Lao Tzu > I Ching

What is I Ching
(Book of Changes)

Fu Hsi picture
Fu Hsi, the mythical creator of pa-kua,
the schema of the eight trigrams
I Ching or the Book of Changes (from "I", meaning "change", and "Ching", meaning "classic book") is one of the fundamental books of the classical Chinese culture.  Every element of the Chinese culture is considered to have been influenced by this Book or to have influenced it further.

The Book was consulted as oracle and completed by Confucius himself. He declared that the study of it would have helped him avoid many dangers.

Moreover, the I Ching is the only book saved from the arson ordered by the first emperor of China, Ch'in Shih Huang-ti in 213 AD. The emperor himself used this book as oracle.

The age of the Book of Changes is very great, according to the tradition. It seems it was created by Fu Hsi, the Chinese cultural hero of a remarkable nature (dragon), who would have invented the basic eight trigrams - pa-kua - and the oracle with yarrow stalks.

It is certain that the genuine version of this Book was systematized by King Wen, who wrote the hexagram names and the Judgments, and by Duke of Chou who

Confucius picture
Confucius contributed himself
to the wealth of the book by writing  its commentaries
added the texts of the individual lines.

  • Content of the Book

The Book is made of short essays on the 64 lineal figures, each of them consisting in six yang and/or yin lines, that is _____ and __   __.

Each figure (called hexagram) bears a tag, such as Approaching, The Taming Power of the Great, the Creative, the Standing Still, Return and so forth.

Each figure offers a Judgment, that is, a prognostication and/or advice related to a specific event that the figure points to.  

  • The  Oracle

I Ching may be used as an oracle to inquire about almost everything. All you need to do is to phrase the question in your mind and consult the oracle. There are two consulting methods: the yarrow stalks and the coins method.

Hexagram picture
A six-line figure called Hexagram
What is most important is the fact that unlike other oracles, the I Ching functioning is based on  the connection with the living spirit-like entities approached by the yarrow stalks.

The operation of the oracle is explained with reference to his theory of synchronicity by Carl Jung. He wrote a valuable preface to the Wilhelm/Baynes English version, showing how it works and how one may consult it.

Further resources:

  • Read Richard Wilhelm's introduction to the book - click here.
  • Should you wish to consult the Oracle online, please click here.
  • Basic English versions::
    James Legge
    Richard Wilhelm
  • Online Course. Study further the meaning, content and usage of the I Ching by taking our 10-lesson email course intended for beginners -> click here to learn more.

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