The I Ching or the Book of Changes – Introduction

One of the most prominent books in the history of Oriental culture is the I Ching, usually called the Book of Changes. Since the time of Confucius it has never lost its importance, either as a book of divination or as one of Oriental philosophy. Beside its importance in Oriental studies, the I Ching has been invaluable in the history of philosophy, religion and influence in modern Western thought.

The I Ching’s basic text is thought to have been prepared before 1000 BCE, in the last days of the Shang Dynasty and the first part of the Chou Dynasty, although its origin is assumed to be from the legendary Fu-Shi around 3000 BCE. The first occurrence of the lineal figures is generally assumed to be the trigrams of the early arrangement of Fu-Shi, while the later arrangement, attributed to Kind Wen, surfaced around 1150 BCE. It is generally thought that during King Wen’s imprisonment in Yu-Li that he increased the eight trigrams to the sixty-four hexagrams.

Only a small portion of the I Ching is ascribed to King Wen, while a larger share is attributed to the Duke of Chou, his son. The Duke of Chou is said to have produced the interpretations of the individual lines while his father King Wen wrote the images of the hexagrams as a whole during his imprisonment. The Duke of Chou is reportedly to have died around 1100 BCE and the current version of the I Ching handed down to us today was supposedly then in its present day form..

One of the first translations into English of the Book of Changes was done by the noted sinologist James Legge in the 1880’s as part of his Sacred Books of the East, and since that time many other English translations have been printed. One of the more popular translations is the Wilhelm-Baynes translation, which was published first in German before WW II and then later translated from German to English by Ms.Cary Baynes. Another relatively popular translation is that of John Blofeld, The Book of Changes, published in the 1960’s and is an English version with detailed instruction for its use in practical divination. Since the 1960’s there have been numerous translations, some interpretations of previous texts, and others sinological translations.

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