I Ching, Yijing or Zhou Yi
"Oracle of the moon": © 2000 LiSe

  Yi Jing, Oracle of the Moon

The horses of King Mu

Hexagram 36, line 2

  In hexagram 36, the name Ming Yi indicates the light of the sun below the horizon. The light is “wounded”, or exterminated, levelled. But some translators (Wu, Kunst, Whincup) think it indicates a bird, a pheasant.

  There is a character for pelican, written like Yi, with ‘bird’ added. But they substitute it for a different character, with a different sound, I don't know why. The ideogram of Yi is an arrow with an attached string, for shooting birds. The first line says, “Darkening of the light (or brightness wounded) at flight. Drooping his wings”. This might be “The bright bird in flight is drooping it’s wings”. There is another evidence in the text that makes the bird quite probable. The second line says: “Ming Yi, wounded in the left thigh. To give aid with the strength of a horse is auspicious”. There are some, among whom also Kunst, who translate instead of aid: ‘gelded’. The ideogram is hand + help, and in many languages castrating is called helping an animal. I could not find any dictionary entry that says it is so, but I guess Kunst knows what he does.

  There is a story about an ancient king, king Mu. I found it in Shaughnessy’s book “Before Confucius” (p.97): "When King Mu was hunting, there was a black bird like a pigeon which fluttered about and then perched on the yoke [of his chariot]. The driver lashed at it with the reigns, whereupon the horses ran out of control and could not be stopped, tipping the chariot and injuring the kings left thigh." If line 2 refers to this story, it might read something like: “Bird of omen. Wounded in the left thigh. Use the strength of gelded horses”.

  One should be cautious in everything one does, excluding all points of application for disaster, even when the situation does not look as if anything might happen. Don’t do things that can go out of control: if king Mu had used gelded horses, calm horses, they might not have bolted. Then even a black bird of omen could bring only a small disaster.

  This line changes into hex.11, the 2nd line: “Reckon with crop failure, profit of horse and ice to cross the river, do not forget the remote and lose friends..” My translation is rather unusual, and I am not sure if I am right, but in all translations this line is about do-this, do-not-that. It matches very well with 36.2, a line that urges to exclude the point of application for danger.

last update: 22.09.2022


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