Translations of the Yi jing into western languages have been biased towards the yili (‘meaning and pattern’) tradition, whereas studies of the xiangshu (‘image and number’) tradition – which takes as its point of departure the imagery and numerology associated with divination and its hexagrams, trigrams, lines, and related charts and diagrams – has remained relatively unexplored.
This major new reference work is organised as a Chinese-English encyclopedia, arranged alphabetically according to the pinyin romanisation, with Chinese characters appended. A character index as well as an English index is included. The entries are of two kinds: technical terms and various other concepts related to the ‘image and number’ tradition, and bio-bibliographical information on Chinese Yi jing scholars. Each entry in the former category has a brief explanation that includes references to the origins of the term, cross-references, and a reference to an entry giving a more comprehensive treatment of the subject.
Evolving from a tradition dating back more than 3000 years, the Yi Jing, known to us in the West as The Book of Changes (or just The Changes), found its present form some 1800 years ago. It has long been recognized that The Changes divides into two parts which are separated in time by at least 3-400 years. The older part consists of 64 short sections or paragraphs each headed by a so-called hexagram-a figure consisting of six horizontal lines, solid or broken, placed on top of each other-whereas the younger part is composed of commentaries, glosses, and essays collectively known as the Ten Wings. The commentary tradition dates back to the centuries preceding the Christian era, and literally hundreds of commentaries and studies have been written over the centuries. Today most of these are lost.
The early translations of The Changes into Western languages-Latin, French, and English-were based on commentaries and interpretations of a handful of influential scholars of the Song dynasty (960-1279), most notably Cheng Yi (1033-1107) and Zhu Xi (1130-1200). When translators encountered difficult passages in the text, they sometimes-as in the case of James Legge, the great 19th century translator of the Chinese classics-translated the paraphrases of the commentaries instead. The original meaning of The Changes lay buried beneath layers of mainly Confucian interpretation, and the sinologist of the 19th century simply was not equipped to penetrate these layers.