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The Flexibility of Gua and Yao—Based on an Interpretation of Yizhuan

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image of Frontiers of Philosophy in China

In Yizhuan’s interpretation of The Book of Changes, the book’s fundamental concepts, xiang 象 (images) and ci 辞 (words), play different roles. Concepts, including yin and yang, firmness and gentleness, sancai 三才 (three fundamentals), and the wuxing 五行 (five active elements), are used to interpret The Book of Changes through the interpretation of images, while the core Confucian values, such as benevolence and righteousness, are used to interpret The Book of Changes because of their connection with words of gua and yao. In order to expand the meaning of the words of gua and yao, Yizhuan sometimes connects words with images; in other occasions, however, it simply takes these words as independent guides. The Confucian scholars who wrote Yizhuan, therefore, not only revered the classic, but also used it to send their own message. Out of reverence, they “shu 述 (recited)”; in using it, they “zuo 作 (created)”. The combination of recitation and creation made the words of gua and yao very flexible in the process of interpretation, while the interpretation changed the meaning of the classic to a great extent.


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