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Yi Jing [I Ching]

Consulting Using the Coin Toss Method

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The Yi Jing contains description and commentaries about 64 hexagrams, each of which is uniquely identified by a number and name. The top three lines of each hexagran form the upper trigram while the lower three lines from the lower trigram. Each trigram is also identified by a unique name and symbolism. The basic process consists of formulating a question and then following a prescribed process to identify the hexagram (sometimes two) that provides the answer to the question. The two principal methods for determing the hexagram are by means of yarrow stalks or coin tosses.

The coin toss method is the simpler of the two and is described below:

  1. Formulate the question and ponder it. Since there are only 64 possible answers, it is important to phrase the question correctly. Questions such as "who will win the World Cup?" or "what will be the winning lottery number?" won't work because they are too specific. However, they could be reformulated as "could England win the World Cup next time?" or "will I be rich by playing the lottery?".
  2. Get three coins. The traditional Chinese coins with a square whole in the middle add a measure of authenticity but are not necessary. Any three identical coins will do.
  3. Build the hexagram one line at time, from the bottom to the top. Line 1 of the hexagram is at the bottom while line 6 is at the top. Each line is determined as follows:
    • Toss all three coins at once. Add up the numerical value of the three coins based on whether they came up heads or tails, as follows:
      • The "head"side will be the Yin side and have a value of 2.
      • The "tail" side will be the Yang side and have a value of 3.
    • Write down the result. This is line 1 (the bottom-most) line of the hexagram.
    • Repeat the coin toss 5 more times but each time write the result above the previous one. At the end you should have a column of 6 digits, each ranging in value from 6 to 9.
  4. Convert each digit to a hexagram line, as follows:
    • A sum of 7 is a stationary Yang line, represented by the unbroken line.
    • A sum of 8 is stationary Yin line, represented by the broken line.
    • A sum of 6 is a moving Yang line, usually represented by the unbroken line with an X in the middle.
    • A sum of 9 is a moving Yin line, usually represented by the broken line with a little circle in the middle.
  5. Obtain the primary hexagram. Ignore the differences between the stationary and moving lines to obtain your main hexagram. You may use the Hexagram Finder below to find the corresponding hexagram numnber and textual descriptions. Read the sections titled The Image, The Judgment, as well as those sections corresponding to the moving lines. If there are no moving lines, simply skip the Lines section altogether.
  6. Obtain the secondary hexagram. If there are moving lines in your coin toss, convert each moving line to its opposite. Hence a moving Yang line becomes a Yin line while a moving Yin line becomes a Yang line. The resulting hexagram is your secondary hexagram and represents the ending situation while the primary hexagram would represent the current situation. Again, use the Hexagram Finder below to find the corresponding hexagram number and textual descriptions but only read the sections titled The Image and The Judgment.

Note: This exact process has been automated in our Online Yi Jing Oracle.


Match lines
in upper and
lower trigrams


See Also