The Copper-Nickel Alloy Oracle

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Suprahuman intelligence has from the beginning made use of three mediums of expression—men, animals, and plants, in each of which life pulsates in a different rhythm.  Chance came to be utilized as a fourth medium; the very absence of an immediate meaning in chance permitted a deeper meaning to come to expression in it.  The oracle was the outcome of this use of chance.  The (I Ching) is founded on the plant oracle as manipulated by men with mediumistic powers.  ~ Shuo Kua as translated by Richard Wilhelm

Plants.  The basis for almost all life starts with plant growth and photosynthesis.  True, it is the sun which provides this energy, but the sun’s energy cannot be utilized without this powerhouse, able to generate light rays into something that can be absorbed by other life forms.  From this process, we get our food and oxygen, neither of which we can do without.  In essence, we, as beings of light, cannot internalize and absorb the light that we need to maintain our physical bodies without the aid of these light-processing-machines.  It is, therefore fitting that the I Ching be founded on the plant oracle as this is most likely the most basic of the oracles.

I have always been fascinated by the idea that the I Ching uses the plant oracle.  Of course, I knew that yarrow stalks were used in ancient times to do divinations.  I just never saw the yarrow-stalk/plant-oracle connection until fairly recently, when I was reading through the Shuo Kua carefully, trying to discern a few puzzling oddities which I could not grasp fully.  For those who may not be familiar with the various wings (or commentaries) which were used to explain more fully, the form and function of the I Ching, the Shuo Kua is the eighth wing (out of ten).

I have done divinations using yarrow stalks, but let’s face it, I live in a jungle made up of concrete and silicon (Silicon Valley that is) and yarrow stalks are really hard to come by.  I tried for the longest time to at least maintain the traditions and use old Chinese coins to do divinations but even that fell by the wayside when I misplaced them due to a previous move where all my belongings got packed up and warehoused in a storage unit.  So what’s a girl to do if she needs to do a divination and cannot get her hands on either yarrow stalks or old Chinese coins?

Why…she uses brand new shiny American quarters, that’s what she does!!!

quarter

I admit, the first time I did it, I was a bit on the hesitant side.  I felt as if I was doing something that a pure Taoist would frown on.

And then I laughed.

Why would a pure Taoist care about such surface things?  Taoists go with the flow.  We swim with the dolphins and we swim with the sharks.  We bend with the ebb and flow of time.  Ancient Taoists used yarrow stalks because they grew everywhere and was easy to access.  If one didn’t have money (and most folks back then didn’t have much in the way of hard currency), yarrow stalks allowed for divinations to be done without much fuss.  They simply used what was handily available.  Later, when coins became more commonly utilized, it was simpler to use coins, so yarrow stalks began to fall out of favor.  Now that Taoists occupy the world over, the international scene makes it difficult for us to have, on-hand, a stash of old Chinese copper coins.

And besides, my stash of old Chinese coins are so old that the greenish black stuff rubs off on my hands.  They also smell funny, which brings to mind the thought that once the Taoists switched over to using old Chinese coins, would that now change the basis of the plant oracle into the Copper Oracle?  And if I use American quarters, would it then be considered the copper-nickel alloy Oracle?

If so, then what, pray tell, is the man or animal oracle, as indicated in the Shuo Kuo where it states that there are ‘three mediums of expression—men, animals, and plants’?  Does that mean we have to use animals or humans as a method of divination?  Do we throw an animal into the air and see if it lands on its back or its feet?  Better yet, do we throw a man in the air and see if he lands on his head or his feet?

Or does it mean something completely different?

Hmmmmmm…..

(…to be continued)

 

Chu Dynasty I Ching

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Yet another sojourn through space and time, into the vast distant reaches of the I Ching’s various interpretations and compilations.  I finally got a chance to crack open the two-volume Chu-Dịch written by Phan Bội Châu, which means The I Ching, during the era of the Chu Dynasty (周朝) Chou Ch’ao.

zhoumapThe two short words that make up the title of the book, Chu-Dịch, is deep in meaning.  The Chu (Chou) Dynasty lasted between 1122–256 BC within the modern-era region of central-northern China.  It was at this time that perhaps the most comprehensive I Ching was compiled and consolidated into the form that is used today.

There were many allusions to this feat, which I had found in other books, but never got the chance to read the entire compilation.  In the Tam Tự Kinh (Three-Word Book), there is written, Có Dịch nhà Chu bĩ bàng, Sáu mươi bốn quẻ để trang sách hào.  These complex words, shortened to six hanzi characters mean: There is a comprehensive I Ching compiled during the Chou Dynasty of the sixty-four hexagrams created during the golden illustrious eras long past. 

The Tam Tự Kinh is a wonderful book, deserving of its own titled page, but today, I am only going to utilize it as source material to discuss the Chu Dịch volumes.  With the Chu-Dịch, I come as close as possible to the least modern stages of the I Ching, meaning that I am no longer reading a modern-day I-Ching that was translated into English for me a mere 100 years ago.  I am digging into a I Ching that was compiled two-thousand years ago from much earlier texts.

It is clear that the compilers (for they have clearly stated that they are not the original authors of these works, merely the compilers) based their work on much more ancient texts written in an ancient language long since lost to modern scholars.  They compiled the work into their modern-day written language, Hanzi, of which I cannot read, but a family member from the same clan as myself, the ancient house of Phan, has done the translation from ancient Han to ancient Việt court language, which has moved little from its Nôm roots.  This means I gain an even more intimate understanding of the I Ching than I could just by reading the English version of the I Ching.  It also means I can compare and contrast Richard Wilhelm’s definitive translation and gain a fuller understanding of how and where the Eastern and Western mind meets.

As I have pointed out in various other postings, the ancient land of the Việt people existed in the far distant past from the southern areas of present-day Việt Nam to the south banks of the Sông Trường Giang (Yangtze River).Yangtze_River_Map

This means that the compilation was done during the time when the Chu Dynasty was making huge conquests southward, claiming areas that were previously Việt, and also claiming as spoils of victory, the Việt Kinh (I Ching) for the Chu Dynasty.

Already, the first chapter of the Chu-Dịch has stated that the three largest philosophies (and it is stated as philosophy, not religion) of the Orient (the Eastern World) were Buddhism, Taoism, and Vietism.

OK, so there is no such English word as the I-Chingism, so I had to make up a new word to take the place of it.  I think Vietism works because the translation for I-Ching is Việt Kinh.  The word I is a rough mispronunciation of the word Yi, or Yiet, or Yuet, or Việt.  The word Ching is Kinh which means either book or religious writing such as a bible or holy book.

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Now, before anyone tears into my new terminology and goes for my jugular, I will emphatically state that this has absolutely nothing to do with nationalism and everything to do with my attempt to be as close to ancient etymology as possible.

Vietism is no longer a word or a philosophy because it has been erased from history by around 43AD, after the defeat of the Trung Sisters, when most of the area between the Sông Trường Giang (Yangtze River) and the Sông Hồng (Red River) was lost to the Han Chinese to the north.

I am going to attempt to recreate this philosophy, and henceforth, this word.

(…to be continued)

Gentlemen’s Philosophy

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Sometimes, it’s not easy being a Tao Babe.  In fact, more often than not, it feels as if I am basically alone in a sea of humanity, all moving in one direction, all looking at one shining object in the distance.  There I am, standing still and breaking the flow of the movement, feeling singular, insulated.

I look around at all the people passing by and I think to myself, it would be so simple just to join the rest of the crowd and be like everyone else.  Go with the flow.  Join the parade.  After all, being like water means we should join in with all of life and everyone around us, yes?

Assimilate.  Imitate.  Duplicate.

Of course.

Silly me.

old sageAnd here I thought, being a Taoist was a life-long learning experience so that I could eventually turn into a sage.

<==  Like him.

Well, since I really don’t have a huge desire to look like him, I’ve been sort of reluctant to go through the accepted standard route of sage-cultivation, namely finding myself a sagely-looking sage and then spending all the time I could, learning from that one sage.

I figured I could learn Taoism on my own, discover my own path, be my own woman, and approach it on my own terms.

Why not?  We live in the age of information.  I might as well take advantage of the fact that we live in an extremely unique point in history where I could Google to find most things, and if Google couldn’t find what I needed, it could locate names of books for me which I could buy right off the internet.  I could then read all about it and discern for myself what I thought was the most relevant path for me to go.

Well that was what I did for several years.

I bought stacks and stacks of books about Taoism.  I read everything I could get my hands on that talked about the subject.  What I could not locate in English, I found in Vietnamese.  I dug and cross-checked and compared translations of the same books.  I took the various scattered ancient passages and reorganized them so that they made more sense to me.

Of the material that I found to be relevant, I read through some of the same passages over and over and over as I was trying to make sense of them.  I did this so many times that I actually memorized many of them.

Then, to increase my understanding of how others within the Taoist community thought about the matter, I tried to join Taoist conversational forums and the likes.

Oi…

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I knew I was at a serious disadvantage.  First of all, I really didn’t have any formal Taoist training.  Aside from the numerous translated works and a few deep and philosophical conversations with my spiritual brother, Derek Lin, I was on my own.

Also, most of the profound Taoists who were wandering in and out of those forums had been Taoists for decades, some had been Taoists all their lives.  I had only been at it for a few years.  I knew I lacked understanding of traditional Taoism, but I felt that I knew enough to hold my own in conversations regarding Taoism.  This did not seem to be the case.

Even though I took care to never pull anything out of thin air, some of those contacts did not end well.   I was constantly accused of making things up.  I tried to shore up my thoughts by drawing upon written documentation as much as I could.  I was quoting from classic Taoist and I Ching books, but I was told that my sources were either mythical in origin or flat out incorrect.  When I asked for the sources with which the other side was basing their arguments on, I was told that it did not come from written sources, only that which had to be observed from nature.

I was stumped.

So nature it had to be.  Since I couldn’t base my arguments on ancient Taoist texts, I went over to the scientific writings I had, which incorporated a combination of physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and mathematics.  Surely they would hold firm enough to maintain my foothold on such a slippery slope.  This did not turn out well either as I was then accused of being a New Age fool.

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It only took me a short while before I realized that I did not want to be a part of that community either.

So now that my particular brand of Taoism had turned into a one-woman show, I thought to myself, what the hell, I might as well go all out.  Forget trying to figure out what Taoism was suppose to be—I was going to forge a path and do something different.  Only…I was already doing this path forging without realizing I was doing it.

You see, because I didn’t have a perfect and straight path to follow, I accidentally ran into that strange situation where I was meandering all over the place.  I had been taking the I Ching teachings and mixing it in with the teachings of Lao Tzu.  I had inadvertently fused the two together, and in the process, I had done something which alienated the Taoists I was in contact with.   I was quoting material that wasn’t even within the scope of their daily Taoist conventionality.

I had tainted Taoism with material from the I Ching.  But I knew that there was a thread which ran through both philosophies and I was not going to sever that thread.  This was where the magic occurred, and this was how it happened.

Within a matter of weeks after I was introduced to Taoism, I discovered the magic of the I Ching.  The reason why I say it is magic is because the I Ching actually interacts with me.  It is not just a one-sided conversation where I can only receive information but cannot respond or interact with it.  The I Ching actually talks back.  It is the teacher, and I, the student, can ask it questions and it will respond in a very intelligent manner.

This is different when it comes to the Tao Te Ching.  As much as I study from the Tao Te Ching, there cannot be an interactive communication from a written text.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Books are, by their very nature, a one-sided conversation.  I was simply grabbing all the information that was available at my fingertips.  I wanted to know as much as I could about the subject matter, so I took in everything.

In my blog, I talk about the I Ching and the Tao Te Ching interchangeably, as though they are one and the same entity.  After all, they both talk about the yin and the yang.  They both talked about Heaven and Earth.  They were both philosophies of life that seemed to be steeped in the same cup of warm jasmine tea.  They seemed to be cut out of the same cloth.

But the truth is, there is a difference between the two.

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The difference between Taoism and I Ching is that one was the precursor of the other.  The I Ching is old—so old that most people have no clue where it came from.  There is a span of over two-thousand years between me and Lao Tzu, and there was a span of at least two thousand years (if not far far more) between Lao Tzu and the I Ching.

Think about that.  The sages who wrote the I Ching are just as ancient to Lao Tzu as he is to me today.  Lao Tzu gathered the knowledge of the I Ching and then created a philosophy which would be applicable to the royalty who had to run an entire kingdom.  After a certain amount of time, this philosophy became Taoism.

The I Ching, which everyone thinks is just a fortune-telling device, is actually a teacher of philosophy.  The philosophy of the I Ching is not solely for the purpose of running a country or a region.  It is more generalized, and in its generalized nature, it allows for a broader, more liberal interpretation.  It is less regal, more common—common in the sense that it could be used by the common people of society who were not of royal blood.

My people certainly knew about the I Ching philosophy.  They called it Đạo Kinh Dịch (I Ching philosophy) but they also know of it as Đạo Của Người Quân Tử (The Gentlemen’s Philosophy).

Well, I thought that was rather elitist and sexist.  Does that mean women aren’t allowed to partake in philosophical discourse?  Does that mean there is a separate Gentlewomen’s Philosophy?  And if there was such a Philosophy, what would it be?

Why…it would be called Taobabeism, that’s what it would be called.  It would be a combination of the I Ching philosophy and present-day Taoism based from the Tao Te Ching, and it would be specifically tailored for women, to nurture women, and to develop sages that don’t look like that old man with white hair depicted above.

The modern-day sage of Taobabeism would look like this:

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I Ching Sphere (Part 7): Putting It All Together

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(…continued from I Ching Sphere (Part 6): Levels 4, 5, 6)

Slicing up an entity, no matter the size, will always result in a distorted image of said entity.  There is no way to represent it as it is, when it exists in small bits and pieces of itself.  I sliced up the I Ching so that I could show the mathematical formula for the representation of the I Ching in its basic form and the slices look like this.

complete sphere med

This is the 2D representation of the I Ching in slices.  Of course, we are only doing this as a thought experiment.  We want the I Ching to be formed in the way that it should be so we need to put it all back together.

When it is in one piece (more or less), we get a 3D-looking representation.  It looks like this:

iching14

But even this does not quite do it justice because it is still just a 2D representation of a 3D model.  So I have to find something that looks more like this:

atom

Unfortunately, even this 2D representation of a 3D structure falls short because as I previously mentioned, it is not a 3D structure.  It is a 6D structure.  Since I can’t represent six dimensions on a two-dimensional surface, all I can do is give you a picture of one portion of one side of the entity.

This is like viewing a small section of an elephant butt and trying to visualize the elephant.

elephantcombo

It can’t be done.

We open up our shutter lens as far as we can and we see the wrinkled skin of the elephant, with a small swishing portion of a tail.  All of a sudden, we get whacked on the head by a trunk, but we don’t see the tail moving so we think it’s a ‘trunk god’ hitting us over the head.  In reality, it is the trunk that belongs to the elephant whose tail we are scrutinizing that hit us because we have gotten too close for his comfort.

Einstein calls it the “spooky action at a distance” aka ‘entanglement’.

uncertainty

That is why Lao Tzu said that the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.  We can’t truly describe an entity that is more than 3D (well, we could, but only mathematically, and even then…) so anything that we can draw or form in our physical 3D world would only be a tiny aspect of the whole.

Add to this the added complication of movement and we are screwed.  You see, just as nothing stands still, neither does the I Ching.  It is constantly moving through space and time, so it is not spinning like a dinner plate on the table.  It is not even spinning like a marble on the table.  It is actually flying through space, so the movement will be a vortex movement more like this:

VortexAnimation

This is a little closer, but in showing the motion, I lost the detail.  See what a bitch this is to represent?  Let me get back into to the detail.

This is a bit more like it.  Keep in mind that in this diagram, I only show two iterations of what should be continuous and endless:

Wavenest

The I Ching looks like the yinyang or taichi symbol at a standstill, but when it is moving through space, it is basically a moving wavenest, an infinitely vibration that is emanating centrifugally and centripetally from a center which,  when reaching the limit of the field, it reverses polarity and returns to the source.

In one of my previous post, As Above, So Below, I stated that the I Ching is a fractal, as described by all the various cool dudes of philosophy, including that hella sexy Ningishzida when he wrote in his green tablet, ‘The formation of the microcosm is in accordance with the formation of the macrocosm’.  This means that it not only does the I Ching’s formations work at the tiny nanoscopic level, it also works on a big scale.  How big you say?  Let me ask you this.

How big you wanna go?

In an effort to capture an image of this formation in the physical world on a macro scale, scientists have managed to provide us this image of the 6DF Galaxy Survey:

6dF Zoom IPS

This is the entirety of it.

DR2_6dFGS_view1_disp

Remember, each dot is NOT a sun.  Each dot is a GALAXY.

dot galaxy

Ugh!

My head aches.  Time for a coffee break.  I’ll see you guys in my next post.

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Yi Globe. Jozsef Drasny.  Budapest. 2007

The Teikemeier/Drasny Sphere.  Dr Andreas Schöter. 2012

6DF Galaxy Survey

Nôm Na Là Cha Mách Qué

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Hey you!  Nôm na là cha mách qué!

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Say what???

Whatever dude.  Your Momma too.   Dumb ass.

I would have this attitude because this sooo sounds like such an insult.  This sentence cannot be said without it sounding like an insult.  Nobody knows why.  At least, nobody in the modern world knows why.

Well, I do—now.

Back in the old days, (and I mean really old—like a thousand years ago—old), this was an insult to those who used Chữ Nôm to write anything with.  (I detailed Chữ Nôm in my previous post so go back and read that if you are not clear on this aspect of the post).  The sentence, when uttered and hurled at someone meant that the person being insulted was an ignorant uneducated commoner, unable to comprehend that which exists at higher levels, written with elevated, respectable Han Chinese.

Pfffft.

The commoners could care less.  They rather enjoyed it and actually proliferated the idea and endorsed that saying until it saturated all corners of Vietnam.  The saying continued forth through the years, unchanged in meaning, deriding and jeering the commoner and his usage of street language (as opposed to court language).  It still survives to this day and used in the same derisive manner.

I tell you…

Most folks have no clue as to its original meaning.  If they only knew the truth, they would…

 

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…they would smile and continue to proliferated the idea so that it would remain intact for future generations, that’s what they would do.  You see, it is a huge clue that has been left to be transmitted down to future generations during a time when the written knowledge of this was banned on fear of death and persecution.

kingThis was evident in the retelling that was detailed in a history book called Tiêu Sơn Tráng Sĩ, written by Khái Hưng, about the reign of King Quang Trung, aka King Nguyễn Huệ (阮惠) which lasted from 1788 to 1792 (more about this important king in future postings).

In a short passage, there was described, a scene where a visiting dignitary who was dispatched by the Emperor of China from the north to check on the compliance of Han Chinese decrees by the kingdoms in the south, cried out in horror:  “Ignorant!  All of you are ignorant!  From King to Courtiers, you are all ignorant!”

He was, of course, talking about the fact that King Quang Trung was using Chữ Nôm to write his kingly decrees, instead of using the more elite and advanced Hanzi as required by the Emperor from China.

Indeed, the truth of the matter was, King Quang Trung had previously insisted to his subjects that all decrees written in his kingdom, courtly or not, HAD TO BE WRITTEN in Chữ Nôm, and it had nothing to do with whether he knew Hanzi or not.  As I have previously stated, those who were part of the court HAD TO LEARN HANZI because that was the language of the courts.

In fact, because he lived most of his life within the royal palace, King Quang Trung probably knew Hanzi better than he knew Chữ Nôm, and most likely, he knew it far better than the visiting dignitary, who could not have been educated in the manner that princes and kings were.  The only reason for King Quang Trung’s decree was because he wanted the Vietnamese to use the language of the south that had been cobbled together by the southerners (the Vietnamese) for the southerners to use.

This language, though not the original Văn Khoa Đầu, was at least NOT the language of the overlords from the north.  Furthermore, it was not illegal to use and would not cause the wrath of the northern Han Chinese to rain down upon the common subjects.  Most importantly, it allowed King Quang Trung to NOT have to honor the language of his enemy by using it.

I don’t know about you, but if it was good enough for my king, it’s good enough for me!

So, to answer the question about what the heck Nôm na là cha mách qué means, I’m sure you must have figured out by now that the first word has to have something to do with Chữ Nôm, and you would be absolutely correct!

Here is the breakdown:

1)  Nôm is Nam in modern-day Vietnamese, as in Việt Nam or Nam Script as used in this context.

2)  Na is na ná, which means ‘similar to’ or ‘akin’, as used in the context of this sentence.

3)   is the verb ‘to be’.  In the present tense, it means ‘is’

3)  Cha is father or teacher; in this context, it means teacher.

4)  Mách is to teach or to instruct.

5)  Qué is quẻ in modern-day Vietnamese and means gua, as in bagua, or the combined eight trigrams.

Put it all together and what do we get?

Nam Script is akin to the teacher of the hexagrams.

And once again, in cleverly hidden messages, in mythology, in stories told to children, in nursery rhymes, even in derisive quotations, my ancient ancestors have tried with everything they had to transfer tiny nuggets of truth down the ages to us so that one day, we can gather them all up and smelt them down to isolate the pure gold from the impurities.  The resulting truths shine like the brightest golden treasures—treasures that my ancestors have fought to preserve so that one day I could recover them and claim my birthright.

Their message is clear.  Learn Chữ Nôm and I would be able to learn the I Ching at the most basic levels.  I would be able to read the I Ching in its most basic form, as it was written so long ago, and as it was written at the time Lao Tzu and Confucius was reading it.  In a sense, we would be contemporaries because we would be reading the exact same text.  I would no longer have to rely on translations of the translations which had been translated from the original texts.

Thank you, ancestors.  Thank you so very much.

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What Do the Words I-Ching Mean?

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There is a famous and ancient saying in my language:  Sau cơn mưa trời lại sáng.  This is translated as:  After the rain, the sun shines again.  Here I am, with my little umbrella, making sure that the sun is truly shining on me before I venture forth and remove that umbrella.  It’s not much protection against a typhoon, but at this time in history, this tiny little sprinkling of mist is no big deal.  I think that the sun is actually starting to shine again so I can now remove my little umbrella.

Certainly, when it comes to the extremely long history of my people, we’ve been drenched in one typhoon or another of the bloody kind for the past four-thousand years or so.  It’s been a deadly four-thousand years, let me tell you.  Those were the days when, to speak out loud about the thoughts in one’s head usually resulted in said head being systematically and openly perched on a pike for the world to see.  Twenty centuries ago, the truth had to be buried underground or face being burned and melted and hacked to bits, in hopes that it could be preserved so that one day, it could reveal itself in its basic simple truth.

It is now the twenty-first century.  As humanity moves forward into a more civilized situation, the truth is finally being uncovered.  The sun is now shining on the world with a light that is bright enough to reveal the depths and breadths of that which has been lost.

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I bought a front-row seat to the unveiling.  It is mostly written in Vietnamese, so I am transcribing the words as I am seeing them in front of me.  The words may not be as flowing as they could be (for a writer), but they are as clear as I can translate them and still retain the original meaning, as was originally written by the people who wrote the words.  This should not be difficult.  I am only translating two words.

I Ching

The words I Ching currently means Book of Changes.  At least, that is what we think it means, as told to us by those who don’t know where the origins of the I Ching began.  But that is not what it was originally.

I am going to parse out the two words so that it will be clearer and easier to understand.

The word Ching, in my language, is Kinh.  Kinh means ‘Book’ or ‘Collection of Writings’ or ‘holy scripture’, depending on how it is used in context with other words.  That”s simple enough.  It is the noun of the two words.  It describes a concrete item, something that has mass and can be picked up and looked at, turned around in our hands and touched.

The word I was a phonetic spelling of what later-day scholars changed to Yi.  I have been keeping it as Isimply for expediency and to remain constant to keep my thoughts as clear as I can without getting bogged down into the details.

Yi was a Han Chinese mispronunciation of Diệc (the D is pronounced as a Y in franco-phonetic transcription) which, after a few thousand years of constant usage, became Việt.  Remember, these words were not written in Romanized alphabets.  It was represented as a hieroglyphic phonetic symbol.

The Diệc Kinh, or Viet Kinh, is literally translated as the Viet Book, aka the I Ching.

As I am translating all of this, another saying pops into my head:  There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.  ~  Anon.

That is quite true, and for thousands of years, the ones who originated the I Ching have done a tremendous amount of good for so many people around the world without asking for any recognition of any form.  However, I think it is time for the credit to be returned to the originator of the deed.

It is time.