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What is the I-Ching?
The I-Ching, or Book of Changes, is the world’s oldest oracle- more than 5,000 years old! Most legends say that the oracle was first devised by Fu Hsi, the godlike first Emperor of China, who is also credited with the invention of writing, and cooking. One day, while bathing in the Yellow River, he noticed the patterns on the shell of a tortoise; this led him to observe the patterns of nature, and thus, understand the very structure of reality itself. Fu Hsi developed a system of trigrams, which he called the Book of Changes.
Two thousand years later, the good King Wen was falsely imprisoned by the last heir to the tyrannical Shang dynasty. While incarcerated, Wen studied The Book of Changes, and by dividing and doubling Fu Hsi’s original trigrams, created the hexagrams we know today.
The I-Ching is based on the concept of Yin and Yang- the balance of polarized opposites, the two primary forces of the Universe. Yang is creative, light and active, while Yin is receptive, dark and passive. Together, they form a complementary pair that is always seeking balance.
How does the I-Ching Work?
The I-ching is part of a numerological system, with even numbers as Yin, and odd numbers as Yang. In the hexagrams, Yin is represented by a broken line, Yang is represented by a whole line. To use the i-ching coins for divination, one side is designated as Yin, the other as Yang. Tossing the coins, and recording the results, forms the hexagram from the bottom line up. Once you have formed your hexagram, then it is time to turn to the Book of Changes for the meaning of that hexagram. There are sixty-four possibilities.
How you approach your question is key- avoid concrete or yes/no questions, because the Book of Changes provides metaphors that are rich with imagery, and asking what the consequences of certain actions are more appropriate. So, instead of asking “Should I move to a new home?”, ask “What will be the effects of moving to a new home?” or “What will be the ramifications if I stay where I am?” The I-Ching is a book of wisdom, and it must be approached with a desire for wisdom, rather than a desire for cut and dried answers telling you what to do. The ultimate decision is always in your hands, and the I-Ching is a venerable and wise advisor in the balance of the forces at play.
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