Warring States Uses of the Yijing (I Ching) and Related Texts

Project: Research project

Project Details


A study guide from fourth century BCE China about predicting the future was rediscovered in the summer of 2008. The text was buried along with the tomb occupant from the ancient kingdom of Chu (modern Hubei province) who once commissioned its compilation and used it both to gain knowledge of the subject and to demonstrate his expertise about it by predicting his future and the future of others. Yarrow Stalk Divination (Shifa筮法) has text and illustrations written in a regional script on sixty- three bound and numbered bamboo-strips 35 cm long. It is the most pristine and intact Warring States bamboo-strip manuscript ever encountered. Underground and idle for millennia, this genuine Warring States period technical handbook for use with numerical divination in the “Changes易” tradition converges diverse systems of material knowledge from earlier times and places, much of which was subsequently lost or not transmitted intact. One of the most important features of this manuscript is that it demonstrates beyond any doubt that at this time hexagram pictures were still written with numerals and not yet with solid yang and broken yin lines as substitutes. A clear model of what the text says and means is required before proceeding to do other things with it.

Qinghua University’s Warring States bamboo-strip manuscripts, received as an anonymous gift in 2008, was once the library of a man (probably a low-level official) who lived in what is now modern Hubei province. Totalling 2388 individual bamboo- strips, this collection stands as one of the most significant finds of material literature. What the field of Early China and Ancient World studies has needed for some time is intact Warring States versions of literary and non-literary texts that were extant and in circulation during the vibrant period of the “Hundred Philosphers” and before the Qin’s “burning of the books” in 213 BCE.

The ideal Warring States manuscripts are those that have come to us intact. The most pristine and intact bamboo-strip manuscript not only amongst the Qinghua University collection but since the discovery of Warring States manuscripts written on this stationary is Yarrow Stalk Divination (Shifa筮法). My project applies the knowledge systems in this text to a larger and more comprehensive study of Warring States uses of the Yijing and other literature in the “Changes易” tradition.
Effective start/end date1/01/2130/06/24


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