Wednesday, August 30. 2006
Volume 3 of the Gushi Bian 古史辨 (ISBN 5550110350), which contains the famous articles by Gu Jiegang 顧頡剛 (1893-1980), also has a small article by Ma Heng 馬衡 (1881-1955), titled 漢熹平石經周易殘字跋, 'Annotations of the remnant characters in the Zhouyi Stone Classic from the Han dynasty Xiping period' (p. 70-73). The article deals with the variant characters that are found on a stone fragment of the Yijing text that was engraved in stone in 175 AD (not 180 BC as is said here; image from Gushi Bian 古史辨, vol. 3, p. 70/71, click to enlarge).
In his book Warp & Weft - In search of the I-Ching, William de Fancourt tells about the making of these Stone Classics (ISBN 1861630069, p. 100):
Stuart V. Aque quotes Zhou Yutong's commentary to Pi Xirui 皮錫瑞 (1850-1908) his Jingxue lishi 經學歷史 in his dissertation Pi Xirui and Jingxue lishi (p. 589, n. 108; see also p. 697-703):
One side of the fragment that Ma discusses contains parts of the texts of hexagram 37 to hexagram 54; the other side contains fragments of the Wenyan and Shuogua chapters of the Ten Wings. Even though it's a small fragment Ma recognizes quite some differences with the received text of the Yijing. I will not discuss all these differences (unless by popular demand), there is one variant character I would like to bring forward. In chapter four of the Shuogua there is the line '坤以藏之'. This line is also found on the stone fragment, but the character 坤 (the name of hexagram 2 in the standard edition of the Yijing) is replaced by . It is the same character that is found in the Mawangdui version of the Yijing: chuan 川.
When I read this my first reaction was "this is interesting!". But during my research of the origin, history and language of the Stone Classics, and the usage of this specific character, it turned out not to be so spectacular. Often the character 川 is translated as 'flow' (Shaughnessy), 'waterway' or something similar, but you might seriously doubt if this is a correct translation in the given context. Yes, 川 means 'stream' or 'flow', but on many stone tablets from the Han dynasty 川 is used as a substitute for 坤 (Wu Xinchu 吳新楚, "Zhouyi" yiwen jiaozheng 《周易》异文校证, ISBN 7218037194; p. 38). The Li Bian 隸辨, a dictionary of characters from Han stone tablets which was compiled by Gu Aiji 顧藹吉 in 1718, lists five of these cases (ISBN 7101041442; p. 38-39. See image on the left; click to enlarge. Picture from Dictionary of Chinese Character Variants). In the Dictionary of Chinese Character Variants 川 is listed under 坤. Tang dynasty scholar Lu Deming 陸德明 (556-627) says in his Zhouyi Shiwen 周易釋文 about 坤 (古史辨, vol. 3, p. 73):
(For the phrase 今字 meaning 'Lishu style of writing from the Han dynasty' see 漢語大詞典 1.1079-B).
But there is more. The variant characters of 川, namely 巛, 𡿦 and 𡿭, are also long known substitutes for 坤 (漢語大字典 2.1097). If you rotate these variant characters 90° CW they turn into the trigram Earth (see also Deng Qiubo 邓球柏, Boshu Zhouyi jiaoshi 帛书周易校释, ISBN 7543812975; p. 260). Well, maybe not the first one, but the other two do. The characters 𡿦 and 𡿭 could be two ways of writing the trigram. Because 巛 and 𡿦 are very similar it is easy to mix them up, and therefore I believe that hexagram 2 was never meant to be named 巛 with the meaning of 'stream', or 'flow', but instead 𡿦 was originally intended, as an alternative form of the trigrams that form the hexagram.
Summarizing: the character 川 and its variants 巛, 𡿦 and 𡿭 were during the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220) well-known substitutes for 坤. To me this indicates that hexagram 2 was not meant to be named 'stream', flow', or 'waterway' or similar names. For the meaning of the name of hexagram 2 we can only rely on the Shuogua, which says that Kun stands for 'earth' (chapter 11). Because the earliest appearance of the character 坤 is found in the Yijing, and all other instances of it in later books are references to the Yi, it is hard to find the original meaning without the aid of commentaries like the Ten Wings.
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Quote: "I will not discuss all these differences (unless by popular demand)..." I didn't know there were differences between the received text and the stone tablets; I thought they were the beginning of the 'canonised' version. So please count this as some popular demand!
On the left fragment the 川 character also appears (6th column from the right, 12th row from the bottom), but it is slightly different (the bent line is on the other side). Any ideas why this is? And i agree with Hilary...
Good observation Sander. The character you are referring to is 川 in the sentence 利涉大川 in the Judgment of hexagram 42. In this context it means 'stream' or 'river'. It seems the writer used two characters which almost look the same: 川 for river, and the other one with the right-pointing hooks for the trigram or hexagram Earth. It probably shows that the character with the right-pointing hooks was clearly a different character. It affirms my idea that this character was never meant to be translated as 'stream' or 'river'. I purchased the book 漢石經周易殘字集證, an interesting study of the Xiping Yijing stone fragments. I am summarizing the different characters that the author found in the fragments, I hope to publish them in my weblog in a few months.
Good articles ºÃÎÄÕÂ! My blog changed to : http://www.blog.163.com/shixiao_k/ http://blog.daqi.com/yikong http://easviod.blog.hexun.com/ please give more comments. Best wishes.