The Master said,
‘I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.’
In the accompanying notes, Legge mentioned that “according to the commentators, this is again a wonderful instance of the sage’s humility disclaiming what he really had. In the statement, Confucius also declared his love of the ancients and all their works.”
Some of the exemplary ancients Confucius was fond of were Yao, Shun, King Wen and Duke of Zhou. If Yi students have not heard of ancient Emperors Yao and Shun, they would at least know who King Wen and the Duke of Zhou (Zhougong) were. The Judgments to and the lines of the sixty four hexagrams in the Zhouyi were accredited to be penned by King Wen and Zhougong respectively.
Yet we find modern Yi scholars casting aspersions that Confucius had not studied the Yi. The Chinese would say that this type of scholars had been ‘reading dead books’. Probably they would also claim that they know much about the Yi. Without earnestly seeking and sincerely understanding the thoughts of antiquity, could they really?
Little wonder, the great sage intimated (to his students, and now the readers), ‘I am fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking knowledge there!’