Hexagrams of context

Of course, any hexagram can change into any other if the relevant lines are changing. However, there are other relationships between hexagrams that are particularly helpful in unfolding their meanings. Each hexagram stands at the centre of a constellation of others, and studying these subtle interconnections brings a deeper understanding. In a normal, full reading I would consider this constellation for both the primary and relating hexagrams.


The nuclear hexagram

This is created from the original hexagram's inner lines. A hexagram's lines are numbered, from the bottom upwards, 123456, and the nuclear hexagram is formed from lines 234345. To take an example: with the original hexagram 33:

... then the nuclear hexagram would be #44:

The nuclear hexagram represents a hidden possibility at the heart of your situation, which might emerge from it, but has not yet done so. This could be a positive opportunity or a warning, or a very simple truth about where you are.

More articles on nuclear hexagrams at 'Answers' I Ching blog:


Complementary hexagram

The complement of a hexagram is its mirror image: each broken line is replaced with a solid one, and vice versa. So the opposite of Hexagram 33, Retiring -

... is Hexagram 19, Nearing.

You can imagine how these two together form a yin/yang pair... like the sides of a coin. By showing exactly what your situation isn't like, this hexagram helps you to understand more closely what it is.


Contrasting Hexagrams

The Sequence of hexagrams in the I Ching is arranged in contrasting pairs. The hexagram of contrast is usually generated by turning the original hexagram upside down. So the contrast to Hexagram 33 is Hexagram 34, Great Strength:

Some hexagrams, though, are symmetrical they are the same if turned upside down. In these cases, the complementary hexagram is also taken as the contrast. For example, the complementary and contrasting hexagram to 30, Clarity -

- is 29, Repeating Chasm:

The contrasting hexagrams are paired in the I Ching - in other words, this is a vital part of its basic structure. They provide a context that helps to define the primary hexagram, often as part of a larger unit of meaning.

This relationship is the subject of the Zagua, one of the Ten Wings of commentary that make the I Ching a classic, which is included in complete translations.


The hexagram of sequence

This is simply the hexagram that immediately precedes the one you cast in the I Ching. It reveals the roots of your situation, or perhaps something which you will have to acknowledge or work on before you can exploit the current situation's full potential. Like the contrasting hexagram pairs, the sequence of hexagrams has a Wing to itself, the Xugua. This hexagram can't be generated from the original one (though it will be the same as the contrasting one 50% of the time, of course) you have to look it up.

You might also be interested in the hexagrams describing change in a reading. And there's more opportunity to study and discuss all these facets of a reading in the I Ching Course.