A bit of history

The I Ching or the Yi Jing, is the oldest classical divination system known to man. First written in approximately 1000 B.C., the I Ching is regarded as the foundation text of Chinese wisdom and philosophy. It has also been instrumental to scholars, sages and kings for centuries, as it helped them in making important decisions.

Fu Hsi, the mythical first Emperor of China (2852-2737 B.C) is reputed to be the discoverer of the initial trigrams. He actually found these lines on the back of a turtle (depicted above). Understanding that true wisdom could be found in nature (sky, earth, thunder, wind, water, air, fire, mountain, and lake) and their ebb and flow relevance in our lives, he began to observe these turtles emerging from the yellow river. The trigram shown on the turtle shell became known as the connection of all things through the interplay of YIN and YANG –– and that the creative consists of both these elements. This symbology has since become the central idea and inspiration for Chinese civilization.

King Wen from the Zhou Dynesty doubled the hexagrams, creating 64 – with the knowledge that there needed to be more possible scenarios. He understood the need to scale our perception – and that the surrounding environment was just as important as the issue itself. With this depth of understanding, he created the commentaries.

The commentaries are based on Taoism and Confucianism. Confucius brought to the I Ching the strong moral element of the commentaries. Lao Tsu’s Taoism, brought in the aspect of the female virtues. The combination of the two philosophies has created a living, breathing oracle, a patient and all-knowing teacher who can be relied upon for advice at crucial turning points in our lives. It has certainly helped me through many tumultuous times.

There are 64 possible hexagrams that can be built from six throws of the coins, each with a distinct meaning and teaching. In the early days, people used Yarrow Stalks to determine the correct hexagram. Today, people use coins (dimes, quarters, pennies or nickels).

There are literally hundreds of translations of the I Ching in countless languages. However, the one I have used over the years and the one that has been documented in the book, Pushing Upward, is the English version translated by Willhelm/Baynes (published in English in 1950).

My deepest gratitude goes out to the ancient Chinese sages who created the I Ching, to Willhelm and Baynes who translated the Chinese version from German to English and to Carl Jung whose Introduction in the Wilhelm/Baynes version led me to my deep exploration, and respect for this profound oracle. He writes:

“The I Ching insists upon self-knowledge throughout. The method by which this is to be achieved is open to every kind of misuse, and is therefore not for the frivolous- minded and immature; nor is it for intellectuals and rationalists. It is appropriate only for thoughtful and reflective people who like to think about what they do and what happens to them – a predilection not to be confused with the morbid brooding or the hypochondriac. The I Ching does not offer itself with proofs and results; it does not vaunt itself, nor is it easy to approach. Like a part of nature, it waits until it is discovered. It offers neither facts nor power, but for lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom – if there be such – it seems to be the right book.”