Hexagram 9, 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.

The fact that it means ‘complete’ but also ‘finished, the final stage’ can make it hard to determine what ji actually means in this line of the Yijing: does 既雨 mean that it stopped raining, that it reached its climax, or that it started to rain? Fortunately there are a few old sources that can help us decide: on oracle bones there is frequent mentioning of 既 with yu 雨, ‘rain’:

On day geng-yin (27th day of the sexagenary cycle) it rained. At noon it stopped.
(Heji 21302; 《甲骨文字典》, p. 559; 《羽珍甲骨古文化研究學會年報》第一卷, 第一期, p. 96)

On day ding-hai (24) divining, stating: the rain will stop.
Stating: it will not stop.
(Heji 1784; Song Yaping 宋雅萍, 《殷墟YH127坑背甲刻辭研究》, p. 74; Zhang Weijie 張惟捷, 《殷墟 YH127 坑賓維甲骨新研》, p. 235)

…stopped raining…
(Heji 18012; Dang Ning 党宁,  《甲骨文即、既、鄉三字的异同》)

On the third day, bing-shen (33), in the afternoon it rained from the east; at the time of xiaocai it stopped (raining).
(Heji 20966; David N. Keightley, The Ancestral Landschape, p. 22; Xueshun Liu, The First Known Chinese Calendar: A Reconstruction By The Synchronic Evidential Approach, p. 63)

Day xin-si (18) stating: the rain does not stop, perhaps perform the liao fire ritual at place X.
(Xiaotun 665; 《甲骨文合集释文》, p. 142)

丙申卜㱿貞: 來乙巳下乙.王曰:隹㞢咎其㞢. 乙巳明雨伐既雨…
(Preface:) Crack-making on bing-shen (33), Que divined: (Charge:) “On the coming yi-si (42), (we) will perform the you-ritual to Xia Yi (= Ancestor Yi, the twelfth king).” (Prognostication:) The king read the cracks and said: “When (we) perform the you-ritual there will be occasion for calamities; there may be thunder (?),” (Verification:) On yi-si (42), (we) performed the you-ritual. At dawn it rained; at the beheading sacrifice it stopped raining…
(Heji 11498; translation from David N. Keightley, ‘Shang Oracle-bone Inscriptions’, in Edward L. Shaughnessy (ed.), New Sources of Early Chinese History: An Introduction to the Reading of Inscriptions and Manuscripts, p. 47)

The contexts of these examples show that ‘the end, stopping’ is the most plausible translation for ji when it is combined with ‘rain’ (for an earlier different view on ji in the Heji 11498 inscription see Paul L-M. Serruys, ‘Studies in the Language of the Shang Oracle Inscriptions’, T’oung Pao, Second Series, Vol. 60, Livr. 1/3 (1974), pp. 55-56).

Ji yu 既雨: the rain stopped. The idea of ‘stopping’ also fits the line position in the hexagram better as the top line often signifies the end of a process.

Ji chu 既處: Contrary to ji yu 既雨 there are no really useful examples of ji chu on either oracle bones or bronze inscriptions. The phrase occurs in two bronze inscriptions: the Shu zun 叔尊 and the Shu you 叔卣 wine vessels:

余既眚(省), 余既處…
(Wu Zhenfeng 吳鎮烽 (ed.),《周青銅器銘文暨圖像集成》, Vol. 21, p. 308 & Vol. 24, p. 324)

Dong Shan 董珊 from Fudan University reads this as “我已經視察,我已經居住”, “I have (already) done the inspection, I have (already) found a place to reside.” But that does not really fit the context of the line text from the Yijing.

Chu 處 refers to an indefinite place, or location, or as a verb it can mean ‘to stay, to stop’ at a certain location. It means that a certain movement has come to a halt. Ji chu 既處 could therefore be a reaffirmation of the preceding ji yu 既雨: the rain has come to a halt, it has stopped. Another interesting meaning of chu, combined with 女, is that of a woman who is not married and is staying at home (女子居家或未嫁; 漢語大詞典, Vol. 8, p. 837B). This connects to the sentence 婦貞厲, “divination for a woman: disaster”, which implies that when a woman consulted the oracle and she would get this line it meant an inauspicious outcome.

Shang 尚: ‘to elevate’, to make it the focus of your attention, to give it importance, to choose (what follows it). In the context of divination however it has a specific meaning when it is at the beginning of a sentence. In this usage it is found in several Warring States divination records:

The predictive process starts when someone asks for a consultation on a particular theme, either in the form “so-and-so requests an oracle on such-and-such subject”, or through a charge (ming 命) expressing a wish or a future possibility. For example, in the charge “May he not live until the planned date!” the wish is expressed by the modal particle shang 尚 (may it be that) placed at the beginning of a sentence.
– Marc Kalinowski, ‘Diviners and astrologers under the Eastern Zhou. Transmitted texts and recent archaeological discoveries’, in John Lagerwey and  Marc Kalinowski (eds.), Early Chinese Religion – Part One: Shang through Han (1250 BC–220 AD), p. 349-350.

Edward Shaughnessy emphasizes that what follows shang is not merely a wish or a desire: shang is the start of a prayer to the ancestors for their approval or assistance. He addresses this in his review of Lisa Raphal’s book Divination and Prediction in Early China and Ancient Greece when he discusses Raphal’s translations of a passage from the Baoshan divination records and a passage from the Zuozhuan:

自 X 之月以庚 X 之月,出入事王,盡卒歲,盡集歲躬身尚毋又(有)咎。
From month X [this year] to month X of next year, for the whole of the year, coming and going [lit. exiting and entering] in service to the king, for the entire year, may his [physical] person be without calamity. (p. 409)

There is nothing at all wrong with this translation, and yet it may still be unnecessarily ambiguous. The key to the “charge” (mingci 命辭) of the divination is the word shang 尚, which [Raphals] translates as “may.” “May his physical person be without calamity” is certainly not incorrect, and may well reflect the “fine line between inquiry and propitiation or pleas for aid or good fortune” that Professor Raphals had noted vis-à-vis the debate concerning the nature of divination. Nevertheless, it bears noting that shang is also used formulaically to introduce all sorts of Chinese prayers; to reflect this prayerful aspect, it might be less ambiguous to translate the phrase that it introduces as “would that his physical person be without calamity,” or even “we pray that his physical person be without calamity.” (…) A great deal depends on the nuance of a single word, but in this case it is clearly the difference between “asking of” and “asking for” something. The Baoshan divinations were even more so than Shang oracle-bone inscriptions explicitly phrased as prayers asking for spiritual assistance in the realization of the diviner’s intention. Even a hint of a question misses the point.
The same word shang 尚 occurs routinely in all Eastern Zhou divination records, including those of the Zuozhuan. Professor Raphals provides numerous references to Zuozhuan narratives, including an entire appendix (Appendix D: “Selected Zuo Zhuan Prognostications”). With these too, however, her predilection for listings of results and for paraphrase may not reveal fully the intent of the divination. For instance, in her chapter on “Mantic Narratives,” she recounts the case of King Ling of Chu 楚靈王 (r. 540–529 b.c.). After a series of unfavourable divinations, he ends up performing turtle-shell divination himself. Raphals describes this divination accurately:

In the final prediction, he himself performed turtle shell divination in the hope to acquire all under heaven. The divination was inauspicious, and he cast down the shell and cursed heaven, threatening to take what heaven would not give. (p. 310)

Again, there is nothing wrong with this description of the divination, but it may under- play King Ling’s intention. The entire passage is short enough to warrant translation in its entirety:

初,靈王卜曰:「余尚得天下!」不吉。投龜,詬天而呼曰:「是區區者而不余 畀,余必自取之。」民患王之無厭也,故從亂如歸。
Formerly, King Ling divined by turtle-shell, saying: “Would that I obtain all under Heaven!” It was not lucky. He threw away the turtle and cursed Heaven, screaming: “If you don’t give me even this trifling thing, I will surely take it myself.” The people were alarmed at the king’s lack of restraint and therefore rioted against him.

King Ling was not addressing an open-ended inquiry to the spirits, but rather was informing them of his intentions in the hope of enlisting their aid. Again, there was no question asked.
– Edward L. Shaughnessy, review of Lisa Raphals, Divination and Prediction in Early China and Ancient Greece, in 《中國文化研究所學報》 Journal of Chinese Studies, No. 60 – January 2015, p. 323-324

The Wangjiatai Guicang fragments also shows this usage of shang in many of its hexagram statements:

Shao Du (“Lesser Examination”) says: In the past .. Xiaozi divined about his country: Would that it have no distress, and had the stalks…

You (“Having”): says: In the past Ping Gong divined about his country: Would that there be no trouble…

Qun (“Bundled”) says: In the past Xia Hou Qi divined: Would that his country not have any distress, and had the stalks prognosticated…
– Edward Shaughnessy, Unearthing the Changes: Recently Discovered Manuscripts of the Yi Jing (I Ching) and Related Texts, p. 176-177

See for an in-depth study of this usage of shang the article by Dan Yuchen 單育辰, 《戰國卜筮簡“尚”的意義 —兼說先秦典籍中的“尚” 》.

Considering that the text of line 6 from hexagram 9 is also embedded in a divinatory setting I propose we read shang here too as ‘would that…’, as a prayer to the ancestors.

De 德: the Fuyang and Mawangdui manuscripts have de 得, ‘obtain, receive.’ It is said that the Zhouyi versions of Jing Fang 京房 (78–37 BC), Yu Fan 虞翻 (164–233) and the Zixia Zhuan 子夏傳 use 得 as well (Hou Naifeng 侯乃峰, 《<周易>文字彙校集釋》, p. 100). There are many examples where 德 should be read as 得 (Wang Haigen 王海根 (ed.), 《古代漢語通假字大字典》, p. 297) and I choose to do the same here.

Zai 載: ‘carriage’, ‘to carry, to support’. The Fuyang Zhouyi has dai 戴 which is a loan for 載, ‘support’ (《古代漢語通假字大字典》, p. 847).

De zai 德載: receive support.

I find Gao Heng’s view of this line very tempting, even though he translates 既雨 as ‘it has rained’ and shang 尚 as ‘hope, wish’ (which is not so far from Shaughnessy’s prayer ‘would that…’):

“It has rained, it has stopped” refers to a traveler who is on the road. It has rained and after the rain has stopped the road is hard to travel. But the traveler does not worry about this, he hopes he will meet a carriage that he can ask for transport and that will carry him.
– Gao Heng 高亨, 《周易古經今注》, p. 187 (see also Bernhard Karlgren, Loan Characters in Pre-Han Texts, entry 1749)

Yue ji wang 月幾望: the moon is nearly full. The same phrase occurs at hexagram 54, line 5 and hexagram 61, line 4. For each line there are differences with the excavated manuscripts.

Received text Mawangdui Fuyang Xiping
9.6 月幾望 月幾朢 月幾朢 □近望
54.5 日月 既朢 □既望
61.4 月既朢 月幾朢 月幾望

The MWD and FY character wang 朢 is a known variant of wang 望 ‘full moon’ in the received text. The Xiping version (月)既 望 reminds us of the four lunar aspects or phases:

Among the most questioned pieces of evidence related to Western Zhou chronology is a set of terms that appear routinely in the date notations of bronze inscriptions between the month and the day notation. These apparently describe the aspect of the moon: chuji 初吉, jishengpo 既生霸, jiwang 既望, and jisipo 既死霸. Of these terms, jiwang is familiar from later sources and there would seem to be little doubt as to its meaning: ji 既 means “after” and wang 望 means, among other things, the “full moon”; thus, “after the full moon” should mean the day or days after the full moon, which usually occurs on the fifteenth night of the lunar month. Chuji is almost as straightforward, at least in terms of the meanings of the individual words: chu 初 means “first” and ji 吉 means “auspicious”; thus, “first auspiciousness,” should apparently indicate the first day or days of the month. (…) Chuji should refer to the first through the sixth, seventh or eight day, jishengpo to the seventh, eight or even ninth day through the fourteenth or fiftheenth, jiwang from the fifteenth or sixteenth through the twenty-second or twenty-third, and jisipo from the twenty-second or twenty-third to the end of the month. This slight flexibility with respect to the lunar aspect notations is consistent with both the evidence of the inscriptions and also with the appearance of the moon in the night sky.
– Edward L. Shaughnessy, ‘Lunar Aspect Terms and the Calendar of China’s Western Zhou Period’, in Xiaobing Wang-Riese and Thomas O. Höllmann (eds.), Time and Ritual in Early China, p. 15 & 31

Jiwang  is the third period, following the full moon. In the line texts 既望 is preceded by the character yue 月, ‘moon’ which might indicate that we should take the phrase 月幾望 literally and not as a direct reference to the third moon period: the moon is almost (幾/近), or already, full. However, it might be an indirect reference. Saying that the moon is nearly full might indicate that the third period is approaching. Why this is important is related to the next phrase.

君子征凶: zheng 征 has the general meaning of ‘long journey’, but on oracle bones as well as in early documents it is used with the meaning of ‘punitive expedition’. 君子征凶 could therefore be translated as ‘when the lord goes on a (punitive) expedition: inauspicious.’ This might have to do with the period after the full moon that the former sentence speaks about. Li Feng researched the travels mentioned on bronze inscriptions and gives statistics of travel occurrences during the four moon aspects:

When we look at the lunar phase data (…) we find that the preference for royal visits at the beginning of the year is paralleled by a preference for visits in the first quarter of the month. Forty-eight visits occurred in the first quarter (55.8% of the total of eighty-six royal visits for which lunar phase was specified), nineteen (22%) in the second, fourteen (16.2%) in the third, and five (5.8%) in the fourth.
– Li Feng, ‘“Offices” in Bronze Inscriptions And Western Zhou Government Administration’, in Early China 26-27 (2001-2002), p. 65-72

chuji 初吉
first period
jishengpo 既生霸
second period
jiwang 既望
third period
jisipo 既死霸
fourth period
48 19 14 5

Traveling during the first period was most auspicious, as the name implies, but far less journeys where undertaken during the third period and fourth period. The text from the Yijing might have to do with this and reads like a sentence from a day book or almanac: 月幾望。君子征凶: “the moon is almost (or already) full. A lord’s expedition would be inauspicious.” At the fourth line of hexagram 61 it says 月幾望。馬匹亡: “the moon is almost full. Horses will be lost”. Horses are used for traveling so this line might also be an indication that traveling during the period after the full moon is not recommended. At hexagram 54, line 5 however we read 月幾望。吉 : “the moon is almost full. Auspicious.” The theme of this line is a royal marriage, so maybe the period after the full moon was considered auspicious for marriages.

The mentioning of the period just before or after the full moon might also have to do with the consultation of the oracle: when the oracle was consulted just before or after the full moon and H9.6 or H61.4 was received concerning far travels it would indicate an inauspicious outcome. Likewise a consultation for a marriage during that period, with H54.5 as the oracle’s answer, might be regarded as auspicious.

The rain has stopped, has ended.
Would that (we) receive support.
Divination for a woman: disaster.
The moon is nearly full.
A lord’s expedition will be inauspicious.

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