The far place

In the Yi the character you 攸 often occurs, 32 times to be exact (2-0, 3-0, 4-3, 14-2, 19-3, 22-0, 23-0, 24-0, 25-0, 25-2, 25-6, 26-3, 27-3, 28-0, 32-0, 32-1, 33-1, 34-6, 36-1, 37-2, 40-0, 41-0, 41-6, 42-0, 43-0, 44-1, 45-0, 45-3, 54-0, 54-6, 57-0, 64-6). Most often it is translated as ‘place’, or interpreted as ‘goal’, ‘do something’ or another vague expression. That has always annoyed me in most translations: something mysterious is made of this you 攸. Wilhelm says for instance “It is favourable to undertake something“. What is this ‘something’? I assume more can be said about it.

The character you 攸 already appears on the oracle bones from the Shang-dynasty (ca. 1750 – 1122 v. Chr.). As we see it know it referred to a specific place, city or area (Jiaguwen Zidian 甲骨文字典, p. 336). According to my historical Atlas it was a area in the current region of the Fei Huang river, in the North of the province Jiangsu (see map). However, when it comes to the Shang dynasty historical atlases are not always reliable, after all there is no material at hand which says ‘this place was there’, which makes filling in the Shang map a bunch of guesses.

On bronze inscriptions from the Zhou-dynasty (ca. 1122 – 221 BC) the character also often occurs, mostly in two meanings. One meaning doesn’t seem to be of interest to us, because in this case it is always used in combination with le 勒. It seems to refer to the bronze ring which kept the reigns of horses together. But this meaning only goes for this specific combination of characters, and we don’t find this in the Yi. The meaning which is of interest to us is that of ‘long (ago)’, or ‘far (in distance)’. On bronze inscriptions the character is often a synonym for xiu 修 or you 悠, and if you look closely you will see resemblances between the characters. If a character got more meanings in the course of time, making it difficult to understand which meaning was meant in a text, to add an extra component which pointed to the meaning the writer intended. On the Zhongshan Wang Ding 中山王鼎 tripod from the Zhanguo-period (481 – 221 BC), which was found in 1977, we find the character with the meaning of ‘far’. We also know texts where you 悠 with the meaning of ‘far’ is written as you 攸 (Jinwen Da Zidian 金文大字典 p. 430).

I suspect there is a connection between the Shang meaning of you 攸 and the Zhou meaning of you 攸. During the Shang dynasty it was a specific location, somewhat far from the (last) capital (see map, no. 1 is the last Shang capital), but not too far (about 300 kilometres). The Zhou capital however was far more to the West (no. 2), and much further from the You 攸 area – about 700 kilometres, assuming the historical atlas is right. Maybe you 攸 in the time of the Zhou did not refer to the location You anymore, but was used more general in the sense of ‘far away’. The Yi is supposed to be written during the Zhou dynasty, so maybe in the Yi you 攸 also means ‘far’. Let’s see what this gives us.

In the Judgment of hexagram 2 we read: 君子有攸往. Wilhelm says “If the superior man undertakes something…”, Huang says, “Superior person has somewhere to go”, Boering says “The student can undertake something“. But if we translate you 攸 as ‘far’, then a (somewhat literal) translation would be: “The Junzi has far to go”, in which we can see you 有 with a little enforcement, like ‘must’ or ‘sensible, good to’. You 攸 seems to refer to the areas far from the capital, the outer regions at the border of the land that was under control of the Zhou. This assumption seems to be confimred by The Judgment of hexagram 3, where it says 勿用有攸往. 利建侯: “not execute/use far travels, (more) favourable (is it) to appoint feudal lords”. In this case it seems better for the king to leave the far regions to helpers who do the work for him.

As said the character you 攸 appears 32 times in the Yi. Within these 32 instances we can discern 5 patterns:

1. 利有攸往: 24-0, (25-2,) 26-3, 28-0, 32-0, 41-0, 41-6, 42-0, 43-0, 45-0, 57-0, 22-0
2. 無攸利: 4-3, 19-3, 25-6, 27-3, 32-1, 34-6, (37-2,) 45-3, 54-0, 54-6, 64-0
3. 有攸往: (2-0,) 14-2, 36-1, 40-0, 44-1
4. 不利有攸往: 23-0, 25-0
5. 勿用有攸往: 3-0, 33-1

I see youwang 攸往 here as a journey to the borders of the empire. Wang means as much as “commence a journey” (Jinwen Changyong Zidian 金文常用字典; p. 197). In the bronze version of this character we find the component wang 王, ‘king’. Normally it is said that this component represents the pronunciation, but in my view it could also point to the meaning: it is the king who goes.

The examples below give the idea that it is only good to undertake a youwang when at the home front everything is in order.

Pattern 1: 利有攸往
“Favourable to have a youwang“.

For example

26-3: 良馬逐。利艱貞。曰閑輿衛。利有攸往。”A chase with good horses. Favourable to have a hard times divination. It is said, use chariots as blockade for defence. Favourable to have a youwang.”

Jian 艱 means ‘hard, difficult times’ (金文常用字典; p. 1097, Jiaguwen Zidian 甲骨文字典; p. 1464). A divination was not only done to know what would happen, but mainly to decide what would happen. It was an arrangements with your forefathers. You take care of their wellbeing by bringing offerings, they make sure there will not take place any calamities. This is also found in an additional meaning of jian 艱: mourning about the death of (one of) your parents (Hanyu Da Zidian 漢語大字典; p. 3171). After their death your parents are capable of sending you luck or disaster, therefore you have to be assured of their support.

A ‘hard times divination’ could be used in difficult times (or after the death of a parent) to get the support of the ancestors. With that support, and with good material, it can be favourable to have a youwang.

Pattern 2: 無攸利
“No profit from the you“. From the border regions comes no profit.

For example

4-3: 勿用取女。見金夫。不有躬。無攸利。”Do not use ‘taking the woman’. The bronze worker has to be seen. Do nothing personal. From the border regions comes no profit.”

Qu 取 mostly means ‘take, appropriate’. In Shang it was probably also the name of a offer ritual (甲骨文字典; p. 292). That would make a 取女 a woman who is being offered, probably to get something. In bronze inscriptions was qu 取 Also een shortening for zou 郰, the name of a city (金文常用字典; p. 292). This would make 取女 ‘a woman from Zou’, but this is unlikely.

Tsung-Tung Chang says in Der Kult der Shang-Dynastie im Spiegel der Orakelinschriften about qu 取:

ist identisch mit dem heutigen Zeichen 取. In Orakelinschriften hat es, außer der heute üblichen Bedeuting “nehmen”, auch die Bedeutung “Kulthandlung”. Hsü Shen erklärte die Struktuur dieses Zeichens met dem alten Brauch, das linke Ohr des erlegten Wildes oder des erschlagenen Feindes als Trophäe abzuschneiden. Daher bin ich der Ansicht, daß dieses Zeichen die Darbringung eines Ohrs als Symbopfer bedeutet.”
(p. 171)

勿用取女 also occurs in the Judgment of 44. It says there that the woman is zhuang 壯. Zhuang 壯 means ‘strong, powerful’, but earlier it also stood for the age of 30 years (漢語大字典; p. 428 ) . In the Li Ji 禮記 we read: “人生十年曰幼學,二十日弱冠,三十曰壯,有室.” “In a human life the ago from 10 years on is called ‘studying child’, from 20 years ‘young (but) with hat’ (=adult HM), from 30 years zhuang 壯, this is ‘marry’.” An man was expected to marry when he was about thirty, a woman when she was about twenty or preferably sooner. A woman who was zhuang 壯 was too old to ‘take’, to marry.

見金夫: jin 金 is metal, but was in Zhou time mostly used for ‘bronze’ (金文常用字典; p. 1111). Fu 夫 is a craftsman, a soldier, a bureaucrat, or someone who does manual labour (漢語大字典; p. 521).

不有躬: bu you 不有 literally means ‘not have’, but in the Yi this is expressed with wu 無. Bu you 不 seems te be a verb, a action, instead of a condition: ‘not be there’. Gong 躬 is ‘body’, but also ‘personally’, ‘from/for yourself’ (漢語大字典; p. 3808 ). Bu you gong 不有躬 could mean ‘without body’, but to me this sounds too weird.

The situation is here in such a way that there can not be taken a wife. This puts the survival of the family at risk. That is why first the bronze works have to be in order (ritual objects, gifts for the ancenstors). When this is not arranged you can not undertake anything. The outer regions cannot be of service to you (for instance they cannot serve you a wife).

Pattern 3: 有攸往
“Have a youwang“. Have a journey to the border regions.

For instance

14-2: 大車以載。有攸往。無咎。
“A large wagon for transportation. Have a journey to the border regions. No misfortune (is being sent).”

Jiu 咎 means ‘misfortune’, ‘blame’, or ‘punish the guilty’ (漢語大字典; p. 608 ), but in Shang time it stood for ‘misfortune sent from above’ (甲骨文字典; p. 896). I found this adds a nice ring to it, that’s why I kept it here. Beauty also has its merits.

Pattern 4: 不利有攸往
“No fortune in having a youwang“. It is of no use to have a journey to the outer regions.

For instance

23-0: 剝.不利有攸往。”Stripped. No fortune in having a youwang”.

Bo 剝 is ‘too strip’, ‘cut in pieces’, ‘wear out’, ‘flake off’, ‘break down’. These meanings have something of decay in them. Also: ‘remove with violent force’ (漢語大字典; p. 346). In times of bo 剝 it is not profitable to have far travels. A youwang was used for inspections, but also to impress, to show who is still in power and control. But a king can only safely leave the home front when all is in order there. In times of bo 剝 that is not the case.

Pattern 5: 勿用有攸往
“Do not use having a youwang“. A youwang is not the right means here.

For instance

33-1: 遯尾.厲.勿用有攸往。“Withdrawal at the tail. Disaster. Do not use a youwang.”

Wei 尾 was in Shang time probably the name of a feudal state (‘方國名’, 甲骨文字典; p. 945). The character from that time shows a man or animal with a tail, and ‘tail’ is therefore the common translation. But Wei 尾 also means ‘the mating of animals’, and that would make the translation ‘withdrawal during mating’. Nice thinking, but probably we are dealing here with a military action. Wei 尾 also means ‘that which is not yet finished, the last part, that which hangs at the end’ (漢語大字典; p. 967). This gives the impression that an army pulls back while the battle is not yet decided or won. Wei 尾 also means ‘country border’, which would make the translation ‘withdrawal at the border’. Of course that is not good in a war. Disaster!

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