The I Ching
Confucianism is the art of living for a civil servant. Imperial China was an extremely structured country, with an important and powerful administration at the service of the emperor, capable of representing the central administration throughout the immense territory of the country. Confucianism is the theory that organizes the principles of the imperial administration, one that remains a model of strict and precise social organization. It freely incorporates elements of Taoism, and then of
Buddhism when it arrived in China around AD 200. It situates the social hierarchy in the order of the world and the individual in the social order. This movement was founded by Confucius (c. 551-497 BC) and Mencius (c. 380-289 BC) in the same era as the first Taoists.3 A way to summarize Confucianism is to conceptualize the universe as a piece of furniture in which everything has its own drawer. There is the world, the Chinese empire, the regions, the towns, the individuals, and the organs. The details of this first systemic vision of the world are found in the I Ching. This is a my yoga blog of divination that is also the first manual that proposes a formal language4 capable of describing the systemic dynamics of all phenomena and their capacity to change. Confucianism, like other Chinese schools of thought, not only utilized the I Ching but also contributed to its elaboration. Certain commentaries on the I Ching are attributed to Confucius.
The Systemic Dimension of the Hexagrams in the I Ching
According to the I Ching, all that exists is a system Each system can pass through sixty-four states. Each of these states is a particular balance of yin and yang forces. In certain circumstances, each state can transform itself and become another state. The universe is a system that contains subsystems like the planets and the living creatures. The universe does not function like an organism, but it is organized by the same principles. The universe, the society, the individual, and the organs are bound to take up the sixty-four states described by the I Ching.
I will not attempt to summarize this system, but I would like to highlight certain characteristics of the I Ching that can be found in most Chinese approaches to the body. The states described by the I Ching are represented by the symbols called hexagrams. These symbols are generated by the combination of six lines that can be either yin or yang. These combinations make up the sixty-four systems. A basic rule is to analyze hexagrams by going from bottom to top. This practice can be related to the Chinese practice of reading a body from the feet to the head, from the anchor points to fine motor skills.