Chinese Philosophy of Change (I- Ching)


A canonized Confucian classic, the I-Ching is a composite text consisting of three distinct layers.

  1. Its first layer is comprised by the 8 trigrams and 64 hexagrams allegedly created by the mythical figure, Fu Xi.

  2. Its second layer are the hexagram statements and line statements allegedly written by King Wen and the Duke of Zhou during the 11th century BCE.

  3. Its third layer incorporates seven pieces of writings composed from 5th to 2nd century BCE.

Divided into ten segments (hence, the name “Ten Wings”), the authors of these writings used the hexagrams to discuss cosmic patterns, the relations between humanity and nature, and the complexity of human life.

By 125 BCE, these three textual layers were combined to form what we now call the I-Ching. Underlying the I-Ching philosophy of change is the notion that the cosmos is an organismic process without beginning or end.

As a process, the cosmos resembles a great flow in which “all of the parts of the entire cosmos belong to one organic whole” and all the parts “interact as participants in one spontaneously self-generating process”. As such, there are three characteristics of this great flow: continuity, wholeness, and dynamism. It is continuous because it never stops in renewing itself. It is holistic because it includes everything in the universe and permeates in all aspects of life. It is dynamic because it is full of motion and movement, generating energy and strength all the time.

In this cosmic flow, there is no distinction between the following: the natural realm and the human realm, an observing subject and an observed object, and the inner world and the outer world. Everything is part of a totality, a group dance that never stops.

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