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ChinaGua Time

China's most ancient, and deeply imprinted, conceptions of time developed through divination. Beginning around 1400B.C.E., diviners at the Shang courts made auguries based on linelike cracks created by heating plastrons and bones, a practice that involved complex skills in recording and tracking time by means of astral, calendric, and proto-gua devices. Yi jing provided a way to examine individual and cosmic time frames, as well as the metaphysics of time. Its oldest textual layers (the gua line matrices and various divination formulas), which stemmed in some ways from the line cracking of the Shang era, date to 800–700 B.C.E.; the "Judgment" and "Images" commentaries date from about 500–350 B.C.E. Later commentaries ("Great Treatise" and "Words"; roughly 350–200B.C.E.) connected these time matrices with unifying metaphysical concepts. The "Judgment" and "Image" layers refer often to time (shi) in the sense of "timeliness within a development," or "season(s)." A strong metaphysical sense is found, for example, in the Judgment commentary's section on "Gen" (Yi jing hexagram no. 52): "Gen means stopping. When the timeliness [of this specific gua ] comes to a stop, then one stops; when it goes, then one goes." This is not about duration of motion or transitional states of being, but one's own "timeliness" in being part of the gua's field of influence.

The "Great Treatise" expanded the notional sense of time. Several words there, taken as a set, explicate "change" and, indirectly, "time": bian ("alternation," movement from state to state in a matrix); hua ("transformation" as growth, maturation, influence); tong ("projection, development," inferring an entire system from one of its aspects); fan ("reversion," a deduced return point, or node, in a cycle).

By about 100 B.C.E., the most concrete sense of time (qua timing) in Yi jing was the notion carried in the fourth term, fan: astronomic reversal and return of solstices and diurnal and sidereal cycles. But, like all other concepts of time and change, this Page showing the Yi jing system, from a Qing-era printing of the works of Jiao Xun. Conceived some three thousand years ago, the Yi jing is a sociocosmic system of lines with numeric values. The interactions of the lines were studied by the Chinese in order to predict the future. is analogized as yin-yang dualism; even in twelfth-century B.C.E. inscriptions, diviners had used the interplay of even and odd numbers in a gua and observed the way one gua reached out to a "changed" correspondent and functioned to bridge time in situations of prediction. During the Han dynasty, brilliant metaphysician-ritualists like Jing Fang and Yang Xiong worked to unify mathematics, musical theory, calendrics, and gua systematics. Beginning around 300 C.E., diviners increasingly used astral position timing and integrated various numerate techniques, spurring technical elaborations in personal astrology (death and important career-date predictions). The culture at large became attuned to the numerate and mechanized aspects of time as they sought to establish personal "timing."

Finally in the Yi jing system, "position" is a key component of time. The term wei refers not only to the situation surrounding a specific one of the six stacked lines of a gua but also to the line's interrelations. For example, a gua's wei at the second line, traditionally a time of deference in a career, takes cues from its concurrent, yet future, partner wei at line five (career apogee, or seat of power). Gua time developed around the social appropriateness of one's wei, how much help one received from all entities acting in the matrix (the wan-wu), and, hermetically, the correctness of one's own union with the gua system.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Thallophyta to ToxicologyTime - China - Gua Time, Manipulable Time And Social Time: Progress, Alchemy, Salvation, Metaphysical Time: Terms And Philosophies