Introduction to the I Ching
What the I Ching is and its use as an oracle.
The I Ching is a collection of practical wisdom, pertaining to every conceivable situation. It originates in ancient China and is the oldest Chinese classical text. "I Ching" means "Classic of Changes" or "Book of Changes." (While mostly the spelling "I Ching" is used, "Yijing" is in fact the official modern spelling.)
There are 64 different main kinds of situations in the I Ching. Each one is indicated by a hexagram, which is a symbol made up by 6 lines, each of which can be broken or unbroken.
To obtain advice from the I Ching about one's current situation, one can consult it as an oracle. To decide which hexagram is related to the situation at hand, a "random" hexagram is obtained by throwing coins (or yarrow sticks, that traditionally were used). The "random" hexagram is supposed to not be random at all, but to coincide with the situation.
There doesn't seem to be any scientific theory that explains how this can be (although some people think quantum mechanics provides for a possible explanation). However, experience shows that it works in practice. The psychologist C.G. Jung, who studied the I Ching, named this coinciding of seemingly unrelated events "synchronicity."
Hexagrams and lines
Hexagrams are sets of six lines, that can be broken or unbroken . The broken lines are "yin," the unbroken lines "yang." Something is yin when it is female or dark, earthly, passive etc. and yang when it is male or light, heavenly, active etc.
The 64 hexagrams are indicated by a number, that is universal. All translations and commentaries to the I Ching use the same numbers. They also have a name, that may differ.
Consulting the I Ching
Traditionally the I Ching is consulted by throwing 50 yarrow stalks, but usually a set of three coins is used. The coins are thrown six times, while a question is held in mind. It is also possible to just let the I Ching comment on your current state, when no question is held. (However, the I Ching will only comment on your current situation; it will not predict the future.)
The hexagram is built from the bottom up, so the first line is the bottom one, the sixth line the top one.
To calculate the lines from the coins thrown, values are assigned to the coins' sides. Tails equals a value of 2, heads a value of 3. The values of the three coins are added to get the total to determine the line. There are four possibilities:
|0 heads + 3 tails||6||yin||changing|
|1 heads + 2 tails||7||yang|
|2 heads + 1 tails||8||yin|
|3 heads + 0 tails||9||yang||changing|
Even totals (6 or 8) give rise to a yin line, odd totals (7 or 9) a yang line.
Throws with all tails or all heads are considered changing lines. A changing line is a line that changes from yin to yang or the other way around. The hexagram that is formed with the changing lines being changed, is the resulting hexagram.
You can look up what hexagram number goes with the hexagram lines in the grid in the sample I Ching eBook, on page 3 (or buy the complete I Ching eBook). The scheme for determining the lines from your throws is also there.
This is how to interpret the reading:
- No changing lines
- Consider the hexagram text (judgment) of the hexagram.
- 1 changing line
- Consider the line text of the changing line.
- 2 or 3 changing lines
- Consider the line texts and also the hexagram text (judgment) of the resulting hexagram.
- 4, 5 or 6 changing lines
- Consider the hexagram texts (judgments) of the base and resulting hexagrams.
(You could check out the line texts, however they will often be conflicting, and may not clearly relate to the situation.)
- For hexagram 1 or 2, when all lines change
- Consider the special text for this situation.
Consulting on this website
To consult the I Ching, there are two options on this website using coins: throw your own coins or throw virtual coins online. You'll be shown the relevant hexagram line texts according to the rules above.
If you've calculated the hexagrams yourself, you can look up the corresponding hexagram text. Enter the yin or yang lines and which ones are changing, or enter the hexagram numbers directly.
The I Ching text on this site was translated and commented to by Ewald Berkers ©.