Thursday, October 19, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 19-OCT-2017

Hexagram 19, judgment text:

Hexagram 19

Old text:

Oversight.[1] Great sacrifice. Beneficial to divine. On reaching the eighth month there is misfortune.

New text:

Approach. Great success. Constancy benefits. On reaching the eighth month there is misfortune.

Although the opposite of the next hexagram, which shows a tower, Lin is both approaching and overseeing. After a string of divining tags used in sacrificial rites in the old text version we have an unusual reference to a specific month. The eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar corresponds to the fall, moving back and forth between September and October of the Gregorian calendar.

Humans strive for symmetry and predictability. They try to fit everything into categories and set up hierarchies of duties and benefits. That is what Lin represents for me. Lin is a kind of project management hexagram, laying out the ups and downs of a project, mapping out dates and trying to anticipate problems.

The line texts are quite sparse, little more than divining tags, and with no apparent ‘story’ to tell like the stages of hexagram 50, 53 and others.

This hexagram and 20 are paired with their opposites, 33 and 34. There is subtle symmetry to the figures, with 33 and 20 retiring and contemplative and 19 and 34 active and moving forward.

Tying misfortune to a specific date in the future reminds me of an old corporate joke memo: In order to improve margin forecasts from this point forward all employees will report their sick days 90 days in advance.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Hexagram 19 Attendance (Visitation)

Disharmonious elements were eliminated in the course of the preceding hexagram. These were elements that do not match the current time, inherited from ancestors and now useless, doomed to decay. When these relics of the past have been removed there is nothing standing in the way of remaining elements coming together. Just so in cognition when you have freed yourself from outlived preconceived notions then you can get closer to the objective—knowledge. This is called attendance. But one can’t unite with just anything. The opposite situation to this one, fleeing, is such that approaching it will meet with failure. The text places this fleeing in the eighth month of the Chinese calendar. Therefore the eighth month is a metaphor for fleeing. Even if the initial impulses of this time of Attendance benefit from the constancy of the situation a person will still meet with misfortune when the eighth month comes, as it says in the text:

Primordial growth. Steadiness benefits.
On reaching the eighth month there will be misfortune.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Look for a phoenix in the mountains.
Fortunate to consult the Oracle again and to donate or rate.
Lucky eight is unlucky now.

Commentary: In the old days of Second Life there was a rating system for avatars. You could complement someone by rating them highly on their appearance, etc.

[1] In Lagerwey (2015) p. 252, and in the Zuo Traditions, Xiang 12.3(4) and Xuan 12, note 180, this is a term for the lamenting done by those of high office or position. Lower ranking lamentation was wailing, Ku, a term that is not found in the received version of the Yi.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

19 - 8

Following the times in their circuit,
Not missing a beat.
Taking joy with those of like mind,
Not suffering any disasters.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 18-OCT-2017

Hexagram 48, line 5:

九五 井冽。寒泉食。

Old text:

Nine in the Fifth. Clean well. A spring-fed well can be used in winter.

New text:

Nine in the Fifth. The well’s waters are limpid. Drink the cold spring water.

Based on the Mawangdui version of this line I see the motion of the well’s waters as key to the meaning of the text. Springs meet in a well, the water is cold and clean. It can be used by all. Although there is no divining tag I would certainly classify it as fortunate. It does not freeze over in winter because the springs constantly sweep it clear. Just so in life there must be a constant stream of activity to keep the mind clear and our surroundings clean.

The commentaries stress the commonality of the well. All come to get the water and still it is never exhausted.

I have always felt that of all the hexagrams, the one that represents the Yi itself is The Well. What can be better than coming to quench your thirst with the cold, clean water of the Yi?

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

This line is the maximum manifestation of the character of this situation and we find in it a simple citation of the facts:

Strong line in the fifth place.
The well is clean as a cold stream.
They drink (from it).

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


The well has spring water.
Drink and refresh yourself with new ideas.
Go find an island and have a discussion.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

48 - 51

The six wandering souls,[1]
A hundred trees arising.
The three men follow the father,
The three women follow the mother.
At the Shi hour (9 – 11 AM) all return,
Each to their own place.

[1]  The concept of ‘you hun gua’, the wandering souls hexagrams of the Ba Gong Gua system of Western Han Yi Jing erudite Jing Fang. See Nielsen, 2003, p. 314.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 17-OCT-2017

Hexagram 41, line 3:

六三 三人行。則損一人。一人行。則得其友。

Six in the Third. Three people walking. Diminished by one. One person walking finds a friend.

From one angle this line may point out an early use of interpretation of the displacement of lines. If this line changes it produces hexagram 26, with one Yang line separated by two Yin lines from the third position. Thus this hexagram forms a triad with 11 and 26 to show the parent trigrams, Qian and Kun, Heaven and Earth, changing to the youngest trigrams, Dui and Gen, Marsh and Mountain.  

When there are three people, there is a certain group dynamic. There is never a ‘tie game’. There is always a ‘deciding vote’ in the situation. But a third person in a relationship is also a fifth wheel. Ultimately life gives us a choice. Picking the most worthy of these two and befriending them means distancing yourself from the other person in the triangle. This leads to decisive action. Never forget that in early Chinese thinking as in many traditional cultures, Yang predominates. This was practiced in a crude manner in the past, but still has its place in the subtle reality of today because it remains an underlying principle of the world. If there is perfect balance, perfect equality, everything stops. There is no impetus from the creative power of Qian.

This line, received in divination, means that you should carefully consider the identities and trends of the people involved in the situation and move away from one and toward the other.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

To a certain extent the free choice of actions ends at the third line since so much starts to be determined from the outside. So the text here is more of a statement of fact than a piece of advice. To decipher the images of this aphorism we need to take into account that the first two lines here are strong and the third and fifth weak. So in the fifth position the quality of the preceding lines changes. Thus among the three people shown in the aphorism one is of excellent quality. That is why it there are three people and the number is reduced by one. On the other hand, there is the possibility of benevolent influence from the sixth line, since this line corresponds with it. With the above in mind the text can be understood:

Weak line in the third place.
(If) three are walking (they are) reduced by one.
(If) a person walks alone (they) find their friend.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

41 - 48

The Qin lose their power,
The race is to the swift.
Brave men emulate the righteous,
The noble changes his garments.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 16-OCT-2017

Hexagram 42, judgment text:

Hexagram 42

Increase. Beneficial to have somewhere to go. Beneficial to cross the great stream.
The image of this hexagram demonstrates an important principle of life. Life is iterative. We improve by stages, we make mistakes, and correct them. If we are smart, we don’t just learn from our own mistakes, but by watching others, emulating what is good in them and avoiding what is bad.

The text consists only of the name or ‘tag’ of the hexagram and two divining tags, both favoring action and decisiveness.

Here we have the elder pair of the siblings of hexagrams 41 and 42. In 41 we had the youngest son and daughter of the family attributions of the trigrams. Here we have the eldest. As in 11 and 12, it is more auspicious for the male trigram to be below the female so that their naturally tendencies, arising and settling, intermingle. The character is an ancient offertory. It shows a cup in which incense or other material is burned as an offering that rises up. Thus the ideas of gift, rising and offering combine in this character. This is the idea behind the ‘air libation’ to the Ancestors of Zhou Yi Dao. The water or liquor of the offering is left in a cup before the ancestral tablets and evaporates into the air instead of being absorbed by the earth.

We have interlocking concepts here, because this hexagram, with a title showing an offering going ‘up’, conceptually shows benefits raining down from above. Though this hexagram pair was originally probably interpreted simply as omens for sacrificial rites, the Confucian philosophy shows through on the later understanding of the pair. Decrease is excessive taxation, taking from the people to give to the ruler, or in modern parlance the government. Increase comes from the ruler/governor increasing the means of the people. This paradox of reducing taxation to increase government revenue seems lost on many. But it should come as no surprise, we have many instances in early Chinese dialog between rulers and their ministers in which the ruler imposes heavy burdens on the people and ends up impoverishing himself thereby, or worse.

Confucius looked back to the Duke of Zhou as a standard for governance, and thus called for a tax rate of no more than 10%. This fit well with the legendary ‘well-field’ system of communal agriculture. In that scheme a hamlet of eight households would be built in a square pattern with a ninth field in the middle. The field would contain the communal well and would be worked by all the eight surrounding households. The harvest of the well-field would go to the government while the individual households kept all of their grain. The concept is mentioned repeatedly in the corpus of early Chinese literature, but there is some doubt if it was ever widely adopted in Chinese history. Nonetheless, the concept of low taxes and a community that took care of the needs of its residents are part of the fabric of Confucian thinking.

The Image


Wind and Thunder, Increase.
When the noble sees good they strive for it.
When they error they change it.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

Hexagram 42 Augmenting

Part of the message of this hexagram is found in the preceding one. Decreasing the negative adds to the positive. But the positive will not overcome the negative by simply waiting it out. For there to be an augmentation of the good active measures must be taken against the bad. So it is very important here to maintain the constancy mentioned in the previous hexagram. The very essence of the present situation is to use inner constancy to perform great and serious undertakings leading to great changes. In this light we have the text:

Beneficial to have somewhere to go.
Beneficial to ford the great river.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Cross the great stream.
Good omen for business deals.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

42 - 21

Ears perk up like a startled deer,
Running and unable to stop,
The family separates,
Scattering, each fleeing their own way.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 15-OCT-2017

Hexagram 64, line 1:

初六 濡其尾。吝。

Initial Six. Wetting its tail. Dangerous.

A wise person looks to the beginning and to the outcome. Here we have a beginning that is at the end of the Yi. Youth is bold, thinking itself immortal, stepping in the stream to cross on its own. But it is still clumsy, like a young fox who steps in the stream but doesn’t hold its bushy tail aloft and gets it wet.

Immaturity clings when it is not appropriate and lets go when it is cruel to do so.

Learning comes from experience, but when there is risk of permanent harm the situation is dangerous.

Huang Dao Zhou cites Mao 195, verse 5 of the Book of Songs:

Though the state is unsettled some men are wise, some are not;
Though the people are not numerous, some are clever, some are plotting.
Some are respectful, some are forced to obedience.
But we are going on like the stream flowing from a spring;
And will sink together in a common ruin.
                        (Adapted from Karlgren and Legge)

This reminds me of a cartoon I saw recently. A professorial looking figure in a book lined room is telling another one: “Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.”

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

The first position is the beginning of this situation, i.e. the point at which the forces needed are still being worked out and are in short supply. The Book of Changes first stresses that this is a time when a person may strongly regret not having accumulated the forces needed ahead of time because now they have to pass through the chaos without having the strength needed.  Therefore we have only the following:

Weak line at the start.
Wetting your tail.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


You get your tail wet.
Trouble brewing.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

64 - 30

A pearl under covers, a jade in its case,
Purified by humane and virtuous power.
Fitting to send a mission to the Tang nation,[1]
Imposing are the four gates.
The ravenous insects, destroyers of states, cannot act,
Evil and misfortune go into hiding.

[1]  A kingdom in Shanxi associated with the sage king Yao.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 13-OCT-2017

Hexagram 61, judgment text:


Hexagram 61

中孚 豚魚吉。利涉大川。利貞。

Old text:

Captives within. Piglets and fish fortunate. Beneficial to cross the great stream. Beneficial to divine.

New text:

Inner fidelity. Piglets and fish fortunate. Constancy benefits. Beneficial to cross the great stream.  Beneficial to persevere.

The ‘fu’ in zhong fu, the ‘tag’ or name of this hexagram is sincerity/fidelity in modern Chinese (i.e. since the Song Dynasty, parallel in time with our early Renaissance in the west). In the early China of 3,000 years ago when the Zhou Yi was written it meant to capture, usually to capture prisoners in war.

War, hunting, animal husbandry, farming and sacrifice were the keys of living in early China. In addition to the oxen, bullocks, pigs, sheep and dogs raised to be sacrificed there were also offerings of wild game. This hexagram text, in all likelihood, speaks of that. The suckling piglet and fish would be found in the wild, a good omen, then offered to the Spirits. The Mawangdui Yi on Silk uses a different character for fu, one meaning return, producing a name of Inner Return.

Some translators maintain that pigs and fish is a single term, pigfish, a term for river dolphins. So the scene envisioned would be hunting dolphins at the water’s edge with bow and arrow. I’ve never really felt this had sufficient evidence to back it up. 

Putting these various ancient and modern elements together we have a situation that is on the eve of a new enterprise. We compose ourselves, thinking and meditating, we make an offering to the Three Powers of Heaven Earth and the Ancestors, and we proceed.

Huang Dao Zhou quotes the Book of Songs, Mao 235, verse 6:

May you never shame your ancestors,
But rather tend their inward power,
That forever you may be linked to Heaven’s charge
And bring to yourselves many blessings.
                                    (Translation by Waley)

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

Hexagram 61 Inner Truth

Separate individuals arose in the process of Breaking Up. This process was then subjected to Limitation. The individuals thus acquired a certain perseverance. But in order to continue that state of individuality, if it is to be maintained in the true meaning of the word, it must have an inner independence and be filled with inner truth. Thus the previous hexagram gives way to the current hexagram, named Inner Truth. No matter how developed they are, a person must have inner truth. In the language of the Book of Changes, boars and fish are the most stupid and backwards of creatures. Of course, this is just used as the image of a limited person. But even with all those limitations, if they have inner truth they can act on their surroundings. They are capable of great and serious deed if they possess inner truth, and of course they have to persevere, i.e. harmonize external stimuli and internal reactions to those stimuli. It is precisely in harmony with perceptions and stimuli that the great actions here take place. The Book of Changes couches this in the following images:

Inner truth.
(Even) boars and fish have good fortune.
Beneficial to ford the great river.
Perseverance benefits.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Pigs and fishes.
Good fortune.
Cross the great stream.
Fortunate to ask the Oracle again.
Play the drums.

Commentary: In the early days of Second Life playing the Elven drums was a favorite way of chatting. People would sit on a circle of drums that were capable of changing rhythm and listen to the interacting percussion as they talked about this and that.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

61 - 53

Three people set forth,
They travel north to seek their luck.
When the elder’s feet are injured,
The younger shoulder the bags,
And our treasure is not lost.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 12-OCT-2017

Hexagram 30, line 6:

上九 王用出征。有嘉。折首。獲匪其醜。无咎。

Old text:

Nine at the top. The king offers sacrifices for going forth on expedition. The Jia offering is made. Cutting off the heads. Using the captured ringleaders to offer. No blame.

New text:

Nine at the top. The king uses this for going forth. There is praise. Subduing the chiefs. Taking the offending enemy. No blame.

The Jia offering was offered to the ancestors on happy occasions, like the capping (coming of age) ritual and the marriage rite. It is a moment when past, present and future are met together.

Field (2015) associates this line with a specific attack, when King Wen attacked the city of Cheng (see Book of Songs, Mao 241), which he later made the Zhou city of Feng. The character for Feng is the same as the name of hexagram 55, Feng, and several scholars have suggested an association with the city of Feng. If this line changes the resulting hexagram is Feng.

The sixth line is often associated with retiring from the scene. There is such a thing as retiring in obscurity, forgotten by all. This instance is the opposite of that, a retirement in which a person is called back into the limelight to assist the king. Sometimes in business there is a need for bringing back the ‘old dogs’. While it is true as the adage goes that they cannot learn new tricks, they do, literally, remember where all the bones are buried.

The human mind is a work in progress. We live a sheltered existence here in the first world, but we are never more than one major natural disaster away from hunting for food and keeping a look out for tigers in the grass. We are often presented with phantoms from the past that have been built into our minds over the years. This is the irrational, the world of the supernatural and the superstitious. If we take the heads off these phantoms, offering them on the oxymoronic ‘altar of the rational’ we can perceive the world more clearly.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

On the one hand shining radiates outward, destroying the surrounding darkness. On the other hand the uppermost line symbolizes going beyond the boundaries, outside the current situation. So it is quite understandable that in a written in an age of early feudalism the text should be arranged thus:

A strong line at the top.
The king must go forth in a punitive campaign.
There will be joy.
(He should) kill the ringleaders and round up those disloyal to him.
No blame.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Help the governor enforce the rules using radiance.
Only punish hardened crime bosses.
Troubles vanish.

Note: The ‘governor’ refers to the Lindens, the company that created and maintains Second Life.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

30 - 45

A government grows more beastly by the day,
The bollworm eats both bloom and leaf.
Damaged below and devoured above,
They are like bandits,
Leaving the people with nothing.