Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 25-APR-2017

Hexagram 12, line 5:

九五 休否。大人吉。其亡其亡。繫于苞桑。

Nine in the Fifth. Stopping obstruction. For the great man good fortune. It is lost, it is lost. Binding it to the leafy mulberry.

The obstruction has reached its apogee and begins to descend. The bad people are negated, the good have good fortune. The second part of the verse looks like a folk verse. The mulberry was and is a very important tree for China. The silk worms eat mulberry leaves and produce the elegant, warm fabric. This saying may be associated with the ancient practice of attaching talismans to mulberry trees for a happy marriage or affair. The mulberry grove in antiquity, was also a traditional place for assignations.

For the great man good fortune’ is a challenging phrase. At first the enquirer sees the character , good fortune, and is pleased. But there is a condition. This good fortune is only for the ‘great man’. In an ancient context this was simple. If the person asking was in a high position this is a good omen. If they are out of office, in exile, or otherwise not occupying their proper place in society then the good fortune does not apply to them. But what of today? Does the book only speak to kings and nobles? Of course not. At the beginning of its history the Yi, like the oracle bones, was a national oracle. Its use was the prerogative of kings. Over the centuries the nobles started to use it as well, then the lesser nobles, equivalent to knights in western medieval society, then the educated among the common people took it up. In the end even street fortune tellers could use the texts written by and for royalty. But the text still holds this good fortune up only for those who are great. Chinese culture became increasingly meritocratic over the years, noble birth and hierarchical position began a long dance for power with scholars and moral and military heroes. So now life is more complex. You cannot look down at your nametag and say, ‘I’m great, it says so right here’, you have to earn it by great actions.

King Wen showed the way when he was imprisoned by the tyrant Zhou Xin. His position was dire, his life hanging by a thread. According to tradition he turned to the Yi. He sat in the darkness of that place of despair and contemplated the Ba Gua and stacked them up into 64 hexagrams, thus taking human thinking to its next level. His example reaches out to us from that distant and barbarous time. He maintained a principle that Marcus Aurelius would speak of centuries later: “You have been formed of three parts—body, breath and mind. Of these, the first two are yours insofar as they are only in your care. The third alone is truly yours.”

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Here, in a situation of collapse, by developing creative forces to the greatest extent possible one can stop the process of collapse. But this is not something spontaneous. It requires energetic and vigilant intervention. This energy is shown by the nature of the line and place, a light (active) line in the central (culminating) position of the trigram The Creative. According to the norms this position is that of a great man and it is in correct, resonating correspondence with the yielding line in the second place. So the line text speaks of good fortune for the great person who can stop the process of collapse. However the situation is still not safe for the inactive. Collapse is still present, and steps must be taken to prevent the reversal of that collapse from failing. It must be greatly strengthened, which is shown as binding it to the rapidly growing mulberry tree, a plant that cannot be uprooted. Thus cognition, gradually freed of the domination of illusions, can be vigilantly strengthened in order to escape collapse. This is expressed in verse in the original text but is in prose here for clarity of meaning:

Strong line in the fifth place.
Stop the collapse.
The great person has good fortune. (It) would not perish, would not perish!
Fasten (it) to the rapidly growing mulberry.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Stagnation is coming to an end.
Good fortune for the superior avatar.

If you fear it will flee, tie it to a tree.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

12 - 62

A black dragon radiates light,
That which was darkness is now bright.
Using fire hunting to take the great prey,
Raising the six army corps to a great fervor.[1]

[1] According to the Yuan Dynasty edition this verse refers to King Wen coming across his future counsellor Lu Shang while the king was hunting and Lu Shang was fishing.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 24-APR-2017

Hexagram 27, line 1:


Initial Nine. You abandon your sacred turtle and look at me with bulging cheeks. Misfortune.

Turtle plastrons were used for centuries for the most respected form of divination in Shang and Zhou dynasty China,[1] so to turn away from the sacred turtle, a symbol of longevity and wisdom, is foolish. The second phrase is quite obscure and opinions differ, but comes back to the image of something projecting petals out like a flower. When applied to the mouth and jaws this means bulging cheeks, as if the person looking has their mouth full of food.

One gets the sense from this verse that there are parts of the Yi that will forever be locked in their ancient obscurity, references to times and practices forever lost to us. But there is always a way to turn the phrase around and view it in a way that is meaningful for the here and now.

In this instance I see this line as meaning: You turn away from the contemplative life and stuff yourself with food. Misfortune.

Life has placed us in a fortunate age. Humanity has more leisure time and access to powerful knowledge tools than at any time in history. We can use that good fortune to pursue what is worthy and refine the nature of the world or we can squander the time on the meaningless shifting around of crates of goods. The choice is ours.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

This situation does not just show us the jaws themselves, but their activity, their role in nourishment. Thus in the first line we see the subject encouraged to devote their full attention to nourishment. It must be valued above all else in the present situation. We have already had occasion to see that for the authors of the Yi the most valuable thing of all is the oracle’s pronouncements. Turtles were used for certain types of divination in China. Here, to attain nourishment, even the turtle, precious as it is and needed for the oracle, must be set aside. But as mentioned in the overall introduction, the independent action of each individual person continuously plays the most important role in affairs. Thus greedily grasping for possessions cannot lead to anything good. That is why we read in the text:

A strong line at the beginning.
You throw aside your enchanted turtle and, looking at my (good), gape (greedily).

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


You set aside the spiritual and seek earthly pleasure.

[1] The plastron was trimmed to form a flat tablet, polished, and a set of grooves made on the reverse side. A heat source was then touched to the obverse side to form a crack over these grooves and the direction and characteristics of the crack used to answer the inquirer. In some cases inscriptions were added on when the divination was conducted, by whom, and the question or ‘charge’ as it is defined by some. 

Forest of Changes verse for today:

27 - 23 

Feet weakened and unable to walk,
No profit in going out the gates.
A trade with no profits,
Collapse leads to disaster.
(Anxiety about disaster brings happiness later).[1]

[1] This line is not found in the other versions of the verse at 1 - 50, 52 - 32 and 60 - 63.
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 23-APR-2017

Hexagram 32, judgment text:

Hexagram 32

亨。无咎。利貞 。利有攸往。

Old text:

Enduring. Sacrifice. No blame. Divining benefits. An expedition benefits.

New text:

Enduring. Success. No blame. Steadfastness benefits. Going somewhere benefits.

The character Heng shows a heart to the left and a waning moon to the right.

This hexagram and the preceding one are closely paired. Both are full of sexual meanings. In hexagram 31 we have the trigrams of the youngest siblings and here the trigrams of the eldest. The infatuation and passion of hexagram 31 become the long, steady love and interaction of marriage. The text of the judgment itself consists only of divining tags. It seems to me that originally this hexagram may have simply been a positive answer to the enquirer, i.e., if you seek to sacrifice, do so, if you are undertaking an enterprise, pursue it. But with the images of family and marriage attached to hexagram 31 the present hexagram took on its own paired significance.

In the family arrangement of the trigrams this hexagram is one of the two interactions of the eldest son and daughter, the preceding hexagram shows the youngest. To anyone who has experienced the love of youth and the long, steady love of a mature relationship this attribution seems natural. The other pair of hexagrams composed of these hexagrams are another of the ‘turning points’ of the King Wen order of the hexagrams, 41 and 42, Loss and Gain, but more importantly, taking and giving. Love is measured in the long term by what a person is willing to sacrifice for the beloved’s happiness.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Hexagram 32 Constancy

We already touched on the theme of constancy in the fifth line of the preceding hexagram. Without a constant and unbreakable set of laws interaction cannot have the quality of unity. Thus there was an isolated moment in the previous hexagram and that moment here is viewed in the hexagram as a whole: Constancy. In the family symbolism shown in the previous hexagram the current situation shows the constancy of marriage. Constancy is but a stage, however, preparing a person for further action. So in the current situation we must pay attention both to the constancy of the moment and a move to the outside in the future. This is reflected in the trigrams composing this hexagram. Below is Xun, the quality of penetration, including interpenetration. This exhibits the results attained from the preceding hexagram. Zhen, the upper trigram, represents lightning and possessing the quality of the greatest activity. The move outward is manifested by this great activity. But it is precisely in this activity that constancy is needed most. Thus the text of this hexagram’s judgment says:

Perseverance benefits.
No blame.
Beneficial to have somewhere to go.

Note: The lines are out of order in the translation. See above for the original Chinese order.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Help someone.
Look for lucky mice.
Donating or rating is fortunate.
Ask the Oracle again.
Take decisive action.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

32 - 32 

Descended from the Yellow Emperor,
Dwelling in the simple hut of Fu Xi.
War and its weapons find no place,
Beneficial to dwell at home.
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 22-APR-2017

Hexagram 1, line 6:

上九 亢龍有悔。

Nine at the top. Prideful dragon has cause for regret.

I see three aspects in this line, all negative:
1.      A person who is in power exercises that power by occupying a position. If they no longer occupy a position of power but still act as if they are in charge that is misplaced pride.
2.      A person in charge and occupying a position of power who acts arrogantly, putting their own whims ahead of the needs of others and not asking for counsel.
3.      A person with delusions of grandeur, thinking themselves a big fish in a small pond when in truth they are a small frog in a puddle.
Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

The creative process has essentially ended. All that is left is overdevelopment. If creation has attained its full manifestation and there is nothing left to build, then the one who wants to go on building is showing an arrogance they will come to regret. This text speaks of it:

A strong line above.
Arrogant dragon.
There will be regret.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


An arrogant dragon will live to repent it.

Good time to retire from the scene.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

1 - 31

Three people want a tangerine,
They end up with a chestnut instead.[1]
A modest woman brings wealth,
Gold pieces in their hundreds.

[1] Alternate text: ‘They find a cinnabar cave instead’.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 21-APR-2017

Hexagram 35, line 1:

初六  晉如摧如。貞吉。罔孚。裕无咎。

Old text:

Initial Six. Advancing and the enemy line breaks. Divining fortunate. Capturing prisoners in the confusion. Magnanimous and thus without blame.

New text:

Initial Six. Seeming to advance, seeming to be driven back. Rectitude fortunate. Be generous and improve yourself and you will be without blame.

This is another of those lines where the ancient and modern texts differ widely. The old text is purely military. My opinion is that it represents an advance that breaks through the enemy’s line. Others speak of advancing with brandished weapons, cutting down the enemy like a scythe, etc. To my mind breaking through the line fits both from the word used and the position of the line at the bottom of the hexagram…thus the first action of the advance, moving from a position of weakness (weak line in a strong place with a corresponding fourth line that is a strong line in a weak place), to a sudden turnaround. The confident advance here contrasts with the hesitant movements of line four.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

The outward movement is only beginning here in the first line and the arising is not fully visible. It is somewhat indecisive, and thus seems almost like a retreat. This means that less observant people may not notice the advance. Because of this the person represented by this position may not meet with the trust of those around them. However they should view the lack of trust on the part of those around them as something understandable and take a magnanimous attitude toward them. In that case when the present situation passes its subject may be able to brilliantly manifest their external activity. This is why the text says (with some disparities from the text described above, since the translation is interpreted from Ou Yi’s position):

Weak line in the first place.
(If) in advancing and retreating you (remain) steady (there will be) good fortune.
No trust.
(But if one is) magnanimous there is no blame.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


You are turned back by a barrier.
Ask the Oracle again.

Obedience gets more done than words of praise.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

35 - 21

The tail is big and the hips are small,
This tail cannot be wagged.[1]
Weak on top and strong on the bottom,
Yin dominates the male.

[1] Very similar to the expression ‘the tail wags the dog’. Here a metaphor for a minister controlling his ruler.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Happened to the Classic of Music?

From the book (in progress): Zhou Yi Dao, Living the Yi Jing:

The Lost Classic of Music


Among the classics often mentioned in Confucian circles in antiquity is the Classic of Music. Some scholars are surprised that it seems to have been lost without a trace. To my mind its disappearance is easy to explain. Most musicians in early China were blind. A normal book brushed onto bamboo or silk would have been useless to them. However they would have been able to read and write books ‘written’ in knotted strings. This type of record is mentioned in the Yi (Great Treatise, 2:2:13):

In earliest times, knotted cords were used in administration. Later sages changed this, introducing written documents and bonds for regulating the various officials and supervising the people. This may have from Jue (Hexagram 43). Rutt’s translation.

There are other precedents for quite complex information being recorded on knotted strings, notably the quipus of Pre-Columbian South America. String is far less durable than the other media of ancient Chinese writing and archiving, so the Classic of Music, I propose, has been lost for many centuries. However since tombs are sometimes found with objects that are remarkably well preserved perhaps someday we will discover one of these Chinese quipus recording ancient music. (For more see Wheatley, (1971), p. 379).

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 20-APR-2017

Hexagram 57, judgment text:

Personal note: I asked a specific question for a friend here, and of all the texts the one from Second Life actually applied perfectly, even though it is the one least faithful to the original text.

Hexagram 57
小亨。利有攸往 。利見大人。
Old text:

Penetrating. Sacrifice. Beneficial to have somewhere to go. Beneficial to see the great man.

Old text:

Penetrating. Sacrifice. Beneficial to have somewhere to go. Beneficial to see the great man.

This repeated trigram hexagram is the principle of Xun. It is usually called penetrating because both of the root associations of Xun, wind and wood, are penetrating in nature. Winds gets in and under everything, penetrating even the water to raise it into ripples and waves. Wood penetrates the ground with its roots.

In the Yi Jing on Silk of the Han Dynasty this hexagram is called Calculations, which makes much more sense in the line texts, so I am using that as the translation within this hexagram text.

It can be said that there are two kinds of gradual change, a sea change and a wind change. We have all seen things that have been at the ocean’s bottom for a long time. The phrase first appeared in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.

To see a wind change, look to the desert. Years of wind carving the stones with their own grit create fantastical shapes and whole regions are transformed. That is the action here, small, imperceptible progress that ends up transforming all.

The line texts have images of hunting and decision making. Hunting in early China, when performed by a ruler or senior noble, was a military exercise. The same maneuvers used in the hunt, communication across a wide area, beaters driving the game, etc., would be employed in war. Several references are made to divination within the hexagram. Again, this ties it to hunting and war, two items that were frequent subjects of inquiry in the oracles bones used for important questions (the Yi was at that time more of a backup oracle, asked after cracking the bones to check or amplify the result). Important decisions were made using divination, the ‘analog’ method of cracking a tortoise shell and interpreting the lines formed and the yarrow stalk method, a ‘digital’ approach that would involve calculations, and we see two figures from ritual practice here in the second line.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Hexagram 57 Penetration

When traveling a person enters many new places. That aspect of the preceding hexagram, entering or penetrating, is seen here as an isolated element. Thus the hexagram is called penetration. Penetrating foreign substance must be gradual, so the development here must be small. However, once established firmly, the person shown here can go on to a desired meeting with someone the Book of Changes terms ‘the great man’. The small entering in is shown in the image of the trigram, which is repeated here to form the hexagram. A dark line is below two light ones. In the Book of Change’s technical terminology dark lines indicate the small and light lines the great. Since the motion in figures here is from the bottom line to the top this shows us the penetration of something weak and insignificant. Such a thing can only be soft and yielding. Those are precisely the terms used about the trigram Xun in the commentaries. Thus we find the following standard aphorisms in the text:

Development to the small.
Beneficial to have somewhere to go.
A meeting with the great man benefits.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:

When wind blows the grass bends.
Success from many small, patient efforts.
Gradually taming a tiger.

Seek the great avatar.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

57 - 57

Pines and cypresses on the warm mountain,
Their needles not falling all the year round.
The Luan bird[1] and phoenix dwell there,
Taking their pleasure.

[1] A form of phoenix with five-toned plumage.

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