Meaning of Taoism

The I Ching and Coin Casting

The system is further enhanced by adding the idea of "old" lines and "young" lines. An old line can be either yin or yang depending on its proximity to its opposite. We have discussed the idea of the eternal movement of energy and the constant change that this movement brings. Like an ocean tide at its height, an old yang line has reached its peak and is at the point of retreat. Soon it will begin its transformation back into yin. These special types of lines are referred to as "moving" because they are at the point of change.

A moving line is created when either three heads or three tails are thrown. A toss of three heads would yield a number value of nine. Three tails yield a value of six. Moving lines, after they are changed to their opposite, form a second hexagram that leads to an additional reading that is used in conjunction with the original divination.


The extra hexagram adds an entirely new dimension to the reading. With the original cast of the coins, there were 64 possible combinations. But if a second hexagram derives from the first, then there are 4,096 (64,364) possible combinations. Not every hexagram that is cast will contain a moving line. If it does, however, there is additional information to consider in the analysis.

A Reading from the Text

Here is an interpretation of the hexagram cast above. The reading is a compilation of ideas taken from a number of texts including The I Ching or Book of Changes by Richard Wilhelm and I Ching by Kerson and Rosemary Huang.

The hexagram described above is number 49, meaning Ko or Revolution. Since it happens to be a hexagram with two moving lines, there is a derivative hexagram, number 37, to consider as well. By comparing the hexagram to the table of the eight primal forces, we find that in the original hexagram, the upper trigram refers to lake and the lower to fire. So, in its most elementary form, the meaning is simply, Lake over Fire.

This hexagram is one of the eight that falls under the House of the Abysmal. Fire consumes and rises. Water extinguishes and falls. The interpretation notes that when water is found above fire, there may be conflict: The fire is extinguished by the fall of the water, and the water, in its turn, evaporates as the fire rises to consume it.

To the ancients, water over fire indicated Revolution, which is the title of the hexagram. The reading, or judgment, as it is called, is an interpretation of the specific meanings of each of the lines. Each line can be difficult to interpret since its original meaning was conceived of hundreds of years ago. As a result, the symbolism is often obscure. The first line, for example, located in the first place at the bottom of the hexagram, is made by three heads and so has a value of nine. At this particular location, nine means something like, "tied with the hide of a yellow ox."

This translates as follows: The hide is tough, strong, and resilient, and therefore suggests determination. As a color, yellow is traditionally associated with forces in balance. As an omen, the hint is to not act prematurely and to wait for an appropriate moment. The ox, or cow, signifies submission, and this confirms the meaning of the earlier clues. Submit, at least temporarily, but remain firm in your convictions.

In terms of a revolution, then, or some planned action against the existing state of affairs, the general message is one of remaining firm and of biding one's time until conditions are more favorable. The entire reading supports this theme. It says: "Justice will be handed down publicly so that all will be aware of the fate of transgressors. This is auspicious for those who have behaved with loyalty and virtue."

To learn more about interpreting casts from the I Ching, see the next section.

To learn more about tai chi, see: