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.

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