What is the I Ching?

People have always sought answers to the unknown. Will I be rich? Have children? Find the right person or career for me? In almost every culture, some form of divination — the seeking of knowledge through supernatural means — has evolved to satisfy our need for answers. Oracles from around the world are consulted globally today, providing seekers with insight and guidance on life’s predictably unpredictable journey.

Yet another oracle with Chinese roots, the I Ching (which is translated as “The Book of Changes”), evolved through the observation of nature and its life cycles. Everywhere in the I Ching is the message of harmony, of aligning life in a harmonious and respectful way with the forces acting upon it. The I Ching teaches us that the only certainty in life is change. It gives us a way to accept that change and to make the most of it. Yet within this change, there are patterns. Winter is always followed by spring. Spring is always followed by summer. Ancient Shaman referred to these patterns when called upon for advice.

Legend has it that the I Ching was discovered by the first Emperor of China, Fu Hsi, who saw the eight trigrams (three-lined diagrams that are the basis of the I Ching), on the shell of a tortoise. The eight trigrams are believed to represent the eight forces of nature and creation.

In Chinese cosmology, the world is a balance of Yin and Yang energies. Yang is associated with energetic, positive, masculine qualities. Yin is associated with passive, negative, feminine qualities. Both are equally important and neither is negative or positive in a value-driven sense.

Divination begins with the casting of coins. One side of each coin is Yang, the other Yin. The outcome of the throws is a series of three lines called a trigram. After casting the coins six times, two trigrams are formed. These two combine to create a hexagram. It is this hexagram and its potential transformation that results in a reading. There are 64 hexagrams in the I Ching, each offering a complex look at the forces influencing our lives.

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