I Ching's Impact on

Chinese Business Mindset


yijing impact

The impact of I Ching (yijing) on the Chinese business mindset is far-reaching and all-encompassing.

Respect for order

Chinese are conscious about behaving in ways that befits their positions. For the same token, they expect people around them to respect them based on the positions they hold.

A CEO, therefore, must behave like a CEO, and be accorded with the respect and authority of a CEO.

This may involve something that appear to be 'insignificant' in the eyes of Westerners. For example, they are very particular about how they are introduced or addressed in public, as well as the seating arrangement around the dining table.

The probably has to do with the traditional belief on the importance of 'positioning', which is carefully considered in every hexagrams of yi jing.

According to yijing, man is an integral part of the universe. To maximize his existence, he must be aware of the position that he's in, and acts accordingly. Acting against his position would jeopardize the proper function of the ying yang relationship,and may lead him into a disadvantageous situation.

yijing qian

To illustrate, let's look at the Qian the Creative hexagram on the left.

This is the first hexagram in the book.

If we use it to interpret the hierarchy of a society, then going from the bottom up, the first and second lines refer to the people in general; third and forth the officials, and the fifth and sixth the ruler.

If an ordinary folk behaves as if he is a ruler, then he deviates from the proper positions. When this happens, the yin yang relationship is in jeopardy. Similarly, if a ruler behaves as if he is an ordinary folk, troubles arise.

This does not, however, mean that Chinese are rigid and would cling to pre-determined position refusing changes. On the contrary, while yijing points out the immutable laws of the universe, it encourages changes as and when necessary.

Fluid and Flexible

According to iching, nothing in this world is static.

In fact, the hallmark of the book is change, and this explains why it's also known as 'Book of Changes'. But the changes can take place effectively only by observing the unchangeable, including the immutable principles of universe.

If you are CEO of an organization, this is in a sense unchangeble, and you will have to act observing the position. This does not, however, mean that you cannot handle an issue by introducing changes. For example, you may get your subordinates to act on your behalf, thereby initiating changes while still observing your position of CEO.

Often, changes are carried out to alter the yinyang relationships. 

For Chinese, this is often done subtlely and unannounced, which can be difficult for people who’re unfamiliar with the culture to realize.

To illustrate how changes take place, let's look at the Qian the Creative hexagram again.

  yijing qian Qian yijing gou Gou

In the original hexagram, the first line is the bottom is yang. Based on the yingyang balance of this particular hexagram, the position that you are in is as if a dragon in the water. You should preferably remain dormant.

There are, however, occasion where actions will have to be taken despite the position. In this case, the yang in the first line may be changed and become yin. As a result, the hexagram is no longer Qian. The hexagram becomes Gou Encountering, as shown on the right.

In Gou, different actions are expected for the first line, as the yinyang relationship has altered. In this case, while you are anxious to meet someone, you must carry out the action with restraint. You must not see the person hastily.

Static yet fluid

From the example, you'd probably be able to appreciate the fact that while the Chinese culture respects orders, it can be equally fluid.


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