Yijing/I Ching
The Book of Changes


 
Yijing, commonly translated as the Book of Changes, is the single most important work in the history of Chinese philosophy. It is not only the source of Chinese cosmology, but also the very foundation of the whole Chinese culture. Both the two leading Chinese philosophical schools, Confucianism and Daoism, drew cosmological and moral ideas from this book, which has been described as “a unique blend of proto-Confucian and proto-[Daoist] ideas.” Yijing has also penetrated the Chinese mind. Every Chinese person, with or without philosophical training, would be naturally inclined to view the world the way Yijing depicts it — a world of possibilities as well as determination; a world dominated by yin and yang and yet alterable by human efforts. [An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy, 26]

 

A theoretical motivation for developing a philosophy of change is that the basic element of the universe is taken to be qi, not atoms, or matter. Matter has a spatial and temporal stability that is not observed in the movement of qi. The constant change in the atmosphere can serve as a good illustration of the movement of qi. If the whole universe along with everything within it is composed of qi, then change is simply the constant state of affairs. Myriad objects are not individuated as spatially confined things, which begin with the aggregation of atoms, ending with the dissolution of atoms. Instead, each object is seen as a process of change, with the condensation of qi marking its beginning and the rarefaction of qi marking its end. [An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy, 30]

On the cosmic level, the non-changing frame of reference for the movement of qi is simply the totality of qi. This totality of qi is called “tai-ji.” If the totality of qi is unchanging, then each time yin expands, yang has to decrease; and vice versa. Even though the two forms of cosmic energy compete with each other, they also work in unison. There is thus a principle of harmony governing the competition between yin and yang. [An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy, 32]
 

 

The Great Commentary
“Heaven is high, the earth is low; thus [Qian] and [Kun] are determined. In correspondence with this difference between low and high, inferior and superior places are established.” The basic structure of the cosmos consists in various levels of the hierarchy.This cosmic order lays the foundation for the social hierarchy in the human world. As Heaven is above and Earth is below, those who are represented by yang should be placed higher than those who are represented by yin in the social ladder. ... In this manner, Yijing assigns distinct roles to everyone in the family. Each person’s doing his or her share within the family will ensure a greater harmony than what would be accomplished if each acted on his or her own. ... To act according to what the context prescribes is to act in line with the cosmic order. [An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy, 40-1]