Previous / Contents / Next




Chapter 1.

[Legge] 1 Chapter 1 is an attempt to show the correspondency between the phenomena of external nature ever changing, and the figures of the Yi King ever varying. The first four paragraphs, it is said, show, from the phenomena of production and transformation in external nature, the principles on which the figures of the Yi were made. The fifth and sixth paragraphs show, particularly, how the attributes represented by the figures Khien and Khwan are to be found in (the operations of) heaven and earth. The last two paragraphs show both those attributes embodied or realised in man. The realisation takes place, indeed, fully only in the sage or the ideal man, who thus becomes the pattern for all men.

1. Heaven is lofty and honourable; earth is low. (Their symbols), Khien and Khwan, (with their respective meanings), were determined (in accordance with this).

Things low and high appear displayed in a similar relation. The (upper and lower trigrams, and the relative position of individual lines, as) noble and mean, had their places assigned accordingly.

Movement and rest are the regular qualities (of their respective subjects). Hence comes the definite distinction (of the several lines) as the strong and the weak.

(Affairs) are arranged together according to their tendencies, and things are divided according to their classes. Hence were produced (the interpretations in the Yi, concerning) what is good [or lucky] and evil [or unlucky].

In the heavens there are the (different) figures there completed, and on the earth there are the (different) bodies there formed. (Corresponding to them) were the changes and transformations exhibited (in the Yi).

2. After this fashion a strong and a weak line were manipulated together (till there were the eight trigrams), and those eight trigrams were added, each to itself and to all the others, (till the sixty-four hexagrams were formed).

3. We have the exciting forces of thunder and lightning; the fertilising influences of wind and rain; and the revolutions of the sun and moon, which give rise to cold and warmth.

[Legge] In paragraph 3 we have five of the six derivative trigrams;—the six children,' according to the nomenclature of the Wan arrangement. 'Thunder' stands for kan (100), 'lightning' for li (101), 'wind' for sun (011), and 'rain' for khan (010). 'The sun,' however, is also an emblem of li, and 'the moon' one of kan (001), generally said to represent 'mountains,' while tui (110) representing 'collections of water,' has no place in the enumeration.

4. The attributes expressed by Khien constitute the male; those expressed by Khwan constitute the female.

[Legge] Ku Hsi says that in paragraph 3 we have the natural changes seen in the phenomena of the sky, while in 4 we have such changes as find body and figure on the earth.

5. Khien (symbolises Heaven, which) directs the great beginnings of things; Khwan (symbolises Earth, which) gives to them their completion.

6. It is by the ease with which it proceeds that Khien directs (as it does), and by its unhesitating response that Khwan exhibits such ability.

[Legge] Paragraphs 5 and 6 have both been misunderstood from neglect of the peculiar meaning of the character kih (kih), and from taking it in its common acceptation of 'knowing.' Both commentaries and dictionaries point out that it is here used in the sense of 'directing,' 'presiding over.' In paragraph 7, however, it resumes its ordinary significancy.

7. (He who attains to this) ease (of Heaven) will be easily understood, and (he who attains to this) freedom from laborious effort (of the Earth) will be easily followed. He who is easily understood will have adherents, and he who is easily followed will achieve success. He who has adherents can continue long, and he who achieves success can become great. To be able to continue long shows the virtue of the wise and able man; to be able to become great is the heritage he will acquire.

8. With the attainment of such ease and such freedom from laborious effort, the mastery is got of all principles under the sky. With the attainment of that mastery, (the sage) makes good his position in the middle (between heaven and earth).

Chapter 2.

[Legge] 2 Chapter 2, paragraphs 9-14, is divided into two parts. The former contains paragraphs 9-12, and tells us how the sages, king Wan and the duke of Kau, proceeded in making the Yi, so that the good fortune and bad of men's courses should be indicated by it in harmony with right and wrong, and the processes of nature. Paragraphs 13, 14 form the second part, and speak of the study of the Yi by the superior man, desirous of doing what is right and increasing his knowledge, and the advantages flowing from it.

9. The sages set forth the diagrams, inspected the emblems contained in them, and appended their explanations;—in this way the good fortune and bad (indicated by them) were made clear.

10. The strong and the weak (lines) displace each other, and produce the changes and transformations (in the figures).

11. Therefore the good fortune and evil (mentioned in the explanations) are the indications of the right and wrong (in men's conduct of affairs), and the repentance and regret (similarly mentioned) are the indications of their sorrow and anxiety.

12. The changes and transformations (of the lines) are the emblems of the advance and retrogression (of the vital force in nature). Thus what we call the strong and the weak (lines) become the emblems of day and night. The movements which take place in the six places (of the hexagram) show the course of the three extremes (i.e. of the three Powers in their perfect operation).

[Legge] I can follow to some extent the first two statements of paragraph 12, so far as the ideas of the writer are concerned, though asserting any correspondence between the changes of the lines of the diagrams, and the operations of external nature, as in the succession of day and night, is merely an amusement of the fancy. I all but fail, however, to grasp the idea in the last statement. In the trigram, the first line represents earth; the second, man; and the third, heaven; in the hexagram, the first and second lines are assigned to earth; the third and fourth, to man; and the fifth and sixth, to heaven. These are the three Powers, and each Power has 'a Grand Extreme,' where its nature and operation are seen in their highest ideal. This is to some extent conceivable; but when I try to follow our author, and find an analogy between the course of these extremes and the movements in the places of the diagrams, I have no clue by which to trace my way.

13. Therefore what the superior man rests in, in whatever position he is placed, is the order shown in the Yi; and the study which gives him the greatest pleasure is that of the explanations of the several lines.

14. Therefore the superior man, when living quietly, contemplates the emblems and studies the explanations of them; when initiating any movement, he contemplates the changes (that are made in divining), and studies the prognostications from them. Thus 'is help extended to him from Heaven; there will be good fortune, and advantage in every movement.'

[Legge] For the concluding sentence of paragraph 14 see the duke of Kau on the last line of hexagram 14.

Chapter 3.

[Legge] 3 Chapter 3, paragraphs 15-19, gives additional information about the constituent parts of the Yi, that is, the Text of the classic as we have it from king Wan and his son. The imperial editors say that it expands the meaning of the fourth paragraph, the third of chapter 2. [Ed. This cross reference is unclear, but may refer to Paragraph 12.] It does do so, but this account hardly covers all its contents.

15. The Thwan speak of the emblematic figures (of the complete diagrams). The Yao speak of the changes (taking place: in the several lines).

16. The expressions about good fortune or bad are used with reference to (the figures and lines, as) being right or wrong (according to the conditions of time and place); those about repentance or regret refer to small faults (in the satisfying those conditions); when it is said 'there will be no error,' or 'no blame,' there is reference to (the subject) repairing an error by what is good.

17. Therefore the distinction of (the upper and lower trigrams and of the individual lines) as noble or mean is decided by the (relative) position (of the lines); the regulations of small and great are found in the diagrams, and the discriminations of good and bad fortune appear in the (subjoined) explanations.

[Legge] To understand the names 'small and great,' as used of the diagrams in paragraphs 17 and 19, it should be noted that hexagrams to which the divided or yin line gives their character are termed 'small,' and those where the undivided or yang line rules are called 'great.' Kau (44, ), Thun (33, ), and Phei (12, ) are instances of the former class; Fu (24, ), Lin (19, ) and Thai (11, ), of the other.

18. Anxiety against (having occasion for) repentance or regret should be felt at the: boundary line (between good and evil). The stirring up the thought of (securing that there shall be) no blame arises from (the feeling of) repentance.

19. Thus of the diagrams some are small, and some are great; and of the explanations some are startling, and some are unexciting. Every one of those explanations has reference to the tendencies (indicated by the symbols).

[Legge] It is observed by Zhai Khing (early in the Ming dynasty) that the terms 'diagrams' and 'explanations' must be understood not only of the whole figures but also as embracing the several lines.

Chapter 4.

[Legge] 4 Chapter 4, paragraphs 20-23, is intended still more to exalt the Yi, and seems to say that the sage by means of it can make an exhaustive study of all principles and of human nature, till he attains to the knowledge of the ordinances of Heaven. Such is the account of the chapter given by Ku Hsi; but the second character in paragraph 21 must be understood in the signification which it has in all the sixty-four sentences which explain the emblematic structure of the hexagrams, as = 'in accordance with' and not 'by means of.' The imperial editors append to their statement of Ku's account, that it must be borne in mind that the sages had not to wait till the Yi was made to conduct their exhaustive study. They had done that before, and the Yi may be considered as a talk on the results, drawn out in its own peculiar style. It holds the mirror up to nature; but its authors knew nature before they made it.

20. The Yi was made on a principle of accordance with heaven and earth, and shows us therefore, without rent or confusion, the course (of things) in heaven and earth.

21. (The sage), in accordance with (the Yi), looking up, contemplates the brilliant phenomena of the heavens, and, looking down, examines the definite arrangements of the earth;—thus he knows the causes of darkness (or, what is obscure) and light (or, what is bright). He traces things to their beginning, and follows them to their end;—thus he knows what can be said about death and life. (He perceives how the union of) essence and breath form things, and the (disappearance or) wandering away of the soul produces the change (of their constitution);—thus he knows the characteristics of the anima and animus.

[Legge] In paragraph 21, 'the brilliant phenomena of the heavens' are the various shining bodies of the sky, with their rising and setting; 'the definite arrangements of the earth' are the different situations of its parts according to the points of the compass, and its surface as diversified by mountain and valley; and by the study of these the causes of day and night are known as being the expansion and contraction of the elementary ether. The same thing produces the facts of birth or life and death.

[Legge] Zing, which I have translated 'essence,' denotes the more subtle and pure part of matter, and belongs to the grosser form of the elementary ether; khi, or 'spirit,' is the breath, still material, but purer than the zing, and belongs to the finer, and more active form of the ether. Here khi is 'the breath of life.' In the hwun or 'soul (animus),' the khi predominates, and the zing in the pho or animal soul. At death the hwun wanders away, ascending, and the pho descends and is changed into a ghostly shade. So did the ancient Chinese grope their way from material things to the concept and representation of what was immaterial.

[Legge] For my 'characteristics of the anima and animus,' Dr. Medhurst rendered 'the circumstances and conditions of the Kwei Shans' (Theology of the Chinese, pp. 10-12); but he observes that 'the Kwei Shans in the passage are evidently the expanding and contracting principles of human life.' The kwei shans are brought about by the dissolution of the human frame, and consist of the expanding and ascending shan, which rambles about in space, and of the contracted and shrivelled kwei, which reverts to earth and nonentity. It is difficult to express one's self clearly on a subject treated so briefly and enigmatically in the text.

[Legge] We must understand that the subject of the predicates in this and the next two paragraphs is 'the sage,' who has endeavoured to give a transcript of his views and doings in the Yi.

22. There is a similarity between him and heaven and earth, and hence there is no contrariety in him to them. His knowledge embraces all things, and his course is (intended to be) helpful to all under the sky;—and hence he falls into no error. He acts according to the exigency of circumstances without being carried away by their current; he rejoices in Heaven and knows its ordinations;—and hence he has no anxieties. He rests in his own (present) position, and cherishes (the spirit of) generous benevolence;—and hence he can love (without reserve).

23. (Through the Yi), he comprehends as in a mould or enclosure the transformations of heaven and earth without any error; by an ever-varying adaptation he completes (the nature of) all things without exception; he penetrates to a knowledge of the course of day and night (and all other connected phenomena);—it is thus that his operation is spirit-like, unconditioned by place, while the changes which he produces are not restricted to any form.

[Legge] The character, which I have translated by 'spirit-like' in paragraph 23, is different from khi in paragraph 21. It is shan, a character of the phonetic class, while its primary material signification has not been satisfactorily ascertained. 'The Chinese,' says P'. Regis (vol. ii. p. 445), 'use it in naming the soul, true angels, and the genii of idolaters; and the Christian Chinese use it when they speak of God, of the Holy Spirit, of angels, and of the soul of man. For what else could they do?'

Chapter 5.

[Legge] Chapter 5, paragraphs 24-32, still shows us the Yi fashioned so as to give a picture of the phenomena of the external universe; but the writer dwells more on the latter, and the different paragraphs give an interesting view of his ideas on the subject. He supposes a constant change from rest to movement and from movement to rest, through which all things are formed, now still, now in motion, now expanding, now contracting. It is customary to speak of two forms of an original ether as the two elementary principles, but they are really one and the same ether, in a twofold condition, with a twofold action. By their successive movement the phenomena of existence are produced, . . .

24. The successive movement of the inactive and active operations constitutes what is called the course (of things).

[Legge] . . .—what I have called 'the course (of things)' in paragraph 24. It is attempted, however, by many native scholars and by some sinologists, to give to tao, the last character in that paragraph, the meaning of 'reason,' that which intelligently guides and directs the movements of the two elements. But this view is not in harmony with the scope of the chapter, nor can the characters be fairly construed so as to justify such an interpretation.

25. That which ensues as the result (of their movement) is goodness; that which shows it in its completeness is the natures (of men and things).

[Legge] The imperial editors say that the germ of the Mencian doctrine about the goodness of human nature is in paragraph 25; but it says more widely, that 'every creature is good,' according to its ideal as from the plastic yin and yang. But few, the next paragraph tells us, can understand the measure of this goodness.

26. The benevolent see it and call it benevolence. The wise see it and call it wisdom. The common people, acting daily according to it, yet have no knowledge of it. Thus it is that the course (of things), as seen by the superior man, is seen by few.

27. It is manifested in the benevolence (of its operations), and (then again) it conceals and stores up its resources. It gives their stimulus to all things, without having the same anxieties that possess the sage. Complete is its abundant virtue and the greatness of its stores!

[Legge] 'The benevolent operations' in the course of things in paragraph 27 are illustrated from the phenomena of growth and beauty in spring and summer; and the cessation of these in autumn and winter may be called 'a concealing and storing them up.'

28. Its rich possessions is what is intended by 'the greatness of its stores;' the daily renovation which it produces is what is meant by 'the abundance of its virtue.'

29. Production and reproduction is what is called (the process of) change.

[Legge] Paragraph 29 seems to state the origin of the name Yi as applied to the book, the Yi King.

30. The formation of the semblances (shadowy forms of things) is what we attribute to Khien; the giving to them their specific forms is what we attribute to Khwan.

[Legge] In paragraph 30 the names Khien and Khwan take the place of yin and yang, as used in paragraphs 24 and 32. In Khien, the symbol of heaven, every one of its three lines is undivided; it is the concentration of the yang faculty; so Khwan, the symbol of the earth, is the concentration of the yin. The critics themselves call attention to the equivalence of the symbolic names here given to yin and yang. The connexion of the two is necessary to the production of any one substantial thing. The yang originates a shadowy outline which the yin fills up with a definite substance. So actually in nature Heaven (Khien) and Earth (Khwan) operate together in the production of all material things and beings.

31. The exhaustive use of the numbers (that turn up in manipulating the stalks), and (thereby) knowing (the character of) coming events, is what we call prognosticating; the comprehension of the changes (indicated leads us to) what we call the business (to be done).

[Legge] The 'numbers,' mentioned in paragraph 31, are not all or any numbers generally, but 7, 8, 9, 6, those assigned to the four 'emblematic figures,' that grow out of the undivided and divided lines, and by means of which the hexagrams are made up in divination. The 'future or coming events' which are prognosticated are not particular events, which the diviner has not already forecast, but the character of events or courses of actions already contemplated, as good or evil, lucky or unlucky, in their issue.

32. That which is unfathomable in (the movement of) the inactive and active operations is (the presence of a) spiritual (power).

[Legge] The best commentary on paragraph 32 is supplied by paragraphs 8-10 of Appendix 6. [Ed. This appears to be a mistaken cross reference in the original book. Legge may have meant Appendix 5, Par. 8-10.] The 'Spirit' is that of 'God;' and this settles the meaning of tao in paragraph 24, as being the course of nature, in which, according to the author, 'God worketh all in all.'

Chapter 6.

Legge] 6 Chapter 6, paragraphs 33-35, goes on further to celebrate the Yi as holding up the mirror to nature in all its operations and in its widest extent. The grandiloquent language, however, amounts only to this, that, when we have made ourselves acquainted with the phenomena of nature, we can, with a heated fancy, see some analogy to them in the changes of the diagrams and lines of the Yi book.

33. Yes, wide is the Yi and great! If we speak of it in its farthest reaching, no limit can be set to it; if we speak of it with reference to what is near at hand, (its lessons are) still and correct; if we speak of it in connexion with all between heaven and earth, it embraces all.

34. There is Khien. In its (individual) stillness it is self-absorbed; when exerting its motive power it goes straight forward; and thus it is that its productive action is on a grand scale. There is Khwan. In its (individual) stillness, it is self-collected and capacious; when exerting its motive power, it developes its resources, and thus its productive action is on a wide scale.

[Legge] Khien and Khwan must be taken as the same names are understood in paragraph 30 above.

35. In its breadth and greatness, (the Yi) corresponds to heaven and earth; in its ever-recurring changes, it corresponds to the four seasons; in its mention of the bright or active, and the dark or inactive operation, it corresponds to the sun and moon; and the excellence seen in the ease and ready response (of its various operations) corresponds to the perfect operations (presented to us in the phenomena of nature).

[Legge] 'The Yi,' with which paragraph 33 begins, must be understood also at the commencement of paragraph 35. The character which I have translated by 'corresponds' throughout this last chapter, should not, it is observed, have stress laid upon it. Ku Hsi says that it is simply equal to the 'there is a similarity' of paragraph 22. 'The bright or active element' and 'the dark or inactive' are in the original, 'the yang and the yin.' The correspondence predicated between them and the sun and moon, the brightness and warmth of the one, and the paleness and coldness of the other, shows us how those names arose, and that it is foreign to the original concept of them to call them 'the male and female principles:'—with the last clause compare paragraphs 6-8.

Chapter 7.

[Legge] 7 Chapter 7, paragraphs 36, 37, is understood to set forth how the sages embodied the teachings of the Yi in their character and conduct.

36. The Master said:—'Is not the Yi a perfect book?' It was by the Yi that the sages exalted their virtue, and enlarged their sphere of occupation. Their wisdom was high, and their rules of conduct were solid. That loftiness was after the pattern of heaven; that solidity, after the pattern of earth.

It will be seen that the chapter commences with 'The Master said.' Ku Hsi observes that 'as the Ten Appendixes were all made by the Master, these words are out of place, and that he conjectures that wherever they occur here and elsewhere, they were added after the sage's time.' Their occurrence very seriously affects the question of the authorship of the Appendixes, which I have discussed in the Introduction, [Chapter 3, Section 3].

. . . when it is said that 'it was by the Yi that they exalted their virtue and enlarged their sphere of occupation,' the meaning can only he that what they did in these directions was in harmony with the principles which they endeavoured to set forth in the symbols of the Yi.

'Their rules of conduct were solid,' in paragraph 36, is, literally, 'their rules were low.' To the height of heaven reached by the wisdom of the sages, the author opposes the low-lying earth, between which and their substantial practices and virtues he discovered some analogy.

37. Heaven and earth having their positions as assigned to them, the changes (of nature) take place between them. The nature (of man) having been completed, and being continually preserved, it is the gate of all good courses and righteousness.

Chapter 8.

[Legge] 8 Chapter 8, paragraphs 38-48. In the first two paragraphs here we have an account of the formation of the diagrams, and of the explanation of the whole hexagrams and of the individual lines.

[Legge] I have spoken in the preceding chapter of the difficulty which the phrase 'The Master said' presents to our accepting the Appendix as from the hand of Confucius himself. But his words in paragraph 43 are in rhyme. He did not speak so. If he rhymed his explanation of the symbolism of the line that is the groundwork of that paragraph, why did he not rhyme his explanations of the other lines? To answer these questions categorically is beyond our power. The facts that suggest them increase the difficulty in ascribing this and the other additions to the Yi to the later sage.

38. The sage was able to survey all the complex phenomena under the sky. He then considered in his mind how they could be figured, and (by means of the diagrams) represented their material forms and their character. Hence these (diagrams) are denominated Semblances (or emblematic figures, the Hsiang).

[Legge] 'The sage' in paragraph 38 is intended presumably of Fu-hsi; but we cannot say, from it, whether the writer thought of him as having formed only the eight trigrams, or all the sixty-four hexagrams. In the diagrams, however, we have semblances, or representations, of the phenomena of nature, even the most complex, and hard to be disentangled.

39. A (later) sage was able to survey the motive influences working all under the sky. He contemplated them in. their common action and special nature, in order to bring out the standard and proper tendency of each. He then appended his explanation (to each line of the diagrams), to determine the good or evil indicated by it. Hence those (lines with their explanations) are denominated Imitations (the Yao).

[Legge] Paragraph 39 goes on to speak of the explanation more especially of the individual lines, by the duke of Kau, as symbolical of good luck or evil, as they turned up in the processes of divination.

40. (The diagrams) speak of the most complex phenomena under the sky, and yet there is nothing in them that need awaken dislike; the explanations of the lines speak of the subtlest movements under the sky, and yet there is nothing in them to produce confusion.

[Legge] Paragraph 40 declares the usableness (so to speak) of the diagrams and the explanations of them; . . .

41. (A learner) will consider what is said (under the diagrams), and then speak; he will deliberate on what is said (in the explanations of the lines), and then move. By such consideration and deliberations he will be able to make all the changes which he undertakes successful.

[Legge] . . . and 41 shows us how a learner or consulter of the Yi would actually proceed in using it.


'Here hid, retired, cries out the crane;
Her young's responsive cry sounds there.
Of spirits good I drain this cup;
With thee a cup I'll freely share.'

The Master said:—'The superior man occupies his apartment and sends forth his words. If they be good, they will be responded to at a distance of more than a thousand li;—how much more will they be so in the nearer circle! He occupies his apartment and sends forth his words. If they be evil, they will awaken opposition at a distance of more than a thousand li;—how much more will they do so in the nearer circle! Words issue from one's person, and proceed to affect the people. Actions proceed from what is near, and their effects are seen at a distance. Words and actions are the hinge and spring of the superior man. The movement of that hinge and spring determines glory or disgrace. His words and actions move heaven and earth;—may he be careless in regard to them?'

[Legge] In paragraphs 42-48 we have the words of Confucius on seven lines in so many hexagrams, or rather his amplification of the words of the duke of Kau's explanations of their symbolism. . . What Confucius says is not without interest, but does not make the principles on which the Yi was made any clearer to us. It shows how his object was to turn the symbolism that he found to a moral or ethical account; and no doubt he could have varied the symbolism, if he had been inclined to do so.

[Paragraph 42 presents] the words of Confucius on [line] 2 of hexagram 61. [Editor: Legge appears to be in error here; the comment seems to actually refer to hexagram 60, line 1.]

43. '(The representative of) the union of men first cries out and weeps, and afterwards laughs.' The Master said, on this,—

'The ways of good men (different seem).
This in a public office toils;
That in his home the time beguiles.
One man his lips with silence seals;
Another all his mind reveals.
But when two men are one in heart,
Not iron bolts keep them apart;
The words they in their union use,
Fragrance like orchid plants diffuse.'

[Legge] [These are] the words of Confucius on [hexagram 13, line 5].

44. 'The first six, (divided), shows its subject placing mats of the white grass beneath what he sets on the ground.' The Master said:—'To place the things on the ground might be considered sufficient; but when he places beneath them mats of the white grass, what occasion for blame can there be? Such a course shows the height of carefulness. The white grass is a trivial thing, but, through the use made of it, it may become important. He who goes forward using such careful art will not fall into any error.'

[Legge] [These are] the words of Confucius on [hexagram 28, line 1].

45. 'A superior man toiling laboriously and yet humble! He will bring things to an end, and with good fortune.' The Master said on this:—'He toils with success, but does not boast of it; he achieves merit, but takes no virtue to himself from it;—this is the height of generous goodness, and speaks of the man who with (great) merit yet places himself below others. He wishes his virtue to be more and more complete, and in his intercourse with others to be more and more respectful;—he who is so humble, carrying his respectfulness to the utmost, will be able to preserve himself in his position.'

[Legge] [These are] the words of Confucius on [hexagram 15, line 3].

46. 'The dragon (is seen) beyond his proper haunts; there will be occasion for repentance.' The Master said on this:—'He is noble, but is not in his correct place; he is on high, but there are no people to acknowledge him; there is a man of virtue and ability below, but he will not assist him. Hence whatever movement he may make will give occasion for repentance.'

[Legge] [These are] the words of Confucius on [hexagram 1, line 6].

47. 'He does not quit the courtyard before his door;—there will be no occasion for blame.' The Master said on this:—'When disorder arises, it will be found that (ill-advised) speech was the steppingstone to it. If a ruler do not keep secret (his deliberations with his minister), he will lose that minister. If a minister do not keep secret (his deliberations with his ruler), he will lose his life. If (important) matters in the germ be not kept secret, that will be injurious to their accomplishment. Therefore the superior man is careful to maintain secrecy, and does not allow himself to speak.'

[Legge] [These are] the words of Confucius on [hexagram 60, line 1].

48. The Master said:—'The makers of the Yi may be said to have known (the philosophy of) robbery. The Yi says, "He is a burden-bearer, and yet rides in a carriage, thereby exciting robbers to attack him." Burden-bearing is the business of a small man. A carriage is the vehicle of a gentleman. When a small man rides in the vehicle of a gentle man, robbers will think of taking it from him. (When one is) insolent to those above him, and oppressive to those below, robbers will wish to attack him. Careless laying up of things excites to robbery, (as a woman's) adorning of herself excites to lust. What the Yi says about the burden-bearer's riding in a carriage, and exciting robbers to attack him, (shows how) robbery is called out.'

[Legge] [These are] the words of Confucius on [hexagram 40, line 3].

Chapter 9.

[Legge] 9 Chapter 9, paragraphs 49-58, is of a different character from any of the preceding, and treats, unsatisfactorily, of the use of numbers in connexion with the figure of the Yi and the practice of divination.

[Legge] In the Thang edition of the Yi, published in the seventh century, paragraph 49 is the first of the eleventh chapter according to the arrangement now followed. Khang-zze restored it to its present place, which it occupied, as has been proved, during the Han dynasty, and to which it properly belongs. It and the next paragraph should be taken together, and are distinct from what follows, though the Thang edition is further confused in placing 51 before 50.

49. To heaven belongs (the number) 1; to earth, 2; to heaven, 3; to earth, 4; to heaven, 5; to earth, 6; to heaven, 7; to earth, 8; to heaven, 9; to earth, 10.

50. The numbers belonging to heaven are five, and those belonging to earth are (also) five. The numbers of these two series correspond to each other (in their fixed positions), and each one has another that may be considered its mate. The heavenly numbers amount to 25, and the earthly to 30. The numbers of heaven and earth together amount to 55. It is by these that the changes and transformations are effected, and the spirit-like agencies kept in movement.

[Legge] In 49 and 50 'heaven' and 'earth' are used as we have seen Khien and Khwan are in paragraphs 30 and 34. Odd numbers belong to the strong or undivided line, which is symbolical of the active operation in nature, and the even numbers to the weak or divided line, symbolical of its inaction. The phraseology of the paragraphs, however, can only be understood by a reference to 'the river map,' which has been given in the Introduction, [Chapter 2, Par. 2.12–2.20].

The map, as it appeared on the back of 'the dragon-horse,' consisted of so many circles, and so many dark circular markings, the former, it was assumed, being of the yang character, and the latter of the yin. Fu-hsi for the circle substituted the strong or undivided line (1), and for the dark markings the weak or divided (0). It will be seen that the yang symbols are the 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 circles, and the yin are the 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 circular markings, which is the pictorial delineation of paragraph 49. The only thing to be said upon it is that the arrangement of the five circles and ten circular markings is peculiar, and evidently, devised 'for a purpose.' So far, however, as we know, no figure of the map was attempted till after the beginning of our twelfth century.

The same figure is supposed to illustrate what is said in paragraph 50: 'The numbers of the two series correspond to each other in their fixed positions.' 1 and 2, and 3 and 4 certainly front each other, and perhaps 5 and 6; but 7 and 8, and 9 and 10 do not do so in the same way. It is said also that 'each has another that may be considered its mate.' So it is with 1 and 6, 2 and 7, 3 and 8, 4 and 9, but hardly with 5 and 10. Further, 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 = 25; 2 + 4 + 6 + 8 + 10 = 30; and 25 + 30=55; all of which points are stated.

The last statement in the paragraph, however, derives no illustration, so far as I can see, from the figure. How can the numbers effect the things that are predicated of them? There is a jargon indeed about the formation of the five elements, but in order to make it appear not reasonable, but capable of being related, writers call in 'the Lo writing' to the aid of 'the Ho map;' and 'the five elements' is a division of the constituents of material things, which is foreign to the Yi.

51. The numbers of the Great Expansion, (multiplied together), make 50, of which (only) 49 are used (in divination). (The stalks representing these) are divided into two heaps to represent the two (emblematic lines, or heaven and earth). One is then taken (from the heap on the right), and placed (between the little finger of the left hand and the next), that there may thus be symbolised the three (powers of heaven, earth, and man). (The heaps on both sides) are manipulated by fours to represent the four seasons; and then the remainders are returned, and placed (between) the two middle fingers of the left hand, to represent the intercalary month. In five years there are two intercalations, and therefore there are two operations; and afterwards the whole process is repeated.

[Legge] Paragraph 51 is intended to describe the process of divination in manipulating the stalks, but the description is confused by introducing into it the four seasons and the subject of intercalation, so as to be very difficult to understand.

In the middle of the Ho map are the five circles symbolical of heaven and the ten dark terrestrial markings (five above and five below the others). These multiplied together give fifty, which form 'the great expansion.' But 50 divining stalks or slips, when divided, give either two odd numbers or two even; and therefore one was put on one side. The remaining 49, however divided, were sure to give two parcels of stalks, one containing an even number of stalks, and the other an odd, and so might be said fancifully to represent the undivided or strong, and the divided or weak line. It is needless to go minutely into the other steps of the process. Then comes in the counting the stalks by four, because there are four seasons in the year, and those that remain represent the intercalary days. But how could such a process be of any value to determine the days necessary to be intercalated in any particular year? The paragraph shows, however, that, when it was written, the rule was to intercalate two months in five years. But it does not say how many days would remain to be carried on to the sixth year after the second intercalation.

52. The numbers (required) for Khien (or the undivided line) amount to 216; those for Khwan (or the divided line), to 144. Together they are 36o, corresponding to the days of the year.

[Legge] Paragraph 52. The actual number of the undivided and divided lines in the hexagrams is the same, 192 of each. But the representative number of an undivided line is 9, and of a divided line 6. Now 9 x 4 (the number of the emblematic figures) x 6 (the lines of each hexagram)=216; and 6 x 4 x 6=144. The sum of these products is 360, which was assumed, for the purpose of working the intercalation, as the standard length of the year. But this was derived from observation, and other considerations;—it did not come out of the Yi.

53. The number produced by the lines in the two parts (of the Yi) amount to 11,520, corresponding to the number of all things.

[Legge] Paragraphs 53-56. The number in 53 arises thus:—192 (the number of each series of lines in the sixty-four hexagrams) x 36 (obtained as above) =6912, and 192 x 24 = 4608, the sum of which = 11,520. This is said to be 'the number of all things,' the meaning of which I do not know.

54. Therefore by means of the four operations is the Yi completed. It takes 18 changes to form a hexagram.

[Legge] The 'four operations' are those described in paragraph 31. They were thrice repeated in divination to determine each new line, and of course it took eighteen of them to form a hexagram. The diagrams might be extended ad infinitum, both in the number of lines and of figures, by the natural process of their formation as shown in the Introduction, [Chapter 2, Par 2.11-2.12], without the aid of the divining stalks; and no sufficient reason can be given why the makers of the figures stopped at sixty-four.

55. (The formation of) the eight trigrams constitutes the small completion (of the Yi).

56. If we led on the diagrams and expanded them, if we prolonged each by the addition of the proper lines, then all events possible under the sky might have their representation.

57. (The diagrams) make manifest (by their appended explanations), the ways (of good and ill fortune), and show virtuous actions in their spiritual relations. In this way, by consulting them, we may receive an answer (to our doubts), and we may also by means of them assist the spiritual (power in its agency in nature and providence).

[Legge] It is difficult to believe the first statement in paragraph 57 and to understand the second. What is it 'to Shan or spiritualise virtuous actions?' The concluding statement approximates to impiety.

58. The Master said:—'He who knows the method of change and transformation may be said to know what is done by that spiritual (power).'

[Legge] We may grant what is affirmed in paragraph 58, but does the Yi really give us any knowledge of the processes of change and transformation in nature? What wiser are we after all the affirmations about numbers? 'Change' = changings, understood actively:—the work of Heaven; 'transformations' = evolution:—the finish given by earth to the changing caused by Heaven.

Chapter 10.

[Legge] 10 Chapter 10, paragraphs 59-65, enlarges on the service rendered to men by the Yi, owing to the way in which it was made by the sages to express their views and carry into effect their wishes.

59. In the Yi there are four things characteristic of the way of the sages. We should set the highest value on its explanations to guide us in speaking; on its changes for (the initiation of) our movements; on its emblematic figures for (definite action as in) the construction of implements; and on its prognostications for our practice of divination.

[Legge] Paragraph 59 mentions the four things in which its usefulness appears. 'The emblematic figures' are the four hsiang, which are produced by the manipulation of the undivided and divided lines, and whose representative numbers are 9, 8, 7, 6. 'Divination' appears in the paragraph as pu-shih, which means 'divination by the tortoise-shell and by the stalks.' But the tortoise-shell had nothing to do with the use of the Yi. Before the composition of these Appendixes the two terms must have been combined to express the practice of divination, without reference to its mode.

60. Therefore, when a superior man is about to take action of a more private or of a public character, he asks (the Yi), making his inquiry in words. It receives his order, and the answer comes as the echo's response. Be the subject remote or near, mysterious or deep, he forthwith knows of what kind will be the coming result. (If the Yi) were not the most exquisite thing under heaven, would it be concerned in such an operation as this?

[Legge] Paragraph 60 speaks of the explanations and prognostications of the Yi. The 'exquisiteness' ascribed to it would be due to the sages who had devised it, and appended their explanations to it; but the whole thing has no existence save in cloud-land.

61. (The stalks) are manipulated by threes and fives to determine (one) change; they are laid on opposite sides, and placed one up, one down, to make sure of their numbers; and the (three necessary) changes are gone through with in this way, till they form the figures pertaining to heaven or to earth. Their numbers are exactly determined, and the emblems of (all things) under the sky are fixed. (If the Yi) were not the thing most capable of change of all things under heaven, how could it effect such a result as this?

[Legge] Paragraph 61 speaks of the operations with the stalks till the various changes in the results issued in the determination of the emblematic figures, and then in the fixing of the individual lines and entire hexagrams. Even Ku Hsi admits that the references to the different processes are now hardly intelligible.

62. In (all these operations forming) the Yi, there is no thought and no action. It is still and without movement; but, when acted on, it penetrates forthwith to all phenomena and events under the sky. If it were not the most spirit-like thing under the sky, how could it be found doing this?

[Legge] Paragraph 62. How could the writer speak of the Yi without thought or action as being most 'spirit-like?' If it did what he asserts, those who contrived it might be so described? They would have been beings whose operation was indeed like that of spirits, inscrutable, 'unfathomable' (paragraph 32), even like that of the Spirit of God (6, 10).

63. The (operations forming the) Yi are the method by which the sages searched out exhaustively what was deep, and investigated the minutest springs (of things).

64. 'Those operations searched out what was deep:'—therefore they could penetrate to the views of all under the sky. 'They made apparent the minutest springs of (things):'—therefore they could bring to a completion all undertakings under the sky. 'Their action was spirit-like:'—therefore they could make speed without hurry, and reached their destination without travelling.

[Legge] Paragraphs 63 and 64 ought not to be taken as saying that the sages did the things described for themselves by the Yi. They knew them of themselves, and made the Yi that others might come by it to do the same. So the writer imagined.

65. This is the import of what the Master said, that 'In the Yi there are four things indicating the way of the sages.'

[Legge] No words could indicate more clearly than those of paragraph 65 that the paragraphs between it and 59 did not come from Confucius, but from the compiler of the Great Appendix, whoever he was.

Chapter 11.

[Legge] 11 Chapter 11, paragraphs 66-74, treats of divination, and the scheme of it supplied in the Yi. That scheme must be referred first to Heaven, which produced the spirit-like things,—the divining-plant and the tortoise; and next to the sages, who knew the mind of Heaven, and made the plant and shell subservient to the purpose for which they were intended.

66. The Master said:—'What is it that the Yi does? The Yi opens up (the knowledge of the issues of) things, accomplishes the undertakings (of men), and embraces under it (the way of) all things under the sky. This and nothing more is what the Yi does. Thereby the sages, through (divination by) it, would give their proper course to the aims of all under the sky, would give stability to their undertakings, and determine their doubts.'

[Legge] Paragraph 66 answers the question of what the Yi does; and if there were truth or reason in it, the book and its use would be most important. I have closed the quotation of 'the Master's' words at the end of the paragraph; but really- we do not know if they extend so far, or farther.

67. Therefore the virtue of the stalks is versatile and spirit-like; that of the diagrams is exact and wise; and the meaning given by the six lines is changeful to give (the proper information to men). The sages having, by their possession of these (three virtues), cleansed their minds, retired and laid them up in the secrecy (of their own consciousness). But their sympathies were with the people in regard both to their good fortune and evil. By their spirit-like ability they knew (the character of) coming events, and their wisdom had stored up (all experiences of) the past. Who could be able to accomplish all this? (Only our) ancient sages, quick in apprehension and clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge, and with a majesty, going spirit-like to its objects;—it was only they who could do so.

68. Therefore (those sages), fully understanding the way of Heaven, and having clearly ascertained the experience of the people, instituted (the employment of) these spirit-like things, as a provision for the use of the people. The sages went about the employment of them (moreover) by purifying their hearts and with reverent caution, thereby giving (more) spirituality and intelligence to their virtue.

[Legge] Paragraphs 67 and 68 glorify the sages and their work. The virtues of the divining-plant all belonged to them, and it was thus that they were able to organise the scheme of divination. The production of 'the spirit-like things' is, in paragraph 73, ascribed to Heaven;' the characters about them in these paragraphs mean no more than is expressed in the translation.

69. Thus, a door shut may be pronounced (analogous to) Khwan (or the inactive condition), and the opening of the door (analogous to) Khien (or the active condition). The opening succeeding the being shut may be pronounced (analogous to what we call) a change; and the passing from one of these states to the other may be called the constant course (of things).

The (first) appearance of anything (as a bud) is what we call a semblance; when it has received its complete form, we call it a definite thing.

(The divining-plant having been produced, the sages) set it apart and laid down the method of its employment,—what we call the laws (of divination). The advantage arising from it in external and internal matters, so that the people all use it, stamps it with a character which we call spirit-like.

[Legge] Paragraph 69 shows how the antinomy of the yin and yang pervades all nature, and how the sages turned it, as existing preeminently in the divining-plant, to account.

7o. Therefore in (the system of) the Yi there is the Grand Terminus, which produced the two elementary Forms. Those two Forms produced the Four emblematic Symbols, which again produced the eight Trigrams.

[Legge] Paragraph 70. Evidently the author had in view here the genesis of the diagrams of the Yi, the number of figures increasing in a geometrical progression with the ratio of 2, while the lines of the figures form an arithmetical progression with the common difference of 1. This is quite plain after 'the two elementary forms ( and )' have been made. They give birth to 'the four emblematic symbols,' each of two lines ( , , , , known, in this order, as the Grand or old Yang, the young Yin, the young Yang, and the Grand or old Yin). By the addition to each of these symbols first of the yang line, and then of the yin, there arise the eight trigrams, each of three lines and the process of formation might be continued indefinitely.

But how was the first step taken in the formation of the two elementary lines? Here, it is said, they were produced by the Thai Ki, or the Grand Terminus. This is represented in Ku Hsi's 'Youth's Introduction to the Study of the Yi,' by a circle; but he tells us that that representation of it was first made by Kau-zze (A.D. 1017-1073, called also Kau Tun-i, Kau Mau-shu, and, most of all, Kau Lien-khi), and that his readers must be careful not to suppose that Fu-hsi had such a figure in his mind's eye. I fail myself to understand how there can be generated from a circle the undivided and the broken line. Given those two lines, and the formation of the sixty-four hexagrams proceeds regularly according to the method above described. We must start from them, whether we can account or not for the rise of the idea of them in the mind of Fu-hsi.

Leaving the subject of the figure of the Thai Ki, the name gives us hardly any clue to its meaning. Ki is used for the extreme term of anything, as the ridge-pole of a house, or the pinnacle of a pagoda. The comment on the first sentence in the paragraph by Wang Pi (A.D. 226-249) is:—'Existence must begin in nonexistence, and therefore the Grand Terminus produced the two elementary Forms. Thai Ki is the denomination of what has no denomination. As it cannot be named, the text takes the extreme point of anything that exists as an analogous term for the Thai Ki.' Expanding Wang's comment, Khung Ying-ta says:—'Thai Ki means the original subtle matter, that formed the one chaotic mass before heaven and earth were divided;' and then he refers to certain passages in Lao-zze's Tao Teh King, and identifies the Thai Ki with his Tao. This would seem to give to Thai Ki a material meaning. The later philosophers of the Sung school, however, insist on its being immaterial, now calling it li, the principle of order in nature, now tao, the defined course of things, now Ti, the Supreme Power or God, now shin, the spiritual working of God. According to Khang-zze, all these names are to be referred to that of 'Heaven,' of which they express so many different concepts.

71. The eight trigrams served to determine the good and evil (issues of events), and from this determination was produced the (successful prosecution of the) great business (of life).

72. Therefore of all things that furnish models and visible figures there are none greater than heaven and earth; of things that change and extend an influence (on others) there are none greater than the four seasons; of things suspended (in the sky) with their figures displayed clear and bright, there are none greater than the sun and moon; of the honoured and exalted there are none greater than he who is the rich and noble (one); in preparing things for practical use, and inventing and making instruments for the benefit of all under the sky, there are none greater than the sages; to explore what is complex, search out what is hidden, to hook up what lies deep, and reach to what is distant, thereby determining (the issues) for good or ill of all events under the sky, and making all men under heaven full of strenuous endeavours, there are no (agencies) greater than those of the stalks and the tortoise-shell.

[Legge] Paragraph 71 speaks of divination in practice, and paragraph 72 celebrates the service done by that through the plant and shell, as equal to, and indeed the complement of, all the other services rendered by heaven and earth, the seasons, the sun and moon, the sages, and the greatest potentates. Surely, it is all very extravagant.

73. Therefore Heaven produced the spirit-like things, and the sages took advantage of them. (The operations of) heaven and earth are marked by (so many) changes and transformations; and the sages imitated them (by means of the Yi). Heaven hangs out its (brilliant) figures from which are seen good fortune and bad, and the sages made their emblematic interpretations accordingly. The Ho gave forth the map, and the Lo the writing, of (both of) which the sages took advantage.

74. In the (scheme of the) Yi there are the four symbolic figures by which they inform men (in divining of the lines making up the diagrams); the explanations appended to them convey the significance (of the diagrams and lines); and the determination (of the divination) as fortunate or the reverse, to settle the doubts (of men).

[Legge] The last two paragraphs resume the theme of the making of the Yi by the sages, and their teaching the practice of divination. Of the Ho map and the Lo writing, I have spoken in the introduction, [Chapter 2, Section 2:iii]. But if we accept the statement that the Lo writing had anything to do with the making of the Yi, we must except Fu-hsi from the sages to whom we are indebted for it. It was to the Great Yu, more than a thousand years later than Fu-hsi, that the Lo disclosed its writing; and Yu is never said to have had anything to do with the Yi. Nor is either of these things mentioned in Section 2, paragraph 11, where the work of Fu-hsi is described more in detail.

Chapter 12.

[Legge] 12 Chapter 12, paragraphs 75-81, endeavours to show how we have in the Yi a representation of the changing phenomena of nature, and such a representation as words or speech could not convey.

75. It is said in the Yi, 'Help is given to him from Heaven. There will be good fortune; advantage in every respect.' The Master said:—'Yu (yu) is the symbol of assisting. He whom Heaven assists is observant (of what is right); he whom men assist is sincere. The individual here indicated treads the path of sincerity and desires to be observant (of what is right), and studies to exalt the worthy. Hence "Help is given to him from Heaven. There will be good fortune, advantage in every respect."'

[Legge] Paragraph 75 has a good meaning, taken by itself; but it has no apparent connexion with the rest of the chapter. Ku Hsi thought it was misplaced in its present position, and should be at the end of chapter 8. Compare paragraph 14.

76. The Master said:—'The written characters are not the full exponent of speech, and speech is not the full expression of ideas;—is it impossible then to discover the ideas of the sages?' The Master said:—'The sages made their emblematic symbols to set forth fully their ideas; appointed (all) the diagrams to show fully the truth and falsehood (of things); appended their explanations to give the full expression of their words; and changed (the various lines) and made general the method of doing so, to exhibit fully what was advantageous. They (thus) stimulated (the people) as by drums and dances, thereby completely developing the spirit-like (character of the Yi).'

[Legge] The first two statements of paragraph 76 are general, but made here specially to exalt the Yi, as teaching more clearly and fully than written characters could have done. The Khang-hsi editors decide that I the emblematic figures' here are the eight trigrams of Fu-hsi,—against the view of Ku Hsi, which restricts them to signify the undivided and divided lines. The repetition of the words, 'The Master said,' is probably the error of an early transcriber.

77. May we not say that Khien and Khwan [= the yang and yin, or the undivided and divided lines] are the secret and substance of the Yi? Khien and Khwan being established in their several places, the system of changes was thereby constituted. If Khien and Khwan were taken away, there would be no means of seeing that system; and if that system were not seen, Khien and Khwan would almost cease to act.

78. Hence that which is antecedent to the material form exists, we say, as an ideal method, and that which is subsequent to the material form exists, we say, as a definite thing.

Transformation and shaping is what we call change; carrying this out and operating with it is what we call generalising the method; taking the result and setting it forth for all the people under heaven is, we say, (securing the success of) the business of life.

79. Hence, to speak of the emblematic figures:—(The sage) was able to survey all the complex phenomena under the sky. He then considered in his mind how they could be figured, and (by means of the diagrams) represented their material forms and their character. Hence those (diagrams) are denominated Semblances. A (later) sage was able to survey the motive influences working all under the sky. He contemplated them in their common action and special nature, in order to bring out the standard and proper tendency of each. He then appended his explanation (to each line), to determine the good or evil indicated by it. Hence those (lines with their explanations) are denominated Imitations (the Yao).

[Legge] Paragraphs 77 and 78 refer to the phenomena of nature and the course of human affairs, as suggesting and controlling the formation of the system of the Yi. The formation of that becomes the subject in paragraph 79. Khien and Khwan are used, as we have already seen them more than once, for the active and inactive conditions in nature, indicated by the divided and undivided lines.

It is difficult to translate what is said in paragraph 78, about Tao and Khi;—what I have called, 'an ideal method' and 'a definite' thing. P. Regis translates the text by—'Quod non est inter figurata aut corporea sed supereminet est rationale, est ratio, Tao; quod (est) inter figurata subjacetque certae figurae est sensibile, est instrumentum.' But tao cannot here signify ratio or reason; for tao and khi are names for the same thing under different conditions; first as a possibility, and next as an actuality. Such is the natural interpretation of the text, and so all the great scholars of the Sung dynasty construed it, as may be seen in the 'Collected Comments' of the imperial edition. So far they were correct, however many of them might stumble and fall in confounding this 'ideal method' with God.

[Legge] What follows in the paragraph has no connexion with these two statements. P. Regis, who divides his translation into two paragraphs, says:—'Satis patet utramque textus hujus partem. non cohaerere. Quod ergo illas divisimus, id fecimus majoris perspicuitatis causa, non ratione ordinis qui certe nullus est, ut in re potius assuta quam connexa.'

[Legge] Paragraph 79 is a repetition of paragraphs 38, 39, 'to introduce,' says Ku Hsi, 'the two paragraphs' that follow.

8o. The most thorough mastery of all the complex phenomena under the sky is obtained from the diagrams. The greatest stimulus to movement in adaptation to all affairs under the sky is obtained from the explanations.

81. The transformations and shaping that take place are obtained from the changes (of the lines); the carrying this out and operating with it is obtained from the general method (that has been established). The seeing their spirit-like intimations and understanding them depended on their being the proper men; and the completing (the study of) them by silent meditation, and securing the faith of others without the use of words, depended on their virtuous conduct.

[Legge] The editors of the imperial edition find in 80, 81, an amplification mainly of 76, showing how what is said there of the natural phenomena is exhibited in the Yi. The concluding sentence is a declaration (hardly necessary) about the sage makers, to the effect that they were as distinguished for virtuous conduct as for wisdom,—'the proper men' to stand between Heaven and the mass of men as they did.

Previous / Contents / Next


Return to Home Page

Send comments to

Editorial features of this edition © 2012-2017 by Joseph F. Morales