-“If I had 100 more years to live, I would dedicate 50 of them to study the I Ching.”

Thus supposedly did Confucius refer to the philosophical taxonomy of the Universe that has served as a guide for ethical and healthy living to millions of Chinese people and is, by far, the most widely read book in East Asia; it has also a large following in Western societies.

Most of the tenets of traditional Chinese Medicine can be traced back to the I Ching. Ying and Yang—the opposing and complimentary universal life forces—manifest in multiple psychological and physical processes, both normal and abnormal, of the human being.

As most of its important words have no definitive meaning, there have been many interpretations, both in the Chinese and the Western literature; almost every sentence can be read in multiple ways and nobody can know them all. Rather than a message about what it was intended to be said, almost every word transmits both what the writer and the reader are actually thinking.

The origin of the old book is shrouded in mystery and explained by myth. The hero Fu Xi—a snake with a human face—patiently studied the patterns of the Nature in the sky and on the ground, the marks on rocks, skeletons, bird droppings, the movements of the clouds and the alignment of the stars.

Based on the Ying and Yang duality, everything was reduced to eight trigrams, each with three stacked solid or broken lines, which represented:

  • Kun (Earth)
  • Gen (Mountain)
  • Kan(Water)
  • Xun (Wind)
  • Zhen (Thunder)
  • Li (Fire)
  • Dui (Lake)
  • Qian (Heaven)

Around the year 1050 BC the Emperor Wen, founder of the Zhou dynasty, doubled the trigrams to hexagrams (six-lined figures), put then numbers and arranged all the possible combinations (64) with their particular names. In the Shang dynasty (1500 BC) fortune tellers applied heat to tortoise shells and interpreted the meaning of the cracks; thousands have been unearthed.

In the third century BC, the Zhou Yi was rewritten and standardized as a philosophical manual that was declared as the most important of the five canonical Confucian books.  It became the “I Ching” or the book of Change.

As everything is related in a constant state of motion, it becomes a microcosm. Traditional Chinese medicine, which will be discussed in later entries of this web page, cannot be properly understood without it.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

2 thoughts on “What is the I Ching?

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