The only thing that never change is that everything changes – I Ching
Richard Wilhelm, a well-known Sinologist has declared that I Ching is “unquestionably one of the most important books in the world’s literature and it has occupied the attention of the most eminent scholars of ancient China down to the present day. Nearly all that is greatest and most significant in the three thousand years of Chinese cultural history has either taken its inspiration from this book, or has exerted an influence on the interpretation of its text”.
This is a sweeping assertion and yet it is not easy to find any evidence to contradict it. The origin of I Ching dates back into what can only be described as mythical antiquity. Both Confucianism and Taoism, not to mention the works of Laozi and such modern scholars as Lin Yutang and Peter Hessler, have their roots in the I Ching – The Book of Changes.
Some indication of the power and influence of I Ching can be gleaned from the fact that it was the only book which was not condemned to be burnt by the First Emperor, Qin Shihuang. It was honoured and consulted by statesmen and scientists. Chairman Mao himself has turned I Ching to his advantage in the same way that he has turned Marxism and communism into the totally different Maoism. It is said that he used its divination seriously throughout his life and in making major and minor decisions.
It was on a cold rainy winter evening in Auckland at the home of a friend, Dr. Aileen, that I had my first encounter with I Ching. At that time, Dr. Aileen was volunteering for the New Zealand Labour Party’s Chinese Branch doing social work such as translation for the Chinese community. We were then discussing the chance of a Chinese candidate from the Labour Party becoming a Member of Parliament when Dr. Aileen asked if I know I Ching Divination. I told her I know nuts.
However, the curiosity in me made me search for this so called “Heavenly Book” in University of Auckland’s main library and I found the translation of the book by Richard Wilhelm published in 1950. My quest did not end there. Soon, I began to read the book seriously and added a few more books in English and Chinese into my library, including one by James Legge which was published in 1882. Of all places, I found Legge’s book at a second hand bookshop in Melbourne.
As time passed, I Ching became something like a bible to me. I consulted its divination frequently on matters close to heart when it is not convenient to go to the Waterloo Road Kuan Yin Temple in Singapore.
The I Ching is a truly profound book of divination. It is a book that not only tells one who consults it about the present situation and future potential but also gives instruction about what to do and what not to do to obtain fortune and avoid misfortune. All interpretations of I Ching center on the concept of Yin and Yang and the 64 hexagrams, also known as Gua.
A few years back, I attended a course about I Ching conducted by a Master Chew. From him, I learned about the connection of I Ching’s Gua numbers with numbers that we use for our phone, car plate, address and many more. With it comes the knowledge that 8 is not the best number as many perceived while 4 is not deadly. No 6 attracts gossips and number 2 represents the female power.