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An introduction to the Fortune Teller's I-Ching
by Master Raymond Lo
In recent years, Chinese metaphysical subjects such as Feng Shui and Four Pillars of Destiny are capturing worldwide interest. However, there are vast treasures in the ancient Chinese metaphysical subjects and Feng Shui is not even the most representative of them. If you are fascinated by the profound system of Feng Shui and Four Pillars of Destiny, you will be equally interested to explore another even more important subject called "I Ching Divination".
The term I Ching - commonly translated as "Book of Change" - is based on a series of symbols called Trigrams and Hexagrams. These are symbols made up of straight lines - either continuous or broken, to reflect the concept of Yin and Yang in the Universe. According to ancient history, these are symbols invented by a sage called "Fu Si" who lived at least over 6000 years ago. It is recorded that Mr. Fu Si observed the Heaven and Earth and other natural phenomenon. Then he got inspired to create these symbols to represent and interpret the forces of nature.
In the beginning, there are 8 symbols, called the "Ba Gua" or "8 Trigrams". These Trigarms represent the 8 major natural phenomenon as observed by man. They are Heaven, Earth, Fire, Water, Mountain, Lake, Thunder and Wind. Later on, these 8 Trigrams developed into 64 Hexagrams by stacking one Trigram on top of another. Hence they can incorporate a great variety of information and meanings. The superiority of these symbol system is that they are very simple in structure but they incorporated the fundamental nature of Yin and Yang duality of the Universe, and so they are very rich in philosophical content and have been adopted as a tool for divination since the ancient time.
The subject of I Ching is not new to the west. It is perhaps the first Chinese metaphysical subject translated into many foreign languages. However, it is necessary to explain some misunderstanding here. The many versions of I Ching now we find in bookstores is only referring to a book (the Book of Change) complied by King Wen, the Emperor of the Chau Dynasty, and Confucius, the famous Chinese teacher. These 2 authors lived at least 3000 years after the time of Mr. Fu Si. As such, their subjective interpretation of the Hexagrams are not necessarily representative of Mr. Fu Si's original intention. Also neither of these 2 authors are fortune-tellers. They are scholars and politicians. So one can imagine that their version of the I Ching is more on the academic and philosophical side. It is more like a tool for ideology than serve its original purpose - divination and forecasting.
However, as this version of the I Ching compiled by King Wen and Confucius is the only version translated into English, German and other foreign languages, the western people took it as the only way of I Ching divination. Very few are aware of the existence of another more systematic and practical technique of using the I Ching purely for forecasting purpose. We can call this alternative technique as "Fortune-tellers I Ching" in order to differentiate it from King Wen's academic I Ching.
The I Ching technique is basically a tool for asking questions and getting answers. With a question in mind, the first step is to throw 3 coins 6 times to set up the six lines of a Hexagram. Then the next step is to interpret the meaning of the Hexagram resulted from casting the coins. To the layman, they can look up the relevant Hexagram in the King Wen and Confucius I Ching and read their comments. However, as these commentaries are very old, very general and very abstract, it is hard to associate a modern situation with a story in the Warring States about 3000 years ago. As such, the answer as reflected in this manner is far from clear and conclusive.
The professional fortunetellers in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan seldom refer to the book of I Ching by King Wen and Confucius. They take an entirely different approach in interpreting the Hexagram. This system classified the 6 lines of a Hexagram into 5 major categories - Money, Resources, Friends, Power, Intelligence, or 5 type of people - Husband, Wife, Children, Parents, Brothers and Sisters. So that one can easily focus on the relevant subject matter and get clearer answer to the question in mind.
This is a more practical and reliable way of I Ching divination. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, this system has not been introduced in the English language before, despite there are many English I Ching books in the market.
To demonstrate this interesting system, let us look at an example. The question for this divination is "Who killed Jon Benet Ramsey?"
To use I Ching Divination method, we have to cast 3 metal coins 6 times to get 6 lines for constructing a Hexagram. By casting 3 coins, one can expect 4 possible outcomes:
1. One head means a yang line.
2. Two heads means a yin line.
3. All heads means a yang line changing into yin.
4. All tails means a yin line changing into yang.
After this casting process, a Hexagram will appear with Yin and Yang lines as well as active changing lines showing areas of action. Instead of looking up the book of I Ching for meaning, we will go through a process of labeling each line with 5 elements, 5 aspects of life and 5 category of people. The following is a fully labeled Hexagram relevant to our sample question - who killed JonBenet Ramsey?
Question - Who killed JonBenet?
Month - water
Date - water
|I (metal)||P (wood)||S||Tortoise|
I - intelligence, child
R - resources, parents
M - money, wife
P -power, killer
C - colleagues, brother
JonBenet Ramsey is a little girl in Boulder, Colorado who was found murdered in the basement of her home on Boxing Day, 26/12 in 1996. The murder is still unresolved as of today and even her parents and brother were said to be "under the umbrella of suspicion". The purpose of this I Ching Divination exercise is to find hints to see who is likely to be the killer.
How to interpret this Hexagram to get the answer.
The first step is to establish our focus. In a Hexagram, there are usually 2 areas of focus. Firstly, the type of person or matter we are checking. In our case, it is a child, which is labeled as I, this falls on the 3rd line of the Hexagram - a metal element. The second important area is a line of activity as it is a line revealing the action area related to the question. In the Hexagram, we can see the top line is active. This is a line represented by P, meaning power - a wood element.
By examining these 2 lines we can obtain a message from the Hexagram. The Power line, meaning a "destroyer" or a "killer" is active and in crash with the 3rd line of metal, representing the child. This reflected an action of killing. The wood power line is active and changing into metal which is I also meaning the child, and metal conquers wood, so it seems the child had put up a struggle. Is this resistance successful? When interpreting the strength of an element, we have to look at the seasonal influence which determines which element is strongest during the time of the I Ching Divination. In this sample case, the exercise was done in winter (November) of 1999, a month of water and a date of water. The water support the wood, did not support the metal. As such, the wood killer is stronger than the metal child. So the child was murdered.
Then who is the killer?
In the Hexagram, we only see the Power line - a killer is in action. The other lines R - symbolising parents, and C symbolising brother are quiet and inert. There is no evidence to show that the family members were involved in the killing. So the killer is someone else, perhaps an intruder. What kind of intruder? We can see more information from the list of 6 animals next to the Hexagram. The animal on the top line next to the Power line is tortoise - which is a symbol of theft. So the killer could be a thief.
So this manner of interpretation provides more insight and clarity to understand a situation. If one use the Book of I Ching, one can only see the Hexagram is called "Keeping Still" and the active line in the 6th position is explained as "Peaceful Stillness - a great blessing" which one finds hard to relate to our question.
For students who are already interested in the I Ching, this technique opens up new perspective of using the I Ching with much more accuracy in forecasting and understanding a situation. The labeling is not difficult and it will lead you into yet another new treasure chamber in Chinese metaphysical studies.