on 23 May 2007
The Wilhelm translation was my first introduction to the I ching. Finding it incredibly useful I sought out other books and was consistently disappointed.
Many books over simplify, thinking that this will make the text more accessible. Unfortunately they often remove what is essential for individual interpretation. Many remove things that sound too oriental to appeal to western thinking and also end up restricting the way a text can be interpreted. The worst of all are those that try to make the I Ching fit in with modern 'mystic' thinking. They turn a useful, practical book into another tree-hugger's companion!
The value of the Wilhelm translation is that it gives you the text and trusts you to apply it honestly to the issue you are trying to resolve. It takes time to get used to the terminology but reading the introduction will help, as will regular usage. This book doesn't so much answer the questions of your life as tell you which direction to head in if you honestly want to find your answers. As such I find it more useful, practical and, above all, truthful than many books you can find taking up the 'self-help' or 'esoteric' sections of bookstores.
on 30 November 1998
For anyone interested in the I Ching, this is the only version that approximates the real experience. Richard Wilhelm does much more than translate the words, he lets the western mind into the idea and philosophy of this great book. All other versions I've read trivialize the I Ching, this one lets its true greatness through.
on 5 June 2001
I've only had this book a week or so and it is truly a fantastic translation, written with both clarity and insight. Many versions of the I-Ching are hard work and can actually put you off attempting to use the oracle ever again. Not so with this one. There is a real sense of movement contained within the text, that breathes both life and depth into this inspirational classic. Carl Jung's introduction is not to be missed either. If you can only afford one translation make it this one.
The Wilhelm-Baynes translation of the I-Ching was first published in English in 1951 and has never been out of print. Despite the appearance over the years of numerous other interpretations of this peerless Chinese classic (many based on Wilhelm's work), the poetic beauty and quintessentially Chinese character captured by Wilhelm's translation endures like no other. Most serious students who have a long-term relationship with the oracle - for that's what it can become; an intense, intimate relationship - return eventually to the fine if somewhat formal philosophical observations of the Wilhelm-Baynes work and resonate with its essentially Chinese quirkiness. The foreword to this greatest-ever translation of the I-Ching is written by C. G. Jung.
The 64 hexagrams each have a dynamic structure which moves upwards from the bottom (the first line) and naturally divides into two trigrams: the upper and lower. Each of the six lines of each hexagram have the value of either 7 = a Yang (unbroken, strong) or 8 = a Yin (broken, yielding) line, and their complex interrelationship gives the unique nature and meaning to each hexagram. The hexagrams each have both a number and a name: for example 4 is Meng, "Youthful Folly"; 16 is Yu, "Enthusiasm"; 21 is Shih Ho, "Biting Through"; whilst 34 is Ta Chuang, "The Power of the Great" (another hexagram is named "The Taming Power of the Great" which has a completely different meaning).
To further complicate matters, each line may be in the process of changing into its opposite - a "changing line" - indicated by a 6 (broken Yin line in the process of changing to Yang) or a 9 (unbroken Yang line changing to a Yin). The dynamic interplay of all these possibilities allows the oracle to offer a nuanced, poignant and occasionally humorous perspective to the enquirer on any issue as his/her situation changes.
The Wilhelm-Baynes edition has three major sections:
1. The Text: the 64 hexagrams and their changing lines explained, in order (248 pages) - in other words, the original classical text
2. The Material: discussions of the trigrams, and the highly regarded "Ta Chuan" or "Great Treatise" on the I-Ching which takes up 75 pages
3. The Commentaries: a re-run of section one, but with more detail and commentaries from different Chinese scholars and sages over the years added in (340 pages) - sometimes the meaning ascribed can be quite different to that of the classical text, and the alternative can be useful
The I-Ching has nothing to do with "fortune telling." It is concerned with human development and self-knowledge, with understanding first of all the dynamics in any situation and then what consequent actions might be appropriate, even when the action advised is most difficult or may go against the wishes or hopes of the enquirer. Sometimes the answer the oracle offers is not what you want to hear, but over time, you realize it is ALWAYS right. Often the changing lines lay out the consequences of different types of action possible in any situation. The I-Ching is, unquestionably, one of the greatest works of philosophy in the history of the human race, a unique representation of how the great forces of the cosmos interrelate with a human life as we encounter continuous change. It's timeless, and regardless of how human society seems to progress and change on the outside, the oracle remains relevant and of inestimable value to what goes on within us.
If you become captivated by the wisdom and depth of the I-Ching and begin to study it, sooner or later you're going to discover this greatest-of-all translations. My personal copy is a battered and much-read 1975 printing, a welcome gift in those far off days, and remains one of my two or three most valued possessions. Despite the spine being broken and the rear board accidentally singed by a candle flame some 20 years ago it would, with no possible rival, be my one indispensable desert island book.
on 20 November 2010
For many in the West, this book is the archetypal English translation of the 'I Ching' or 'Book of Change'. Its appeal continues, despite a plethora of modern, scholastic editions of this ancient Chinese text, as well as the enormous market for new age, or alternative interpretations of this book. Modern pinyin, (that is the Roman alphabet as used in China to spell Chinese words), the Book of Change is infact the 'Classic of Change', and is spelt 'Yijing'. That is, 'yi' equals 'change', and 'jing' equals 'Classic'. Wilhelm of course, wrote his original translation in German, where it was printed as the 'I Ging', which carries a pronunciation in German that approximates 'Yijing'. When the book was translated into English, Cary Baynes - the translator - kept the German 'I', in the title, which carries a different pronunciation in English, to that in German etc.
The 1950 English (first) edition of Wilhelm's work was not the first translation in this language. Prior to Wilhelm, there was the versions of James Legge (1882), and Thomas McClatchie (1876), the latter of which was published in Shanghai. For hundreds of years before this time, (the late 1800's), there had been a number of renderings into Latin by Catholic missionary priests sent to China, the earliest of which appears to be dated to 1658 (Couplet). Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930) was a missionary himself, with a profound interest in the study of Chinese culture. He was a friend of Carl Jung (1875-1961), who incidently, was the teacher of Cary Baynes (1883-1977). The German edition of Wilhelm's book was published in 1924. Cary Baynes translated a number of Jung's text into English, and following a request from Jung himself, she began translating the 'I Ching' just prior to 1930. It would not be completed until 1949, after which it was published in New York in 1950 and London 1951.
On the south coast of Shangdong province, there lies the place known as Qingdao. It was here that Wilhelm arrived in 1899 as a pastor. He met a Confucian scholar named Lao Naixuan (1843-1921), and the two became good friends. With Lao's urging, Wilhelm and Lao began translating around 1913. Wilhelm would listen to Lao's reading, translate the text into German, and then back into Chinese, to make sure the translation was correct. The translation was completed near to Wilhem's death in 1921. It is considered a more or less accurate translation of the Confucian Book of Changes as created by the Song Dynasty (960-1279), neo-Confucian scholars. Normally, the book of Changes has 64 chapters, each representing a Hexagram - or six lined structure. The lines may be broken or straight, etc. Attached to the Book of Changes, is the 'Ten Wings', or ten chapters of supplementary material, designed to aid the reader understand this classic book. Wilhelm's translation consists of:
1) The 64 Hexagrams.
2) The Material -a brief introduction to the Ten Wings and other commentaries.
3) The 64 Hexagrams with Commentaries.
According to Chung Wu (2003), Wilhelm took apart the 10th Wing, and distributed its sayings amongst the Hexagrams themselves. Richard Rutt (1996) is of the opinion that Wilhelm's organisation is repetitious, whilst Joseph Needham referred to it as a 'Sinological maze'. Interestingly, in 1967, Wilhelm's son - Hellmut (born 1905) - had a chance to tidy-up his father's translation and to acknowledge the latest research, but ultimately decided to leave it as it is. As a book of wisdom, Wilhelm's work is very interesting. Some commentators view his translation (taken from the 1715 Kangxi edition) as a representation of Manchurian rule in China. The Manchurian's had conquered China in 1644 and sought to control everything the Chinese did, including thinking. On the other hand, the book also conveys a Confucian view as prevalent in the early 1900's, a time that would soon be swept away, firstly by Republicanism, and then by Communism. As time goes by, this translation will become something of a living history. An inspiring introduction to the Book of Change.
on 16 December 2000
This is the translation that really brought the I Ching to the West, and it's still going strong. It's worth buying just for Jung's preface, which is absolutely fascinating. Wilhelm translated all of the I Ching, which is more than can be said for many later versions, and gives extensive commentaries of his own. Still, it's not my favourite translation: it concentrates very strongly on Neo-Confucian moralising at the expense of the more imaginative, magical aspect of the I Ching. (To be fair to Wilhelm, not much was known about that in his time.) A generation has depended on this book for their contact with the oracle, and it still has a great deal to offer - but I'm not sure that it's compulsory reading any more.
on 30 March 1997
What we have here is probably the oldest written work in continuous use in the history of the human race--something on the order of 3000 to 5000 years! Confucius spent a major portion of his life studying and annotating it (unfortunately, much of his work has been lost), and it has been a source of advice and guidance to sages and rulers in the Orient throughout that time.
You may have heard that it is used in Chinese fortune-telling, and it is--but not in the Occidental sense of that term. Without going into lengthy explanations, let me just say that the Chinese hit on an understanding of--and a way of practically applying--Chaos Theory, thousands of years before Western physicists coined the term. As to whether or not it "works", I can attest that it does. But don't take my word for it--try it yourself!
There are many different translations of this work--so why choose this one? This particular edition is not just a translation, but a transliteration. Richard Wilhelm worked closely with a leading Chinese scholar to make sure that the work would be comprehensible to the Occidental mind. And believe me, the ideas involved do not readily translate into any Western language.
To make sure that these ideas could be truly grasped by Westerners, the editors translated the work from Chinese into German, from German into English, and then translated the work from English back into Chinese, thus ensuring that the ideas survived the transitions intact.
Unless you were raised in the language, customs, and culture of the Orient, this is not just the best edition, it is the ONLY edition. This is indeed one of the greatest works of philosopy and literature ever produced by our species. Needless to say, I highly recommend it!
on 27 October 1998
Those approaching the "I Ching" for the first time are generally looking for that tool of divination that will fortell the future. Sorry to say, the "I Ching" is not for them. It is for the student of the self seeking to find a key to self-understanding, and a knowledge that things "change." The "I Ching" is, after all, the "Book of Changes." This particular volume is the definitive translation and commentary on the hexagrams, and the serious student will learn more about him/herself than about an uncertain and changing future. Because, you see, the future is not fixed. The individual controls his/her own destiny. For the newcomer to Eastern philosophy, or the initiate to the mysteries, Baynes masterful and insightful translations and commentaries (along with some delightful comments by Carl Jung), make this edition of the "I Ching" an invaluable addition to the shelf of any person seeking spiritual enlightenment, as well as a greater understanding of the "self" within us all.
on 27 July 2001
I've used this translation for 18 years and my understanding of its imagery continues to expand. Most other versions are trite and attempt to explain situations too directly for meaningful interpretation. This version, although hard work, releases and guides your own boundless imagination and creativity to come to bear upon the consultation process.
on 1 December 1998
The I Ching, or Book of Changes, is a Chinese book of wisdom which can be used (supposedly) to divine what one's actions SHOULD be in a given situation, by ascertaining the seeds of future events. In their view (and that of all major faiths) the "play" of life - action, motion, speech, externality - is played out on a backdrop of the unchanging, the stable, or the divine. This core or foundation behind what we normally think of as our existence is, in fact, the Real. The other is transitory, ("maya"), always moving, changing (decay, growth, fruition, success, failure, etc.) To be "successful" it must be rooted in and grounded in the unchanging. It must also be virtuous and wise. The authors of this book supposedly fasted and prayed and purified their natures until they could discern the patterns of this movement on top of Reality. By taking action early (holding back, moving forward, etc.) one can shape the seeds of these changes, work with "maya", and basically perform right action. The book can be used as a tool for prophecy, but is also useful just to read for the wisdom contained therein.