Religion and Soul

The Wanderer and the I Ching

Ancient Chinese advice on how to travel.

The image of the Wanderer in the I Ching is formed from two images: fire above and mountain below. So imagine flames leaping around on a hillside, never lingering in any one place but moving on with a hunger to consume new fuel… sound like the restless spirit of the traveler to you?

The I Ching counsels the traveler thus:

The wanderer will know strange lands and separation but he must not be gruff nor overbearing. With few friends to hand he must not be arrogant. He must be careful and modest and thus he will be safe from harm. Generosity to others wins success.

And then we’re told:

A wanderer’s home is the road. So he must take care to be upright and honest so that he frequents only good places and good people.

Ancient wisdom or common sense?

It’s amazing how many travelers don’t realise they are guests in another country. Getting abusive with the taxi driver, accusing a shopkeeper of cheating, getting into fights in the street – when you don’t speak the language, are outnumbered by the locals and are in a country where rights only exist if you can afford them, then it’s well to behave. A little modesty and flexibility makes sure you avoid getting into trouble.

Equally, it’s easy to lose your moral stance on the road as you lose and find yourself by turns. You might never walk into a strip club back home but find a go-go bar less intimidating. You might smoke opium in Laos whereas you’d never touch drugs back home.

Maintain your character, the I Ching warns, it is of real value in these shifting times.

And a wanderer’s home is the road? – ok, it’s a free translation but it just goes to show that the rock and roll cliches were alive and well in ancient China.