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The I Ching is an ancient Chinese book of wisdom. It held a central position for all imperial governments from the Han dynasty (established 206 b.c.e.) to the Qing dynasty (ended 1911 c.e.). As one of the Five Canons, it was the basis of orthodox Chinese thought for over two thousand years. It continues to be used today all around the world.

I, pronounced “yi,” means “change.” Ching, pronounced “jing,” means “canon.” The pinyin spelling is Yijing. In the West, the book is more widely known as the I Ching.

The I Ching began as a compilation of texts and commentaries from as early as the 12th century b.c.e. It is organized around sixty-four hexagrams (groups of six lines). Each hexagram has a Statement, attributed to the Zhou dynasty founder 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. Later editions carry commentaries by other scholars, and the I Ching is a part of both Daoism and Buddhism.

One consults the book by thinking of a question as one tosses three coins, counts out yarrow stalks, or uses digital randomization. This process creates a hexagram, a stack of six lines, which leads to one or more texts that address one’s question.

The received advice is hardly the normal kind of language we might expect from “fortune telling.” The I Ching never gives “yes” or “no” answers, but instead reveals a picture of the situation, and then provides guiding philosophy, reassurance, and sometimes pithy reminders of what we should do.

There is a consistent and profound philosophy hidden in the book. In fact, great thinkers throughout Chinese history have insisted that the value of the I Ching wisdom is far greater than its role as oracle.

The goal of is to facilitate the hexagram process and to allow users to record the readings and their reactions to those readings. Centuries of scholarly commentary can now be augmented by a much larger group of people, and we can gather the wisdom of every day people into the I Ching.

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