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Nobody knows for sure who wrote the I Ching, or when. But most scholars think somebody wrote the I Ching around 800 BC, during the last years of the Western Zhou Dynasty in China. That makes the I Ching the oldest piece of writing in China other than the oracle bones. Like the earlier oracle bones, the I Ching is a collection of predictions about the future. It’s a fortune-telling book to help people predict what is going to happen in the future. People wrote the first versions of the I Ching on silk cloth, because paper¬†hadn’t been invented yet.

A bundle of brown sticks - yarrow stalks for throwing the I Ching

Yarrow stalks for throwing the I Ching

I Ching means the Book of Changes. People threw three yarrow stalks (yarrow is a kind of flowering plant), and depending on how they fell they used that pattern to choose which predictions to read, according to complicated formulas. Some examples of the predictions are, “The Judgement: Peace. The small departs, the great approaches. Good fortune. Success.” or “Six at the beginning means: Enthusiasm that expresses itself brings misfortune.”.

By the Han Dynasty, about 100 BC, people began to throw bronze coinsinstead, because the coins led to more random results than the stalks of yarrow.

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