h Phoenix Qi: Yarrow Stalk Method of Generating an I Ching (Yijing) Hexagram

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yarrow Stalk Method of Generating an I Ching (Yijing) Hexagram

Begin with 50 stalks/sticks. Set one stalk off to the side in an upright (vertical) position. This is symbolic of the connection between Earth and Sky. Set a second stalk across the first one in a horizontal position, forming an equal-armed cross. This is symbolic of Man between Earth and Sky.

1 Take the remaining 48 stalks and divide them into two roughly equal piles in front of you, one on the left, the other on the right.

2 Take one stalk from the pile on the right side and hold it between the small finger and ring finger of your left hand (you may use your right hand for holding stalks if you are left-handed).

3 From the pile on the left side, count off the stalks in groups of four, setting these aside, until you have 4 or fewer stalks remaining. Hold this group of four or fewer between the ring finger and the middle finger of your hand.

4 Turn to the pile of stalks on the right, and count off until you have four or fewer left. Hold this group of four or fewer between the middle and index finger of your hand.

5 How many stalks are you holding in your hand? Counting in this way can have only two results: you will be holding a total of 4 or 8 stalks between the fingers of your hand. If you have a value other than four or eight, you've made a mistake and need to recount.

6 Set aside this batch of four or eight stalks. You will come back to them soon.

Pick up your pile of discarded stalks and repeat steps 1 through 6 two more times. You will have three small piles of either 4 or 8 stalks each.

Give the numeric value 3 to piles of four stalks.

Give the numeric value 2 to piles of eight stalks.

Add together the values for the piles of stalks (you will notice that even totals generate a Yin line, odd totals generate a Yang line):

If you have a value of six (2+2+2, or three piles of eight stalks), draw a Changing Yin (broken) line. - -c

If you have a value of seven (2+2+3, or two piles of eight stalks, one pile of four stalks), draw a Yang (unbroken) line. ---

If you have a value of eight (2+3+3, or one pile of eight stalks, two piles of four stalks), draw a Yin (broken) line. - -

If you have a value of nine (3+3+3, or three piles of four stalks), draw a Changing Yang (unbroken) line. ---c

This completes the first line (the bottom line) of your hexagram.

Beginning at number 1 above, repeat all the above steps until you have completed six lines. (At that time, you may gather together all fifty stalks and return them to their container.)

When finished, you will have a figure that looks something like this:

Line 6 - - Yin line

Line 5 --- Yang line

Line 4 ---c Yang line Changing to Yin

Line 3 --- Yang line

Line 2 --- Yang line

Line 1 - -c Yin line Changing to Yang

Look up your hexagram in your favorite book; read the advice section that discusses the hexagram as a whole and the section(s) that correspond to any changing lines. If you have changing lines, redraw the figure with the lines changed (Yin to Yang or Yang to Yin), and look up the second hexagram. Read the advice section, but not the changing line sections. In the above example, you would read the advice for hexagram 28 and lines 1 and 4, and hexagram 5.

Line 6 - - to - -

Line 5 --- to ---

Line 4 ---c to - -

Line 3 --- to ---

Line 2 --- to ---

Line 1 - -c to ---

Hexagram 28 to 5


Harmen Mesker said...

Your method differs somewhat from the traditional method. I'm curious about the source, where did you get it from?

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Phoenix said...

Hi Harmen! Thanks for visiting my blog. I know you from the Midaughter I Ching list. (I am a moderator on the list.)

The source for the stalk method as I have outlined it was a post to the Midaughter list. It was quite some time ago...several years....and I couldn't find the original post to credit the author.

If it was you, my apologies for not giving credit. Let me know, and I will amend this post to give you credit for it. You may email me at phoenix_qi@yahoo.com

(If it wasn't you, it may have been Tom/Aardvark, but I'm really not sure.)

In any event, I have been using this method ever since reading about it on Midaughter's I Ching list.

Harmen Mesker said...

Oh no, it wasn't me. I'm a traditionalist, I would stick to the method mentioned by Zhu Xi and others. The reason I asked is because there are some strange differences in your method - for instance, starting with putting 2 stalks aside instead of 1 is, ehrm, odd. Normally you put one aside, and because of that you get 49 stalks (the one you put aside is often regarded as the Dao). If you divide that in two you will always have a pile with an even amount, and a pile with an odd amount - this resembles yin and yang.

As is said in the Dazhuan:

"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."

I'm not sure, but I assume your deviations also give other probabilities. Not that it matters much, though.



Phoenix said...

Thanks, Harmen.

Yes, it is different (odd!), but if I remember correctly the original poster cited an historical precedent.

Now I am curious about it again and will try to find the original post. If I do, I will email you and let you know.

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