What Does It Mean (to Me) to Be Taoist?

Since I made reference to some of these regions, below is an excerpted Appendix E from I Ching, The Oracle (North Atlantic Books, forthcoming 2023).

While the maps are not drawn to scale (I did them myself, by hand…) at least they help to give you a mental reference of where these kingdoms or states are located in geographical relation to one another.

Excerpt from Appendix E of I Ching, The Oracle (June, 2023):
Shang (1600 – 1045 BC) and Zhou (1046 – 256 BC)

Shang Dynasty 商 (1600 BC – 1046 BC)

In antiquity, the Shang was known as the Yin 殷. The Yin claim descendancy from a mythical blackbird 玄鳥. The crow as a totemic emblem of the Shang is explained in hexagram 5 [of the I Ching]. In 1250 BC, King Wu Ding designated Yin (later known as Anyang) as his capital.[1] Wu Ding is referenced directly in the third line of hexagram 63. Prior to that, the Shang capital was moved several times. When the Shang were overtaken by the Zhou, the capital was Chaoge 朝歌.

Zhou Dynasty 周 (1046 BC – 256 BC)

The Zhou was one of the longest reigning dynasties of Chinese history (789 years). The ruling family of the Zhou were the Ji 姬, who claim descendancy from the cultural hero Hou Ji, conceived when his mother stepped into a footprint of the god Shangdi. Initially Zhou’s capital was Haojing 鎬京 (also known as Zhongzhou 宗周),[2] but was later moved to Luoyang during the Eastern Zhou (770 – 255 BC).[3]

GUIFANG   |   鬼方

The Guifang are the people referenced in hexagrams 63 and 64, and were among the Beidi northern nomads that were often at war with the Shang and later the Zhou.

Guifang could also be a reference to the Xirong western warriors. Another theory is that the Guifang were the descendants of the Xiongnu,[4] a confederation of nomadic tribes indigenous to Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Manchuria, Xinjiang, Gansu, and southern Siberia. They may have also been the indigenous ancestors of the Uyghurs. They were located northwest of the Shang.

QIANG   |   

The Qiang were a people of Tibeto-Burman origin who were mainly shepherds and horse breeders. Interactions with the Qiang and their contributions were frequently referenced on Shang oracle bones. Clans of the Qiang occupied the Tibetan Plateau and claim ancestry from the Yellow Emperor. Qiang prisoners of war captured by the Shang were the skilled artisans who crafted the oracle bones.[5]

The Qiang consist of a confederation of diverse clans. Some used the sheep as their totemic symbol. The sheep was considered a psychopomp, whose spirit could lead the deceased safely to the underworld. Thus, at funeral ceremonies, a sheep would be sacrificed so that its spirit could accompany the loved one to the afterlife. Another major clan of the Qiang were known as the people of the White Wolf.[6]

CHU   |   荆楚

Chu, also known as Jingchu, is the state ruled by leaders who claimed ancestral lineage to the Ji 姬 clan (King Wen and the subsequent rulers of the Zhou). The Chu were a prominent confederation of clans during the time of Shang. They succeeded at annexing numerous fiefdoms and expanded their kingdom, able to coexist peacefully alongside the Shang and Zhou through political prowess.

One of the early totemic animal emblems of the Chu ruling family was the bear.[7] Later during the Zhou, the Chu were associated with the animal totem of the nine-headed phoenix 九鳳. (See Figure 9.1 from Chapter 9.)

WU   |   吳國

One of the early Yangtze River civilizations that rose concurrently with the Yellow River civilizations. The Wajin 倭人, an ethnic group in Japan who formed the Kingdom of Wa, are believed to be descendants from the ruling family of the Wu.[8]

During the Eastern Zhou period, Wu and Chu were rivals. The famous military strategist Sun Tzu was an advisor in the court of Wu. The Wu are renowned for metalwork, weaponry, and sharp acumen.

YUE   |   

King Goujian, who went to war with the kingdom of Wu, was from the kingdom of Yue. The state of Chu allied with Yue in their efforts to defeat Wu. The legend of Goujian is often used as a parable for explaining the fifth line of hexagram 30.

Current speculations connect the Yue with the Austronesians that migrated south into pre-Han Taiwan around 1500 to 1000 BC.[9] The Wu and Yue spoke a different language from the dominant Shang and Zhou, tattooed their bodies, and thus were often described as barbarians.

QI   |   

The state of Qi, located around present-day Shandong, was founded after the Zhou overthrew the Shang, and was ruled by Jiang Ziya 姜子牙, referenced in hexagram 44.

The Kingdom of Yi 夷 referenced in hexagrams 23, 25, 34, and 56 was absorbed into the state of Qi. Mount Tai, which in antiquity was believed to be an entrance or gateway to the underworld, is located in Qi.


Hexagram 36 tells the story of Jizi (kr. Gija). Pre-Qin Chinese records claim that Jizi 箕子, dissenting against Shang rule but refusing to submit to Zhou, became the founding ruler of Gija Joseon 기자 조선, the region that is presently North Korea.

However, no archaeological evidence of Gija Joseon have been found. Modern Korean scholars are generally critical of this Han Chinese theory for the origins of Korea.


Văn Lang was the legendary kingdom of Vietnam that lasted from 2800 to 258 BC.[10] Shang and Zhou dynasty references to southern tribes 南蠻 (nán mán) were likely in reference to the Văn Lang. Later the kingdom of Văn Lang and a neighboring kingdom of Thuc would merge to become Âu Lạc (257 – 180 BC).[11]

The name Âu Lạc is in reference to a goddess who took the form of a bird.[12] Note some of the overlap with the totemic emblem of the Lady of the Nine Heavens merged with the Mysterious Heavenly Bird of Destiny, referenced in hexagram 5.

By 179 BC, Âu Lạc became part of Nam Viet.[13]

[1] “商朝 [Historical Maps of the] Shang Dynasty,” 历史地图网 The Historical Map Network, accessed July 12, 2022, https://www.historical-map.com/mpcn/shangchao-1.html.

[2] “西周 [Historical Maps of the] Zhou Dynasty,” 历史地图网 The Historical Map Network, accessed July 12, 2022, https://www.historical-map.com/mpcn/xizhou-1.html.

[3] [(Historical maps of the) Zhou dynasty].

[4] Historian and scholar Wang Guowei 王國維 (1877 – 1927) is credited as being the first to propose this theory.

[5] Maotao Wen, “The Creation of the Qiang Ethnicity, its Relation to the Rme People and the Preservation of Rme Language” (master’s thesis, Duke University, 2005), 56 – 57.

[6] Anthony R. Walker, Merit and the Millennium: Routine and Crisis in the Ritual Lives of the Lahu People. (Delhi: Hindustan Publishing, 2003), 59, 754.

[7] “Xióng 熊 (‘bear’) was the totem and royal clan name of the ancient south central state of Chu (704–223 BC).” Shuheng Zhang, “Three Ancient Words for Bear,” Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 294 (November, 2019): 3.

[8] When the kingdoms of Wu and Yue fell during the Warring States period (403 – 222 BC), the ruling families fled to Japan. These ruling families were the descendants of a Xia king who founded the kingdom of Yue. Wai-ming Ng, Imagining China in Tokugawa Japan: Legends, Classics, and Historical Terms (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2019), 50 – 52.

[9] Ward Hunt Goodenough, ed. Prehistoric Settlement of the Pacific. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1996): 48. Thus, the Taiwanese are descendants from the kingdom of Yue.

[10] Nam C. Kim, “Sinicization and Barbarization: Ancient State Formation at the Southern Edge of Sinitic Civlization” in Imperial China and Its Southern Neighbors, Victor H. Mair and Liam C. Kelley, eds. (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2016). Kindle.

[11] Thich Nhat Hanh, Master Tang Hȏi: First Zen Teacher in Vietnam and China (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 2001), 2.

[12] Hanh, Master Tang Hȏi, 2.

[13] Hanh.

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