I Ching

I Ching is a divination tool composed of 64 hexagrams. A hexagram is a symbolic structure with six horizontal lines stacked on top of one other. These lines can be either solid or broken in the middle. Solid lines symbolizes yang, which is masculine energy, and broken lines symbolizes yin, which is feminine energy.

(example: hexagram 32)


Each hexagram describes a universal human experience and offers a lesson about that particular aspect of life.

Every hexagram is accompanied by a set of text that includes a name and a brief statement to provide more insight about the situation it is describing. In addition, a statement also accompanies each of the six lines. These line texts give the diviner additional information about the situation.

There are two common ways to cast a hexagram. The first, and the older way, is to use yarrow stalks. With this method, a diviner starts with fifty stalks and begins by removing one from the pile. This is a symbolic gesture only; this stalk is set aside and not used for the remainder of the divination.

From here, it is a repetitive process of dividing stalks.

  1. Separate the stalks into two piles at random
  2. Remove one stalk from the left pile
  3. With the right pile, separate the stalks into groups of four
  4. Remove the last pile of four or less stalks
  5. With the left pile, separate the stalks into groups of four
  6. Remove the last pile of four or less stalks
  7. Set aside the removed stalks
  8. With the remaining stalks, repeat steps 1 – 7 two more times

After the third repetition, separate the remaining stalks into groups of four again. You should have anywhere between six to nine groups of fours. The odd numbers translate into a solid line and the even numbers translate into a broken line. This is the first line of your hexagram, which is the bottom line since the hexagram is constructed from the bottom up.

Repeat steps 1 through 8 five more times to produce the entire hexagram.

Today, many diviners find the yarrow stalks method too time consuming and will choose the other common method, which is to cast three coins six times. Each coin that lands on a tail produces a value of 2 while heads produce a value of 3. Just like the yarrow stalks method, the goal is to derive at a number between six and nine and translate that into either a broken or solid line.

I personally prefer the yarrow stalks method for the same reason why others dislike it. I find that the time spent on deriving the hexagram is a crucial part of the divination process. The repetitive movements is a very effective form of meditation and helps clear the mind before interpreting the hexagram.

A more detailed reading can be gained by reading the changing lines, which are lines created from the numbers six and nine*. If any of the lines are derived from these two numbers, then these lines would be changed to its opposite and, thus, produce a second hexagram. In this case, the diviner would read the original hexagram statement, the statements of all the changing lines, and the hexagram statement of the second hexagram.

* In each of the hexagram descriptions provided, there is a summary of the meaning of the hexagram as a whole that explains the name and hexagram statement as well as six additional comments. These additional comments are the results of deriving at a solid line by obtaining a total of nine or a broken line by obtaining a total of six. Hence, the title of each line will be either:

9 on line X


6 on line X

Aside from reading the hexagrams line by line, another way to assist with interpretations is to break a hexagram into two trigrams, or two sets of three lines. The top trigram is referred to as the upper or outer trigram and the bottom one is the lower or inner trigram.

There are eight trigrams altogether and each has a name. Because these names have no direct English translation, most translators use the aspect of nature they represent.

Here are the eight trigrams, the aspect of nature they represent and the defining quality of each:


In addition to representing aspects of nature, many other associations are attached to the trigrams. Other common associations are members of the family and parts of the body.

To locate a hexagram in the chart below, after you have formed your hexagram, break it up into its upper and lower trigrams. The upper trigram is listed at the top and the lower trigram is listed on the left hand side.

* For each hexagram’s explanation, there is also a description for a corresponding tarot card. This is a part of the Tarot Above, I Ching Below project. Feel free to read both or skip right to the hexagram portion.

trigrams-2-2 trigrams-2-3 trigrams-2-4 trigrams-2-5 trigrams-2-6 trigrams-2-7 trigrams-2-8 trigrams-2-9








































































*hexagram descriptions are added to this site regularly