The great Chinese philosopher Kong Fuzi, whose name was westernized to ‘Confucius’ thought so highly of this divination system, that shortly before he died, he wrote “If I had another fifty years to live, I would devote it to the study of the ‘I’.”
The I Ching is composed of 64 ‘hexagrams.’ A hexagram is six horizontal lines. There are two different kinds of lines—a solid line or a broken line. The broken line will have a small gap between the two parts of the line. Depending on how you throw for the hexagram, you may have a ‘change’ on one of these six lines. That is, a solid line may be about to change into a broken line, or a broken line may be about to change into a solid line. (I will go into how to determine this in the next lesson).You may have more than one changing-line in the same hexagram. Each separate changing line will have a sub-message, apart from the overall meaning of the hexagram.
If you have a changing line in your hexagram you will need to read, not just the overall meaning of the hexagram, but the meaning of the changing line in that hexagram as well, because that will put a further twist on the hexagram’s meaning. Then you flip the changing line to its opposite—a solid line to a broken one, and a broken line to a solid line. This will create a new hexagram which shows what the matter will change into.
Thus, the general pattern of an I Ching reading is ‘this is your situation now, with a particular emphasis on these sub-factors, and this is what your situation is going to turn into next.’ It is possible to throw a hexagram which has no changing lines. Some questions just don’t require a change, they’re fairly straight-forward. At least fifty percent of the time, though, if not more, you’ll have at least one changing line.
I will briefly go over the sixty-four hexagrams here, but to do justice to the subject of the I Ching, with its changing lines, would require a whole book, and indeed, whole books have been written about the I Ching. I will include a bibliography at the end of Part II of this lesson, for it is a divination system with a long and distinguished pedigree. First, you have to understand each hexagram is composed of two groups of three lines each. These three-line groupings are called ‘trigrams’ and there are eight of them. So let’s start by going over those eight three-line symbols, for on them the entire I Ching is built.