One of the best ways to seek the meaning behind the words of translations is to compare several good ones. This can be particularly useful for texts as difficult to interpret as the Book of Changes and the Laozi, where there are several valid interpretations for laconic and difficult texts. For this reason, I encourage readers to consult these helpful works.
Other efforts to discern the earliest meanings, stripped of commentaries:
Zhouyi: the Book of Changes, a Bronze Age Document Translated with Introduction and Notes by Richard Rutt. (London, Routledge Curzon, 1996 and 2002)
Edward Shaughnessy, I Ching: The Classic of Changes, the First English Translation of the Newly Discovered Second-century B.C. Mawangdui Texts. (New York, Ballantine Books, 1996)
Translations and analysis based on post-Han commentaries:
Richard John Lynn, The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi. (New York, Columbia University Press, 1994)
Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes, The I Ching or Book of Changes. (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1950, 1967)
I have also recommended readings as the next steps in a variety of directions supporting a deeper understanding. In doing so, I have not tried to be exhaustive but to lead the reader towards sources that provide gateways to the many riches of Chinese history and thought.
Patricia Ebrey, Cambridge Illustrated History of China. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, First two chapters.
David Keightley, “Oracle Bone Inscriptions of the Late Shang Dynasty,” in Sources of Chinese Tradition, volume I, second edition. edited by William Theodore DeBary, Irene Bloom, et al. (New York, Columbia University Press, 1999), Pages 3-23.
For more examples of some types of early Chinese reasoning, from natural/human juxtapositions, experiential data, and reasoning based on both, see:
The Book of Songs (Shijing): The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry, translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley, edited with additional translations by Joseph R. Allen. (New York, Grove Press, 1996)
The Tso Chuan: Selections from China’s Oldest Narrative History, translated by Burton Watson. (New York, Columbia University Press, 1989)
Xunzi: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson. (New York, Columbia University Press 2003)
Recent secondary sources include:
Michael Nylan, The Five “Confucian” Classics. (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001)
Yuri Pines, Foundations of Confucian Thought: Intellectual Life During the Chunqiu Period, 722-453 B.C.E. (Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2002)
The Cambridge History of Ancient China, ed. Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999)
Yin/Yang: Scholarly perspectives:
Alison Harley Black, “Gender and Cosmology in Chinese Correlative Thinking,” in Gender and Religion: On the Complexity of Symbols, edited by Carolyn Walker Bynum, Stevan Harrel, and Paula Richman. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986)
Michael Nylan, “Yin-yang, five phases and qi“ in China’s Early Empires, Cambridge University Press, scheduled for publication December 2010
Lisa Ann Raphals, Sharing the Light: Representations of Women and Virtue in Early China (Albany, State University of New York Press, 1998)
Vitaly Rubin, “The Concepts of Wu-hsing and Yin-yang,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 9 (1982): 131–57