It is good to see this book back in print. Though less bulky (228 pages) than the Wilhelm Yi-Ching translation, Blofeld's text has merits of its own, not least the fact that it is primarily intended as a guide to divination. To say the least, this is something the Wilhelm edition never was that clear about, the chaotic presentation of the number symbolism/tables etc. There was the strange division of the text (in fact a 'doubled' text), and much that appears in the middle section (the 'Tso Chuan' etc.) would have placed the whole text in better context, if it had been discussed at the beginning. Of course, everyone is indebted to Wilhelm. Nobody who likes the Yi Ching is going to ignore his valued contribution. However, for reasons outlined above, Blofeld expressed certain misgivings about the Wilhelm text, feeling that it did not make certain things clear - when it comes to the divination process, also questioning the readings of certain line texts.
Some of the (site) files list Blofeld as a mere editor, but he has presented us with a fresh translation of the main text. His translation was vetted by a number of Chinese scholars, well versed in the peculiar idioms, imagery and line symbolism of the Yi Ching. Moreover, Blofeld's translation is supported by a bril-liant introduction - outlining the background philosophy behind the Yi-Ching, and the way in which a wise Chinese scholar-sage would go about using it. Blofeld lived in pre-Communist China for many years, having 'run away' from England after graduating from Cambridge - effectively 'going native' - something few 'white men' of good social standing did, in his day and age. He knew his Chinese language from living in the country (he married into a Chinese family), and made frequent visits to Taoist (and Buddhist) temples in remote parts of China. His travels even took him to Tibet. For all his merits, Wilhelm was as Christian missionary, and late in life, his impressions of China seemed to sour. However sympathetic to the spirit of China, Wilhelm's 'feeling tone' remained very much that of a European. Blofeld, by contrast, took to China like a fish in water. He assimilated the spirit of Chinese philosophy and lived it - without reservation.
Albeit brief, Blofeld's introduction makes engaging and fascinating reading, because distilled within its pages, are the quitessential elements of a way of living, thinking and feeling.
There is a strong Taoist flavour in Blofeld's account, a sense of
sublime totalities, whereas Wilhelm's translation is very much coloured by Confucian thinking. Of course, Blofeld respected the Confucian tradition - very much part of China (in his day), and he would have been the first to point out that an equal amount of Confucianb thought found its way into the Yi-Ching. Confucian glosses are present in the basic core text of the Yi Ching, but besides those, Blofeld has left aside the greater bulk of Confucian commentary matereal, focusing, instead, on the main text symbolism, giving better emphasis to the divination process itself.
Chinese never quite translates into 'black and white' English anyway, and this even more unlikely, given the peculiar idioms and syare not as obscure as they often seem, having an organic relationship in the 'kua' patterns of each respective hexagram. mbolism of the Yi Ching (usum ad delphi). Even so, the line texts
have an organic relationship determined by the 'kua' symbolism of each hexagram. Needless to say, some lines/line texts have given rise to a diversity of interpretations. In many cases, the brief notes appended to lines in Blofeld's text prove to be illuminating. Along with the introduction - explaining how the oracle ought to be used, the set of charts and tables at the end of Blofeld's text are quite helpful. This book is worth reading, just for the introduction, basically presenting the Yi-Ching as way of living with the cosmic flow - a mirror of the Tao itself.
Blofeld's text has a good feel to it. As he observes, while many religious systems seek to locate the truth in the infinite, a timeless context, the Yi-Ching seeks to find the truth or meaning in the flux, the tide of events and affairs. Fortune telling doesn't really come into it. The Yi Ching teaches that the universe unfolds according to immutable laws; the difference between the sage and the fool, is that the former seeks to align himself with those laws, whereas the fool opposes them. Being able to 'read off' certain things from the flow, or sense the seeds of things to come, is therefore the provence of the sage.