Going back to the source: the manuscripts of Richard Wilhelm (1)

fb_img_1473149206866-768x1024A few months ago publisher AnkhHermes, who publish the Dutch translation of Richard Wilhelm’s Yijing, asked me if I wanted to be the chief editor of the new edition. This new edition will have a new layout but also some corrections, a change from Duyvendak transcription to pinyin, years added to persons & dynasties and other minor adjustments to the text.

As editor I had to read Wilhelm’s translation from the first page to the last. Literally. Even though I had the book for more than thirty years on my shelves this was the first time I had to read it completely, as if it was a novel.

I wish I had done this earlier. Not only do Wilhelm’s comments to the text tell a lot about his view of the Yi and its usage, they also contain references to names and sources that I never heard of before: Xiang Anshi 項安世 and his book Zhouyi Wan Ci 周易玩辭, Liu Yuan 刘沅 and his book Zhouyi Heng Jie 周易恒解, to name but a few. Wilhelm didn’t stick to the mainstream books like the Zhouyi Zhezhong 周易折中 that he used as the main source for his translation and commentary. His library of books on the Yi was extensive and he used it to the fullest.

But reading his translation also raised some questions. How did he write his translation? Where did his commentary to the text come from? And most importantly, were certain deviations from the Chinese view made intentionally or were they mistakes?
The last question mainly concerns one topic: why on earth did Wilhelm switch the names of the two symbols ‘young yin’ and ‘young yang’? Continue reading

Hexagram 9, Judgement

小畜.  亨. 密雲不雨自我西郊。

Xu 畜: accumulate, make it grow in small amounts. According to Lu Deming 陸德明 (556-627) it was originally written as xu 蓄, ‘to store, save, grow’. The top part 艹 of this character is also found in the MWD form [艹+孰]. Also, the name of this hexagram in the received fragments of the Guicang 歸藏 (as given in Ma Guohan 馬清翰: 王函山房輯佚書) is 小毒畜. The second character is known as a loan for shu 熟, ‘to grow; ripe, mature’. The MWD form also has the 孰 compound. Some (like the Kang Xi 康熙 dictionary) say that the first two characters should be combined to 𣫶. Xu 畜 and du 毒 are close in meaning. They appear both in chapter 51 of the Daodejing 道德經:

Dao gives them life and nurtures them,
Rears and develops them.
It brings them to fruition and maturation,
Nourishes and guards over them.
(Tr. Ames & Hall) Continue reading

Hexagram 8, line 5


Xian 顯: appear, become visible, make public, (to) display,  (to) manifest. Also a loan for xin 欣, ‘joyful (appearance)’. Xianbi 顯比 can mean that the alliance is made public.

Sanqu 三驅: a ceremonial royal hunt with specific features. It is mentioned in the Wen Xuan 文選: Continue reading

Hexagram 8, line 4


Wai 外: those outside the clan, not related by blood, ‘outsiders’, those with different surname. In oracle bone inscriptions wai was used as a prefix for former kings that were not from the direct lineal line (Liu Xinglong 刘兴隆, 新编甲骨文字典, p. 404) The expression waisun 外孫 referred to the children of one’s daughter: when a daughter married she took the surname of her husband and from that moment she (and her children) belonged to the other clan (金文常用字典, p. 700; 王力古漢語字典, p. 176).

In manuscripts from the Warring States period wai is also used as a loan for gui 禬: a sacrifice, ritual or prayer to dispel disasters and sickness (Bai Yulan 白於藍 (ed.), 戰國秦漢簡帛古書通假字彙纂, p. 527; 王力古漢語字典, p. 836-837; 漢語大詞典, Vol. 7, p. 966).

Some may wonder why I translate wai as ‘outsiders’ but choose to translate nei 內 in line 2 as ‘women (of the emperor)’ when ‘insiders’ would also be a plausible translation. My choice is decided by the structure of the sentences. Line 2 says


while line 4 says


In line 2 the joining/bonding comes from (zi 自) inside, the text does not talk about joining/bonding with inside. Line 4 however says that wai, ‘outside’ is joining.

Bi 比: see line 1. The Shanghai Museum manuscript has 𢻹 instead of 比. Shaughnessy says about this character “It is not clear if or how the added 攴 signific changes the sense of the word here.” (Unearthing the Changes, p. 80) and most scholars regard it as a loan for 比. Chen Renren 陳仁仁 proposes another view. According to the Fang Yan 方言 dictionary the Southern region of the state of Chu used 𢻹 to denote a crack in earthenware or porcelain but the utensil is still used and not discarded (器破而未離,南楚之閒謂之㩺(𢻹)). The Shanghai Museum manuscript comes from the Southern region of the former state of Chu, therefore Chen thinks this meaning might still be valid and he interprets this line as “although there might be conflicts with other feudal lords the bond is not yet completely broken” (與其他諸侯發生了矛盾,但關係並未完全破裂). That is why the Shanghai Museum Manuscript ends this line with 亡不利, ‘nothing is unfavourable’ (Chen Renren 陳仁仁, 戰國楚竹書《周易》研究, p. 172).

Outsiders joining. Auspicious divination.