I Chang (Yijing or Zhouyi, Book of Changes)
As one of the most important classics in ancient China, the Book of Changes is revered as "father of all classics and source of a hundred schools of thought". Completed approximately over 3000 years ago in China's Zhou dynasty, it is said to be authored by Emperor Wen of the Zhou Dynasty, but actually it could not have been accomplished in a short period by a single person. Such a book must have been attributed to many people with generations of efforts.
Originally a book for the divination and prediction of the loss or success in future wars, natural disasters and the changes of political situations, the book has a section called classic, which serves as the caption for the divination graphs. It is, however, not simply a book for the prediction of good luck or misfortune. Based on the combination of two basic symbols - yin and yang, the Eight Diagrams is created, through which thousands of diagram combinations are evolved to correspond to the various complicated changes occurring in nature and human society. Yin and Yang are fundamental concepts in the Book of Changes, and the ways of the changes of Yin and Yang are employed in the Book of Changes to grasp the complicated laws of changes in nature and human society. This thought of representing the complexities and changes of the outer world undoubtedly embodies the great wisdom of ancient saints.
The Book of Changes has had great impacts on almost all important thinkers and schools of thoughts in ancient China. It has had tremendous and far-reaching influences on the politics, economy and culture of succeeding dynasties. China's architecture, medicine, music, painting and people's daily life are all intricately linked to the Book of Changes. It even reaches far beneath to have a great bearing on the national character and spirit of the Chinese people.
The I Ching, "Yijing(易经)", Classic of Changes or Book of Changes; also called "Zhouyi(周易)", The changes of the Zhou, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. The book is a symbol system used to identify order in random events. The text describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy that is intrinsic to ancient Chinese cultural beliefs. The cosmology centres on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.
The Book of Changes is the most commented book of the old classics, said to be a composition of the mythical ruler Fuxi(伏羲), King Wen of Zhou(周文王), Duke Dan of Zhou(周公旦) and even Confucius. But instead, we can divide the text in the "original" listing of the 64 hexagrams and their respective line statements and the later "wing" commentaries. The main part with the listings can also be called "Changes of the Zhou", because it is the Zhou people's manual for the divination with milfoil stalks (shi, 蓍). The former dynasty, the Shang(商), instead used heat crackings on oracle bones to divine. Its modern shape is very near to the original that must have been composed during the late Western Zhou Dynasty(西周).
Each of the hexagrams is composed of two of the Eight Trigrams (bagua, 八卦). Each hexagram is named after its main fortune character, commented by a short statement (guaci 卦辞). Every single line of it, broken or solid (called "six" liu, 六 and "nine" jiu, 九 or "female" yin, 阴 and "male" yang, 阳), is commented by a line statement (yaoci, 爻辞). The statements begin from bottom to top, counting as "beginning" (chu 初), two, three, four, five and "upper" (shang, 上). The sequence of the 64 Hexagrams was not always the same. The commentary is very abstract and made room for occult prognostication, numerological and cosmological speculation and political and moral philosophizing during the Han Dynasty(汉) and the Song Dynasty(宋).
The ten "Wing Commentaries" (Shiyi, 十翼) are products of the Han Dynasty and interprete the hexagram and its statements in a lexicological, symbolistic and philosophical way.
The important commentaries are that of Han time Kong Yingda(孔颖达), the Tang period(唐) scholar Lu Deming(陆德明) and the Song Dynasty Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi(朱熹). Still the best western translation is that of James Legge and the German one by Richard Wilhelm.
The Eight Trigrams (Bagua, 八卦) are:
The 64 Hexagrams: