What is the I Ching?

There are so many answers to this question! The I Ching is the world's oldest oracle; it's the most loved and revered book of Chinese wisdom; it's the accumulated experience of over 2,500 years of diviners and sages, and beyond that of unimaginably ancient oral traditions; it's the voice that has been offering people help and wise, genial guidance for generations…

But when people ask the I Ching what it is, it responds again and again with great simplicity, describing itself as a well of pure water. This well is always there, standing at the centre of the fields and available to everyone. Though generations come and go, and their way of life changes beyond all recognition, the well itself never changes, and its water of truth never runs dry.

How can you reach the water and satisfy your thirst for understanding? To do this yourself, you need to understand the well's ancient structure and how to use it: that's what all these Practical I Ching pages are for. But if you don't have the time and energy to spare to learn this for yourself just at present, there's no need to lose out. You can still get the full benefit of the I Ching's unique powers through Clarity's guaranteed I Ching readings.

(Because the purpose of Clarity is to make the I Ching's help available to anyone who needs it, there is absolutely no need to know or study the I Ching in order to understand the interpretations I provide.)

Whatever you choose, you are invited to make the I Ching's answers a part of your life - to drink the water from the well.

Drawing water from the Well

The I Ching as you buy it today will be a collection of texts - a wonderful mixture of imagery and advice, philosophy and poetry - divided into 64 'chapters'. These are the 64 hexagrams - that is, piles of six lines, either broken:

or solid:

For example, 'Hexagram 30' looks like this:

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(It means Clarity, by the way.)

When you consult the I Ching, your answer comes in the form of a hexagram, which you build up line by line. You draw each line according to the results of tossing two or three coins (or following one of the other methods, such as sorting yarrow stalks or pulling marbles from a bag). The whole process is absurdly simple, and every I Ching translation explains how it works.

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Next, you look up your hexagram's particular texts. Your coin-tosses (or whatever) will also have shown whether one or more of your six lines is in the process of changing from solid to broken or vice versa. If so, then there are also line texts to read, and the second hexagram that's formed after the lines have changed. Just follow through the instructions on how to consult the I Ching and you'll soon see how it works.

A hexagram is more than just a convenient chapter heading - it's also a very simple, elegant picture of how the energy is flowing through the situation. I Ching means 'Book of Changes', and change is the one constant throughout the book. The hexagrams are not so much static pictures as ways to move: Creating, Receiving and sustaining, Beginning, Learning, Waiting, Arguing...

Some people do find the structure of the I Ching a little complicated at first. But please don't let this put you off! That would be like going thirsty because you'd never drawn water from a well before. Just think: all these diagrams arise simply from the universe's most elementary structuring principle, the interplay of yang (the solid lines) and yin (the broken ones). Activity and rest, stimulus and response, light and darkness… what could be more natural?

Next: What's possible with the I Ching?>>