An Introduction to the Zhou yi (Book of Changes)

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The I Ching (a. k. a. Yi jing, the Book of Changes, Zhou Changes) is one of the oldest texts in world history, and it is often considered the “first in the Confucian classics.” To this date, it continues to be an important source of understanding traditional Chinese thought and society. To help readers fully appreciate this archaic classical work, the author of this book comprehensively considers the explanations of the characters of zhou and yi from all traditional perspectives, and then introduces the relationship between Confucius (551-479 BCE) and the later Yi zhuan (Commentaries on the Changes), which elevated the Zhou yi from a divination manual to a classic of wisdom literature.

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The I Ching (a. k. a. Yi jing, the Book of Changes, Zhou Changes) is one of the oldest texts in world history, and it is often considered the “first in the Confucian classics.” To this date, it continues to be an important source of understanding traditional Chinese thought and society. To help readers fully appreciate this archaic classical work, the author of this book comprehensively considers the explanations of the characters of zhou and yi from all traditional perspectives, and then introduces the relationship between Confucius (551-479 BCE) and the later Yi zhuan (Commentaries on the Changes), which elevated the Zhou yi from a divination manual to a classic of wisdom literature.
The connections between the sixty-four hexagrams introduced in the book can help define the import of the different hexagrams. As the foundation of the Zhou yi, the traditional study of images and numbers plays a major role in the book. The Zhou yi originally was a divination manual, and this book also offers the author’s special perspectives on this topic. The first part of this book also sketches a scholarly outline of the history of Changes scholarship and further explores image-numerological approaches to the Zhou yi employed by Zhou yi experts of past dynasties.
The second part of this book is made up of some of the author’s prefaces and speeches, which exhibit his views on the relationship between the Yi jing and Chinese oracular culture, on the influence of the Zhou Changes upon Confucianism and contemporary life, and on the latest archeological discoveries concerning Changes scholarship.
The Chinese version of this book was published in 1985, which immediately aroused attention from both researchers and amateurs, and continues to be a best seller even now. To date, its Chinese version has become essential reading for both researchers and amateurs and has been reprinted over ten times; its circulation has amounted to over 100,000 copies sold in China.

“This is, to my knowledge, is the first scholarly monograph on the Yijing (Classic of Changes) to be rendered from Chinese into English. As such, it offers English-language readers a unique opportunity to see how one of the foremost scholars of the Changes in China, Professor Liu Dajun, has been thinking about this ancient Chinese classic. Translated by another highly regarded scholar of the Changes, Dr. Zhang Wenzhi, this book will yield many insights, and explain a number concepts that have not been fully articulated in any Western-language survey of the Changes.”

-Richard J. Smith, George and Nancy Rupp Professor of Humanities emeritus, Rice University and author of Fathoming the Cosmos and Ordering the World: The Yijing (I-Ching, or Classic of Changes) and Its Evolution in China

 “The great Zhou yi Master Liu Dajun orchestrates his deep traditional understandings of the text through penetrating explorations of the main traditional modes of thought concerning the workings and understanding of the Classic of Changes. This is the most effective critical examination we have of the foundations of study of the Yi jing, now brilliantly translated into English by Professor Zhang Wenzhi; it is an indispensable companion to reading the Zhou yi.”

-Lawrence Scott Davis, Professor of Chinese Literature, Nanjing University

“Published in the 1980s, Liu Dajun’s Zhouyi Gailun (Introduction to the Book of Changes) is ground-breaking in the study of the Yijing. In the book, Liu shows that the image-numerology method—popular during the Han dynasty (206 BCE ‒ 220 CE)—transformed the Yijing into a cosmological manual to link all aspects of human life to the unfolding of the cosmos. As a result, the Yijing was used in a wide variety of areas such as developing the calendar, designing musical tonality, and improving medical science. Thanks to Zhang Wenzhi’s translation, Liu Dajun’s insights are now made accessible to readers in the English-speaking world. With Zhang’s translation, readers will have a deeper understanding of the Yijing as a world classic that teaches us how to cope with uncertainty and serendipity in everyday life.”

-Tze-ki Hon (Professor, Department of Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong)

Table of Contents

Part I

The Original Contents of the Zhou yi gailun 周易概 (Introduction to the Book of Changes)   7

Preface                                                                                                                9

1. Extensive Explanations of the Zhou yi周易                                            11

2. The “Great Commentaries on the Zhou yi”                                           23

3. Imagery of the Changes                                                                            57

4. Hexagram Changes                                                                                    83

5. Divination by Milfoil Stalks                                                                     107

6. Divinatory Cases in the Zuo zhuan and the Guo yu         121

7. Are the Prognostcations Determined Only by the Changing Line(s)? 147

8. A Brief Introduction to the Studies of the Changes in the Past Dynasties (I)  157                                                                                  

9. A Brief Introduction to the Studies of the Changes in the Past Dynasties (II) 211                                                                                  

Part II

Some Prefaces and Speeches Related to the Scholarship on the Changes     265                                                                                       

10. A Preface to the Najia shifa纳甲筮法 (Three-Coin Method of Divination)   267                                                 

11. A Postscript to the Najia shifa纳甲筮法 (Three-Coin Method of Divination)   271                                                 

12. Opening Speech at the International Conference on Confucianism and Changes Studies   277                                                  

13. Preface to Mr. Liu Junzhu’s Yi jing and Contemporary Life 《易经》与现代生活)   285                                                                   

14. Characteristics of the Yi Studies in the 20th Century:  A Preface to the Collected Quintessential Articles of the Yi Studies of the Past Century and Decade (1900-2009)                 291

Endnotes                                                                                                                                        319

List of Proper Nouns                                                                                                                    349

Glossary                                                                                                                                         365

About the Author

Author Professor Liu Dajun

As the President of Chinese Learned Society of Zhou yi and the Director of the Center for Zhouyi & Ancient Chinese Philosophy at Shandong University, Professor Liu Dajun 刘大钧 is also a Counselor for the Counselors Office of the State Council of China and the editor-in-chief of the academic journal of Zhouyi Studies (Zhouyi yanjiu 周易研究). Now he is the author of over a dozen books.

He organized the first international conference on the Zhou yi to be held in mainland China in 1987, which lifted off the “Zhou yi Fever” in mainland China. Hence Professor Liu became a household name and legendary figure across the country. Professor Chung-ying Cheng frequently praises him, saying that Professor Liu had established many milestones in the history of the Zhou yi studies.

Translator Zhang Wenzhi

An associate professor and deputy director at the Center for Zhouyi & Ancient Chinese Philosophy of Shandong University, Zhang Weizhi now is also the director of the Editorial Board of Zhouyi Studies (English Version). The author of four books related to the Zhou yi (Book of Changes), he received his B. A. in English Language and Literature in 1990, and received his PhD in Chinese philosophy in 2010. Focusing on the studies of image-numerology of the Zhou yi, he was selected and invited to be a 2007-08 academic year visiting scholar at Harvard-Yenching Institute and a 2012-13 visiting fellow in Erlangen-Nuremberg University, Germany.

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