A personal interpretation of the hexagrams of the Book of Changes, or I Ching, one of the worlds most respected oracular devices. The work is based upon the author's own experience of using the book as a psychological, spiritual and divinatory tool.
The Book of Changes as we know it today dates from China's Bronze age, around 3000 years ago, though its origins certainly predate this. Tradition has it that the genesis of the Book of Changes, or I Ching, is owed to Fu Xi, some 5000 years ago. Fu Xi was a legendary ruler and sage to whom the secret of the oracular core was reputedly revealed by a pattern of dots upon the back of a dragon-horse rising from the Yellow-River. However, it is not until the Shang dynasty, around 1600 B.C. that we begin to see evidence of the oracle in a form we would recognise today. The Shang are also credited with the earliest written records which enable us to see some of the thinking behind the work.
Modern scholars now dismiss Fu Xi as a mythological figure, and the only reliable archeological data we have places the Book of Changes in the context of the overthrow of the Shang dynasty by the Zhou, around 1000 BC. Most scholars seem to agree that the original hexagram statements can be attributed to King Wen, founder of the Zhou, with the appended line statements being attributable to his son King Wu.
Although the Zhou originally began as the virtuous overthrowers of the corrupt Shang, the Zhou period itself dissolved into disharmony and despotism some 400 years later. China then entered the Warring States Period which lasted from 475 to 221 BC. It's around this time that the so called Ten Wings were added to the Book of Changes, these being a set of moral and metaphysical commentaries used to explain what had, throughout the Zhou period, been more of an esoteric, mystical and religious text. The Ten Wings transformed the Book of Changes into a philosophical treatise and made it accessible to everyone, rather than just a select band of specialist diviners. Traditionally, the Ten Wings were ascribed to Confucius, though scholars now dispute this.
Things become a little clearer in relatively modern times, following the invasion of China by France and Britain, in 1860. This opened the formerly insular nation up to Western trade and Christian missionaries. Sure enough, the Book of Changes was first introduced to the West in 1882 by the missionary and sinologist James Legge as part of a 50 volume series called: Sacred Books of the East, a vast work edited by Max Muller. Whilst Legge was a faithful scholar and his translation is still much respected, his aim in undertaking the work was primarily to educate other missionaries in the ideas and the culture of China, prior to their setting out on evangelical missions to convert the Chinese to Christianity. It was certainly not his intention to act as an ambassador for the promotion of oriental philosophy in the West and the Book of Changes aroused little interest outside of academic circles.