In 2005 Dong Shan 董珊 from the University of Beijing came across a dagger-axe that was held in a private collection.
The axe, dated around 900-800 BC, contains an inscription:
‘一六一一一六’ and 五六一一五八 are ‘numerical hexagrams’ that both convert to hexagram 50 ䷱. The text that follows it contains the name of hexagram 50 as well as phrases that are reminiscent of the line texts of hexagram 50.
Although the provenance of the axe is unknown Dong Shan does not think it is a fake, considering the patina and other features on the axe. This find would be the earliest object that directly links the numerical hexagrams to the Zhouyi, and it also contains the earliest text sample of it.
Dong Shan’s original article about the axe, published in 2011, can be read here http://www.gwz.fudan.edu.cn/Web/Show/2207. Pictures of the axe can be found at the end of the article.
Adam Schwartz writes in detail about the axe in his article ‘Between Numbers and Images: the Many Meanings of Trigram Li 離 in the Early Yijing’, published in the Bulletin of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology, Vol. 5, p. 47-84 (http://jas.hkbu.edu.hk/site/YCY/upload/mw_data/file/mw_data_2058_5b4411571ef04.pdf)
Lü 履: to step on (something); to walk; to proceed. The Mawangdui text has li 禮, ‘rules of conduct’, which reminds of the Xugua 序卦 line about H10: 物畜然後有禮故受之以履: “When beings thus have 禮, 履 will be accepted and practiced.” In the Image text of hexagram 34 lü 履 is also paired with li 禮: 君子以非禮弗履: “without li 禮 the junzi will not lü 履.” On bronze inscriptions the character mei 眉 is sometimes read as 履, for instance by Li Feng in his translation of the Sanshi pan 散氏盤 inscription (集成10176) , where he reads 眉/履 as ‘surveying’:
Because Ze attacked the settlements of San, [the officials of Ze] then arrived in San to use land [as compensation]. Surveying: Cross the Xian River to the south and arrive at the Great Pond…
-Li Feng, ‘Literacy and the Social Contexts of Writing in the Western Zhou’, in Li Feng and David Prager (eds.), Writing & literacy in early China: studies from the Columbia early China seminar, p. 289
My good friend Ruud Nederveen made a website where you can consult the Yijing and read the text from Wilhelm’s translation. You might think, aren’t there enough of these websites already? But Ruud’s site gives extra goodies that you will not find on other sites. When you consult the Yijing online on his site there are several features that makes this website different from others (in a good way):
- Wilhelm’s commentary is hidden under an arrow so you won’t be distracted by text that doesn’t belong to the core text of the Yi. If you want to read the commentary you can click on the arrow.
- The button ‘the Sign’ opens up a treasure trove of information about the hexagram that you cast and its trigrams:
- you will find the basic trigrams of the hexagram where you can click on the description to get detailed information about that trigram and what it could mean with regard to the position that it has in the hexagram,
- there are the nuclear trigrams, also with a description of what nuclear trigrams are as well as an indication of their nature and position,
- the baoti 包體, the ‘enveloping trigrams’ are given with a description of their meaning and usage,
- the resonance trigram – if you want to know what that is: go to the website and consult the Yijing Hint: it’s originally used in Xuankong Dagua Feng Shui,
- The Omnimono button:
Extremely unique is the Omnimono method developed by Henk Melching, a method where trigrams are connected to the lines, based on the sequence of the 3x throw of 1 coin (or 3 coins drawn separately). This is similar to the trigram connection described by Zhang Li in 《Yixiang Tushuo Neipian 易象圖說外篇》 (written in 1364). An explanation of Zhang Li’s method, which originally was used for the yarrow stalk method, is given with the Omnimono method. This section is still in development but can already be consulted.Most of the texts for all the trigram attributes & descriptions are translated from my Dutch book so if you ever wanted an English version of it this is as close as you are going to get (for now).
- The constituting and governing rulers are indicated (in case you should be interested in that)
I’d say give it a try and see how it works for you. There is also the option for a paid subscription which enables you to log your Yijing sessions. You can also look up hexagrams without consulting the Yijing online. And there is more because so many items are clickable! Last but not least: I am very fond of the large singing bowl at the end of each page. Click on it and it will start to play.
Highly recommended for any user of the Yijing, especially those users who want to do more with the structure of the hexagram and trigrams.