• Natasa Kostic Chinese Ancient Philosophy



“Zhou Yi”, “Yi Jing”, “The Change of Zhou”, “The Book of Change”, Cosmos, Concept of Time, Heavenly Time, Heavenly dao, Chance


This paper represents one chapter from my PhD dissertation, written and successfully defended at Beijing Normal University in 2012. The whole content is translated from my doctoral dissertation that was originally written in Chinese language. According to the existing references, the earliest Chinese philosopher who mentioned in his essays the word “cosmos – yuzhou” was Shi Jiao (390-330 BC).  He said: “four directions of Heaven and Earth are called ′yu′, time since ancient times till today is called ′zhou′”. In other words, yu represents space, while zhou symbolizes time, and that is why Chinese ancient cosmology may be even called “concept of space and time”. Inscriptions on the oracle bones and tortoiseshells with the symbols called “ganzhi”, originating from the Yin dynasty, were used to record hours, days, months and years i.e. time, but at the same time, Chinese people used these symbols to mark the directions of space, too. All of the cosmological diagrams used by “The Change of Zhou” and yijingologists, like Fuxi’s transcendental bagua diagram, king Wen’s empirical bagua diagram, river map and Luo book simultaneously depict time and space. In the eyes of the Chinese people, since ancient times, time and space are one whole and inseparable unity. However, being a foreigner, the writer of these lines will separately analyze the meaning of time in “The Book of Change”.

As a foreigner, I find that the greatest charm of Chinese characters is that every character holds the whole history and etymology of one word or term in it. In other words, the most prominent feature of Chinese characters is symbolism. Therefore, if we want to explore “the time” concept, we must start from the character 时- shi meaning “time”. Character shi is formed of one radical meaning “sun”, and another meaning “measure”. This shows that the meaning of character shi is “measuring the sun”, i.e. measuring the length of sun shadow. The shorter the sun shadow is, the weather is being warmer and the Yang energy gets more abundant. It explains that character shi depicts increasing and decreasing of Yin and Yang energy in the cosmos and on the Earth.

This paper analyzes time concept in “The Change of Zhou” from the Chinese and Western point of view. It explains meanings of Heavenly dao, Heavenly time, chance and synchronicity. The paper uses time theories (like simplicity of time, presentism, etc.) of German scientist Leibniz(1646 – 1716), and famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s(1875 - 1961) concepts (like cosmical archetypes and synchronicities), and compare them with ideas of “the cognition of  subtle”, “progress through change” and “capability to grasp the chance” in “The Change of Zhou”. Finally, it combines and summarises the concept of time from “The Change of Zhou” and Western point of view.


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How to Cite

COSMOLOGICAL CONCEPT OF TIME IN “THE CHANGE OF ZHOU” (“THE BOOL OF CHANGE”). (2024). Social Informatics Journal, 3(1), 55-64.

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