The Book of I Ching (Classic of Changes) contains the thoughts of the Chinese people in philosophy, medicine, astronomy, geography, arithmetic, literature, military affairs, music, art, and martial arts. In addition, I Ching serves different functions for different people. For many scholars, it is regarded as a book of philosophy. For the fortune tellers, it is a record and prediction of the future (推命). It is a book for many purposes; it is a book on numerology (數術), astrology (占星), weather (占候), geomancy (堪輿), dream divination (占夢), analysis of written characters (拆字), the selection of auspicious days (擇日), and the drawing and interpreting of “spiritual sticks” (qi 籤). The book points to divination and has an enduring psychological meaning of self-understanding for the Chinese.
Why is the Book of I Ching so significant?
I (易) means simple, Ching (经）is meridian. Every part of our body comprises a meridian system (經絡) that connects and transmits information about our health’s physical and mental conditions. The Book of I Ching aims to understand, control, and cope with the natural laws and to harmonize human activity with these natural patterns of change in the universe. Understanding how these natural patterns work will ultimately guide our actions to achieve this harmony. Hence, for most Chinese, the book offers the single most useful tool for understanding the cosmos and one’s place in it.
Why do people tell fortunes? And why do people want to know their fortune?
Since ancient times, people have been preoccupied with their future and destiny in every facet of Chinese society. In imperial China, even the emperors would have employed diviners to chart the course of their rule to ensure a stable and prosperous reign, which legitimized them as having the “Mandate From Heaven.” Interestingly, the ancient Chinese army would use predictions to find a favorable day to go to war. It was easy to understand why this classic book profoundly impacted the everyday lives of scholars, military planners, merchants, and ordinary peasants.
To this day, people’s worries, insecurities, and curiosities would have encouraged a desire to know about the future. For the lucky ones, maintaining their good fortune is a prevalent reason for regular fortune-telling consultations. Ordinary Chinese still seek guidance to lead a purposeful life in marriage, education, career path, business opportunities, childbearing, home-building, and wedding and funeral rituals.
Once one’s fate is known, the next question becomes, what could be done about it?
For people who seek divination, it is important to see each stage of their future so they can stop the bad omens before they can happen and seize the good fortunes boldly to realize them fully- this is especially helpful in their chosen career path.
In marriage or business, or in any situation where a contract aspect is required of cooperating with others, it is difficult to judge and make a decision; hence, consulting a diviner mitigates the unknown to a manageable, if not a favorable position. Indeed, some people hope to understand themselves through prediction and change their destiny. The most typical one is the ancient Daoist priests. They use divination to understand their future and physical health to seek good fortune and avoid harmful elements to achieve longevity.
The principle of fortune-telling in the I Ching
The I Ching was a divination text divided into 64 chapters, each headed by a six-lined symbol, referred to in English as a ‘hexagram.’ Each of the hexagrams was associated with several predictions. The book was often used by tossing coins or sorting yarrow stalks to randomly derive a hexagram made up of broken and unbroken lines. The I Ching also expounded the theory of yin and yang, which summarized all things and laws in nature and then divided them into four sides and eight directions. Then, it extrapolated and used the simple method of five elements- metal, wood, water, fire, and earth- and combined the year, month, day, and time to the attributes of the five elements.
Understanding Ourselves through Fortune Telling
In our lives, our tempers are different every day. Sometimes we are happy for no reason, and sometimes we are angry for no reason. These are all related to our own attributes and the Five Elements’ attributes on a daily basis. The interactions between our characteristics as defined by the year of our birth, day, and month and the aegis of the five elements predict what mood we may have next week, who we may meet, and how our reaction to certain things will be.
It is easy for some students to read and study in some periods, and it isn’t easy to study in others. In personal relationships between men and women, there are periods when many friends of the opposite sex are around, and there are periods when there will be no friends of the opposite sex around you. According to the precepts of the I Ching, this is due to the synthesis of our attributes and the prevailing five elements attributes at that period. There is a right time for everything, and we adjust according to the appropriate time to achieve the balance naturally. The alignment or misalignment of our fortune can occur when the timing is right or not right.
People’s mental issues and motivation problems are also closely related to the conflict and restraint of our own five-element attributes and time-period attributes. Seeking mental help from a psychiatrist during mental distress may not be helpful. From the divination’s perspective, understanding the underlying factors and waiting for the five-element attributes to harmonize with our own will alleviate the conflict naturally. Knowing our characteristics through divination, finding an auspicious time, a favorable position or a friend who complements ours will greatly improve our situation.
The fact is that being a good forecaster, diviner, or Chinese medicine doctor requires talent; not everyone can do it. Virtually everyone believes in the practice. The problem is not whether to believe in it but whom to believe. The diviner requires great skill and in-depth knowledge of the book and the complexities presented with a vast array of cosmic variables. Divination may be compared to financial investing, where one should be guided by common sense and sound economic practices and principles. In divination, one must be skilled, morally benevolent, and well-informed. It is intended to reveal the mystery of nature, shed light on the causes of the unknown, show the way, and open opportunities and accomplish many great things.