The I Ching, or Book of Changes, is the oldest of the five Chinese ancient texts known as The Five Classics.  The book describes a belief system that forms the core of Chinese cultural beliefs.  Some of the ideas central to the I Ching are the balance of opposites (familiar to westerners as yin and yang), the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.

          In addition to providing key insights into to the cosmology and philosophy of Chinese cultural beliefs, the I Ching is commonly used as a manual for divination.  At the core of the book are 64 hexagrams which represent the states and dynamic relationships of the 8 elements.

          The book can be consulted as an oracle by selecting a hexagram using a random method of generation and then reading the text corresponding to that hexagram.  When consulting the oracle, a user typically focuses on a situation and the result is said to provide perspective and give some guidance as to what action should be taken.

          Each line of a hexagram is either yin (broken) or yang (unbroken).  There are several random methods used to determine the lines of the hexagrams.  The original method or at least the oldest recorded method is the turtle shell method.  After applying heat to a turtle shell, the cracks were analyzed. 

          The next method was the yarrow stalk method.  Stalks of the dried yarrow plant were broken and hexagrams were formed.  The method is long and convoluted and involves assigning numeric values to determine yin or yang. 

          Some modern methods have evolved for determining hexagrams and these include the coin toss method, the marble method, the rice grain method and the calendric method.  There are even many computerized I Ching calculators available on the internet.

          There are many books on the I Ching, the most notable of which is the Richard Wilhelm translation.  The Wilhelm book is the most comprehensive western version and an excellent resource for anyone wanting to investigate further.  I use the Wilhelm translation of the hexagrams in and have included the Wilhelm naming of the hexagrams.