I Ching


The I Ching is an ancient Chinese text, which embodies the interplay of yin and yang within Chinese cosmology. The book is also popularly used as a tool of divination.
The I Ching describes the philosophy and cosmology that continues to be the fulcrum of Chinese cultural beliefs. The concepts inherent in this text are the inevitability of change, the evolution of events as a process, and the dynamic balance that exists between opposites. Indeed, Chinese medicine including acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbs were developed and their uses have co-evolved in the same political context and worldview. The I Ching describes the interconnection between these differing forces; this description is also the basis of traditional Chinese medicine.
The I Ching was written in the Tang Dynasty, between 2852 B.C.E. and 2738 B.C.E. Though the mythical cultural hero Fu His is given credit for writing the original I Ching, the actual author is unknown.
In China as well as in the West, the I Ching is used as a tool of divination. Most individuals consult the I Ching for general advice, rather than as a source of answers to yes or no questions. The process of consulting the book as an oracle involves determining the hexagram by a method of random generation and then reading the text associated with that hexagram. The translation of the title into English used to be "Book of Changes", but is more recently and accurately translated to "Classic of Changes."
The I Ching is embodied by the 64 hexagrams, or abstract arrangements of six lines. Each hexagram pictures six stacked horizontal lines, each of which is either a solid line (representing yang) or a broken line (representing yin). The top line of the hexagram represents heaven, and the bottom line of the hexagram represents earth. Between these lines are the affairs of man. With this understanding, the I Ching was used as a tool to discuss the place of religion, political affairs, and social responsibility within the time that it was written. Experts believe that the hexagrams were a originally a pairing of two trigrams, a less complex but very similar representational system.
Although the book is divided into chapters, the I Ching captures the process of one event leading into another through the 64 hexagrams. Polar opposites, the most basic of which are yin and yang, moderate, flow into, and even become one another.
Yin and yang are opposite and complementary qualities of life energy (chi or qi). Yin, represented by the open line, is regarded as the principle of preparation, storing, and contemplation. Yang, represented by the solid line, is the principle of acting, exerting, and using up. Every process in the universe, including every physiological process within the microcosm of the human body, can be analyzed within the context of yin-yang theory. Traditional Chinese medicine, at its most basic level, describes the balance and inherent codependence of yin and yang; when yin and yang fall out of balance, physical, spiritual, and psychological illness may occur. Therefore, the ebb and flow of yin and yang of the political and spiritual state described in the I Ching also describe the ebb and flow of energy in the human body. Death occurs when yin and yang separate, and cease to co-exist with, and influence, one another.

Related Terms

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