One of the things I've been busy with lately is translating and annotating the classic work on the Wen Wang Gua, "Zengshan Buyi" (增刪卜易). Actually, there are several versions of this book, sometimes called "WenwangKe Mi Chuan”(文王課秘傳), and also known as "Yehe Mijue" (野鶴秘訣) or "The Complete Book of Divination by the Old Man of the Wild Crane" (野鶴老人占卜全書). Basically, it's a book that most modern Chinese divination practitioners would read. However, not many Westerners may have heard of this work. These different versions of the book are essentially the same, but because most of the content has been passed down in the form of copies, there may be slight differences. However, the overall interpretation of the hexagrams is remain the same. And we consider the version of "Zengshan Buyi" by Li Wenhui of Hunan as the most suitable one (still not the best).
To study or learn the Yi, it's important to match concrete facts and events with corresponding hexagrams and line changes, to gradually understand how "all subjective thoughts and human affairs in this world can also be matched with hexagrams and line changes," and gain a glimpse into the mysterious "heavenly secrets" that common people believe in, or what the Chinese always say “天機”.
When it comes to studying the Yi Jing, whether it's the Zhouyi or the Wen Wang Gua, the first and most important thing is to find a good version of the book to read. However, this can often be difficult to find. For example, as someone like me who has written books, I know that deleting just a few words can completely change the overall meaning and make it difficult to find the core principles. Some predecessors in this field may try to deceive newcomers by simply omitting a few words, not even mentioning any "modification" of the subject matter, while others may use more “covert tactics”, or we called it “jianghu“ (江湖) that many Chinese, especially newcomers, cannot see through, let alone Westerners. Basically, I haven't seen any Westerners or even native Chinese newcomers who know the principles or the “jianghu” tricks in this field. Perhaps, even the paragraph I am writing now may not be fully understood by anyone.
Nevertheless, if you are determined to learn this discipline by reading books, that's a good thing. But are books really that straightforward? I won't go into the “jianghu” and deceptions that can be found in books, but even if the books do contain correct theories and advanced techniques, do you have the so-called "talent" to discover and absorb these things? That's something you really need to ask yourself with honestly.
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, many people tend to read any author's works subjectively, which is extremely fatal when learning any Chinese metaphysical subjects, which including yijing or Wen Wang gua thingy. Learning subjectively will lead to learning biases directly. The consequence of such bias is, of course, not learning anything in the end. Moreover, it can be dangerous when people mistakenly think they have learned something and start teaching others. This is a very terrifying behaviour in this field. Some may give up learning, while others may make wrong judgments about the hexagrams, leading to misleading themselves and others and falling into the wrong path.
Today, I'll use an example from "Zeng Shan" to illustrate this point. For example, Hexagram 42, asking about obtaining official position. "The Complete Book of Divination by the Wild Crane" did not explain the context and reasons for this divination, but "Zeng Shan" provided specific details. So, what is the impact of not explaining the cause and background of a divination? The impact can be small like affecting only the reading of the duration of the time period, or it can be significant, possibly affecting the observation point, which directly leads to inaccurate of interpretation.
In this case, Wild Crane uses the Officer star as the useful spirit, and the divination says that a Yin Wood is missing to form an Officer formation. Therefore, the application should be submitted on a Yin day. In fact, if you don't know the specific "reason" why the asker is worried or hesitating, this way of interpreting may be somewhat far-fetched. If the question is simply about whether the asker can get this position, it can be directly answered by only observing the Officer star that generates the Self Line. There is no need to specifically observed the Three Combos. However, this hexagram does not follow the Wild Crane's usual path. The Old Man Wild Crane surprisingly uses the Asset Line to make the crucial reading point, which is to judge that it is a Yin day. If the Yin day fits, there could be many reasons for interpreting the hexagram in this way, and one of them may be "Tao-Gua 套卦" This is a common technique used by The Old Wild Crane. Of course, it is also possible that we as readers did not have access to certain information, which made it difficult for us to understand. Perhaps at that time, there was a specific background that led to the hexagram being interpreted in this way.
Later on, I realised after reading "Zeng Shan" that the original text of "The Complete Book" was missing an important detail, where the asker was applying for a job, but there was another official also vying for the same position. The reason for the divination was to avoid offending that official during the competition. Once you know this context, interpreting the hexagram becomes much simpler. The moving Self Line generates the Sibling Line representing the asker wanting to give up the position to his “colleague”, while the Officer Line restricts the Sibling Line and it enters the Self Grave, indicating that the asker will get the job. Now, why was the fact falls on Yin day? Because the Yin Wood can clash away the Sibling, which means that the competing official is in a weaker position, giving the asker good timing to apply. This analysis corresponds perfectly with the reality of the situation. Of course, this type of analysis relies heavily on understanding the context and the crucial “Wild Crane's thinking”, and it is not from my thinking. (This is how we should read a book). Anyway, this method of analysis still has significant shortcomings. Now, after reading my entire explanation, do you have the ability to identify the problem I am referring to? If yes, how well do you understand this entire article?