Term Paper: I Ching Is a Form of Divination

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I Ching is a form of divination used in China for the prediction of many affairs, both personal and affairs of the state. "I" or yi means change. "Ching" or ying means book. Therefore it is known in English as the Book of Changes. It is based on the philosophy that everything in the universe is constantly changing. The I Ching reflects this process of changes and gives a way to interpret the way that energy is flowing at any particular moment.

When an answer is needed for a decision, the questioner poses a question to the oracle.

Simply put, the tossing of coins helps you form a group of lines (trigrams and hexagrams) that lead to a better understanding of one's present and future situation. Trigrams are a series of three lines (either solid or broken lines) while hexagrams are comprised of six. Once a pattern of lines is formed, the oracle book is consulted for answers to the question posed to it.

The I Ching has a long history. The earliest known form of divination in China dates from the early Shang Dynasty. It involved heating the bones of animals in a fire and studying the cracks that developed in them. The traces of this early form of divination are still present in part in the four oldest idegrams: I Ching, Yuan, Heng, and LiChen. They represent the four seasons, and also the qualities of fundamentality, success, fitness, and perseverance. [Wei, 2002]

During the Shang Dynasty (1523-1028 BC), questions that could be answered with a "yes" or a "no" were written on tortoise shells. The shells were heated, then doused in water, which caused them to crack. A broken crack, was interpreted as a "no" answer, an unbroken crack, as a "yes." The I Ching elaborates on this, by grouping the lines into sets of threes (the trigrams) and into sets of sixes (the hexagrams). The oracle was used to ask about affairs of the state, war, proposed marriages, and the birth of a princess. [Wei, 2002]

The texts of the I Ching, as we know them now, began to be written down about 1000 BC. It was also at this time that the yarrow stalk method of divination was created. It had the very important effect of making divination much easier, more practical, and more widely available. What had once been the prerogative of the emperor alone gradually spread throughout literate mainstream Chinese society. And of course the oracle was asked a steadily widening range of questions about more personal matters, similar to the way it is used today. [Wei, 2002]

No one really knows how old the oldest interpretations of the I Ching are. The oldest we can date reliably are to the 8th century BC. References in it have been historically identified to the time. In particular, the Judgement of Hexagram 35 refers to Price Kang, a Chou prince who is known to have abandoned the name 'Kang' shortly after the Chou conquest. [Wei, 2002]

The story of the I Ching begins with the discovery of the trigrams by Fu Hsi, China's first, ideal emperor and sage, who reigned from 2852-2737 BC.Turtles in particular are significant animals in Chinese tradition, for the dome of their shell represents the dome of heaven and their flat lower surface the earth, so a turtle seems to embody the cosmos. On the back of this turtle, Fu Hsi first saw the eight trigrams - symbols that consist of a stack of three lines, either solid or broken. Through studying them along with the natural world around him and within himself, Fu Hsi came to understand how the trigrams reflect basic truths about how energy moves. In so doing, he laid the foundations both for the traditional Chinese worldview and for the I Ching. [Wei, 2002]

But when the last ruler of the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BC) unjustly imprisoned his wise and honest Chou vassal, King Wen. Wen spent his time in prison reflecting on the trigrams, re-arranging them and, crucially, combining them into hexagrams. He also wrote the name for each of the sixty-four hexagrams and a few lines on their meaning, which we now know as the Judgements. In Wen's time, there were two versions of the I Ching, Lien Sah and Gai Tsen, and during his time of isolation, he re-interpreted the names of the kua and other portions of the great books. He also changed the order of the kua established by Fu Hsi to the order currently in use in every version of the I Ching. The order of the kua does not in any way affect the readings. [Wei, 2002]

Eventually, King Wen's son overthrew the cruel, extravagant Shang and established the new Chou dynasty, which was to persist until 221 BC. His grandson became ruler, and the boy's uncle, the Duke of Chou, was appointed as his regent. The Duke of Chou completed King Wen's work by writing short texts associated with each of the six lines of every hexagram. [Wei, 2002]

Dating to the Chou dynasty (1100 BC), the I-Ching was heavily influenced by Confucius, who used his considerable scholarly abilities to help form the Ten Wings, the commentary that offers explanations of the hexagrams. Later scholars added principles of astronomy and astrology (the five elements and the twelve zodiacal characters) into the I-Ching. Known as "The Book of Changes" to Westerners, the resulting oracle book is a comprehensive text covering ideas, images and natural laws that can provide answers to specific questions.[Ross, 2002].

Confucius' Wings to the I Ching include the Advice (or Image), the Commentaries on the judgement and on the lines, as well as the Contrasts, Sequences, Attached Evidences and Appended Judgements, in addition to the Discussion of the Trigrams and the Great Treatise. With its origins in the greatest rulers and sages of China's past, and the illumination of Confucius' thought binding it into a whole, the I Ching was honored as a Classic, and was required reading for anyone wishing to enter the higher orders of Chinese society..[Ross, 2002].

Confucius himself had a simple moral and political teaching: to love others; to honor one's parents; to do what is right instead of what is of advantage; to practice "reciprocity," i.e. "don't do to others what you would not want yourself"; to rule by moral example instead of by force and violence [Hooker, 1999]

Confucius had one overwhelming message: if we are to achieve a state of orderliness and peace, we need to return to traditional values of virtue. These values are based entirely on one concept: jen, which is best translated as "humanness," but can also mean "humanity," "benevolence," "goodness," or "virtue." This humanness is a relatively strange concept to Western eyes, because it is not primarily a practicable virtue. Rather, the job of the "gentleman," ch'un tzu, was to concentrate on the highest concepts of behavior even when this is impractical or foolish. Like his contemporaries, Confucius believed that the human order in some way reflected the divine order, or the patterns of heaven. More than anything, according to Confucius, the ancients understood the order and hierarchy of heaven and earth; as a result, Confucius established the Chinese past as an infallible model for the present.[Hooker, 1999]

Chinese philosophy recognizes the co-existence and interaction of five elements, earth, fire, water, air, and metal. It also recognizes the existence of two opposite and opposing forces yin and yang. It is the flow of energy between these opposing forces that influences the world in which we live. The implications of the theory are displayed in the great book of divination, the I Ching, the "Book of Changes." The Book of Changes was one of the five great works of Confucius.[Newborn, 1986]

The understanding of the principles of yin and yang are key to the understanding of the I Ching [Newborn, 1986].

Yin originally meant "shady, secret, dark, mysterious, cold." It thus could mean the shaded, north side of a mountain or the shaded, south bank of a river.[Newborn, 1986]

Yang in turn meant "clear, bright, the sun, heat," the opposite of yin and so the lit, south side of a mountain or the lit, north bank of a river. From these basic opposites, a complete system of opposites was elaborated. Yin represents everything about the world that is dark, hidden, passive, receptive, yielding, cool, soft, and feminine. Yang represents everything about the world that is illuminated, evident, active, aggressive, controlling, hot, hard, and masculine. Everything in the world can be identified with either yin or yang..[Newborn, 1986]

Yin and Yang are a Taoist theory. Taoism takes the doctrine of yin and yang, and includes it in its own theory of change. Taoism sees all change as one opposite replacing the other..[Newborn, 1986].

When it comes to the five elements, earth, water, and wood are clearly to be associated with yin. Water, the softest and most yielding element, becomes the supreme symbol of yin and the Tao in the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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