Chu Hsi and Divination(1)
From Kidder Smith, Jr., Peter K. Bol, Joseph A. Adler, and Don J. Wyatt,
Sung Dynasty Uses of the I Ching (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990),
chs. 6 and 7.
Chinese translation (by Yang Lihua), "Zhu Xi yu Zhanshi," in Tian Hao (Hoyt Tillman), ed.,
Shilun(Essays on Song Intellectual History)
(Beijing: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2003)
In 1175 Chu Hsi wrote a letter to Chang Shih (1133-1180) describing what was to
become the basis of his entire approach to the I Ching:
I recently had an idea about how to read the I. When the sages created the I it originally was to cause people to engage in divination, in order to decide what was
permissible or not in their behavior, and thereby to teach people to be good....
Thus the hexagram and line statements are based simply on the images [the hexagram configurations and their symbolic correlations].(2)
The two major aspects of Chu's I Ching studies are foreshadowed here: his theory of
divination and his theory of interpretation. Chu claimed that the original meaning of the I was to
be found not in its various layers of text but in the oracular function of the hexagrams, which were
devised by the primordial sage Fu-hsi. The hexagram and line statements, written by the later
sages King Wen and the Duke of Chou, were merely a means of access to the I's original oracular
intention. This, in turn, implied that if Southern Sung literati were to take the I seriously they
would have to understand how the practice of divination could be incorporated into the tao-hsüeh quest for sagehood. Using the I, for Chu, meant not only reading it but performing divination, as
it was originally intended to be used. When done properly, he said, divination "enables everyone
from kings and dukes to the common people to use it for self-cultivation (hsiu-shen) and ordering
the state (chih-kuo)."(3)
Chu's approach to the I may be taken as a paradigm of his "reconstitution" of the
Confucian tradition. He had a clear sense of looking back on a legacy of wisdom, extending from
the very origins of Chinese civilization to his Northern Sung predecessors. But, like Confucius,
his relationship to the past was more than that of a transmitter. He was a synthesizer (as he has so
often been called) in the true sense of the word. He not only systematized the newly-revived
Confucian tradition, but by selecting, rejecting, recombining and adding elements he also
In regard to the I Ching, Chu's insistence on the importance of divination (which along
with sacrifice had been one of the ritual bases of early Chinese political culture(4)) and the necessity
of using it in the process of self-cultivation was a reappropriation of the original function of the I in the context of the specific intellectual and religious needs of the Southern Sung, as Chu
understood them. As we have seen in Chapter Two, by the time of the Southern Sung there was
a growing disenchantment with politics as the focus of Confucian moral activity (te-hsing). The
failure of the Northern Sung political reforms and the threat of military subjugation by northern
tribes persuaded Chu Hsi and many of his contemporaries that the prerequisite to solving the
problems of the Sung was the inner cultivation of moral character by the literati class. This was a
return to the fundamental Confucian notions that moral power (te, or "virtue") is superior to
physical coercion ("laws and punishments") as a foundation of government,(5) and that without
humanity or humaneness (jen) proper behavior (li) is meaningless.(6) In the Northern Sung, the
"external" measures of institutional and political reform had been tried and had failed. Through
Chu Hsi's efforts, the debate over the source of values and the question of whether one can know
the Way had been won by the Ch'eng school, according to which values are inherent in the
Heaven-endowed moral nature and can be known and put into effect by means of self-cultivation.
For Chu Hsi self-cultivation was the ultimate criterion of literati learning.(7) The problems now to
be faced concerned practice: how to know the Way and how to put it into effect. This was a
socio-political problem as well as a religious one, for access to a Way rooted in heaven-and-earth
and human nature afforded literati a source of moral authority independent of the state. Thus we
find Chu Hsi concentrating on the inner life of the individual, on the Great Learning's premise that
"self-cultivation is the root" of social and political order.(8) Chu's fundamental problematic, the
basis of all his intellectual concerns, was the possibility and the difficulty of attaining sagehood by
means of self-cultivation. It is in this context that we must situate his approach to the I Ching.
The problem of attaining sagehood in Chu Hsi's system is connected with his theory of
mind. We shall, therefore, briefly examine this complex topic before we look more closely at
Chu's approach to the I Ching.
The Problem of Mind
According to Chu Hsi, mind or mind/heart (hsin) is composed of ch'i, the psycho-physical
substrate of all things, in which inheres li, the principle or coherence or order or pattern
underlying the cosmos. The li of the mind is human nature (hsing), which is inherently good. The ch'i of the mind is the clearest, most refined form of ch'i, but the degree of this clarity varies from
person to person. The sage is a person whose mind is composed of perfectly clear ch'i; it is free
of the obstruction or cloudiness ordinarily caused by the mind's physical endowment (ch'i-chih).
Thus the sage possesses complete knowledge of the moral pattern inherent in all things, including
his own mind. He therefore has perfect self-knowledge and fully manifests the goodness of
human nature. By acting as an exemplar of human virtue the sage can exert a transforming
influence on society.
Every person has, theoretically, the potential to become a sage. While those of us with
murkier endowments of ch'i have less chance of becoming sages than those born (by chance(9)) with
clearer endowments, still each of us knows li to some extent. Our knowledge of li, partial as it
may be, is not essentially different from the sage's perfect knowledge. To become a sage is
therefore a matter of purifying our ch'i, or "transforming the physical endowment" (pien-hua ch'i-chih) by means of various intellectual and spiritual practices. These methods of self-cultivation
- Abiding in reverent composure (chü-ching), an attitude that orients and unifies one's
activity, underlying and making possible the following:
- Prudence in solitude (shen-tu), or extreme care taken to heighten awareness of psychic
phenomena (ideas, feelings, intentions) in their incipient (chi) phases, at the point when the
unexpressed (wei-fa) mind first expresses itself,
- Self-examination (hsing-ch'a), to distinguish the good psychic phenomena from the evil
or selfish ones,(11)
- Preserving and nourishing (ts'un-yang) the good psychic phenomena, and the innate
moral mind and nature of which they are the direct expressions,
- Conquering the self (k'o-chi),(12) or eliminating the bad psychic phenomena, such as
- Quiet-sitting (ching-tso), or meditation, conceived as a quiescent phase in a daily cycle
of activity and stillness, when one collects oneself without banishing thoughts; a relatively (but not
totally) inactive period that nourishes creative activity,(13)
- Investigating things and extending knowledge (ko-wu chih-chih), i.e. "completely
fathoming the patterns of things and events,"(14) both externally and within oneself, eventually to
arrive at a cognitive "interpenetration" (kuan-t'ung) of all things, conceived as an enlightenment
- Practice (hsing), to put into effect one's knowledge, in effect to validate one's self-cultivation.
Chu Hsi's treatment of the I Ching is best understood as an effort to facilitate the
individual's efforts at self-cultivation, in terms of both the inner dimension (particularly items 3, 4,
and 5 above, which fall roughly under the Great Learning's category "rectification of mind") and
the practical problems entailed in moral activity, or practice. Like Ch'eng I, he felt that the I could
help people to learn the moral pattern (li) according to which heaven-and-earth functions, and to
adapt their personal and social activity to that pattern. But he also felt that in order to do so one
needed to undergo an existential transformation by the various means listed above, and that the
sages who founded the cultural tradition were necessary participants in this process. Thus his
work on the I was an attempt to make available, not only to literati but also to common people,
the wisdom and transformative moral power of the sages who created the I.(15) Divination was the
primary means by which access to this power could be attained.
Chu Hsi's Work on the I
Chu wrote two books on the I: a commentary, entitled Chou-i pen-i (Original Meaning of
the Chou-i), and a shorter book on the theory and practice of divination, the I-hsüeh ch'i-meng (Introduction to the Study of the I).(16) The Chou-i pen-i was completed in 1177 and revised
sometime after 1186.(17) As the title suggests, it was an attempt to move beyond the later
accretions of interpretation embodied in the Ten Wings, and to penetrate to the original meanings
intended by the three sages responsible for the earliest layers of the I: Fu-hsi (the hexagrams),
King Wen (the hexagram statements), and the Duke of Chou (the line statements). Despite Chu's
belief that Confucius had written all of the Ten Wings (he did not accept Ou-yang Hsiu's
arguments to the contrary(18)), he questioned the value of these later texts as interpretive aids. The
appendices, he said, reflect Confucius' own ideas about the pattern of the Way (tao-li).(19) Confucius' intentions in writing them were different from those of the three earlier sages, and
should therefore not be relied upon to uncover the original meaning of the basic text.
Accordingly, Chu's edition of the I, with his commentary, was printed with all the
appendices intact and separate from the earlier layers of the text.(20) It had been the general
practice ever since the ascendance of Wang Pi's (226-249 CE) interpretation of the I to collate the T'uan, Hsiang, and Wen-yen commentaries (comprising five of the Ten Wings) with the
hexagrams to which they applied. For Wang Pi, this collation facilitated "using the Wings to
support the basic text," a hermeneutic principle which he inherited from Fei Chih (ca. 50 BCE -
10 CE) and Cheng Hsüan (127-200), the earliest prominent i-li (meaning and principle) commentators.(21) When Wang Pi's commentary was later enshrined in the Chou-i cheng-i (Correct
Meaning of the I Ching) as the official interpretation of the T'ang Dynasty (618-906), this
arrangement of the text acquired yet higher status. The most prominent i-li commentator of the
Northern Sung, Ch'eng I, followed Wang Pi's arrangement. It was, by this time, a standard
feature of the i-li approach--partly because of Wang Pi's authoritative status, but mostly because
the arrangement supported both the technical and the philosophical hermeneutics of the i-li school, according to which the meaning of the I is best sought in the text, not directly in the
Chu was by no means the first Sung commentator to return to the structure of the "Old I."
Several such editions had appeared in the Northern Sung, and Chu's friend Lü Tsu-ch'ien had also
published one. In Chu's colophon to Lü's edition he wrote:
Confucius wrote the Appendices, "lifting one corner to show the whole outline"
[paraphrasing Analects 7:8]. But after various scholars divided up the Classic with
the appendices, students relied on these texts in choosing their interpretations.
Eventually they could no longer grasp in their minds the whole Classic, and hastily
seized upon the "one corner" of the Appendices as the correct explanation. In this
way each line of each hexagram refers to merely one event, and the use of the I incorrectly becomes limited, lacking the means to "connect all situations under
heaven." This being the case, I am uneasy with it.(22)
In the following section we shall see how Chu Hsi attempted to improve on earlier commentators'
use of the I "to connect all situations under heaven."
Chu's second book on the I, the I-hsüeh ch'i-meng (Introduction to the Study of the I) was
published in 1186. In a letter to Lu Tzu-mei he described his purpose in writing it:
I have recently written a little book on divination. My reason for writing it is that
those who have discussed the I in recent years have been completely vague in
regard to image and number (hsiang-shu). It is not that they are so literal and
fragmented that we cannot delve into it. Therefore I have extended just the
numerological sections of the Sages' discussions of image and number in the
appendices to the Classic, to infer their intentions. I consider this to be sufficient
in terms of theory to examine the Sage's original referent in creating the I, and in
terms of practice to enhance the practical usefulness of ordinary people's
"contemplation of the changes and pondering of the prognostications."(23)
As this letter suggests, the Introduction is basically a divination manual, relying heavily on hsiang-shu, and specifically on Shao Yung. The first of its four chapters is a detailed study of the
numerological and cosmological symbolism of the Ho-t'u (Yellow River Chart) and the Lo-shu (Lo River Diagram). These are numerological diagrams that had been associated with the I Ching ever since the Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE). The Ho-t'u, in particular, was said to have been
used by Fu-hsi as a model for the hexagrams of the I (although the connections between the two
are extremely vague). According to K'ung An-kuo (fl. 130 BCE), quoted by Chu Hsi in the Introduction:
The Ho-t'u came out of the Yellow River on a dragon-horse when Fu-hsi ruled the
world. He accordingly took its design as a model in drawing the Eight Trigrams.
The Lo-shu was the design arrayed on the back of a spirit-tortoise at the time
when Yü controlled the flood. In it are the numbers up to 9. Yü accordingly
followed its classifications in setting up the Nine Regions [of China].(24)
Chu Hsi accepted the tradition of the historical origins of these diagrams, and believed them to
have been revealed to the sages by heaven; hence the need to "fathom their pattern" (ch'iung-li),
in particular their numerological principles. This he does, at great length, in the first chapter of
the Introduction. Nevertheless, as we shall see in the following section, he preferred another
version of the myth recounting the creation of the I that gave a somewhat more active role to Fu-hsi in the creation of the I.
In the second chapter of the Introduction Chu explores the yin-yang patterns by which the
trigrams and hexagrams of the I may be generated by the successive recombination of solid and
broken lines. Here he also discusses the Fu-hsi and King Wen sequences of the trigrams, as well
as Shao Yung's Hsien-t'ien (Prior-to-heaven) Chart. In the third chapter he discusses in detail the
milfoil divination procedure, which he had reconstructed from the fragmentary version in the Hsi-tz'u-chuan (Commentary on the Appended Texts, A.9). (His version of this procedure has
remained standard to this day.)(25) And in the final chapter he explains how to derive a second
hexagram from the one determined by the yarrow stalks, and how to interpret the transformation
from the first to the second as a prognostication. Clearly, this book was intended to be a practical
manual of divination, to be used by those learning the Way of the sages.
The ultimate purpose of performing divination, like everything else in Chu's system, was to
contribute to self-cultivation. As we shall see below, the oracular power of the I was considered
to be like the "spiritual" (shen) capacity of the perfectly clear mind of the sage to know the future.
This transcendent clarity of mind could be cultivated by a person working to become a sage. But
the extreme difficulty of interpreting the text of the I made this a highly problematic endeavor,
fraught with pitfalls.
Interpreting the I
The premise of Chu Hsi's interpretive theory is the myth, taken as an historical datum by
Chu Hsi, of Fu-hsi's creation of the I. The myth, as told in the Hsi-tz'u, goes as follows:(26)
In ancient times, when Pao-hsi [=Fu-hsi] ruled the world, he looked up and
contemplated the images (hsiang) in heaven; he looked down and contemplated the
patterns (fa) on earth. He contemplated the markings of the birds and beasts and
their adaptations to the various regions. From near at hand he abstracted images
from his own body; from afar he abstracted from things. In this way he first
created the Eight Trigrams, to spread the power (te) of [his] spiritual clarity and to
classify the dispositions of the myriad things.(27)
According to Chu, the primordial sage Fu-hsi created the I in the form of hexagrams
which he derived from patterns in nature. There was no text associated with it until the troubled
time of King Wen (the founder of the Chou dynasty in the 11th century BCE), who felt that
people were no longer capable of interpreting the hexagrams directly. While he was imprisoned
by the wicked last king of the Shang, King Wen therefore composed the hexagram statements to
help elucidate the oracular meaning of the hexagrams. His son, the Duke of Chou, later wrote the
line statements as further clarification. Chu Hsi's point in his letter to Chang Shih (quoted at the
beginning of this chapter) is that these texts were not the original locus of meaning. They were
intended merely as clarifications of the graphic and oracular meanings of the hexagrams.
Therefore a correct interpretation of the text must make sense in the same way.(28)
Furthermore, Chu later argued, the "original intention" or purpose of the hexagrams was
not philosophical but oracular: they were intended to be used to determine how to act in
particular situations, not to express moral principles. Among scholars ever since Wang Pi,
though, the I had generally been used as textual support for whatever philosophy was being put
forth. This, according to Chu, was not only likely to result in specious argumentation, it was also
bound to neglect the real access to the "mind of the sage" that the I could provide--a connection
that could prove invaluable in the extremely difficult process of self-cultivation. Hence Chu Hsi's
repeated dictum, "The I was originally created for divination."(29)
This principle of interpretation led Chu to emphasize two things in his commentary on the I (the Chou-i pen-i): the "original meaning" (pen-i) and the "original intention" (also pronounced pen-i). The original meaning, first, is the literal denotation of the text, referring to the structural
features, numerological characteristics, and symbolic associations of the hexagram and its
component lines and trigrams. For example, his commentary on Ta-yu (hexagram #14, "Great
Possession") begins as follows (the hexagram text is "Great possession; primal success"):
Great possession is possession in great measure. Li [the upper trigram] comes to
rest over Ch'ien [the lower], fire over heaven. All is illuminated. The 6 in the fifth
place is a yin line abiding in respect. It attains the central position, while the five
yang lines respond to it. Thus it is a great possession. Ch'ien is strong and Li is
Second, Chu emphasizes the oracular meaning of the text, since divination is the original
intention or purpose for which the text was written. Thus his commentary on hexagram #14
Abiding in respect and responding to heaven is a Way of success. If the diviner
has these virtues, then there will be great goodness and success.(31)
Its original intention is what renders the I significantly different from the other classics,
according to Chu. Unlike the Documents, Odes, Ritual, and Spring and Autumn Classics, the I was not used by Confucius and the early kings for pedagogical purposes, but only for divination.(32) In a sense the original intention of the I is not merely what the author meant, but what he meant
for the reader (i.e. the user) to do.(33)
Chu's disagreements with both the hsiang-shu and the i-li interpretive traditions were
basically that they both, in different ways, had partial views of the I. The hsiang-shu commentators, especially those of the Han, recognized the importance of the graphic imagery and
its correlations, but failed to apply it to human affairs. They were, he said, "mired in muck" and
"bound by forced associations."(34) The i-li commentators, on the other hand, correctly focused on
the moral principles (tao-li) that could be discerned in or inferred from the text, but they ignored
the text's concrete referent (i.e. the configuration and imagery of the hexagrams).(35)
Chu's difference with the i-li school can readily be seen by comparing his commentary with
Ch'eng I's. Ch'eng focuses on the general concepts embodied in the hexagram and line statements;
his discussions of the structural features of the hexagrams are minimal. Compare, for example, his
comment on the hexagram text of hexagram #14 with that of Chu Hsi given above:
The qualities (ts'ai) of the hexagram can be considered "primacy and success."(36) As for the virtues (te) of hexagrams in general, there are cases of the name of the
hexagram itself containing the meaning (i), such as "Holding together; auspicious"
(Pi, hexagram #8) and "Modesty; success" (Ch'ien, hexagram #15); there are cases
where one derives the meaning of the hexagram from the counsel and
admonition(37), such as "Army; perseverance and a strong man; auspicious"
(hexagram #7) and "Comrades; in the countryside, success" (hexagram #13); and
there are cases [such as the present] in which it is expressed in terms of the
hexagram qualities, such as "Great possession; primacy and success." Since [the T'uan-chuan refers to the virtue of this hexagram as] "firm and strong, cultured and
bright; responding to heaven and acting in season," thus it is able to have "primacy
Note that all three of the loci of meaning Ch'eng discusses here are based on the hexagram text;
he does not discuss the trigram/hexagram structure in terms of yin-yang theory, as Chu Hsi does
(above). Chu consistently begins each discussion of a hexagram or line with an explanation of the
yin-yang relationships of the lines and the imagery of the component trigrams. On that basis he
attempts to clarify the relationship between the lines and the statements, drawing particular
attention to the oracular pronouncements.
To set Chu Hsi's theory of I Ching interpretation in a broader context, let us briefly look at
his general theory of interpretation, his "methodology of reading" (tu-shu fa).(39) Chu developed
what can be characterized as a "systemic" approach to textual interpretation, involving the inter-relations of author, text, and reader. There are both objective and subjective elements in this
The first stage of textual interpretation is to apprehend the literal denotation or referent of
the text, as intended by the author. To this end Chu said one should apply whatever historical and
philological data might be available, using the context and circumstances of the text's composition
to explicate it and the author's intended meaning. His use of the traditional accounts of the I's
creation by Fu-hsi, King Wen, the Duke of Chou, and Confucius is an example of his concern to
recover its original meaning. Such an approach would help the reader, he said, to avoid
projecting his own ideas onto the text. It was important to treat texts as objects (wu) external to
one's mind so that they could exert a rectifying leverage on it. "How can those who take their
own private ideas and read them into the books of the sages and worthies get anything from their
reading?"(40) Partiality or self-centeredness was something always to be guarded against. One
should read a text with an "equable mind"(41) and total attention, taking care to interpret each
passage in its context,(42) without comparing the book with others until after it is completely read.(43) This is the objective aspect of Chu Hsi's methodology of reading: books are to be treated as
things, the patterns or principles of which must be thoroughly investigated.
After one had ascertained the intended meaning, according to Chu, a certain subjective
involvement with the text is necessary for full understanding. One must extend one's mind into
the thing, responding to its pattern and making it one's own:
One must first read thoroughly, so that all the words seem to come from
one's own mouth. Then think cogently, so that all the ideas seem to come from
one's own mind. Only then will one be able to get it.(44)
In reading books one's body and mind must enter inside each paragraph.(45)
Ultimately the purpose of reading is not simply to recover the wisdom of the sages but to use it to
bring something new into the world. And the emphasis is always on the creative subject, the self:
Approach the old teachings in order to bring out new views.(46)
In reading books one should not simply look for the pattern of the Way on
the page. One must come back and investigate one's own self.(47)
This subjective dimension of Chu's hermeneutics is closely connected with his theory of
the coordinate relationship of knowledge (chih) and practice (hsing):
The efforts of both knowledge and practice must be exerted to the utmost.
As one knows more clearly, he acts more earnestly, and as he acts more earnestly,
he knows more clearly.... When one knows something but has not yet acted on it,
his knowledge is shallow. After he has experienced it, his knowledge will be
increasingly clear, and its character will be different from what it was before....
Knowledge and practice always require each other. It is like a person who cannot
walk without legs although he has eyes, and who cannot see without eyes although
he has legs. With respect to order, knowledge comes first, and with respect to
importance, practice is more important.(48)
Breadth of study is not as good as essential knowledge, and essential
knowledge is not as good as concrete practice.(49)
Thus knowledge and practice are interdependent. Knowledge is not complete until it is acted
upon and thereby incorporated into the subject's own will or intentionality. To know the meaning
of a text is not merely to absorb it passively. It is an active appropriation of the author's intention
into one's own experience. In the case of the I Ching, this appropriation takes the form of
Chu Hsi's hermeneutical principle that meaning is part of a broader intentionality that also
includes practice is the basis for much of his criticism of previous commentators on the I,
especially those of the i-li school. Ch'eng I, in particular, came in for harsh criticism on this score.
Chu's critique typically proceeds as follows:
In the time of high antiquity people's minds were cloudy, and they did not
know wherein good fortune and misfortune lay. Therefore the sage created the I to teach them divination and to enable them to act on good fortune and to avoid
misfortune.... At first there were only prognostications and no texts ... until King
Wen and the Duke of Chou composed the hexagram and line texts, enabling
people to apprehend the lines and easily contemplate the good fortune and
misfortune in the texts. Confucius also feared that people would not understand
the reasons [for acting or not acting], so he further explained the lines one by one,
saying what makes this line auspicious is its centrality and correctness, and what
makes that line inauspicious is improper position. He clearly elucidated this,
allowing people to understand easily. For example, the Wen-yen [appendix,
attributed to Confucius] explains the moral principles (tao-li) on this basis [i.e. line
by line]. But it is not the case that the sage created the I primarily for discussing
moral principles in order to instruct people. One must see the sage's original
intention; then one can study the I.(50)
Basically, the I was originally created for divination. Thus its statements
must be based on the images and numbers (hsiang-shu), and are not products of
the sages' own intentions.... Those who have discussed the I recently have not
understood this at all. Thus, although their discussions contain the textual meaning
(lit. meaning and principle, i-li), they lack the contextual meaning (lit. situational
This is the crux of the distinction between reading the I as a book of philosophy or moral
principle and reading it as a divination manual. The hexagram and line texts were not written by
King Wen and the Duke of Chou to express their own ideas; they were written to facilitate the
oracular use of the hexagrams created by Fu-hsi. Principles can, of course, be inferred from these
texts. But those who disregard the concrete referent and the oracular intention are likely to
misconstrue the intended meaning and to miss the point of reading the I. The point is to apply
that moral principle in specific circumstances, or situations (ch'ing).
The I was originally a book of divination. Later men took it only as
divination, until Wang Pi's use of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu to explain it. After that,
people only considered it [a book of] pattern/principle and not as divination. This
is all wrong.(52)
[Ch'eng] I-ch'uan merely took up his I and construed it in terms of
metaphorical explanations. But I fear that the sages, indeed, would not have been
willing to write such a metaphorical book.(53)
The pattern of the Way [expressed in Ch'eng's] Commentary on the I is
refined, and its words are extensive, with nothing left out. It fills in the gaps in
other people's writings on moral effort (kung-fu). How clear and natural! But it is
not in accord with the original meaning. The I was originally a book of divination.
Its hexagram texts and line texts contain everything. How to use it is left to the
reader. Mr. Ch'eng can only discuss it in terms of the unitary pattern.(54)
In saying "how to use it is left to the reader," Chu means that the specific behavioral
implications of a line are determined by the contextual situation in which it is received in
divination. The interpretation must accord with the "resonances of [the subject's] intention" (i suo kan-t'ung).(55) That is to say, the meaning of the text must be capable of application by any person:
If we regard [the I] as [a book of] divination, then all people--scholars, farmers,
artisans and merchants--will be able to make use of it in all their affairs. If this sort
of person divines, he will make this sort of use of it. If another sort of person
divines, he will make another sort of use of it.(56)
According to Chu Hsi, the i-li approach to the I, focusing on the texts attributed to King
Wen, the Duke of Chou, and Confucius, uses these texts merely as a point of departure for the
moral philosophy of the commentator. It cannot penetrate to the original meaning of the I itself
because it gives insufficient attention to the original form in which the I was created (namely the
hexagrams and their graphic and numerological symbolism) and to the intended use of the
hexagram and line texts (to aid in the interpretation of hexagrams obtained in divination).
Consequently, while the i-li commentators generally treated the I as a source of moral guidance,
their interpretive approach cut them off from the concrete subjective engagement with the I, and
with the sages who created it, that would most effectively contribute to the process of self-transformation. Ch'eng I's commentary, for example, is such an elaborate discussion of the moral
pattern that "people who study it today no longer look at the original Classic; they merely read the
commentary. This is not how to get people to think."(57)
Thus Chu's disagreement with the i-li school turns on an implicit distinction between
teaching moral behavior (i.e. the right responses to specific situations) and teaching moral
cultivation (i.e. how to transform oneself into a sagely human being). Ch'eng I, according to Chu,
had taken each of the 384 hexagram lines of the I as corresponding to a particular situation from
which a specific moral principle could be learned. For example, he had interpreted the lines of
Ch'ien (hexagram #1) with reference to historical events in the life of the Sage-Emperor Shun,
events that provided models of behavior which could be emulated. In Chu Hsi's view,
In this way each line of each hexagram refers to merely one event, and the use of
the I incorrectly becomes limited, lacking the means to "connect all situations
Chu's own commentary on the I, like his other commentaries, was designed not as a handbook of
ethical behavior but as an aid in one's subjective involvement with the Classic:
In Mr. Ch'eng's explanations of the Classics, the pattern is contained in the
explanatory remarks. In my Collected Comments on the Lun-yü, I merely elucidate
the phrases, allowing people to get the taste of the text of the Classic. The pattern
is contained in the text of the Classic.(59)
In other words, Chu Hsi's commentaries were not intended to develop the specific moral
implications and lessons to be learned from the text and applied to the life of the reader. The
reader must learn how to do that himself. Chu merely tries to be a facilitator for the subject's own
engagement with the wisdom and power of the sages.
To illustrate Chu Hsi's hermeneutical approach to the I in practice, we shall look at
portions of a long exchange between Chu Hsi and a student of his, Liu Yung-chih,(60) recorded in
the Chu-tzu yü-lei (Chu Hsi's Classified Conversations). It is an instructive dialogue because in it
Chu Hsi makes rather fine adjustments in his student's interpretation of a single hexagram line. If
we can understand his reasoning here we will probably have understood his interpretive theory.
Liu's question concerns the interpretation of the second line of K'un (hexagram #2). Since
he refers to Chu Hsi's commentary on the line it will be helpful to have that before us: [Text:] Six
in the second place. Straight, square and great. Without practice [hsi, repetition] everything is
[Chu's comment:] The yielding [line] is obedient (hsün) and secure in the correct
place. This is K'un's "straightness." The bestowal of definite form is K'un's
"squareness." Its virtue [viz. obedience, docility] is to combine without limit; this
is K'un's "greatness." The 6 in the second place is a yielding line moving into the
central and correct position; it receives the essence of the way of K'un. Therefore
its virtue is straight internally, square externally, and flourishes greatly. Everything
will be advantageous without depending on study (hsüeh-hsi). If the diviner has
these virtues, the prognostication will be like this.(61)
The student, Liu Yung-chih, asks a question that seems to derive in a straightforward way from
the sentence in Chu's commentary, "Everything will be advantageous without depending on
Yung-chih asked: Under 6 in the second place of K'un, does "straight, square, and
great; all is advantageous without practice" mean that the student must use
practice, and only later will he reach the point of not having to practice?
Chu Hsi replies:
It is not like that. When the sages created the I it meant only that in the lines of
this hexagram there was this image.... If a person received this prognostication,
then corresponding to this situation there would be this application. It [the
passage in question] does not go so far as to mean that the student must practice
until he no longer needs to practice. In the case of a student, of course it must be
like this. But there was no such intention in the I created by the sages.(62)
Here Chu Hsi distinguishes the original meaning of the line from its application to a specific
divinatory situation. In the above-quoted comment on the text, the last two sentences pertain to
one specific application, appropriate only to a student; they do not refer to the Duke of Chou's
original meaning. The sages were not thinking only of students when they devised and wrote the I (although Chu's commentary appears to incline in their direction). As we saw above, the text
must be interpreted so as to be applicable to any person's circumstances: scholar, farmer, artisan,
or merchant. Thus corrected, Yung-chih tries again:
Yung-chih said: However, "all advantageous without practice" has to do
with "achieved virtue."(63)
Reply: Wrong again. It never says anything about "achieved virtue." It is
only that in the lines of this hexagram there is this image. If one receives this
prognostication, then it corresponds to this image; it never says anything about
"achieved virtue." This is how my theory of the I differs from the theories of both
former and recent scholars.(64)
Yung-chih seems to be trying Chu's patience. He still has not seen that one must first
understand the text's literal referent, namely the hexagram imagery, before one tries to derive a
moral principle from it. The principle must be directly implied by both the imagery and the
statement. Only by observing what Chu Hsi believed to be the coherence (i.e. the unifying
principle or pattern, li) of the various levels of the I can the reader maintain contact with the
intentionality of its sagely authors.(65) Even then one must be aware that Fu-hsi's original intention
in creating the divination system was partially dissipated by the later sages, who were more
interested in moral principle than in divination. As he continues in his response to Yung-chih:
The I was created merely as a divination book.... If you can understand my
theory then you can understand that Fu-hsi's and King Wen's I was originally
created for this use. Originally it did not contain very many moral principles (tao-li). Only then had the original intention of the I not been lost. Today, people do
not yet understand the sage's original intention in creating the I--they first want to
discuss moral principles. Even though they discuss it well, they lack the contextual
pattern (ch'ing-li). [Their writings] simply have nothing to do with the origin of
the I. The Sage [Confucius] has clearly explained, "In antiquity the sages created
the I by observing the images [in heaven], laying out the hexagrams, and
appending the texts to them in order to elucidate good fortune and misfortune."(66) This is abundantly clear. My reason for claiming that the I is merely a divination
book can be seen in this kind of passage....
People reading the I today should divide it into three levels: Fu-hsi's I, King
Wen's I, and Confucius' I. If one reads Fu-hsi's I as if there were no T'uan, Hsiang,
and Wen-yen discussions, then one will be able to see that the original intention of
the I was to create the practice of divination.(67)
King Wen's mind was not as expansive as Fu-hsi's, and so he was anxious
to speak out. Confucius' mind was not as great as King Wen's mind, and he too
was anxious to speak out about moral principle. This is how the original intention
[of the I] was dissipated.(68)
Finally, Yung-chih apparently comes to understand the importance of the intentionality of
the sage, although Chu Hsi still qualifies his student's response:
Yung-chih said: The sage created the I merely to clarify the pattern of yin
and yang, firm and yielding, good fortune and misfortune, growth and decline.
[Reply:] Although that is the case, nevertheless when Fu-hsi created the I he only drew the Eight Trigrams.(69) So when did he ever explain the pattern of yin
and yang, firm and yielding, good fortune and misfortune? But within [the
hexagrams] there is contained this moral pattern. Imagine how a man of antiquity
taught people: he did not discuss much, he only discussed methods. In this way
he had people rely on them and practice them.(70)
Elsewhere Chu says of the second line of K'un:
The original intention [of the line] is to teach people to understand that this line
has these virtues. If a person prognosticates and receives the situation [to the
effect] that all will be advantageous independently of study, then if he is able to be
straight, and able to be square, and able to be great, then "all will be advantageous
without practice." But [the original intention] is not to try to explicate the Way of
The purpose of the line, in other words, is to teach people to recognize and to actively
cultivate the three virtues of K'un in themselves. It does not teach how to cultivate these virtues
(this would be teaching the "way of K'un")--it only teaches the necessity of doing so. The person
receiving this prognostication in actual practice would presumably be receptive to this particular
counsel at this particular time.
In Chu Hsi's view, the i-li school, by using the I as a moral philosophical text rather than a
divination manual, implicitly discouraged the practitioner from opening his moral decision-making
and action to the "spiritual" (shen) influence of the milfoil stalks, and to the transcendent sagely
wisdom or heavenly pattern to which they give access.(72) We might say that from Chu Hsi's
perspective, the i-li approach impeded the subject's participation with the sages in "the
transforming and nourishing processes of heaven-and-earth"(73)--the specific process in question
here being the subject's own self-transformation. The sage and the ordinary person are, in this
sense, "co-creators" of the fully realized human being.
Divination and Self-cultivation
Chu Hsi went to considerable lengths to make divination by means of yarrow or milfoil
stalks (achillea millefolium) accessible to literati. He wrote a detailed critique of the various
methods of divination that had been proposed since the Han(74) (all of them presumably based on
the fragmentary method outlined in Hsi-tz'u A9), and he wrote three versions of what he
considered to be the correct method.(75) And as we have seen, he wrote a book on the theory and
practice of divination, the I-hsüeh ch'i-meng (Introduction to the Study of the I).
Chu outlined his understanding of divination and its relevance to self-cultivation in a letter
to Lü Tsu-ch'ien. The hexagram and line texts, he said, were originally meant for diviners "to
determine good fortune and misfortune, and on that basis [to issue] counsel and admonition."
The T'uan, Hsiang, and Wen-yen commentaries were written by Confucius to clarify the moral
patterns of the hexagram and line texts "on the basis of the intentions of these counsels and
admonitions of good fortune and misfortune." However:
Later people saw only Confucius' discussions of the moral pattern, and did
not go back to infer the original intentions of King Wen and the Duke of Chou.
Because they denigrated divination as unworthy of discussion, their means of
discussing the I were consequently far from the concreteness of daily use (jih-yung
Whenever one reads a hexagram and line, according to the prognostication
obtained, one empties [or pacifies] the mind to search out what the meaning of the
verse refers to, and considers it a decision as to good fortune or misfortune, yea or
nay. Then one examines the precursor of the image and seeks out the reason for
the pattern, and then extends them to one's affairs. This enables everyone from
kings and dukes to the common people to use it for self-cultivation (hsiu-shen) and
ordering the state (chih-kuo). I myself consider this way of inquiry to be like
obtaining the bequeathed intentions of the Three Sages [Fu-hsi, King Wen, and the
Duke of Chou].(76)
It is clear from this letter that Chu Hsi understood the practice of divination--properly
done--to be entirely relevant to self-cultivation. How he understood this relevance is the question
we must now consider. We shall begin by analyzing the Hsi-tzu passage he quotes most often in
connection with the "general purpose" (ta-i) of the I (A.11.1).(77) This will provide us with a broad
outline of the I's role in Chu Hsi's system. We shall then examine the two crucial terms in Chu's
concept of divination: "responsiveness" (ying) and "incipience" (chi).
The Master [Confucius] said: What does the I do? Just this: the I
completes affairs, and
encompasses the Way of all under heaven.
Therefore the sages used it
 to penetrate the wills of all under heaven,
 to determine the tasks of all under heaven, and
 to settle the doubts of all under heaven.
Chu defines five of the six predicates (nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6) in this passage in terms of
divination. The sixth (no.3) he explains in terms of the I's correspondence with the world. He
clearly specifies that divination involves acting as well as knowing:
The I discloses things, completes affairs, and encompasses the Way of all
under heaven [1-3]. This is the general purpose of the I.(78)
"To disclose things and to complete affairs" [1,2] means to enable people
to do divination in order to understand good fortune and misfortune, and to
complete their undertakings. "To encompass the Way of all under heaven" 
means that once the hexagram lines are set out, the Way of all under heaven is
contained in them.(79)
The Sage created the I to teach others to act when prognostications are
auspicious, and not to act when inauspicious. This is the meaning of "penetrating
the wills of all under heaven, determining the tasks of all under heaven, and settling
the doubts of all under heaven [4-6]."(80)
We might further clarify this set of functions by applying two sets of polarities to it:
natural/human and inner/outer:
This array of the I's functions can be unpacked as follows. The hexagrams of the I represent the yin-yang fluctuations and transformations of the Way. The I as a symbol system
"discloses things" by representing natural pattern in graphic form, making it easier to comprehend.
But the Way, to be actualized, must also be internalized by the human will and put into effect in
human affairs. Moral decisions must be made, based on an integrated understanding of the self
and the world. Self-doubt is inevitable at this point, and the I provides a method by which doubts
can be settled and intentions trained to issue spontaneously in a proper direction. Divination is
Divination, in Chu Hsi's view, is a way of learning to "respond" (ying) to "incipient" (chi)
change, both in external events and in the mind. "Responsiveness," or "moral responsiveness," is
the ability to respond intuitively, spontaneously, and in a morally correct manner to the changing
pattern (li) of situations and events. It is a responsive harmony with the social and natural
environment, a way of fitting into the pattern of change, of attaining harmony with the Way (tao).
Responsiveness is one of the key characteristics of the mind of the sage. The sage has this
capacity because his mind is clear and free-flowing, unobstructed by murky ch'i; he can therefore
detect and respond to the subtlest patterns in things. This clarity and sensitivity of mind is called shen-ming "spiritual clarity" (on which more in a moment).
Ch'eng Hao had spoken of the importance of moral responsiveness in his "Letter on
Stabilizing Human Nature" to Chang Tsai:
The constant pattern of heaven-and-earth is that its mind pervades all things, yet it
has no mind. The constant pattern of the sage is that his dispositions accord with
all phenomena, yet he has no dispositions. Therefore, in the education of the chün-tzu, there is nothing like being completely broad and impartial, and responding in
accordance with things as they come.(81)
Chu Hsi defined the last two phrases in terms of three phases of mind: silence, stimulation, and
"Extremely broad and impartial" means "silent and unmoving". "Responding in
accordance with things as they come" means "stimulated and then penetrating."(82)
The phrases he uses here as definitions come from Hsi-tz'u A10:
The I is without thought and without activity. Silent and unmoving, when
stimulated it then penetrates all situations under heaven. If it were not the most
spiritual thing under heaven, how could it be like this?(83)
Chu acknowledges that this passage refers not to the human mind but to the I. He adds, though,
"The mystery of the human mind, in its activity and stillness, is also like this."(84)
Thus Chu Hsi uses the oracular function of the I as a source of insight into the nature and
functioning of the human mind--specifically into the central problem of the relationship between
the still substance of the mind (its pattern) and its active functioning (its physical nature). While
Ch'eng I saw the I as a repository of moral pattern, a source of values grounded in heaven-and-earth, Chu Hsi saw the I as an analogue of the mind of the sage that can be used to "rectify" the
Another good statement of the idea of moral responsiveness is found in a comment by Chu
Hsi on the following passage from the Hsi-tz'u:
The virtue of the milfoil is round and spiritual. The virtue of the hexagrams
is square and wise. The meanings of the six lines change in order to inform. With
these the sage purifies his mind and retires into secrecy. He suffers good fortune
and misfortune in common with the people. Being spiritual, he knows the future.
Being wise, he stores up the past. Who is comparable to this? [It was] the
ancients, with broad intelligence and astute wisdom, those who were spiritually
martial and yet non-violent.(85)
Chu Hsi comments:
"Round and spiritual" means the unboundedness of transformation.
"Square and wise" means that affairs have definite patterns.... The sage concretely
embodies the virtues of the three [milfoil, hexagrams, and lines] without the
slightest worldly tie. When there is nothing happening, then his mind is silent, and
no one can see it. When there is something happening, then the operation of his
spiritual wisdom responds when stimulated (sui kan erh ying). This means he
understands good fortune and misfortune without divination. "Spiritually martial
and yet non-violent" means he apprehends pattern without recourse to things.(86)
This refers to the basis on which the sage created the I. The milfoil is
active, the hexagrams are still, and the lines fluctuate without limit. Before their
drawing, this pattern was already contained in the mind of the sage. But before its
stimulation by things, it [his mind] was "perfectly still and unmoving," and no
incipient sign could be named. With the appearance of things and his response to
them, he felt anxious for the world [and thus created the I for the benefit of later
The Hsi-tz'u passage above posits a certain correspondence between the I and the sage,
based on their common qualities shen (spirit) and chih (wisdom). Shen is a notoriously difficult
word to translate in this context. In the compound kuei-shen it means "spirits" of departed
ancestors or of natural objects like mountains and rivers. (Kuei are similar but not as benign;
hence kuei-shen is usually translated "ghosts and spirits.") Shen as it is used in the Hsi-tz'u is
defined by A.C. Graham as "not a personal spirit but a daemonic power or intelligence which is
active within the operations of heaven and earth and which emanates from the person of the
Sage."(88) It is the capacity of certain forms of ch'i to "penetrate immediately through things
without being obstructed by their forms."(89) Graham has used "psychic" as a translation of the
adjectival form of shen. Here we shall use the more traditional translation "spirit/spiritual," in part
because "psychic" lacks an adequate nominal form. But "psychic" does convey some of the
epistemological connotations of shen that shed light on Chu Hsi's concept of divination. For
example, in the Hsi-tz'u it is said that the milfoil stalks are "shen (spiritualpsychic) things"(90) through which the I responds "like an echo"(91) to the charge put by the diviner. Likewise the
sages, by virtue of their ability "to know incipiencies"(92) "are shen and thus know the future."(93) Their shen enables them "to hurry without haste, and to get there without moving,"(94) i.e. to
transcend the ordinary conditions of cause-and-effect activity, and to know things by non-empirical means.
Shen enables the sages and the milfoil to detect the patterns underlying the transformation
of ch'i. As a characteristic of ch'i itself shen refers to the coherence of certain phenomena in
which coherence is not empirically observable by the ordinary mind. According to Chu Hsi
(quoting Chang Tsai):
Ch'i has [the two modes] yin and yang. When it proceeds slowly, it is
transformation (hua). When it is unified and unfathomable, it is shen.(95)
For the mind manifesting this "spiritual" quality to the highest degree (i.e. the mind of the
sage), responsiveness to incipient activity is spontaneous because there is no obstruction between
external phenomena and the mind. It is appropriate to the stimulus and the occasion, or "timely."
Thus it is objective, or true to the pattern of the external thing as it is, unswayed by private
motivations. And it is morally correct because (paradoxically) it is also subjective: the mind
responds in accordance with its innate heavenly pattern, which is continuous with the pattern of
the external object. These are the characteristics of the mind of the sage attributable to its shen-ming, its "spiritual clarity."
Since the milfoil stalks of the I are also shen (an assumption that is never questioned), they
too can respond to incipient change spontaneously and appropriately. This is the I's function as an
instrument of divination, to detect change and to indicate a proper response to it. While the sage
does not need divination (since he already possesses the spiritual clarity of mind that makes
possible knowledge of the future and perfect moral responsiveness), the ordinary person can make
use of the I--and through it the sages--in his effort to achieve on his own the sagely capacity for
Both the milfoil and the mind of the sage have the capacity to detect the otherwise
imperceptible stirrings of change in phenomena. These infinitesimal changes are called
"incipiencies" (chi). Divination is an instrument or technique for the detection of these incipient
The purpose of detecting incipient change is twofold. On the most basic level, one uses
divination to determine the course of events in complex or doubtful situations, so as to make
correct decisions regarding one's own activity. By responding to incipient change one seems to be
"knowing the future," but actually the character and direction of future events (i.e. their pattern or
principle, li) are already present in incipient form. On another level one uses divination to develop
one's own ability to respond to events as they occur. Ultimately, the person working to attain
sagehood seeks to learn and internalize the "spiritual" capacity of the milfoil (and the mind of the
sage) by making his mind as pure and unobstructed as the mind of the sage. The goal is moral
responsiveness: to respond to incipient changes spontaneously and correctly, i.e. in accord with
the dynamic pattern of the Way, as the sage does without recourse to divination. Divination,
therefore, can be used as an aid in the moral and psycho-physical purification or "rectification" of
Chu Hsi's claim that divination is the detection of incipient change is found in his
commentary on chapter 24 of the Doctrine of the Mean. The topic of this chapter is ch'eng "integrity, authenticity, genuineness," which is both a moral and a metaphysical concept. The text
of the chapter is as follows:
It is characteristic of absolute integrity (ch'eng) to be able to foreknow. When a
nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure to be lucky omens. When a
nation or family is about to perish, there are sure to be unlucky omens. These
omens are revealed by the milfoil and tortoise and in the movements of the four
limbs. When calamity or blessing is about to come, it [integrity] can surely know
beforehand if it is good, and it can also surely know beforehand if it is evil.
Therefore he who has absolute integrity is like a spirit.(97)
In his commentary Chu Hsi says of the various types of divination and foreknowledge
These are all premonitions of pattern (li chih hsien-chien che). But only
one whose integrity is absolutely perfect, and who hasn't the slightest selfish
artifice left in his mind's eye, is able to examine the incipiencies (ch'a ch'i chi)
therein.(98) Even if the indications of good fortune and misfortune by the milfoil
and tortoise are very clear, the person who is not perfectly sincere will be unable to
Thus divination is a matter of "examining incipiencies," an ability possessed only by one with
utmost integrity or genuineness (ch'eng).
"Integrity" and "incipience" are discussed in several pithy chapters of Chou Tun-i's T'ung-shu (Penetrating the Book of Change), on which Chu Hsi wrote a commentary. The references to
incipience in these discussions concern mental activity, not external phenomena, and there is no
explicit mention of divination. Nevertheless, there are suggestions here of the use of divination as
a potential aid in achieving self-knowledge and rectifying the mind, and we have just seen the
connection between incipience and divination in the comments quoted above. In the T'ung-shu Chou Tun-i says:
In integrity there is no activity. In incipience [there is] good and evil.
Chu Hsi comments:
Incipience is the imperceptible beginning of movement. It is that according
to which good and evil are distinguished. With the first sign of movement in the
human mind, heavenly pattern will certainly appear there; yet human desires have
already sprouted amidst it.
Integrity has no activity, and so it is simply good. In movement there is
activity, and so there is good and there is evil.(100)
This defines the context of the moral struggle and the human predicament as Chu Hsi saw
it. The ontological foundation or substance (t'i) of the cosmos is absolutely good, in the sense
that it is logically prior to the differentiation of good and evil. It is fully contained in the human
mind, and it theoretically can be known through self-examination. But the psycho-physical
activity of knowing gives rise to evil, which obscures the fundamental goodness of human nature.
Evil, therefore, is a quality of function (yung), not of substance.(101) Although good is ontologically
prior to evil, evil is real and presents an inevitable obstacle to self-knowledge. Thus Chu Hsi
(quoting Ch'eng Hao) could say:
Good and evil both are [aspects of] heavenly pattern [i.e. of its function or
operation]. But what is called evil is not originally evil.(102)
The "incipient" phase of mental activity is the point at which the mind has just been
stimulated (kan), but no response (ying) has yet appeared. As Chou Tun-i says, "Movement with
yet no form, between being and nonbeing, is incipience."(103) It is the juncture between the still
substance of the mind and its active function. According to Chu Hsi, this incipient phase of mind
is the critical point at which either evil human desires or the original goodness of heavenly pattern
and human nature can become actualized in the world. It is also the point on which
foreknowledge and divination focus:
The primary and unmanifest [ground] is the substance of the actual pattern (shih-li). The apt yet unpredictable response is the functioning of the actual pattern.
Between activity and stillness, substance and function, suddenly in the space of an
instant there is the beginning of the actual pattern and the auspicious and
inauspicious omens of the multitudinous phenomena.(104)
The moment of incipient mental activity at the "birth of a thought"(105) is the point at which
the creative pattern of heaven manifests itself. At that moment, if one can attend to it, knowledge
is not limited by empirical, spatio-temporal conditions, for the ground of those conditions is itself
present and can be known. Knowledge of incipient activity is tantamount to foreknowledge or
oracular knowledge, since the character and direction of future events is present in incipient form.
Furthermore, there is a moral incentive to pay attention to the incipient phase of mind, and a sense
of urgency in Chu Hsi's exhortation to do so:
Incipiencies, or the subtle indications of activity, lie between desiring to act
and imminent activity, where there is both good and evil. One must understand
them at this point. If they reach the point of becoming manifest, then one cannot
help anything.... The point of subtle incipience is extremely important.(106)
At that moment, one must exhaustively examine [oneself] and recognize
what is right and wrong. At first there will be tiny, brief, subtle indications. When
one has exhaustively examined oneself for a long time, one will gradually see their
full extent. As it is heaven, there is a moral pattern. The gaps in it determine the
incipient, subtle indications and differentiate good and evil. If one can analyze it in
this way, then things will be investigated and knowledge perfected. With perfected
knowledge, intentions will be made sincere. With sincere intentions, the mind will
be rectified, the self will be cultivated, the family will be regulated, the state will be
well-governed, and all under heaven will be at peace.(107)
In terms of Chu Hsi's system of self-cultivation, the incipient phase of mental activity is
when one must cognitively distinguish one's good feelings, ideas, and intentions from the bad ones
(e.g. selfish desires). This is self-examination (hsing-ch'a).(108) One must then follow through on
that discrimination by actively preserving and nourishing (ts'un-yang) the good mental phenomena
and conquering or subduing (k'o) the evil ones.(109) A student of Chu Hsi's summarized the
implications of incipience for moral cultivation as follows:
Master Chou said, "In integrity there is no activity; in incipience there is
good and evil." This clarifies the unexpressed substance of the human mind, and
refers to the beginnings of its expressed phase. He probably wanted students to
extend their [self-]examination to the subtle signs of germinal activity, to
understand how to decide which to extirpate and which to adopt, so as not to lose
[contact with] the original substance [or ontological ground].... Students should be
able to examine the predilections and aversions of what is expressed [by the mind],
right at the time of the incipient subtleties of germinal activity. What comes out
straight [i.e. as true, direct expression of integrity and human nature] is the pattern
of heaven; what comes out deviant is human desire. ... We should take advantage
of and find guidance in what comes out straight, and extinguish what comes out
deviant. When this effort is perfected, then the expression of our mind will
spontaneously come out on course, and will ensure our possession of heaven's
The Teacher [Chu Hsi] replied: This explanation has got it.(110)
In summary, Chu Hsi understood I Ching divination to be an instrument for the detection
of incipient psycho-physical activity, both in external events and within oneself. Incipience is the
critical point at which the pattern of the Way begins to manifest itself, but has not yet become
actualized in concrete phenomena. Divination focused internally can contribute to self-knowledge; focused externally it allows one to harmonize one's activity more effectively with the
flow of events. One can also more effectively exercise control or mastery (chu) over events in
their incipient phase.
In Chu Hsi's system, therefore, the I could contribute to self-cultivation in the following
- It could enable one to "settle doubts" about one's behavior by indicating which course
of action would be auspicious and which inauspicious. This, of course, was the most basic
function of the I, the one most directly implied by Fu-hsi's original intention: "The Sage created
the I to teach others to act when prognostications are auspicious, and not to act when
inauspicious."(111) In terms of the methods of self-cultivation outlined at the beginning of this
chapter, this corresponds with "practice" (hsing).
- On a deeper level, the I could serve to heighten one's sensitivity or moral
responsiveness (ying) to one's environment by teaching one how to detect, interpret, and respond
to incipiencies external to oneself. In other words, moral responsiveness is the internalized
capacity to choose correct courses of action. This involves self-knowledge as well as knowledge
of external events, for moral responsiveness to the social and natural environment must be based
on an integrated understanding of self and world. The cognitive aspect here corresponds with
"investigating things and extending knowledge" (ko-wu chih-chih).
- The I also provided a means of acquiring self-knowledge (corresponding with "self-examination," hsing-ch'a), i.e. learning to become aware of one's ideas, intentions and feelings in
their incipient phases, by means of divination, and
- morally purifying these mental phenomena by learning--with the guidance of the sages'
interpretations of the hexagrams--how to distinguish the good ones from the bad, and how to
"preserve and nourish" (ts'un-yang) the former and "conquer" or extirpate the latter (k'o-chi).
Thus Chu Hsi defined the legitimate uses of the I Ching in the context of the pursuit of
Confucian sagehood, and more specifically in the context of "rectifying the mind." While in the
Northern Sung the I, along with the Four Books, had begun to receive greater philosophical
attention than it had previously,(112) Chu Hsi refocused attention on the practical use of the I as a
manual of divination, reinterpreting this ancient ritual in terms of his theory of mind and
incorporating it into his religious-philosophical system.
Chu Hsi's thoroughness was unexcelled: virtually no aspect of the cultural tradition was
left out of his synthesis. But this same thoroughness also compelled him to deal with potential
abuses of divination, an examination of which will help us further to pin down his conception of
the I Ching.
The Limitations of Divination
Chu Hsi's understanding of the limitations of divination is connected with his view of
"ghosts and spirits" (kuei-shen). Divination in ancient times had been understood as a means of
communicating with the spirits (shen) of departed ancestors. This conception undoubtedly
persisted in Chu Hsi's time, for he occasionally used this terminology in reference to divination.
However, he did not conceive kuei and shen to be conscious, personal beings, and it would
certainly be a mistake to personalize his conception of divination on the basis of this terminology.
Ghosts and spirits, according to Chu Hsi, were impersonal manifestations of ch'i. They had no
personal wills; they operated according to the natural pattern of yin and yang. They were
therefore susceptible (at least theoretically) of being understood:
By the time we have attended thoroughly to ordinary daily matters, the
patterns governing ghosts and spirits will naturally be understood.(113)
Shen is stretching out (shen), and kuei is bending back (ch'ü). For
example, the moment when wind and rain, thunder and lightning, are first manifest
is shen. And when wind stops and rain passes, thunder stops and lightning ceases,
this is kuei.(114)
Despite this thoroughly naturalistic and rationalistic conception of kuei and shen, it is clear
that what Chu Hsi is referring to by these terms are the spirits of the dead. For this reason we are
justified in translating them "ghosts and spirits." He says, for example:
Kuei and shen are nothing more than the waxing and waning of yin and
yang, such as the nourishment of shelter and comfort(115) and the darkness of wind
and rain. In the human being, the vital essence (ching) is the yin soul (p'o), and the
yin soul is the container of kuei; the psycho-physical substance (ch'i) is the yang
soul (hun), and the yang soul is the container of shen. The vital essence and
psycho-physical substance combine to make a [living] thing.(116) How then can
there be a [living] thing without a kuei and shen? "The roaming of the yang soul
constitutes a change [viz. death]."(117) When the yang soul has roamed then we
know that the yin soul has descended [into the earth].(118)
Thus when Chu Hsi speaks of kuei and shen he refers to the souls (hun and p'o) of living things
after death, in accordance with the common belief. But he insists on interpreting them in
naturalistic, or impersonal, terms. This reflects a somewhat ambivalent attitute toward kuei and shen. There was, of course, classical precedent for this in Confucius' well-known reticence
concerning spirits and certain other topics:
The Master did not discuss uncanny events, feats of strength, disorders, or
Be reverent towards ghosts and spirits, but keep them at a distance.(120)
If we are not yet able to serve man, how can we serve ghosts (kuei)?(121)
While we ourselves cannot say much about Confucius' belief in ghosts and spirits (except
that it is unlikely that he doubted their existence), Chu Hsi's views are more accessible. He
distinguished the term kuei-shen from shen alone. Kuei-shen, he said, refers to observable,
functional modes of ch'i (as just described); shen refers to the "mysterious functioning" (miao-yung) of ch'i(122) (as described above, under "Responsiveness"), which only the sage can apprehend.
As we have seen, shen in this sense refers to aspects of the world that are beyond ordinary human
understanding, but for the sage are ultimately intelligible according to the fundamental pattern of
yin-yang transformation. This is why ordinary people need to rely on divination, while the sage
does not. Kuei and shen (ghosts and spirits) were not quite as mysterious as this, despite
Whenever people talk about ghosts and spirits they consider them uncanny.
But since there is such a pattern of the way in the world, we cannot say that they
do not exist, just that they are not regular (cheng) aspects of the creative process.
They might be irregular cases of yin-yang ch'i, but they should not frighten or
delude. The explanation for Confucius' not discussing uncanny events is that he
had an understanding of the matter and just did not talk about it. When Nan-hsien
[Chang Shih] says they do not exist, he is wrong.(123)
Although in Analects 7:20 (above) no distinction is made between "the uncanny, feats of
strength, disorders, and spirits," Chu Hsi, on the basis of his rationalized conception of kuei-shen,
introduces a qualification. He says that the first three items
are not regular (cheng) aspects of the pattern, and are definitely what the Sage did
not talk about. [But] ghosts and spirits are "traces of the creative process."(124) Although they are not irregular (pu-cheng) [apparently contradicting the preceding
quote], nevertheless they are not the endpoint of fathoming the pattern. There are
things that are not easily understood; therefore he [Confucius] did not lightly
discuss them with others.(125)
Chu Hsi's contradictory statements on whether ghosts and spirits were "regular" aspects of
the pattern of the way should not obscure the fact that he consistently describes them in terms of
the pattern of yin-yang change. And he uses this qualified and rationalized notion of kuei-shen to
Divination is actually questioning the ghosts and spirits by means of the milfoil and
tortoise, which are objects with spiritual consciousness.(126) We therefore make use
of them for their hexagrams and omens.(127)
Here Chu seems to be using kuei-shen as an instance, or perhaps as a metaphor, of shen in its
general sense as the free-flowing, responsive quality of ch'i. He may also be co-opting popular
beliefs concerning the involvement of ghosts and spirits in divination. By using a depersonalized
conception of kuei-shen to explain divination, he was able to assimilate and adapt the popular
conception to his own theory and to connect divination concretely with his theory of mind:
Kuei and shen are merely ch'i. That which bends and stretches back and
forth is ch'i. Within heaven-and-earth there is nothing that is not ch'i. The ch'i of
mankind and the ch'i of heaven-and-earth are always in contact, with no gap, but
human beings themselves cannot see it. When the human mind moves, it must pass
through ch'i and mutually stimulate and penetrate this bending and stretching back
and forth. In such cases as divination there is always the mind itself as a particular
thing. But to speak of it as a matter greater than your [individual] mind [i.e. to
describe divination in terms of a general principle], when there is movement there
must be a response.(128)
The method of divination instituted by the former kings was to be
extremely dignified and extremely reverent, and to pacify the mind in order to
listen to the ghosts and spirits. If one is concentrated there will be a response. If
one is double-minded there will be an error.(129)
Chu Hsi's naturalistic interpretation of kuei-shen can be understood as an attempt to make ghosts
and spirits "respectable" from a neo-Confucian perspective. They had to be respectable, of
course, because Confucius had specifically said, "Respect [or be reverent towards] ghosts and
spirits, but keep them at a distance."(130) The problem was how to define the proper distance.
Chu's reluctance to accept ghosts and spirits uncritically reveals the limitations he placed
on the use of divination. Divination was a valid practice for literati only when it was employed
seriously in the process of self-cultivation. It could be used to acquire knowledge of the self and
external events; it could be used to purify oneself spiritually by making critical self-judgments
concerning one's ideas and intentions; and it could be used as a guide to moral practice. But
divination had its limitations. In his comment on Confucius' statement about ghosts and spirits,
for example, Chu said:
People should be properly reverent towards ghosts and spirits, and yet
keep them at a distance. If they can see this distinction in the pattern of the way,
then they must follow through on it. As for people who believe in and serve the
Buddha in order to seek happiness and profit, this is not distant enough.
As divination has been used since Fu-hsi, Yao, and Shun, it is valid [lit.
there is a pattern to it]. When people today have doubts about their affairs, and
reverently use divination to decide them, what is wrong with it? But if they still
have doubts about affairs they should conduct according to moral principle, then
even if they go ahead and inquire through divination this is not distant enough.
People themselves have the Way of man [by which] to properly conduct
their affairs. If today they are not willing to go the limit themselves, and just go on
flattering the ghosts and spirits, then this is not wise.(131)
The point here is that supplication and divination are not substitutes for self-cultivation.
The proper use of divination is to settle doubts that remain after one has "gone the limit oneself"
or "exhausted oneself" in the attempt to seek the Way by one's own effort. One should avail
oneself of the extraordinary spirituality and wisdom of the sages' I only when necessary. Once the
moral pattern is understood, according to Chu, "affairs can easily be decided," and there is no
point in divining.
As Shun said to Yü [quoting from the Shu Ching], "My will was settled earlier.
[Chu omits: I consulted and deliberated, and all were in agreement.] The ghosts
and spirits were [Chu adds: necessarily] in accord, and the tortoise and milfoil both
[Chu adds: necessarily] went along."(132)
Chu Hsi's Preface to the Chou-i pen-i also contains an illuminating passage on the
limitations of using the I. It is essentially a piece of advice to potentially over-enthusiastic or
uncritical students and readers, cautioning them to understand the proper use of the I as one part
of the overall, multifaceted program of moral cultivation. It refers to an earlier passage of the
Preface, which discusses the tao-hsüeh view of constant change in terms of unformed ch'i gradually evolving into particular "unified" patterns. Chu cautions:
There are times, certainly, when there has not yet begun to be unification, and so a
[corresponding] hexagram has not yet begun to have a definite image. There are
situations, certainly, which have not yet begun to be fathomable, and so a
[corresponding] line likewise has not yet begun to have definite position. To take
such a time and seek a hexagram for it is to limit oneself to the changeless; it is not
[the way of] the Change. To take such a situation and explain a line [with
reference to it] is to be obstructed and unpenetrating; it is not the Change. To
know what are said to be the meanings of the hexagrams, lines, texts and images
and not to know that there is a function for the hexagrams, lines, texts and images
is also not the Change.(133)
What Chu Hsi wants users of the I to avoid is the formulaic mapping of changing
phenomena onto an overly deterministic, inflexible structure, and the over-reliance on the I that
might distract them from the real necessity of self-cultivation. Some situations, he says, are
simply not yet subject to understanding and resolution. To try to force an understanding of such
cases is to try conceptually to pin down something that is really indeterminate, to "limit oneself to
the changeless" in a situation in flux. The emphasis here is on the failure to accept the reality of
change and the over-estimation of the role the I can play in one's life.
Thus, an important aspect of "knowing the incipiencies"(134) of changing events is to know
when they have not yet begun to take form; to know when the pattern of the Way is not intelligible. This is an exceedingly fine, yet extremely important, distinction. For the incipiencies
themselves--after they have taken form--are empirically unobservable to the ordinary person.
How is one to know them, and yet avoid anticipating them? The difference between responding
to incipiencies and anticipating them is the difference between participating in the cosmic
process(135) and projecting one's private ideas onto it. One participates with the I--and thereby
with change--not simply by reading the text but by using it.
Apprehend [the I] in the circulation of [your] essence and spirit, and in the
movement of [your] mental functions. Join your virtue with heaven-and-earth; join
your brightness with the sun and moon; join your timing with the Four Seasons;
join your good fortune and misfortune with the ghosts and spirits.(136) Only then can
you say that you know the I.(137)
The only documented case of Chu Hsi's personal practice of I Ching divination provides a
good example of its use in deciding a course of action. In 1195, as the "False Learning"
controversy was heating up,(138) Chu wrote a lengthy memorial which his students feared would
have drastic consequences. Chu at that time was sixty-four and not in good health. Some of his
students begged him to retire, but he would not listen to them. His friend and student Ts'ai Yüan-ting (1135-1198) suggested he put the question to the milfoil. He did so, obtaining hexagram
#33, T'un (Withdraw [Retreat]), changing to hexagram #37, Chia-jen (Family). He then burned
the memorial and retired for the last time, taking the new honorific name T'un-weng, "Old Man
who has Withdrawn."(139)
Conclusions: Chu Hsi's Uses of the I Ching
Chu Hsi's treatment of the I Ching was part of his exhaustive reevaluation and systematization
of virtually the entire Chinese cultural tradition. As such, it was situated in the context of long-running debates that were at once social, political, and religious. In particular, Chu surveyed the
eleventh-century masters and set out what he regarded as definitive resolutions to matters they had
discussed. Such questions as the proper focus of higher education, the nature and function of the civil
service examinations, and the role of literati vis-à-vis government were inseparable from such
fundamental religious-philosophical topics as tao, the nature and destiny (hsing-ming) of the human
being, and the relationship of humanity with heaven. As a result of his victory in these debates,
twelfth-century thinkers placed greater emphasis than their predecessors on the concepts of human
nature and mind and on the practice of moral cultivation.
Chu's study of the I speaks significantly of the relationship of number and the cultural tradition
to these moral-metaphysical questions. The key figure linking all three concerns is Fu-hsi, the first
mythic sage, who originally created the hexagrams. The prominence of Fu-hsi in Chu Hsi's writings
and conversations on the I is quite striking. As we have seen in Chapter Six, Chu used one of the
myths of Fu-hsi's creation of the I as a basis for his interpretive theory.(140) "The I was originally created
for divination (I che pen wei pu-shih erh tso)," he said repeatedly.(141) This basic historical fact,
according to Chu, was the essential clue to the "original intention" and the "original meaning" of the I.
But the significance of Fu-hsi's creation of the I went well beyond its connection with the
correct method of interpretation. Fu-hsi's creation was, in Chu Hsi's system, the first manifestation
of the Confucian tao in the world. This is evident from Chu's redefinition of the tao-t'ung, or
"succession of the Way," the lineage of sages to which he considered himself heir. Previous
Confucians since Mencius had considered Yao (roughly 500 years later than Fu-hsi) to be the
progenitor of the "way of the sages." But Chu Hsi declared Fu-hsi to be the first sage.(142) And while
Fu-hsi was credited with a number of important pre-agricultural inventions, such as traps and nets for
hunting and fishing, clearly his chief contribution to the tradition, in Chu Hsi's estimation, was his
creation of the I.
Chu's reformulation of the tao-t'ung, especially his selection of the Northern Sung thinkers
from whom he claimed to have inherited the Way, was one of the major features of his intellectual
system. What was it about Fu-hsi's creation of the I that warranted such a prominent position in the tao-hsüeh tradition? Most significant was the particular method by which it was accomplished. Fu-hsi, motivated by his humane concern for people of later ages, contemplated the moral principles
inherent in natural patterns (the "ought" inherent in the "is"(143)) and translated them into abstract,
numerologically symbolic diagrams that could be used as a device to guide behavior. Fu-hsi was able
to see this unity of the natural and moral pattern without engaging in learning (hsüeh). He could do
so because he embodied the "mind of the sage," the mind possessed by all people but ordinarily
obscured by impure ch'i. Yet Chu Hsi frequently draws attention to Fu-hsi's "contemplating above
and examining below, seeking from afar and selecting from the near at hand,"(144) and specifically points
out that Fu-hsi did not create the I by intuition alone.
How could this have been achieved by the Sage's thinking and deliberation? The
natural existence of particular allotments of ch'i (lit. ch'i-numbers) found shape in the
models and images seen in the [Yellow River] Chart and the [Lo River] Diagram.(145)
Fu-hsi derived the I from the natural world around him by a process that may be considered a mythic
paradigm of ko-wu, the "investigation of things."(146) The values transmitted by the cultural tradition,
which began with the I, are in this way abstracted from and confirmed by the pattern (li) of heaven-and-earth.
In placing so much emphasis on Fu-hsi, his creation of the I, and his original intention in
creating it, Chu Hsi was tying his particular vision of the Confucian tradition to the primordial origins
of Chinese culture. The I stood there at the beginning: the product of the first sage, a symbolic
expression of the continuity of heaven-and-earth and human values, nature and culture, cosmology
and ethics. The I was the perfect symbol of the integrated order that Sung literati since Ou-yang Hsiu
had been seeking. Fu-hsi, in a sense, prefigured Chu in the comprehensiveness of this vision. Fu-hsi
created a numerological symbol-system comprehending heaven-and-earth and human affairs, whose
elements Chu Hsi integrated in his systematic treatment of moral-metaphysical, cultural, and
numerological questions. Chu seems to have seen in Fu-hsi an incipient reflection of his own
Chu's attempt to integrate the practice of divination into the tao-hsüeh system is a good
example of his vision of the cultural tradition. His "rationalized" conception of divination--i.e. his
reinterpretation of divination as a function of mind and impersonal ch'i rather than personal ghosts
and spirits--recalls a similar process that had occurred much earlier in the Confucian tradition. This
was Confucius' philosophical reinterpretation of ancestral sacrifice in terms of ritual propriety (li) and
filial piety (hsiao).(147) Divination and sacrifice had been the dual basis of the religious state in Shang
times (16th - 11th century BCE).(148) Chu Hsi's treatment of divination restored it, in a sense, to its
former parity with sacrifice by giving it a role in the tao-hsüeh project of achieving sagehood. The
related, ancient concept of shen (spirit), with a wide range of meanings, was similarly given a role in tao-hsüeh discourse. Chu's systematization of the cultural tradition was nothing if not comprehensive.
Chu's Northern Sung predecessors, both within and outside the tao-hsüeh camp, were of
course major figures to be dealt with in this new synthesis. This is not the place to summarize his
evaluations and interpretations of the various strands of Northern Sung thought. We can, however,
characterize his relations with Northern Sung approaches to the I Ching. Chu regarded the I Ching tradition generally in terms of the two traditional interpretive approaches: the "image and number"
(hsiang-shu) school, which focused on the graphic and numerological elements, including the many
charts and diagrams (t'u) associated with the I; and the "meaning and pattern" (i-li) school, which
sought the meaning of the I in its textual layers. Two of Chu's Northern Sung predecessors, in fact,
had come to be known as exemplars of these two approaches to the I. Shao Yung was considered
to be the chief Northern Sung exponent of the hsiang-shu approach (although Chou Tun-i ran a close
second). And Ch'eng I's commentary on the I had quickly gained prominence as a definitive i-li interpretation. Chu Hsi and Lü Tsu-ch'ien drew heavily on Ch'eng's commentary in compiling their
anthology of Northern Sung tao-hsüeh, the Chin-ssu lu (Reflections on Things at Hand).(149) On the
other hand, Chu said of Shao Yung's major work, the Huang-chi ching-shih shu (Book of Supreme
Principles Ordering the World), that "it had nothing to do with the I."(150) The Han dynasty hsiang-shu experts were also criticized harshly by Chu.(151)
It is somewhat surprising, then, that Chu was highly critical of Ch'eng I's approach to the I (see Chapter Six),(152) and that despite his criticisms of Shao Yung's magnum opus he made considerable use of Shao's ideas regarding the I and its associated diagrams. He was especially impressed
with Shao's Prior-to-Heaven Chart, also known as the Fu-hsi sequence of hexagrams. Chu felt that
this symmetrical, binary sequence was an image (hsiang) of the "natural pattern" (tzu-jan chih li) of
the I. It was therefore a demonstration of the I's correspondence with heaven-and-earth, which was
one of the bases of the I's efficacy as an oracle. The significance of "natural pattern" also extended
to other charts and diagrams associated with the I, e.g. the Ho-t'u (Yellow River Chart) and Lo-shu (Lo River Diagram), which were said to have been revealed in high antiquity to Fu-hsi and Yü,
respectively. These two diagrams, as well as the Fu-hsi sequence of hexagrams and the alternative
King Wen sequence, are discussed at length, with copious references to and quotations from Shao
Yung, in Chu Hsi's Introduction to the Study of the I.
The i-li or "textual interpretation" (wen-i) specialists, according to Chu, were "scattered and
dispersed."(153) Wang Pi, for instance, based his interpretation on Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu rather than
on the original meaning of the I.(154) Su Shih also was far from the original meaning; he used the I simply to support his own philosophical system, which was a badly flawed one. Su's claim that human
beings cannot directly know their natures and the tao excluded him entirely from the tao-hsüeh project, for it undercut the basic Ch'eng/Chu conception of the moral nature and sagehood.(155)
Thus Chu criticized both of the traditional approaches to the I, and attempted a synthesis of
the two. His basic criticism of the hsiang-shu approach was that it was often arbitrary and did not
serve well as a guide to moral behavior. The i-li approach, on the other hand, was properly
concerned with moral behavior, but it tended to be divorced from the original form and the original
meaning of the I, often treating it merely as a reflection of the commentator's own ideas. Chu's
approach was to make use of hsiang-shu to the extent that it clarified the cosmological basis of the I and its structural, numerological, and symbolic levels, but to apply these patterns to the task of
achieving sagehood. We might say, then, that he used hsiang-shu methods for i-li purposes.
This carefully selective use of the I Ching tradition and his Northern Sung predecessors attests
once more to the coherence of Chu Hsi's own vision. He used the I Ching to show that tao-hsüeh,
the study of the Way as defined by himself and his selected intellectual ancestors, was grounded in
an integrated network of cosmic pattern and moral principle, a network that was understood in its
entirety by the creators of Chinese culture. The I therefore functioned to legitimize Chu's system, as
it did for most traditional Chinese thinkers. But Chu went beyond this ubiquitous and facile use of
the I. Tao-hsüeh was a system by which individuals could learn to realize the inherent goodness of
their natures and thereby become sages. This process, according to Chu, was the necessary means
of building a humane state. What was new in Chu's use of the I Ching was to show how it
contributed to tao-hsüeh as a means by which individuals could connect in a quite concrete,
experiential way with the wisdom of the primordial sages contained in their own minds, thereby
grounding the Sung state in human nature and in the creative origins of Chinese culture.
The prominence and importance of divination in Chu Hsi's approach to the I is perhaps its most notable feature. It is, of course, related to his treatment of Fu-hsi, whose version of the I was simply
a system of hexagram divination. A precise characterization of Chu's personal attitude toward
divination is difficult. As we have seen in Chapter Six, he regarded divination as an aid in the process
of self-cultivation, and much of his written work on the I only makes sense as an attempt to guide
students in its proper use. But he was uneasy concerning its possible misuses. He said it should only
be used when one's own spiritual and intellectual resources were exhausted. The extent to which he
himself practiced divination is open to question. Only one case is documented, and that was done at
the suggestion of Ts'ai Yüan-ting, whose other interests included the symbolic and numerological lore
of the pitch-pipes.(156) It is, of course, possible that divination was so commonplace among Sung literati
that it rarely deserved mention. However, it is more likely that Chu felt himself capable of knowing
what to do in most cases without resorting to divination. A sage, of course, had no need of divination
(although Chu probably never called himself a sage).
Let us reflect now from a more philosophical perspective on the meaning of divination in Chu
Hsi's system. Recall the parallelism between the mind of the sage and the I: both are "spiritual" and
"wise," both are capable of detecting incipient change. The idea that the sage can detect incipiencies
and thus "see the future" while ordinary people must occasionally resort to divination reflects the
essential tension in Chu Hsi's thought between two aspects of mind: the "moral mind" or "mind of
the Way" (tao-hsin) and the "human mind" (jen-hsin).(157) While mind is essentially indivisible, one must
distinguish these two aspects. The mind of the sage is guided by the moral mind according to the
pattern of heaven (t'ien-li). The mind of the ordinary person is generally guided by human desires
(jen-yü) and must be "rectified" or clarified through self-cultivation. This means "causing the moral
mind always to be master of one's person, and the human mind always to listen to its commands."(158) Divination is a way of "listening" to the mind of the sage, which is essentially equivalent to the moral
mind inherent in every person. The sages who created the I and wrote its texts thus symbolize the
inherent perfectibility of every human being. And divination, like Fu-hsi's creation of the I, is a
paradigm of knowing, of "fathoming the (dynamic) pattern" (ch'iung-li) in which human life is
embedded and responding to the pattern by fitting one's activity to it.
Furthermore, divination is a form of experiential knowing, at least to the extent that the
subject incorporates the oracular counsel into his or her life. This is why Chu Hsi argues so
vehemently against using the I merely as a book of moral principles, which can be read without being learned. By carrying out or enacting (hsing) the sagely wisdom of the I, one is not merely reading
or learning about the pattern of heaven-and-earth. Rather one is internalizing the pattern and thus
transforming oneself into a sage. This is the kind of personal moral transformation that Chu Hsi felt
was the necessary basis for the political restoration and moral revitalization of Sung culture. While
Ch'eng I had also intended literati to pattern their activity after the I, Chu thought that Ch'eng's failure
to insist on the divinatory context allowed for a merely abstract understanding of the text, when what
was necessary (all the more so in Chu's time than in Ch'eng's) was concrete, subjective engagement
with the I. The I was unique among the classics in providing a practical method by which to effect
this experiential learning.
1. This material is largely based on chapters III and IV of Joseph A. Adler, Divination and
Philosophy: Chu Hsi's Understanding of the I-ching (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Santa
Barbara, 1984). In addition to the works cited in the subsequent notes, the following secondary
sources have been used: Wing-tsit Chan, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism (Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, 1986); Ch'eng Shih-ch'üan, I-hsüeh hsin-t'an (New Studies of the I)
(Taipei: Wen-hsing, 1979); Kao Heng, Chou-i ku-ching t'ung-shuo (Comprehensive Discussion
of the Ancient Text of the I) (Taipei: Hua-cheng, 1977); Kim Yung-sik, The World-View of Chu
Hsi (1130-1200): Knowledge about Natural World in Chu Tzu Ch'üan-shu (Ph.D. diss., Princeton
University, 1982); Ku Chieh-kang, ed., Ku-shih pien (Analysis of Ancient History) (1931; rpt.
Hong Kong: T'ai-p'ing, 1963), vol.3; Timothy Phelan, The Neo-Confucian Cosmology in Chu
Hsi's I-hsüeh ch'i-meng (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1982); Iulian K. Shchutskii, Researches on the I Ching, trans. Wm. L. MacDonald and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, with Hellmut
Wilhelm (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979); Suzuki Yoshijiro, "Shushi to Eki" (Chu
Hsi and the I), in Morohashi Tetsuji, et.al., eds, Shushigaku Taikei (Outline of Chu Hsi Studies)
(Tokyo: Meitoku, 1974), vol.1, pp. 213-232; T'o T'o, ed., Sung-shih (History of the Sung) (rpt.
Peking: Chung-hua, 1977), ch.188; Ts'eng Ch'un-hai, Yüan-hui I-hsüeh t'an-wei (An Inquiry into
Chu Hsi's Study of the I) (Taipei: Fu-jen Ta-hsüeh, 1983); Tu Wei-ming, Humanity and Self-Cultivation (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1979); Douglass Alan White, Interpretations of
the Central Concept of the I-Ching during the Han, Sung and Ming Dynasties (Ph.D. diss.,
Harvard University, 1976); Yoshikawa Kojiro and Miura Kunio, Shushi shu (Anthology of Chu
Hsi) (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbun-sha, 1972); Yü Yen (b. 1253-1258), Tu-i chu-yao (Reading the I and Abstracting its Essentials) (Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu chen-pen, 1st series, vol.16, part 2).
2. Chu-tzu wen-chi (Chu Hsi's Collected Papers) (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), ch. 31. Quoted and
dated by Ch'ien Mu, Chu-tzu hsin hsüeh-an (A New Scholarly Record of Chu Hsi) (Taipei: San
Min, 1971), 5 vols., vol.4, p.28.
3. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu (Chu Hsi's 'Complete Works') (rpt. Taipei: Kuang-hsüeh, 1977), 27:2a.
"Self-cultivation" and "ordering the state" are two of the eight stages of the Great Learning (Ta-hsüeh). See Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1963), pp.86-87.
4. See David N. Keightley, "The Religious Commitment: Shang Theology and the Genesis of
Chinese Political Culture," History of Religions, 17 (1978), pp. 211-225.
5. Analects 2:1, 2:3.
6. Analects 3:3.
7. See Peter K. Bol, "Chu Hsi's Redefinition of Literati Learning," in John Chaffee and Wm.
Theodore de Bary, eds., Neo-Confucian Education: The Formative Stage (Berkeley: University
of California Press, forthcoming).
8. See Daniel K. Gardner, Chu Hsi and the Ta-hsueh: Neo-Confucian Reflection on the
Confucian Canon (Cambridge: Harvard University Council on East Asian Studies, 1986); and
Conrad Schirokauer, "Chu Hsi's Political Career: A Study in Ambivalence," in Arthur F. Wright
and Denis Twitchett, eds., Confucian Personalities (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962),
pp.162-188. For the Great Learning see Chan, Source Book, p.87. On the matter of intellectual
changes between Northern and Southern Sung see Robert P. Hymes, Statesmen and Gentlemen:
The Elite of Fu-chou, Chiang-hsi, in Northern and Southern Sung (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1986). Hymes argues that a development parallel to the one outlined here was
the shift in literati political thought and action from a national frame of reference to a more local
one (see especially pp.121-122, 132-135).
9. On the role of chance in the appearance of sages, see Chu-tzu yü-lei (Chu Hsi's Classified
Conversations), comp. Li Ching-te (1270; rpt. Taipei: Cheng-chung, 1970), ch.4, p.129.
10. See T'ang Chün-i, "The Development of the Concept of Moral Mind from Wang Yang-ming
to Wang Chi," in Wm. Theodore de Bary, ed., Self and Society in Ming Thought (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1970), pp. 93-120.
11. The capacity to distinguish good and evil was said to be an innate characteristic of the
human mind, corresponding to "wisdom," one of the Five Constant Virtues (or Four Virtues in Mencius 2A:6). See Donald Munro, The Concept of Man in Early China (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1969), pp. 49-58.
12. Cf. Analects 12:1.
13. See Okada Takehiko, Zazen to Seiza (Sitting-meditation and Quiet-sitting) (Tokyo: Ofusha,
14. Chu Hsi, Ta-hsüeh chang-chü (The Great Learning in chapters and verses), in Ssu-shu chi-chu (Collected Commentaries on the Four Books) (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), p.2a.
15. The ability to "transform" (hua) others was a traditional hallmark of the Confucian sage.
See, e.g., Mencius 7A.13, "the superior person transforms where he passes."
16. In addition there are numerous essays and letters in his Collected Papers (Chu-tzu wen-chi)
concerning the I, and a surprisingly large section of his Classified Conversations (Chu-tzu yü-lei)
is devoted to the I (approximately 11% of the total number of pages).
The Chou-i pen-i has been reprinted and is available in numerous editions, the I-hsüeh ch'i-meng in somewhat fewer. The editions of the Chou-i pen-i used here are the Imperial Academy
edition (rpt. Taipei: Hua-lien, 1978); and Li Kuang-ti, ed., Chou-i che-chung (The I Ching Judged Evenly) (1715; rpt. Taipei: Chen Shan Mei, 1971), 2 vols. The latter, in which Chu's
commentary is collated with Ch'eng I's, also contains the edition of the I-hsüeh ch'i-meng used
Other editions of the Pen-i are: (Taipei: Kuang-hsüeh, 1975); Yen Ling-feng, ed., I Ching
chi-ch'eng (Complete Collection of the I Ching) (Taipei: Ch'eng-wen, 1976), vol.28; and Wang
Yün-wu, ed., Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu chen-pen (Rare Editions from the Imperial Library), 6th series,
vols. 1 and 2 (two different editions). The Pen-i can also be found in various inexpensive
"popular" editions, sometimes unattributed.
Other editions of the Ch'i-meng are: Chu-tzu i-shu (Chu Hsi's Surviving Works) (rpt. Taipei,
1969), vol.12; Hu Kuang, comp., Hsing-li ta-ch'üan shu (Great Compendium on Nature and
Principle) (1415; rpt. Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu chen-pen, 5th series), ch.14-17; and Li Kuang-ti, comp., Hsing-li ching-i (Essential Meanings of Nature and Principle) (1715; rpt. Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.),
17. See Ch'en Chen-sun (fl. 1211-1249), Chih-chai shu-lu chieh-t'i (Annotated Bibliography of
Chih-chai Library) (Kuo-hsüeh chi-pen ts'ung-shu, vol.3). ch.1; Wang Mou-hung, Chu-tzu nien-p'u (Biography of Chu Hsi) (1706; rpt. Taipei: Shih-chieh, 1966), p.280; Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu
ts'ung-mu t'i-yao (Summaries of Works in the Imperial Library) (Kuo-hsüeh chi-pen ts'ung-shu
ed.), vol.1, ch.3, pp.27-28; and Toda Toyosaburo, Ekkyo Chushaku Shiko (Outline History of I
Ching Commentaries) (Tokyo: Fugen, 1968), pp. 581-593.
18. See above, Chapter 2. Note, though, that Chu follows Ou-yang's approach to the Classics
in terms of bypassing the exegetical tradition in an attempt to recover the original meanings.
Recall that Ou-yang wrote a commentary on the Classic of Poetry entitled "The Original Meaning
of the Poetry" (Shih pen-i).
19. Tao-li will be translated here either as "pattern of the Way" when the emphasis is on the
unity of li, or as "moral principle(s)" when the emphasis is on the multiplicity of its manifestations.
Chu uses the term in these two senses, which correspond to Ch'eng I's claim that "the pattern is
unitary, its manifestations are multiple" (li-i erh fen-shu).
20. Nevertheless, this arrangement was not retained in all later editions. Of those mentioned in
the earlier note, the Imperial Academy edition, the Chou-i che-chung, and vol.2 of the Ssu-k'u
ch'üan-shu chen-pen (6th series) all use the Wang Pi arrangement of the text (see below). The
Kuang-hsüeh edition, the I Ching chi-ch'eng, and vol.1 of the Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu chen-pen (6th
series) use Chu Hsi's arrangement. According to Wang Mou-hung, the practice of ignoring Chu's
arrangement dates back to some of his students shortly after his death (Chu-tzu nien-p'u k'ao-i,
21. See T'ang Yung-t'ung, "Wang Pi's New Interpretation of the I-ching and the Lun-yü," trans.
Walter Liebenthal, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 10, no.2 (1947), pp. 124-161; and G.E.
Kidder Smith, Jr., Cheng Yi's (1033-1107) Commentary on the Yijing (Ph.D. diss., University of
California at Berkeley, l979), pp. 24-29.
To recapitulate the discussion in Chapter 1, i-li (meaning and principle) and hsiang-shu (image
and number) are the two traditional interpretive approaches to the I Ching. The i-li approach
bases interpretation on the textual layers of the I, while the hsiang-shu approach is based on
hexagram structure, imagery, symbolism and numerology.
22. Chu-tzu wen-chi 82:20b, quoting Hsi-tz'u (Commentary on the Appended Texts) A11 (cf.
Wilhelm/Baynes, p. 316). Primary references to the Hsi-tz'u in this chapter are given according to
Chu Hsi's slightly rearranged version of the text, which was followed by James Legge and Richard
Wilhelm in their translations. Alternate page references are given to the Wilhelm/Baynes
translation (3rd ed., 1967) for the convenience of the reader.
23. Chu-tzu wen-chi 36:5b, quoting Hsi-tz'u A2 (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, p. 290).
24. I-hsüeh ch'i-meng, p.1207. This is an amplification of the statement in Hsi-tz'u A11, "The
River gave forth the Chart, and the Lo gave forth the Diagram. The sages took them as models"
(cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, p.320). One or both of the charts are also briefly mentioned in the Shu-ching (Book of Documents, "Ku-ming" chapter) and the Ta-Tai li-chi (Record of Ritual of the
Elder Tai, "Ming-t'ang" chapter). Sung traditions tracing the transmission of these charts from
the Han to the Sung seem to be merely conjectural. See James Legge, trans., The I Ching (1899;
rpt. New York: Dover Publications, 1963), p.15; A.C. Graham, Two Chinese Philosophers (London: Lund Humphries, 1958), pp.157-175; and Imai Usaburo, Sodai Ekigaku no Kenkyu (Research on Sung Dynasty Studies of the Book of Change) (Tokyo: Meiji, 1958), pp. 146-241.
25. It is the one given in the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I, 3rd ed., pp.721-724.
26. By "myth" I mean a sacred story symbolizing some fundamental value or belief of a
particular social group. A myth may or may not have an historical basis.
27. Hsi-tz'u B2 (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, pp.328-329). For Chu's discussion of the relationship
between this myth and the one involving the Ho-t'u (Yellow River Chart), see Chou-i che-chung,
p.1207 (Chu's reply to Yüan-shu).
28. The range of meanings of the term "image" (hsiang) in I Ching lore includes the concrete
objects after which Fu-hsi modeled the hexagrams, the hexagrams and trigrams themselves as line
diagrams, their yin-yang meanings, and the various symbolic correlations elaborated in the Shuo-kua and occasionally mentioned in the hexagram and line texts. The term is an extremely
important one in the Hsi-tz'u, occuring nearly forty times. For example, in A11 and A12 it is
argued that the imagery of the I conveys concepts that cannot be expressed in words, and that this
is the key to the profundity of the I. For discussions of hsiang see Hellmut Wilhelm, Heaven,
Earth, and Man in the Book of Changes (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977), pp. 32-35, 190-221, and Gerald William Swanson, The Great Treatise: Commentatory Tradition to the
"Book of Changes" (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1974), pp. 148-163, 313-315.
Chu Hsi, as will become clear in this section, argues that the more concrete, graphic images of
the I -- that is, those actually produced by Fu-hsi -- are more important than the symbolic
correlations and the metaphorical images found in the texts (such as the dragon of hexagram #1,
Ch'ien, and the mare of hexagram #2, K'un). See his "I hsiang shuo" (Discussion of the Images of
the I), Chu-tzu wen-chi 67:1a-2a.
29. See, e.g., Chu-tzu yü-lei, ch.66, passim.
30. Chou-i pen-i 1:33a.
32. Chu-tzu yü-lei 67, p.2639. See Ssu-ma Ch'ien, Shih-chi (Historical Records) (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), 47:19a, and Ch'ien Mu, Chu-tzu hsin hsüeh-an, v.4, p.15.
33. For a wide range of discussion on intentionality and the "intentional fallacy," see the
thematic issues "On Interpretation" of New Literary History, 3, no.2 (1972),and 4, no.3 (1973),
especially Quentin Skinner, "Motives, Intentions, and the Interpretation of Texts," 3, no.2 (1972),
pp. 393-408. Skinner argues that, while motives cannot reveal the meaning of a text, intentions
can. It should be noted that Chu Hsi referred to both motives and intentions in regard to the
interpretation of the I: The sages' motive in creating it was their "anxiety" or "concern" (yu) for
ordinary people who had difficulty knowing the right thing to do (see, for example, Chou-i pen-i,
Preface, p.1a, and Chou-i che-chung, p.1024). Motive, however, does not figure directly into
Chu's interpretive theory.
34. Chu-tzu wen-chi 67:1a-1b ("I hsiang shuo"), and I-hsüeh ch'i-meng (Chou-i che-chung ed.),
35. I-hsüeh ch'i-meng, p.1203, and Chu-tzu wen-chi 36:5b.
36. These are the first two of the "Four Virtues" (ssu-te) of the I, as interpreted by Ch'eng I: yüan, heng, li and chen (translated by Shchutskii as "beginning, penetration, definition, stability"
[Researches on the I Ching, p.202]). Chu Hsi interprets these four words as two phrases: "great
penetration; benefiting in correctness" (Chou-i pen-i 1:1b; cf. Shchutskii, pp.136, 154, 203).
37. Hsün-chiai, the short phrase between the hexagram name and the oracular formula.
38. Chou-i che-chung, p.
39. See Daniel K. Gardner, "Principle and Pedagogy: Chu Hsi and the Four Books," Harvard
Journal of Asiatic Studies, 44, no. 1 (1984), pp. 57-81.
40. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu, 6:5a.
41. Ibid., 6:4a-4b.
42. Ibid., 6:5b.
43. Chu-tzu yü-lei, 67, p.2641.
44. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu, 6:9b.
45. Ibid., 6:3a.
46. Ibid., 6:4b.
47. Ibid., 6:18b. This is similar in some respects to Paul Ricoeur's idea of the "appropriation" of
a text, although Chu Hsi is more sanguine than Ricoeur concerning the possibility of recovering
the author's intended meaning. See Paul Ricoeur, "What is a text? Explanation and
Understanding," in John B. Thompson, ed. and trans., Paul Ricoeur: Hermeneutics and the
Human Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, and Paris: Editions de la Maison des
Sciences de l'Homme, 1981), pp.158-161. Chu's theory is closer to David M. Rasmussen's theory
of the actualization of latent meanings, in Symbol and Interpretation (The Hague: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1974), pp.7-17.
48. Trans. Chan, Source Book, p.609 (substituting "practice" for "action").
49. Chu-tzu yü-lei 13, p.353.
50. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 27:9b-10a.
51. Ibid., 27:17b-18a.
52. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2578.
53. Chu-tzu yü-lei 67, p.2628.
54. Ibid., p.2626.
55. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 27:14a-b.
56. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 27:7a.
57. Chu-tzu yü-lei, quoted by Tai Chün-jen, T'an I (On the I) (Taipei K'ai-ming Bookstore,
58. Chu-tzu wen-chi 82:20b (from Chu's colophon to Lü Tsu-ch'ien's I, cited above), quoting Hsi-tz'u A11 (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, p.316). It should be noted that, as we have seen above
(Chapter Five, section 3), Ch'eng I also criticizes those who connect each hexagram line with a
specific situation (Erh-Ch'eng chi 19, 249.2). Chu Hsi apparently felt that Ch'eng failed to avoid
this error himself.
60. See Chan Wing-tsit, Chu-tzu men-jen (Chu Hsi's disciples) (Taipei: Hsüeh-sheng, 1982),
61. Chou-i pen-i 1:11a; Chou-i che-chung, p.141. To recapitulate the discussion in Chapter 1,
the terms "central" and "correct" refer to two basic principles of I Ching interpretation. The
central lines are those in the second and fifth places, i.e. in the centers of the two component
trigrams. To be correct, a yin (broken, or yielding) line must occupy an even-numbered position
(second, fourth, or sixth), and a yang line must occupy an odd-numbered position. See Li Kuang-ti's general introduction to the Chou-i che-chung, p.100; Chu-tzu wen-chi 85:8a; and
Wilhelm/Baynes, 3rd ed., pp.360-361. In the hexagram K'un, the yin line in the second place is
both central and correct, which is why it "receives the essence of K'un." "This," says Chu Hsi, "is
the basic substance of the explanation of the K'un hexagram" (Chu-tzu yü-lei 69, p.2765).
"Straight internally, square externally" alludes to the Wen-yen commentary on K'un (Chou-i pen-i 1:12b), which says, "The chün-tzu is reverently composed (ching) to straighten [himself]
internally, and does what is right (i) to square [himself] externally." This line was used extensively
by the Ch'eng brothers and became a Neo-Confucian formula for moral cultivation. See Chan, Source Book, pp.538-539, 545.
62. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2590.
63. Probably alluding to the Wen-yen commentary on Ch'ien, hexagram #1: "The superior
person acts in accordance with achieved virtue," or "virtue already achieved" (Chou-i pen-i 1:8a;
cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, 3rd ed., p.379). Yung-chih's idea here may be that the morally powerful or
accomplished person gets things done by the force of his moral example, without resorting to
empirically observable methods. Cf. Analects 2:1, "He who rules by virtue (te) is like the pole-star, which remains in its place while all the lesser stars do homage to it" (Waley's translation,
slightly modified). Thus "without practice, everything is advantageous."
64. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2590.
65. Chu Hsi's assumption that there is actually a definite connection between the image and the
text is, of course, not supported by modern scholarship, which has shown the I to be a very
heterogeneous text. (See Arthur Waley, "The Book of Changes," Bulletin of the Museum of Far
Eastern Antiquities, 5 , pp.121-142. This article, now over fifty years old, is still essential
reading. It is based largely on Ku Chieh-kang, ed., Ku-shih pien [Analysis of ancient history],
[1931; rpt. Hong Kong, T'ai-p'ing Book Co., 1963], v.3.) It is to Chu's credit, actually, that he
recognized and freely admitted the extreme difficulty of making exegetical sense of the I. He was
compelled to attempt to make sense of it not only by the weight of tradition, but also by his other
(faulty) assumption that the Hsi-tz'u was written by Confucius and contained fragments of
historical information concerning the creation of the I.
66. Hsi-tz'u A2, slightly reworded (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, p.286).
67. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2591.
68. Ibid., pp.2592-93.
69. Elsewhere Chu says that Fu-hsi went on from the Eight Trigrams to draw the 64
Hexagrams. See I-hsüeh ch'i-meng, pp. 1234-1239, and Chu-tzu wen-chi 38:7a.
70. Chu-tzu yü-lei, p.2593.
71. Chou-i che-chung, p.142.
72. See Hsi-tz'u A11 (Wilhelm/Baynes, pp.316-317) and below for the mechanism by which
this access is gained.
73. Chung-yung 22.
74. "Examining errors in milfoil divination" (Chu-tzu wen-chi 66:11b-27b).
75. In the I-hsüeh ch'i-meng (ch.3), in "The Divination Procedure" (included in the Chou-i pen-i), and in "Five Praises of the I" (Chu-tzu wen-chi 85:6a-8b).
76. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 27:12a, and Wang Mou-hung, Chu-tzu nien-p'u, p.72.
77. E.g. in Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 27:9b.
78. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2575.
79. Chou-i pen-i 3:13b; Chou-i che-chung, p.1022.
80. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2575.
81. Ming-tao wen-chi, in Erh-Ch'eng ch'üan-shu (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), 3:1a-b. See also Chan, Source Book, pp.525-526, and Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 45:12b.
82. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 45:13a. See also David Yü, "Chu Hsi's Approach to Knowledge," Chinese Culture, v.10, no.4 (1969), pp.1-14. On the phases of the mind in Chu Hsi's thought, see
Thomas A. Metzger, Escape from Predicament: Neo-Confucianism and China's Evolving Political
Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), pp.85-98.
83. Chou-i pen-i 3:13a, or Chou-i che-chung, p.1019 (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, p.315).
85. Hsi-tz'u A11 (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, pp.316-317).
86. Chou-i pen-i 3:13b; Chou-i che-chung, p.1023.
87. Chou-i che-chung, p.1024. Elsewhere he says, "The learning of the sages is to base one's
mind on fully investigating principle, and to accord with principle by responding to things." Chu-tzu wen-chi 67:19b, "Kuan hsin shuo" (Treatise on the Examination of the Mind). Cf. Chan, Source Book, p.604.
88. Two Chinese Philosophers, pp.111-112.
89. Ibid., p.113.
90. Hsi-tz'u A11 (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, pp.317, 320).
91. Ibid., A.10.2; see also A.10.4.
92. Ibid., B.5.11.
93. Ibid., A.11.2.
94. Ibid., A.10.6.
95. Chou-i pen-i 3:21a. This has interesting implications for the history of Chinese science.
With the unfathomability of certain functional modes of ch'i built into the conceptual system, it is
difficult to see how anomalies (in Thomas Kuhn's sense) could ever threaten the integrity of the
basic cosmological paradigm. The notion of shen functioned as a great shock absorber to the
system, enabling it to remain intact for a very long time, but obviating the need to adapt to new
discoveries about the natural world. For an illustration of this, see Mark Elvin's discussion of
Fang I-chih (1611-1671), in The Pattern of the Chinese Past (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1973), pp.225-234. For a more extended discussion of the role of anomalies in traditional
Chinese cosmology, see John B. Henderson, The Development and Decline of Chinese
Cosmology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).
96. For further discussion of Chu Hsi's concept of shen in regard to the I, see below, "The
Limitations of Divination."
97. Chung-yung 24, trans. Chan, Source Book, p.108, slightly modified.
98. Chung-yung chang-chü, in Ssu-shu chi-chu, p.17b.
99. Chu-tzu yü-lei 64, p.2503.
100. Chang Po-hsing, comp., Chou Lien-hsi chi (Chou Tun-i's Collected Works) (Ts'ung-shu
chi-ch'eng ed.), p.81 (T'ung-shu, ch.3). Cf. Chan, Source Book, p.466-467. In Chu's "Hsin-shuo" (Treatise on the Examination of the Mind) he relates the incipient movement of the mind to
its "precariousness": "What is meant by the precariousness of the human mind is the budding of
human selfish desires." Chu-tzu wen-chi 67:19a, trans. Chan, Source Book, p.603.
101. I.e., in Western philosophical terminology, evil is not a primary quality of the world, but it
is a secondary quality and as such is real.
102. Chu-tzu wen-chi 67:17a. Cf. Chan, Source Book, p.598.
103. Chou Lien-hsi chi, p.87 (T'ung-shu, ch.4).
105. Ibid., p.82.
106. Ibid., p.83.
107. Ibid., p.82. These are the eight stages of the Great Learning (Ta-hsüeh).
108. Item 3 in the list of methods of self-cultivation given above, under "The problem of mind."
109. Items 4 and 5 above, "The problem of mind."
110. Chou Lien-hsi chi, pp.83-85.
111. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2575 (quoted near the beginning of this section).
112. See Gardner, Chu Hsi and the Ta-hsueh, pp. 12-14.
113. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 51:2a, trans. Chan, Source Book, p.644, substituting "ghosts and
spirits" for "spiritual beings." Such a view of kuei-shen was by no means new to the Sung, but
had been current (at least in skeptical circles) since the Han. See, e.g., Wang Ch'ung (27-100?), Lun-heng (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), 20:9a-16a, 21, 22; and Alfred Forke, trans., Lun-Heng (1907; rpt.
New York: Paragon, 1962), v.1, pp. 173-249, 532-537. A similar view of ghosts and spirits was
held by Ch'eng I, who had variously defined them as "traces of the creative process" (I-ch'uan I-chuan [Ts'ung-shu chi-ch'eng ed.], 2, p.82), "functions of Heaven and Earth" (quoted by Chu Hsi, Chung-yung chang-chü, p.8b), and "products of the creative process" (Hsing-li ta-ch'üan shu 28:1a). Ch'eng also believed divination to be a "valid" (yu-li) operation that would yield a valid
response unless the questioner approached it with a "selfish mind." See Lü Tsu-ch'ien, comp., Chou-i Hsi-tz'u ching-i (Essential Interpretations of the Chou-i Hsi-tz'u), in Ku-i ts'ung-shu (Pai-pu Ts'ung-shu chi-ch'eng ed.), 1:19b.
114. Ibid. Note that Chu is here giving a naturalistic (i.e. impersonal) explanation of phenomena
that were commonly personified as spirits. I am not sure I can explain why the beginning of a
storm is "stretching out" and the end is "bending back." The terms are probably used
metaphorically to a certain extent, although still with a concrete referent. The point is that kuei and shen are names for certain functional modes of chi, or phases of natural processes. The
traditional etymologies of kuei and shen, relying on phonetic associations, were similar: kuei was
glossed as kuei "return," and shen as shen "extend, go out." See, e.g., Wang Ch'ung, Lun-heng (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), 20:9b. Chu Hsi refers to these definitions in Chou-i pen-i 3:4b, commenting
on Hsi-tz'u A4 (Wilhelm/Baynes, p.294), where he says: "The yin essence and yang ch'i,
collecting to form things, are the extending of shen. The hun's floating and p'o's sinking,
alternating to make [life and death] transformations, are the returning of kuei."
115. Cf. Lao Tzu 51.
116. Cf. Hsi-tz'u A.4.2.
117. Hsi-tz'u A.4.2.
118. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 51:2b.
119. Analects 7:20.
120. Analects 6:20.
121. Analects 11:11.
122. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 51:7b, trans. Chan, Source Book, p.644.
123. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 51:5a.
124. Quoting Ch'eng I, I-ch'uan I-chuan (Ts'ung-shu chi-ch'eng ed.), 2, p.82.
125. Comment on Lun-yü 7:20, in Ssu-shu chi-chu, 4:5a.
126. Shen-ling, like kuei-shen, is a function of ch'i. See Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 51:3a.
127. Chu Hsi's comment on Shu-ching, "Hung-fan" chapter, in Ch'in-ting Shu-ching chuan-shuo (Official Commentaries on the Book of Documents) (Yü-tsuan ch'i-ching ed.), 11:5a, trans. James
Legge, The Chinese Classics, 2nd ed. (1893; rpt. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press,
1960), v.3: The Shoo King, p.335, n.20.
128. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 51:2b-3a.
129. Ibid., 27:15b.
130. Analects 6:20.
131. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 14:28b.
132. Chu-tzu yü-lei 66, p.2575. Chu is quoting the Shu-ching, "Ta-Yü mo." See Legge, Shoo
King, p.63, and Ts'ai Ch'en (1167-1230), comp., Shu-ching chi-chuan (Collected Commentaries
on the Book of Documents) (rpt. Taipei: Shih-chieh, 1967), p.14. The reason for indicating Chu's
omissions and additions to the text is that they seem to support the suggestion that he was
depersonalizing the common view of divination. It should be noted, of course, that this is a
student's transcription of an oral conversation on the I, in which Chu Hsi was undoubtedly
quoting the Shu from memory.
133. Chou-i pen-i, Preface, p.2a.
134. Hsi-tz'u B5 (cf. Wilhelm/Baynes, p.342).
135. Or "assisting in the transforming and nourishing processes of Heaven and Earth" (Chung-yung 22).
136. Cf. Hsi-tz'u A6 (Wilhelm/Baynes, p.302).
137. Chou-i pen-i, Preface, p.2a.
138. See James T.C. Liu, "How Did a Neo-Confucian School Become the State Orthodoxy?" Philosophy East & West, 23 (1973), pp.483-505; and Conrad Schirokauer, "Neo-Confucians
Under Attack: The Condemnation of Wei-hsüeh," in John W. Haeger, ed., Crisis and Prosperity in
Sung China (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1975), pp.163-198.
139. Wang Mou-hung, Chu-tzu nien-p'u, p.216. Although this is the only specific instance of
Chu's divination we know of, he does mention in a letter that his family uses site divination (p'u-ti)
to select burial sites (Chu-tzu wen-chi [Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.], extra collection [pieh-chi] 3:4a).
140. Hsi-tz'u B2 (Wilhelm/Baynes, p.328). It should be recalled that King Wen and the Duke of
Chou also had a hand in creating the basic text of the I, as did Confucius in allegedly writing the
appendices. While Chu's references to "the sages' creation of the I" sometimes include these later
sages, his basic hermeneutic principle is that the later strata of the text must be read as clarifications of Fu-hsi's oracular level. Thus the "original intention" is really Fu-hsi's intention, and the
"original meaning" of the later textual levels points back to Fu-hsi's creation.
141. See especially ch.66 of his Classified Conversations (Chu-tzu yü-lei).
142. Earlier figures, such as Shen-nung, the Divine Farmer, were also known by Mencius, but
apparently were not included in the "way of the sages" (sheng-tao). Chu places Fu-hsi at the head
of the tradition in the preface to his Ta-hsüeh chang-chü (The Great Learning in Chapters and
Sentences), in Ssu-shu chi-chu, p.1a. For more extended discussions see Wing-tsit Chan, "Chu
Hsi's Completion of Neo-Confucianism," in Chu Hsi: Life and Thought (Hong Kong and New
York: The Chinese University Press and St. Martin's Press, 1987), pp. 121-130; and Joseph A.
Adler, Divination and Philosophy: Chu Hsi's Understanding of the I-ching (Ph.D. diss., University
of California at Santa Barbara, 1984), pp.73-81.
143. Chinese philosophers have persistently argued, against the drift of modern Western philosophy
since David Hume, that values can be derived from facts. See A.C. Graham, "Taoist Spontaneity
and the Dichotomy of 'Is' and 'Ought,'" in Victor H. Mair, ed., Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983), pp.3-23; A.C. Graham, "What Was New in the
Ch'eng-Chu Theory of Human Nature?" in Wing-tsit Chan, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986), pp. 138-157; and Joseph A. Adler, "Descriptive
and Normative Principle (li) in Confucian Moral-Metaphysics: Is/Ought from the Chinese
Perspective," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, vol.16, no.3 (1981), pp.285-293.
144. A paraphrase of Hsi-tz'u B2 (Wilhelm/Baynes, p.328). See, e.g., I-hsüeh ch'i-meng, section 2,
in Chou-i che-chung, p.1223, and ibid., p.1207 (Chu Hsi's reply to Yüan-shu).
145. I-hsueh ch'i-meng, preface, in Chou-i che-chung, p.1203. See also ibid., p.1224.
146. Hsi-tz'u B2 (Wilhelm/Baynes, p.328), quoted above, Chapter Six.
147. It also recalls Hsün Tzu's interpretation of sacrifice in terms of human emotions rather than
spirits, in chapter 19 of his book. See Burton Watson, trans., Hsün Tzu: Basic Writings (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1963), p.110.
148. David N. Keightley, "The Religious Commitment: Shang Theology and the Genesis of
Chinese Political Culture," History of Religions, 17 (1978), pp. 211-225.
149. Approximately 17% of its selections were taken from Ch'eng's Commentary on the I (I-chuan). See Wing-tsit Chan, Reflections on Things at Hand (New York: Columbia University Press,
150. Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu 53:64b.
151. Chu-tzu wen-chi 67:1a, and I-hsüeh ch'i-meng, preface, in Chou-i che-chung, p.1203.
152. While Chu's evaluation of Ch'eng's approach to the I is predominantly negative, he does have
conciliatory words for Ch'eng in a postface to an edition of Ch'engs Commentary on the I. He
says that only Ch'eng was able to base his teaching on Fu-hsi, King Wen, and Confucius, who had
different methods (fa) but the same Way (tao). Chu-tzu wen-chi (SPPY ed.), 81:18a-b.
154. Chu-tzu yü-lei (rpt. Taipei: Cheng-chung, 1973), 66, p.2578.
155. See Chu's critique of Su's commentary on the I, in Chu-tzu wen-chi (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.),
72:16a-23b, and the discussion by Peter K. Bol, "Chu Hsi's Redefinition of Literati Learning."
156. See Huang tsung-hsi, Sung-Yüan hsüeh-an (A Scholarly Record of the Sung and Yüan
Dynasties) (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), ch.62.
157. Chung-yung chang-chü (Commentary on the Doctrine of the Mean), in Ssu-shu chi-chu,
preface, p.1a-1b. The terms come from the Shu Ching (Book of Documents), "Counsels of the
Great Yü." See James Legge, trans., The Chinese Classics, 2nd ed. (1893; rpt. Hong Kong:
Hong Kong University Press, 1960), vol.3, pp.61-62.
158. Chung-yung chang-chü, preface, p.1b.
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