I Ching's influence

I Ching's influence

As an important component of Chinese traditional culture, the I Ching's influence throughout history has been profound. The "I Ching" (Yì Jīng), or "Classic of Changes", which dates from over 3,000 years ago, is believed to be one of the world's oldest, and is certainly one of its greatest books. The two major branches of Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism have common roots in the "I Ching".

ignificance for Chinese culture

From its mythological origins in prehistory ("see" Fu Xi) and the earliest dates of recorded history in China, the "I Ching" has been added to by a succession of philosophers, scholars and rulers. Thus, it reflects a thread of thinking and a common cosmology that have been passed through successive generations. In addition to the "I Ching's" broadly recognized influence on Confucianism and Taoism, it has been shown to have influenced Chinese Buddhism. Fazang, patriarch of the Huayan school, is believed to have drawn on a mode of thought derived from the I Ching (Lai, 1980).

One of the earliest versions of the "I Ching" (called, "Zhou I", or "Changes of Zhou") was the oracle of the Zhou people. It played a role in their overthrow of the Shang dynasty by Zhou King Wu in 1070 BCE. An account of Wu's conquest tells of a solar eclipse believed by the King to be an omen from Heaven to march against the Shang. This account has been matched with a solar eclipse that occurred on June 20, 1070 BCE. Thus, the earliest layer of the I Ching has been shown to preserve a hidden history that went undetected for three millennia (Marshall, 2002). The "Zhou Yi" has been called "the source of Chinese culture." It has influenced fields as varied as mathematics, science, medicine, martial arts, philosophy, history, literature, art, ethics, military affairs and religion.

Joseph Campbell describes the I Ching as "an encyclopedia of oracles, based on a mythic view of the universe that is fundamental to all Chinese thought" (Campbell, 1962)


Confucius was fascinated by the I Ching. According to Joseph Needham, Confucius' copy, "a set of bamboo tablets fastened by a leather thong, was consulted so often that the binding had to be replaced three times. He said that if he had fifty years to spare, he would devote them to the I Ching" (Needham, 1956, p. 307). Confucius' ten commentaries, called the Ten Wings, transformed the "I Ching" from a divination text into a "philosophical masterpiece." It was this form of the "I Ching" that inspired the Taoists, Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu. It has influenced Confucians and other philosophers and scientists ever since. [Abraham, Ralph H. (1999) [http://www.yarrowstalk.com/iching/bookplan/ch1.html Commentaries on the I Ching. Chapter 1 Legendary History] . Retrieved on: February 15, 2008.]


Historian of Chinese intellectual history and science, Joseph Needham, said in his second volume of "Science and Civilization in China" (p. 311) that the early luminaries of Chinese thought “would have been wiser to tie a millstone about the neck of the I Ching and cast it into the sea.”

Influence on Western culture

During most of its history, the "I Ching" was only known in China. It was introduced to the West in the late 19th Century. A translation by Richard Wilhelm, into German was subsequently translated into English by Cary F. Baynes. Another translation, by James Legge has also held wide popularity in the West. Since the early 20th Century the "I Ching" has been influential in fields as diverse as psychoanalysis and popular culture. Some of those influenced are the following:
* Niels Bohr included the Tai Chi symbol in his coat of arms, when knighted, to reflect his appreciation for the "I Ching's" use of probabilistic concepts in its handling of physical, social, and psychological phenomena.
* Carl Jung developed his theory of synchronicity based upon the I Ching.
* Lost (TV series) - The "I Ching" is the primary component of the logo for "The Dharma Initiative".
* John Cage - experimental musician and composer who used the "I Ching" to decide the arrangements of many of his compositions.
* Andrew Culver - composer who uses vast quantities of "chance operations" to generate compositional events and structures, and whose simulation of the coin-tossing oracle called [http://www.anarchicharmony.org/IChing/ic.cfm ic] is available freely online at [http://www.anarchicharmony.org anarchicharmony.org] .
* Merce Cunningham - choreographer who uses the "I Ching" and "chance operations" to decide the arrangement of many of his dances.
* Philip K. Dick - science fiction writer who used the "I Ching" to decide some of the plot movements in "The Man in the High Castle". The "I Ching" is referred to several times through the plot of the book, and is consulted by certain characters at key points in the plot.
* Dead Prez - an activist hip-hop group that refer to the "I Ching" in several of their songs. To them, the "I Ching" represents the change they want to bring about through revolution. The symbol in their logo is the seventh hexagram, "sze", which represents an army - the "people's army".
* "The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul", by Douglas Adams features the main character Dirk Gently acquiring and consulting an electronic device which is both a calculator and an "I Ching". The functionality of the device may be deduced from the fact that the calculator renders any result higher than 4 as "A Suffusion of Yellow".
* The ABC soap opera "Dark Shadows" at one point featured a copy of the "I Ching" and yarrow sticks amongst its many mystical plot elements. Rather than using it as a tool of divination, the characters meditated on its hexagrams as a means for travelling into the astral plane.
* George Harrison of the Beatles read the "I Ching" and decided he should surrender to chance. Following this, in his words, he "picked up a book at random, opened it, saw 'gently weeps,' then laid the book down again and started the song" ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps").
* In the late 1960s, the comic book "Wonder Woman" temporarily changed the title character from a superhero to a secret agent, and placed her under the guidance of an elderly mentor named "I Ching". The writer behind this change later expressed regret at potentially offending Asian audiences, and later the character was retconned so that "I Ching" was merely a code or nickname.
* British author Philip Pullman's book "The Amber Spyglass" (part of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy) features use of the "I Ching" by the character Dr. Mary Malone. The "I Ching" is presented as one of many divinatory methods by which individuals in Pullman's universe are able to communicate with Dust.
* The song Chapter 24 from Pink Floyd's first album, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", written by Syd Barrett features lyrics adapted from the Book of Changes. The song Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun from "A Saucerful of Secrets" is also based on the I Ching.
* Hermann Hesse's novel "The Glass Bead Game" (1943) is mainly concerned with the principles of the "I Ching".
* Terence McKenna, built the foundations of his Novelty Theory upon an analysis of the King Wen sequence of the "I Ching". He developed a fractal curve that can be plotted as an oscillating, linear graph and that purports to describe the ebb and flow of novelty in time. His analysis of the numerical patterns in the King Wen sequence led to the development of his Timewave Zero computer program, which postulates that the ingression of novelty into human history can be calculated and predicted. This concept first took root in his entheogenic experiences shared by McKenna and his brother Dennis McKenna and documented in the book "True Hallucinations".
* A red "I Ching" hexagram tattoed on the right forearm is the symbol for Storm Shadow's Arashikage ninja clan in G.I. Joe continuity.
* In Michael Mann's "Collateral" Vincent (Tom Cruise) refers to "I Ching" as he tries to teach Max (Jamie Foxx) the importance of improvisation.
* Aura-Soma practitioners relate their color-based divination system to the I Ching and other systems.
* In Neal Stephenson's novel "Quicksilver", "I Ching" hexagrams are used as encryption keys for the cyphered messages that Eliza sends to Leibniz. Before encryption, the plaintext has to be rendered as a binary sequence, following a 5-bit alphabet. The consequence of this particular cypher is that Eliza's letters are necessarily five times longer than the encrypted message hidden in them. Eventually, a cryptoanalyst at King Louis XIV's court grows suspicious of the length of Eliza's letters (especially since the bulk of the letters is filled with descriptions of clothing and make-up, which neither Eliza nor Leibniz have shown any actual interest in) and correctly deduces that they carry encrypted messages.



*Campbell, J. 1962. "Oriental Mythology", Volume II in "Masks of God"
*Lai, W. 1980 [http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-JOCP/jc26754.htm "The I-ching and the Formation of the Hua-yen Philosophy"] "Journal of Chinese Philosophy" V. 7, pp. 245-258. Online article, D. Reidel Publishing. Accessed: 2006-02-12.
*Marshall, S.J. 2002. "The Mandate of Heaven: Hidden History in the I Ching"
*Wilhelm, R. & Baynes, C., 1967. "The I Ching or Book of Changes," With forward by Carl Jung. 3rd. ed., Bollingen Series XIX. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press (1st ed. 1950).

External links

* [http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-10/09/content_380662.htm "Between past and present"] "Shanghai Star" 2004-10-09. Accessed: 2006-01-10.

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