The I Ching or Book of Changes by Richard Wilhelm with Lao Nauxian, translated into English by Cary F Baynes, Bollingen Foundation Inc., NY, 1950. Third edition 1967.
If there is one published edition of the I Ching (or Yijing in pinyin) considered by academics and laypersons alike to be the foundation for Western understanding of Daoist philosophy and the I Ching in particular, Wilhelm's translation is it.
This translation, ten years in the making, was completed in 1923 in Wilhelm's native German language. Mr. Baynes translated it into English in 1949 and it was published in 1950 with a Forward written by the eminent psychologist Dr. Carl Jung.
I think Brian Walker, who has a fine translation of his own, sums this book up best in his introduction to his own translation: "This is just a book. This is more than a book." It is just a book if you look at it that way; it is a trusted advisor, a sage, a close friend, a spiritual counselor if you look at it that way.
This is one case in which the words "you get out of it what you put into it" are completely and fruitfully fulfilled.
Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching (Yijing) oracle is actually three books in one. Book One contains the translation of the Judgments, the Image, and the Lines of the I Ching. Tradition and legend agree that the Judgments and Images were written by a warrior named King Wen (c. 1150) as he suffered in his cell as a captive. His son, the Duke of Chou, is attributed with writing the texts that accompany the lines.
No matter what your opinion of divination is, the answers to the questions put to the I Ching have been reported over the centuries as uncannily accurate. Even today, millions of people rely on the I Ching for sound advice.
The middle section of the book is the Ta Chuan or Great Treatise. This is where the richness and the complexity and the diversity of the symbolism of the so-called trigrams of the I Ching comes to the light. The trigrams, aka Gua or Kua, of the I Ching are the three-line symbols of events in time, space, nature, and natural life. From most yang to most yin they are Qian (Sky) made up of three solid lines, Dui (Lake or Marsh), Kan (Water), Zhen (Thunder), Xun (Wind), Li (Fire), Gen (Mountain) and finally Kun (Earth) made up of three broken lines. The interaction of the eight trigrams can show all the things manifest between Heaven and Earth. Two trigrams combine to create a hexagram, the six-line symbol generated by the tossing of coins or counting of stalks performed when consulting the I Ching.
The final section of the Wilhelm, Lao, and Baynes I Ching integrates the first two sections into a comprehensive whole. Out of necessity there is some repetition, but it is truly kept to a minimum while exploring the richness of the diversity in several philosophical schools of thought concerning the meanings and the messages indicated by the hexagrams and the lines of any given reading.
If you would like to "begin at the beginning" of Western thought and ponder the Daoist and Confucian philosophy embedded in the Book Of Changes, this is an excellent place to start.
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