The Original Meaning of the Yijing

Commentary on the Scripture of Change

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Zhu Xi
Joseph Adler
Translations from the Asian Classics
  • New York: 
    Columbia University Press
    , November
     352 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


The Yijing (I Ching), or Scripture of Change, is traditionally considered the first and most profound of the Chinese classics. Originally a divination manual based on trigrams and hexagrams, by the beginning of the first millennium it had acquired written explanations and a series of appendices attributed to Confucius, which transformed it into a work of wisdom literature as well as divination. Over the centuries, hundreds of commentaries were written on it, but for the past thousand years, one of the most influential has been that of Zhu Xi (1130–1200), who synthesized the major interpretive approaches to the text and integrated it into his system of moral self-cultivation.

Joseph A. Adler’s translation of the Yijing includes for the first time in any Western language Zhu Xi’s commentary in full. Adler explores Zhu Xi’s interpretation of the text and situates it in the context of his overall theoretical system. Zhu Xi held that the Yijing was originally composed for the purpose of divination by the mythic sage Fuxi, who intended to create a system to aid decision making. The text’s meaning, therefore, could not be captured by a single commentator; it would emerge for each person through the process of divination. This translation makes available to the English-language audience a crucial text in the history of Chinese religion and philosophy, with an introduction and translator’s notes that explain its intellectual and historical context.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Zhu Xi (1130–1200), the most influential Chinese philosopher of the past two thousand years, was a crucial figure in the systematization of Neo-Confucian thought.

Joseph A. Adler is professor emeritus of Asian studies and religious studies at Kenyon College. He is the author of Reconstructing the Confucian Dao: Zhu Xi’s Appropriation of Zhou Dunyi (2014) and the translator of Zhu Xi’s Introduction to the Study of the Classic of Change (2002), among other works.