Re: I-Ching Hexagrams

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Mon Apr 07 2003 - 18:30:02 EDT

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    Eric Rasmussen said:

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

    "Document 2363" is JTC1/SC2/WG2 N2363, which can be obtained at:

    That document identifies the Wilhelm/Baynes source for the
    names, as well as giving the traditional Chinese names from
    the Zhu Xi text (Sung dynasty, c. 1200 A.D.)

    > 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.

    Which was made, and that was the order accepted.

    > 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.

    The bibliography of the proposal document includes the Mawangdui
    manuscript, so this is not an oversight of research by the proposer.

    > 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.

    No, it merely adopts a traditional set of names to label the
    characters. How people interpret the hexagrams and the text
    they occur in is up to them (and scholars).
    > 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.

    Nor does the Unicode Standard. It is a misinterpretation of
    Unicode character names to try to use them to read meanings into
    the characters. They are identifying (unique) labels only.

    > So I would propose that Unicode drop these eclectic and often utterly
    > inexplicable translations.

    This suggestion is at least 6 months too late. The last available
    window for any change in these particular names was last December
    at the WG2 meeting in Tokyo, and a position would have to have been
    formulated, distributed, and decided upon *before* that meeting

    > 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:

    Perhaps even better would be to simply "translate" the English-language
    version character names of the Unicode Standard back into
    Classical Chinese. It isn't even any work to do so, since the originals
    are all presented in the tables in WG2 N2363. And those Chinese
    names can all be represented in Unicode, to boot. Then Yijing scholars
    can go back to discussing the interpretation of the text, without
    worrying about the particular name labels the Unicode characters
    U+4DC0..U+4DFF got in the character encoding standard.


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