Top critical review
99 people found this helpful
on February 2, 2007
I started out with John Blofield's translation of the I Ching in 1979, but soon discovered the superiority of the Wilhelm/Baynes translation. I also acquired the 18th century James Legge translation. Since then I have added about ten other editions to my library, before making my own private translation a few years ago, checking out the Chinese wording by means of a dictionary and pondering on the reasons for the way the text has been variously translated. So satisfying was this little exercise in terms of establishing an individual understanding of the metaphoric guidance of this suggestive oracle, I have hardly even opened the last I Ching bought on Amazon, the intriguing but not very accessible one by Rudolf Ritsema...
As for the present title, I can only say it is almost as bad as the pretty derailed "poetic" interpretation by Kerson Huang from 1987! The rave reviews of this feeble and watered-out version only goes to show how the transmission of knowledge of the good seems to get blotted out every now and then, so that history may repeat itself with everyone groping for the way anew. As for the "official" review, printed on the book and restated above, about its superiority 'in almost every respect' to the older ones, I can only say: it is rather the other way around. It is inferior in almost every respect. At least compared with Richard Wilhelm's work, it does not stand a chance. It also lacks quite a bit of canonical material found in Wilhelm.
This so-called master says in the foreword he felt depressed by the Western translations upon arriving in the United States. As he freely admits to having had extensive help in polishing his English, I am not so sure he really got his reading of the "Western" versions right to begin with!
As I glanced at a few hexagrams before realizing this work represented a pretty shallow understanding of the material, I immediately noticed that it is rather the "master" himself who seems to be guilty of depressing readings of the original, for instance the last sentence of the commentary on the judgement to chapter 3, "Difficulty in the Beginning". Whereas the Wilhelm translation stresses the work to be done in a time of initial uncertainty, Huang actually says the work may, possibly, be of no avail! So who's reading is the more depressing?
Also, by leaving out the part about "difficulty" from the hexagram title, Huang actually weakens the meaning of this hexagram as it speaks of the problems this blade of grass (the little person) has in breaking through the soil to reach any standing in the external world, making his inconsistency all the more glaring.
So, as at least one other wide-awake reviewer has correctly noticed, this was just hype and not at all the best beginner's I Ching on the market, to say nothing about its claim of being the complete edition. The hardbound book looked nice though, if that is what you want for your bookshelf.
As a beginner's I Ching it is decent, you get familiarized with the hexagrams and so is worthy of 2 stars out of 5 (meaning "acceptable" but not really that good). But why would anyone want this volume, compared with Richard Wilhelm's German work so carefully rendered in English by Cary Baynes, Carl Jung's official translator?
This was just a "new translation" for the sake of bringing something new to the market, and so reminds me of Henry Wei's effort of the late 80s. That one was at least not falsely titled "complete" but restricted itself to the claim of being "the authentic" version. It came and went and did really nothing to advance the state of things since Whincup's altogether too literalistic translation made the most noise at that time.