I. The Oracle
*The Book of Yi
The name of the book
The title of this book,
, as it is written in contemporary
romanization, can be translated as "Book of Changes" or "Classic of Changes." Anolder form of the title is
, "Changes of the Zhou," from the name of the Zhoudynasty (1122-256 BC), under which it came into being.
simply means "classic":its canonization as a classic took place under the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), inthe framework of the great unification of Chinese culture undertaken by the empire.Since then, the
has been regarded as the Classic of Classics: for two thousandyears it has been to the Chinese the ultimate map of "heaven and earth."The essential word in the book's name is
, which means, amongst other things,"change." But the
the title of the book points to is not primarily the regular changeinvolved in the cycle of day and night, in the succession of the seasons or in theorganic growth of living things.
refers in the first place to unpredictable change.We find an expressive description of it in another classic, the
, Book of Documents:
When in years, months and days the season has no
, the hundred cerealsripen, the administration is enlightened, talented men of the people aredistinguished, the house is peaceful and at ease. When in days, months andyears the season has
, the hundred cereals do not ripen, the administration isdark and unenlightened, talented men of the people are in petty positions, thehouse is not at peace.
when things are off track, when chaos irrupts into our life and the usual bearings no longer suffice for orientation. We all know that such times can be veryfertile – and extremely painful, disconcerting and full of anxiety. Modern chaostheory pays particular attention to these murky transitions, by which forms transmuteinto each other. Life itself arises at the boundary between order and chaos: it requires both, it is a daughter of both. On the side of perfect order there is only dead stability,inertia, symmetry, thermodynamic equilibrium. Nothing very interesting can happenthere: everything is too predictable, it resembles death more than life. But the side of total disorder is not very interesting either: forms appear and disappear too quickly,there is a total lack of symmetry, everything is too unpredictable. It is on the edge between order and chaos that the subtle dance of life takes place: here the realcomplexity arises, here forms bend and loop and transmute and evolve.