Throwing the I Ching

Here's a simple explanation for throwing the I Ching and determining your answers.

Find and bless three pennies (or any coin, the humbler the better). Throw them. Count the number of heads, multiply by 2; count the tails, multiply by 3; add the results.

For example:

Three heads = 6
Two heads and one tail = 7
Two tails and one head = 8
Three tails = 9

Now translate the number into a line:

6 and 8 are Yin lines (broken lines)
7 and 9 are Yang lines (unbroken)

In Chinese (just like Korean and Japanese), text is read starting from the bottom up. Therefore, the first toss gives you the bottom line of the hexagram. Subsequent tosses (up to a total of six) give you the next lines, from the bottom up. Here's an example:

Toss 6, line 1
Toss 5, line 2
Toss 4, line 3
Toss 3, line 4
Toss 2, line 5
Toss 1, line 6

Important NOTE: Throws that total 6 or 9 are known as changing lines, which we'll discuss more in a moment. If you toss either of those, make a mark beside that line to indicate a changing line.

Three heads = 6
Three tails = 9

An Example Question and a Throw:
Question: "What is the appropriate mindset for someone seeking to become an enlightened person?"

The first toss (bottom line) was two heads and a tail: 7 (yang)
The second (fifth line) was also two heads and a tail: 7 (yang)
The third toss (fourth line) was three tails: 9 (yang, changing line)

The bottom trigram looks like this:

These three yang lines stand for Ch'ien: the Creative, the Powerful, the Heavens (see tables below).

The fourth toss (third line) was two heads and a tail: 7 (yang)
The fifth (second line) was again two heads and a tail: 7 (yang)
The sixth toss (top line) was one head and two tails: 8 (yin)

The top trigram looks like this:

This trigram is Tui, the Joyous, Joyful, Reflective Lake.

The resulting hexagram is:

The table below contains the trigrams, each of which has a number assigned. The upper and lower trigrams are combined to form a hexagram. In the example above, the lower trigram, Ch'ien, and the upper trigram, Tui, are combined to form Ch'ien-Tui. The lower trigram is always represented on the left side of the table, and the upper trigram is across the top. Look down the left column and find Ch'ien and across the top to find Tui and then move down and to the right until the boxes merge. There is the number 43, representing the hexagram Ch'ien-Tui. The bottom table gives the keywords for each number - in this case, Breakthrough.

I Ching symbol U P P E R    T R I G R A M



1 34 5 26 11 9 14 43
25 51 3 27 24 42 21 17
6 40 29 4 7 59 64 47
33 62 39 52 15 53 56 31
12 16 8 23 2 20 35 45
44 32 48 18 46 57 50 28
13 55 63 22 36 37 30 49
10 54 60 41 19 61 38 58

1 Creative Power 17 Following 33 Retreat 49 Changing
2 Natural Response 18 Work on
What Has Been Spoiled
34 Great Power 50 The Caldron,
Cosmic Power
3 Difficult Beginnings 19 Better Times Approach 35 Progress 51 Thunder, Shock, Be Neutral
4 Youthful Folly 20 View 36 Censorship 52 Mountain, Keeping Still
5 Nourishment 21 Biting Through 37 The Family 53 Gradual Progress
6 Conflict 22 Grace 38 Opposition 54 The Marrying Maiden
7 Collective Force 23 Splitting Apart 39 Obstruction 55 Abundance
8 Union 24 The Turning Point 40 Deliverance 56 The Wanderer
9 Restrain 25 The Unexpected 41 Decrease 57 Wind,
The Gentle
10 Conduct 26 Potential Energy 42 Increase 58 Lake,
The Joyous
11 Peace 27 Providing Nourishment 43 Breakthrough 59 Dispersion, Dissolution
12 Standstill 28 Critical Mass 44 Coming to Meet 60 Limitation
13 Fellowship With Men 29 Water, Danger 45 Gathering Together 61 Inner Truth
14 Possession in Great Measure 30 Fire,
The Clinging
46 Pushing Upward 62 Preponderance of the Small
15 Modesty 31 Wooing 47 Oppression, Exhaustion 63 After Completion
16 Enthusiasm 32 Duration 48 The Source 64 Before Completion

The interpretation of keywords varies from author to author. An important aspect to note with each keyword is that it needs to be visualized and not thought.

Going back to our example, here is an interpretation of the image of Ch'ien-Tui (43):

The lake has risen up to the heaven;
The image of breakthrough.
Thus the superior man
Dispenses riches downward
And refrains from resting on his virtue.

An I Ching book would give much more detail than this basic description, but this gives a sense of how we might hold a vision of Breakthrough as we grow toward enlightenment.

The Changing Line: the forth line, or top line of the bottom trigram, is a changing line, indicating that we are in the process of changing from Breakthrough to another situation. The changing line becomes its opposite, in this case moving from yang to yin.

The hexagram thus becomes:

This is Tui-Tui (number 58), the Lake, the Joyous. Success. Perseverance is favorable. The image is now:

Lakes resting one on the other;
The image of the Joyous.
Thus the superior man joins with his friends
For discussion and practice.

For full interpretations of the hexagrams, you'll need to get a book of the I Ching. One we particularly like is
A Guide To The I Ching by Carol K. Anthony A Guide To The I Ching by Carol K. Anthony.

The I Ching (Book of Changes) has been used as a method of divination for over 3000 years. In Asia it is overwhelmingly the most popular form of prediction, and its following in Europe and the Americas is rapidly increasing.
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