The Basics

yi hex 29 30 laiThe I Ching consists of hexagrams (the six-line diagrams), and accompanying texts (the “Judgment” and the “Lines.” To the left is Hexagram 30, Li  (The Clinging, Fire). Its Judgment reads:

The Clinging. Perseverance furthers.
It brings success.
Care of the cow brings good fortune.

Its lines have short texts, too. Hexagram 30, Line 1, for example, reads:

The footprints run crisscross.
If one is seriously intent, no blame.

(Translations are from I Ching Wilhelm/Baynes edition, p. 119-120.) Since the texts are so open to interpretation, many commentaries have been written that seek to explain the inner meaning of the words.

The hexagram(s) to be read is chosen by one of a number of methods, such as coins.

How to throw the coins:
Collect pencil, paper, and three coins of the same denomination.
Shake the coins and then place them on the table.
If you get three heads, write down a solid ––– line and put a mark next to it:  —  x .
If you get two heads and one tail, write down a solid line:  — .
If you get two tails and one head, write down a broken line:  – – .
If you get three tails, write down a broken line and put a mark next to it:  – –   x .
Do this six times, building from the first line up, to construct your hexagram.
Look up the hexagram in your I Ching book’s reference chart, and read the “Judgment” for the hexagram, and read the texts for whichever lines you marked. You can also generate a second hexagram by changing the marked lines to their opposites. For that second hexagram, only read the opening text selections (e.g. Judgment and Image), not the line texts.