Global Yijing: The Making of Wilhelm/Baynes Translation

Project: Research

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Originally a divination manual in ancient China, the Yijing 易經 (Book of Changes) has been repeatedly translated into Western languages. Of these translations, only the joint translation by Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930) and Cary Baynes (1883-1977) has made a lasting impact upon Western society. Entitled The I Ching or Book of Changes, the Wilhelm/Baynes translation was first published in the United States in 1950 and then re-issued in the 1960s. At the height of the Vietnam War, it became an icon of the Counter-Culture Movement. To this day, it remains popular in the US and Europe. This research examines the complex process through which the Wilhelm/Baynes translation successfully transformed the Yiing into a “book of wisdom” for Western readers. The research will demonstrate that its success was due to cross-cultural collaborations: (1) the collaboration between Lao Naixuan 勞乃宣 (1843-1921) and Richard Wilhelm in the 1910s to translate the Yijing into German; (2) the collaboration between Richard Wilhelm and Carl Jung (1903-1955) in the 1920s to interpret Chinese divination from the perspective of analytical psychology; and (3) the collaboration between Hellmut Wilhelm (1905-1990, the son of Richard Wilhelm) and Cary Baynes (1883-1977) in the 1960s to render Richard Wilhelm's I Ging into the American I Ching. To highlight the transformative values of the American I Ching, this research focuses on Cary Baynes. Although not a sinologist by training (and hence often ignored by Yijing scholars), Cary Baynes grew up in a German-American family in Louisville, Kentucky and lived in Europe for a long time. After successfully translating several Carl Jung's works into English, she was appointed by Jung to translate Richard Wilhelm's I Ging. Based on archival research and oral interviews, this research will trace the steps by which she transformed the I Ging into the I Ching. Through careful textual analysis, this research will also assess her contributions as a cultural interpreter who, in translation, successfully combined three distinct cultural systems—the process cosmology of Chinese divination, the discovery of the unconscious of Jungian psychology, and the self-help genre of the American popular culture. When completed, the research will shed a new light on the globalization of the Yijing, showing the importance of a “fusion of horizons” between the foreign and the domestic, the global and the local. 


Project number9043091
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/10/201/07/21