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The "I Ching": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  34 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 25th 2012 by Princeton University Press (first published March 5th 2012)
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Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yijing
Professor Smith is wildly intelligent. This book is the simplified version of his "Fathoming the Cosmos and Ordering the Universe," representing the 5,000 year history of the Yijing. In this book, like in his longer version, Smith gives short biographies, summarizes whole schools of thought, covers, briefly, the political developments and intellectual culture of China, all in a brief and understandable way.

I really enjoyed this book because it's intensely understandable, and not overly dense. I
Grady McCallie
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Part of a series of biographies of famous texts, this book offers a rich entry-point into study of the history of the I Ching, the Book of Changes. However, it includes so many names - of versions of the the text, of other books, of commentators across two millennia - that I found it impossible as a lay reader to retain much. Perhaps someone with a deeper background in Chinese philosophy or intellectual history would find this a helpful summary. For a reader like me, it will function as a gatewa ...more
Craig Werner
Despite its title and place in a series of short books introducing religious classics, this book is best suited for readers already familiar with the I Ching, or as he transcribes it in the text but not title Yijing. Smith provides lucid overviews of the difference between the most influential Chinese schools of interpretation (focusing on "images and numbers" on the one hand, "principles and meanings" on the other) and traces the book's spread from China through East Asia (Japan, Vietnam, Korea ...more
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is part of a series exploring the origins, influences, and changing interpretations of Great Religious Books. The I Ching is, as the author states, more philosophical than strictly religious; yet, its spiritual influences are vast and continuous, on a parallel with works such as the Bible and the Koran.

About half of the text is pretty scholarly. I skimmed those parts, but managed to learn a lot about not only Chinese history, but the hold its classical Confucian thought and culture has
Edward III
In this "biography" of the I Ching, Smith traces out the book's history and influence, while providing an overview of its content and issues of interpretation, as well as of its many English translations. This book includes a large number of footnotes and annotations, and an extensive bibliography. The author clearly knows a great deal about his subject, and is not afraid to criticize the Wilhelm translation--one which your garden-variety I Ching expositor tends to praise uncritically. That said ...more
Margaret Sankey
Part of an excellent short series on the histories of major religious texts, Smith investigates the creation and two thousand year cultural effect of the I Ching, including the many times it has influenced Chinese history, the larger cultural, aesthetic and political region of East Asia and its second life as a Western Counter-Cultural document.
Nicholas Hudson
May 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hawaii
The three stars are due not to his writing or scholarship, which is excellent, but simply because while the book is a wonderful introduction to the Yijing and the various uses and interpretations it has had and still does have, it is nonetheless still an introduction.
William Wang
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Richard J. Smith is Professor of History and Director of Asian Studies at Rice University, Houston, Texas.
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Other Books in the Series

Lives of Great Religious Books (7 books)
  • The Book of Mormon: A Biography
  • Augustine's "Confessions": A Biography
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Letters and Papers from Prison": A Biography
  • "The Tibetan Book of the Dead": A Biography
  • The Book of Genesis: A Biography
  • The "Dead Sea Scrolls": A Biography