I Ching

By Steve Jones

What is the I Ching?
Fundamentally the I Ching is just a book, albeit a very old, very wise and profound book.  The Book of Changes or "I Ching" in Chinese is said to be over 3000 years old and is used for Divination. Through the use of symbolic Hexagrams the I Ching helps guide us towards the solutions to life's problems and situations.  The I Ching may also be read as a book of wisdom revealing the laws of life to which we can all attune ourselves so that we may live in peace and harmony.  

  Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading  
Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading

The I Ching is regarded by many as the foundation text of Chinese Wisdom and Philosophy and was used by ancient sages such as Confucius, whose education and teachings were formed by it. When consulted the I Ching can and often does give very direct advice about how to achieve success and good fortune in answer to the questions asked of it.  The responses to questions presented to the I Ching are simple and beautiful, helping us clarify decisions and calm our emotions, in meeting our life situations or when helping us make important decisions.

How does I Ching work?
The I Ching is usually consulted with the aid of either a bundle of Yarrow Stalks or 3 Coins.  The Yarrow stalks are rarely seen these days as their use is fairly long, complicated and ritualistic whereas the modern use of 3 coins is relatively simple.

The three coins are held in both hands cupped together and shaken, whilst considering the question; then tossed onto the table and repeated six times.  Each throw will produce a mixture of heads and tails in one of four possible combinations which is used to calculate a value to create a Line. 

The line can either be a straight horizontal line or a horizontal line with a break in the middle.  An unbroken line represents a yes and a broken line represents a no. The lines are drawn from the bottom up as opposed to the western instinct to start at the top and work down e.g.


The Hexagrams
When all six lines are drawn this drawing becomes known as the Hexagram.  There are only sixty four possible combinations of Hexagrams which are considered to be made up of two Trigrams the top three lines known as the Upper Trigram and the lower three lines as the Lower Trigram. There are only 8 Trigrams and these are called.

CH'IEN = Heaven
CHEN = Thunder
K'AN = Water
KEN = Mountain
K'UN = Earth
SUN = Wind
LI = Fire
TUI = Lake

Given an Upper Trigram of SUN (The Gentle Wind) and a Lower Trigram of K'UN (The Receptive Earth) gives us Hexagram number 20 known in Chinese as KUAN or Contemplation (View) we can read this as "The Wind above the Earth below".


The Judgment for this Hexagram reads:
Contemplation. The ablution has been made,
but not yet the offering.
Full of trust they look up to him.

A modern interpretation of this may be something along the line of contemplation. Consider where you are, do not rush in but prepare for action.Form a plan! You have released yourself from the past but have not yet begun to act. You are being watched favourably but none the less your actions will be examined and your friends are there to help you, but not to do it for you.

And the Image reads:
The wind blows over the earth:
The image of Contemplation.
Thus the kings of old visited the regions of the world,
contemplated the people,
and gave them instruction.

This prose goes onto affirm the current position of being in a reflective state and also opening up new possibilities before coming to a definite conclusion. Be receptive and you will find answers to your questions.

Typically whichever copy of the I Ching you possess will go on to give a much longer interpretation of the Trigram.

If any of the lines were created by either throwing three heads or three tails then these lines are known as moving lines and add an additional interpretation to the Hexagram and indeed can radically alter the meaning of the Hexagram, if in the example above the top line (line 6) was arrived at by throwing 3 tails then this would add the Judgement:

Contemplation of his life.
The superior man is without blame.


Again, a modern interpretation of this may be "his life in this instance does not mean my day to day life, typically in the I Ching "He" refers to the Sage (substitute for Sage "God", "Allah", "my Higher Self", "the Universe" or some other term as you feel appropriate) as opposed to "my" which refers to the personal or ego. That this is on the top line or highest place of the Hexagram indicates the self that is liberated from the ego so by contemplating the laws of life we can discover that knowing how to become free of blame is the highest good. Or in the modern parlance "do it by the book".

Once a line has been created it can be considered as a changing or moving line which is thought of as old ; or as an unchanging line thought of as young.  Each changing line is seen as being in the process of becoming its opposite, so a new Hexagram can be found by transposing each changing yin line with a yang line and vice versa. Thus further insight is gained by reading the text of this new Hexagram and viewing it as the result of the current change.

The coins are assigned values of tails = 2 and heads = 3 therefore:
3 tails = 2 + 2 + 2 = 6 
(a moving line - old, yin, the feminine, receptivity)
2 tails + 1 head = 2 + 2 + 3 = 7 
(yang - young, the masculine, creativity)
2 heads + 1 tails = 3 + 3 + 2 = 8 
(yin - young, the feminine, receptivity)
3 heads = 3 + 3 + 3 = 9 
(a moving line - old, yang, the masculine, creativity)

Each Hexagram can be viewed in many different ways and has many different properties for example the Hexagram mentioned above has a numeric value of 20, when drawn the Hexagram looks like a tower, it is associated with the eighth month (September – October)  when light is on the decrease and dark on the increase

Probably the most respected publication of the I Ching is the translation by Richard Wilhelm with a foreword by Carl G. Jung originally printed in English in 1951 and titled the I Ching or Book of Changes. ISBN: 0140192077

  Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading  
Click here to get a Free I Ching Reading

This article was written by Steve Jones, a programmer and web designer who loves to paint classical subjects and has been fascinated by the I Ching since the early '70's. For more info email 
Single Apple Oil on Canvas by Steve

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