What is I Ching and its History?

I Ching

The oracle of the Chou people, the Chou I, came to be when the Chou were trying to overthrow the Shang dynasty.  There was social and spiritual turmoil at this time, and it is said that a total solar eclipse on June 20th, 1070 BC gave the Chou king Wu the perfect opportunity to invade.   The Chou I eventually evolved into the I Ching.

The I Ching called the Book of Changes in English, is the representation of sixty-four archetypes in six line combinations of yin and yang. These combinations are called hexagrams. For example, Yin/Yang, represents the duality of the universe and creates the dynamic tension that shapes all of the changes in the world.

Examples of yin/yang are female and male, the heavens and the earth, dark and light.  The descriptions of the energy of humanity can be interpreted by the sixty- four hexagrams.  The hexagrams can be analyzed in different ways.  First, they can be divided in half to get trigrams that are representative of the fundamental elements; sky, earth, thunder, water, wind, and fire. These trigrams help establish the points in Feng Shui, the ancient art of placement.

In addition to this, the I Ching is the most ancient of all divination tools.  It is one of the oldest books in the world.  It was composed in or around 1000 BC.   Its ancient and early history is legendary.

One of the myths of the origins of the I Ching involves the first emperor of China, Fu His. He is said to have watched a turtle emerge from the Yellow River.  He knew that wisdom comes from observing nature and noted the eight symbols on the back of the turtle.   This led him to the realization that the trigrams were reflective of the movement of energy in life on Earth.

Fu Hsi contemplated other patterns in nature through animals, plants, meteorology, and his own body.   His myth tells how his understanding of the connection of all things through yin and yang led to his interpretation of the trigrams.

Early Chinese divination involved tortoise shells being heated over a fire until they cracked so the emerging patterns could be read.  Some of these shells were stored for reference, along with the interpretations. These can be seen at the National Museum in Taiwan, China.

Yet another myth describes an ancient clan of female diviners who read the shells of live turtles.  The myth states that they became queens and royalty in the Shang Dynasty. The Dynasty was considered mythological until archeologists unearthed relics in 1899.  Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, is said to be descended from this group.

Taoist and Confucian traditions say that combining the possibilities of yin and yang with Chinese creation myths created the I Ching.   This combination made the eight trigrams emerge.

The first I Ching interpretations were authored by King Wen towards the end of the Shang dynasty when he was imprisoned by the emperor Zhou Wang.  Wen used his meditations on the trigrams.  This mediation took Wen to a heightened mental state, and he assigned each hexagram a name and a meaning.   His son  King Wu added more interpretations, bringing the I Ching to its present-day form.

Confucius was I Ching’s greatest supporter, and he added his own wisdom to the interpretive texts.  He uses  I Ching as a resource for living a life of high virtue, not a divination system.  He wanted to live his life studying the I Ching.

Evidence states that the Book of Changes and its hexagrams are part of an ancient oral tradition that was part of Chinese history before the written word.  According to this, the basics of the I Ching were composed in the eighth century BC.

Using the hexagrams for interpretations didn’t happen until the fifth century BC. During the period known as the Warring States period, the I-Ching written texts were put into a book. To make them easier to review and share.   It was spared the book burnings of the Ch’in Dynasty; it was considered a great piece of literature.

The Book of Changes was studied intently and canonized during the Han Dynasty.

Additions were made at the turn of the millennium. These additions regarded the individual lines of the hexagrams and the definitions of the trigrams.  The commentaries are attributed to Confucius.   After that, more changes were made, and it came to resemble today’s I Ching.

Chinese rules and the general public used the I -Ching before printing was available by weaving it into their culture. The influence of the Book of Changes has greatly influenced how the Eastern world is viewed. Over the last century, Western Culture has been exposed to the basics of Taoism.  Carl Jung explained the value of of the I Ching’s psychological validity. This led to the Western World’s acceptance of the I Ching.

Today, the I Ching is consulted by tossing three coins six times to create the hexagram. This is much simpler than the tradition of casting fifty yarrow stalks to divine the hexagram. After the coins/stalks are sorted out, the sacred book is consulted to discern the meaning.

Advanced I Ching Oracle – Psychics


  1. The transformation of divination methods from tortoise shells to hexagrams shows an evolution in both technique and cultural significance. It’s a testament to human ingenuity.

  2. Carl Jung’s psychological validation of the I Ching is a pivotal moment for its acceptance in Western cultures. It bridges Eastern philosophical concepts with Western psychology.

    • Yes, Jung’s endorsement has undoubtedly opened many minds in the West to the potential value of ancient Eastern wisdom.

    • Absolutely, Jung’s perspective adds a modern dimension to understanding how the I Ching can be applied in contemporary contexts.

  3. I find it interesting that the I Ching has such a diverse background, from myths involving Fu Hsi to archaeological finds. It really adds layers to its historical significance.

  4. The mention of Confucius’s contributions to the I Ching highlights how deeply philosophical traditions can influence the interpretation of ancient texts.

  5. The historical context of the I Ching’s origins is quite fascinating. It underscores the complex interplay between social upheavals and the development of spiritual tools.


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