou Changes, Bradford Hatcher’s online I Ching works, and Edward Shaughnessy’s many books on the Yi. As a concordance, it draws from much prior scholarship and is much more topic- and era-specific than earlier Riitsima/Karcher concordances.

The book has a few problems in editing and formatting. One is that in the solo translation in the back, the paired hexagrams are not on facing pages. This is unfortunate, as Christensen has some important discussion of the pairings in an earlier chapter, and it would have been helpful to be able to compare the hexagram pairs without having to turn pages. Another puzzling choice: the Zuozhuan section is supplied in Chinese, with Christensen’s English summary and comments, but without full translation.

Overall, the Book of Changes: The Original Core of the I Ching is a good choice for the serious student of the Zhouyi; the tools it provides will help readers take an even closer look at the text, even if they do not have specialized language training.