The Elemental Changes

The Ancient Chinese Companion to the I Ching. The T'ai Hsüan Ching of Master Yang Hsiung Text and Commentaries translated by Michael Nylan

By Michael Nylan

Subjects: Mysticism
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791416280, 391 pages, January 1994

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Method of Divination

Translation of the Mystery

List of Tetragrams

Tetragram 1: Center

Tetragram 2: Full Circle

Tetragram 3: Mired

Tetragram 4: Barrier

Tetragram 5: Keeping Small

Tetragram 6: Contrariety

Tetragram 7: Ascent

Tetragram 8: Opposition

Tetragram 9: Branching Out

Tetragram 10: Defectiveness or Distortion

Tetragram 11: Divergence

Tetragram 12: Youthfulness

Tetragram 13: Increase

Tetragram 14: Penetration

Tetragram 15: Reach

Tetragram 16: Contact

Tetragram 17: Holding Back

Tetragram 18: Waiting

Tetragram 19: Following

Tetragram 20: Advance

Tetragram 21: Release

Tetragram 22: Resistance

Tetragram 23: Ease

Tetragram 24: Joy

Tetragram 25: Contention

Tetragram 26: Endeavor

Tetragram 27: Duties

Tetragram 28: Change

Tetragram 29: Decisiveness

Tetragram 30: Bold Resolution

Tetragram 31: Packing

Tetragram 32: Legion

Tetragram 33: Closeness

Tetragram 34: Kinship

Tetragram 35: Gathering

Tetragram 36: Strength

Tetragram 37: Purity

Tetragram 38: Fullness

Tetragram 39: Residence

Tetragram 40: Law or Model

Tetragram 41: Response

Tetragram 42: Going to Meet

Tetragram 43: Encounters

Tetragram 44: Stove

Tetragram 45: Greatness

Tetragram 46: Enlargement

Tetragram 47: Pattern

Tetragram 48: Ritual

Tetragram 49: Flight

Tetragram 50: Vastness/Wasting

Tetragram 51: Constancy

Tetragram 52: Measure

Tetragram 53: Eternity

Tetragram 54: Unity

Tetragram 55: Diminishment

Tetragram 56: Closed Mouth

Tetragram 57: Guardedness

Tetragram 58: Gathering In

Tetragram 59: Massing

Tetragram 60: Accumulation

Tetragram 61: Embellishment

Tetragram 62: Doubt

Tetragram 63: Watch

Tetragram 64: Sinking

Tetragram 65: Inner

Tetragram 66: Departure

Tetragram 67: Darkening

Tetragram 68: Dimming

Tetragram 69: Exhaustion

Tetragram 70: Severance

Tetragram 71: Stoppage

Tetragram 72: Hardness

Tetragram 73: Completion

Tetragram 74: Closure

Tetragram 75: Failure

Tetragram 76: Aggravation

Tetragram 77: Compliance

Tetragram 78: On the Verge

Tetragram 79: Difficulties

Tetragram 80: Laboring

Tetragram 81: Fostering

Leap Year Differentials

Autocommentaries to the Mystery

Polar Oppositions of the Mystery

Interplay of Opposites in the Mystery

Evolution of the Mystery

Illumination of the Mystery

Numbers of the Mystery

Elaboration of the Mystery

Representations of the Mystery

Diagram of the Mystery

Revelation of the Mystery



Composed in 2 B. C., as "The I Ching revised and enlarged," The Elemental Changes is a divination manual providing a clear method for distinguishing alternative courses of action. Structured in 81 tetragrams ( as opposed to the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching), the book offers much to the modern reader. Today in the West, The Elemental Changes is an essential tool for understanding the Tao as it operates in the Cosmos, in the minds of sages, and in sacred texts. It is also one of the great philosophical poems in world literature, assessing the rival claims on human attention of fame, physical immortality, wealth, and power while it situates human endeavor within the larger framework of cosmic energies.

The complete text of The Elemental Changes and its ten autocommentaries are here translated into accessible and, whenever possible, literal English. Following the Chinese tradition, supplementary comments are appended to each tetragram in order to indicate the main lines of interpretation suggested by earlier commentators.


"In a time like ours, during which life is once again in danger of becoming lost in the maze of rational orders and worldly institutions, Yang Hsiung deserves renewed attention. Yang was not only the ideological strategist, he was also philosopher and poet. And he clothed his teaching of human orders in a well-planned systematic work, in which he projects the system and the insights of the Book of Changes onto his era. "—Hellmut Wilhelm