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The Humanities Conference 2003

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The Yijing (Classic of Changes) in Comparative Perspective: The Value of Cross-Cultural Investigations

Richard J. Smith.

The main focus of this paper is a comparison of the Yijing (Classic of Changes) with the Torah, the Bible, the Qu'ran and the Hindu Vedas. Although these works clearly differ in many significant ways, their common denominator is the remarkably similar way they "evolved" with the help of various commentaries--some of which eventually acquired canonical status themselves.The diversity of both "basic texts" and "supplementary" materials in each case created difficulties for later commentators, who felt obligated to maintain that the classics were cohesive, coherent and consistent. For commentators on the Torah, the Bible, the Qu'ran and the Hindu Vedas the urge to reconcile contradictory passages proceeded primarily from theological and/or legal motives, but in the case of the Yijing, neither law nor theology mattered much. Nonetheless, Chinese commentators strove mightily to show a fundamental unity in the multi-layered text.


Richard J. Smith  (United States)
George and Nancy Rupp Professor of Humanities, Professor of History, Director of Asian Studies, and Director of Asian and Global Outreach
Department of History
Rice University

  • Yijing
  • Great texts
  • Canon formation and exegesis
  • Ethics and aesthetics
  • Race, class and gender
  • Science and religion

(30 min Conference Paper, English)