CC101 – I Ching

This entry will be part two of “The Game of Chance” exploration of character.

I Ching, the “Book of Changes”

The Book of Changes is one of the oldest Chinese texts.  It explores the journey of human experience.  By examining where you are in the journey, you can refer to the text and gain insight into why you’re in this spot, how you may get out, and what may lie ahead.  In that respect, it can be a sort of divination tool.

I stumbled onto I Ching when I began researching my hero for Seven Crows.  His culture is loosely Chinese, and since I was researching various dynasties around the Chinese New Year, an innocent e-mail offer for a free “I Ching Reading” piqued my interest.  I ended up becoming so fascinated that I bought The Complete I Ching so I could make this the hero’s static trait.

When the idea for this Character Clinic came, I wasn’t sure if I could write up something about I Ching or not.  I mean, I only found and used it for a specific Chinese hero in a new story.  I wasn’t sure if I’d ever use it for any other story or character.  But I decided to do a trial run this afternoon for this entry.  Let’s see what you think.

I’m far from an expert on I Ching, but this is how I’ve been using it.

I have three coins, gold Sacajawea dollars I borrowed from the monsters.  To get a reading, toss the three coins SIX times and count the number of heads and tails.  There are four possible outcomes for each toss:

  • three heads (Greater Yin, broken, changing line)
  • two heads and one tail (Lesser Yang, an unbroken line)
  • one head and two tails (Lesser Yin, a broken line)
  • three tails (Greater Yang, unbroken, changing line)

For each toss, draw the corresponding line (either whole or broken) from bottom to top.  You should end up with six lines.  Three bottom and three top lines are grouped together to form one of eight “trigrams.”  Each trigram has a name, like Mountain, Heaven, etc.  The back of my book has a reference table rather like a multiplication table, where I can look up the bottom and top trigram to get the intersection “hexagram,” which is a number from 1 – 64.  Once I have my number, I look it up in the book and read what the original text says, as well as the translation and extra details.  Each reference book will give different insight to the symbol and what it might mean.  I really like my book because it contains details about the Chinese symbol and name, as well as commentary from Confucius, King Wen, and The Duke of Zhou’s interpretations.  Bits of history are thrown in to “show” how they came to these interpretations, which I find fascinating.

Where I Ching can really give some cool insight is when you consider the “changing lines.”  These lines show where the symbol is “moving.”  Some tosses you might end up with multiple changing lines; others, you may not get any.  When I do get a changing line, it’s always interesting to read that symbol too  and gain insight into what might help with the journey facing the character.

Exercise:  I decided to try another “live blog” reading to show how I Ching might work.  I’ve already done this for my current new project using Story Archetype cards.  Since Jessica intrigued me with her “firefighter vs. arson” posts, I had FIRE on my mind.  Could I ever come up with a heroine arsonist and a hero firefighter (marshal, etc.) with a believable romance that still remained true to who they were? 

So thinking FIRE and letting my mind twist on those details, I threw the coins.  From top to bottom:

  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 3 tails (solid line, changing)
  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 1 head, 2 tail (broken line)

This gives “Qian over Xun” or “Heaven over Wind” = 44, which my book translates as “Encountering.”

The background of the gua, or name “Gou, Encountering” is very interesting for my fire idea.  It means a couple, specifically a married couple, which implies a pairing or copulation.  The whole translation is based on the one “feminine” yin line at the bottom and how the rest of the “male” yang lines “chase” it.  The basic idea of the Gou (44) is “after separation, people meet again.”

Hmm, my brain immediately wonders.  Maybe the hero knew her in the past.  He knows exactly what kind of woman she is, that she’s an arsonist.  That puts the conflict and opposing world views first and foremost in the relationship.

The decision for this gua is particularly alarming for anyone attempting this kind of story:  Encountering.  The maiden is strong.  Do not engage in marrying such a woman.  The union cannot last very long.

Ha!  Maybe Jess is right, hmmm?

The actual Yao Text is almost poetic and sometimes gives interesting metaphors.  Each line has an interpretation, which may or may not give more ideas for the characterization or plot.  For 44, some words that caught my attention:  “misfortune appears — impetuous lean pig, pacing up and down.”  What the heck does that mean?  In the discussion that follows the translation:  “it is better to stop its growth at the beginning so its evil influence will not extend any further.”  Uh oh.  That doesn’t sound very good for our romance, does it.  This line is “unwilling to lag behind.  It is like a lean pig waiting to move forward.  One should be alert and take precautions, as in using a metal brake to stop a moving carriage.”

Line 5 is equally dubious.  “Willow twigs wrap the melon, Concealing brilliance.”  The text explains:  “one at this place has the brilliant quality of tolerating others’ opinions and behaviors, but still restrains the evil influence from spreading.  Melon represents the yin element at the bottom.  It is sweet, but it rots easily and creeps along the ground, denoting the insidious influence of evil.”

Er.  It’s not looking good for our romance.

The final line rings like the final nail in the coffin:  “Reaching the topmost; there is ground for regret,” which is explained as this line reaching the top and falling into an isolated position.  The only yin (female) element is at the bottom, which is too far for him to meet.  His pride keeps him from descending (or in our romance, we could say his sense of justice).  Although there is no reason for blame, there is regret.

Dang.  Sadder and sadder.  Maybe our firefighter and arsonist are doomed from the beginning. 

Let’s examine the changing line, which was line 3.  The text directs me to the gua “6 – Contention.”  Uh oh, still not looking good.  Flipping back to symbol 6, this gua is called “Song,” which means to dispute, demand justice, or bring a case to court because there is contention.  Again, it makes me think of the hero’s sense of justice.  This is definitely true to him and what we’d expect of a heroic firefighter.  He would be driven to stop any arsonist, even, or especially, the woman he loved.

The decision for this changing line is complicated.  When truth is blocked, we should be cautious.  Resolving the conflict at the midpoint is recommended.  If the conflict continues to the end, only one thing awaits.  Misfortune.  Dealing with the contention is supreme good fortune; obtaining distinction through contention is not worthy of respect.

Pretty interesting, yes?  And it looks rather grim for our firefighter and arsonist couple. 

Which if you know me, you know this only makes me want to write it all the more.

4 thoughts on “CC101 – I Ching

  1. “Which if you know me, you know this only makes me want to write it all the more.”

    :mrgreen: HAH! I hope you do honestly. Then again, I’m not your-ah-standard romance reader so maybe I shouldn’t encourage you. :lol:

    I-Ching sounds fascinating, I think I’ll have to see about getting myself that book. Even if only for to appease my insatiable curiosity for the occult. *g* Great post Joely!

  2. I agree with Soleil, the I-Ching sounds interesting. I’ll have to add it to my reading list.
    P.S. I’m willing to negotiate a hostage exchange. :cool:

  3. Well that’s pretty fascinating. I’ve been using the Tarot for similar purpose in writing characters. I may give the I Ching a try. d:)

  4. Interesting! As much as I know about China, I’ve never ventured into the I Ching. And, um, I’ll be waiting anxiously for grim tale of the firefighter and arsonist… :mrgreen: I mean, the gauntlet, it has been thrown, non? :twisted:

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