Monday, May 22, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 22-MAY-2017

Hexagram 41, line 5:

六五 或益之十朋之龜。弗克違。元吉。

Old text:

Six in the Fifth. Increased by a ten string turtle. It cannot be turned away. Great good fortune.

New text:

Six in the Fifth. Someone increases by ten pairs of tortoise shells. They cannot be denied. Primordial good fortune.

The description here of ten pairs of turtles is a relatively modern view. The old text translation is cast in the light of the oracle bones that have been available to scholars since 1899. These bones, many of which are turtle plastrons, are inscribed with the earliest written characters of China, Jia Gu Wen, oracle bone language. Many of the divinations performed on the plastrons are asked in a positive/negative form, i.e. X will happen/X will not happen, with questions on opposite sides of the shell’s surface. But I am not aware of readings split across pairs of shells. We can’t really say that paired shells were not used in reading, but to my knowledge the oracle bone record doesn’t back it up. Thus I believe the original ‘pair’ here is not the turtle shells, but the strings of cowrie shell money that would be used as a unit to give the value of a large and rare turtle shell.

There are a couple of minor differences between the old and next text based on Mawangdui Yi Jing on Silk. The ‘someone’ is missing in that text and a different character is user for reject, one that is more literally ‘turn away’.

The role of the turtle in Chinese culture and tradition is formidable. It was on the back of a great turtle that Fu Xi, the founding sage and figure of legend, first saw the trigrams of the Yi. The turtle is extremely long lived (some species live more than 200 years), so they represent longevity and the potential for eternal life on earth, a strong ‘meme’ in Chinese belief systems. And yet there is a flip side to this image of the sacred and numinous turtle…the sexual images of the turtle. Due to the peculiarities of anatomy the penis of a turtle is disproportionally long. Also, the head and neck of a turtle easily suggest the male member. So in colloquial Chinese there are many expressions using the term turtle that involve cuckolding and other sexual concepts. Also, one of the greatest insults in Chinese is to call someone a turtle egg, since turtles bury their eggs on the beach and walk away, not even looking back. Thus the insult is like calling someone a bastard to the Nth degree, not only abandoned by their father but even by their mother. So in modern times we have a mix of the sacred and profane in one animal. In antiquity we also have a mix of practices. On the one hand we have the sacred tortoises raised in the courts of nobility for divination (the plastron of the turtle was prepared and then hot objects used to form cracks on the surface that were interpreted). On the other we have turtles included in the standard list of food items taken from nature by the peasantry and nobility alike (see for instance the incident in Duke Xuan 4th year: Par. 3 of the Zuo Traditions).

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:
The first thing that must be understood about this line text is that the first phrases of the text were added at a very late date and by mistake,[1] and belong in the second line of the next hexagram, as reflected in the most ancient layers of commentary literature. Here, since this text was confirmed only in the late commentaries and we can only see it as anticipation for developments in the next position. The turtle was used in divination in ancient China, which was a sacred cult animal and considered very valuable. So the image of such a turtle is used in this text that speaks of automatic manifestation of the best aspects of a person’s actions. But it is only by consciously tamping down a person’s egotistic character traits that these good aspects can be revealed. Thus we can only conditionally accept the text of the fifth line as it exists, as follows:

Weak line in the fifth place.
Able to multiply that (in which there is a lack) with a turtle, the oracle of which (costs) 10 strings (of cash).
Its indications cannot be disregarded.
Primordial good fortune.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


The next person you meet will answer your question beyond all doubt.
Great good fortune.

[1] I don’t agree with Shchutskii here. There are several instances of repeated texts in the Yi, and some of them occur between hexagrams, often, as here, linking the corresponding positions in the two hexagrams. I see no evidence of this being an error and the image text of this line does not point to a different text from the received one. 

Forest of Changes verse for today:

41 - 5

The rivers and streams,
Run east to the sea.
I take all I own,
And buy carp and bream.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 21-MAY-2017

Hexagram 58, judgment text: 

Hexagram 58

Old text:
Pleasure (Seizing). Sacrifice. Divining beneficial.
New text:
Success. Sincerity benefits.
With a four-character judgment and a total of 42 characters, Dui4 is the shortest hexagram of the Yi. The judgment text here consists solely of divining tags, so it is possible part of the original text was lost in antiquity. The hexagram is missing from some of the most ancient and fragmental copies of the Yi available such as the Shanghai Museum text, but is present in the Ma Wang Dui Yi Jing on Silk. There the title is different, and ‘small’ is added: “Seizing. Sacrifice. Small benefit from divining.
The nature of rejoicing, celebrating and demonstrating joy makes me think of a phrase from this Analect, one that has a lot of key rules for the practitioner of Zhou Yi Dao:
[10-6] 食不厭精、膾不厭細。食饐而餲魚餒而肉敗、不食。色惡不食、臭惡不食。失飪不食、不時不食。割不正不食、不得其醬、不食。肉雖多、不使勝食氣。唯酒無量、不及亂。沽酒、市脯、不食。不撤薑食、不多食。祭於公、不宿肉。祭肉、不出三日、出三日、不食之矣。食不語、寢不言。雖疏食、菜羹、瓜 22 祭、必齊如也。

[10:6] When he ate he was not averse to refined rice, nor to finely minced meat. He would not eat rice that was rancid or had gone rotten, nor fish and meat that had spoiled. He would not eat food that that had a bad color or smell; he would not eat food that that was not cooked to the proper level, or which was out of season; nor would he eat food that was not properly sliced, or did not come with the appropriate condiments. Even if there was a lot of meat, he would not eat it greater quantity than rice. It was only wine with which he did not limit himself, but at the same time, he never lost control of himself. He would not drink wine or eat dried meat that came from the marketplace. He would not refrain from eating food with ginger, but he would not overdo it. When there was a sacrifice for the ruler, he would not keep the meat overnight. As for sacrificial meats in general, he would not keep them more than three days, and if they were more than three days old, he would not eat them. He did not chat while eating, and did not talk after retiring. No matter what kind of simple fare it might be, such as coarse rice or broth, he would always make an offering, doing so with due solemnity. (Translation by A. Charles Miller).

So the Master set limits on food, some very specific limits on the meat from sacrifices apportioned to him according to his governmental rank, but did not limit his wine…and never got ‘wake up in Vegas married to a prostitute’ drunk. When he was eating, he would eat, when he was sleeping he would sleep. There is very much of a ‘be here now’ element in this passage. Life is full of joy and sorrow. We set certain rules for ourselves and try our best to follow them, neither being overly strict (hexagram 60, judgment text), nor lax and foolish (hexagram 56, line 6). When we rejoice, we should rejoice, just as the Master ate and slept without distraction. We should drink/smoke to enhance the moment…but not to the point of losing control. There are many, many implications for ritual and life in general in this passage and I recommend it to your study.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Hexagram 58 Joy

If penetration achieves a certain goal, then a person gets great satisfaction from it. This satisfaction leads to experiencing joy. On the one hand joy is concerned with self-satisfaction, but on the other it can easily lead to dispersion. Thus this hexagram shows the process a person experiences after they have attained to a state of joy. The key is for that joy not to remain with the person themselves, but spread to those around them. Otherwise, locked in themselves, they will abuse the oy attained from the previous stage. The joy here must be developed and spread. This is only possible if a person doesn’t give themselves over totally to joy, consciously making sure that their actions are correct and sharing the joy with others. In that light we read in the text:


Perseverance furthers.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

58 - 58

The horses are set out to pasture, the army returns home,
Resting from its exhausting efforts.
The men are happy at last,
Entering their homes and seeing their wives.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 20-MAY-2017

Hexagram 3, line 2:

六二 屯如邅如。乘馬班如。匪寇婚媾。女子貞不字。十年乃字。

Six in the Second.

Here we have passed by the initial difficulties of line one…and encounter others. The image, as in the fourth and sixth lines, is of the horses not moving. In this instance one of the translators of the Yi (Stephen Field), associates the line with the old folk tradition of abducting the bride. This was done in China as well as the Caucasus and other places in the world. The groom’s friends would disguise themselves as bandits and descend on the bride’s carriage, carrying her off to her husband’s house. Thus the phrase ‘They are not bandits, but come to wed her’. I have always been curious about the term ’10 years’.

This hexagram represents the very start of things. Think back to when you were just starting out, whether it was at your first job or the start of college. The first line shows hesitance and indecision, something within you, but here outside factors are felt. Bad influences try to pull you off your path. It may take ‘ten years’ (in other words a long time) to wait it out, but you get back to a productive path.

The images of this hexagram are based on a sprout emerging into the world. The sprouts that you see have already struggled to come up through the ground. Once they come into the light other plants may overshadow them or the ground nearby seem richer and more inviting than their own soil. But the plant, simple being though it is, has goals. It reaches for the sun, grips the land with its roots and grows, hoping to not merely survive, but thrive and reproduce.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Outwardly all seems well for this line. The position is central in the lower trigram, showing a benevolent balance and occupying an even numbered place as a weak line as well as corresponding to the strong fifth line—all correct. But the immediacy of the neighboring first line is still felt, and that line is the leading line of the hexagram. It holds back the second line from the ‘marriage’ with the fourth. Thus, though the first line has no negative elements in it, for the second line it takes on the role of a robber. The second line, with the honor it holds as a central line, is a ‘girl’ does not give in to the ‘bandit’s’ proposal for marriage. She perseveres, waiting whatever time it takes for the match with the corresponding with whom she is properly matched. In thinking this is that first moment after self-realization when there needs to be a period of time before taking on the direct object of cognition in depth. This is shown in the following images:

Weak line in the second place.
In difficulty and indecision horses and wagon part!
No wedding will be had with a bandit.
(But) the girl steadfastly refuses the engagement. In ten years there will be an engagement.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Building up the earth into a mound.
Go riding, and prepare for war. Look for knights.
A seeming rogue seeks a wedding.
Too early for children.
Wait till the time.

Then have children.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

3 - 60

Many spirits gathered in assembly,
Speaking together about the affairs of man.
Tyranny brings the southern country into chaos,
The people are distressed.
An army arises and sets forth,
A worthy ruler takes the throne.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 19-MAY-2017

Hexagram 55, judgment text:

Hexagram 55




Old text:

Abundance. Sacrifice. The king approaches it. Without worries. Appropriate to the sun at the apex.

New text:

Apogee. Success. The king approaches. No worries. Be like the sun at noon.

This hexagram could just as easily be called ‘Apogee’. In colloquial terms I would call it ‘living large’, and indeed one of the meanings of the term feng is large. It is one of the most discussed hexagrams in the west because it contains the tale of an eclipse. Some commentaries (Field, 2015, for instance), take an entirely different tack and read the reference to the sun as ‘something in the middle of the sun’. This is carried a step further by speaking of a reference in Needham to sandstorms that formed such a powerful filter to the sun that sunspots were visible on its surface. I don’t agree, but pass it along because it certainly is an interesting conjecture.

The hexagram also may refer to Feng, the Zhou city established by King Wen in Shaan Xi. Other meanings from the rich history of this word include abundance, a sacrifice of food and drink, a frontier, and many secondary meanings.

Feng shows us the top rung of the ladder. High noon. And at noon, there is only one direction for the Sun to go. When a triumph was held in ancient Rome a slave walked behind the triumphant general, whispering to him that all men die. It is a key philosophical point of Yi Dao that when we are at the top we remember the bottom. When we are safe we do not become complacent. All is change, so if you are at the apogee, as here, it is a time to enjoy a triumph and also to acknowledge that nothing lasts forever.

Line 2 is in a close relationship with line five here. Both of them are auspicious, but both have challenges to face before realizing the auspiciousness of the circumstances. In the second line we have a person who is ‘hiding their light under a bushel’, concealing themselves behind a screen. We also have the image of a total eclipse, a situation in which the pole star can be seen during the day. The person shown is in a Yin position and the line is Yin, it is also central, but its corresponding line at five is Yin as well. So the two Yin lines need to work together to help the Yin in the fifth line accomplish its duties. When the person in the fifth line calls on them to assist, the person in the second line will be able to use their talents and abilities to bring the situation to a good conclusion.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Hexagram 55 Abundance

A goal was attained in the preceding hexagram. The wedding was celebrated. The household was established. If that home was established in keeping with the prevailing demands of life then there will be abundance, and that is the current situation, a cup overflowing with plenty. Indeed, a pictographic analysis of the character Feng shows a ritual vessel filled to the brim. However fullness and abundance only function in a dynamic. Even if the king who rules over such a house should approach there is nothing to fear, because the house is truly full. This fullness must not stop at one house. It must be spread out over all homes, like the sun, standing at the center of its path, radiates its light to all surrounding space, like the abundance of this hexagram, which must spread to all. That’s why the text says:

The king approaches him.
Do not be uneasy.
The sun must be at the center (of its path).

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


You have freely received, now freely give.
Be like a king, be like the noontime sun.

At the apex, remember twilight.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

55 - 1

Virtuous power as steady as the feet of a tripod,
Good counsel inviting good fortune.
A king establishes a court with freedom of opinions,
Thereby attaining heartfelt goals.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 18-MAY-2017

Hexagram 35, line 6:


Nine at the top. Advancing your horns. Directing them at your own city. Danger and good fortune. No blame. Omen of regret.
Here we have another instance of a ‘good fortune outlier’. In statistics and data display there is the outlier. One data point that is well outside the typical ranges of the other data. That is the case here, with the divining tags ‘good fortune’ and ‘no blame’ right in the middle of tags for ‘dangerous’ and ‘regrettable’. Some interpret this as dangerous, but leading to good fortune. Overall, though, the sixth position is one in which good times are in the past and it is time to clean up and get the place ready for a successor. The position represents the retired king or the exiled one.

There were many instances of rebellion during the Zhou Dynasty, and one of the most notable, and no doubt most painful, is when several siblings of King Wen broke away in rebellion. Father to son succession was a novelty at the time, and when a monarch died his place would usually be taken by an uncle or brother, not a son, so the success of King Wu’s son, King Cheng, may have pushed them into rebellion. After all, Wu had proven his worth by continuing his father’s alliance building and conquering the Shang. But Cheng was a small child, and the Duke of Zhou, his uncle and their brother, no doubt appeared in their eyes to be usurping power for himself. It was that same Duke of Zhou who went east to tamp down the rebellion. This is an instance of using your horns on your own city, and perhaps that explains the bittersweet back and forth of the divining tags here. Everything is full of danger and difficulty, but ultimately one has to take the steps needed to police your own people and ‘clean house’. After that the dynasty is firmly established and progress can be made. But in the end, there is still regret that it had to end this way, with members of a family punishing one another.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Since the top line of the top hexagram is strong (the strongest manifestation of external radiance) it has the most characteristics of radiance, and it is thus that although sixth lines are usually unfavorable this one is not. But the radiance manifested is completely lacking in substance. As something that is at once at the very outer edge and protruding into the outside it is symbolized by horns. They can be shown outside, but only externally. And thus here we have external clarity and internal obscurity. So a person’s powers suffice here to accomplish something, but they are far short of the great generosity shown in the previous position. And so the generally favorable nature of this position (in the context of the present hexagram) is shown thus in the text:

A strong line above.
Thrusting out your horns only in order to punish (your own) town.
(The situation) is terrible (but) leads to good fortune.
No blame.
Perseverance is regrettable.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Put horns on your head and scare your neighbors.
Danger, but no trouble.

Persevere, but do not be overbearing.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

35 - 16

The moths and worms on the mulberry leaves,
The cloth as full of holes as a net.
The women cannot complete the weaving,
The silk has become as expensive as jade.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 17-MAY-2017

Hexagram 40, line 4:

九四 解而拇。朋至斯孚。

Old text:

Nine in the fourth. Releasing the thumbs. Friends bring prisoners.

New text:

Nine in the fourth. Releasing the thumbs. Friends bring trust.

As in many other places, the text here is puzzling. In what circumstances are the thumbs tangled? I can understand the concept of friends in the old text bringing prisoners to another noble to be sacrificed, but in the new text we have them bringing trust or sincerity. That sounds odd.

Some (including Shchutskii) translate the first phrase as releasing the toes, but both the text and the position back up ‘thumbs’. If this line were the first it would be appropriate symbolism to choose the meaning of big toes. As often happens in Chinese a single word can be interpreted various ways.

Gao Heng casts the whole line in a different light, with the term for thumb or toe replaced by an old term for hunting nets instead. His version is plausible, but hangs on a couple of variant characters that don’t appear in the early silk and bamboo versions of the Yi:

There are men laying out nets for game.
There is a great beast in the net.
Pulling to escape the net.
Friends come to help so there is a capture.

It very neatly recounts a consistent story of the hunt.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

Here the fourth line is concerned in the main with actions taken to counter the negative effects of the preceding third line. This is hardly feasible in isolation. But since there is an indication of assistance by the neighboring fifth line the text says:

Strong line in the fourth place.
Resolve (the paths on) your big toes.
A friend comes and in him (there will be) truth.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Stubbing your toe.

Acquire something and give it to a friend.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

40 - 7

Pushing a wheelbarrow up the mountain,
Not up to the task,
Tripping and stumbling,
This makes our heart suffer.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 16-MAY-2017

Hexagram 55, line 2:


Old text:

Six in the Second. Enlarging the mat screens. The Dipper seen at noon. An unknown ailment caught on a journey. The prisoners seem to overflow. Good fortune.

New text:

Six in the Second. Enlarging the screens. The Dipper seen at noon. Journeying meets with doubt and emnity. Emanating sincerity. Good fortune.

At the height of an eclipse the sky can be seen as it is at night, the stars visible. In the time the Yi was written, with no light pollution, the sight would have been stunning, the full richness of the night sky. In China, as in other cultures, an eclipse was viewed as a major omen, a turning point. Lacking any scientific explanation of the phenomenon there was always that moment of doubt: Will the Sun come back…or will it be night forever and we will all die?

The Dipper was a key asterism in early China, taking the symbolic place of the Sun in the night sky.

The term used to describe the mat is not just a floor mat, but a structure of mats. A hut covered by a canopy. There is much here that is in the realm of the unknown and the conjectured. Was this structure thrown up as the eclipse began? Was it an observation tool, with an opening to let the sun shine through onto a surface? After all, staring into the sun was just as blinding then as now, so tools may have been used to observe.

As usual there is a gulf between the old text ‘prisoners’ and the new text ‘sincerity’. It would be an interesting study to find at what point the newer meaning attached itself to the word. There are explanations of Yi texts dating to at least as early as the Warring States, perhaps the Spring and Autumn period that already make use of the newer meaning.

The line shares several phrases with the fourth, which is an unusual pairing. Both are fortunate, but this line has more troubling elements. In fact, it is hard to reconcile doubt and enmity or an unknown ailment with good fortune.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

The second line shows the internal manifestation of a given phenomenon, whereas the fourth line shows the first steps of moving that phenomenon outside. So there is correspondence between these two positions and they are occupied by different types of line as well, which underscores the lack of correspondence. So the fourth, strong line forms a kind of obstacle to the weak second. This is the type of obstacle that surrounds a person when they have only just found the bountiful powers within themselves. The image used here is a person surrounding themselves with curtains. The curtains in the language of the Book of Changes represent doubts; both doubts about the self and about taking action. Acting hesitantly calls forth the suspicion and hatred of those nearby. So when the curtains are so thick that the darkness is like that of the night, when Ursa Major is to be seen one should strive with all one’s strength to reveal inner truth because that is the only way to overcome the doubts from others and act, sharing their plenty. If that opening of internal truth happens there will be a happy result. So we find in the text:

Weak line in the second place.
Making your curtains (so) plentiful (that) Ursa Major is seen during the day.
(If) you go forth you meet with doubt and hatred.
(If) you have the truth, be open.
Good fortune.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


A private club, a privileged home.
Soon not even the sun can find you.

Open up.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

55 - 34

Stabbing the sheep improperly,
The woman holds an empty basket. [1]
The rabbit limps, the deer is lame,
In climbing a mountain, it is easy to fall.

[1]  See note on 17 - 52.

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