Yi Jing is the Chinese book of Wisdom. It is like the Proverbs of the Bible. However, unlike proverbs, Yi Jing is highly organized into a graphical taxonomy. I hope someone will be able to create a taxonomy of proverbs wisdom before me.
Someone says that a leader must have 3 things – moral character, capability, and wisdom. Wisdom is not a static thing. Wisdom is the ability to perceive a situation and apply the right knowledge in the right way at the right time to resolve a crisis or make a bad situation good. Of course, wisdom will tell you that your need good moral character and ability. So I Ching (Yi Jing) stresses understanding the timing (时), the positioning (位), and then deciding on the right action from the knowledge base of wisdom(Yi Jing).
The key concept of Yi is
Life is a harmonious interacting cycle of changes in situations (positions) that follows patterns put in order by the creator. Lack of harmonious interaction will bring forth blockage, fight, decay, crisis, war, disasters, and sickness. Breaking the rules determined by the creator will leads to danger and destruction.
The theology of Yi is that the universe is created by God and there is an order, the Dao (the Way) of the universe. The 3 key elements are Heaven (God, 天）， the earth (地), and man (人). Man must learn and follow the ways of Heaven and the Earth (the natural environment). Violating the orders will bring disasters (think Global warming & pollution). For a man to live a joyful, rich, and long life on earth, man must know the ways of Heaven and Earth and live in harmony with them.
The working of Heaven, Earth, and Man is represented first in the Yin-Yang, then the 8 trigrams, and then the 64 hexagrams. In a typical pre-creation 8 trigrams are shown as :
It is interesting for me to find out that the American natives (Red Indians) also have a similar form of a diagram. They call it the medicine wheel ( I recently discovered that the file is no longer available. You can get similar medicine wheel diagrams by a google image search on it – sample1, sample2). In the diagram, you can find storms, thunder, lightning, fire, mountains, rivers, the earth produces (e.g. wheat), moon and stars, eagle (God, Father-Sky), etc. The key teaching is similar to Yi Jing – balanced and harmony with oneself, God, and the environment! By the way, in the Chinese 8 trigrams, the Kan Water also represents the moon and Li Fire also represents the Sun. The medicine wheel is like a simplified form (less than 64) of hexagrams that teach how one should live in this world. This shows that the creation of truth and order of life is opened to the discovery by man and many different races of people have grasped the essentials of them.
We read from the Bible, Romans 1:19-20 “Because the knowledge of God may be seen in them, God has made it clear to them. For from the first making of the world, those things of God which the eye is unable to see, that is, his eternal power and existence, are fully made clear, he has given the knowledge of them through the things which he has made so that men have no reason for wrongdoing:” [BBE]
The 64 Hexagrams represent different situations or positions that we may find ourselves in. They also contain the principles of life. Some say they represent the 64 moral characters or virtues. For each Hexagram, the original Yi Jing has text descriptions of what it is and descriptions based on the pictorial (象) meaning (phenomenon). There are also 6 (爻) lines (full yang line and broken yin line) of text and pictorial descriptions. The six lines represent 6 stages of growth through time and positions within the hexagram. For position-wise, the hexagram is drawn from the bottom upwards. The 1st represents the beginning, lowest position, 2nd is sprouting out of the earth, 3rd is an initial success, 4th is entering the next level, 5th is the highest success and the 6th is the ending and handing over, and the highest position. Another related interpretation is 1 – move (birth), 2-enter(balanced), 3-depth(dense), 4-show out(shine), 5-stationary(rest), 6-substitute (changing). The 1st 3 lines or stages represent internal (under), and the upper 3 lines represent external(upper). The odd position lines, 1,3,5 represent Yang (activator) and the even position lines 2,4,6 represent Yin (receptor). At the start, timing is more important than position and at the end, the position is more important than timing.
Another, to be less significant, the meaning of the 6 lines is that they represent the different parts of a body. 1st, lowest line is toes, 2nd is the foot, 3rd is the waist, 4th is the upper body, 5th is the face, 6th is the head.
In summary, each hexagram represents a situation or state and within each situation, there are 6 stages of development. The principles and characteristics of state and stage transition are described very tersely in Yi Jing. Even so, there is much to be learned from them. Precisely because of the terseness, there are many books written to explain what Yi Jing means and how to use them. One can follow the interpretation of the Confucian Ru 儒-School, or one can follow, not recommended (as it leads to too much spiritual and mystical explanation and practices), the extension by the Dao school and the Taoist religion to the fortune-telling and geomancy practices.
There are many teachings on how the patterns of the Hexagram give rise to the textual description. In fact, scholars in Yi should know the how. A key reason is that by knowing how one can explain and develop the teaching of Yi better. For me, the descriptive text and its application should be useful enough.
If you are a Christian like me, studying the Yi Jing helps me to understand the Bible better. Most Bible expositions are made from the western thinkers’ viewpoints and tend to be, in my biased opinion, narrow and hard – either-or, force it. But Bible truth is interestingly very eastern. God is both love and just – either is partially wrong! The truth is to hold both concurrently like the Yin-Yang of Yi Jing. We can say Yin is love and Yang is Justice. The explanation of love given by Paul in 1 Cor 13 says that love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but with the truth. So love has justice inside and Justice has love within.