Anyone who has read about any aspects of Chinese metaphysics at any basic level would have come across the Yi Jing (or I-Ching).
Yet a lot of people don’t actually realize that the wisdom of Yi Jing is mostly consulted in ancient times as an oracle for divination practices.
While times have changed and people seeking answers from the universe has incorporated modern methods of asking for divine answers from the book of changes, the 3 most ancient and authentic methods of consulting it are the yarrow sticks methods, coin oracle method and the scapulimancy method.
The second method which is conducted with the use of coins became more popular over time due to it’s ease of application.
It is so simple and straight forward with minimal preparation required that people still use it to consult the Yi Jing today.
It should also be added that whatever methods diviners use to retrieve hexagrams for reading, these methods serve the same purpose of carrying and delivering the message sent by the universe to the asker. This also implies that truncated methods can cause distortion of messages.
And if you haven’t realized, hexagrams consisting of 6 lines are made up of 2 trigrams consisting of 3 lines each.
Here’s how the coin methodology to retrieve hexagrams was practiced in ancient times.
Coin oracle method
A trio of 3 similar coins are the main tool used.
In the past, obviously only Chinese coins were used. But any types of coins can be a substitute in modern times.
The asker would ask the question, also stating his or her name and residence, then basically throw or drop the coins by hand on a bamboo mat or piece of while paper.
A Taoist might use a tortoise shell as a container for the coins, shake them about and release them onto the mat. Hardcore Taoists might even insist that the shell belonged to a tortoise that came from Malaysia. Don’t ask me why.
Anyway, heads are yin and given a value of 2. While tails are yang and assigned the value of 3. This means that with each toss of the coins, the asker would end up with an added value of either 6, 7, 8 or 9.
These resulting figures would have the following representation.
- 6 would be a changing yin line
- 7 would be an unchanging yang line
- 8 would be an unchanging yin line
- 9 would be a changing yang line
As can be observed, even numbers are fundamentally yin and odd numbers are yang. Yin lines refer to broken lies while yang lines refer to unbroken solid lines.
With the first throw of the coins, the first line of the hexagram is determined.
Hexagrams start from the bottom up. Meaning that the first line would be the line at the bottom of the hexagram.
For example, if the coin throw results in 2 tails and 1 heads, then the number summed up is 7. This results in an unchanging solid line at the bottom of hexagram.
This process is repeated until 6 lines are erected to form a proper hexagram.
If there were no sixes or nines during the ritual, then the hexagram created provides a clear answer and the asker can refer to the Yi Jing for the answers associated with that hexagram.
However, this process is usually not as straight forward as we would like due to the high probability of getting changing lines.
When any of the 6 throws of the coins result in a 6 or 9, which essentially means 3 heads or 3 tails, then a second hexagram is erected that is exactly the same as the original hexagram, except that the specific changing line(s) will convert from a yin line to a yang line, and vice-versa.
When the asking has been done, the asker will refer to the first original hexagram as elaborated in the Yi Jing and specifically read the lines that resulted in changing lines.
For example, if the fourth throw of the coins resulted in a changing line, then the pages in Yi Jing associated with the resulting hexagram would also contain specific commentary on the 6 lines numbering from 1 to 6. In this case, the 4th line is a direct response to the question on top of the main text.
Because a second hexagram was also generated, then the asker would also have to read up the main text associated with the secondary hexagram. But there is no need to refer to any particular remarks on individual lines.