What Is The I Ching?

What exactly is the I-Ching? When and how was it developed? How does it work and how reliable is it?

This ancient practice is actually a book dated back five thousand years, containing scripts dealing with divination and wisdom in the Chinese religions. Literally, "I" means "change," and "Ching" means "book," thus, "The Book of Changes." This book was composed to assist people in treating changes in their everyday lives. The I-Ching provides a soothing solution to the problems people have and offers them solace, or at least some enjoyment and excitement to take their minds off of their trying situations.

The origins of the I-Ching are believed to be from the beginning of the Chou dynasty (1120-221 B.C.E.), probably in western China. Aside from the references to divination and wisdom, the book also includes pairs of eight "trigrams." A trigram contains three horizontal lines. In the I-Ching, there are 64 images, each of which has a completely different interpretation attached to it. Each image is really a "hexagram," which is a set of two trigrams, stacked on top of each other.

The Yin and the Yang are involved a great deal in the readings of the pairings of the I-Ching. There are two principle ways a line can be formed: an undivided line connected to the expansive yang, or a fractured line connected to the contractive yin. The opposing forces consist of active versus passive, light versus light, and others.

How exactly is I-Ching practiced, and what does the process consist of? The critical stage is the tossing of the coins or sticks. While this is done, the subject focuses on a question in his or her mind. The reading of the hexagrams will attempt to reveal the answer to the question. In the experiments with the coins, three coins may be used, and it is the head-to-tail ratio which determines the line's character. This is done six times to account for the entirety of the hexagram.

Imagine that you are surrounded by wise elders of the Chinese community, awaiting the diagnosis and treatment for your troubles. The coins are tossed the required amount of times, and the results recorded. The various lines of the hexagram may propose different actions to take or avoid, or simply a belief about the situation under examination.

Another important thing to consider in interpretations, is the structure of the lines. The broken lines are the yin lines while the solid lines are the yang lines. Black lines symbolize the new and unchanging while gray lines symbolize the old and changing. The yang lines are solid; yang represents the warm, bright hotness, male, white, day, summer, active, and life. The yin lines are broken; they represent the cold, black, female, winter, night, passive, death, and the dark.

There are actually two different kinds of I-Ching practices: Traditional and Original. The Traditional was begun stemming from written texts handed down to us from many years ago. The primary difficulty with the Traditional practice is that it is very brief, obscure, and old-fashioned. Contemporary I-Ching in this form contains much more interpretation than ever before, mostly in regards to this reason. The Original I-Ching gives a greater attempt to act as an oracle, or a divine authority of older times.

In the beginning, I-Ching was nothing more than an oral tradition passed down through the generations. Now it has been developed and employed for thousands of years, bringing it into greater popularity with many cultures.

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