Re: I-Ching Hexagrams

From: Eric Rasmussen (
Date: Mon Apr 07 2003 - 17:26:35 EDT

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    My apologies if this has been discussed previously. I don't know what
    "document 2363" is, who prepared it, or what it says, but ...

    I don't have a problem with using the traditional order of the
    hexagrams, as Unicode has done. It arranges the hexagrams in pairs
    where the each is an inversion of the other, and has been in use since
    at least the 3rd century CE. I would have preferred to see the binary
    numerical order used, but a strong argument can also be made for using
    the traditional, received order.

    I am, however, surprised to see the Wilhelm/Baynes translation used as
    the basis for the Unicode names. Not only is this an English
    translation of a German translation done in collaboration with an
    orthodox neo-Confucian Chinese scholar, but Baynes was a Jungian
    psychologist who began the translation at Jung's request (Jung wrote
    the forward to the 1924 Wilhelm translation), thereby adding a third
    layer of interpretation. The translation also came before the
    discovery of the 2nd-century BCE Mawangdui manuscript, in which the
    hexagrams appear in a totally different logical order, many of the
    hexagram line statements are somewhat different from the received text,
    and the characters used for the names of the hexagrams are sometimes
    also different.

    There is a serious problem with the use of translations for the names.
    Anyone who has looked at more than one original translation of the text
    knows why. In addition, the reality is that the names don't always
    correlate with the import of the line statements in the text. Wilhelm
    thought that the purpose of the names was to encapsulate or represent
    the meaning of each hexagram, but this is little or no evidence for
    this. The names are simply characters drawn from the hexagram
    statements to distinguish them from the other hexagrams. In some cases
    the choices are obvious since the chosen character is repeated
    throughout the hexagram's line statements, but perhaps half of the
    names are not at all important in the line statements, and appear to be
    relatively random choices. In short, they are mnemonic devices used to
    identify the hexagrams. So yes, they are "names" (as the traditional
    Chinese term for them implies) for the hexagrams, but they are not
    descriptive titles, as Wilhelm thought. Translating them as such is
    misguided. It plays into the belief that the hexagrams exist outside
    of history and there is one true, timeless interpretation of the text.
    This is what appealed to Jung and helped make the Wilhelm/Baynes
    translation so influential in the 1960s. Admittedly, it is also what
    Confucian commentators since at least the 3rd century CE have been
    grasping for. But few if any serious Chinese interpretations presume
    to read meaning into the names themselves.

    So I would propose that Unicode drop these eclectic and often utterly
    inexplicable translations. Even worse is the use of the "HEXAGRAM FOR"
    construction, which is a completely backward understanding. None of
    the options for listing Unicode names for the hexagrams is perfect.
    Using Pinyin is problematic on several levels. Perhaps the best
    solution is to simply recognize the traditional, received, "classical"
    order of the hexagrams that Unicode is using and list them as follows:


    Regards, Eric Rasmussen

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