The "I Ching": A Biography

Overview

"Richard Smith's 'biography' of the Book of Changes delivers to us just what the series promised: it is wide-ranging, clear, up-to-date, comprehensive, and entertaining."—Jonathan D. Spence, author of The Search for Modern China

"The I Ching has had many guises and uses in what Richard Smith calls its 'transnational travels' during its three-thousand-year course. Smith's accessible book combines general orientation and fascinating detail in ways that enable readers to grasp the ...

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Overview

"Richard Smith's 'biography' of the Book of Changes delivers to us just what the series promised: it is wide-ranging, clear, up-to-date, comprehensive, and entertaining."—Jonathan D. Spence, author of The Search for Modern China

"The I Ching has had many guises and uses in what Richard Smith calls its 'transnational travels' during its three-thousand-year course. Smith's accessible book combines general orientation and fascinating detail in ways that enable readers to grasp the complicated, transcultural history of a vital, enigmatic little classic."—Willard Peterson, Princeton University

"Richard Smith synthesizes a great deal of information about the I Ching and presents it with admirable clarity. I know of no one else who commands the history of this text to the extent that he does, whether in China or especially in its global context. His excellent book will find a ready and wide readership."—Edward L. Shaughnessy, author of Confucian and Taoist Wisdom

"This one-of-a-kind biography of the I Ching is a masterpiece of scholarship for general readers as well as scholars and teachers. The first book in English to explain the history and impact of this ancient text from a global perspective, it will remain a must-read in I Ching studies for a very long time. A welcome and important contribution."—Benjamin Wai-ming Ng, author of The I Ching in Tokugawa Thought and Culture

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Editorial Reviews

The Guardian

Smith's fascinating history of what he usually calls the Yijing—around 3,000 years old; first sanctioned by the Chinese state as a classic in 136 BCE—traces its influence on western artists such as Philip K Dick, Raymond Queneau, John Cage (who composed aleatory music with its help) and Jorge Luis Borges, as well as its enthusiastic reception by scientists (Leibniz saw in it his binary system confirmed), and its hermeneutic and political history in China itself.
— Steven Poole

Macleans Magazine

Foreigners, even foreign devotees—and they have been legion over the centuries—find The Classic of Changes fundamentally hard to engage with. . . . As Smith demonstrates, in a rather premature 'biography,' the Yijing remains vibrantly alive.
— Brian Bethune

Magonia Review of Books

[F]or its material on the (ironically) obscure history of a well-known text, it is to be highly recommended.
— Gareth J. Medway

Choice
Smith's book succeeds admirably in making the history and importance of this esoteric and enigmatic classic accessible and understandable to a wide audience. A must read for anyone interested in fathoming 'the Way' (Tao/Dao) in ancient China.
Los Angeles Review of Books
Smith's book demonstrates that if the Book of Changes is anything, it is alive.
— James Carter
Los Angeles Review of Books - James Carter
Smith's book demonstrates that if the Book of Changes is anything, it is alive.
Tablet - Jon Sweeney
His biography is, at every turn, full of scholarship.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012

"Smith's book succeeds admirably in making the history and importance of this esoteric and enigmatic classic accessible and understandable to a wide audience. A must read for anyone interested in fathoming 'the Way' (Tao/Dao) in ancient China."—Choice

"Smith's book demonstrates that if the Book of Changes is anything, it is alive."—James Carter, Los Angeles Review of Books

"His biography is, at every turn, full of scholarship."—Jon Sweeney, Tablet

"One of the advantages to this book is Smith's prose; not only is it clear and accessible, but he writes in a way that brings the material to life. He is an engaging writer. . . . This 'biography' of the Yijing is an attractive and thorough resource. It should prove to be a useful addition to any library (academic or not) and a valuable help in any high school or college courses that incorporate study of the Yijing in any classroom context."—Robert Steed, Education About Asia

"[N]ever before in English has the substance of this vital text been explicated with such transparency, lucidity, and—on balance—objectivity. However, even in charitably demystifying it, Smith has simultaneously retained and even enhanced the compelling attraction of this ever-tantalizing essentialist work for the would-be initiated. Such is a balancing act deftly executed, for which we should commend the author lavishly."—Don J. Wyatt, Journal of Chinese Religions

"Smith's biography does what an introduction should do: encourage the reader to want to know more and provide a smooth over-arching conceptual framework, in economic fashion, through which one may understand the details. It would, therefore, be a helpful tool in a university course on Eastern or World religions and is highly recommended."—Stephanie L. Derrick, Relegere

The Guardian
Smith's fascinating history of what he usually calls the Yijing—around 3,000 years old; first sanctioned by the Chinese state as a classic in 136 BCE—traces its influence on western artists such as Philip K Dick, Raymond Queneau, John Cage (who composed aleatory music with its help) and Jorge Luis Borges, as well as its enthusiastic reception by scientists (Leibniz saw in it his binary system confirmed), and its hermeneutic and political history in China itself.
— Steven Poole
Macleans Magazine
Foreigners, even foreign devotees—and they have been legion over the centuries—find The Classic of Changes fundamentally hard to engage with. . . . As Smith demonstrates, in a rather premature 'biography,' the Yijing remains vibrantly alive.
— Brian Bethune
Library Journal
Smith (humanities, Rice Univ.; Fathoming the Cosmos and Ordering the World) adds a welcome volume to Princeton's ambitious series. Most writing on the hexagrams of the I Ching, however well intentioned, is either too abstruse or too enthusiastic for the Western or nonexpert reader. Smith approaches the I Ching from the perspective of its history, development, and interpretation, creating perhaps the most interesting book in English about this Chinese classic. VERDICT Essential for academic libraries, this also makes a first-rate introduction to Chinese spirituality for nonacademic readers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691145099
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/25/2012
  • Series: Lives of Great Religious Books
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 789,524
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Smith is the George and Nancy Rupp Professor of Humanities and professor of history at Rice University. His many books include "Fathoming the Cosmos and Ordering the World: The" Yijing (I-Ching, "or" Classic of Changes) "and Its Evolution in China".

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
The Hexagrams xi
Chronology of Chinese Dynasties xvii
Preliminary Remarks and
Acknowledgments xix
Introduction 1

Part One The Domestic Evolution of the Yijing 15
Chapter 1 Genesis of the Changes 19
Chapter 2 The Making of a Classic 48
Chapter 3 Interpreting the Changes 75

Part Two The Transnational Travels of the Yijing 125
Chapter 4 The Changes in East Asia 129
Chapter 5 The Westward Travels of the Changes 170
Concluding Remarks 211

Notes 225
Bibliography 251
Index 265

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