on 28 November 2010
This is a very welcomed edition to the ever growing genre of Yijing study. Furthermore, it is written and translated from the ancient Chinese, by one of the leading academic lights of his generation, within the field of Chinese Studies. As mainland China has re-emerged from a time of an intense self-imposed isolation, and has begun to set the standard for the study of its own language, history and culture, this has had a profound effect upon the way the West views the East. Shaughnessy, (along with others such as Mark Edward lewis for intance), has to produce a quality and standard of work that is free of cultural bias and at the sametime, relevant to the Western student, whilst being viewed as academically 'correct' from a Chinese perspective. Gone are the days of Christian missionaries acting as a 'filter' between East and West, often distorting what they conveyed. Today, the emphasis in the field of serious academia is one of 'exactness' of interpretation, and 'correctness' of 'translation'. This current work meets these two criteria admirably.
What of the text? In 1973, as China was involved in the highly destructive 'Cultural Revolution', a set of tombs was unearthed in the south central Chinese city of Changsha (Hunan province). It contained three bodies belong to a noble family - the first Marquis of Dai, his wife and their son. The tomb complex dates to 168BC, and is therefore, of the Early Han Dynasty (206BC-9AD) time peried. Within the tombs there was a wealth of artefacts including lacquered wine-bowls, cosmetic boxes, silk name banners, silk burial shrouds draped over the coffins, and a collection of maps, military treatise and spiritually significant texts. A silk document contains postures of 'daoyin', or 'health' exercises that stretch and loosen the body that look very similar to the postures of modern-day martial art of Taijiquan. Amongst the spiritual texts were found the Daodejing and the I Ching.
The Mawangdui I ching (Yijing) contains 64 hexagrams, mirroring the received text. However, it differs in the order that the hexagrams are presented - in the received text 'Jian' (Creative), is followed by 'Kun' (Receptive), in the Mawangdui edition, Jian is followed by 'Fu', or 'Wife', as Shaughnessy translates the term. It should be noted that 34 of the 64 hexagrams carry different names than those found in the received version, with many written with ideograms that sound the same (or similar) when pronounced, but have completely different meanings. In the text associated with the line commentaries, around half contain notable differences. The complete received version has Ten Wings, or ten commentaries, the Mawangdui version omits the 3rd, 4th and 9th commentaries, whilst the 8th commentary is lacking the final paragraph (regarding the attributes of the trigrams), that is found in the received version. For those interested in its philosophy, the Mawangdui also differs in another, crucial manner. The received version contains within the body of the Ten Wings (i.e. the 5th commentary) the idea of the concept of 'Taiji' (Grand Ridge-pole), which gives rise to yin and yang. In the Mawangdui version however, 'Taiji' is replaced with the concept of 'Daheng', or 'Great Endurance'. This idea may have been taken from hexagram 32 of the received version - which is named 'Heng' - that is 'Constancy/Endurance'. In this respect, both the received Yijing AND the Mawangdui text are in full agreement - hexagram 32 is also called 'Heng' and written with exactly the same Chinese ideogram. This is an excellent translation from a very fine academic.