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I Ching: About

I Ching

What is I Ching (Yi Jing)?

The I Ching, or ‘Book of Changes’ as it’s known in English, is believed to have been written by Fu Xi around 1000 BCE. According to the German sinologist Richard Wilhelm, Taoism and Confucianism have “common roots” in the I Ching. The book has survived in countless forms over thousands of years and even survived the burning of books under the reign of Ch’in Shih Huang Ti around 200 BCE. Wilhelm considers the book and the I Ching hexagrams a remnant of the “last truly autochthonous culture” and describes the book as “a living stream of deep human wisdom” that is as relevant today as ever.

Two of the most notable Chinese philosophers, Lao Tzu and Confucius, were familiar with the I Ching by Fu Xi. Some of Lao Tzu’s aphorisms were inspired by it, while Confucius edited and annotated an early version of the book. Fundamentally, the I Ching seeks to expand the reader’s consciousness by teaching a set of qualities while advising against the actions of the ego. These qualities draw on direct human experience and wisdom. It is not to say that merely by reading the I Ching one will embody these superior qualities; rather, it depends on the application of the advice given to one’s life. Ultimately, the guidance offered is twofold: we should be led by our superior qualities while learning how to respond to negative influences, both in ourselves and in others. 

The guidance offered by the I Ching is pragmatic since it acknowledges that people inherently have both positive and negative traits in their characters. Thus, it provides practical advice for successfully navigating difficult situations. The I Ching has been used for centuries to help individuals with decision-making, conflict resolution, personal betterment, and relationship problems. At the beginning of the book, it is made clear that on the surface, the I Ching is “just a book.” However, it is more than just a book. It is “a living, breathing oracle. “Ultimately, according to the book, those who implement the I Ching’s teachings into their lives will achieve “prosperity, understanding, and peace of mind.”   

Cleromancy refers to a method of sortition whereby lots are chosen. It can take many forms, such as rolling a die or picking a card, a straw, or a stalk. While cleromancy depends on chance and the outcome is seemingly random, some believe that it reveals the will of God.  The I Ching brings our focus to the present moment, the here and now. Sometimes, it advises the best course of action for our current situation; other times, it advises meditation and stillness. The first time when first consulting the I Ching is like playing a game.

According to Wilhelm, the I Ching differs from soothsaying or fortune-telling in that it has a moral dimension. It is not merely a case of being shown a card or having one’s fate revealed. Instead, one is given guidance about how to bring about good fortune and avoid misfortune. It addresses the practical matters of the moment and places the individual’s destiny in his or her own hands.  

Traditionally, yarrow stalks were used, which were considered to be derived from sacred plants. Modern versions of the book recommend shaking three coins in your hand and dropping them. Heads are counted as three and tails as two. The value of the three coins is then added together. If it is odd, one draws an unbroken line, while if it is even, a line is drawn that is broken in the center. This process is repeated until six lines are drawn.

Each six-line combination corresponds to one of the sixty-four I Ching hexagrams. One then locates the hexagram in the book and reads the text. Also, the lines of text for any “changing” lines are read, which are those lines with the numerical value six or nine. These changing lines are then converted to their opposite (broken or unbroken), creating a new hexagram. The text for this hexagram is then read as well. Continue reading from The Collector

From the Collection

Link to I Ching Companion: An Answer For Every Question by Jill Richards
Link to I Ching: The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Oracle and Book of Wisdom by John Minford in Hoopla
Link to The Original I Ching: An Authentic Translation of the Book of Changes by Margaret J. Pearson in Hoopla
Link to The Visionary I Ching: A Book of Changes for Intuitive Decision Making by Paul O'Brien, Joan Larimore in Hoopla
Link to The I Ching Oracle:  A guide through the human maze by Timothy And Johanna Dowdle in Hoopla
Link to I Ching: The Secrets of the Hidden Eye by Allie Woo in Hoopla
I-Ching Wisdom: Guidance from the Book of Answers by Wu Wei in Hoopla
Link to I Ching, or The Book of Changes Translated by James Legge in Hoopla
Link to The complete I Ching : the definitive translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang in the catalog
Link to Secrets of the I Ching by Jonathan Pryce and Bettina Wilhelm in Hoopla

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