The development of the I Ching

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The Eight Trigrams

There is probably a connection between the development of the I Ching and ancient Chinese divination techniques, such as the animal bone oracle , traces of which can be found as far back as 5,000 BC. Here, the cracks and lines in the bones were supposed to provide information about the future. Patterns in the shell lines of turtles were also read.


The origin of the "Book of Changes " can be traced back to the legendary first Chinese emperor Fu Hi (3,000 BC). He is said to have studied the dualistic principle and the laws of the universe and developed a system of lines that symbolized the laws of nature.

The spiritual foundation of the I Ching is thus the principle of Yin and Yang . Assuming all events in the world is determined by the polarity and interaction of two dualities. First, Yin and Yang symbolize the dualism of the universe- without movement, no progress, and no change are possible (The concepts of Yin and Yang are probably younger than the I Ching itself, but the principle of dualism has been utilized in Chinese philosophy for longer).



Yin is ascribed the adjectives feminine, receptive, soft, and weak.
Yang is the masculine, intense, challenging, and giving principle.

A solid line stands for the stable Yang and a broken line for the stable Yin in the I Ching . Within the hexagrams , the changing Yang line and a changing Yin line also appear.


--- Yang

9 - changing yang line

- 6 - changing Yin line

Emperor Fu Hi developed the eight trigrams from these yin and yang lines. These are symbols consisting of a combination of three Yin and / or Yang lines. The lower line symbolizes the forces of the earth , the middle line represents forces of man, and the upper line  represents forces of heaven . Together, all possible combinations result in eight different trigrams, to which different meanings are attributed. They all stand for a natural phenomenon: sky, fire, water, mountain, wind, thunder, lake, and earth.


The trigrams:

Trigram Name Image Meaning Family Direction Cycle
KIÄN Heaven Creative, active, strong, attacking, persistent, fertilizing, leading, male Father upwards Effort, struggle
KUN Earth Passive, yielding, extending, absorbing, receiving, feminine Mother downwards Devotion, service
JEN Thunder Exciting, energizing, stimulating, vital, fertilizing, dynamic, emotional, moving, awakening 1. Son upwards Beginning of the movement
SUN Wind Penetrating, feeling, receptive, growing, unfolding, expanding, gentle, penetrating 1. Daughter downwards Maturity, age
LI Fire Bright, shaping, clarifying, thinking, distinguishing, warmth, radiant, adherent, dependent, wild, strange 2. Daughter upwards Appearance, perception
KAN Water Dark, formless, uncertain, emotion, feel, cold, absorbing, depth, abyss, danger 2. Son downwards Pain, Strain
DUI Lake Reflective, light, bright, joyful, contemplative, looking, changing, transforming, inspiring 3. Son upwards Joy, cheerfulness
GEN Mountain Persistent, steady, heavy, calm, equanimous, collection, reluctant, patient, keeping still 3. Daughter downwards Perfection, completion



The eight trigrams are often arranged in a circle. In this way, it becomes clear that our life is in a constant state of change, which is determined by the laws of nature.


The trigrams were already used as oracles. Over time, however, they did not prove to be sufficient answers to questions. They lack the temporal aspect that is needed to show paths and possibilities for development. This temporal movement only comes about through the composition of two trigrams, each into a hexagram (trigram = 3 lines, hexagram = 6 lines). All possible combinations together result in a total of 64 different hexagrams .


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What is the I Ching? The I Ching is an ancient Chinese divination that uses coins to form Hexagrams. An interpretation is made and then translated as an oracle. Its teachings and descriptions are some of the oldest written texts and still contain relevant wisdom today. This book of instructions is commonly referred to as "The Book of Changes," a text dating back to 5000 B.C.