INSIDE A YIJING READING
PART 2: THE ANCIENT TEXT
What can you expect from a detailed Yijing reading?
Yijing is often refered to as a book, but it did not look like one in the past. One of the oldest known version of Yijing is the Mawangdui Silk Text, and yes, it was written in silk instead of paper.
In the Han Dynasty (about 2,000 years ago) Yijing became not just a book, but as a jing 經, or a Confucian classic, while Yi 易 literally means “change”. As one of the official canons of the dynasty, and used as a book of divination, it has since become the Yijing (or I Ching) 易 經 we all know today.
Yijing as text
Every hexagram has a set of texts, and they are all a good source of insight in every reading:
- Hexagram Name
- Line statements
1 Hexagram Name
Yijing translator Bradford Hatcher describes guaming 卦名 or hexagram name as the core meaning of the gua. To me, it is like how a brand name name works, together with its logo. The Hexagram Name is the brand name, while hexagram symbol itself is the logo.
The name reveals the meaning, much similar to how a title of a book gives us a glimpse of its content, even though we are not yet started reading it.
Tuan 彖 is often translated as Judgment, the statement that accompanies a Hexagram. (Sometimes, I thought of the word as quite “judgmental”.) But sinologist Bent Nielsen* translated it more appropriately as decision remarks, as this particular text is really an important statement that informs decision-making. Add to that, Nielsen quoted ancient Yijing scholar Liu Huan (434-489) :
Tuan means decision, it decides the power of hexagram.Liu Huan
This particular text tells us what the hexagram is all about, and it can also provide enough details about your decision, or the situation you are facing. In my mind, tuan is similar to a research abstract that summarizes a scientific study, or a blurb that briefly describes what the book is all about. Both can help you decide to continue reading the entire content.
Xiang Zhuan 象傳 or the Overall Image is a Confucian commentary on each hexagram and the trigrams that create them. Nielsen notes that this commentary is a “series of moral deliberations concerning the nobleman and former kings.”
In most hexagrams, the Image starts with this line: “The noble one…” and followed by a particular action. The noble one is the junzi 君子, also translated as “the gentleman”. While ancient Chinese is male-centric, I believe junzi also applies to women, and to all human beings regardless of gender, who can always be a role model and epitome of good.
Having said this, I think the point of the Image is to provide a clear and wise instruction on how to conduct oneself and take personal responsibility over one’s situation, and to uphold what is already good.
4 Line Statements
Each hexagram has 6 lines. These lines are generated in a reading from bottom up. All these lines have corresponding insight, called line statements or yaoci 爻辭. When a line is changing (meaning, when a broken line becomes a straight line, or reverse), it becomes relevant in your reading.
Here are some of the verbs associated or ascribed to each line:
|Line 6||evaluate, reflect, let go|
|Line 5||decide, take action, respond|
|Line 4||support, help, put effort|
|Line 3||risk, danger, weigh in|
|Line 2||review, focus, understand|
|Line 1||beginning, first step, groundwork|
Again, just like the trigrams, lines have a wide variety of associations, which makes your reading even more richer and relevant. Thus, a line statement makes more sense in response to your inquiry. It represents a certain stage or milestone of your situation, so you can understand why things happen and discern your right action.
Adding all these up
Yijing as a text can be too intimidating for many, as it is composed of texts that are too cryptic and poetic for a general reader. Still, I am hopeful that my modest introduction helps you and other readers figure out how Yijing reveals the simplicity of the method, the beauty of symbols and the practicality of the text.
In part 3, I will demonstrate all these reading elements in an actual reading, so you can get a good glimpse on how a reading takes place.
*Bent Nielsen, A Companion to Yi jing Numerology and Cosmology (2002), Routledge