When I came to the United States I was surprised that there were so many translations of the I Ching in English. I cannot immagine how these translators all found the I Ching scholars and did the decades of study necessary to truly learn the I Ching.
To the Chinese, the I Ching is like a Holy Bible written by the four most honored sages in our history – Fu Xi, King Wen, the Duke of Zhou and Confucious. The Chinese translation of Holy Bible is Sheng Ching. Sheng is equivalent to holy, and Ching means classic. Chinese understand that Ching is the Tao, the Truth, the holiest of the ancient books, and because they revere and respect the sacred writings of the Jews and the Christian church, they honor the Bible by calling it Ching.
The I Ching is truly a profound book. It is the source of much of Chinese culture. Originally, the I Ching was a handbook for divination. After Confucius and his students had written the commentaries, it became known as a book of ancient wisdom. It is a book that not only tells one who consults it about the present situation and future potential but also gives instruction about what to do and not to do to obtain good fortune and to avoid misfortune. But one still retains free choice. The guidance is based upon comprehensive observations of natural laws by ancient sages and their profound experiences of the principle of cause and effect.
These are excerpts from the Preface of The Complete I Ching by Taoist Master Alfred Huang. Before coming to China I used to consult I Ching alone or with friends, in Italy for example this book is definitely appreciated and studied by people who meditate and seek for self knowledge in their daily life. Here in Hong Kong i still did not find anybody who throughly knows about it and some local people often comment not really positively about it.
This master suggests that the best English versions of I Ching are: Richard Wilhelm’s and James Legge’s although westernized. He adds that
… the ideal translation should be English but Chinese in essence. As a book of divination, Confucius’s commentaries are crucial. The Chinese call Confucius’s commentaries the Ten Wings. They believe that the I Ching depends on the Ten Wings to be able to fly. In other words, without Confucius’s commentaries the I Ching cannot be understood.
I felt I had no choice because the more I meditated the more I felt that I had an obligation to work out a translation of the I Ching based entirely on Chinese concepts. I began to realize that during his last years, Master Yin’s proposal to teach me the I Ching was not accidental. There was a reason. I sense now that in this great time of change, when people are longing to transform and the situation is ripe, a new translation of I Ching based upon ancient Chinese wisdom and experience might be helpful for those making their own choices to enter the twenty-first century with confidence.