A critical survey of I Ching books
This survey is in two parts. The first part covers 54 different versions of the I Ching. In my view, only Wilhelm is actually required. That said, a wise choice of supplementary material can be of immense value during the formative years. The version I started with was by Alfred Douglas, which was useful for learning how to construct a hexagram, and getting a feel for it before moving on to Wilhelm. Looking at it from my present perspective, I cannot honestly say there is anything in the book, but remembering it was a start I have been cautious not to write off any book save the thoroughly trashy.
In the second part I offer a few notes on books about the I Ching. On the whole, the standard here is higher, the selection smaller, 27 books being covered. These are the kind of books that should be being published. The trouble is that the mass market for I Ching books is not at this level, so few publishers are willing to take on manuscripts of a high calibre as they see little return, preferring to cater over and over again for beginners in the form of yet another version of the I Ching, which in turn fosters the false impression that Wilhelm is too austere.
To understand the I Ching one must go through a number of phases, and none of these can be hurried. The Book of Changes is, as Wilhelm said, 'a work that represents thousands of years of slow organic growth and that can be assimilated only through prolonged reflection and meditation'. The fault I detect in many of the new versions is that they hand out an immature view, often a view that hasn't even been digested at all, simply regurgitated without engaging the brain. Without understanding, even the slightest slip when attempting a paraphrase or commentary can result in a complete misinterpretation becoming vogue, thereby hindering the progress of all who rely on it. When even familiarity with the Chinese is no guarantee of understanding, consider how much more this problem is compounded by authors who have little real interest in the book, who cobble together rehashes at the same time as similar works on runes, tarot, crystals, etc.
This survey is a critical review. It was not my intention to produce a bibliography, so publication details have been omitted, save where this may prove difficult to find out and is worth knowing. Where I am sure that a book is out-of-print at present and can only be obtained secondhand or via libraries, I have said so. The order is the order in which they came to mind. For further information there is an excellent annotated bibliography included in Edward Hacker's 'I Ching Handbook' covering many of the books published up to 1992. [Author's update: Hacker, Moore, and Patsco have since brought out I Ching: An Annotated Bibliography, covering English-language books and articles on the I Ching.]
Versions of the I Ching
The definitive English translation; from Chinese into German by Wilhelm, into English by Baynes. Wilhelm was in prolonged contact with the oral tradition at the very end of the Imperial era, via his teacher Lao Nai-hsüan. He was the right man in the right place at the right time; this is not something that can be re-done, no matter how good fresh translations are. As Carl Jung put it, it is as if this book 'delivered the last message of the old, dying China to Europe'. The quality of the language used is superb, it rates as a work of literature.
Although beginners often feel that Wilhelm is too complicated and seek a simpler version to start with, what I would recommend is that they get Wilhelm as early as they can and just use Book I initially, ignoring Book II (The Great Treatise) and Book III (Commentaries) until they feel more confident to tackle them (all three books are published in one volume). Only Wilhelm has the necessary depth for a reliable interpretation. While it is true there are a few passages in need of revision, these are far fewer than in any other translation, and in general Wilhelm manages to convey the essential meaning via his summaries of the Neo-Confucian commentary material, which is without equal in any other version. In using Wilhelm over a long period, gradually one becomes aware of a deeper purpose underlying events, which surpasses simple divination.
[Ed's note – See Derk Bodde's detailed review [PDF] that appeared when Wilhelm-Baynes was first published, in 'Journal of the American Oriental Society' 70:4 (1950), pp 326–329. Bodde discusses a few fine points of the text and confuses Cary F Baynes for a man.]
The Classic of Changes, The Wang Bi Interpretation:
Trans: Richard John Lynn
I reviewed this book at length in the previous issue [of 'The Oracle']. It is an excellent and scholarly work focusing on subtleties and distinctions. It is a translation of the commentary of the Wei Dynasty philosopher Wang Bi. Also includes the main I Ching text, the Great Treatise, a full glossary of the Chinese characters referred to, Wang Bi's own essay on the I Ching, and notes translating Han Kangbo, Kong Yingda, Cheng Yi [Ch'eng I] and Zhu Xi [Chu Hsi] where these commentators have relevant light to shed. Essentially for the more experienced practitioner.
I Ching – Classic Chinese Oracle of Change: Trans: Ritsema & Karcher
Again, reviewed last issue. Not a viable I Ching to consult, more a specialist dictionary and concordance. Its best use is as a bridge between an independent dictionary, such as Mathews', and the text in Chinese. It makes the task of looking up the Chinese characters far easier for the amateur translator. Some may ask, why bother looking them up if the meanings are already displayed in the book itself? The trouble is, it is not as reliable as one might hope, alternative meanings have been left out, sometimes the wrong one chosen. These oversights are hard to understand given the collective experience of the authors. That said, the book must be praised for putting the possibility of making a personal translation within reach of far more people.
Language of the Lines: Nigel Richmond
One of the best contemporary attempts to say something original. Richmond concentrates on the internal oracle, what it feels like inside, as opposed to what is going on in the external world. Many times it strikes a chord, often highlighting a concern from an unexpected angle. There is no moral tone to contend with, everything is in terms of subtle drifts of feeling. Out-of-print, though it often turns up secondhand. Published in 1977 by Wildwood House, London.
The I Ching Oracle: Nigel Richmond
Here Richmond has re-interpreted his own approach, expanded it, and tied it closer to the original Chinese imagery. Richmond has the knack of hitting the nail squarely on the head when the book is used in consultation, his work has a Zen-like simplicity and 'cutting through' quality. This depth is not so apparent when the comments are read in isolation. It is typewritten, privately printed on comb-bound A4 sheets, probably in no more than a thousand copies, if that. It has disappeared without trace, I have never seen it in a bookshop. This is a great shame as it is a masterly achievement. Published in 1985. [Ed's note – Both of Richmond's books are now available to download from this site. See Nigel Richmond and the I Ching.]
A Guide to the I Ching: Carol Anthony
A self-developmental approach, commenting on quotes from the Wilhelm edition. Her description of the way ego undermines personality is well-stated. It is particularly helpful for maintaining detachment when other people show their inferior natures. Anthony is of most use in relationships. I found this work of great use for many years.
I Ching: Trans: John Blofeld
I find Blofeld too sparse to consult, though he does offer useful notes that are sometimes invaluable. He does not include the Great Treatise, and only points out the ruling lines in the appendix. His introductory chapters are well-written and absorbing. Blofeld's criticism of Wilhelm for including 'meaningless phrases' is not entirely justified, and many of his improvements miss the point. However, his speaking out certainly inspired a more critical attitude. Henry Wei's translation was in part urged by Blofeld's comments, and Wei in turn criticises both Wilhelm and Blofeld. The process of translation is one of continual refinement. Blofeld's contribution has played a part. Blofeld's is the only I Ching to contain a reliable pronunciation guide to the names of the hexagrams.
The Authentic I Ching: Trans: Henry Wei
This translation is by a scholar whose first language is Chinese. His expression of English, unfortunately, is a little dry. Wei over-concentrates on Chu Hsi's line correspondences, the material mostly relegated to Book III in Wilhelm. This makes it less attractive to beginners, though for the more experienced student this book provides an extremely useful comparison text. The Great Treatise is not included, but there is a lengthy introduction. Published by Newcastle Publishing Co, California, 1987. Henry Wei's brother Wei Tat wrote 'An Exposition of the I-Ching', an outstanding book I shall describe in the second section.
I Ching: Trans: James Legge
First published in 1882, this was the only English translation widely available until Wilhelm-Baynes appeared in 1950. Legge had no real interest in the spirit of the book, simply regarding it as fodder for translation. He neither consulted it nor explained how others might. Nevertheless, Legge remains useful for making comparisons. Ch'u Chai and Winberg Chai brought out a version in 1964 including a long introduction by themselves. Raymond Van Over reorganised the material in 1971 to make it easier to use. Dover Books continue to publish Legge in a facsimile of the 1899 second edition. [Ed's note – You can now download this book here.]
Based on the work of contemporary commentators Gao Heng and Li Hansan, as well as Whincup's own understanding, rather than traditional commentaries that have been shown to be flawed. There are interesting variant readings. For example, hexagram 5, usually 'Waiting', becomes 'Getting Wet'; hexagram 33, usually 'Retreat', becomes 'The Piglet'; hexagram 36, usually 'Darkening of the Light', becomes 'The Bright Pheasant'. Important not so much as an I Ching to consult but as a compilation of variations and an attempt to see narrative sense in the hexagrams. His notes in particular are of great value as he shows the Chinese characters he is referring to. The Great Treatise is not translated. Whincup also includes a more sensible version of the yarrow stalk manipulation [PDF], and a theory that the sequence represents a nobleman's rise to power from obscurity.
Thomas Cleary's translations
The Taoist I Ching
The Buddhist I Ching
The Tao of Organisation
I Ching Mandalas
I Ching (pocket classics)
Disappointing; they feel rushed as a job lot. They seemed exciting when they first came out, as the first three are translations of commentaries by Ch'ing, Ming, and Sung dynasty scholars respectively. Reading them, however, these translations are curiously opaque. This appears to be Cleary's fault, as evidenced by partial translations of Ch'eng I (The Tao of Organisation) that have appeared in the book 'Sung Dynasty Uses of the I Ching' and Richard Lynn's Classic of Changes, which are far clearer. A great pity, especially as the Taoist work is an alchemical text and the Buddhist work is by a follower of the Pure Land school, both highly significant outlooks. Thomas Cleary has also produced a translation of the I Ching on its own in the Shambhala Pocket Classics series. This is marginally better, but still contains misreadings. Cleary, though eminently qualified, doesn't seem to give enough time to his work; they come off a conveyor belt. He has over thirty translations of Oriental texts to his name, the majority of them produced over the past decade – a period of time Richard Wilhelm devoted to just one.
[Ed's note – See T H Barrett's review [PDF] of 'The Taoist I Ching' from 'Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies' 52:1 (1989), pp 180–181. Kidder Smith reviewed [PDF] this book and also 'The Buddhist I Ching' in 'Journal of the American Oriental Society' 108:2 (1988), pp 350–352.]
Self-Development with the I Ching: Paul Sneddon
Paul Sneddon is disenchanted with the 'obscure symbolism' of the Chinese text and dismisses it as ancient irrelevance. This couldn't be more misguided. In the process of updating it he waters the I Ching down, just re-phrasing single aspects of the surface meaning of the Neo-Confucian commentaries, the ideas contained in the original concrete images going over his head. There is less than a paragraph on self-development. [Ed's note – This book was republished without change in November 2003 as 'Personal Development with the I Ching: A New Interpretation'.]
I Ching Coin Prediction: Trans: Da Liu
A purely divinatory approach. Da Liu makes his own translation, which has a few interesting ways of looking, such as 'Wind under the bed' for the second line of hexagram 57, and 'The Exile' as the title of hexagram 56. He adds his own commentary based on experience of prediction. Of some interest as few books deal with this aspect, but Da Liu's comments do not have much depth, unlike the book by Jou, Tsung Hwa. Da Liu also describes the 'Golden Coin Divination' (Chin Ch'ien K'uo). Six coins are used to form 64 hexagrams, the text of which bears only a passing resemblance to the I Ching. A book called 'Heavenly Pennies' by Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec covers the same thing, as well as the five coin version forming 32 pentagrams. This latter book reproduces the original Chinese fortune-telling tables.
The Tao of I Ching – Way to Divination: Trans: Jou, Tsung Hwa
The comments on the hexagrams are written as specific down-to-earth examples from life. Even if what he says is not directly relevant to one's own situation, he writes in such a way as one can see how he is looking at it, and so draw a guideline. These comments have the touch of a master. Jou includes the Chinese. In his translation he does not depart greatly from Wilhelm, though I am sure he is quite capable of making a few improvements. The introduction includes a version of the yarrow stalk ritual I have seen nowhere else, and a description of the Plum Blossom method. Also a treatment of the phases of the moon in terms of yin and yang. An excellent work reflecting a modern Chinese approach. Published by Tai Chi Foundation, Taiwan, 1984, and distributed by Charles E Tuttle Co.
The Oracle of Change – How to Consult the I Ching: Alfred Douglas
A fair introduction for the beginner, but lacks detail for serious use. It's not clear if this work is a translation or a paraphrase. The fact that he cites the K'ang Hsi text of 1715 as Legge's source but overlooks mentioning his own perhaps speaks for itself. The publisher's blurb on the back states it is 'newly translated from the original Ancient Chinese', but Douglas himself nowhere categorically states that this is a translation. It appears to me to be a blend of Wilhelm, Legge, and Blofeld. Douglas gives in addition to coins and yarrow the 'six wands method' Aleister Crowley used. An appendix briefly covers mathematical aspects of the I Ching. Out-of-print but common secondhand. The pronunciation guide to the hexagram names seems a slightly altered crib of Blofeld. [Author's update: Robert K G Temple, in 'Conversations with Eternity', mentions Alfred Douglas, 'whom I have met, and who has told me that he does not know Chinese'.]
The I Ching, The No. 1 Success Formula: Christopher Markert
Despite the trashy title, the overall judgments are quite well written and the old Chinese illustrations charming. The author has some dubious views on how the I Ching 'works', believing that it doesn't matter which hexagram you receive, that any one will do. He claims to have proved the theory by deliberately giving friends the wrong readings. All this is evidence of is improper use.
The I Ching, Guide to Life's Turning Points: Brian Browne-Walker
Well written in clear prose, but has a haughty tone. It says 'Do not…' a lot, and 'your ego…' as if the author's wasn't obvious. Browne-Walker prefers to give instructions rather than clarify situations. This wears thin after a while.
I Ching – A New Interpretation for Modern Times: Sam Reifler
Has a tendency to render every situation as make-or-break. It's perceptive, but speaks of the spiritual brashly. Makes everything sound fixed, has none of the finesse I associate with the Book of Changes. Reifler seems a hard-bitten realist, which introduces a tinge of cynicism. His interpretations of difficult situations veer towards looking on the black side.
The I Ching on Love: Guy Damian-Knight
Though aimed at resolving matters of the heart, the interpretations appended to the lines are widely applicable and written with care. Out-of-print, but turns up secondhand occasionally.
The I Ching on Business and Decision Making: Guy Damian-Knight
Too consciously angled towards a particular market, though there are useful wordings among the lines. Out-of-print. Guy Damian-Knight has written two further books: 'Karma and Destiny in the I Ching' and 'The I Ching Compass'. The former is rubbish; I have not seen the latter.
The Executive I Ching – The Business Oracle: Michael Colmer
Pathetic. He invents a tycoon's tarot with wordings that have echoes of the I Ching. An executive toy for random decision-making.
Introduction to the I Ching: Tom Riseman
Recently re-packaged under the title 'Understanding the I Ching' to join this publisher's 'Understanding…' series. Paraphrase of Wilhelm. The pronunciation guide to the hexagram names appears to be a varied crib of Douglas's crib of Blofeld, and is the equivalent of speaking with marbles in your mouth.
Modern Interpretation of the Ancient I Ching – Consulting the
No interpretation at all. The most blatant re-spray of Wilhelm I have yet encountered. This book was published in the Far East and is imported by Chinatown bookshops, which may lead some to imagine it is authentic.
The Pocket I Ching – The Richard Wilhelm Translation
simplified by W S Boardman
Boardman has edited the Wilhelm text into a smaller format. Whilst occasionally Boardman in his simplification draws out a theme extant in the original and makes it clearer, sometimes he puts a spin on the ball that is not to be found in Wilhelm. This he probably does inadvertently, he states it was not his intention to add to the book. Besides this, themes developed in the commentaries he ploughs back into the main text. Many of the original and beautiful images are stifled in favour of a summation. I see little point in using this book in place of the source text – why go via a middleman? Though as a lightweight aide-mémoire for a rucksack journey it has a place.
I Ching for Beginners: Kristyna Arcarti
Undoubtedly written from her experience of being one. Kristyna Arcarti also wrote six other books in the 'Beginners' series: Palmistry, Tarot, Star Signs, Numerology, Gems & Crystals, Runes. Draw your own conclusions. I couldn't help noticing she has ripped off a few of Stan Boardman's ideas word-for-word. Needless to say, Boardman is not listed in her 'further reading'.
I Ching – The Hexagrams Revealed: Gary G Melyan & Wen-Kuang Chu
Little use; the lines are not included. Instead it covers each hexagram through twenty categories of concern, such as family and marriage; you can even get a weather forecast. Also published under the title: 'The Pocket I Ching'.
The Illuminated I Ching: Judy Fox, Karen Hughes, and John Tampion
The illustrations are the main point of this book. I don't think much of them.
The Kwan Yin Book of Changes – A Woman's Book of Reclaiming:
Re-writes the I Ching changing the patriarchal language to matriarchal, 'The Superior Woman', and refers to women in general as 'sisters'. One interesting aspect of Stein's quest to purge the language of its male dominance is that she turns solar imagery to lunar. This shows up the pointless mechanicalness of the exercise; you can't just change the sun into the moon without destroying the meaning. But then the entire book is just a shallow attempt to exploit a certain readership; it is not motivated by wanting to clarify the I Ching. [Author's update: The total solar eclipse dated in hexagram 55 by S J Marshall in The Mandate of Heaven is of course a lunar eclipse in Stein's crass book.]
The I Ching of the Goddess: Barbara Walker
As it sounds, preposterous. She turns the I Ching into a tarot deck, ignoring the lines.
Supposed to represent the I Ching actually used by fortune-tellers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The authors say it is a distillation from four of the best contemporary Chinese commentaries chosen from over forty widely in use today, though only one is mentioned specifically. They also give the eight coin Pa Ch'ien method for consulting the book, which I have not seen elsewhere. The Chinese text of the I Ching they have used is included in the appendix.
There is at least one glaring error in this book that suggests the proof-reading is slipshod – the top line of hexagram one, which should be 'Arrogant dragon', is in their version 'a group of headless dragons'. This latter oracle is usually reserved for the special case where all six lines change, which is highly auspicious. Yet the comment they place under it is actually what should go with 'Arrogant dragon'. So the whole of their top line is an awful mishmash: 'A group of headless dragons appears. There will be good fortune. Comment: Because the yang line is in a yin position there will be disaster and sadness.' Hard to rely on a book that has obviously been given scant checking. It first came out in 1986, followed three years later by a revamped second edition without the Chinese under the title 'The Contemporary I Ching'. The cover was jazzed up, but the error was left untouched. As a result I find it hard to trust anything from these authors.
Aleister Crowley's Yi King
Presents the lines of the I Ching in six line poems, rhyming yin lines with yin lines and yang with yang. This work adds nothing to one's understanding of the I Ching; those who rave about it tend to be more interested in understanding Aleister Crowley. Louis Culling, a follower, wrote two books employing Crowley's lingam and yoni trigram attributes: 'The Pristine Yi King' and 'The Incredible I Ching'. They are both worthless. [Ed's note – See William Fancourt's review of Red Flame's A Beastly Book of Changes, a much more interesting compendium of Crowley's work on the Yi.]
The Portable Dragon – The Western Man's Guide to the I Ching:
R G H Siu
Originally published as 'The Man of Many Qualities: A Legacy of the I Ching'. Sui has appended literary quotations that are relevant to the lines and judgments of each hexagram. More an anthology of fine specimens of writing, it doesn't greatly enhance understanding of the I Ching.
Secrets of the I Ching: Joseph Murphy
Attaches Bible quotes to the hexagrams, which he comments on from a monotheistic perspective. Thoughtfully done, if you're interested in that kind of thing.
Tai Chi – A Way of Centering & I Ching: Gia-Fu Feng & Jerome Kirk
A Sixties time-capsule. 'Supreme success' becomes 'Groovy'. Tai Chi is on a sand-dune with Twiggy eyelashes. Note, however, that Gia-Fu Feng's translations of the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tsu are among the best.
The Red I Ching
A Marxist-Leninist I Ching I once saw on the bookshelf of a barge berthed near King's Cross. It was couched in terms of the Proletariat and doing things for the good of the Party. An underground publication. (There is a copy in the British Library.)
The I Ching Workbook: R L Wing
Comb-bound workbook format. Encourages you to keep a record on the page opposite detailing the circumstances in which you received each line, to build an experiential picture you can draw on each subsequent time you get the same line. One feature of the book is that it offers appraisals for when one receives a hexagram without any moving lines. Though I usually take the ruling lines into account when this happens, it is an interesting idea to make it clear like this. Possibly a good choice for the beginner who is absolutely determined not to start with Wilhelm, although Wing does not give Chinese images.
The I Ching Made Easy: R & A Sorrell
The subtitle of this book is 'Be Your Own Psychic Advisor Using the World's Oldest Oracle'. The authors are American therapists. Fairly well observed, with examples of how various consultations worked out in practice, but terribly New Age and gaudy. [Full review]
The Twelve Channels of the I Ching: Myles Seabrook
Posits twelve life situations – creativity, reason, emotion, awareness, and so on – and interprets each line and hexagram in terms of all twelve. Ends up repetitive and dull. Looks like a computer wrote most of it.
A book with a completely fabricated aura of authenticity. The publisher, Power Press, has for this and the companion volume 'I Ching Wisdom' unashamedly mimicked the well-known grey and yellow house-style of the US edition of the Wilhelm-Baynes translation published by Princeton University Press (below left), even down to using the same title font:
I suspect the text was cobbled together as a 'professionally authored' hack job after a bit of basic research. This book certainly 'uses' the I Ching. As for 'I Ching Wisdom', here a 'wise saying' is printed at the top of each page and Wu Wei comments on it in sentences derived from Wilhelm. It feels constructed, there is no insight or understanding permeating these words. It is flat and dead. The impression that it is written by some sort of 'master' is a superficial veneer. [Author's update: It has since come to light that 'Wu Wei' is a pseudonym of Chris Prentiss, and 'Power Press' is his own imprint. He no longer makes his books resemble Princeton's.]
Ruling Lines: Leichtman & Japikse
Breaks the commentary into business and personal. Apparently this book is part of a series. There is another called 'Healing Lines', which I haven't seen, and there are further titles planned that all stem from some computer module. Dreary.
The Aquarian I Ching: Marshall Pease
The lines are not included, instead the hexagrams are interpreted in terms of the qualities of a shaman. Vacuous twaddle.
Book of Change: Neil Powell
Large format. Laid out like a magazine with colour photographs of Chinese prints. Paraphrase of Wilhelm.
I Ching – The Oracle: Trans: Kerson Huang
A translation of the I Ching by a Chinese professor of physics. The Chinese text, containing unsourced inconsistencies with the received text, is printed opposite the translation and uses modern abbreviated characters. This is a very useful book for those who delve into the original because Huang has drawn on the work of contemporary commentators Gao Heng (as did Greg Whincup) and Dong Zuobin, pre-eminent in oracle bone scholarship. I find Huang's translations attractively concise. Some are plain odd, and hard to see from the Chinese, others are distinct improvements. No commentary is included. The introduction briefly covers historical allusions in the text. There is also an interesting piece on the I Ching as poetry.
I Ching: Trans: Kerson & Rosemary Huang
This, I think, is meant to replace the above book. It is the same translation but the Chinese text is dropped and a commentary is included instead. Some of the interpretations are bizarre and intriguing, a few are excellent, others I find hard to agree with. In this book Kerson Huang reflects briefly on the I Ching in the context of physics.
The Everyday I Ching: Sarah Dening
This is the latest I Ching to appear at the time of writing. The author is a psychotherapist, and clearly much of that outlook informs her approach. Things hard to say are said with a refreshing ease, albeit in a tedious typeface. She crystallises ideas in a way that feels very up-to-the-minute. [Full review]
The Medical I Ching – Oracle of the Healer Within: Miki Shima
The author appears to be qualified in Chinese medicine. A sample entry will suffice to show the flavour of this book, referring to the first line of hexagram one:
'The dragon is hiding. Do not act.'
Fair prognosis. Patient not ready to get better. May get worse. Severe diarrhoea. Onset of flu. Apoplexy. Stroke. Spontaneous abortion. Venereal diseases.
To equate 'spontaneous abortion' with this line is irresponsible. By way of getting a second opinion, I looked in Jou's book. He gives as one of the divinatory meanings of the first place: 'If you are a pregnant woman, the time to give birth to a child is near.' And Wei Tat, who gives traditional divinatory remarks for childbirth, which can be written for all of the lines, says it 'clearly indicates the birth of a baby boy'. The catalogue of medical conditions Shima gives for this line alone are so diverse as to be practically worthless. The whole book feels as if the index of a medical encyclopedia has been randomly tipped into the I Ching. There is precious little detail.
For instance, 'spontaneous abortion' – is this a traditional attribution of Chinese medicine blindly accepted, or is it based on the author's own experience? If the latter, how many cases led to it being so emphatically stated? Or is it just guesswork? I find the whole idea of ready-made medical diagnoses appended to the I Ching fraught with danger; it certainly warrants being treated with more gravity than Miki Shima is able to lend it. While certain lines have a possible medical dimension, such as 'waiting in blood', which can portend unexpected complications during a routine operation – I know of one specific extreme example – to apply it as a general rule trivialises this capacity of the I Ching to the level of quack doctor; more often 'waiting in blood' refers to nothing of the sort.
The Chinese characters of the Zhouyi are handwritten, with pinyin transliterations next to them, and translation underneath, and not a bad one either. Although I have to agree with Richard J Smith's observation in his review [PDF] in 'Philosophy East and West' 43 (April 1993) when he says:
Wu's commentary often makes reference to the ancient meanings of Chinese characters, but his approach is neither rigorous nor consistent. Scholarly and popular etymologies tend to intermingle promiscuously…
Nicely put, and that's right. On the one hand Wu talks about oracle-bone characters and having had the good fortune to have attended classes by Prof Dong Zuobin, on the other he holds traditional views on Confucius and Fuxi. As Richard Smith wrote: '… his Introduction blurs the very distinction he tries to draw between "history" and "myth".' But, bearing this in mind, it is still a nice work and one of the few books on the Yi I have retained.
Wu is essentially an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with a great interest in the Yijing. [Ed's note – Dr Wu (1933–2002) was also a painter; two of his pictures are used on the book jacket of the edition I have. Wu created some beautiful abstracts intended to have a healing effect, some of which are shown in galleries on his website dedicated to healing art.]
The Oldest Book of the Chinese: Albert Terrien de Lacouperie
One of the first books on the I Ching in English, with a surprisingly modern outlook. Six hexagrams are translated. Available on microfilm at the British Library. This book was heavily criticised by James Legge, but it is more interesting than Legge admits. [Ed's note – You can now download this book here.]
Book Chameleon: A New Version in Verse of the Yi King: C F Russell
C F Russell was a follower of the occultist Aleister Crowley. 'Book Chameleon' was published in Los Angeles in 1967, and is now very hard to find, although researchers can see a copy at the British Library. [See Steve Moore's article on C F Russell, Change in a parallel world. See also the links page.]
The I Ching: Tan Xiaochun
I was a little dismissive of this comic-book version of the I Ching when I first saw it, but on looking at it again a few years later I was surprised to find the book was much better than I originally thought. It contains some excellent diagrams and imparts an authentic Chinese view of the oracle. [Full review]
Books about the I Ching
Richard and Hellmut Wilhelm
Lectures on the I Ching: Richard Wilhelm
Change: Hellmut Wilhelm
Heaven, Earth, and Man in the Book of Changes: Hellmut Wilhelm
These three books, the first by the definitive translator of the I Ching, and the latter two by his son, are outstanding. All three pick up themes and follow them in great depth to show the philosophy of the Book of Changes as a living tradition. The first two books have recently been published in a single paperback volume by Princeton University Press under the title 'Understanding the I Ching'. The third book, published by the University of Washington Press, 1977, is harder to come across. This work fleshes out some of the little-understood images of the I Ching, such as the 'Dark Man' and 'Own City'. Occasionally Hellmut Wilhelm departs from his father's translation. ['Lectures on the I Ching' is featured in T H Barrett's review article from 'Numen' 29 (1982): Change and Progress in Understanding Chinese Religion (PDF).]
Diana ffarington Hook
The I Ching and You
The I Ching and Mankind
The I Ching and its Associations
These three books cover I Ching topics of a more practical nature, such as how to interpret, how to read the moving lines, and nuclear hexagrams. Hook goes into deeper aspects without becoming hard to understand. Her books contain some excellent diagrams and evaluations of them, such as the Yellow River Map, the World of Senses and World of Thought arrangements, together with tables of trigram attributes and other data.
The Philosophy of the I Ching
The Other Way
Love, An Inner Connection
The first book has chapters on the student-sage relationship, personal development, goals, the superior and inferior man. Draws together the strands of an integrated philosophy as reflected in the mirror of her own experience. Goes hand-in-hand with her 'Guide to the I Ching'.
'The Other Way' is not nearly as interesting as her other work. A book of meditational visions and dreams based on the I Ching. The third book contains a psychoanalysis of the inner dynamics of the love relationship, based on principles drawn from the I Ching. I can identify with a lot of what she says. The hexagrams are referred to throughout.
The Eleventh Wing: Khigh Alx Dhiegh
Apart from a fascinating sequence of photographs of I Ching study aids constructed and patented by Mr Dhiegh, and some of the diagrams, there isn't much that other books don't cover better. Out-of-print. Besides being interested in the I Ching, Khigh Dhiegh (1910–1991) was also an actor. Some may remember him as the arch villain Wo Fat in 'Hawaii Five-O'. [Ed's note – We have found the original patent for the I Ching-Dex machine that Dhiegh invented, and have in addition put up scans from 'The Eleventh Wing' (1973) that contain photographs of this device as well as the study aids.]
Jung Young Lee
The Principle of Changes – Understanding the I Ching
The I Ching and Modern Man
The first two books are published in the style of large-format typewritten dissertations; both are out of print (published by University Books, 1971 and 1975, respectively). The first book is the most valuable, in that it analyses the etymology of the Chinese characters, admittedly drawing largely on Arthur Waley's work. There is a particularly good discussion of the four cardinal virtues and frequently appearing words. The second book contains essays exploring an I Ching dimension to topics such as acupuncture, death, and morality. The third and more recent book is a disappointment. Professor Lee is a Christian and this is his attempt to temper prejudice against the I Ching among fellow Christians. Sections aimed at Christians are printed in italic, which Lee advises the non-Christian that they can safely ignore. The rest, however, is pretty basic. Includes Lee's own translation of the I Ching. This is virtually identical to Wilhelm, save for an interesting new rendering of the fifth line of hexagram 31: 'Influence affects the nipples.'
Sung Dynasty Uses of the I Ching: Kidder Smith et al
Examines the ideas of four Sung dynasty scholars in great depth: Su Shih, Shao Yung, Ch'eng I, and Chu Hsi. Extremely well-written, each point penetratingly argued with attention to detail. Highly recommended. Published by Princeton University Press, 1990.
The I Ching and the Genetic Code: Martin Schönberger
Draws attention to an astonishing parallel between the hexagrams and DNA. This is worth hearing about, though Schönberger doesn't seem to know what to do with the finding.
The Invisible Landscape – Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching:
T & D McKenna
Much of the book is concerned with ethnopharmocology. There are three chapters on the I Ching. One sees the King Wen sequence as a 'quantified modular hierarchy'. Another chapter deals with the idea of the I Ching as a lunar and astronomical calendar. Also looks at relationships between the hexagrams, DNA, and the electromagnetic spectrum. These essays have an appearance of being highly technical, but end up just skimming the surface. Nonetheless, a fascinating book. [Ed's note – There are several websites in the 'Links' section devoted to the theory of the Timewave discussed in this book.]
I Ching Numerology: Da Liu
About Shao Yung's 'Plum Blossom Numerology', whereby one is able to prophesy by making impromptu calculations from striking occurrences, or foretell the destiny of objects. I've always felt this method, which many seem in awe of, is like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The historical anecdotes included in the book are wonderful tales of fate. Out-of-print. Da Liu also wrote 'T'ai Chi Ch'uan and I Ching', which I have not studied.
I Ching Divination for Today's Woman: Cassandra Eason
A six-week course on the I Ching, featuring repetitive stories of individual women, obviously invented. This author also wrote five other books in the 'Today's Woman' series – Moon Divination, Crystal Divination, Tarot Divination, Rune Divination, Pendulum Divination. They're all exactly the same.
Miracle-power of the I Ching: Norvell
A lurid oddity. It's doubtful whether the author even knew what the I Ching was, he just uses it as a buzz-word.
Images of Change: Terry Miller
The best book of original paintings inspired by the I Ching. Terry Miller died at the age of 31, having completed these almost abstract pictures in the last four years of his life. This book has been out-of-print for a long time, but I see the paintings have recently resurfaced reproduced in black and white in a tiny format to illustrate a rubbishy book called 'I Ching' by Angelika Hoefler, which is just another re-hash of the hexagram judgments, minus the lines. The paintings are completely ruined in this latter book.
The Trigrams of Han – Inner Structures of the I Ching: Steve Moore
This is a hard book to take in at one sitting as it is so densely packed with information. Explores the philosophical and cosmological implications of the circular diagrams of the trigrams by picking up a kind of historical litter trail and using it to develop connections and generate observations. An excellent compendium of personal researches. Out-of-print and difficult to find. Published by The Aquarian Press, 1989.
Before he died, Lama Govinda placed forty years of investigation into the structure of the I Ching into a series of elegant charts and diagrams. He uses these diagrams as evidence to show six hexagrams are misplaced in the traditional sequence. By combining his findings he derives a beautiful mandala, which he has painted according to the traditional colour scheme – yellow for earth, and so on. He says this mandala is 'a visible symbol of the unity of the 64 hexagrams of the Book of Transformations'. Whether Govinda is right or not – Edward Hacker feels he has not proved his case – this work is an inspiring example of one man's personal study.
An Exposition of the I-Ching or Book of Changes: Wei Tat
This is 560 pages dedicated exclusively to the first two hexagrams. A serious-minded and thorough book that deals with symbolism, historical example, analogies and correspondences, transformation of lines, and penetrating discussion of phrases. One of the finest extended essays ever written on the I Ching. Published in 1970 in Taiwan by the Institute of Cultural Studies. Wei Tat was the brother of Henry Wei, the author of 'The Authentic I Ching'.
Researches on the I Ching: Iulian K Shchutskii
Translated from the Russian. Examines the philology of the I Ching, unearthing its various sedimentary layers. A fascinating work. Shchutskii died in a Stalinist labour camp in 1937 – his skull crushed by a chain – his manuscript gathering dust in a bookbinders for many years. [See T H Barrett's review article from 'Numen' 29 (1982): Change and Progress in Understanding Chinese Religion (PDF).]
An Anthology of I Ching: W A Sherrill and W K Chu
Deals with advanced divination, astrologies, directionology, and geomancy. A great deal of information relating to numerological methods. Chapter One is a 36-page summary of what every I Ching student should know but many go years without learning, entitled 'Basic Information'. An extensive table of trigram attributes is also included. (These authors also wrote 'The Astrology of the I Ching'.)
An assemblage of 'logical and personal perspectives' from the I Ching. Hacker states his intention was not to be particularly original, more to provide a study aid by drawing together information from diverse sources. I was surprised shortly after buying it to come across a paragraph quoted from Arthur Waley's book review of Hellmut Wilhelm's 'Change', as this solved something I was puzzling over. I like this scrap-book quality that allows Hacker to stick down anything he personally has found interesting.
The book excels on mathematical and structural aspects, providing many worked-out tables which seem to have resulted from the author pursuing his own fascinations. Some of this is original, his classification of nuclear hexagrams stands out here as a significant contribution. Also chapters on the sequence, a Wilhelm-Baynes concordance, all known methods of consulting the book, glossary of terms, origins, magic squares, yarrow probabilities, and a lot more. Particularly useful is the annotated bibliography of books and journal articles up to 1992, including 13 unpublished PhD dissertations, and the address to write to. The only drawback to this book is its price: £45. What sold it to me, besides finding it second-hand, was when I noticed he had already worked out the answer to something I was mulling over only the night before – whether there was a rule that excluded certain hexagrams from ever being nuclear hexagrams. It is a rare book that can anticipate so well what one might at some point wish to know.
Bible and I Ching Relationships: Joe McCaffree
'A stream of inquisitiveness' by an eccentric polymath. It's full of marginal doodles of Hebrew letters, Chinese ideograms, Egyptian hieroglyphs. McCaffree ransacks the coffers of many mystical traditions making his point on the hoof. The way the book is written is probably more interesting than what it actually says. It creates a spirit of enquiry and curiosity that is quite infectious. It is a work reminiscent of Kenneth Grant's books on magick. The basic premise is that the I Ching did not originate in China but was composed by members of the Dan tribe of Israel. Published in Hong Kong in 1982 by the South Sky Book Co.
[First published in 'The Oracle: Journal of the I Ching Society' Vol. 1, No. 2 (Winter 1995/96), pp 20–40. (Slightly revised for web, 2004.)]
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