The Primary Way

Philosophy of Yijing

By Chung-ying Cheng
Foreword by Robert Cummings Neville

Subjects: Philosophy, Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Comparative Philosophy, Confucianism
Paperback : 9781438479286, 548 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438479279, 548 pages, September 2020

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Table of contents


1. Introducing the Yijing (易经): Six Stages of Development and Six Topics of the Yijing

2. Yijing as Creative Inception of Chinese Philosophy

3. Interpreting a Paradigm of Change in Chinese Philosophy

4. Inquiring into the Primary Model: Yijing and Chinese Ontological Hermeneutics

5. Philosophical Significance of Guan: From Guan (观) to Onto-Hermeneutical Unity of Methodology and Ontology

6. Yin-Yang (阴阳) Way of Onto-Cosmic Thinking and Philosophy of the Yi (易)

7. On Harmony as Transformation: Paradigms from the Yijing

8. Zhouyi (周易) and the Philosophy of Wei (Positions 位)

9. Li (理) and Qi (气) in the Yijing: A Reconsideration of Being and Nonbeing in Chinese Philosophy

10. On the Yijing as a Symbolic System of Integrated Communication

11. On Zhu Xi's Integration of Yili (义理) and Xianshu (象数) in the Study of the Yijing

12. On Timeliness (Shizhong 时中) in the Analects and the Yijing: An Inquiry into the Philosophical Relationship between Confucius and the Yijing

Chinese Glossary
English Key Terms
A Bibliography of the Yijing in Chinese
A Bibliography of the Yijing in Western Languages
Works Cited

A unique work on the underlying ontology, cosmology, and moral philosophy of the Yijing.


In The Primary Way, the distinguished scholar of Chinese philosophy Chung-ying Cheng synthesizes his lifetime of work on the Yijing, also known as the I Ching or Book of Changes. Cheng offers a systematic engagement with the classic Chinese text as a philosophy that is still valuable and relevant today. In contemporary philosophical terms, Cheng has developed the ontological hermeneutics of the Yijing as well as its philosophical methodology of symbolic reference in a holistic and onto-generative system of trigrams and hexagrams. The book is organized around eight themes that illuminate Cheng's interpretation of the Yijing as a philosophy for creative human action and transformation. He demonstrates how the philosophy of change in the Yijing embodies early Chinese ontology, cosmology, epistemology, and virtue ethics in the interpretation of divinatory judgments. Cheng's work shows how the philosophy of change contains a vision of humanity as creatively related to heaven and earth, and how it gives positive meaning to any change as part of a ceaseless creativity. With this understanding, it enables humanity to develop its potential as a partner of heaven and earth.

Chung-ying Cheng is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawai'i. His many books include New Dimensions of Confucian and Neo-Confucian Philosophy, also published by SUNY Press.


"This book will be an extremely valuable contribution to the Anglophone world's understanding of Chinese thought. Its riches are both philosophical and expository, and I believe it will find a lot of use in both undergraduate and graduate classrooms, since in addition to its philosophical synthesis it provides a fine introduction to the often baffling symbolic system and methodology of the text, as well as its history and its ambiguities. It is sinologically solid as well as accessible to educated readers from other disciplines who may wish to find out what the Yi is all about. I think this will be the go-to book on the topic for many years." — Brook Ziporyn, author of Beyond Oneness and Difference: Li and Coherence in Chinese Buddhist Thought and Its Antecedents