What Is The I-Ching?

i-chingThe I-Ching is an ancient Chinese divination manual that is one of the earliest prediction texts to have been found. With almost three millennia of commentary and interpretation, it is used all over the world over for various purposes, some of which include business, literature, psychoanalysis and to inspire different religions.

Based on 8 symbolic trigrams and 64 hexagrams, the I-Ching was originally used as one of the Five Classics in 2BC as the subject of scholarly commentary and a foundation for divination all over the Far East.  However, it also provoked the understanding of Eastern thought to the Western world.

How the  I-Ching works

Random numbers are created through a particular type of divination called cleromancy. The numbers 6 to 9 are made into a hexagram, then looked up in the I Ching book in the order of the King Wen sequence. The reading is likely to inspire and give wisdom to the reader. Readings in the I Ching book have been the source of years of debate, but many have used it as a symbol to offer moral decisions through Taoism or Confucianism.

Hexagrams have been found to have significance in the cosmos and have been associated with the yin, yang, and Wu Xing.  A western divination text known as the Changes of Zhou, forms the basis of the I Ching. Many assert that the book was assembled between 10-4BC based on the way it looks today.


Some have based the Zhou Yi language with inscriptions on bronze to having come into being during the reign of King Xuan of Zhou at the end of 9BC. In the Shanghai Museum, however, is a copy of the text in bamboo that shows it was used at all levels of the society of the Chinese in 300BC.  However, it contained some variations up until the period of the Warring States.

Resource: http://divination.com/resources/articles/iching/

Zhou Yi means `changes’ in Chinese in the dynasty of the Zhou. These include changes of hexagrams in their lines and also the numbers received from divination. Change has been interpreted as being `easy’ through making it easier to make divination than using oracle bones.  Another version of old folk has `change’ as having the moon and sun, also known as the day cycle. In modern times the image of the sun coming from the clouds or that of the content of one vessel changed into another, comprises the character for changes.

Possible hexagrams


The hexagram in the Zhou Yi includes six lines placed horizontally. These can either be broken or straight in line and the Zhou Yi text received has 64 possible hexagrams with the name.  Short statements of the hexagram, as well as six line statements, also exist. Results of the divination are determined by the declarations in the end, even though it is not clear why there exists two different ways to read the hexagram. Neither is it known why hexagram statements are read over line statements or the other way round.

Four words, including advantageous, firm, penetrating and originating, are used in the hexagram statements. Thus, they were considered an integral part of the I Ching as early as 6BC.

It is safe to say that the I-Ching, or Book of Changes, is one of the most significant books in the Chinese history, as much of the culture has come from wisdom gleaned from the I-Ching. This is a big reason why two sects of Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism, have their origins in the I-Ching.

How the I-Ching can help you

Consulting the I-Ching is wise because it offers so much practical wisdom for everyday living. In order to glean from that wisdom, you can approach the I-Ching as you would an oracle. Of course, learning how you can really tap into such wisdom can take some time, as interpreting readings can be challenging if you’re a beginner. The I-Ching is available for purchase in many languages and will serve as a helpful tool for your continued evolution.

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