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You are here: Home > I-ching > Content

Content of the I-ching

I-ching is based on 64 short essays on the lineal figures named "Hexagrams". Each Hexagram is composed of two trigrams, the title, the Judgment, the Image, and the texts assigned to the lines. Each of these features is described below:

  • The trigrams

The trigram is the basic unit of the I-ching. It is is made of three lines that can be continuous _____  or broken __  __, meaning yang or yin. Thus, we have eight possible trigrams, called pa-kua . Traditionally, the pa-kua were designed by the mythical forefather Fu Hsi, the one who invented the I-ching divination.

We present below the list of attributes for each trigram (R. Wilhelm):

   

Name

Attribute

Image

Family Relation
ship

_____
_____
_____

Ch'ien

the Creative

strong

heaven

father

__  __
__  __
__  __

K'un

the Receptive

devoted, yelding

earth

mother

__  __
__  __
_____

Chen

the Arousing

inciting, mouve
ment

thunder

first son

__  __
_____
__  __

K'an

the Abysmal

dange
rous

water

second son

_____
__  __
__  __

Ken

Keeping Still

resting

mountain

third son

_____
_____
__  __

Sun

the Gentle

penetra
ting

wind, wood

first daughter

_____
__  __
_____

Li

the Clinging

light-
giving

fire

second daughter

__  __
_____
_____

Tui

the Joyous

joyful

lake

third daughter

  • The Hexagrams

The Hexagrams were created by King Wen. They were born by multiplying the eight trigrams by eight. Thus, a Hexagrams is formed by two overlapped trigrams. On the whole, there are 64 Hexagrams that form the content of the Book of Changes. The first two Hexagrams are:

Ch'ien

K'un

_____
_____
_____
_____
_____
_____

__  __
__  __
__  __
__  __
__  __
__  __

The Hexagram table looks like this - click here:

  • The names of Hexagrams

According to the tradition, the names of the Hexagrams are the work of King Wen. The names of the Hexagrams indicate different occurrences or abstractions. Here are some examples: Marrying Maiden, Preponderance of the Great, Difficulty at the Beginning, Coming to Meet, Treading, Fullness (Abundance), Conflict, and so forth.

In many instances, when we use I-ching as oracle, the name of the Hexagram may help us understand the meaning of the Hexagram given as answer to our question. For instance, Hexagram 6 is called Conflict. If the oracle's answer to our question is this Hexagram, it means that we are faced with an occurrence which can be described by the term of "conflict".

A table of Hexagram names may be found here.

  • The Judgment

The Judgment of the Hexagram is also the work of King Wen. It consists in a short text placed near the Hexagram title.

The Judgment provides us an advice regarding the actual situation described by the Hexagram expressed in terms such as: "the perseverance brings fortune...", "it will be advantageous to cross the great waters", "the remorse dissapear…", "do not act in this way for three years", and so forth. It is not difficult to see in these clues suggestions for the opportunity or ill-timing of an action or intention to perform a deed.

  • The Image

This is similar to the Judgment, in both structure and function. However, it is no longer the creation of King Wen. Also according to the tradition, the Image of the Hexagram comes from Confucius or from his later disciples following his ethical philosophy.. In the case of the Image we can also find clues for action - same as for the Judgment - but one can easily notice that such interpretation has a mostly ethical character, as if it were inspired by a behavior code of the Noble Man. Example of Image:

Hexagram #9Hexagram 9 - Hsiao Ch'u | The Taming Power of the Small

The wind drives across heaven:
The image of THE TAMING POWER OF THE SMALL.
Thus the superior man
Refines the outward aspect of his nature.

The Image is included in the text of the Hexagram in Richard Wilhelm's translation. At James Legge, the images are included in the Commentaries ( Ten Wings).

  • The Yao texts

When dealing with a Hexagram given as answer it is also very important to read the texts assigned to the individual lines, also called Yao texts. Each individual line of a Hexagram are assigned these texts that offers us detailed advices related to the meaning of the Hexagram or short conclusions, such as: "no blame", "remorse", "good fortune", "there will be evil", and so forth. These texts are created by King Wen's son, Duke of Chou. Several examples of Yao texts (the numbers in front of the paragraphs are numbers of the lines counted from bottom to top):

1. The first NINE, undivided, shows that it will be advantageous for its subject in his position to make a great movement. If it be greatly fortunate, no blame will be imputed to him.

2. The second SIX, divided, shows parties adding to the stores of its subject ten pairs of tortoise shells whose oracles cannot be opposed. Let him persevere in being firm and correct, and there will be good fortune. Let the king, (having the virtues thus distinguished), employ them in presenting his offerings to God, and there will be good fortune.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows increase given to its subject by means of what is evil, so that he shall (be led to good), and be without blame. Let him be sincere and pursue the path of the Mean, (so shall he secure the recognition of the ruler, like) an officer who announces himself to his prince by the symbol of his rank.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject pursuing the due course. His advice to his prince is followed. He can with advantage be relied on in such a movement as that of removing the capital.

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject with sincere heart seeking to benefit (all below). There need be no question about it; the result will be great good fortune. (All below) will with sincere heart acknowledge his goodness.

6. In the sixth NINE, undivided, we see one to whose increase none will contribute, while many will seek to assail him. He observes no regular rule in the ordering of his heart. There will be evil. (Hexagram 42, Legge's translation).

  • Further resources

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