Hexagrams and changing lines

The Primary Hexagram

The primary hexagram is the hexagram you cast. This is the key to your answer - it's like the stage and scenery of the play, the setting that defines what can unfold here. Start reading here...

Did you receive any changing lines? (That is, any with the value 6 or 9?) In about five in every six readings, you can expect to have at least one line changing. But if you haven't, here's information on unchanging hexagrams.

If you received a hexagram with changing lines

Changing (or 'moving') lines in a reading add new possibilities and depth. Once you've drawn and identified your primary hexagram, you need to let them change!

Every old yin (6) -

becomes young yang (7) -

Every old yang (9) -

becomes young yin (8) -

The other lines - the 7s and 8s - stay the same. When every changing line has transformed into its opposite, the result is your relating hexagram

So for example, the primary hexagram 36, Brightness Hiding, with its second line changing...

...would give the relating hexagram 11, Harmony:

The Relating Hexagram

There are many ways in which the relating and primary hexagrams can work together: the I Ching is endlessly flexible and inventive in expressing new meanings. The advanced I Ching Course devotes a full lesson to exploring the interactions of primary and relating hexagrams and helps you to work out the inner dynamics of your own readings in practice.

Exactly what the relating hexagram means for you depends on the kind of question you asked, as well as on how the particular hexagrams involved relate to one another. It tends to be more subjective, working as a direction or 'pull' on the situation of the primary hexagram. It could be the potential outcome, or the way you relate to the situation. The main texts for this hexagram will all be relevant to your question, but none of the line texts is.

The idea behind changing lines...

...is that yang and yin are constantly cycling: each is always changing into the other. The unchanging lines are known as 'young yin' and 'young yang' they are still stable. 'Old yang' is at a later stage in the cycle, and is in the process of changing into yin. 'Old yin' is in the process of changing into yang. This ceaseless change is captured in the tai chi symbol:

The changing lines

Turning back to your primary hexagram: you need to read the texts associated with each moving line. When you receive one or more changing lines in your answer, they highlight moments of change, present or future, and reveal exactly where you are within the broader picture painted by the primary hexagram. They may point to important choices, opportunities or dangers, and provide very useful advice on the best way to deal with them. This part of the reading is the most specific to your present situation.

It is traditional to read the bottom line as referring to the present or near future, and the higher lines as referring to a more distant future. But the different lines can also refer to alternative approaches to the basic situation that the primary hexagram describes, or even to different people. The I Ching Course explains and illustrates many ways in which apparently contradictory changing lines can work together. There's also more information in this article on multiple moving lines.


If you received an unchanging hexagram

If none of the lines in your primary hexagram are changing (ie if they're all 7s or 8s) then all your answer is contained within its texts - every text, that is, apart from the moving lines.

You may read books that call this a 'locked' hexagram and consider it a bad sign, an indication of stagnation. Don't worry that kind of prejudice comes from a fairly common misunderstanding, when people imagine that the hexagrams are static in themselves. They're not! As with any other answer from the I Ching, how 'good' or 'bad' an unchanging hexagram is depends on the unique combination of the hexagram, your situation, and your desires.

With a single hexagram reading, the I Ching is giving you a straightforward and emphatic answer, inviting you to take the time to understand this hexagram to the full. (It may be something you need to understand before you can move on.) You may want to explore the constellation of connected hexagrams that surround it and help to define its meaning - the hexagrams of context.

Now you have your complete reading, you can start on I Ching interpretation>>