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Introduction to I Ching Readings

      Reading the I Ching involves casting coins or yarrow stalks to build a series of 6 lines called a "hexagram". Each line is either Yin (the passive or feminine force) or Yang (the active or masculine force). The resulting hexagram is then looked up in the I Ching itself, to yield a passage describing what each of the 6 lines means. There are 64 possible hexagrams, each of which can be further broken down into groups of 3 lines called "trigrams". One of the most fascinating aspects of I Ching readings is that each line in the present hexagram may be old, indicating that it is about to change from Yin to Yang or vice versa - by inverting each of these changing lines, we can generate a hexagram depicting the immediate future.

Key: Lines are numbered from 1 at the bottom to 6 at the top. Divided lines are Yin and undivided lines are Yang. Black lines are new (unchanging) and gray lines are old (changing).

Interpretation: I Ching readings can be challenging to interpret, precisely because they paint a very complete picture of the situation. Notably, each of the 6 lines of the reading describes a specific individual, and the outcome of their endeavor. This is what makes the I Ching so unique and powerful - where Tarot or Runes may give you an understanding of your circumstances, the I Ching actually gives you an understanding of your OPTIONS. You will find the I Ching easier to interpret if you consider that it was written in ancient China, and think of the more peculiar expressions in that context. For example, our favorite anachronistic term is "efficacious tortoise" - a reference to the food of a wealthy man, similar to the meaning of "live Maine lobster" to many modern Americans.

Translation: The most commonly used English translation of the I Ching (also known as the Yi Jing) was by Cary Baynes in 1951, from a German translation by Richard Wilhelm in 1923 - though very poetic and beautiful to read, it suffers not only from being a translation of a translation, but from Wilhelm's infusion of Christian values into the Confuscian text. To avoid these problems, the version of the I Ching we use is based on the oldest scholarly English translation, by James Legge in 1882 (and yes, our version IS protected by copyright). The grammar and spelling has been modernized slightly, but the words and meaning are very true to the original Chinese text. For example, you will note many references to a "superior man", "proper conduct", "looking above", or "looking below" - the ageless Chinese concepts of formal role within society and of the specific behavior appropriate to that role.