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“The Book of Changes Is a Book of Divination, Not Philosophy”

“The Book of Changes Is a Book of Divination, Not Philosophy”

Posted March. 31, 2007 07:03,   


Baduk player, Ph.D in politics, and author Mun Yong-jik has had a colorful career history.

It must not have been easy even to do one of them, but his tendency “to always go for different interests” led him to be into this and that. But he said he sticks to something until the end as long as he concentrates on it. No wonder his doctoral degree in politics (at Seoul National University) and career as a baduk player, the Oriental board-game known as go (He is a five-dan or 5th level. For your reference, Korea’s number one player Yun Jun-sang is a five-dan too) truly proves he is not lying.

He has now turned his passion toward “The Book of Changes,” or the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination manual and book of wisdom. He concluded after studying it for seven years that “it is not a great philosophy book but a mere fortune-telling book.” That would cause a great backlash against classical scholars of the book, but he said, “Scholars have attached significance to a mere fortune-telling book.”

The part Mun underlines is a set of predictions represented by a set of 64 abstract line arrangements called hexagrams that are but numbers. He said, “Some recently discovered Bronze Age relics reveal that mere numbers were used. It is the hexagrams that show the simplified version of such numbers. But attaching philosophy and significance to it is a true distortion.”

Hexagrams are, according to him, mere signboards indicating a set of predictions just like dice in a game.

However, it is a statistical analysis based on the hundreds of prediction records of officials involved in fortune telling during the Yin and Zhou dynasties. So the efficacy of the “divination” is recognizable because “life issues that involve ups and downs are the same for both ancient and modern people.”

He said he sometimes goes through the book for divination but shook his head when asked, “Do you do so before your baduk game?” He said, “I am not interested in knowing what will happen in the future. I refer to it just to find the best way when I face challenges and obstacles.”

Are the Book of Changes and baduk related? “No,” he bluntly said, adding, “Some relate the yin and yang in the Book of Changes to the black and white in baduk. Then, wouldn’t they also relate the 24-hour day and night to baduk?” His interest is in the “truth” based on which the world goes around.

He concluded, “Human beings have no reason to understand what has been made by other human beings. People cannot properly grasp the Book of Changes as they are overwhelmed by past sages.” To a comment that he “seems to have an unyielding spirit,” he said, “You tend to be a conservative having studied politics,” introducing himself as “an acknowledged conservative.”