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A brief introduction to constructing a Hexagram

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The I Ching is organized into individual articles on each of the Sixty-Four Hexagrams, which are archetypal Diagrams composed of Six lines, which can be solid (Yang) or broken (Yin). The Sixty-Four Hexagrams are each also said to be composed of Two Trigrams. The Word Gua (“Pattern”) is used in Chinese for either set. The Gua are read from bottom to top.

The simplest Method, preferred by most Westerners, uses Three coins, preferably copper, such as American Pennies. The coins should have easily determinable “heads” and “tails” sides. The coins are tossed and read Six Times. “Heads” is worth Three points, and “tails” Two points. This yields Four possibilities for each throw. A total of Six yields an “old” or changing Yin, Eight is a “young” or unchanging Yin, Seven is “young” or unchanging Yang, and Nine is “old” or changing Yang. Mapping out the Hexagram from bottom to top, one draws lines as follows: Six as a broken line developed by an “X”, [-X-], Eight is a simple broken line [--], Seven is a solid line [__], and Nine is a solid line with a circle [−Θ-]. Here is where Divination enters the picture. We cast the fist Hexagram. If there any changing lines, we create a second Pattern. The general Meaning of each is read, and then only the changing lines in both.

The best-known translation into English of the I Ching is by James Legge (1899). Legge was a Christian Missionary. Who believed that Confucius was a Prophet. Probably the second-most popular is the “Wilhelm-Baynes” Edition. Translated by Richard Wilhelm into German, then by Cary F. Baynes into English (1950). These two friends were both University Professors and Sinologists. There is much good in both versions. The Legge version is a little stilted at times, and suffers in that it is divided into traditional sections, making Divination a little difficult. The Wilhelm-Baynes version is written more for Divination, as the appendices are split up over the individual Hexagrams.

Let’s follow the Wilhelm-Baynes arrangement, shall we? The text in the W-B, for each Hexagram, which, as just discussed, includes the following:

The Judgment: Usually about Two sentences, this states the Name of the Hexagram and a short comment about its Meaning.

The Image: A description of the Two Trigrams composing the Hexagram, with a comment about it’s Meaning.

The Lines: This section includes, apparently, the original work of King Wen, and the comments by his son the Duke of Chou.

Wilhelm has added his own comments in-between these passages to enrich understanding.

Choosing a Hexagram at random to illustrate the above, we come to Number Thirty-Four, Ta Chuang (THE POWER OF THE GREAT). In the W-B version, it reads as follows,


THE POWER OF THE GREAT. Perseverance furthers.


Thunder in heaven above: The image of THE POWER OF THE GREAT.
Thus the superior man does not tread upon paths
That do not accord with established order.

Then, one would read the individual changing lines only, draw the second Pattern, and examine the transition between them.



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