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February 15, 2009


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I don't claim to be expert in neo-Confucianism, but there's no question that it has a Platonic theme, and that Yijing was one of the texts they considered very important in developing their cosmology. It's entirely plausible that those commentaries are affecting Wilhelm's reading.

I kind of like the idea of starting with Yijing, but I'm not as certain about allowing Laozi/Zhuangzi to monopolize the idea of "Way": later uses, including Confucius, aren't about a specifically Daoist Way at all until the Daoist ideas start to become more widespread.

I assume that you talk about Mozi, becuase it would be hard to explain a lot of Mencius or Hanfeizi without doing so, but even so, I can't imagine teaching that stuff without covering him in some detail. Hanfeizi makes much more sense if that way, for one.

Thanks for the comment on neo-Confucianism...
I don't let Taoists monopolize the idea of Way; rather, I think their views are broader, and it is easier to start with that and move to the Confucian notion of Way (which has more of a human focus) than vice versa. That way the Confucian "silences" (i.e. don't talk about death or ghosts or spirits, etc.) make a certain sense.
And, yes, I do talk about Mozi, and they read a little about him. But we don't read the text itself.

Sam; really interesting. I like the idea of actually "doing" some oracle consultation. (Do you actually break out yarrow sticks (or their equivalent)? Or do you flip coins?) I've been toying with the idea of including brief sections on Shang bone-divination as well as the Zhou yarrow-stalk-hexagram sort. (Not that I have ox scapulas or tortoise plastrons lying around for the "labs"!). I've been working (very sporadically) on trying to tie the oracular power of the bone fissure or the hexagram to the Confucian obsession with "rectifying terms." Maybe when I've figured out how that influence might go, I'll implement the divination sections.

Wilhelm is cheap, readily available, and pretty thorough--I would use it in a flash. The problems with it sound familiar from the last time I took a quick look at it. I think most people do a quickie section on the Yijing just before the Neoconfucian part of a course. I agree with Jonathan that the Platonistic aspects of Wilhelm's discussion probably have something to do with the connections between the Yijing commentaries and Neoconfucian versions of "dualism." The "God" language in Wilhelm seems odd enough to be interesting on its own--what was he thinking about really?

Your reply to Jonathan suggests that you think of the Confucian notion of Way as being a narrower conception but one that fits within the broader Daoist version. I don't disagree with that as a rubric, but what you say about the Yijing's sensibility, that its "randomness and coincidence that attends to any use of the text as oracle" provides "a direct experience of the complexity and fragility and spontaneity (ziran) of context" makes me think that the broader version of Way you attribute to the Yijing and to the Daoists is actually a narrow version that also fits under a different, broader version along with the narrower Confucian version. Something like this:

I. Broad Version of Way
A. Narrow Yijing Version of Way
B. Narrow Daodejing Version of Way
C. Narrow Zhuangzi Version of Way
D. Narrow Confucian Version of Way

It sounds to me like you have an account of (I) that is equivalent to (A) and (C). I'm not as sure, myself, that the versions of Way in (B) and (D) are just narrow versions of those, however. But I'll stop there for now.

Thanks for the response.
I throw coins.
I suspect that Wilhelm is falling back on an unstated Christian notion of God, but that is just my suspicion.
My "broad" sense of Way is drawn from the Yijing and the Daodejing, at least consciously. Perhaps you are right and I am actually doing something different. Generally, by "narrow" I mean to suggest that Confucians tend to focus more on the human realm of Way. That opens the possibility of a certain agreement between Confucians and Daoists on the non-human realms of Way, and that agreement might be found in the Yijing. That's my thinking at least....

The theory of the five states of change works if students or masters know how to properly apply it. So does Wu Wei. Probably not many have reached that stage of cultivation.

When Yi students become more familiar with the images of the eight trigrams, they would be able to analyze and determine many things including those of unseen forces.

While I understand that the light spirits (shenxian) live in heaven(s), where do the dark spirits live, if not on earth? How many in the world can really tell us they are able to see the dark or the light spirits (guishen)? Just because the ancients do not discuss much about these spirits it never meant, they do not exist.

The invisible but parallel world theory remains just that. Perhaps Wilhelm and/or his mentor during their times believed that it exists. The divinities have never mentioned it. Neither have my learned Daoist friend nor I have ever seen it, so how do we know whether it exists or not?

Wilhelm gets all the blame for some terms in following Legge’s translation. In the Confucian books, Legge translated Junzi as the superior man.

The ladies in the West ‘squirm’ and blame Wilhelm for using the same term in the Book of Changes as if he specifically coined ‘superior man’ just to be in line with the Confucians.

In the same books, Legge translated Shangdi as God. While Wilhelm translated the term once into Supreme Deity, perhaps he thought it more palatable or meaningful to his Western readers, predominating Christians at the time, by translating it as God.

Somehow he also gets whacked for that! (Joke)

Thanks for stopping by.
Legge was more outgoing with his Christianity, but I think Wilhelm may also have been drawing on it in his translation...

Well, have to drop by now and then otherwise our teacher, the Yi, may knock me on the head for not visiting one of its more favored students in the West!

Joking aside, I like your chronological order of teaching ancient Chinese philosophy, from the Book of Changes down to Mencius. Reading the Yi could be a bit tough at times but under your delicate care and guidance, I am sure your students can handle it well.

Your knowledge of the Confucian doctrine is good, if not top class. If you can supplement your theory and practice with the four cardinal virtues and the hidden one, it is probable you can become distinguished in the field of teaching Ancient Chinese Philosophy which includes Tao.

Perhaps by then, you could be more grounded than your favorite sage, Zhuangzi. By knowing more than him what Heaven and Earth and their respective images really meant to the other sages of old including Laozi, Confucius, Buddha, and Mencius. Good luck.

Joking aside, indeed.



‘This is just we, the disciples (the students), cannot imitate you (the sage) in.' (Continuation)

Perhaps, we can still strive to follow the ways of heaven and earth by making things easy and simple for ourselves and fellow students. If we learn lofty ideas of heavenly essence while grounding ourselves with earthly virtues, if lucky, we can also reach the Center (Zhong) by and by, instead of missing the forest for the trees.

However the holy sage, Jiang Ziya may tend to disagree since he follows the four seasons instead of the ways of heaven and earth. But which other ancient sage that we know of has been the distinguished adviser to another Holy sage, and who had the purported 'mandate' to appoint Daoist deities!

Hi Allan.
Have you ever consulted the I Ching with regards to investment decisions?
I am writing my third book on managing and investing with the I Ching and I would appreciate it very much if you could share your experiences with me.
Note: you can download the book for free at (the I Ching will not let me charge the readers for its wisdom)

Hi Julio

Yes, I have consulted the Yijing for the investment of transnational shares and realty, international foreign currencies, and gold bullion since the 1970s.

Some of these investment experiences including a live-test case on shares investment have been shared in my blog for all to see and for free.

Thanks for your invitation but I currently enjoy the feeling of freedom from all unnecessary baggage.



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