Re: I-Ching Hexagrams

From: Eric Rasmussen (
Date: Tue Apr 08 2003 - 11:11:52 EDT

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    On Tuesday, April 8, 2003, at 03:59 AM, Michael Everson wrote:

    >> 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.
    > That's illuminating.

    Thank you (Michael and Ken) for the pointer to document 2363, which I
    see now is what I should have asked for in the first place, before
    making further comments. Michael, I find your sarcasm above to be
    unhelpful. Okay, I was trying to be a bit too clever... But why not
    simply ask for clarification? Each original translation is radically
    different from all the others. As the great French sinologist Henri
    Maspero wrote, "by its very character the work is almost
    untranslatable." [La Chine antique, 1927]

    > Richard S. Cook, who knows Chinese very well, vetted the name, as did
    > others, including the Chinese National Body of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2.

    Richard Cook and John Jenkins did a good job on the proposal [I'm
    assuming your role was to provide the font]. I'm sure they do know
    that my criticism of the Wilhelm/Baynes translations of the names is
    fair. I am hardly the first to do so. Wilhelm/Baynes is by far the
    most widely-circulated translation, and presumably that is why they
    used it. Fine. But I still think it was a mistake to use translations
    for the names, because they perpetuate the dubious neo-Confucian
    assumption that the names were meant to embody a core meaning for each
    hexagram. I stand by that argument, except for the following
    statement, which was an ill-considered follow-on comment and, simply
    put, quite wrong:

    >> But few if any serious Chinese interpretations presume to read
    >> meaning into the names themselves.

    The fact is that the Confucian Wang Bi (3rd century) believed that
    every hexagram had a "controlling principle" expressed in its name and
    amplified in the line statements. There is a excellent English
    translation of the Wang Bi edition and its commentaries [Richard John
    Lynn, The Classic of Changes, 1994], which I should have pulled off my
    shelf before making such an inexcusably stupid statement. Sorry!

    > Character names once assigned cannot be changed. You'll just have to
    > get over it.

    It is helpful to know that character names cannot be changed, thank
    you! I did not know that. Your follow-on comment is, again, sarcastic
    and unhelpful. Certainly I would not have bothered to write the
    message had I known that character names cannot be changed.

    Regards, Eric

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