World History

Then Again




I Ching or

Book of Changes



The I Ching is a book of divination, that is, it is used for advice about events in the future.  It is one of the Confucian classics.  This does not mean that it was written by Confucius, but rather that it is one of the ancient texts Confucius regarded as authoritative. 

The following is a modern edition of the work


China: Early China

The work centers around hexagrams, figures composed of a series of broken  [__ __ ]  and  unbroken [____ ] lines.   These lines represent yin and yang respectively, the two fundamental principles of the world.  The yin and yang lines are arranged in groups of three, each of these groups representing one of the basic attributes of the universe.  These trigrams are then arranged in pairs to form hexagrams.  In order to your answer your question, you must identify the appropriate hexagram. This is done as follows:

To generate the hexagram, you will need three coins. Old Chinese bronze coins are not necessary, but are a nice touch. The head side (or the blank side) of the coin is yang, while the tail side (or enscripted side) is yin. The coins are tossed, and by assigning values to yin (2 points) and yang (three points), each of the six lines in the hexagram are generated. The original method uses yarrow stalks, and while many say this gives better readings, I have not used it and wouldn't dare try to explain it. 

1. Reflect and meditate on your question. Hold the question in your mind. 
2. Throw the coins in the air, being mindful of the question. 
3. Add up the total of the coins using 2 points for yin (tails) and 3 points for yang (heads). 
4. Draw the first line (remember to start at the ground), 

Value   Line   Meaning ----------------------------------- 
   6       __x__    old/moving Yin line 
   7       ____    Yang line 
   8       __ __    Yin line 
   9       __o__   old/moving Yang line 

5. Repeat steps 2-4 until all six lines have been drawn. 
6. Read the appropriate hexagram definition. Remember to read the line explanations for any moving lines. 
7. If there are moving lines, draw a second hexagram by "aging" the old lines, i.e. an old Yin line (6) becomes a Yang line, and an old Yang line (9) becomes a Yin line. Read this hexagram.

The Trigrams:


Ch'ien, The Creative Heaven, Sky
Attribute: Strength, creativity 
Animal: horse 
Body: head 
Family: father 
Direction: Northwest 

__ __
__ __

Chen, The Arousing Thunder
Attribute: Movement, initiative, action 
Animal: dragon 
Body: foot 
Family: eldest son 
Direction: East

__ __
__ __ 

K'an, The Abysmal Water, moon, the deep
Attribute: Danger 
Animal: pig 
Body: ear 
Family: second son 
Direction: North 

__ __
__ __

Ken, Keeping still Mountain
Attribute: Stillness, stopping 
Animal: dog 
Body: hand 
Family: youngest son 
Direction: Northeast

__ __
__ __
__ __ 

K'un, The Receptive Earth 
Attribute: Docility, receptivity 
Animal: ox 
Body: belly 
Family: mother 
Direction: Southwest

__ __

Li, The Clinging Sun, fire
Attribute: Brightness 
Animal: pheasant 
Body: eye 
Family: second daughter 
Direction: South

__ __

Sun, The Gentle Wind, wood
Attribute: Penetration, following 
Animal: fowl 
Body: thigh 
Family: eldest daughter 
Direction: Southeast

__ __

Tui, The Joyous Lake, mist, marsh
Attribute: Pleasure, joy, attraction 
Animal: sheep 
Body: mouth 
Family: youngest daughter 
Direction: West 

The Hexagrams (Excerpts):

1. Ch'ien / The Creative

_____     above Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven 
_____     below Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven

The Judgement 
The Creative works sublime success, 
Furthering through perseverance. 

The Image 
The movement of heaven is full of power. 
Thus the superior man makes himself strong and untiring. 

The Lines Nine at the beginning means: 
Hidden dragon. Do not act. 

Nine in the second place means: 
Dragon appearing in the field. 
It furthers one to see the great man. 

Nine in the third place means: 
All day long the superior man is creatively active. 
At nightfall his mind is still beset with cares. 
Danger. No blame. 

Nine in the fourth place means: 
Wavering flight over the depths. 
No blame.

Nine in the fifth place means: 
Flying dragon in the heavens. 
It furthers one to see the great man. 

Nine at the top means: 
Arrogant dragon will have cause to repent. 

When all the lines are nines, it means: 
There appears a flight of dragons without heads. 
Good fortune. 

2. K'un / The Receptive 

__  __
__  __     above K'un The Receptive, Earth
__  __
__  __     below K'un The Receptive, Earth
__  __ 

The Judgement 
The Receptive brings about sublime success, 
Furthering through the perseverance of a mare. 
If the superior man undertakes something and tries to lead, 
He goes astray; But if he follows, he finds guidance. 
It is favorable to find friends in the west and south, 
To forego friends in the east and north. 
Quiet perseverance brings good fortune. 

The Image 
The earth's condition is receptive devotion. 
Thus the superior man who has breadth of character 
Carries the outer world. 

The Lines 
Six at the beginning means: 
When there is hoarfrost underfoot, 
Solid ice is not far off.

Six in the second place means: 
Straight, square, great. Without purpose, 
Yet nothing remains unfurthered. 

Six in the third place means: 
Hidden lines. One is able to remain persevering. 
If by chance you are in the service of a king, 
Seek not works, but bring to completion. 

Six in the fourth place means: 
A tied-up sack. 
No blame, no praise. 

Six in the fifth place means: 
A yellow lower garment brings supreme good fortune. 

Six at the top means: 
Dragons fight in the meadow. 
Their blood is black and yellow. 
When all the lines are sixes, it means: 
Lasting perseverance furthers.

3. Chun / Difficulty at the Beginning

__  __
_____     above K'an The Abysmal, Water
__  __ 
__  __
__  __     below Ch'ien The Arousing, Thunder

The Judgement 
Difficulty at the Beginning works supreme success, 
Furthering through perseverance. 
Nothing should be undertaken. 
It furthers one to appoint helpers. 

The Image 
Clouds and thunder: 
The image of Difficulty at the Beginning. 
Thus the superior man Brings order out of confusion. 

The Lines
Nine at the beginning means: 
Hesitation and hindrance. 
It furthers one to remain persevering. 
It furthers one to appoint helpers. 

Six in the second place means: 
Difficulties pile up. 
Horse and wagon part. 
He is not a robber; 
He wants to woo when the time comes. 
The maiden is chaste, 
She does not pledge herself. 
Ten years--then she pledges herself. 

Six in the third place means: 
Whoever hunts deer without the forester 
Only loses his way in the forest. 
The superior man understands the signs of the time 
And prefers to desist. 
To go on brings humiliation. 

Six in the fourth place means: 
Horse and wagon part. 
Strive for union. To go brings 
A little perseverance brings good fortune. 
Great perseverance brings misfortune. 

Six at the top means: 
Horse and wagon part. 
Bloody tears flow.

From:  The original e-text  is taken from the Internet East Asian Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to East Asian history. The original e-text is © Paul Halsall May 1998 [email protected].  This version has been edited for classroom use.

Introduction and e-text Copyright 2005-2016 by thenagain info [email protected]. All rights reserved.