The I Ching is actually an ancient divinatory text made up of 64 chapters based on 64 hexagrams representing “answers” to life. Hexagrams are determined using cleromancy, a process for producing random numbers in a limited sequence through a particular method. Two methods exist.
The oldest method involves using 50 yarrow stalks and is quite complex. The more common, and easier method is to use three coins that have heads and tails. By following the rules for “casting” you will arrive at a hexagram that will be used to answer your question.
Choosing the Book
For this review process, I am looking at three main factors: the knowledge and wisdom of the author, the readability and delivery of the knowledge, and the usefulness of the book. There are many books on the I Ching; the book for this review is targeted at beginners, advanced students, and professional spiritual advisors.
The Book – I Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth
The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-0937064290 and it can be purchased new in hardback on Amazon for $34.73 USD. You can find used copies of the hardback edition (cover above) on Amazon starting at $8.24 USD and on Alibris for $22.00 USD at the time this article was written.
Published in 1983 and reissued in 1990, “Hua-Ching Ni, author, teacher, and healer, addresses the essential nature of human life and works to further the personal growth and spiritual development of this and future generations. Raised in a long family tradition of healing and spirituality, Hua-Ching Ni spent his youth learning from highly achieved masters in the mountains of China. He is the beneficiary of a broad spiritual tradition passed down since the golden age of China and is the author of over 40 books on Taoism, natural healing and spirituality.” (Amazon Editorial Review)
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book followed by, Part 1: The Natural Truth Underlying the Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth, Part 2: The Natural Path of Life, Part 3: The Guidance of the Sixty-Four Specific Circumstances, Part 4: Five Examples of Ancient I Ching Practitioners, an epilogue, and a bibliography. Quite a lot of the content appears in what can be described as a “cookbook” format, providing explanations of each hexagram in four to six pages.
This book really does offer clear explanations and examples for the hexagrams and makes an excellent reference tool. On the downside, the interpretations do end up trapped in cultural differences (between Eastern and Western thinking) and the past, so in some cases, you have to massage the interpretation. He has a page of specific guidance for each hexagram and one option is “hunting for thieves”. But others include personal fortune, marriage, climate, travel, and so on.
Layout of a Hexagram Explanation – Chien: Modesty/Eglolessness (15)
Each Hexagram number appears at the top or in the middle of the page; the book does not stop and start sections by hexagram. A hexagram is actually made up of two trigrams and each trigram represents a specific concept, limited to eight meanings. The trigrams are Heaven, Earth, Thunder, Water, Mountain, Wind, Fire, and Lake. Chien is Mountain below, Earth above.
The text below the hexagram begins with GUIDANCE: followed by an explanation. In the case of this hexagram it is:
GUIDANCE: Egolessness. The developed one reaches his goal. Benefit goes to the humble while failure awaits the arrogant.” (297)
Several paragraphs are written about the hexagram and then each line is discussed (1 to 6). After the lines are explained, there is a section for Specific Guidance, which is a list of the following categories: personal fortune, marriage, housing/family, childbirth, looking for help, social/governmental position, trade/business, searching for someone, looking for something lost, hunting for thieves, lawsuit, climate, travel, disease, and personal wish. Lastly, there is a commentary section, written in lines of poetry.
In the case of this hexagram, let’s say you asked, “should I stay in my marriage?” and you cast coins and received Chien, then your answer would be, “It can be accomplished, but for the woman, it may be a confused sexual relationship.” (300) If you asked, “should I take a trip to California for my vacation?”, then your answer would be, “There may be obstacles but no harm. If you are with a crowd, there is good fortune.” (301)
In the casting for the lines, a line is either solid or broken. The lines can be either stagnant or “moving”. The coin method makes it easy. You cast 3 coins. Three of the same side (heads or tails) means that the line is moving (broken or solid). If a line is moving, then you want to read the line interpretation for that line. If all the lines are stagnant, then the message is that there is no movement on your question and the outcome is blocked or very straightforward.
Let’s say that line 2, the broken line that is second from the bottom is a moving line. You would read the explanation, which says, “Modest apparent. Auspicious, if you keep your course. You are entrusted with responsibilities because you [are modest]” (p. 75). The answer favors your question.
Knowing the Reviewer
I have an academic background; my PhD is in English (1996) and my concentration was rhetoric and composition. Astrologically speaking, I am an Aries Sun with Mercury, my point of communication, also in Aries. These two facts about my background and astrological identity are the two main “lenses” for how I pick and interpret books. I want them to be well-written, researched, and presented (my academic lens), and I want them to be useful, direct, and pithy (my Aries Mercury lens).