In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

179 A Storehouse of Changes1 DENIS MAIR The Zhouyi 周易 (Changes of Zhou) took form early in the Zhou dynasty, approximately 3,000 years ago. The text builds upon an older tradition of ceremonial divination used during the second millennium BCE, during the Shang dynasty. In its overall form, the Zhouyi is a collection of oracular statements attached to sixty-four six-lined figures with symbolic names called “hexagrams.” While consultation of the Zhouyi features in chronicles of the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 BCE), some time during the Warring States (475-221 BCE), its explication and philosophical discussion crystallized into a number of treatises. Early in the Han, ten of these treatises (the so-called Ten Wings) were attached to the core text, forming the Yijing 易經 (Book of Changes). This classic was included among the Five Confucian Classics from the Han onward. In listing the Five Classics, the Yijing comes first: it is “the head of the classics.” Since the symbol matrix of the Yijing presents no discursive arguments , it is difficult to prove any one interpretation of a symbol. Much of the original text’s meaning (according to later strategies of interpretation) emerges from spaces of implication between symbolic elements. For those willing to probe such spaces, the Yijing presents a complex model of human experience in the face of universal change. It presents symbols within a matrix and invites us to consider the relations among them. Its laws as a relational system serve to stimulate thinking about change, and its symbols refer to salient cruxes or junctures in people’s experience of 1 Paper presented at the “Conference on Change and Transformation,” organized by Arthur Waldron, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania in April, 2008. A Chinese version appeared in Shijie hanxue 世界汉学 8 (2011). 180 / Journal of Daoist Studies 8 (2015) change. In this paper, I enumerate and briefly discuss certain resources offered by the Yi—a conceptual toolkit for thinking about change. Fertility Symbolism I believe that the structure of the Yi is based on fertility symbolism.2 The forces that knit the world together are portrayed as two primordial tendencies—Heaven/ expansion/ creativeness versus Earth/ coalescence/ receptivity. #1 Qian and #2 Kun line up at the beginning of the text, and the subsequent exchange of lines between them results in all the other hexagrams. In other words, the symbolic armature represents an intertwining that produces the myriad situations of life. It is a dance of attraction, in which each entity changes due to its contact with the other.3 The idea of passion for life is part of this system. It implies a worldview, where each fiber of a living thing’s being or each part of a dynamic sys2 I base this on numerous symbolic features of the first two hexagrams. One item of evidence is an alternate name for hexagram #1, Jian 鍵, used in the Mawangdui silk manuscript version of the Yijing. Edward Shaughnessy points out in his translation that jian is an ideograph for a wooden pillar, presumably of phallic significance in ancient rites. I offer structural evidence in Mair 2005. If we are to listen to skeptics, then the line statements of the Zhouyi are randomly related fragments. We have only to leaf through Gao Heng’s books to find comments about the lack of meaningful relations among the lines. He ignores obvious contextual features such as contrasting themes in hexagram pairs and progressions from top to bottom lines. He also ignores analogies between lines in the first two hexagrams and lines of like polarity and position elsewhere. If the text is such a bundle of fragments, as he claims it to be, then it is hard to see what purpose would be served by explicating it. In the course of such context-free explication , one philologist will explain a word according to one ancient usage, and another philologist will explain it by another ancient usage. For instance, some scholars define the hexagram name of #15 as “Giant Hamster,” and others define it as “Humility.” I believe that understanding the symbolic context of line statements gives us a basis for choosing among the possible usages of words. 3 The theme of...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1941-5524
Pages
pp. 179-192
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.