I Ching / Ten Wings / Shuo Kua / Chapter I

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1. In ancient times the holy sages made the Book of Changes thus:

  They invented the yarrow-stalk oracle in order to lend aid in a mysterious way to the light of the gods. To heaven they assigned the number three and to earth the number two; from these they computed the other numbers.

  They contemplated the changes in the dark and the light and established the hexagrams in accordance with them. They brought about movements in the firm and the yielding, and this produced the individual lines.

  They put themselves in accord with tao and its power, and in conformity with this laid down the order of what is right. By thinking through the order of the outer world to the end, and by exploring the law of their nature to the deepest core, they arrived at an understanding of fate.


The first section refers to the Book of Changes as a whole and to the fundamental principals underlying it. The original purpose of the hexagrams was to consult destiny. As divine beings do not give direct expression to their knowledge, a means had to be found by which they could make themselves intelligible. Suprahuman intelligence has from the beginning made use of three mediums of expression — men, animals, and plants, in each of which life pulsates in a different rhythm. Chance came to be utilized as a fourth medium; the very absence of an immediate meaning in chance permitted a deeper meaning to come to expression in it. The oracle was the outcome of this use of chance. The Book of Changes is founded on the plant oracle as manipulated by men with mediumistic powers.

The established language for communication with suprahuman intelligences was based on numbers and their symbolism. The fundamental principles of the world are heaven and earth, spirit and matter. Earth is the derived principle; therefore the number two is assigned to it. Heaven is the ultimate unity; yet it includes the earth within itself, and is therefore assigned the number three. The number one could not be used, as it is too abstract and rigid and does not include the idea of the manifold. Following out this conception, the uneven numbers were assigned to the world of heaven, the even numbers to the world of earth.

The hexagrams, consisting of six lines each, are, so to speak, representations of actual conditions in the world, and of the combinations of the light-giving, heavenly power and the dark, earthly power that occur in these situations. Within the hexagrams, however, it is always possible for the individual lines to change and regroup themselves; just as world situations continually change and reconstitute themselves, so out of each hexagram there arises a new one. The process of change is to be observed in the lines that move, and the end result in the new hexagrams thus formed.

In addition to its use as an oracle, the Book of Changes also serves to further intuitive understanding of conditions in the world, penetration to the uttermost depths of nature and spirit. The hexagrams give complete images of conditions and relationships existing in the world; the individual lines treat particular situations as they change within these general conditions. The Book of Changes is in harmony with tao and its power (natural law and moral law). Therefore it can lay down the rules of what is right for each person. The ultimate meaning of the work — fate, the world as it is, how it has come to be so through creative decisions (ming) — can be apprehended by going down to the ultimate sources in the world of outer experience and of inner experience. Both paths lead to the same goal. (Cf. the first chapter of Lao-tse.)


2. In ancient times the holy sages made the Book of Changes thus:

  Their purpose was to follow the order of their nature and of fate. Therefore they determined the tao of heaven and called it the dark and the light. They determined the tao of the earth and called it the yielding and the firm. They determined the tao of man and called it love and rectitude. They combined these three fundamental powers and doubled them; therefore in the Book of Changes a sign is always formed by six lines.

  The places are divided into the dark and the light. The yielding and the firm occupy these by turns. Therefore the Book of Changes has six places, which constitute the linear figures.


This section deals with the elements of the individual hexagrams and their interrelation with the cosmic process. Just as in the heavens, evening and morning make a day through the alternations of dark and light (yin and yang), so the alternating even and uneven places in the hexagrams are respectively designated as dark and light. The first, third, and fifth places are light; the second, fourth, and sixth are dark. Furthermore, just as on earth all beings are formed from both firm and yielding elements, so the individual lines are firm, i.e., undivided, or yielding, i.e., divided. In correspondence with these two basic powers in heaven and on earth, there exist in man the polarities of love and rectitude — love being related to the light principle and rectitude to the dark. These human attributes, because they belong to category of the subjective, not of the objective, are not represented specifically in the places and lines of the hexagrams. The trinity of world principles, however, does come to expression in the hexagram as a whole and in its parts. These three principles are differentiated as subject (man), object having form (earth), and content (heaven). The lowest place in the trigram is that of earth; the middle place belongs to man and the top place to heaven. In correspondence with the principle of duality in the universe, the original three-line signs are doubled; thus in the hexagrams there are two places each for earth, for man, and for heaven. The two lowest places are those of the earth, the third and fourth are those of man, and the two at the top are those of heaven.

A fully rounded concept of the universe is expressed here, directly related to that expressed in the Doctrine of the Mean.

All the ideas set forth in this first chapter link it to the collection of essays on the meaning and structure of the hexagrams called the Appended Judgments, and are not connected with what follows here.