Read I Ching text version

I Ching

Fall, 2009 Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:30-6:50 Ron Kidd, facilitator 4900 N. Marine Dr., 306 Chicago IL 60640-3959 e-mail: [email protected]

A truly extraordinary text, "the Zhouyi [the oldest core of the I Ching] is incontestably

the most important work of China's long cultural history . . . . The Yijing [I Ching] has been, with the Bible, the most read and commented upon work in all of world literature" (Edward Shaughnessy, professor of ancient Chinese literature, University of Chicago). But among the Chinese classics, the I Ching [or Yijing] stands dauntingly alone. It is baffling, yet it has been provided with commentary after commentary long after the original meaning of the core lines was lost. "Perhaps no single work in Chinese history has elicited more interest from scholars and laymen alike down through the ages. . . . A comprehensive survey of scholarly material from the Han dynasty through the 17th century, lists 2,050 works on the Changes, at least 500 of which are full commentaries" (Michael Nylan, The Five Confucian `Classics,' 204, 206). It is of all Chinese books arguably the most uniquely Chinese, yet it was adopted by the Western Jungian psychologists and the Sixties more generally to become probably the Chinese classic most relied upon by Westerners in recent memory. Again citing Michael Nylan, "Outside China, the Changes is without doubt the best-known Chinese book, in addition to being the most familiar of the five classics. Beginning with Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716) and continuing through Carl Jung (1875-1961) and Joseph Needham (1900-1995), the work has had considerable influence on intellectuals in Europe and America, who have mined it for alternate theories of structural change in the natural world" (ibid.). Predating the great Chinese philosophical schools, the I Ching has nevertheless been taken up by one of the least likely, the Confucian, and given a philosophical elaboration centuries after the original--thereby raising it to the status of a recognized "classic" [ching, jing]. It is also the closest thing in Chinese history to a religious or sacred text. "The Changes in its successive phases of composition was thought to reflect the entire history of antique Chinese sagehood, from its first culture hero [Fu Xi] down to Confucius himself" (Nylan, op. cit., 202, 204). Even though the ancient meaning of the hexagram and line statements was lost by the 7th century BCE, commentators took it as obvious that the text carried supreme meaning and stunning pertinence to contemporary situations; they set out to find and articulate it. Based particularly on the "Commentary on the Appended Phrases" (sometimes simply called the "Great Commentary"), the Changes was believed to contain

the very patterns of change in the universe. Since classic Chinese philosophy took the hidden patterns in the unseen and visible worlds to be natural, necessary, and moral, "the Changes represents a repository of all the key patterns needed for full human development . . . ." Thanks to the Changes, the seeker can "'ride' the positive cosmic energies that exist equally in the universe and in human beings' moral [and social] nature" (Nylan, 208). The text provides unparalleled access to the very movements of the cosmos and human history, and thus manifests not only unquestioned authority, but also a "quality of mysterious holiness" (Nylan, 204).

We will open the text in its developed form, composed of, first, the Zhou-yi,

second, the Confucian "Ten Wings" providing metaphysical ballast, and, third, a commentary by a brilliant young philosopher of the 3rd century CE, Wang Bi--our "text" than spans some 11 centuries. We will spend about half the course studying the materials from which that text is made, including attempts to reconstruct the 9th c. BCE text. In the other half of the course we will pose questions to the text and thus use it, as it has been used in China for centuries. In these classes, in place of a protocol, students will bring questions-- institutional, like success or failure of the Obama administration, the Chicago Olympics, Shimer's new Chicago identity, as well as personal questions like will I be happy and productive in grad school? --and cast "yarrow stalks." The hexagram and line text signaled will provide the text for reading and discussion in the following class, along with whatever light the corresponding version in the "original" Zhou-I may bring. Will these lines (like "You set aside your numinous tortoise shell and watch me move my jaw instead: this means misfortune" and "If one bears a burden on his back and yet also rides in a carriage, it will attract robbers to him") answer our questions? What are we--and centuries and centuries of Chinese scholars--doing to make them meaningful? What's the point of the rather long and intricate casting of yarrow stalks? Do fortunetelling manuals have any purpose? Does their use provide a kind of Rorschach ink-blot test and tell more about the user than the future? How has this become "incontestably the most important work of China's long cultural history"?


The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as interpreted by Wang Bi. Translated by Richard John Lynn. Columbia University Press, 1994. 0-231-08294-0. The Book of Changes (Zhouyi) Translated by Richard Rutt. Curzon Press, Ltd., 1996. 0-7007-0467-1

Edward Shaughnessy. The Composition of the Zhouyi. University Microfilms, 1983. Excerpts. . Richard Alan Kunst. The Original "Yijing": A Text, Phonetic Trancription, Translation and Indexes. University Mictofilms, 1985. Excerpts.


1. Discussion, of course, is the substance of learning at Shimer. Some corollaries follow: first, attendance counts--the configuration of discussion changes as those present and absent change. Second, careful preparation ensures the value of the discussion time for all involved. The quantity of pages in each reading in this course will occasionally be substantial but certainly far from massive--the issues sounded by the text call for time to ponder. It will be important to make time to see clearly just what is being said and what that could possibly mean. Third, while it is in the nature of things that some students will contribute more than others, those who prefer to remain silent cause all of us to miss their insights and contributions (even questions and confusions contribute!) and thus dilute the very learning process to which we are committed. 1. To facilitate the process of discussion, we shall depend on class presentations, including both short papers (usually more than one page and less than three full pages) and oral presentations of divination results. Papers should be designed to launch our conversation generally by lifting out highlights in the text and exploring some of their implications by questions, by suggestions, by analysis. Please include in each written statement no fewer than three explicit references to texts plus comments, questions, etc. on each. (Note that this is not a paragraph or two presenting a single topic from the reading in order to jump-start the class's discussion.) Oral presentations should explore the hexagram and hexagram line statement given in your casting of yarrow stalks and how they may be seen to respond to your question. Failure to prepare and present material on the day for which you volunteer will be seriously reflected not only in the grade for the protocol but in your evaluation for the whole course. It is a basic breach of your role. 2. There will be a final paper from six to ten pages in length. It is to have two parts: (1) the first exploring some facet of the I Ching in which you revisit background material and reflect upon it in light of the whole course, especially our experience with divination; (2) a divination. What I look for (and grade) in the paper is (1) serious review of the pertinent material, and (2) a more sophisticated reading thanks to our work together during the semester.

Procedures and policies

1. Absences.--Three absences are permitted. More than three absences will make you subject to mandatory withdrawal. After the withdrawal date, you will face the choice of submitting a short paper for each class missed or receiving an F for the course. 2. Deadlines a. You are expected to present focus statements and oral presentations on the date for which you volunteer. If you are incapacitated, find someone to switch dates with you or, in the case of a paper, someone to copy and present the paper you have prepared. To do this is your responsibility. The penalty for missing a class presentation is to submit one in writing within two classes after the one missed; you shall also receive no grade for the class presentation. b. The deadline for the final paper will be determined in class. No paper will be accepted after that date. . 3. Housekeeping a. Lateness obviously disrupts conversation; excessive lateness--in minutes or in frequency--will count as an absence. b. Eating is not permitted in classrooms. c. Please take care of biological needs between classes; leave a class during discussion only in emergency. 4. Evaluations a. class discussion: 50% b. class presentations: 25% c. final paper: 25%


Aug. 31 Sept. 2 Rutt, 5-25 (Bronze Age China), 26-41 (The History of a Book) Rutt, 44-52, 57-59 (The Fascination of Zhouyi), 83-90, 97-105, 114-126 (Contents of Zhouyi)) Labor Day Rutt, 126-144 (Contents, cont.), 145-152 (Divination), Lynn, 5-9 incl. The Commentary, part one: Lynn, 47-74. The Commentary, part two: Lynn, 75-101 Lynn, "Introduction," 10-18; Wang Bi's "General Remarks," Lynn, 25-46. Hexagrams 1 and 2: Lynn, 129-151. Zuozhuan, Rutt, 173-179 (3 narratives) Hexagrams 3, 7, 14, 30 in Lynn; Zuozhuan, Rutt, 179-184, incl. (4 narratives) Hexagrams 36, 48, 49, 55 in Lynn, Zuozhuan, Rutt, 185-189 ( " ) Divinations--Rutt, 157-162; texts in Lynn to be determined; Zuozhuan, Rutt, 189-194 Divinations; Zuozhuan, Rutt, 194-197 Divinations. Guoyu, Rutt, 198-201. Shaughnessy, Composition of the Zhouyi, Hexagrams 50, 52, 53, 25 (pp. 177-182, 186-188, 189-195, 196-201). Compare with Lynn. Shaughnessy, Hexagrams 51, 36, 40, 7 (pp. 202-210, 221-227, 228-231, 236-238). Compare with Lynn. Shaughnessy, Hexagrams 54, 11-12, 63-64 (pp. 239-244, 245-249, 257265). Compare with Lynn. Shaughnessy, Hexagrams 1 and 2 (pp. 266-287). Compare with Lynn. Divinations: Lynn and Kunst Divinations Divinations Divinations Divinations Divinations Divinations Divinations Commentary, part one: Lynn, 47-74 Commentary, part two, Lynn, 75-101

Sept. 7 Sept. 9 Sept. 14 Sept. 16 Sept. 21 Sept. 23 Sept. 28 Sept. 30 Oct. 5 Oct. 7 Oct. 12 Oct. 14 Oct. 19 Oct. 21 Oct. 26 Oct. 28 Nov. 2 Nov. 4 Nov. 9 Nov. 11 Nov. 16 Nov. 18 Nov. 23 Nov. 30 Dec. 2


I Ching

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