Taoism > Sources > I-ching

What is I-ching (Book of Changes)

Change diagram picture
The Chinese character for "change" is made of two signs: one for "sun" and the other for "rain". Thus we have the sun-rain alternation which suggests the idea of change

I-ching (translated Book of Changes) is one of the classic books of the Confucian canon. The word "ching" indicates a sacred work that enjoys awe and respect.

Chinese sovereigns and princes consulted the book on the most diverse issues, such as  political, wealth, health, wars, the meaning of dreams, and so on. Its importance is also proved by its survival from the arson of books ordered by the Chinese emperor Ch'in Shih-huang-ti, in 213 AD.

  • History of I-ching

Tradition has attributed the creation of this unique work to Fu Hsi, the mythical ancestor, who invented many other useful things. It is said that he had been the witness of a miraculous phenomenon that put him in contact with the eight trigrams (pa-kua), forming the basic structure of the I-ching.

The legend says that while he was walking on the banks of the Yellow River, he saw a dragon coming out of waters and wearing on his back the signs of the eight trigrams that he copied by drawing them with his finger, on the sand.

Fu Hsi picture
Fu Hsi, the divine ancestor,
author of the eight trigrams (pa-kua)
Finally, an outstanding contribution to the development of the book came from Confucius and his school, who added various comments (named Wings).

It is all agreed that I-ching contains the essence of Chinese spiritual doctrines and that it has influenced everything that was consequently conceived. Nobody can deny its importance in the Taoism too. Read more...

  • Content of the Book

I-ching is a collection of essays on 64 lineal figures made up of six continuous or discontinuous lines. The continuous lines _____ represent the yang principle, and the discontinuous ones __  __, the yin one.

The 64 hexagrams are assigned names such as: Creative (Yang), Difficulty at Beginning, Caldron, Marrying Maiden, Progress, Contemplation... that definitely describe typical situations or human conduct.

Each hexagram also contains a Judgment (many times offering oracular predictions) and short texts explaining the meaning of each individual line.

  • Usage of the Oracle

Though many consider I-ching a philosophical book, it must stressed that it has always been used as an oracle. It  is also consulted today whenever one needs advice regarding the future projects and tips to help him/her achieve them and avoid failure.

There are two methods of consulting it: with coins or yarrow stalks. The coin method is the easiest one. Read more...

  • I-ching in the Western Culture

Carl Jung picture
Carl Jung wrote a substantial introduction to the I-ching, published in the Wilhelm/Baynes English version

The most important contribution to the spreading of this famous book in Europe was that of Richard Wilhelm.

He was a Christian missionary in China where he met Lao-nai Hsuan, a descendant of Confucian school, who effectively helped him to translate the book into German. More than a simple translation, Wilhelm also added his comments to the 64 hexagrams and lines.

Carl Jung suggested the Cary F. Baynes English version, and it was also him who added a substantial introduction to this version, where he explained with examples the way the book works as oracle. This is the most important contribution to the explanation of the oracular practice to the western culture.

Online Resources:

  • Introduction to the I-ching and translations by Richard Wilhelm, James Legge, a foreword by Carl Jung and more here.
  • A site section dedicated to the I-ching matters may be found at https://www.taopage.org/iching.
  • Email course - we provide a course on all aspects related to the I-ching consulting as oracle here.
  • Talk about I-ching and request help with your questions and answers in our Google Group here. You may register by sending a blank email to iching-online+subscribe@googlegroups.com.
  • Online consulting - you may consult the oracle online and receive guidance on the entire procedure. Click the  button below to be taken to our online device and follow the instruction.
Clcik to consult the I-ching oracle

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