Q: How do I pronounce the title of the book?
A: The I Ching can also be spelt Yijing (pinyin spelling). Both are pronounced “ee-jing” (tones are yì jīng) and are written 易經 in Chinese. They literally mean “change classic.” It is often called the Book of Change(s).
Q: Why are there two different spellings for it?
A: There are a number of systems for writing out the sounds of Chinese words in roman letters . “I Ching“ uses the Wade-Giles system, and “Yijing” uses the pinyin system, now the standard international system. As many books about the I Ching use Wade-Giles, we use that title for this web page, but in general, use pinyin unless otherwise indicated.
Q: How do I figure out what to read in the I Ching?
A: Many people select a reading by casting, using coins (see our Basics page) or other techniques. An even older technique uses yarrow stalks. The I Ching can also be read informally or in a structured manner.
Q: What is in the I Ching?
A: The core text—the Zhouyi—consists of the hexagrams (the six-line diagrams), the judgment texts, and the line texts. The secondary texts are known as the Ten Wings: the Great Images A & B (commentary on hexagram judgment text), Small Images A & B (commentary on hexagram line texts), the Great Treatise A & B (an important philosophical essay), the Explanation of the Hexagrams (an explanatory essay), the Wenyan (a commentary on Hexagrams 1 and 2), the Hexagrams in Sequence (a mnemonic poem for the hexagram order), and the Miscellaneous Hexagrams (a poem with hexagrams in a different order). Not all I Ching editions include the Wings, and many editions will cut up Wing texts for inclusion with relevant hexagrams. Richard Wilhelm, Wu Jing-Nan, and Richard Rutt’s translations include all of the material.
Q: What I Ching version should I buy?
A: There are scores of different versions available. You can select one based on your interests, and whether or not you feel the translator or interpreter has done a decent job. Here are some popular, reliable versions, with an asterisk indicating ease of use for beginners:
*Anthony, Carol: A Guide to the I Ching, 1980. Meant to accompany Wilhelm.
*Balkin, Jack: I Ching, 2002
*Barrett, Hilary: I Ching, 2010
*Blofeld, John: I Ching, 1968
CH’ENG I (Cheng Yi, eleventh century), The Tao of Organization (Yi zhuan), trans. by Thomas Cleary, 1988.
*DENG Ming-Dao: The Living I Ching, 2006
*Huang, Alfred: The Complete I Ching, 1998
*Huang, Kerson and Rosemary: I Ching, 1985
*JOU Tsung Hwa: The Tao of I Ching: Way to Divination, 1983
*Legge, James: I Ching (numerous editions) 1899. Includes Ten Wings.
Minford, John: I Ching (Yijing): The Book of Changes, 2014
*Moran, Elizabeth and Joseph Yu: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to I Ching, 2001
*NI Hua Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth, 2002
OU-I Chih-hsu (Ouyi Zhixu, seventeenth century), The Buddhist I Ching, (Zhixu chan jie), trans. by Thomas Cleary, 1987.
*Palmer, Martin, Kwok Man Ho, and Joanne O’Brien: The Fortune Teller’s I Ching, 1986.
*Pearson, Margaret. The Original I Ching, 2011.
Rutt, Richard: Zhouyi: Book of Changes, 1996, includes Ten Wings
Shaughnessy, Edward: I Ching, the Mawangdui version, 1997, includes Chinese
WANG Bi: I Ching: Classic of Changes, trans. by Richard Lynn, 1994. Highly influential early philosopher.
*Whincup, Gregory : Rediscovering the I Ching, 1996
Wilhelm, Richard: I Ching, translated by Cary Baynes, 1950, includes Ten WIngs. A classic translation.
*WU Jing-Nan: Yi Jing ,1991, includes Chinese for hexagram texts, includes Ten Wings
Q: What makes a decent I Ching translation or interpretation?
A: An I Ching translation or interpretation should be accurate, reliable, coherent, consistent, and meaningful. Ideally it will explain how and why the work was created, what it was translated from, whether it’s a translation or an interpretation of someone else’s work, etc.
The layout should be clearly formatted to make navigation easy, with hexagram numbering and names clearly visible, and to make original text and commentary distinct from one another. Ideally there should be “tools” offered (e.g. hexagram lists, notes, reading lists, glossaries, indexes) appropriate to the goals of the book. Attention should be given to editing and proofreading—not an easy task with a book as complex as the Yijing. Some readers may also want Chinese pronunciation and original texts provided.
Last, but importantly, given that the I Ching is meant to be actually used, not read just once, the book should be well-constructed with a strong binding and cover, with sturdy paper that can hold up over years of repeated use.
Ultimately, though, selecting a version of the I Ching depends on personal preference.
Q: Where can I learn more about the I Ching?
A: See our LINKS page for teachers and other materials. If you are interested in studying the Chinese text, one of the best resources is the Chinese Text Project. This group project includes James Legge’s I Ching translation and the original Chinese, with a parallel page providing pop-up dictionary and pronunciation for each character. The site provides dozens of other texts similarly formatted.
Other resources about the I Ching include:
- Online Clarity. How-to, community forum, classes, and more.
- Redmond, Geoffrey and Tze-Ki Hon. Teaching the I Ching (Book of Changes). Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Rutt, Richard. The Zhouyi: Book of Changes, Curzon, 1996. An encyclopedic resource.
- Schorre, Jane, and Carrin Dunne. Yijing: Wondering and Wandering. Arts of China Seminars, 2004. Portions available online at Arts of China.
- Schöter, Andreas. Yijing online resources and links, particularly related to mathematical approaches.
- Smith, Richard. The I Ching: A Biography. Princeton University Press, 2012.
- Wilhelm, Helmut, and Richard Wilhelm. Understanding the I Ching: The Wilhelm Lectures on the Book of Changes. Princeton University Press, 1995
- Yijing Dao. resources, how-to, history, charts, reviews, and more, maintained by Steven Marshall.
- Yixue [Yi Studies] Bibliography—Extensive list of books and articles about the Yijing.
Q: Where can I do advanced academic I Ching studies?
A: The Zhouyi Institute in Jinan, China has the most comprehensive program. Other opportunities can be found at colleges with well-rounded Chinese language and literature programs that have professors specializing in Yijing research.