The Zhou Yi was written during the transit period from the Shang dynasty to the Zhou dynasty (i.e. in the years around 1046 B.C.), the time of a tyrant holding power and villains bullying around, as well as war launched everywhere and people living in misery. Therefore it teems with texts of good and evil, as well as cautioning mankind against fault or calamity and how to pursue good fortune and evade bad fortune.
The characters cast in this e-book
The sage (聖sheng4人ren2) is regarded as a person who possesses sublime virtue and outstanding wisdom, and who has made a great contribution to society in respect to moral or religious inspiration, for instance, the one who wrote the Zhou Yi.
The great lord (大dan4人ren2, literally translated as a great man) is a person who occupies a high position in the ruling rank and has crucial influence on others, or the future of others. In comparison with 小xiao3人ren2 (the villain), 大dan4人ren2 can be referred to as a gentleman.
The gentleman (君jun子zi3) is a well-educated, magnanimous and aboveboard person who acts in accordance with etiquette and designated code of conduct. Viewed from the social structure in the time of the Zhou Yi, 君jun子zi3 is taken for a nobleman.
The villain (小xiao3人ren2, literally translated as a small man or understood as a person of low position) doesn't have to be violent or look ugly, but is definitely wicked and virtueless, as well as selfish and underhanded. Depending on context, 小xiao3人ren2 can refer to an ordinary man like a commoner in the feudal society.
元yuan2, 亨heng1, 利li4, 貞zhen1 in the hexagram text of Qian and Kun are regarded as the four elementary virtues of the creator, and can be taken for the genes of virtue passed down by them to other hexagrams.
元yuan2, origination or greatness, is a great and new start full of creative or executive power. The top line 一 of 元 can be seen as the human (人ren2) head, i.e. 頭tou2 which means beginning in Chinese culture, or the one above 大da4 (largeness). It is annotated as the fountain of goodness in Confucian commentary on hexagrams Qian and Kun.
亨heng1, smooth progress, is a convergence of favourable interplay or change (between the masculine and feminine). In Chinese bronze inscriptions, 亨 depicts a ritual vessel filled with sacrifices and is signified as offering sacrifices to pray for smooth progress of an impending event, etc.
利li4, advantage or appropriateness, is a beneficial consequence of appropriate actions. 利 depicts 刀dao3 (knife) cutting off 禾he2 (crops), which implies harvest, i.e. benefit, and also suggests sharpness (of the knife), i.e. being instrumental. It is annotated as appropriateness in Confucian commentary, as the result of appropriate actions is instrumental to bring forth benefit to all concerned.
貞zhen1, persistence or preservation: Depending on context, it can be understood as persisting in righteousness or the norm of a hexagram, or remaining still (i.e. not to be affected) or unchanging (i.e. without any self-adjustment), or preserving what have been achieved. In the Oracle Bone Script, 貞 appears in a way like (a diviner) asking (a divinatory question). Since the diviner must devoutly engross himself with no distractions, it is extended to mean single-mindedness.
When appearing in the hexagrams borne by Qian and Kun, 元yuan2亨heng1 are paraphrased as great and smooth progress, and 利li4貞zhen1 as: (it is) advantageous or appropriate to persist. Depending on context, 利li4 (sharpness) (貞) can also be signified as being instrumental in (persistence) or to (persist).
Advice for action
往wang3, to go forward, means moving along the timeline to a higher position. It can be signified as taking action for something.
來lai2, to come back, means moving to a lower position. It suggests retreating or giving up something.
有you3 (to have) 攸yuo1 (a place where) 往wang3 (to go), to go somewhere, means moving toward a destination, i.e. carrying out what is intended.
征zheng1, to undertake a venture, means taking an aggressive action in spite of risks.
涉she4 (to cross) 大da4 (great) 川chuan1 (river), to cross a great river, is signified as overcoming difficulties to undertake an important mission. In ancient times, crossing a great river was a difficult and dangerous task which had a crucial influence on the future, for instance, a tribe migrated to the other side of the river, or the troops crossed the river to attack the enemy.
無wu2 (nothing) 不bu2 (not) 利li4 (advantage), nothing unfavourable, means what to be done won’t cause anything unfavourable.
無wu2 (nothing) 攸yuo1 (to concern) 利li4 (advantage), nothing favourable, means what to be done won’t bring about anything favourable.
吉ji2, auspiciousness (or good fortune), is a sign of gain and will facilitate the achieve-ment of what is intended.
凶xiong1, ominousness (or misfortune), is a sign of loss and suggests that it will lead to failure.
The hexagram text only uses auspiciousness and ominousness as its judgement. The line text is additionally provided with the following.
悔hui3, regret or repentance, is an ability of being aware what has been done wrong and an intention to make correction. It will move toward no calamity (or fault) and eventually reach good fortune. 有you2 (to have) 悔hui3, to have (cause to) regret or to have repentance, can be either signified as what has been done wrong creates regret, or having intention to correct when a fault is committed. 悔hui3 亡wang2 (to die), regret is gone, can be annotated as what is regretted is gone after correct actions are taken. 无wu2 (nil) 悔hui3 means no regret since no fault is committed.
吝lin4, resentment, is a kind of indignation due to the unfavourable situation caused by one’s wrongdoing and narrow heart, which will lead to misjudgement. 吝lin4 can be also understood as not repenting when one should. This suggests a situation in which one does not admit faults, but erroneously feels unfairly treated; this will create more mistakes, and the situation will worsen and will move toward misfortune.
无wu2 (nil) 咎jiu1 (calamity, or fault, or blame), no calamity (or fault), means that originally there would be a calamity but the fault is corrected timely; therefore it ends with no calamity. Depending on context, sometime it is also paraphrased as no blame.
The following diagram shows that resentment will lead to misfortune, while misfortune can arouse repentance which will lead to good fortune through no calamity. They are all circling around calamity, like a positive hexagram also containing bad omen, reflecting the uncertainty of human fate.
Auspiciousness (good fortune) only suggests it facilitating achievement of what is intended, but it doesn’t assure freedom from fault or calamity after success. No calamity (or fault) is what people should always seek.