Welcome to Virtual Yarrow Stalks!
Here you can download The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching, read about how to consult the I Ching, browse some books on the subject, and compare 38 different translations.
Uploaded 11/27/2008; last updated 7/11/2011 with the addition of the ascending hexagrams.
Run this document as a smart phone app! Specific instructions on how to do it on Android here.
Includes three translations: Wilhelm/Baynes, Nigel Richmond, and Gregory C. Richter. Besides consulting the I Ching, you may look up the results of previous consultations by entering either line numbers, such as 888697; or hexagram and moving line references, such as 20:4,5 or 20-35. The “extended” results include the steps of change and anti-hexagram with the basic display. “Advanced” includes the Chu Hsi and Nanjing rules of oracle selection, basic line relationships, nuclear hexagrams, transitional hexagrams, steps of change, patterns of change, fan yao, balance hexagram, correctness hexagram, shadow site, and reversed trigrams. The inverted and reversed “foursome” of hexagrams with their corresponding lines, mutating hexagrams, evolutionary hexagrams, and the “first family” may all be displayed as well.
|A few good books . . .|
Thirty-eight Translations of the I Ching
Here are 38 translations of the text and first lines of Hexagrams 3 and 36 of the I Ching.
I have no intention of trying to explain the I Ching. Is it the oldest book in the world? The first binary number system? A 4096-sided die whose faces all display vague Rorschach-like sayings that stimulate the imagination and provide a medium for expressing the unconscious? An oracle that connects us to a less-understood reality? You decide.
Most automated I Ching programs and scripts operate via computer-generated random numbers. This is not unlike the flip of a coin, which is how many people consult the I Ching. But the yarrow stalk method, in addition to an element of randomness, involves a volitional act on the part of the user, in the division of the stalks into two groups. The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching seeks to duplicate this by having the user click on a group of virtual yarrow stalks of varying widths. Done without conscious effort, this is much closer to using real yarrow stalks than is instructing the computer to generate numbers.
• Safari (for Windows) 3.2 had a major bug in it, which has been fixed in 4.0.
• Opera 9.10 works but doesn’t display all of the graphic features properly. This has been fixed in Opera 9.64.
• Windows users: you can change the extension from .htm to .hta to simplify the display.
Using real yarrow stalks
How does one use real yarrow stalks to consult the I Ching? Our oldest instructions are very brief, and are found in The Great Treatise, Part I, Chapter IX, On the Oracle:
3. The number of the total is fifty. Of these, forty-nine are used. They are divided into two portions, to represent the two primal forces. Hereupon one is set apart, to represent the three powers. They are counted through by fours, to represent the four seasons. The remainder is put aside, to represent the intercalary month. There are two intercalary months in five years, therefore the putting aside is repeated, and this gives us the whole.
4. The numbers that yield THE CREATIVE total 216; those which yield THE RECEPTIVE total 144, making in all 360. They correspond to the days of the year.
In other words, one divides a bundle of 49 stalks into two heaps. One stalk from one of the heaps is set aside, then each heap is counted through by fours until a remainder of four or fewer stalks remains. The remainders are set aside with the first stalk as a separate pile, and the two heaps rejoined into a bundle. This process is performed three times to generate each line of the hexagram. Six lines are generated in this fashion and recorded from bottom to top.
Most modern sources use the three piles of remainders produced by the above process to determine the line. But Kerson Huang points out that the number of stalks left in the original heap will either be 24, 28, 32, or 36, and dividing this by four gives the number of the line: 6 for moving yin, 7 for yang, 8 for yin, and 9 for moving yang. I call this “the fundamental theorem of yarrow stalks.” It appears to be what the author of the Great Treatise is saying, in somewhat cryptic form, in section 4 above. Hexagram 1, THE CREATIVE, is made of six unbroken (yang) lines. Dividing 216 by 6 yields 36, or the size of the bundle which generates a moving yang line. It is our custom to divide this by four and assign moving yang a value of nine. The same goes for hexagram 2, THE RECEPTIVE, which is made of six broken (yin) lines: 144 ÷ 6 = 24, and 24 ÷ 4 = 6, the value we assign to moving yin.
Having said this, the easy way to see how many stalks are left in the bundle is in fact to look at the three piles of remainders. Each pile will either be big, with 8 or 9 stalks; or small, with 4 or 5 stalks. Three big piles means 24 are left, or moving yin (6); two big and one small, 28 or yang (7); one big and two small, 32 or yin (8); three small, 36 or moving yang (9). Click here for a printable “cheat sheet” that can help you with this process. The cheat sheet also includes an equivalent coin method.
A few good books. These first four are the ones that I have come to use the most. They are all direct and to the point; and when consulting, their differing perspectives are enlightening.
The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang
I confess that the title of this book initially put me off. My doubts vanished after I actually read it, and the brief biograpical sketch of professor Huang, who was imprisoned for thirteen years during the cultural revolution in China. Interleaves the original text with commentary on the text, images, lines, and ancient ideographs. The ideograph explanations are illuminating, and one of the book’s distinguishing features. Commentary is deep and insightful, with attention to historical roots, although not necessarily reflecting the most recent research.
by Wu Jing-Nuan (Jing Nuan Wu). This is the Dr. Wu referred to in the song by Steely Dan, and he really is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. My kind of translation, simple and literal, accompanied by handwritten Chinese characters and English transliteration. Complete; includes the Great Appendix and Great Commentary. The introduction includes a lot of information about the etymologies of key words in the text, with comparisons to the oracle bone and bronze inscription ideograms, which are often different from the modern ones and shed light on the original meanings.
The Authentic I-Ching: A New Translation with Commentary
translated by Henry Wei, Ph.D. A native speaker and scholar, Wei’s stated goal was to improve on the accuracy of Legge, Wilhelm/Baynes, and Blofeld. Five of the ten wings are interspersed with the text; commentary is based on tradition, not modern scholarship. Introductory material discusses the history of the I Ching and the structure of the hexagrams.
I CHING / YI JING: Transcription, Gloss, Translation
by Gregory C. Richter. Downloadable from Richter’s site at Truman State University. A hard-core literal translation for getting down to the actual text; simpler and more accessible than Ritsema and Karcher/Sabbadini. The kind of book that you would keep handy to check any other translation against. It is the third translation included in The Virtual Yarrow Stalks I Ching.
You SEE a DRAGON IN the FIELD. It is FAVORABLE to SEE the GREAT PERSON.
These three books will revolutionize your understanding of the I Ching with long-lost information that has been unearthed since Wilhelm made his great translation.
by Kerson and Rosemary Huang. Kerson is a native speaker, and a physicist no less. Successor to the old I Ching, the Oracle; now has some brief commentary, and more introductory material. A lot of people find the translation to be “idiosyncratic” at best; but the introductory material is a little-known gem. This is the book that turned me on to the Zhou Yi, which seeks to recover the earliest version of the text before it lost some of its historical references and became encrusted with centuries of Confucian commentary. Hexagram 36, for example, is called “The Crying Pheasant.” Includes fascinating research into its Shang Dynasty roots.
As early as the Song Dynasty (twelfth century A.D.), scholars noticed that there were undecipherable “strange characters” on Shang and Zhou bronzes. Similar “strange” inscriptions have been found on oracle bones unearthed in modern times and on earthenware recovered from ancient tombs. There had been various interpretations of these markings, including the suggestion that they were characters from a tribe foreign to either Shang or Zhou.
Everything fell into place when, in 1978, Zhang Zhenlang proposed at a conference in Changchun, China, that these characters are in fact numerals representing divination lines, like the 6, 7, 8, 9 of the yarrow oracle.
Zhouyi: A New Translation with Commentary of the Book of Changes
by Richard Rutt. An incomparable wealth of information about the latest research into the earliest form of the Zhou Yi. Once you’ve picked it up, it’s hard to put down. Were the hexagrams originally pentagrams? How was the oracle actually selected in the 5th century BC? Contains all ten wings.
’. . . the Book of Changes is to be explained in the light of its own content and of the era to which it belongs . . .’ When Richard Wilhelm wrote these words in 1923, he believed they described what he had done in his great German translation. Yet within ten years archaeology and philology had shed new light on ancient China, revealing that what Wilhelm had produced was a Book of Changes smothered by philosophical theories that were unknown in the era to which it belongs. Three-quarters of a century later, Chinese sinologists have shown that the book is really a Bronze Age diviner’s manual dealing with war and human sacrifice, giving advice to rulers at the dawn of literature.
The Mandate of Heaven
by S. J. Marshall. What was the real origin of what we now know as the I Ching? After three millenia, its original text has been obscured by linguistic change and generations of commentary. But according to Marshall:
Traces remain, however, of these original oracles; dating clues, hidden names, and ancient places are still in the book, some having eluded discovery for the past 3,000 years.
The most important clue is found in hexagram 55, “the polestars can be seen at noon.” When does this happen? During a total solar eclipse, one of which occurred on June 20, 1070 B.C., and may have marked the fall of the Shang dynasty and the transfer of the mandate of heaven to the Zhou. This book is a landmark in itself. It also examines topics such as forgotten proper names in the text, the mingyi bird of hexagram 36, melons, willows, hoarfrost, and creepers.
I Ching: Walking your path, creating your future
by Hilary Barrett. Finally, the translation by the legendary diviner and proprietor of the Clarity site. A fairly free and very accessible translation, accompanied by a brief introduction and practical advice about consulting the oracle. Key questions concerning the subject of each hexagram, and some personal commentary, are interleaved throughout. If you like the look of Lise Heyboer’s site, you will like this; the book uses Lise’s images of the Chinese characters, and is attractively bound and illustrated in general.
|More books . . .|
The Pocket I Ching Oracle
The Zhouyi text of the Takashima Ekidan
Tao Te Ching, 25th-Anniversary Edition |
translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English. If you have an interest in Taoism, you probably have at least one Tao Te Ching, and there is a good chance that it is this one, maybe even on your coffee table. But there are more . . . .Tao Te Ching
translated by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo. Ought to be more well-known than it is. The unique style, rather than trying to convert the ideas into flowing contemporary English, is to render the Chinese in terse and literal form, adding no words that aren’t necessary. The result doesn’t carry you away so much as hit you between the eyes. Fine as a standalone version, and an invaluable companion to any other.
Tao called Tao is not Tao.
Names can name no lasting name.
Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.
Naming: the mother of ten thousand things.
Empty of desire, perceive mystery.
Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.
These have the same source, but different names.
Call them both deep—
Deep and again deep:
The gateway to all mystery.Tao Te Ching (SkyLight Illuminations)
very readable translation, and commentary by Derek Lin. The translation itself is available online in an attractive form at Taoism.net; I have it saved on my Android for anytime viewing.Lao-tzu's Taoteching: with Selected Commentaries of the Past 2000 Years
translated by Red Pine. The title says it all; it’s one-of-a-kind.Tao Te Ching (Penguin Classics)
translated by D. C. Lau. My first Tao Te Ching. Includes valuable textual notes.Lao Tzu: My Words Are Very Easy to Understand. Lectures on the Tao Teh Ching
by Man-jan Cheng, translated by Tam C. Gibbs. The Chinese text, another very nice translation, and commentary in the form of brief lectures.The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-te Ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi
translated by Richard John Lynn. One of the more scholarly versions, including commentary by the third-century scholar Wang Bi.The Gate of All Marvelous Things: A Guide to Reading the Tao Te Ching
translated by Gregory C. Richter. A word-for-word interlinear translation for digging deeper into the text; in the same vein as his I Ching translation.
If the only reading in Taoism that you have done is the Tao Te Ching, then it’s time to get Chuang Tzu.The Book of Chuang Tzu (Penguin Classics)
translated by Martin Palmer; with Elizabeth Breuilly, Chang Wai Ming, and Jay Ramsay.Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings
translated by Burton Watson.
In about 1993 I was poking around in a used bookstore in Honolulu (real books; this was the olden days, before the internet) and found a beat-up copy of part I of James Legge’s The Texts of Taoism, containing the Tao Te Ching and the first part of Chuang Tzu. I was happy to find it but disappointed that I didn’t have its companion. Months later, at the Pearl City swap meet, I was looking through some old books and found—a lone copy of part II! It was in better shape and the cover was colored differently, apparently from a later printing. But I didn’t care; each book had been waiting to be found, like a lonely dog at the dog pound, and I was the one who had found them. (Or had they found me?) It was the beginning of my serious reading of Taoism. This version is out of print, but available used. Also available online at The Internet Sacred Text Archive: Part I | Part II. It is complete and apparently accurate, but not surprisingly has a 19th-century sound to it.
As for modern versions, I personally like the way Penguin reads. Plus, it is complete and affordable. Burton Watson’s translation is very colloquial, and lots of people think it’s the best, but sometimes it sounds almost too casual to me; I like it but can’t say I always prefer it to Penguin. Plus, the complete version of Watson is the weighty hardback edition.
Also have Cleary. It’s o.k.; inner chapters only.
The Book of Lieh-Tzu
translated by A. C. Graham.
Shun asked a minister:
‘Can one succeed in possessing the Way?’
‘Your own body is not your possession. How can you possess the Way?’
Lieh-Tzu is next in the ranks of Taoist classics. Different; at times what you might call “colorful.” Includes everything from psychedelic “mind trips” to a third-century version of biological evolution.
Lionel Giles’ 1912 version is available here at the Internet Sacred Text Archive. It is not nearly as readable as Graham, and leaves out chapter 7, Yang Chu (separately published as Garden of Pleasure).
|More books . . . | Taoist books . . .|
I Ching consultation methods: yarrow or coin? at Clarity
Probability and the Yi Jing by Sabazius, a very clear description of the yarrow stalk and coin probabilities
Casting I Ching Hexagrams by Remo Dentato, which describes a large number of alternative consultation methods
How to use the yarrow stalks at the Earth Heart page
See Probabilities with coins and yarrow stalks at Joel Biroco’s site for another perspective
I Ching and I Ching divination at Wikipedia
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching (175+ Translations of Chapter 1). A great quick comparison of versions. When you see one that looks good, read the whole thing at:
Das Tao Te King von Lao Tse. 112 complete English translations of the Tao Te Ching, plus 24 other languages (including Klingon). Site also has material from other works including Hua Hu Ching and Chuang Tzu.
(In case you were wondering, more favorites: Sanderson Beck, Raymond B. Blakney, John R. Mabry, T. McCarroll, John H. McDonald, Agnieszka Solska, Jonathan Star, Tien Cong Tran, Henry Wei, and John C. H. Wu.)
The Internet Sacred Text Archive Taoism page.
Category:Taoist texts at Wikipedia.
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