Hexagram 10, line 1


Su 素: in early texts almost exclusively used as a descriptive adjective: ‘unadorned, plain, not processed or modified’. This also means that what follows it is a noun, an object. We already see this usage on bronze inscriptions from around 600BC, where it appears in lists of gifts from the king to the owner of the bronze vessel, who had it cast to commemorate the event (see for instance the Shi Ke xu 師克盨; Yang Xiaoneng, ‘The Shi Ke Xu: Reconsideration of an Inscribed Late Western Zhou Ritual Vessel’, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 52, No. 3/4 (1992), pp. 163-214. See also this article). In the same way it is used in the Liji 禮記:

A Great or other officer, leaving his state, should not take his vessels of sacrifice with him across the boundary. The former will leave his vessels for the time with another Great officer, and the latter his with another officer. A Great or other officer, leaving his state, on crossing the boundary, should prepare a place for an altar, and wail there, looking in the direction of the state. He should wear his white upper garment and white lower, and his white cap, remove his (ornamental) collar, wear shoes of untanned leather, have a covering of white (dog’s-fur) for his cross-board, and leave his horses manes undressed. He should not trim his nails or beard, nor make an offering at his (spare) meals. He should not say to any one that he is not chargeable with guilt, nor have any of his women approach him. After three months he will return to his usual dress.
(tr. James Legge, modified)

Personally I would not have chosen ‘white’ as a translation of su 素. I think it refers to plain, uncoloured, raw material. Continue reading

Hexagram 10, Judgment


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 履 is also paired with li 禮: 君子以非禮弗履: “without li 禮 the junzi will not 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

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Hexagram 09, line 6


Ji 既: on oracle bone and bronze inscriptions used with the meaning of ‘finished, complete, the end, to stop, the final stage’ (Liu Xinglong 劉興隆,《新編甲骨文字典》, p. 299; Ma Rusen 馬如森, 《殷墟甲骨學》, entry 387; Chen Chusheng 陳初生, 《金文常用字典》, p. 559.)  However, it depends a lot on the context and the character that follows it how you should read it. For instance, in the case of a solar eclipse it refers to a full eclipse (J.M. Steele, ‘A comparison of astronomical terminology, methods and concepts in China and Mesopotamia, with some comments on the claims for the transmission of Mesopotamian astronomy to China’, in Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage , Vol. 16, No. 3 (2013), p. 254;  Han Y B, Qiao Q Y., ‘Records of solar eclipse observations in ancient China’ , Sci China Ser G, 2009, 52(11), p. 1642) even though you might expect that it refers to the end or final stage of an eclipse. Continue reading

Hexagram 09, line 5


有孚攣如: this sentence also occurs at H61.5.

You fu 有孚: see here.

Luan 攣: to join, to connect. There are a few dictionaries (like 《新甲骨文編》) who link this character to an oracle bone character (see image). This  OBI character has the same components as 攣: silk threads 絲 with a hand 爫. But in 攣 this hand 手 is below. Most dictionaries regard the OBI form as the precursor of 𦃟 ‘to tie (up)’, following the Shuowen 說文 which says 𦃟 籀文系從爪絲: 𦃟 is the Large Seal form of 系. From 爪 ‘hand’ and 絲 ‘two threads of silk.’ Continue reading