What is I Ching?

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The I Ching suggests that one’s individual condition is intricately connected to the dynamic workings of nature (to include the cosmos and the Will of Heaven). The earliest version of the I Ching evolved out of Chinese nature philosophy and, as legend has it, dates back to Emperor Fu-hsi, c. 2850 BCE. It was composed of eight trigrams (three lines each), which themselves might have been of foreign origin. Around 1150 BCE King Wen, who became the Duke of Chou, composed 64 hexagrams of six lines each (two trigrams) with short commentaries, each hexagram apparently representing an archetypal situation. Each line of the hexagram is based on a binary system (solid or broken line) and is attained by selecting a single yarrow stalk from a randomly arranged heap and going through a specific set of operations. The I Ching influenced Lao Tzu’s composition of the Tao-te-Ching around 500 BCE. During the fifth-century BCE Confucius became fascinated with the I Ching and contributed to the “Ten Wings.” Each Wing is a commentary on an aspect of each hexagram. Since then, the tyrant emperor Ch’in Shih Huang Ti ordered the burning of the I Ching and all Confucian commentaries but some copies survived. Around the third-century the scholar Wang Pi refashioned the book, stressing its wisdom instead of divinatory use (in contrast to the opportunistic court magicians of the day).

In the 17th century the book was introduced to the philosopher Leibniz by a Jesuit priest. Leibniz substituted the solid and broken lines of the hexagrams with “0″ and “1″ and found them to be arranged in a binary system that counted up from 0 to 63. It’s noteworthy that computer programming uses binary code–the same ancient logic found in the structure of the I Ching. In the 1960’s the I Ching became popular in the West and tossing three Chinese coins six times became a viable (and marketable) alternative to the ancient method of selecting yarrow stalks. Just before this time, Carl Jung wrote a forward to the sinologist Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching. Jung also mentions the I Ching in relation to his concept of synchronicity. The Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen and other notables became fascinated with the I Ching’s attractive combination of simplicity and depth. Numerous interpretations and self-help books based on the ancient texts are available today and recent attempts have been made to connect the underlying philosophy of the I Ching with the notion of karma as found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. (Source: earthpages.wordpress.com)

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