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The I Ching (Wade-Giles), "Yì Jīng" (Pinyin), Classic of Changes or Book of Changes; also called Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. The book contains a divination system comparable to Western geomancy or the West African Ifá system. In Western cultures and modern East Asia, it is still widely used for this purpose.

The standard text originated from the ancient text (古文經) transmitted by Fei Zhi (费直, c50 BC -AD 10) of the Han Dynasty. During the Han Dynasty this version competed with the bowdlerised new text (今文經) version transmitted by Tian He at the beginning of the Western Han. However, by the time of the Tang Dynasty the ancient text version, which had survived Qin’s book-burning by being preserved amongst the peasantry, became the accepted norm among Chinese scholars.

The earliest extant version of the text, written on bamboo slips, albeit incomplete, is the Chujian Zhouyi, and dates to the latter half of the Warring States period (mid 4th to early 3rd century BC), and certainly cannot be later than 223 BC, when Chu was conquered by Qin. It is essentially the same as the standard text, except for a few significant variora.

During the Warring States period, the text was re-interpreted as a system of cosmology and philosophy that subsequently became intrinsic to Chinese culture. It centred on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.


Traditional view

Traditionally it was believed that the principles of the I Ching originated with the mythical Fu Xi (伏羲 Fú Xī). In this respect he is seen as an early culture hero, one of the earliest legendary rulers of China (traditional dates 2800 BCE-2737 BCE), reputed to have had the 8 trigrams (八卦 bā gùa) revealed to him supernaturally. By the time of the legendary Yu (禹 ) 2194 BCE–2149 BCE, the trigrams had supposedly been developed into 64 hexagrams (六十四卦 lìu shí­ sì gùa), which were recorded in the scripture Lian Shan (《連山》 Lián Shān; also called Lian Shan Yi). Lian Shan, meaning "continuous mountains" in Chinese, begins with the hexagram Bound (艮 gèn), which depicts a mountain (¦¦|) mounting on another and is believed to be the origin of the scripture's name.

After the traditionally recorded Xia Dynasty was overthrown by the Shang Dynasty, the hexagrams are said to have been re-deduced to form Gui Cang (《歸藏》 Gūi Cáng; also called Gui Cang Yi), and the hexagram responding (坤 kūn) became the first hexagram. Gui Cang may be literally translated into "return and be contained", which refers to earth as the first hexagram itself indicates. At the time of Shang's last king, Zhou Wang, King Wen of Zhou is said to have deduced the hexagram and discovered that the hexagrams beginning with Initiating (乾 qián) revealed the rise of Zhou. He then gave each hexagram a description regarding its own nature, thus Gua Ci (卦辭 guà cí, "Explanation of Hexagrams").

When King Wu of Zhou, son of King Wen, toppled the Shang Dynasty, his brother Zhou Gong Dan is said to have created Yao Ci (爻辭 yáo cí, "Explanation of Horizontal Lines") to clarify the significance of each horizontal line in each hexagram. It was not until then that the whole context of I Ching was understood. Its philosophy heavily influenced the literature and government administration of the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE - 256 BCE).

Later, during the time of Spring and Autumn (722 BCE - 481 BCE), Confucius is traditionally said to have written the Shi Yi (十翼 shí yì, "Ten Wings"), a group of commentaries on the I Ching. By the time of Han Wu Di (漢武帝 Hàn Wǔ Dì) of the Western Han Dynasty (circa 200 BCE), Shi Yi was often called Yi Zhuan (易傳 yì zhùan, "Commentary on the I Ching"), and together with the I Ching they composed Zhou Yi (周易 zhōu yì, "Changes of Zhou"). All later texts about Zhou Yi were explanations only, due to the classic's deep meaning.

In the Hagakure, or Hidden Leaves, a passage concerning the I Ching illuminates the way it was viewed in the light of the Way of the Samurai. The passage states "In the tradition of the I Ching, it is a mistake to think that it is something for divination. Its essence is non-divination. This can be seen by the fact that the Chinese character 'I' is read as 'change.' Although one divines good fortune, if he does evil it will become bad fortune. And although he divines bad fortune, if he does good it will become good fortune".

Modernist view

In the past 50 years a "Modernist" history of the I Ching has been emerging, based on context criticism and research into Shang and Zhou dynasty oracle bones, as well as Zhou bronze inscriptions and other sources (see below). These reconstructions are dealt with in a growing number of books, such as The Mandate of Heaven: Hidden History in the I Ching, by S. J. Marshall, and Richard Rutt's Zhouyi: The Book of Changes, (see References, below).

Scholarly works dealing with the new view of the Book of Changes include doctoral dissertations by Richard Kunst and Edward Shaughnessy and a 2008 study by Richard J. Smith. These and other scholars have been helped immensely by Chinese archaeologists' discovery, in the 1970s, of intact Han dynasty-era tombs in Mawangdui near Changshamarker, Hunanmarker province. One of the tombs contained a more or less complete 2nd century BC new text version of the I Ching, the Dao De Jing and other works, which are mostly similar yet in some ways diverge significantly from the "received", or traditional, texts preserved historically. This version of the I Ching, despite its textual form, belongs to the same textual tradition as the standard text, which suggests it was prepared from an old text version for the use of its Han patron.

The tomb texts include additional commentaries on the I Ching, previously unknown, and apparently attributed to Confucius. All of the Mawangdui texts are many centuries older than the earliest known attestations of the texts in question. When talking about the evolution of the Book of Changes, therefore, the Modernists contend that it is important to distinguish between the traditional history assigned to texts such as the I Ching (felt to be anachronistic by the Modernists), assignations in commentaries which have themselves been canonized over the centuries along with their subjects, and the more recent scholarly history aided by modern linguistic textual criticism and archaeology.

Many hold that these perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but, for instance, many Modernist scholars doubt the actual existence of Fuxi, or think Confucius had nothing to do with the Book of Changes, and contend that the hexagrams came before the trigrams. Modern scholarship comparing poetic usage and formulaic phrasing in this book with that in ancient bronze inscriptions has shown that the text cannot be attributed to King Wen or Zhou Gong, and that it likely was not compiled until the late Western Zhou, perhaps ca. the late 9th century BC.

Rather than being the work of one or several legendary or historical figures, the core divinatory text is now thought to be an accretion of Western Zhou divinatory concepts. As for the Shi Yi commentaries traditionally attributed to Confucius, scholars from the time of the 11th century A.D. scholar Ouyang Xiu onward have doubted this, based on textual analysis, and modern scholars date most of them to the late Warring States period (403/475 BCE-256/221 BCE), with some sections perhaps being as late as the Western Han period (206 BCE-220 CE).


The text of the I Ching is a set of oracular statements represented by 64 sets of six lines each called hexagrams (卦 guà). Each hexagram is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines (爻 yáo), each line is either Yang (an unbroken, or solid line), or Yin (broken, an open line with a gap in the center). With six such lines stacked from bottom to top there are 26 or 64 possible combinations, and thus 64 hexagrams represented.

The hexagram diagram is composed of two three-line arrangements called trigrams (卦 guà). There are 23, hence 8, possible trigrams. The traditional view was that the hexagrams were a later development and resulted from combining the two trigrams. However, in the earliest relevant archaeological evidence, groups of numerical symbols on many Western Zhou bronzes and a very few Shang oracle bones, such groups already usually appear in sets of six. A few have been found in sets of three numbers, but these are somewhat later. Note also that these numerical sets greatly predate the groups of broken and unbroken lines, leading modern scholars to doubt the mythical early attributions of the hexagram system.

Each hexagram represents a description of a state or process. When a hexagram is cast using one of the traditional processes of divination with I Ching, each of the yin or yang lines will be indicated as either moving (that is, changing), or fixed (that is, unchanging). Moving (also sometimes called "old", or "unstable") lines will change to their opposites, that is "young" lines of the other type—old yang becoming young yin, and old yin becoming young yang.

The oldest method for casting the hexagrams, using yarrow stalks, is a biased random number generator, so the possible answers are not equiprobable. While the probability of getting either yin or yang is equal, the probability of getting old yang is three times greater than old yin.

The yarrow stalk method was gradually replaced during the Han Dynasty by the three coins method. Using this method the imbalance in generating old yin and old yang was eliminated. There is no theoretical basis for indicating what should be the optimal probability basis of the old lines versus the young lines. Of course, the fundamental idea underlying this system of divination is that the appropriate answer will be produced, regardless of the probabilities.

There have been several arrangements of the trigrams and hexagrams over the ages. The bā gùa is a circular arrangement of the trigrams, traditionally printed on a mirror, or disk. According to legend, Fu Hsi found the bā gùa on the scales of a tortoise's back. They function rather like a magic square, with the four axes summing to the same value (e.g., using 0 and 1 to represent yin and yang, 000 + 111 = 111, 101 + 010 = 111, etc.).

The King Wen sequence is the traditional (i.e. "classical") sequence of the hexagrams used in most contemporary editions of the I Ching. The King Wen sequence has been shown to contain within it a demonstration of advanced mathematical knowledge.

The hexagrams are built from gradations of binary expressions based on yin and yang. They consist of:

  • old yang (yang changing into yin, or moving yang)
  • old yin (yin changing into yang or moving yin)
  • young yang (unchanging yang)
  • young yin (unchanging yin)


The eight trigrams

The solid line represents yang, the creative principle. The open line represents yin, the receptive principle. These principles are also represented in a common circular symbol ( ), known as taijitu (太極圖), but more commonly known in the west as the yin-yang (陰陽) diagram, expressing the idea of complementarity of changes: when Yang is at top, Yin is increasing, and the reverse.

In the following lists, the trigrams and hexagrams are represented using a common textual convention, horizontally from left-to-right, using '|' for yang and '¦' for yin, rather than the traditional bottom-to-top. In a more modern usage, the numbers 0 and 1 can also be used to represent yin and yang, being read left-to-right. There are eight possible trigrams (八卦 bāguà):

Trigram Figure Binary Value Name Translation: Wilhelm, others Image in Nature Direction Family Relationship Body Part Attribute Stage/ State Animal
1 111

the Creative, Force heaven, sky

northwest father head strong creative dragon
2 110

the Joyous, Open swamp, marsh

west third daughter mouth pleasure tranquil (complete devotion) sheep
3 101

the Clinging, Radiance fire

south second daughter eye light-giving, dependence clinging, clarity, adaptable pheasant
4 100

the Arousing, Shake thunder

east first son foot inciting movement initiative horse
5 011

the Gentle, Ground wind

southeast first daughter thigh penetrating gentle entrance fowl
6 010

the Abysmal, Gorge water

north second son ear dangerous in-motion pig
7 001

Keeping Still, Bound mountain

northeast third son hand resting, stand-still completion wolf, dog
8 000

the Receptive, Field earth

southwest mother belly devoted, yielding receptive cow

The first three lines of the hexagram, called the lower trigram, are seen as the inner aspect of the change that is occurring. The upper trigram (the last three lines of the hexagram), is the outer aspect. The change described is thus the dynamic of the inner (personal) aspect relating to the outer (external) situation. Thus, hexagram 04 ¦|¦¦¦| Enveloping, is composed of the inner trigram Gorge, relating to the outer trigram Bound.

Hexagram Lookup Table

Upper →

Lower ↓


















01 ䷀ 34 ䷡ 05 ䷄ 26 ䷙ 11 ䷊ 09 ䷈ 14 ䷍ 43 ䷪


25 ䷘ 51 ䷲ 03 ䷂ 27 ䷚ 24 ䷗ 42 ䷩ 21 ䷔ 17 ䷐


06 ䷅ 40 ䷧ 29 ䷜ 04 ䷃ 07 ䷆ 59 ䷺ 64 ䷿ 47 ䷮


33 ䷠ 62 ䷽ 39 ䷦ 52 ䷳ 15 ䷎ 53 ䷴ 56 ䷷ 31 ䷞


12 ䷋ 16 ䷏ 08 ䷇ 23 ䷖ 02 ䷁ 20 ䷓ 35 ䷢ 45 ䷬


44 ䷫ 32 ䷟ 48 ䷯ 18 ䷑ 46 ䷭ 57 ䷸ 50 ䷱ 28 ䷛


13 ䷌ 55 ䷶ 63 ䷾ 22 ䷕ 36 ䷣ 37 ䷤ 30 ䷝ 49 ䷰


10 ䷉ 54 ䷵ 60 ䷻ 41 ䷨ 19 ䷒ 61 ䷼ 38 ䷥ 58 ䷹

The hexagrams

The text of the I Ching describes each of the 64 hexagrams, and later scholars added commentaries and analyses of each one; these have been subsumed into the text comprising the I Ching.

In the table below, each hexagram's translation is accompanied by a form of R. Wilhelm translation (which is the source for the Unicode names), followed by a retranslation.

Hexagram R. Wilhelm Modern Interpretation
01. |||||| Force (乾 qián)]] | The Creative | Possessing Creative Power & Skill {{cite web | last = Wilhelm | first = Richard | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = The I Ching, or Book of Changes | work = | publisher = | date = | url = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 02|02. ¦¦¦¦¦¦ Field (坤 kūn)]] | The Receptive | Needing Knowledge & Skill; Do not force matters and go with the flow {{cite web | last = Xiaochun | first = Tan | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = The I Ching: An Illustrated Guide to the Chinese Art of Divination | work = | publisher = | date = 1993 | url =,M1 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }}, {{cite web | last = Legge | first = James | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = The I Ching | work = | publisher = | date = | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 03|03. |¦¦¦|¦ Sprouting (屯 chún)]] | Difficulty at the Beginning {{cite web | last = Wilhelm | first = R. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = The I Ching on the Net | work = | publisher = | date = | url = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} | Sprouting {{cite web | last = Kinnes | first = Tormod | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = I Ching Hexagram Drawings | work = | publisher = | date = | url = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 04|04. ¦|¦¦¦| Enveloping (蒙 méng)]] | Youthful Folly | Detained, Enveloped and Inexperienced {{cite web | last = Benson | first = Robert G. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = I Ching for a New Age | work = | publisher = | date = 2003 | url =,M1 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }}, {{cite web | last = Merritt | first = Dennis L. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Use of the I Ching in the Analytic Setting | work = | publisher = | date = | url = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 05|05. |||¦|¦ Attending (需 xū)]] | Waiting | Uninvolvement (Wait for now), Nourishment {{cite web | last = Lofting | first = Chris J. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = 05 Waiting (Nourishment) | work = | publisher = | date = | url = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 06|06. ¦|¦||| Arguing (訟 sòng)]] | Conflict | Engagement in Conflict {{cite web | last = Michael Drake | first = Michael Drake | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = I Ching: The Tao of Drumming | work = | publisher = | date = 1997 | url =,M1 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 07|07. ¦|¦¦¦¦ Leading (師 shī)]] | The Army | Bringing Together, Teamwork {{cite web | last = Secter | first = Mondo | authorlink = | coauthors = Chung-Ying Cheng | title = The I Ching Handbook: Decision-Making with and Without Divination | work = | publisher = | date = 2002 | url =,M1 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 08|08. ¦¦¦¦|¦ Grouping (比 bǐ)]] | Holding Together | Union {{cite web | last = Sloane | first = Sarah Jane | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = The I Ching for Writers: Finding the Page Inside You | work = | publisher = | date = 2005 | url =,M1 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 09|09. |||¦|| Small Accumulating (小畜 xiǎo chù)]] | Small Taming | Accumulating Resources |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 10|10. ||¦||| Treading (履 lǚ)]] | Treading (Conduct) | Continuing with Alertness |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 11|11. |||¦¦¦ Pervading (泰 tài)]] | Peace | Pervading |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 12|12. ¦¦¦||| Obstruction (否 pǐ)]] | Standstill | Stagnation |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 13|13. |¦|||| Concording People (同人 tóng rén)]] | Fellowship | Fellowship, Partnership |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 14|14. ||||¦| Great Possessing (大有 dà yǒu)]] | Great Possession | Independence, Freedom |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 15|15. ¦¦|¦¦¦ Humbling (謙 qiān)]] | Modesty | Being Reserved, Refraining |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 16|16. ¦¦¦|¦¦ Providing-For (豫 yù)]] | Enthusiasm | Inducement, New Stimulus |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 17|17. |¦¦||¦ Following (隨 suí)]] | Following | Following |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 18|18. ¦||¦¦| Corrupting (蠱 gǔ)]] | Work on the Decayed | Repairing |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 19|19. ||¦¦¦¦ Nearing (臨 lín)]] | Approach | Approaching Goal, Arriving {{cite web | last = Moran | first = Elizabeth | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Yu | title = The Complete Idiot's Guide to the I Ching | work = | publisher = | date = 2001 | url =,M1 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 16 October 2008 }} |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 20|20. ¦¦¦¦|| Viewing (觀 guān)]] | Contemplation | The Withholding |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 21|21. |¦¦|¦| Gnawing Bite (噬嗑 shì kè)]] | Biting Through | Deciding |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 22|22. |¦|¦¦| Adorning (賁 bì)]] | Grace | Embellishing |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 23|23. ¦¦¦¦¦| Stripping (剝 bō)]] | Splitting Apart | Stripping, Flaying |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 24|24. |¦¦¦¦¦ Returning (復 fù)]] | Return | Returning |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 25|25. |¦¦||| Without Embroiling (無妄 wú wàng)]] | Innocence | Without Rashness |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 26|26. |||¦¦| Great Accumulating (大畜 dà chù)]] | Great Taming | Accumulating Wisdom |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 27|27. |¦¦¦¦| Swallowing (頤 yí)]] | Mouth Corners | Seeking Nourishment |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 28|28. ¦||||¦ Great Exceeding (大過 dà guò)]] | Great Preponderance | Great Surpassing |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 29|29. ¦|¦¦|¦ Gorge (坎 kǎn)]] | The Abysmal Water | Darkness, Gorge |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 30|30. |¦||¦| Radiance (離 lí)]] | The Clinging | Clinging, Attachment |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 31|31. ¦¦|||¦ Conjoining (咸 xián)]] | Influence | Attraction |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 32|32. ¦|||¦¦ Persevering (恆 héng)]] | Duration | Perseverance |} | valign="top" | {| class="wikitable" |----- ! Hexagram ! R. Wilhelm ! Modern Interpretation |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 33|33. ¦¦|||| Retiring (遯 dùn)]] | Retreat | Withdrawing |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 34|34. ||||¦¦ Great Invigorating (大壯 dà zhuàng)]] | Great Power | Great Boldness |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 35|35. ¦¦¦|¦| Prospering (晉 jìn)]] | Progress | Expansion, Promotion |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 36|36. |¦|¦¦¦ Brightness Hiding (明夷 míng yí)]] | Darkening of the Light | Brilliance Injured |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 37|37. |¦|¦|| Dwelling People (家人 jiā rén)]] | The Family | Family |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 38|38. ||¦|¦| Polarising (睽 kuí)]] | Opposition | Division, Divergence |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 39|39. ¦¦|¦|¦ Limping (蹇 jiǎn)]] | Obstruction | Halting, Hardship |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 40|40. ¦|¦|¦¦ Taking-Apart (解 xiè)]] | Deliverance | Liberation, Solution |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 41|41. ||¦¦¦| Diminishing (損 sǔn)]] | Decrease | Decrease |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 42|42. |¦¦¦|| Augmenting (益 yì)]] | Increase | Increase |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 43|43. |||||¦ Parting (夬 guài)]] | Breakthrough | Separation |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 44|44. ¦||||| Coupling (姤 gòu)]] | Coming to Meet | Encountering |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 45|45. ¦¦¦||¦ Clustering (萃 cuì)]] | Gathering Together | Association, Companionship |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 46|46. ¦||¦¦¦ Ascending (升 shēng)]] | Pushing Upward | Growing Upward |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 47|47. ¦|¦||¦ Confining (困 kùn)]] | Oppression | Exhaustion |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 48|48. ¦||¦|¦ Welling (井 jǐng)]] | The Well | Replenishing, Renewal |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 49|49. |¦|||¦ Skinning (革 gé)]] | Revolution | Abolishing the Old |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 50|50. ¦|||¦| Holding (鼎 dǐng)]] | The Cauldron | Establishing the New |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 51|51. |¦¦|¦¦ Shake (震 zhèn)]] | Arousing | Mobilizing |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 52|52. ¦¦|¦¦| Bound (艮 gèn)]] | The Keeping Still | Immobility |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 53|53. ¦¦|¦|| Infiltrating (漸 jiàn)]] | Development | Auspicious Outlook, Infiltration |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 54|54. ||¦|¦¦ Converting The Maiden (歸妹 guī mèi)]] | The Marrying Maiden | Marrying |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 55|55. |¦||¦¦ Abounding (豐 fēng)]] | Abundance | Goal Reached, Ambition Achieved |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 56|56. ¦¦||¦| Sojourning (旅 lǚ)]] | The Wanderer | Travel |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 57|57. ¦||¦|| Ground (巽 xùn)]] | The Gentle | Subtle Influence |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 58|58. ||¦||¦ Open (兌 duì)]] | The Joyous | Overt Influence |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 59|59. ¦|¦¦|| Dispersing (渙 huàn)]] | Dispersion | Dispersal |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 60|60. ||¦¦|¦ Articulating (節 jié)]] | Limitation | Discipline |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 61|61. ||¦¦|| Centre Confirming (中孚 zhōng fú)]] | Inner Truth | Staying Focused, Avoid Misrepresentation |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 62|62. ¦¦||¦¦ Small Exceeding (小過 xiǎo guò)]] | Small Preponderance | Small Surpassing |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 63|63. |¦|¦|¦ Already Fording (既濟 jì jì)]] | After Completion | Completion |----- | [[I Ching hexagram 64|64. ¦|¦|¦|Not-Yet Fording Before Completion Incompletion

The hexagrams, though, are mere mnemonics for the philosophical concepts embodied in each one. The philosophy centres around the ideas of balance through opposites and acceptance of change.


In Unicode, monograms cover code points U+268A to U+268B, diagrams cover code points U+268C to U+268F, trigrams cover code points U+2630 to U+2637, hexagram symbols cover code points U+4DC0 to U+4DFF (19904 – 19967).

Tai Xuan Jing( ) digrams cover code points U+1D301 to U+1D305, tetragrams cover code points U+1D306 to U+1D356. The monograms cover code points U+1D300 (earth), U+268A (yang), U+268B (yin).

Implications of the title

  • 易 (), used as an adjective, it means "easy" or "simple", while as a verb it means "to change" or 'to exchange or to substitute one thing for another'.
  • 經 (jīng) here means "classic (i.e. text)". It was a post-Qin term later added to any text that had been officially canonised, hence the same character was later appropriated to translate the Sanskrit word 'sūtra' into Chinese in reference to Buddhist scripture. In this sense the two concepts, in as much as they mean 'treatise,' 'great teaching,' or 'canonical scripture,' are equivalent.

The I Ching is a "reflection of the universe in miniature". The word "I" has three meanings: ease and simplicity, change and transformation, and invariability. Thus the three principles underlying the I Ching are the following:
  1. Simplicity - the root of the substance. The fundamental law underlying everything in the universe is utterly plain and simple, no matter how abstruse or complex some things may appear to be.
  2. Variability - the use of the substance. Everything in the universe is continually changing. By comprehending this one may realize the importance of flexibility in life and may thus cultivate the proper attitude for dealing with a multiplicity of diverse situations.
  3. Persistency - the essence of the substance. While everything in the universe seems to be changing, among the changing tides there is a persistent principle, a central rule, which does not vary with space and time.
:— 易一名而含三義:易簡一也;變易二也;不易三也。 commented on by Zheng Xuan (鄭玄 zhèng xúan) in his writings Critique of I Ching (易贊 yì zàn) and Commentary on I Ching (易論 yì lùn) of Eastern Han Dynasty.

Also for information, 易 is a combined character of the sun 日 and the moon 月, symbolic of an interplay between 陽 (Yang: masculine) and 陰 (Yin: feminine).


Yin and yang, while common expressions associated with many schools of classical Chinese culture, are especially associated with the Taoists.

Another view holds that the I Ching is primarily a Confucianist ethical or philosophical document. This view is based upon the following:
  • The Wings or Appendices are attributed to Confucius.
  • The study of the I Ching was required as part of the Civil Service Exams in the period that these exams only studied Confucianist texts.
  • It is one of the Five Confucian Classics.
  • It does not appear in any surviving editions of the Daozang.
  • The major commentaries were written by Confucianists, or Neo-Confucianists.
  • Taoist scripture avoids, even mocks, all attempts at categorizing the world's myriad phenomena and forming a static philosophy.
  • Taoists venerate the non-useful. The I Ching could be used for good or evil purposes.

Both views may be seen to show that the I Ching was at the heart of Chinese thought, serving as a common ground for the Confucian and Taoist schools. Partly forgotten due to the rise of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, the I Ching returned to the attention of scholars during the Song dynasty. This was concomitant with the reassessment of Confucianism by Confucians in the light of Taoist and Buddhist metaphysics, and is known in the West as Neo-Confucianism. The book, unquestionably an ancient Chinese scripture, helped Song Confucian thinkers to synthesize Buddhist and Taoist cosmologies with Confucian and Mencian ethics. The end product was a new cosmogony that could be linked to the so-called "lost Tao" of Confucius and Mencius.

Binary sequence

In his article Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire (1703) Gottfried Leibniz writes that he has found in the hexagrams a base for claiming the universality of the binary numeral system. He takes the layout of the combinatorial exercise found in the hexagrams to represent binary sequences, so that ¦¦¦¦¦¦ would correspond to the binary sequence 000000 and ¦¦¦¦¦| would be 000001, and so forth.

The binary arrangement of hexagrams is associated with the famous Chinese scholar and philosopher Shao Yung (a neo-Confucian and Taoist) in the 11th century. He displayed it in two different formats, a circle, and a rectangular block. Thus, he clearly understood the sequence represented a logical progression of values. However, while it is true that these sequences do represent the values 0 through 63 in a binary display, there is no evidence that Shao understood that the numbers could be used in computations such as addition or subtraction.

It should be noted that Shao Yung had been attributed with the original Segregation Table of the symbols of the book of changes Fu-Hsi Liu-shih-ssu Kua Tzhu Hsu from Chu Hsi's Chou I Pen I Thu Shou (reproduced in Hu Wei's I Thu Ming Pien ch.7, pp 2b,3a and elsewhere).

Analysis of the binary sequence and its derivation from Recursion of the yin/yang dichotomy reveal the capability of the I Ching to describe itself by reference to itself through use of analogies to hexagrams. Thus the full, generic, description of a particular hexagram is provided through analogies to all of the other hexagrams in the set - this being a feature of any language, to describe itself. As such the I Ching is revealed as a "Language of the Vague", universals representing 'all there is' that are then open to customisation through prose that ties the universals to a local context. Examples of this process, using isomorphism of our brain's use of fight/flight to assess situations with our use of yang/yin to assess situations is given in Lofting(2009); the isomorphism identified as stemming from the basic dynamics of our brain as it processes information prior to labelling - the SAME patterns are used in all assessments but local context then introduces difference through use of labels.

Given such research into logic operators and their function in the brain:

  • Parsons, L.M., & Osherton, D., (2001) "New Evidence for Distinct Right and Left Brain Systems for Deductive versus Probabilistic Reasoning" Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 11, No. 10, 954-965, October 2001
  • Matte Blanco I., (1991)"The Unconscious as Infinite Sets", Karnac Books, (originally published 1975))

we can see these operators acting to constrain degrees of freedom of expression, so application of those operators to I Ching representations brings out the ability of the I Ching to describe itself by reference to itself.

For example, the use of the exclusive-OR operator (XOR) applied to I Ching hexagrams reduced to representations as patterns of 'bits' (0 = yin, 1 = yang), brings out the self-referencing of the I Ching, an example to test is in the characteristics of hexagram 27 (100001) where its generic focus in on issues of quality control and infrastructure, describing the 'mud' or 'skeletal form' of a hexagram. Since the I Ching hexagrams reflect a closed set of meanings, so the self-referencing involved means descriptions of hexagrams are through analogy to other hexagrams (for mathematical modelling of such, see set theory and group theory). Thus if I XOR hexagram 27 with ANY other hexagram I will get a description, through analogy with some other hexagram, of the '27-ness', the skeletal form, of that hexagram.

For hexagram 01, XORing with 27 gives us hexagram 28. The generic qualities of hexagram 28 cover the notion of 'excess, too much yang', where such a description maps to the infrastruture state of hexagram 01 (which is 111111 and covers total yang).

The full set of descriptions are covered in such as Lofting(2009) and through the EIC application where the interpretation is done through the I Ching itself. The recursion of yin/yang creates a closed system and so a symmetric form that includes such properties as 'all is connected' and allows for the I Ching to self-reference. This is in fact applicable to any system derived from recursion of some dichotomy and as such brings out the ease in which the I Ching can be mapped to the genetic code where the common ground is in BOTH being products of recursion.

I Ching and Genetic Code texts:

  • Schonberger, M., (1976) "The I Ching and the Genetic Code" ASI Publishers Inc.
  • Yan. J.F., (1991) "DNA and the I Ching: The Tao of Life" North Atlantic Books.
  • Walter,K.,(1994)"The Tao of Chaos: DNA & The I Ching" Element

The tie is strictly due to the common methodology used - recursion.

The Symbolic and Numerical Language

The oracular interpretation of the symbolic language based on trigram symbols formed from yang and yin components is well known. However, the inherent numerical language of line change and non-change is relatively unknown.

When the translated text reads "Nine in the beginning means...". this is the equivalent of saying: "When the positive line in the first place is represented by the number 9, it has the following meaning....".. If, on the other hand, the line is represented by the number 7, it is disregarded in interpreting the oracle. The same principle holds for lines represented by the numbers 6 and 8 respectively.

Thus, line transformation (change) or non-transformation (non-change) can be represented numerically, as follows:

  • A POSITIVE (unbroken line) transforming into a NEGATIVE (broken line) = 9
  • A POSITIVE (unbroken line) transforming into a POSITIVE (unbroken line) = 7
  • A NEGATIVE (broken line) transforming into a POSITIVE (unbroken line) = 6
  • A NEGATIVE (broken line) transforming into a NEGATIVE (broken line) = 8

This changes the ancient symbolic linear language of the I Ching into a simple numerical language that enables the practitioner to create sixteen numerical codes, which consist of three numbers, from each circular arrangement of eight trigrams.

John C. Compton suggests that these numerical codes represent specific codons of the Genetic Code.

Mathematical Significance

Richard S. Cook reported that that the I Ching demonstrated a relation between the golden ratio (aka the division in extreme and mean ratio) and "linear recurrence sequences" (the Fibonacci numbers are examples of "linear recurrence sequences") :

...the hexagram sequence, showing that its classification of binary sequences demonstrates knowledge of the convergence of certain linear recurrence sequences ... to division in extreme and mean ratio... that the complex hexagram sequence encapsulates a careful and ingenious demonstration of the LRS (linear recurrence sequences)/DEMR (division in the extreme mean ratio relation), that this knowledge results from general combinatorial analysis, and is reflected in elements emphasized in ancient Chinese and Western mathematical traditions.


The I Ching has long been used as an oracle and many different ways coexist to "cast" a reading, i.e., a hexagram, with its dynamic relationship to others. In China the I Ching had two distinct functions. The first was as a compendium and classic of ancient cosmic principles. The second function was that of divination text. As a divination text the world of the I Ching was that of the marketplace fortune teller and roadside oracle. These individuals served the illiterate peasantry. The educated Confucian elite in China were of an entirely different disposition. The future results of our actions were a function of our personal virtues. The Confucian literati actually had little use for the I Ching as a work of divination. In the collected works of the countless educated literati of ancient China there are actually few references to the I Ching as a divination text. Any eyewitness account of traditional Chinese society, such as S. Wells Williams The Middle Kingdom, and many others, can clarify this very basic distinction. Williams tells us of the I Ching, "The hundred of fortune- tellers seen in the streets of Chinese towns, whose answers to their perplexed customers are more or less founded on these cabala, indicate their influence among the illiterate; while among scholars, who have long since conceded all divination to be vain..". (The Middle Kingdom, vol. 1, p. 632)


The Flag of South Korea contains the Taiji symbol, or tàijítú, (yin and yang in dynamic balance, called taegeuk in Korean), representing the origin of all things in the universe. The taegeuk is surrounded by four of the eight trigrams, starting from top left and going clockwise: Heaven, Water, Earth, Fire. In addition, the Republic of Korea Air Force aircraft roundel incorporates the Taiji in conjunction with the trigrams representing Heaven.

The flag of the Empire of Vietnam used the Li (Fire) trigram and was known as cờ quẻ Ly (Li trigram flag) because the trigram represents South. Its successor the Republic of Vietnam connected the middle lines, turning it into the Qián (Heaven) trigram. (see Flag of the Republic of Vietnam).

Influence on Western culture

The I Ching has influenced countless Chinese philosophers, artists and even businesspeople throughout history. In more recent times, several Western artists and thinkers have used it in fields as diverse as psychoanalysis, music, film, drama, dance, eschatology, and fiction writing.


Early Chinese civilization, as with western civilization, accepted various pre-scientific explanations of natural events, and the I Ching has been cited as an example of this. As a manual of divination it interpreted natural events through readings based on symbols expressed in the trigrams and hexagrams. Thus any observation in nature could be interpreted as to its significance and cause. This might be compared to the Roman practice of basing decisions on the state of animals' livers. While usually sympathetic to the claims of Chinese culture and science, Joseph Needham, in his second volume of Science and Civilization in China (p. 311) stated: "Yet really they [Han dynasty scholars] would have been wiser to tie a millstone about the neck of the I Ching and cast it into the sea".

Abraham (1999) states that Confucius' ten commentaries, called the Ten Wings, transformed the I Ching from a divination text into a "philosophical masterpiece". It was this form of the I Ching that inspired the post-Warring State Taoists. It has influenced Confucians and other philosophers and scientists ever since. However, Helmut Wilhelm in his Change/Eight Lectures on the I Ching, cautions: "It can no longer be said with certainty whether any of the material—and if any, how much—comes from Confucius' own hand".


  • Anthony, Carol K. and Moog, Hanna. I Ching: The Oracle of the Cosmic Way. Stow, Massachusetts: Anthony Publishing Company, Inc., 2002. ISBN 1-890764-00-0. The publisher's internet address is
  • Balkin, Jack M. 2002. The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life. New York: Schocken Books. ISBN 0-8052-4199-X
  • Benson, Robert G. 2003. I Ching for a New Age: The Book of Answers for Changing Times. New York: Square One Publishers.
  • Blofeld, J. 1965. The Book of Changes: A New Translation of the Ancient Chinese I Ching. New York: E. P. Dutton.
  • Chang, Shi (aka Tuck Chang) 2008. ebook : Unveiling The Mystery of The I Ching from Confucian perspective.
  • Cornelius, J Edward and Cornelius, Marlene (1998) Yî King: A Beastly Book of Changes. Red Flame: A Thelemic Research Journal (5) 1998. This book contains Aleister Crowley's notes and comments on the Yi Jing.
  • Huang, A. 1998. The Complete I Ching: the Definitive Translation From the Taoist Master Alfred Huang. Rochester, N.Y: Inner Traditions.
  • Hua-Ching Ni. 1999. I Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth. (2nd edition). Los Angeles: Seven Star Communications.
  • Karcher, Stephen, 2002. I Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change: The First Complete Translation with Concordance. London: Vega Books. ISBN 1-84333-003-2. The publisher can be found at This version manages to pull together a wide variety of sources and interpretations into a coherent, intelligible whole which is generally easier to understand than the Wilhelm/Baynes edition. Especially interesting are its multiple translations of the Chinese words used and the concordance at the end.
  • Legge, J. 1964. I Ching: Book of Changes. With introduction and study guide by Ch'u Chai and Winberg Chai. New York: Citadel Press.
  • Shaughnessy, Edward L. 1996. I Ching, The Classic of Changes, Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-36243-8. First English translation of the newly discovered 2nd century B.C. Mawangdui texts.
  • Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C., 1967. The I Ching or Book of Changes, With foreword by Carl Jung. 3rd. ed., Bollingen Series XIX. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Pressmarker (1st ed. 1950).
  • Lofting, C.J., 2009, The Emotional I Ching : A Language of the Vague Lulu, ISBN 978-1-4092-7139-0 . Grounds the I Ching in a product of neurology, cognition, and emotion. The author maintains that in doing so this grounding lets the I Ching describe itself by reference to itself independent of the Chinese language. As such the coverage is on universals then grounded in local context through words.
  • Lynn, Richard J. 1994, The Classic of Changes, A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08294-0
  • Wei, Wu 2005. I Ching, The Book Of Answers Power Press ISBN 0-943015-41-3 New revised edition, interpreted by Wu Wei. Appears to follow the Wilhelm and Baynes translation closely, leaving out the sometimes confusing mechanics. Would be useful in conjunction with Wilhelm and Baynes when divining for the lay person.
  • Cheng Yi translated by Cleary, Thomas 1988, 2003. I Ching: The Book of Change Shambhala Publications, Boston, London ISBN 1-59030-015-7
  • Kitabul Taghayyurat-The First arabic Translation الترجمة العربية الأولى لكتاب التغيرات =(I Ching or Book of Changes) translated and forwarded by Bashar Abdulah,2008, Fadaat Publishing House, Amman, Jordan. ISBN 978-9957-30-043-2

See also



  • Brennan, Herbie (August, 1973). The Syncronistic Barometer, Analog.
  • Crowley, Aleister - liber CCXVI- The Book of Changes- I CHing - The Equinox, Vol III NO 7. A.'.A.'.
  • Marshall, S. J. (2001). The Mandate of Heaven: Hidden History in the I Ching. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12299-3
  • Rutt, R. (1996). Zhouyi: The Book of Changes. Curzon Press.
  • Reifler, Samuel. (1974). "I Ching: A New Interpretation for Modern Times". Bantam New Age Books. ISBN 0-553-27873-8
  • Shaughnessy, Edward L. (1993). "I ching 易經 (Chou I 周易) ", pp. 216–228 in Loewe, Michael (ed.). Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, (Early China Special Monograph Series No. 2), Society for the Study of Early China, and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, ISBN 1-55729-043-1.
  • Smith, Richard J. (2008). Fathoming the Cosmos and Ordering the World: The Yijing (I Ching or Classic of Changes) and Its Evolution in China. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0813927053

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