Alfred Huang is Chinese-born. As Dean at Shanghai University he studied and taught the less common Wu-style of Tai Chi Chuan and other classical Chinese esoteric arts, and as a consequence suffered imprisonment and persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist government through the 1950s and 60s: the official line was that anything from China's ancient Taoist/Confucian classical culture was rooted in "feudalism" and "superstition" and adherents should be punished and "re-educated".
Pardoned and released following the death of Mao, Huang emigrated to Hawaii in 1980 where he discovered to his surprise that a genuine interest in the I-Ching existed in the west, decided he didn't think any of the other English translations were good enough and wrote this own. In common with virtually all latter-day translators of the oracle - John Blofeld, Stephen Karcher, Hua Ching Ni and all the rest - Huang claims HIS translation is "the definitive one", closest to the meaning of the classical original. In his case, he might even be right.
For the reader unfamiliar with the layout of the I-Ching: the 64 hexagrams - or `gua' - 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 or 9 = a Yang (unbroken, strong), alternately 6 or 8 = a Yin (broken, yielding) line, and their complex interrelationship gives each gua its unique nature and meaning. The gua each have both a number and a name: for example in the classic Wilhelm-Baynes translation, 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 poignant and occasionally humorous perspective to the enquirer on any issue as his/her situation changes.
As a life-long student of the I-Ching and regular user of the original Wilhelm-Baynes translation over 30 years, this reviewer has read and studied most other existing English translations. Overall, Huang's translation is probably an easier road into the oracle than many others - including Wilhelm-Baynes, whose poetic but difficult language can be daunting to a novice - and is definitely one of the most insightful and useful interpretations especially for someone coming from western-global cultural paradigms.
In this revised and very high-quality hardcover '10th Anniversary Edition', Huang's translation is laid out more or less in the same style as Wilhelm-Baynes and others who follow their lead: the hexagrams (which Huang refers to by their common Chinese name `gua') are presented in the same numbered order with the six-line structure illustrated, and its classical Chinese character displayed at the head of each chapter and on each succeeding page in red ink. Huang's English-translated names for the hexagrams often differ from those given by other translators (i.e. gua number 15 is translated by Wilhelm-Baynes and Blofeld as `Modesty' but by Huang as `Humbleness'; gua 38, usually translated and explained as `Opposition' or `Estranged' is translated here as `Diversity' and so forth).
The structure of each gua and its broad meaning is clearly explained by the author, who justifies his naming-choice by reference to the original classical Chinese text and how, according to him, it needs to be understood. The short, Haiku-like `decision' is offered as usual, with classical commentaries on the decision and the symbol to be visualised to assist in understanding what natural process the gua represents. The changing lines are then gone through sequentially, in the usual way from first (bottom) to sixth (top), and a section titled `Significance' broadens and extends the commentaries on the gua and its changing lines.
The text is clear, insightful, accurate and easy to use. As previously stated in this review, it's an excellent translation conveying the meaning of the oracle very well in simple-to-grasp language and is possibly the best starting point for the serious student coming from a western educational paradigm, especially the non-Chinese speaker.
For me, though Huang's work is good, informative and useful, it ultimately lacks the visceral power of the Wilhelm-Baynes translation; the pure aesthetic beauty of the cultural motifs and perspectives of classical Chinese thought are captured by W&B to perfection, giving their text a unique character simply not found elsewhere. Ultimately this is a personal preference, and Huang's only-just-short-of-excellent work can be highly recommended as a good portal of entry to the study of this greatest of all woks of cosmology and philosophical thought, designed to guide the man or woman with higher-than-average self awareness through the complexities and difficulties of life.
So I reserve a five-star rating for the 1951 Wilhelm-Baynes translation simply because its highly poetic language has the visceral power to actually move the reader emotionally: no other translation compares. However, Alfred Huang's work is so good in other respects that it warrants four-and-a-half stars - almost as good as it gets.
One more thing: if you're looking to buy this book (rather than the kindle download), then consider the hardcover instead of the paperback. You may well refer to the oracle regularly for the rest of your life, and in future might appreciate a higher quality artefact which will endure.