I Ching: The Book of Change

I Ching: The Book of Change

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by Thomas Cleary, Cheng Yi

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I Ching (Book of Change) is considered the oldest of the Chinese classics, and has throughout Chinese history commanded unsurpassed prestige and popularity. Containing several layers of text and given numerous levels of interpretation, the I Ching has been venerated for more than three thousand years as an oracle of fortune, a guide to success,

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I Ching (Book of Change) is considered the oldest of the Chinese classics, and has throughout Chinese history commanded unsurpassed prestige and popularity. Containing several layers of text and given numerous levels of interpretation, the I Ching has been venerated for more than three thousand years as an oracle of fortune, a guide to success, and a source of wisdom. The underlying theme of the text is change, and how this fundamental force influences all aspects of life—from business and politics to personal relationships. This translation of the I Ching draws on ancient Confucian commentary, which emphasizes applying practical wisdom in everyday affairs.

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3: Difficulty


is great development; it

beneficial to be faithful. Do not try to go anywhere. It is beneficial to
establish supervisors. Difficulty is when things are just beginning and there
is a feeling of congestion; it also refers to when a country is stagnant in
difficult times and has not found the way through to well-being.

is a way to great development in difficulty so there is benefit in dealing with
difficulty faithfully and firmly. If you are not firm and true, how can you get
through difficulty? When in difficulty, it will not do to go anywhere.

a larger scale, the difficulties of a group cannot be solved by the power of
one person alone; it is necessary to make extensive provisions for assistance.
This is one meaning of the statement "it is beneficial to establish

there, it is beneficial to live correctly, and it is beneficial to establish

represents people endowed with firm strength and clear intelligence who are in
low positions in times of general difficulty. They cannot go right ahead, and
solve the difficulty, so they "stay there." At the outset of
difficulty, to rush ahead leads into trouble. So it is appropriate to
"live correctly" and stabilize your will.

people can rarely live correctly in difficulty. Without the preservation of
faithfulness and firmness, people will lose their sense of duty and right—how
can this help in times of difficulty? Living in an era of difficulty, stuck in
a low position, it is advantageous to have assistants; this is the way to live
with difficulty and get over difficulty. So here again is the image of
"establishing supervisors," which means to find helpers.

to get going, mounted on a horse but standing still. Not marrying anyone who
forces himself on her, the woman is chaste, and does not get engaged. After ten
years she gets engaged.

represents people who are receptive to positive direction and who want to go
the right way, but who are subjected to oppression by low-level power; these
people have a hard time making progress. They are also people who cannot save
themselves in difficult times but nevertheless who remain balanced and
upright, responsive only to higher impulses, not giving in to the crude forces
that bear upon them. Therefore they are likened to a chaste woman who remains
steadfast for "ten years"—meaning however long it may be—until the
difficulty comes to its eventual end and she finds her true mate, gets married,
and has children.

are in a weak position in society, but if they keep their will and
self-discipline for a long time, eventually they will succeed; how much the
more can men of affairs succeed if they keep to the right way and do not
regress to elementary aggression.

deer without a guide, one only goes into the forest; superior people discern
that it is better to give up, for to go would lead to humiliation.

is weakness where strength is called for, unbalanced and disoriented, therefore
acting arbitrarily; no matter how much one craves what one seeks, one lacks the
ability to achieve a solution by oneself, and has no one to help. This is like
chasing deer without a guide: people who go into the forest need a guide to
show them the way, lest they get lost in the wilds. Superior people see the
subtle indications of what an act will lead to; so if it is better to give up,
they do not pursue such an act lest it lead only to frustration and shame.

on a horse, standing still. Seeking partnership, it is good to go, beneficial
all around.

represents people who are flexible and receptive to positive direction, but
haven't the ability to resolve difficulties, and therefore do not get anywhere
even though they wish to progress.

people are themselves incapable of solving the difficulties of the time, they
should seek help from the wise. People who have high social standing but do not
have the ability to solve the difficulties of the time should hire wise people
from among the populace; then both working together can help the leadership
solve difficulty in an auspicious manner beneficial to all.

the benefits. A little correction turns out well, a big correction turns out

fifth line is the position of honor, representing leadership. If the leadership
is correctly oriented, and has the assistance of wise people who are strong and
clear minded, then it is possible to solve difficulties.

the case represented by this line, the leadership lacks administrators, and
this "stalls the benefits." That is to say, the benefits of good
leadership do not extend to all the group. Therefore the leadership is not
really in control; to try to hurriedly correct this situation will turn out
badly. This is what is meant by "a big correction turns out badly."
By contrast, a "little correction" means a gradual process of
correction. In organizational terms, this means cultivating the qualities of
leadership and employing worthy people.

on a horse, standing still, weeping tears of blood.

represents weak people at the culmination of difficulty, in extreme danger,
without any helpers, unable to relax, yet unable to get anywhere.

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Meet the Author

Thomas Cleary holds a PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. He is the translator of over fifty volumes of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and Islamic texts from Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Pali, and Arabic.

Cheng Yi, an eleventh-century scholar and activist, was one of the founders of the movement known as Lixue, or "study of inner design." He was one of the greatest sociological thinkers of Song-dynasty China.

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