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Questioning Yarrow Probabilities

bradford

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Hello-
This is cross-posted from Midaughter

I recently did a preliminary study of Zhou Dynasty divination records gleaned from four sources, including the Zuozhuan. Some were taken from articles showing only the gua in graphic form with conjectural transcriptions. I found myself challenging some of the authors' ideas of how these graphics should be translated into the numerals 6, 7, 8, & 9. But at least one of the authors had some truly idiotic ideas, such as there must have been 5 kinds of lines instead of four. Anyway, if my assumptions are correct, 73 surveyed records with 381 total lines* yielded the following curve:
6 - 51
7 - 134
8 - 152
9 - 44
This spread is much. much closer to what we get with the modern coin method than to the modern yarrow method. This strongly suggests the possibility that the modern yarrow method that we get from 12th century Zhuxi was Not the original yarrow method in use in the Zhou - that the arguments claiming that the modern yarrow probabilities are somehow more pure may one day be completely dismantled by further studies.
Yet another reason to stay off yixue bandwagons and keep an open mind.


* 73 complete gua would yield 426 lines, but some of the samples were partly illegible and some yielded only ba gua as results

If anybody wants to see my notes and source names they can write to me off-forum
 

Sparhawk

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Hi Brad,

Very interesting stuff. If ok with you, I'd like to add this to the end of my article about the Nanjing Group method. I've been corresponding with Ed Hacker lately and he figured out the line probabilities for it and his conclusions are very interesting. I could include your findings there too.
 

solun

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Having used what I think is the 'modern' yarrow method and the modern coin, I found the modern coin to be the method that yielded answers I could relate to better.
Now I am using 8 stones in a glass bowl ( the coins were becoming physically difficult for some reason.)
3 yin
3 yang
1 changing yin
1 changing yang
This works well, but is noisy and I am looking for quiter materials.
 

fkegan

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Hi Bradford,
Probability and Divination never mix well (the old 1/(N-1) problem for a single N or the unique divination of YOUR question. There is also the detail that often if you inquire for further guidance upon your oracle, you get the resultant now as the oracle hexagram with its own moving lines. What is the probability distribution upon that?

Frank
 

heylise

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Having used what I think is the 'modern' yarrow method and the modern coin, I found the modern coin to be the method that yielded answers I could relate to better.
Now I am using 8 stones in a glass bowl ( the coins were becoming physically difficult for some reason.)
3 yin
3 yang
1 changing yin
1 changing yang
This works well, but is noisy and I am looking for quiter materials.
Try the online one Emanuele made. For me the coins also give more clear answers, but 'digital' ones even more so than physical coins.
 

solun

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Thanks heylise for the link - I'll check it out.

I have mixed responses to the online or computerized readings I have gotten in the past generally. Maybe this one is different.

I find that I can meld better with the question when I am using an integrated approach invovling more of the material senses.
:)
 

heylise

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With the online oracles which give a hexagram with one click I get no answer at all. Maybe because I don't believe it. Believing it is the start to make sense of it, without that I just stare at it, my mind stays blank.

Maybe that is also the reason why a good digital one works better for me than throwing physical coins. I can feel what I do when I throw them, if they get thoroughly shaken or stay more or less the way they were after the previous line and so on. I guess that is why you have to meditate on the question and such things, to get your mind away from seeing what you do.

A click with the mouse takes care of that problem, I am the one who does it and yet I have no control at all. If I click now or a second later makes a big difference, but 'how' I click not at all. Feels to me as if universe answers.

I never compared yarrow with coins. I could do so, I have a long row of castings in San Shan, which has the yarrow. But I guess calculating it has been done already by lots of people, this is just about the sense they make. My impression is that the 'coins' make more sense. For me personally.
 

buzzurro

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Try the online one Emanuele made. For me the coins also give more clear answers, but 'digital' ones even more so than physical coins.
Er... thanks again LiSe! :blush:

As I wrote elsewhere in this forum, I love to use the yarrow whenever I have the time, although I use the heretic method: 48 stalks instead of 49, so that the probabilities become the same as those of the coins.

Anyway, for the reasons you all know better than me, I don't believe it's the original yarrow method in use in the Zhou, I mean, not even the orthodox version with 49 stalks.

I wander, didn't anybody notice how the procedure seems to mimic the behaviour of the three coins? Each line is cast with three sortings, and each sorting can only result in one of two possible values, like the two sides of a coin.
I mean, since the three coins was the only known method at the time, Zhuxi must have taken it as a model, voluntarily or not.
Of course one might argue that things might have gone the other way around: the yarrow method worked that way, and therefore the three coins turned out to be the ideal substitute method (except for the probabilities, of course)... but the fact is that the coins can hardly be used in a different manner, while, on the contrary, there are countless possible ways to sort yarrow, and doing it in such a way that each sorting yelds a binary result is certainly not the easiest one...

Well, I hope it's clear enough... for what it's worth... :eek:
 

bradford

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As I wrote elsewhere in this forum, I love to use the yarrow whenever I have the time, although I use the heretic method: 48 stalks instead of 49, so that the probabilities become the same as those of the coins.

Have you shared a description of that method here? There are two things I've always liked a lot about the yarrow. It slows you way down for proper meditation, pondering and respect. And on a related note it discourages the shallow, impatient people from asking multiple questions instead of slowing down to examine the answer they got until they get it.
 

buzzurro

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Have you shared a description of that method here?
Well, a very detailed description was found on a blog, linked by Hilary in the quoting, I only explained the probabilities issue:
http://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/friends/showpost.php?p=76414&postcount=10

(Actually, I don't form a cross with the two stalks set aside, but this makes no difference...)

Now let me add the output of a simple script I had made to test the probabilities:

Stalks used: 49
Minimum number of stalks in left-hand pile: 3
Minimum number of stalks in right-hand pile: 3

Total lines: 53548

7 [---]: 16126 (4.818405916187346 / 16)
8 [- -]: 23991 (7.1684470008216925 / 16)
9 [-o-]: 10659 (3.1848808545603946 / 16)
6 [-x-]: 2772 (0.828266228430567 / 16)


Stalks used: 48
Minimum number of stalks in left-hand pile: 3
Minimum number of stalks in right-hand pile: 3

Total lines: 49271

7 [---]: 17852 (5.797162631162347 / 16)
8 [- -]: 19092 (6.199833573501654 / 16)
9 [-o-]: 6783 (2.2026750015221936 / 16)
6 [-x-]: 5544 (1.8003287938138052 / 16)


(Sorry for the absurd number of decimals, I was too lazy - and persnickety! - to round the values...)
:bows:
 

fkegan

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Hi Luis and Bradford,

I am always intrigued to see how folks explain casting hexagrams, particularly with the erroneous assumption that a unique event, casting your Oracle in answer to your immediate question could ever be fit into the notions of probability.

The yarrow stalk method given differs from that in Wilhelm, mostly in his assumption that the remainder sets would add to 6,7,8, or 9 rather than Wilhelm's processing the two possible remainders to either 3 or 2 and then obtaining the line values from their addition.

Also interesting that in his discussion of Oracle Bone divination he neglects to note the detail that only a Yes/No/Not Clear answer was possible and therefore a reasonable oracle only followed from asking questions in pairs, one positive and the other the negative of that and the only successful oracle was a clear Yes to one and a clear No to the other which would indicate why the coin oracle which anyone could at least turn into a hexagram with moving lines without special skills in reading heat-induced bone cracks would become quickly preferred.

However, a lovely article about many ways to cast Oracles...

Frank
 

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