Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 3.djvu/19

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xvii
PREFACE.

sixty-four hexagrams,—if indeed he himself formed so many figures; and why the multiplication of the figures was stayed at sixty-four:— of none of these points have we any knowledge from him. There is some reason to believe that there were texts to the hexagrams under the dynasties of Hsiâ and Shang, but none of them have been preserved. It may be that king Wăn and his equally famous son, the duke of Kâu, adopted much of what they found already existing, and incorporated it with their own interpretations of the figures; but they, and they alone, are accepted as the authors of the text of the Yî. King Wăn, we are told, at a time when he was imprisoned by the tyrannical sovereign with whom the dynasty of Shang or Yin ended, took in hand the ever-changing hexagrams, and appended to each a brief explanation of the meaning which the trigrams composing it suggested by their union to his mind; and in some cases the practical course in affairs to which that meaning should direct. His son did for the separate lines of each hexagram what Wăn had done for the whole figure. Confucius is said to have entered into their labours about 600 years afterwards. Several appendixes are ascribed to him, in which there is an attempt to explain the origin of the Fû-hsî figures, and many of the interpretations of Wăn and his son. The early linear figures; the notes of Wăn and the duke of Kâu; and the Confucian appendixes: these constitute the Yî.

The work was from the first intimately connected with the practice of divination, which, we know from the Shû, entered largely into the religion of the ancient Chinese. This goes far to account for its obscure and enigmatical character; but at the same time there occur in it, though in a fragmentary manner, so many metaphysical, physical, moral, and religious utterances, that the student of it is gradually brought under a powerful fascination. In consequence, moreover, of its use in divination, it was exempted by the superstitious tyrant of Khin from the flames to which he condemned all the other Confucian literature in B.C. 213. It has thus come down to us entire, and a translation of the whole of it will be given.

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