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I Ching – The Chinese Art Of Fortune Telling

The I Ching (pronounced EE Ching) or the Book of Changes is one of the great Chinese classics. Traditionally regarded as a manual of divination –‘very valuable for its practical wisdom’ – it was extensively used by soothsayers and fortunetellers to predict the future. However, around 1,150 BC king Wen and his son, Choug Kung, expanded it from being merely a book of fortune telling to one which also laid down guidelines for personal conduct, social norms and a correct way of life. Yet it remained essentially a book of divination.

The philosophy of I Ching: The Word ‘I’ means ‘easy’ as well as ‘change’, and on this are based the two fundamental aspects of the I Ching. Firstly, the process of change or transformation starts from the easy and simple, and if we know the causes of the easy and the simple, we can predict the effects of the complex and the difficult. Secondly, all things in the universe are complex and ever changing, but are governed and guided by unchanging, and relatively simple laws of Nature. ‘Heaven and Earth move in concord, and hence the Sun and the Moon do not err (in time), and the four seasons do not deviate (from their order)’.

The Yang and the Yin: The structure of the I Ching is built on the premise that there exist opposing force in the universe, all changes and transformations result from the movements of these opposing forces. In the universe there are two primal forces, the virile, called the Yang (the positive element, the male) and the docile, called the Yin (the negative element, the female). Interaction between these two primal forces produces all kinds of movements and changes. ‘The virile and the docile displace each other and produce the changes and transformations’. These forces, at times, support each other at other times, contradict and even hamper each other's progress. These opposing yet complimentary principles are also represented by light and dark, creative and receptive, heaven and earth, and the strong and the weak.

The Yang, the symbol of the male or positive principle, is represented by an unbroken line (________), the yin, the symbol of the female or negative principle, is represented by a broken line (_____ _____).

Hexagrams for Fortune Telling: Fortune telling in the I Ching is done by interpreting Hexagrams. Hexagrams are combinations of six complete or broken lines (Yang and Yin, respectively), drawn and read from bottom upwards. There are total of 64 Hexagrams, which represents, symbolically, all possible situations or mutations in the universe, whether natural or human.

By studying and interpreting these Hexagrams, one can understand the basic principles behind all changes and, thus infer the future. Accordingly one can plan further action. If favourable developments are destined, one can go ahead with the plans. On the other hand if an unfavourable outcome is in store, caution should be exercised. Thus the I Ching provides insights into the future. It suggests options for dealing with a situation, while leaving the final decision to the individual.

Drawing Your Own Hexagrams: In ancient China, fortune telling through the I Ching was done by following complicated rituals and using yarrow sticks. Over the centuries, a shorter method of using bronze coins as substitutes for yarrow sticks was evolved. That is the method we will follow here.

Let us take the example:

The first throw: This determines the bottom line of Hexagrams

Heads Heads Heads

Three Heads 2+2+2=6 ( ____ ____ ) YIN

The second throw: This determines the second line from the bottom of the Hexagrams

Tails Tails Heads

Two tails and one head 3+3+2=8 ( ____ ____ ) YIN

The third throw: This determines the third line from the bottom of the Hexagrams

Tails Tails Tails

Three tails = 3+3+3=9 ( _______ ) YANG

The fifth throw: This determines the fifth line from the bottom

Heads Heads Heads

Three heads = 2+2+2=6 ( ____ _____ )YIN

The sixth throw: This determines the sixth line from the bottom or the top line

Heads Heads Heads

Two heads and one tail 2+2+2=6 (  ____ _____   )YANG

Hence the following Hexagrams is obtained:

        ____ ____

        ____ ____


        ____ ____  

         ____ ____    


If we refer to the chart showing 64 Hexagrams we can identify this diagram with the number 35, called " CHIN".

The next step would be to read the explanation of the Hexagram and interpret it in the personal context.

Hexagram 35 explains that since the subject's goals are in accordance with Nature, the subject should proceed. Blessings and recognition of talent will result in good fortune.
The I Ching does not offer any definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ remedies to situations, but translates a problem into an ‘image language’ – like painting a picture. The reader has to be clear on what he is seeking, what effects his problem will have, why he is uncertain…. This answer through the I Ching is not a prediction, but an explanation of the present and the likely future course of events, together with advice on how best to deal with the situation.

Interpreting the Hexagrams:
The I Ching is like a good poem, the number of words is limited, but the ideas it suggests are limitless. Just as an intelligent reader of poetry reads what is beyond the poem, so a good reader of I Ching reads ‘what is between the lines’. This stimulates clear thinking, initiates a reflective approach to the problem or the issue, and the individual himself often supplies the ‘links’ that are necessary to turn these ‘aphorisms’ into a form of reasoning and argument.

Since this is only an introduction to the I Ching, it does not provide detailed and varying interpretations of the 64 Hexagrams. The interpretations given here are neither exhaustive nor rigid, they merely provide an interpretation of conditions and propose general guidelines. What is important to remember is that the same Hexagram will be interpreted differently by each individual, relating to differing circumstance is his/her life?