I Ching

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I Ching
Classic of Changes
I Ching Song Dynasty print.jpg
The I Ching
Author Fu Xi (trad.)
Country China
Media type Book
I Ching
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Hanyu Pinyin Yìjīng
Literal meaning "Classic of Changes"

The I Ching, also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes, Zhouyi and Yijing, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts.[1] 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.

Traditionally, the I Ching and its hexagrams were thought to pre-date recorded history,[2] and based on traditional Chinese accounts, its origins trace back to the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE.[3] Modern scholarship suggests that the earliest layers of the text may date from the end of the 2nd millennium BCE, but place doubts on the mythological aspects in the traditional accounts.[4] Some consider the I Ching the oldest extant book of divination, dating from 1,000 BCE and before.[5] The oldest manuscript that has been found, albeit incomplete, dates back to the Warring States period (475–221 BCE).[6]

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 centered on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.

The standard text originated from the Old Text version (古文經) transmitted by Fei Zhi (费直, c. 50 BCE-10 CE) of the Han Dynasty, which survived Qin’s book-burning. 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 Old Text version became accepted as standard.


Traditional view[edit]

Traditionally it was believed that the principles of the I Ching originated with the mythical Fu Xi (伏羲 Fú Xī).[7] 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 guà) revealed to him on the back of a mythic dragon horse. 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 Guī 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 Period (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 (c. 200 BCE), Shi Yi was often called Yi Zhuan (易傳 yì zhùan, "Commentary on the I Ching"). Together with the commentaries by Confucius, I Ching is also often referred to as 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.

Modernist view[edit]

Oracle turtle shell

In the past 50 years a "Modernist" history of the I Ching emerged based on research into Shang and Zhou dynasties' oracle bones, Zhou bronze inscriptions and other sources (Marshall 2001, Rutt 1996, Shaughnessy 1993, Smith 2008). In the 1970s, Chinese archaeologists discovered intact Han dynasty-era tombs in Mawangdui near Changsha, Hunan province. One of the tombs contained the Mawangdui Silk Texts, a 2nd-century BCE new text version of the I Ching, the Dao De Jing and other works, which are mostly similar yet in some ways diverge 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.

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. According to Daniel Woolf, the text reached a "definitive form" at the end of the 2nd millennium BCE.[8] As for the Shi Yi commentaries traditionally attributed to Confucius, scholars from the time of the 11th century CE scholar Ouyang Xiu onward have doubted this, based on textual analysis, and modern scholars date most of them to the Warring States period (475 BCE-256 or 221 BCE),[6] with some sections perhaps being as late as the Western Han period (206 BCE-9 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 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. Numerical sets greatly predate the groups of broken and unbroken lines, leading modern scholars to doubt the mythical early attributions of the hexagram system (Shaugnessy 1993).

When a hexagram is cast using one of the traditional processes of divination with I Ching, each Yin and Yang line will be indicated as either moving (that is, changing), or fixed (unchanging). Sometimes called old lines, a second hexagram is created by changing moving lines to their opposite. These are referred to in the text by the numbers six through nine as follows:

  • Nine is old Yang (—θ—), an unbroken line changing into Yin, a broken line (— —);
  • Eight is young Yin (— —), a broken line without change;
  • Seven is young Yang (———), an unbroken line without change;
  • Six is old Yin (—X—), a broken line changing into Yang, an unbroken line (———).

The oldest method for casting the hexagrams, the yarrow stalk method, was gradually replaced during the Han Dynasty by the three coins method and the yarrow stalk method was lost.[9] With the coin method, the probability of yin or yang is equal while with the recreated yarrow stalk method of Zhu Xi (1130–1200),[10] the probability of old yang is three times greater than old yin.[11]

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 Xi found the bā gùa on the scales of a tortoise's back.

They function like a magic square with the four axes summing to the same value, using 0 and 1 to represent Yin and Yang: 000 + 111 = 101 + 010 = 011 + 100 = 110 + 001 = 111.

The King Wen sequence is the traditional (i.e. "classical") sequence of the hexagrams used in most contemporary editions of the I Ching.


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 vice versa.

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[12] Image in Nature (pp.l-li) Direction (p. 269) Family Relationship (p. 274) Body Part (p. 274) Attribute (p. 273) Stage/ State (pp.l-li) Animal (p. 273)
1 111
the Creative, Force heaven, sky
northwest father head strong creative
2 110
the Joyous, Open lake
west third daughter mouth pleasure tranquil (complete devotion)
sheep, goat
3 101
the Clinging, Radiance fire
south second daughter eye light-giving, dependence clinging, clarity, adaptable
4 100
the Arousing, Shake thunder
east first son foot inciting movement initiative
5 011
the Gentle, Ground wind
southeast first daughter thigh penetrating gentle entrance
6 010
the Abysmal, Gorge water
north second son ear dangerous in-motion
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

The first 3 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.

Hexagram lookup table[edit]

Upper →

Lower ↓

乾 Qián

震 Zhèn

坎 Kǎn

艮 Gèn

坤 Kūn

巽 Xùn

離 Lí

兌 Duì

乾 Qián

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

震 Zhèn

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

坎 Kǎn

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

艮 Gèn

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

坤 Kūn

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

巽 Xùn

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

離 Lí

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

兌 Duì

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

The hexagrams[edit]

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 [hex 1]
02. ¦¦¦¦¦¦ ䷁ Field (坤 kūn) The Receptive Needing Knowledge & Skill; Do not force matters and go with the flow [hex 2], [hex 3]
03. |¦¦¦|¦ ䷂ Sprouting (屯 zhūn) Difficulty at the Beginning [hex 4] Sprouting [hex 5]
04. ¦|¦¦¦| ䷃ Enveloping (蒙 méng) Youthful Folly Detained, Enveloped and Inexperienced [hex 6], [hex 7]
05. |||¦|¦ ䷄ Attending (需 xū) Waiting Uninvolvement (Wait for now), Nourishment [hex 8]
06. ¦|¦||| ䷅ Arguing (訟 sòng) Conflict Engagement in Conflict [hex 9]
07. ¦|¦¦¦¦ ䷆ Leading (師 shī) The Army Bringing Together, Teamwork [hex 10]
08. ¦¦¦¦|¦ ䷇ Grouping (比 bǐ) Holding Together Union [hex 11]
09. |||¦|| ䷈ Small Accumulating (小畜 xiǎo chù) Small Taming Accumulating Resources
10. ||¦||| ䷉ Treading (履 lǚ) Treading (Conduct) Continuing with Alertness
11. |||¦¦¦ ䷊ Pervading (泰 tài) Peace Pervading
12. ¦¦¦||| ䷋ Obstruction (否 pǐ) Standstill Stagnation
13. |¦|||| ䷌ Concording People (同人 tóng rén) Fellowship Fellowship, Partnership
14. ||||¦| ䷍ Great Possessing (大有 dà yǒu) Great Possession Independence, Freedom
15. ¦¦|¦¦¦ ䷎ Humbling (謙 qiān) Modesty Being Reserved, Refraining
16. ¦¦¦|¦¦ ䷏ Providing-For (豫 yù) Enthusiasm Inducement, New Stimulus
17. |¦¦||¦ ䷐ Following (隨 suí) Following Following
18. ¦||¦¦| ䷑ Corrupting (蠱 gǔ) Work on the Decayed Repairing
19. ||¦¦¦¦ ䷒ Nearing (臨 lín) Approach Approaching Goal, Arriving [hex 12]
20. ¦¦¦¦|| ䷓ Viewing (觀 guān) Contemplation The Withholding
21. |¦¦|¦| ䷔ Gnawing Bite (噬嗑 shì kè) Biting Through Deciding
22. |¦|¦¦| ䷕ Adorning (賁 bì) Grace Embellishing
23. ¦¦¦¦¦| ䷖ Stripping (剝 bō) Splitting Apart Stripping, Flaying
24. |¦¦¦¦¦ ䷗ Returning (復 fù) Return Returning
25. |¦¦||| ䷘ Without Embroiling (無妄 wú wàng) Innocence Without Rashness
26. |||¦¦| ䷙ Great Accumulating (大畜 dà chù) Great Taming Accumulating Wisdom
27. |¦¦¦¦| ䷚ Swallowing (頤 yí) Mouth Corners Seeking Nourishment
28. ¦||||¦ ䷛ Great Exceeding (大過 dà guò) Great Preponderance Great Surpassing
29. ¦|¦¦|¦ ䷜ Gorge (坎 kǎn) The Abysmal Water Darkness, Gorge
30. |¦||¦| ䷝ Radiance (離 lí) The Clinging Clinging, Attachment
31. ¦¦|||¦ ䷞ Conjoining (咸 xián) Influence Attraction
32. ¦|||¦¦ ䷟ Persevering (恆 héng) Duration Perseverance
33. ¦¦|||| ䷠ Retiring (遯 dùn) Retreat Withdrawing
34. ||||¦¦ ䷡ Great Invigorating (大壯 dà zhuàng) Great Power Great Boldness
35. ¦¦¦|¦| ䷢ Prospering (晉 jìn) Progress Expansion, Promotion
36. |¦|¦¦¦ ䷣ Brightness Hiding (明夷 míng yí) Darkening of the Light Brilliance Injured
37. |¦|¦|| ䷤ Dwelling People (家人 jiā rén) The Family Family
38. ||¦|¦| ䷥ Polarising (睽 kuí) Opposition Division, Divergence
39. ¦¦|¦|¦ ䷦ Limping (蹇 jiǎn) Obstruction Halting, Hardship
40. ¦|¦|¦¦ ䷧ Taking-Apart (解 xiè) Deliverance Liberation, Solution
41. ||¦¦¦| ䷨ Diminishing (損 sǔn) Decrease Decrease
42. |¦¦¦|| ䷩ Augmenting (益 yì) Increase Increase
43. |||||¦ ䷪ Parting (夬 guài) Breakthrough Separation
44. ¦||||| ䷫ Coupling (姤 gòu) Coming to Meet Encountering
45. ¦¦¦||¦ ䷬ Clustering (萃 cuì) Gathering Together Association, Companionship
46. ¦||¦¦¦ ䷭ Ascending (升 shēng) Pushing Upward Growing Upward
47. ¦|¦||¦ ䷮ Confining (困 kùn) Oppression Exhaustion
48. ¦||¦|¦ ䷯ Welling (井 jǐng) The Well Replenishing, Renewal
49. |¦|||¦ ䷰ Skinning (革 gé) Revolution Abolishing the Old
50. ¦|||¦| ䷱ Holding (鼎 dǐng) The Cauldron Establishing the New
51. |¦¦|¦¦ ䷲ Shake (震 zhèn) Arousing Mobilizing
52. ¦¦|¦¦| ䷳ Bound (艮 gèn) The Keeping Still Immobility
53. ¦¦|¦|| ䷴ Infiltrating (漸 jiàn) Development Auspicious Outlook, Infiltration
54. ||¦|¦¦ ䷵ Converting The Maiden (歸妹 guī mèi) The Marrying Maiden Marrying
55. |¦||¦¦ ䷶ Abounding (豐 fēng) Abundance Goal Reached, Ambition Achieved
56. ¦¦||¦| ䷷ Sojourning (旅 lǚ) The Wanderer Travel
57. ¦||¦|| ䷸ Ground (巽 xùn) The Gentle Subtle Influence
58. ||¦||¦ ䷹ Open (兌 duì) The Joyous Overt Influence
59. ¦|¦¦|| ䷺ Dispersing (渙 huàn) Dispersion Dispersal
60. ||¦¦|¦ ䷻ Articulating (節 jié) Limitation Discipline
61. ||¦¦|| ䷼ Centre Confirming (中孚 zhōng fú) Inner Truth Staying Focused, Avoid Misrepresentation
62. ¦¦||¦¦ ䷽ Small Exceeding (小過 xiǎo guò) Small Preponderance Small Surpassing
63. |¦|¦|¦ ䷾ Already Fording (既濟 jì jì) After Completion Completion
64. ¦|¦|¦| ䷿ Not-Yet Fording (未濟 wèi jì) Before Completion Incompletion

Hexagram table references[edit]

  1. ^ Wilhelm (trans.), Richard; Cary Baynes (trans.). "The I Ching or Book of Changes". Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Xiaochun, Tan (1993). The I Ching: An Illustrated Guide to the Chinese Art of Divination. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  3. ^ Legge, James. "The I Ching". Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  4. ^ Wilhelm, R. "The I Ching on the Net". Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  5. ^ Kinnes, Tormod. "I Ching Hexagram Drawings". Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  6. ^ Benson, Robert G. (2003). I Ching for a New Age. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  7. ^ Merritt, Dennis L. "Use of the I Ching in the Analytic Setting". Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  8. ^ Lofting, Chris J. "05 Waiting (Nourishment)". Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  9. ^ Michael Drake, Michael Drake (1997). I Ching: The Tao of Drumming. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  10. ^ Secter, Mondo; Chung-Ying Cheng (2002). The I Ching Handbook: Decision-Making with and Without Divination. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  11. ^ Sloane, Sarah Jane (2005). The I Ching for Writers: Finding the Page Inside You. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  12. ^ Moran, Elizabeth; Joseph Yu (2001). The Complete Idiot's Guide to the I Ching. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 

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.


I Ching trigrams were added to the Unicode Standard in June, 1993 with the release of version 1.1. The other encoded I Ching symbols were added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2003 with the release of version 4.0.

The symbols are spread out between Unicode blocks:

  • Miscellaneous Symbols (U+2600–U+26FF):
    • Monograms: U+268A (⚊) and U+268B (⚋)
    • Digrams: U+268C–U+268F (⚌ ⚍ ⚎ ⚏)
    • Trigrams: U+2630–U+2637 (☰ ☱ ☲ ☳ ☴ ☵ ☶ ☷)
  • Yijing Hexagram Symbols (U+4DC0–U+4DFF):
    • Hexagrams: U+4DC0–U+4DFF
Yijing Hexagram Symbols[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+4DFx ䷿
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0

There is an extension of the "Yi Jing" Unicode characters for the Tài Xuán Jīng (: Canon of Supreme Mystery) by Yáng Xióng (揚雄/扬雄; 53 BCE-18 CE), from U+1D300 through U+1D356. Their Chinese aliases most accurately reflect their interpretation;[13] for example, the Chinese alias of code point U+1D300 (𝌀) is "rén", which translates into English as man and yet the English alias is "MONOGRAM FOR EARTH". Five additional digrams cover code points U+1D301 to U+1D305 (𝌁 𝌂 𝌃 𝌄 𝌅) and eighty–one tetragrams cover code points U+1D306 to U+1D356.

Implications of the title[edit]

  • () used as an adjective, means "easy" or "simple", whilst as a verb it indicates "change" or "the exchange or substitution of one thing for another".
  • (jīng) here means "classic (i.e. text)". It is a post-Qin Dynasty 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 usual reading of its title is "The Classic of Changes" in reference to the divinatory usage of its hexagram figures. The other senses of yi are secondary, but still informed its sense. Thus, a punning reading as "The Easy Classic", reflects the ease of milfoil divination in contradistinction to the older systems of plastromancy and scapulamancy. Similarly, the sense of "the exchange or substitution of one thing for another" alludes to the posing of a question and the receiving of an answer.


Yin and yang, whilst 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, attempts at categorizing the world's myriad phenomena and forming a static philosophy. However, Taoist ritual frequently uses the eight trigrams, and they are fundamental for alchemical practice, both internal and external.
  • Wú wéi (), is an important concept of Taoism with regard to understanding when to act and when not to act. The understanding is one of instinctive wisdom rather than exemplified by natural action, such as the planets orbiting the Sun; they do without doing — without ends or means, effort or error. Thus, understanding when and how to act is not knowledge in the sense of calculating the right time and way, what is free of toil and care does not hesitate and cannot falter. Action without action, "wei wu wei", is effortless action.

Although the work's popularity diminished due to the rise of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, the I Ching returned to prominent 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[edit]

In his article Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire (1703) Gottfried Leibniz wrote that he found in the hexagrams a base for claiming the universality of the binary numeral system.[14] He took 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.

Richard S. Cook states 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.[15]


Main article: I Ching divination

In imperial 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 hundreds 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)


Han and Six Dynasties[edit]

During the Han dynasty, I Ching interpretation divided into two schools, originating in a dispute over minor differences between older and newer editions of the received text.[16] New Text criticism, more egalitarian and eclectic, sought to find symbolic and numerological parallels between the natural world and the hexagrams. Their commentaries provided the basis of the School of Images and Numbers. Old Text criticism, more scholarly and hierarchical, focused on the moral content of the text, providing the basis for the School of Meanings and Principles.[17] The New Text scholars freely integrated non-canonical commentaries into their work, as well as propagating alternate systems of divination such as the Taixuanjing.[18] Most of this early commentary, such as the image and number work of Jing Fang, Yu Fan and Xun Shuang, is no longer extant.[19]

With the fall of the Han, I Ching scholarship was no longer organized into systematic schools. The most influential writer of this period was Wang Bi, who integrated the philosophy of the Ten Wings directly into the central text of the I Ching, creating such a persuasive narrative that Han commentators were no longer considered significant. A century later Han Kangbo added commentaries on the Ten Wings to Wang Bi's book, creating a text called the Zhouyi zhu. The principal rival interpretation was a practical text on divination by the soothsayer Guan Lu.[20]

Tang and Song dynasties[edit]

At the beginning of the Tang dynasty, Kong Yingda was tasked with creating a canonical edition of the I Ching. Choosing the third-century Zhouyi zhu as the official commentary, he added to it a subcommentary drawing out the subtler levels of the Han dynasty explanations. The resulting work, the Zhouyi zhengi, became the standard edition of the I Ching through the Song dynasty.[21] By the 11th century, the I Ching was being read as a work of intricate philosophy, as a jumping-off point for examining great metaphysical questions and ethical issues.[22] Cheng Yi, patriarch of the Neo-Confucian Cheng-Zhu school, read the I Ching as a guide to moral perfection.[23]


Zhu Xi rejected both of the Han dynasty lines of commentary on the I Ching, proposing that the text was a work of divination, not philosophy. However, he still considered it useful for understanding the moral practices of the ancients, called "rectification of the mind" in the Great Learning. Zhu Xi’s reconstruction of I Ching yarrow stalk divination, based in part on the Great Commentary account, became the standard form and is still in use today.[24]

As China entered the early modern period, the I Ching took on renewed relevance in both Confucian and Daoist study.The Kangxi Emperor was especially fond of the I Ching and ordered new interpretations of it.[25]

Korean and Japanese[edit]

In 1557, the Korean Yi Hwang produced one of the most influential I Ching studies of the early modern era, claiming that the spirit was a principle (li) and not a material force (qi). Hwang accused the Neo-Confucian school of having misread Zhu Xi. His critique proved influential not only in Korea but also in Japan.[26] Other than this contribution, the I Ching was not central to the development of Korean Confucianism, and by the 19th century, I Ching studies were integrated into the silhak reform movement. [27]

In medieval Japan, secret teachings on the I Ching were publicized by Rinzai Zen master Kokan Shiren and the Shintoist Yoshida Kanetomo.[28] I Ching studies in Japan took on new importance in the Edo period, during which over 1,000 books were published on the subject by over 400 authors. The majority of these books were serious works of philology, reconstructing ancient usages and commentaries for practical purposes. A sizable minority focused on numerology, symbolism, and divination.[29] During this time, over 150 editions of earlier Chinese commentaries were reprinted in Japan, including several texts that had become lost in China.[30] In the early Edo period, writers such as Itō Jinsai, Kumazawa Banzan, and Nakae Toju ranked the I Ching the greatest of the Confucian classics.[31] Many writers attempted to use the I Ching to explain Western science in a Japanese framework. One writer, Shizuki Tadao, even attempted to employ Newtonian mechanics and the Copernican principle within an I Ching cosmology.[32] This line of argument was later taken up in China by Zhang Zhidong.[33]

Early European[edit]

Leibniz, who was corresponding with Jesuits in China, wrote the first commentary on the I Ching in 1703, arguing that it proved the universality of binary numbers and theism, since the broken lines, the "0" or "nothingness", cannot become solid lines, the "1" or "oneness", without the intervention of God.[34] This was criticized by Hegel, who proclaimed that binary system and Chinese characters were "empty forms" that could not articulate spoken words with the clarity of the Western alphabet.[35] In their discussion, I Ching hexagrams and Chinese characters were conflated into a single foreign idea, sparking a dialogue on Western philosophical questions such as universality and the nature of communication. In the 20th century, Jacques Derrida identified Hegel's argument as logocentric, but accepted without question Hegel's premise that the Chinese language cannot express philosophical ideas.[36]


After the Xinhai Revolution, the I Ching lost its canonical status in China, but it maintained cultural influence as China's most ancient text. Borrowing back from Leibniz, Chinese writers offered parallels between the I Ching and subjects such as linear algebra and logic in computer science, aiming to demonstrate that ancient Chinese cosmology had anticipated Western discoveries.[37] The psychologist Carl Jung took interest in the possible universal nature of the imagery of the I Ching, and he introduced an influential German translation by Richard Wilhelm by discussing his theories of archetypes and synchronicity.[38]


The flag of South Korea, with Taegeuk in the centre with four trigrams representing Heaven, Water, Earth, and Fire (beginning top left and proceeding clockwise).
The flag of the Empire of Vietnam used Trigram Li – Fire.
The flag of South Vietnam used Trigram Qián - Heaven.
Main article: I Ching's influence

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.

Use in national flags[edit]

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).


There are hundreds of translations of the I Ching into English alone, to say nothing of translations and commentaries into almost every language of the world.[39] The following is only a selection.

  • Anthony, Carol K. and Moog, Hanna. (2002). I Ching: The Oracle of the Cosmic Way. Stow, MA: Anthony Publishing Company, Inc., ISBN 1-890764-00-0.
  • Balkin, Jack M. (2002). The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life. New York: Schocken Books. ISBN 0-8052-4199-X.
  • Barrett, Hilary. (2010). Walking your path, creating your future. London: Arcturus Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-84837-453-9.
  • 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.
  • Cornelius, J. Edward and Cornelius, Marlene (1998). Yî King: A Beastly Book of Changes, Red Flame: A Thelemic Research Journal, Issue 5. Aleister Crowley's notes and comments.
  • Huang, Alfred (1998). The Complete I Ching: the Definitive Translation From the Taoist Master Alfred Huang. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.
  • Hua-Ching Ni (2nd ed. 1999). I Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth. 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. Multiple alternative translations.
  • Legge, James (1964). I Ching: Book of Changes, With introduction and study guide by Ch'u Chai and Winberg Chai. New York: Citadel Press. Reprint of 1899 century translation. A "highly literal" translation which reflected 19th-century Chinese interpretations and remained the "standard English language version until the mid-twentieth century." [40] PDF (18.5 MB)
  • 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.
  • McClatchie, Thomas (1876). A Translation of the Confucian Yi-king. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press.
  • Pearson, Margaret (2011). The Original I Ching: An Authentic Translation of the Book of Changes. Rutland, VT: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8048-4181-8. Removes gender-based yin/yang abstractions added by later Chinese commentators that do not exist in the original.
  • Ritsema, Rudolf and Karcher, Stephen (1994). I Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change: The First Complete Translation with Concordance. Shaftesbury, Dorset, Element.
  • Shaughnessy, Edward L. (1996). I Ching, The Classic of Changes. Ballantine. New York: ISBN 0-345-36243-8. First English translation of the Mawangdui texts (c. 200 BCE).
  • Wilhelm, Richard and Baynes, Cary (1967). The I Ching or Book of Changes, With foreword by Carl Jung. 3rd. ed., Bollingen Series XIX. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press (1st ed. 1950). Very well respected.
  • Wu Wei (revised 2005). I Ching, The Book Of Answers. Malibu, CA: Power Press. ISBN 0-943015-41-3.
  • Cheng Yi (1988, 2003). I Ching: The Book of Change, Trans. by Thomas Cleary. Boston, London: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 1-59030-015-7.
  • Régis, P. Jean-Baptiste (1736). Y-King: Antiquissimus Sinarum Liber quem ex Latina Interpretatione. Stuttgart, Tübingen: Cotta, 1834, 1839.
Other languages
  • Bashar Abdulah's first Arabic translation [4] of the Chinese most important philosophical book "Book of Changes" or ICHING, by Dar Fadaat Publishing House, Amman Jordan, 2008. ISBN 978-9957-30-043-2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wilhelm, R. I Ching Introduction. English translation by Cary F. Baynes; HTML edition by Dan Baruth. Retrieved on: January 20, 2008.
  2. ^ O'Brien, Paul (2007). Divination: Sacred Tools for Reading the Mind of God. Visionary Networks Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-9795425-0-2. 
  3. ^ Stamps, Jeffrey (1980). Holonomy: A Human Systems Theory. Jeffrey Stamps. p. 207. ISBN 0-914105-17-5. 
  4. ^ Clark, Peter Bernard (2006). Encyclopedia of new religious movements. Psychology Press. p. 290. ISBN 0-415-26707-2. "I Ching was discovered and written down by a series of legendary culture heroes, Fu Hsi, King Wen...towards the end of the second millennium BCE, with commentaries later added by Confucius (551–479 BCE). Modern sinological scholarship suggests that the earliest layers of the text may indeed date from this period and that they did subsequently receive a Confucian reinterpretation. However, there is no evidence that any of the above mentioned culture heroes or sages had anything directly to do with it." 
  5. ^ Steininger, Hans (1971). Bleeker, C. J. and G. Widengren, ed. Historia Religionum, Volume 2 Religions of the Present. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 478. ISBN 90-04-02598-7. "Most probably the oldest extant book of divination in the world, dating back to 1,000 B.C. and before." 
  6. ^ a b Balkin, J. M. (2002). The laws of change: I ching and the philosophy of life. Schocken Books. p. 84. ISBN 0-8052-4199-X. 
  7. ^ A. Terrien de la Couperie, "China and the Chinese: Their Early History and Future Prospects," Society of Arts (Great Britain) (1879). Journal of the Society of Arts, Volume 28. The Society. p. 731. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  8. ^ Woolf, Daniel (2011). A Global History of History. Cambridge University Press. p. 55. ISBN 0521875757. "Significant Chinese thinking about the past can be traced back to ancient canonical text such as the Yijing (or I Ching, 'Book of Changes'), which reached a definitive form about the end of the second millennium BC." 
  9. ^ Shih-chuan Chen: (1972). "How to Form a Hexagram and Consult the I Ching". Journal of the American Oriental Society, 92:2 (April–June). pp. 237–249. 
  10. ^ "The Oracle: Journal of Yijing Studies, Vol. 2, No. 9 (August 1999)". 1999. pp. 43–45. Retrieved 19 May 2010. 
  11. ^ "Yijing Dao – Probabilities with coins and yarrow stalks". 4 January 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Wilhelm, R. & Baynes, C., (1967): "The I Ching or Book of Changes", With foreword by Carl Jung, Introduction, Bollingen Series XIX, Princeton University Press, (1st ed. 1950)
  13. ^ Unicode Charts
  14. ^ Leibniz G., Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire, Mathematischen Schriften, ed. C. Gerhardt, Berlin 1879, vol.7, p.223; engl. transl.[1]
  15. ^ Cook, Richard S. (2006). STEDT Monograph 5: Classical Chinese Combinatorics: Derivation of the I Ching Hexagram Sequence. ISBN 0-944613-44-6.
  16. ^ Smith 2008, p. 58.
  17. ^ Smith 2012, p. 76-8.
  18. ^ Smith 2008, p. 76-9.
  19. ^ Smith 2008, p. 57, 67, 84-6.
  20. ^ Smith 2008, p. 89-90, 98; Hon 2005, p. 29-30.
  21. ^ Hon 2005, p. 29-33.
  22. ^ Hon 2005, p. 144.
  23. ^ Smith 2008, p. 128.
  24. ^ Adler 2002, p. v-xi; Smith 2008, p. 229.
  25. ^ Smith 2008, p. 177.
  26. ^ Ng 2000b, p. 55-6.
  27. ^ Ng 2000b, p. 65.
  28. ^ Ng 2000a, p. 7, 15.
  29. ^ Ng 2000a, p. 22-25.
  30. ^ Ng 2000a, p. 28-9.
  31. ^ Ng 2000a, p. 38-9.
  32. ^ Ng 2000a, p. 143-5.
  33. ^ Smith 2008, p. 197.
  34. ^ Nelson 2011, p. 379; Smith 2008, p. 204.
  35. ^ Nelson 2011, p. 381.
  36. ^ Nelson 2011, p. 383.
  37. ^ Smith 2008, p. 205.
  38. ^ Smith 2008, p. 212.
  39. ^ For discussions of the translations into English, see David Knechtges, "The Perils And Pleasures Of Translation: The Case Of The Chinese Classics" [2], a scholarly discussion and history of translations into Western languages, and Chapter 5, "The Westward Travels of the Changes, in Richard J. Smith, The I Ching: A Biography (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012), a discussion for general readers.
  40. ^ Smith, The I Ching: A Biography p. 184-85.


  • Adler, Joseph A. (2002). Introduction to the study of the classic of change (I-hsüeh ch'i-meng). Provo, Utah: Global Scholarly Publications. ISBN 1592673341. 
  • Hon, Tze-ki (2005). The Yijing and Chinese politics: classical commentary and literati activism in the northern Song Period, 960 - 1127. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press. ISBN 0791463117. 
  • Marshall, S.J. (2001). The mandate of heaven: hidden history in the I Ching. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231122985. 
  • Nelson, Eric S. (2011). "The Yijing and Philosophy: From Leibniz to Derrida". Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (3): 377–396. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6253.2011.01661.x. 
  • Ng, Wai-ming (2000a). The I ching in Tokugawa thought and culture. Honolulu, HI: Association for Asian Studies and University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0824822420. 
  • Ng, Wai-ming (2000b). "The I Ching in Late-Choson Thought". Korean Studies 24 (1): 53–68. doi:10.1353/ks.2000.0013. 
  • Redmond, Geoffrey; Hon, Tze-Ki (2014). Teaching the I Ching. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199766819. 
  • Rutt, Richard (1996). The book of changes (Zhouyi): a Bronze Age document. Richmond: Curzon. ISBN 0700704671. 
  • Shaugnessy, Edward (1983). The composition of the Zhouyi (Thesis). Stanford University. 
  • Smith, Richard J. (2008). Fathoming the cosmos and ordering the world : the Yijing (I ching, or classic of changes) and its evolution in China. Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Press. ISBN 0813927056. 
  • Smith, Richard J. (2012). The I Ching: a biography. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691145099. 

External links[edit]