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I Ching

I Ching (Yi jing)
I Ching Song Dynasty print.jpg
Title page of a Song dynasty (c. 1100) edition of the I Ching
Original title
Country Zhou dynasty (China)
Genre Divination, cosmology
Published late 9th century BC
I Ching
Classic of Changes
I Ching (Chinese characters).svg
"I (Ching)" in seal script (top), Traditional (middle), and Simplified (bottom) Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese 易經
Simplified Chinese 易经
Hanyu Pinyin Yì jīng
Literal meaning "Classic of Changes"

The I Ching ([î tɕíŋ]), or Classic of Changes, is an ancient divination text and the oldest of the Chinese classics. Possessing a history of more than two and a half millennia of commentary and interpretation, the I Ching is an influential text read throughout the world, providing inspiration to the worlds of religion, psychoanalysis, business, literature, and art. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou period (1000–750 BC), over the course of the Warring States period and early imperial period (500–200 BC) it was transformed into a cosmological text with a series of philosophical commentaries known as the "Ten Wings." After becoming part of the Five Classics in the 2nd century BC, the I Ching was the subject of scholarly commentary and the basis for divination practice for centuries across the Far East, and eventually took on an influential role in Western understanding of Eastern thought.

The I Ching uses a type of divination called cleromancy, which produces apparently random numbers. Four numbers, 6 to 9, are turned into a hexagram, which can then be looked up in the I Ching book, arranged in an order known as the King Wen sequence. The interpretation of the readings found in the I Ching is a matter of centuries of debate, and many commentators have used the book symbolically, often to provide guidance for moral decision making as informed by Taoism and Confucianism. The hexagrams themselves have often acquired cosmological significance and paralleled with many other traditional names for the processes of change such as yin and yang and Wu Xing.

The core of the I Ching is a Western Zhou divination text called the Changes of Zhou (周易 Zhōu yì). Various modern scholars suggest dates ranging between the 10th and 4th centuries BC for the assembly of the text in approximately its current form. Based on a comparison of the language of the Zhou yi with dated bronze inscriptions, Edward Shaughnessy dated its compilation in its current form to the early decades of the reign of King Xuan of Zhou, in the last quarter of the 9th century BC. A copy of the text in the Shanghai Museum corpus of bamboo and wooden slips (recovered in 1994) shows that the Zhou yi was used throughout all levels of Chinese society in its current form by 300 BC, but still contained small variations as late as the Warring States period. It is possible that other divination systems existed at this time; the Rites of Zhou name two other such systems, the Lianshan and the Guizang.



  • Legge, James (1882). The Yî King. In Sacred Books of the East, vol. XVI. 2nd edition (1899), Oxford: Clarendon Press; reprinted numerous times.
  • Wilhelm, Richard (1950). The I Ching or Book of Changes. Cary Baynes, trans. Bollingen Series 19. Introduction by Carl G. Jung. New York: Pantheon Books. 3rd edition (1967), Princeton: Princeton University Press; reprinted numerous times.
  • McClatchie, Thomas (1876). A Translation of the Confucian Yi-king. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press.
  • Blofeld, John (1965). The Book of Changes: A New Translation of the Ancient Chinese I Ching. New York: E. P. Dutton.
  • Lynn, Richard John (1994). The Classic of Changes. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN . 
  • Rutt, Richard (1996). The Book of Changes (Zhouyi): A Bronze Age Document. Richmond: Curzon. ISBN . 
  • Shaughnessy, Edward L. (1996). I Ching: the Classic of Changes. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN . 
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