Yijing maven Harmen Mesker has produced several Yijing videos that are now available on YouTube on his “YiTube” channel. These videos are introductions to the Yijing in general and specific topics such as the trigrams, embellished occasionally with Mesker’s sly wit. Mesker, who is based in the Netherlands, maintains an informative website, as well.
Richard Bertschinger, translation and commentary
Singing Dragon 2012
Hardcover/ebook, 336 pp.
US $30 / £25.00
Yijing, Shamanic Oracle of China is a nicely presented contemplative book. Richard Bertschinger, an acupuncturist and student of Gia-fu Feng, has done an engaging job of presenting his thoughts about the Yijing. With occasional cross-cultural philosophical comparisons, Bertschinger presents a translation of the core Zhouyi and selected Wings, enhanced with his comments, and including a helpful glossary.
“The Yijing can reveal the seeds of the future, but above all it teaches reverence for those small inklings in the present which determine the science of change. It encourages us all to be alive to the world, and take a stand on destiny.”
Bertschinger’s translation emphasizes finding one’s path. “You can transform those observing below, by observing the causes of your own life. Observe yourself within and contemplate the evens of your own life. At no time neglect to seek the middle path and at all times act properly” (from Hexagram 20).
This is a very accessible Yijing book, drawn from the author’s reading of traditional Chinese texts, accessible to beginners, but meaty enough for experienced users.
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.
“When Nederlands Dans Theater presents Safe As Houses during their Asian tour this autumn , 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 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.
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.
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.
Routledge, 2003, paper 2015
Paper, 391 pp
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.
Book of Changes: The Original Core of the I Ching
by Lars Bo Christensen
paperback, 392 pages
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.
Hidden behind this plain, yellow cover is an Yijing treasure-trove. Stephen Field, a professor of Chinese and an Yijing researcher, has created a book that will appeal to all levels of Yijing readers. He creates a compelling read out of viewing the Yi through the life of the Duke of Zhou, who, according to legend, was instrumental in its formation. This method leaves out the layers of later interpretation and commentary by focusing on the oldest layer, the Zhouyi. Others have used this approach (Richard Rutt’s Zhouyi, Greg Whincup’s Rediscovering the I Ching, and so on), but Field’s version stands out for creating what almost feels like a gripping historical novel about the epic story of the early Zhou dynasty.
Part One of The Duke of Zhou Changes is an introduction giving a concise history of ancient China, from prehistory through the Zhou; an overview of the field of divination and mythical and historical origins of the Yijing. Part Two consists of the Zhouyi hexagram texts, which Field has uniquely formatted in tables that inform the reader of the varied sub-elements within the texts. The head of each table has the Chinese name of the hexagram written in bronze script (jinwen), the hexagram number, the hexagram figure, and then the pinyin romanization and English translation.
The balance of each table is devoted to the hexagram texts. Field has numbered the Judgement text “0” and subsequent line texts 1–6. Additionally, a corresponding visual cue for each line is given: the numbers for yang lines are printed in black ink on a white square, and yin line numbers are white on a black square. The texts are then subdivided into three elements: Omen, Counsel, and Fortune, in the following manner for Hexagram 6:
Omen: There are prisoners, frozen with fear.
Counsel: It is time to see the great one. It is not good to ford the great river.
Fortune: There is good fortune now, but in the end there will be misfortune.
Field then gives explanations of the meaning of the hexagram name, along with historical and cultural information. For instance, “Bundle the offering” in Hexagram 12 is explained as “This omen depicts a common form of sacrificial offering: steamed food wrapped in leaves.” Field further explains the class differences between this kind of offering when done by a commoner versus that by a noble, done with a bronze cauldron.
Part Three of the book instructs the reader in how to cast and interpret hexagrams, whether using yarrow, coins, or an eight-coin method. Rounding out the book are a glossary, bibliography, index, and finding chart.
As Field’s translation of hexagram names differs from others, a cross-reference chart, or in the index by number in addition to name, would have been helpful. For example, Hexagram 36 is indexed as “Calling Arrow-Bird, The” followed by the Chinese characters, and then by the hexagram number (in Wilhelm/Baynes the hexagram is titled Ming I—Darkening of the Light). At first glance, the index seems good enough, but with use, lacks the level of detail one might wish for deeper research. An example: Hexagram 19 Wailing, is interpreted as being about mourning rituals, but that topic is not found in the index.
There is a lot to chew on in this book, particularly when compared with later “Confucian” commentaries. Hexagram 52, as an example, is dramatically different than traditional readings that take it to mean “stillness” and as inspiration for self-cultivation and meditation. Field instead takes the hexagram theme to be “obstructions” in various parts of the body.
The book is quite expensive, which will unfortunately limit its reach to academic libraries and to online purchases. It is deserving of a wider readership.
Stephen Field nicely captures the ancient layers of the Yijing in a way that makes it greatly useful for all audiences. The Duke of Zhou Changes is highly readable, clearly laid out, compact, well-organized, easy to dip into, and an interesting read.