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Its name and age

The name of the book

The Yijing, or I Ching, is an ancient Chinese oracle: its name means Classic Book (Jing or Ching) of Change (Yi or I):


Yi (Change)



Jing (Classic Book)

Jing, ‘classic book’, is the same word as in ‘Daodejing’ (or ‘Tao Te Ching’), the ‘Book of the Way and its Power’. It literally means the warp threads on the loom.

The oracle’s given name is simply Yi: Change. In its earliest uses, this has to do with changes in the weather – the sun emerging from behind clouds. The ancient form of the character seems to show the sun and its rays:


The same word, yi, also means ‘easy, simple’. A Yijing reading shows you change: it offers ways to understand and move with the changes around you, and to create change of your own.

(‘I Ching’ or ‘Yijing’?
There are two main ways of writing Chinese words in English letters, called Wade-Giles and pinyin. So ‘I Ching’ (Wade-Giles) and ‘Yijing’ (pinyin) represent the same Chinese words, 易 經 , for ‘change’ and ‘classic book’. I usually call the oracle the ‘Yijing’ or simply call it by name: ‘Yi’, Change.)

How old is it?

The ancient heart of the Yijing was first written down about 3,000 years ago, by the Zhou people of early China. (So you’ll sometimes see this simple core text called the ‘Zhouyi’: the Zhou people’s Changes.) Since that time, people have never stopped consulting Yi as an oracle, exploring and studying it – which means that when you cast your own reading and begin your own conversation with Yi, you’re joining an unbroken tradition that’s been evolving and growing for some three thousand years.

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