The answers to many questions


Classical I Ching divination with stalks

Hexagrams may be generated by the manipulation of yarrow stalks. The following directions are from the ten wings of the I Ching.

One takes fifty yarrow stalks, of which only forty-nine are used. These forty-nine are first divided into two heaps (at random), then a stalk from the right-hand heap is inserted between the ring finger and the little finger of the left hand. The left heap is counted through by fours, and the remainder (four or less) is inserted between the ring finger and the middle finger. The same thing is done with the right heap, and the remainder inserted between the forefinger and the middle finger. This constitutes one change.

Now one is holding in one's hand either five or nine stalks in all. The two remaining heaps are put together, and the same process is repeated twice. These second and third times, one obtains either four or eight stalks. The five stalks of the first counting and the four of each of the succeeding countings are regarded as a unit having the numerical value three; the nine stalks of the first counting and the eight of the succeeding countings have the numerical value two.

When three successive changes produce the sum 3+3+3=9, this makes the old yang, i.e., a firm line that moves. The sum 2+2+2=6 makes old yin, a yielding line that moves. Seven is the young yang, and eight the young yin; they are not taken into account as individual lines.

9old yangOld yang
8young yinYoung yin
7young yangYoung yang
6old yinOld yin

The correct probability has been used also in the marble, bean, dice and two or four coin methods below. This probability is significantly different from that of the three-coin method, because the required amount of accuracy occupies four binary bits of information, so three coins is one bit short. In terms of chances-out-of-16, the three-coin method yields 2,2,6,6 instead of 1,3,5,7 for old-yin, old-yang, young-yang, young-yin respectively.

Note that only the remainders after counting through fours are kept and laid upon the single stalk removed at the start. The piles of four are re-used for each change, the number of piles of four is not used in calculation; it's the remainders that are used. The removing of all the fours is a way of calculating the remainder, those fours are then re-used for the next change so that the total number of stalks in use remains high to keep all remainders equally probable.

Each line of a hexagram determined with this method is either stable ("young") or changing ("old"); thus, there are four possibilities for each line, corresponding to the cycle of change from yin to yang and back again:

First hexagram
old yangyoung yang
young yinyoung yin
young yangyoung yang
old yinyoung yin
Second hexagram
old yangyoung yin
young yinyoung yin
young yangyoung yang
old yinyoung yang

Once a hexagram is determined, each line has been determined as either changing (old) or unchanging (young). Old yin is seen as more powerful than young yin, and old yang is more powerful than young yang. Any line in a hexagram that is old ("changing") adds additional meaning to that hexagram.

Free interactive emulator is presented in the «Traditional "Book of Changes" with stalks». You can use the table shown on the site for offline divinations.