Saturday, March 17, 2007

Did Confucius study the Yi?

I recalled reading Joel Biroco lamenting more than a year ago that the current stock of Yi scholars in the West holds to different thoughts as compared to the ancients. And that he was overwhelmed by their beliefs and arguments that there was no evidence that Confucius actually read or knew about the Book of Changes. At the time, one thought these Western scholars were preposterous, but was too lazy to do research or write to ask Steve Marshall on what they had said or had proven. Today, my thoughts about these Yi scholars still have not changed, they really think they know much about the ancients and the Yi, but do they really?

There is a wealth of information that supports the historical fact that Confucius had read the Yi – his comments in the Ten Wings and his love of the Yi as written by Sima Qian in the Records of the Historian. Renowned Neo Confucian scholars relied much on the explanations of Confucius and Mencius to understand the Yi. Earnest and sincere Western scholars like James Legge and Richard Wilhelm and their mentors never doubted that fact, yet this current crop of Yi scholars like to think otherwise.

While going through the analects today for some research, one found this passage:

The Master said,
‘The people of the south have a saying – ‘A man without constancy cannot be either a wizard or a doctor.’ Good!

‘Inconstant in his virtue, he will be visited with disgrace.’

The Master said,
‘This arises simply from not attending to the prognostication.’

[8. 22 Legge]

The second paragraph – is taken word for word from line 3 of Hexagram 32 Heng / Duration – and as translated by Legge. Zhu Xi gave his usual explanations on Confucius’ thoughts; however he could not quite make out what Confucius meant in the last paragraph. Neither did many Confucian scholars down the ages and Legge.

Obviously Confucius is right. Without duration or constancy, how can one be a good Court diviner (Wu – was translated as wizard or doctor by Legge)? Confucius used the third line of Heng to support the southern people’s saying. And he added that the lack of duration in virtue or character came from not following the prognostication or in simpler terms – Yi’s guidance. How true for a Court diviner (Wu) who has to be good at divinations!

Perhaps the pronouncement in the third line of Heng serves as an apt warning for the current crop of Yi scholars, whether they are in the East or in the West, who chose to disbelieve the ancients and the extant historical records.

Once again I shake my head and sigh. What a waste of talent and the decades in reading ‘dead’ books. If only these scholars diligently practice their divinations like the not so learned (for example, Allan) and get the Yi to speak, then perhaps they may come to better understand Confucius’s various valuable contributions to Yi studies based on his earnest and sincere practice with the Book of Changes.

If learned scholars like Zhu Xi and other renowned Neo Confucians could not understand what Confucius meant, do you really think that an unlearned fellow like me with limited studies can understand the great sage?

You are either joking or it must have been that I have a good teacher, the Yi. And the requisite divination practice.


Biroco said...

Here is the link to what I said about Confucius and the Changes:

Allan said...

Thank you Joel for providing the link to your nice article.