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About the site

What is the I Ching?

The I Ching is a Chinese book of divination and wisdom and is compilation of texts and commentaries that has evolved steadily since12th century b.c.e. I, pro­nounced “yi,” means “change.” Ching, pronounced “jing,” means “canon.” The book is built around sixty-four hexagrams (groups of six lines). Each hexagram has a Statement, attributed to the founder of the Zhou dynasty, King Wen; comments about each of the six Lines, attributed to the Duke of Zhou (son of King Wen); and an Image, attributed to Confucius. Most of the published versions of the I Ching include additional commentaries by later scholars and editors.

How is the I Ching used?

A reader first thinks deeply of a question. Then she or he either tosses three coins or counts through forty-nine yarrow stalks in order to arrive randomly at one of four results. Each of the results dictates one of four kinds of a line. The reader writes down the resulting line. The process is repeated until a hexagram, or a stack of six lines is formed. This leads to the one or more entries in the I Ching that respond to the question.

How is the I Ching activated on this website?

This website uses a digital randomizer in place of tossing coins or counting yarrow stalks. Each line is built using a chance process until a full hexagram is formed. The randomizer process mirrors the probabilities of the coin toss method.

What does the formation of the lines mean?

A hexagram can have one of four kinds of lines: a young yang line that does not change, a young yin line that does not change, an old yang line that changes into a yin line, and an old yin line that changes into a yang line. On this website, a young yang line is represented by a solid black line. A young yin line is represented by a line divided in half. An old yang line changing into a yin line is shown as a blue line. An old yin line changing into a yang line, is colored red. If a hexagram has changing lines, then there is a second hexagram created by the lines changing into their opposites. When no changing lines appear, only a single hexagram forms the response. When two hexagrams are formed, we read the Statement and Image of the first hexagram and only the commentaries of the lines that are changing. We ignore the commentary of any line that is not changing. Then we turn to the second hexagram, reading its Statement and its Image. We do not read any of the line commentaries of the second hexagram. The site creates this format for the reader automatically. If there is only one hexagram in response, only its Statement and Image apply to the question.

How do we interpret the response?

The advice that the I Ching gives is not the kind of language we might expect from “fortune telling.” It never gives “yes” or “no” answers, but instead reveals a picture of the situation through poetic images. It also provides guiding philosophy, reassurance, and sometimes pithy reminders of what we should do. It’s best to contemplate one’s question and then view it in light of the imagery of the I Ching. Long consideration of the answer lead to insight. There are times when the meaning to the reading is not clear right away. It may take weeks for understanding to come. That’s why allows a reader to come back later and record thoughts and experiences. Sharing what a reading meant to you, you can help others learn about the wisdom of the I Ching.

Who was King Wen?

The name King Wen is a posthumous title for a prince named Ji Chang (1171–1122 b.c.e.). The core territory of what would later become China was then known as the Shang Dynasty and ruled by a despot named Di Xin. Ji Chang was the ruler of a feudal state within the Shang Nation known as the Zhou. Perhaps because of competition between the feudal states, because the Zhou state was reportedly so much more enlightened in its rule, or because it was becoming more wealthy and militarily powerful, Di Xin imprisoned Ji Chang. The 64 hexagrams that make up the I Ching as well as a tradition of divination already existed. Ji Chang spent his time in prison devising a new order to the hexagrams and he wrote what we now know as the statement to each hexagram.

Who was the Duke of Zhou?

The Duke of Zhou, personal name, Ji Dan, (d.1105 b.c.e.) was King Wen’s fourth son. The Zhou overthrew the Shang and established the Zhou dynasty. The Duke of Zhou ruled for a period as regent. A learned man interested in music, poetry, and science (one story tells how he gave a compass to a delegation from what is now Vietnam), he wrote the commentary that accompanies each line.

Who was Confucius?

Confucius (551–479 b.c.e.) is a version of the name Kong Fuzi. He formulated a system of statecraft, morality, and scholarship. Confucius studied the I Ching for a long period. Along with four other classics, the I Ching became the basis for Confucian scholarship that lasted into the 20th century c.e.

Why is the I Ching written in feudal and aristocratic terms?

In the 12th century b.c.e., divination was performed on behalf of a ruler to aid in governing the country. The early Chinese were intent on integrating themselves with nature, and divination was one way to do that. The majority of the populace was illiterate, so it’s natural that the I Ching addressed itself to the literate ruler. That is why so much advice originally applied to a prince or king.

So many centuries later, at a time when the I Ching is now accessible to everyone, its terms have to be seen as symbolic or archetypal. One may not be literally commanding armies, but the idea of mobilizing for action is obvious. Likewise, we may not be rulers in an imperial court, but we are probably part of a family, school, company, or social organization, and the advice of the I Ching is always applicable.

How are readings created

We perform a computer simulation of the coin tossing method to calculate each reading

Site Origins

This site came about from conversations Mark and Graham had after Taiji class about the I-Ching and the internet.
Please let us know if you have any comments or suggestions for the site:)

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