What Is I Ching?

The Yijing (or I Ching, when using the Wade-Giles romanization system) is a book from the Chinese Bronze Age (about 1000 BC). Like many other ancient texts, it was written by the process of aggregation of material from different periods and authors.

By the time of the Han dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD), it became something similar to the text we know today as the “Classic of Changes” or “Book of Changes.” Of course, the interpretation of the text has changed over time, but the ordering of the material has remained unchanged since the Han Dynasty to the present.

The Classic of Changes is composed of 64 short chapters, consisting of several elements and ten appendixes, known as “The Ten Wings.”

Legend has it that Fuxi designed the 64 hexagrams (hypothetically about 3000 BC), and King Wen wrote the texts that accompany each hexagram, Gauci, “The Judgment.”

His son, the Duke Dan of Zhou, added explanatory texts for each line of the hexagrams.

The texts due to King Wen and his son were known in his time (the Bronze Age in China) as Zhouyi, “The Changes of the Zhou ” being Zhou, the name of the dynasty started by King Wen.

Several hundred years later, the Confucian school added comments to the text, known as the Ten Wings (Shiyi), and divided into ten parts.

Where is it used?

The 64 hexagrams (or sections) of the Yijing are a description of the different ways in which situations can evolve, they describe the steps of change and tell us how to act effectively at every moment.

Since change happens through time, each hexagram describes different times. There are times for advancing, times for retreating, times for peace, times for war, and so on. Each hexagram depicts a different time, a different pattern of change.

Yijing doesn’t propose surrendering to obstacles and bad times, but always offers the best way to deal with both trouble and opportunities.

The Yijing describes change as a permanent cycle between two principles: active and energetic and the other passive and yielding. They are the building blocks of the 64 hexagrams of the Book of Changes. Long after the first part of the Yijing was written, these principles were named as Yang and yin.

How is it used?

Yin and Yang form a binary system; by combining both types of lines in six different positions, 64 different hexagrams are created, forming the structure of the Yijing. All hexagrams are interconnected between them; when the oracle answers a question, it is usual to receive a pair of interconnected hexagrams that describe the flow of the situation.

It has been said that the answer is always hidden inside the question, meaning that you can only get the right answer if you know how to express your question clearly or if you know the right question.

Yijing will not answer your question unequivocally but will tell you a good history, sometimes including several protagonists and possible outcomes.

It is your task to put yourself inside the history, to understand which part is yours and the relation between answer and question.

The oracle will chart the possibilities and dangers lurking ahead; if you open your intuition, you will understand the message. Maybe the answer will not be evident at first, but if you keep meditating over it, at some point, you will understand its meaning.

The questions should be clear cut, avoiding asking about several possibilities at once. If you want to know which option is best, you can ask about one option first and then ask again about another choice in a second consult, but never include several alternatives in the same question. Carefully think what you want to ask, take your time; do not ask the oracle in a hurry or a disturbed emotional state.”


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