Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Since this is a creation of the Chinese, it remains a puzzle to many people in other parts of the world up till today. Now, there's an illustrated guide to help others "see" the whole picture. The Chinese are trying hard to move away from their "inscrutable" image.

THE I Ching is a fascinating book - only for those who understand it.
Thus, Asiapac's answer to the many unanswered questions about this obscure
Chinese art of divination is like a breath of fresh air.
The I Ching is one of the oldest classics in Chinese history. So old
that even the Chinese themselves are unsure of its exact date of origin.
To learn more about Zhou Yi (its ancient name), one has to dig deep into
the history of the Zhou Dynasty - that's circa 1,000 B.C. - and also of
the Shang Empire, the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty. Its influence was
so pervasive in early Chinese society that when Emperor Qin Shihuang
ordered the burning of all scholarly works and books, it was one of the
few classics that survived.
Through the centuries the I Ching has been interpreted by various people
and religious groups. The Buddhists and the Taoists have their own
versions of it. It is regarded as one of the five classics of ancient
China. The West's love affair with this book explains its widespread
availability. There are more than 30 versions of the I Ching in English,
easily the most popular of the Chinese classics in the Western hemisphere.
Many who have shunned the I Ching out of ignorance in the past should be
thrilled to know that Asiapac's illustrated version is a very good visual
aid towards understanding the origins and applications of this ancient art
of fortunetelling.
It is claimed that the I Ching in essence is the fountain of wisdom. To
hammer home its divine force, Asiapac proudly proclaims in the
introduction that three Asian scientists who won the Nobel Prize for
Physics (1949 and 1957) are fervent believers in the I Ching. The three
are Japanese physicists Hideki Yukawa and Chinese physicists Yang Chen
Ning and Lee Tsung Dao.
Some of the clues to unravelling the enigma of the I Ching are embodied
in the statement that "when people judge things, they do so from a fixed
viewpoint. Hence there are opposite views. But there is something that is
beyond words, can be one or the other, and in which Yin and Yang are not
This illustrated guide has very clear explanations of the eight trigrams
and 64 hexagrams that make up the I Ching. A lengthy discourse in the
cartoon medium ingeniously draws the reader into the light and dark forces
of the Yin and Yang, the five elements (metal, wood, fire, water and
earth), and the four seasons.
Tan's illustrations should be studied rather than read, like, say, a
novel. Each individual may approach the I Ching from a different
direction. Thus, Asiapac's version can best be `seen' with an uncluttered
mind, very much like playing with the Rubiks cube. At the risk of sounding
idiotic, one might say that a person should best study this book with a
childs mind, rather than like an adult who asks too many questions and
forgets the power of simple faith.
All the 64 hexagrams are rendered graphically simple. If ever the saying
"Simplicity is the natural result of profound thought" needs an example,
it has not found a more appropriate example than this illustrated guide.
The drawings are sparse in details and yet clever in message. There is a
touch of humour to help ease the readers mind in learning more about this
esoteric subject.
To achieve better clarity of understanding, the written explanations of
the 64 hexagrams are accompanied by traditional scripts and modern
interpretations on the same page.
Going through this book is akin to sitting for a crash course in logic,
cosmic forces, mathematics, numerology, and human relationships. It is not
a subject for those who shun knowing the mysteries of the universe.
If ever there was a satisfactory definition of the I Ching, perhaps it
is best expressed in the books own words: "In the I Ching, within the
symbols are numbers and within the numbers are symbols. Both originate
from nature and reflect the common law of the universe."

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