Zhouyi is a manual of oracles compiled in an archaic script during the Chinese Bronze Age (c. 2500 BC - c. 300 BC). As the language developed and the script was reformed, the original meaning of the oracles gave way to a new interpretation resulting in a book of wisdom. By the second century AD eight explanatory tractates, confusingly known as the 'Ten Wings', had been added to them. Thus, Zhouyi and the Ten Wings together came to be known as Yijing (or I Ching) - The Book of Changes - the most widely known of all the Chinese classics.
Countless commentaries written by later Confucian scholars generated a mist of philosophical subtlety around the oracles that the original compilers of Zhouyi could never have imagined. This is the view of the book that all previous western language translations have followed hitherto.
During the 20th century, however, historians and philologists, aided by advances in archaeology and linguistics, have striven to recover the original meaning of Zhouyi. Richard Rutt has drawn upon this work to make a new translation that conveys the modern understanding of the ancient oracles, showing how their rhymes and primitive omens deal with Bronze Age politics and warfare, even with barbaric triumphs at which large numbers of captives were sacrificed.
The book presents Zhouyi in the light of the historical culture that produced it, especially in relation to The Book of Odes. It contains sketches of Chinese Bronze Age culture and the divination process, an essay on the history of western translations of Yijing, as well as reflections on the various uses to which Yijing has been put. The appendix contains complete translations of all the Ten Wings - rendered in English rhyme for the first time. The book is intended to be of interest to those who do not read Chinese characters or read very few.