Learning from “The Book of Change – 易经 Yi Jing” Part 01

One of the oldest books on thinking patterns is “The Book of Change – 易经 Yi Jing” from the Chinese. It is about 5000+ years old and is recognized as the Classic of all Chinese Classics. The mindset of Chinese thinking originates from this book. To understand Chinese thinking, culture, and practices, including medicines(TCM), one must read and understand this book.

For the history, development, structure, and overview of Yi Jing, one can refer to Wikipedia I-Ching. It makes mention of Chang, Shi (aka Tuck Chang) 2008. ebook: Unveiling The Mystery of The I Ching from a Confucian perspective. For the Classical English translation see Classical translation by Wilhelm.

I am posting this to share the wisdom of ancient Chinese to those that know English but don’t know Chinese and to those fellow Christians who misunderstood Yi Jing (thinking that it is fortune-telling or demonic book).

I shall be sharing my personal understanding and learning from the study of the Yi Jing, and from the expository books on Yi Jing by many scholars. Being an ancient book with much use of symbols, brevity, ancient language words that have either been lost or with a different meaning, and lack of punctuations, there will be quite a number of different interpretations and views of the original meaning of the Yi Jing text. I am no scholar of Yi Jing and make no claim that my understanding is of the original and correct meaning. It is just what I learned from the books that I read about Yi Jing and will surely appreciate others pointing out my errors or giving me additional meaning. I am sharing to introduce Yi Jing to others and to learn from others as well.

Because of the additional layer of translation from Chinese to English, where there will be great difficulty in finding the exact words for the translation, I shall not be doing any literal translation but be using the dynamic translation of meaning. Hence, be warned that the English words used by me may differ from the other English translations of Yi Jing or I-Ching.

More specifically, my purpose is to share the thinking patterns, strategies, ideas, and teachings of Yi Jing and apply them to our daily life and business. I have been studying Yi Jing and other Chinese Classics (e.g. 36 Strategies etc)  to improve my innovative thinking methods BVITS and knowledge of the Corporate Performance Management Framework.

Furthermore, because of my belief in a God of Creation and Love for man, my views about the Yi Jing will be so colored. So a good title for this series of posting could be “Practical Learning & Applications of Yi Jing for Success in Life and Business”.

Yi Jing is NOT a Fortune Telling Book
As stated earlier, because Yi Jing was the earliest, it exerted great influence on the subsequent Chinese Philosophies of Lao Zi, Confucianism, and religions like Taoism and Buddhism and their related practices such as fortune-telling and geomancy. Hence, Yi Jing has been misunderstood as a fortune-telling book and an occult book by some Christians. This misconception is unfortunate and prevented the teachings of Yi Jing to be shared.  The fact is that Yi Jing is not about religions nor about fortune-telling. Fortune telling sees life as left to chance or the so-called fate. Yi Jing teaches us how to predict and manage the future of change! Yi Jing teaches us that man has the responsibility to know wisdom and to change. Gain or Loss, Good or Bad outcome is in the hand of man. Famous Confucian Disciple Xun Zi said, “Those who know Yi do not cast lots.” (荀子“善为易者不占”)。

Yi Jing is about Change and the Handling of Change
There are 4 basic ideas on the word Yi 易.

  1. Simplicity
    • Yi is a codified and classified set of knowledge or principles into a binary system of yang (positive male odd full line 1 some use 9) and yin (negative, feminine, even, broken line, 0, some use 6) 8 trigrams (3 lines), combining into 64 hexagrams (6 lines), 384 (6 x 64) 爻lines of commentary (some version have 2 more lines, 1 more each for the 1st Qian-Heaven and 2nd Kun-Earth Hexagram). It is simple but profound.
    • It is the co-existence of Yin and Yang and their interactions that give rise to change. It is not either Yin or Yang but both in different degrees. Western thinking tends to force us to choose either. Yi Jing, Eastern thinking is a degree. In the typical Yin-Yang fish diagram of black and white, there is a white do in the black and a black dot in the white. This co-existence thinking is very important in innovation. Radical Innovation is about breaking free from old and establishing new. Incremental Innovation is about improving the existing. Any new radical innovation needs incremental improvements to make it better. Innovation is about making the familiar strange and the strange familiar with the quality and efficiency improvement of the 6-sigma and lean methodology. Life and growth is a flip-flopping process of ever-changing.
  2. Change
    • Yi Jing is a study of change. Its basic principle is “things will change and go in cycles“. Things progressing to the extremes will change direction (物极必反). Life is ever-changing.
  3. Unchanging Patterns & Principles
    • This is a key part of Yi Jing. In the midst of forever changes, there are the unchanging patterns where changes follow! God created the universe with order and has put in the principles of change. To the unlearned, the changes seem to be random. But to those who study changes, may soon discover some heuristics – the rules of thumbs. As his understanding increases, he may develop formulas and algorithms to forecast and control the changes. Yi Jing is the heuristics of changes in life and in the environment.
  4. Interaction and Exchanges – You hold the keys
    • Exchanges cause new things to be formed and new events to happen. This is what life is all about. The key is to make sure that any exchanges should result in positive, good, harmonious gains and not result in losses and destruction.
    • Whether a change ends up well or not, you hold the key, even in situations where the forces are beyond our control. For those we can control, we can ‘yang’ – create, initiate it. For those forces beyond us, we accept it, understand it, flow with it and ride on it – we ‘yin’ it! It is not always the use of force that wins. The flexible palm tree can survive the storms but the big hard trees got broken.
  5. Be dynamic in your Applications – It is not Once off
    Your implementation of the advice of IChing will causes changes and you need to reassess the progress and may need to do differently now.

Because Yi Jing is codified knowledge, there are 3 main schools of interpretation (need not be exclusive but different in emphasis). They are the Conceptual rational meaning (义理), the symbolic (象), and the numerics (数). I shall follow the conceptual and symbolic to understand Yi Jing. But even the numbers tell interesting stories.

Key Learning of Yi Jing

  1. Study and Acceptance of Change – You hold your ‘fate’ in your hand. What you are born with is just the starting stage. What you end up with, the keys, are in your own hand. Discover and accept your strengths, weaknesses and your present circumstances of life.
  2. Learn the Unchanging Principles and patterns where changes follow.
  3. Understand the Situation or State that we are in due to our own decisions or due to factors beyond our control. It is about positioning and timing.
  4. Use the Principles to
    • prevent us from being caught in a bad situation
    • get out of the bad situation
    • change a threat to an opportunity
      In Yi Jing, every threat contains an opportunity (that is how the Chinese define a Crisis 危机 Danger+Opporunity) and in every opportunity, there lies a trap. There is a famous saying, 乐极生悲 – ‘extreme joy begets sorrow.
  5. Life is an endless cycle of changes – extremity triggers u-turn.
  6. It is all about leading a Meaningful, Joyful, Stress-Free Life by following God’s Way of integrity, righteousness, harmonious, balanced disciplined life with Risk Management.
  7. About Harmonious Living with people and with the earth and heaven (natural and spiritual’s laws). It is holding the middle way between Extremes (Yin & Yang). Neither is wrong or bad. The positioning and the arrangement of interactions should be changed to gain an open channel of communication & interaction to get harmony.

One thought on “Learning from “The Book of Change – 易经 Yi Jing” Part 01

  1. i’ve habitually started from the end…..ie ur key learning of yj….. after screening thru part 01…..

    key learning of yj

    ur point 1 – it is most unlikely that yj suggested ‘fate’ in one’s hand – is this ur personal interpretation….. suspect yj believes more likely that life is full of uncertainties beyond one’s control the chinaman way….. also am skeptical about the chinese warrors ever understood analysis by modern swot strength-weakness-opportunity-threat….. 😛

    ur point 2 – i am inclined to see how changes occur by human – earth – heaven the chinaman perspective ie act(pdca) – condition(position) – coordination(time)…… not v much predictable by patterns….. w probability attached to likihood x severity by impact quantification…..

    ur point 3 – agreed to human – positioning – timing as causes or variables for change control…..

    ur point 4 – principles were applicable to the ancient meritocracy world….. anew circumstances wud require anew ideas re abraham lincoln 1862…..

    ur point 5 – no comments

    ur point 6 – buddha n tao not= god?!

    ur point 7 – yj….. midway life for harmony !!!

    where a modern management or god’s principle is integrated – a declaration is required – to be faithful to the original yj an usual schorastic way….. :-DD

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