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The title “I Ching” implies three meanings:

  1. Simplicity – the fundamental law underlying everything in the universe is plain and simple no matter how complex it may appear to be.

  2. Transformation – everything in the universe is continually changing.

  3. Persistence – a fundamental principle, a law that does not vary or change in space and time.


There is no official documentation on the history of the I Ching. It is known that ancient Chinese scientists and scholars investigated the phenomena in the universe and discovered a commonality of laws and patterns governing all aspects of life. The origins of the I Ching was born from the desire to deduce the future based on knowledge of the natural operation of these laws and patterns which could be determined and predicted objectively.

These laws and patterns were recorded symbolically in a series of solid or broken lines. These solid and broken lines represent the primal energies of qi and the Yin/Yang. The broken line represents the Yin force and the solid represents the Yang force. The basic symbolic unit is a trigram, a combination of the three solid or broken lines. There are eight basic trigrams. By combining two trigrams the hexagram is formed, the total combinations possible is 64. These lines, trigrams, and hexagrams symbolize the forces of action and change and all the phenomena of the universe.

Tradition ascribes the inventor of the trigrams to Fu Xi, the first of Three Sovereigns who were said to be god-kings or demigods and used their magical powers to improve the lives of their people. It is said that he discovered these symbols carved on the back of a turtle. In ancient China, there was a huge flood. The people tried to offer some sacrifice to the river god of one of the flooding rivers, the Lo River, to calm his anger. Then, there emerged from the water a turtle with a curious figure/pattern on its shell; circular dots of numbers were arranged in a three by three nine-grid pattern such that the sum of the numbers in each row, column and diagonal was the same: 15. This 3x3 pattern later came to be known as a "magic square".

I Ching and the Binary Numeric System


The combination of solid and broke lines forming the trigrams and hexagrams corresponds to the binary system of arithmetic, the same system used in computer programming. This mathematical interpretation was discovered by German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716 AD) who was the inventor of base-two, or binary arithmetic.


“Leibnitz believed that his mathematical system demonstrated God’s existence: All combinations arise from the Creator and nothing. In other words, God creates everything from nothing. In 1701, Leibnitz was corresponding with Father Joachim Bouvet, a Jesuit missionary in China. Hoping to entice the Chinese to accept Christianity with his mystical calculations, Leibnitz sent Father Bouvet a copy of his published work on binary arithmetic. Bouvet recognized a connection between Leibnitz’s system and the I Ching’s symbols and sent him a circular arrangement of the hexagrams composed by Song dynasty philosopher Shao Yong (1101-1077 AD). Remarkably, Yong’s arrangement was a mirror image of Liebnitz’s base-two system from 0 to 63.” [1]


Yin (broken line) = 0

Yang (solid line) = 1


Following the rules of binary arithmetic and reading the trigrams from the bottom line up:

                      yin/yin/yang = 001 or binary number one

                      yin/yang/yin = 010 or binary number 2

                      yin/yang/yang = 011 or binary number 3



Shao Yang believed “The Supreme Ultimate is a unity which does not move.  It produces a duality, and this duality is spirituality.  Spirituality produces numbers, the numbers produce emblems (symbols), and the emblems produce implements (things).” [1]


Scholars who have studied the I Ching have discovered similar laws in the science of the Maya [2] and in present day physics [3].


[1]   The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Feng Shui, Elizabeth Moran and Val Biktashev, Alpha Books, Macmillan Co., NY, pg. 77.

[2]  The Mayan Factor - Path Beyond Technology, Jose Arguelles, Bear & Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

[3]  The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra, 3rd ed., Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston.

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