The Matchbook Diaries

Thoughts on the I Ching Saturday morning December 30, Shanghai

Much warmer today.  I can almost remove my indoor slippers.  Our flat isn’t really heated so it’s chilly in winter.

I started studying the I Ching (the Book of Changes) when we lived here before, more than 10 years ago.  The philosophies of China are incredibly dense and yet illuminating – the wisdom in the I Ching is crystal clear and beautiful.

My husband gave me a different translation of the I Ching for Christmas and I was reading it last night.  There are 64 symbols in the I Ching that are composed of 6 lines each.  Each line is either complete __or broken _ _.  The original I Ching, from thousands of years ago, was only used to answer yes or no questions: the __ means yes, the _ _means no.

The symbol for God, the Father-creator, is six “yes” lines stacked up, and the symbol for earth, the Mother-receptive, is six “no” lines stacked up.  Every other symbol is derivative of these two and the interaction between them.  So the I Ching is the study of change, of what precedes change, how to navigate change, and how to respond to positive and negative change.

I love everything about the I Ching.  I can only absorb small bits of it at a time, the same way I had to approach James Joyce and Thomas Carlyle.

What struck me last night was the idea of God creating earth with 6 gigantic yes’s, resting on the 7th day, and then, further, that while wholeness belongs solely to God, the role of the woman is to be receptive, to find a way to accommodate the complex situation that arises from free will, the existence of not just an impenetrable good, but a penetrating evil.  It is the woman who responds to that.  I love China.