How to Throw the Coins to Obtain a Reading for the I Ching

The Chinese Book of Change – The I Ching (pronounced Yee Jing) – is one of the most ancient books in existence – some of it is 3000 years old. It is not about archaic religious beliefs, nor about fortune telling, or simple tribal convictions. Rather it is a profound study of change as it occurs in human life and the universe as understood by Chinese thinkers. Within the great Chaos or the Unexpected that is a basic fact of life and the universe, there also exists the push toward Order. The interaction between these two great processes brings about patterns and cycles. These, impinging on our life we know as Change. Our life is constantly confronted by the Unexpected. The shifting events and opportunities of our life may lift us up or cast us down. The I Ching presents skilful ways of riding these currents, and surfing the waves of such changes? The I Ching does this by giving responses to questions that in their simplicity help us to clarify decisions and calm emotions in meeting our life situations or making important decisions.

Apart from being a book of wisdom in the ancient Chinese tradition, the I Ching was also consulted on questions of state, warfare and personal decision making. It is this aspect of it which is presented here. Consulting the I Ching does not present us with statements of what will happen as a fated future. The wisdom behind the book does not see the future as unalterably fixed, but rather like a constantly shifting flux similar to the seasons, with which we can interact. What we receive in a consultation is like a conversation with a wise and experienced friend, who through their experience might point out that if we take our present course within the situation as it stands, the results might be in a direction we do not wish – but if we are patient circumstances could change, then we can act more forcefully and effectively.

One of the most astonishing features of the responses we can gain from the I Ching when it is couched in modern language such as the present interpretation, is the manner in which it so often says exactly what our situation is and what we face. This aids confidence and clear thinking in regard to the problem or situation we face. Therefore a consultation with the I Ching is more a way of defining ones action and thinking than an aspirin for worries about the future. We are helped by its use to be creators of our own future, and to find satisfaction and harmony within the world.

Great and simple men and women have consulted the I Ching over the centuries. Carl Jung, the great Swiss Psychiatrist, not only wrote the forward to the first European translation, but also used it in his work. Statesmen and lay people have found in it advice on meeting the ever changing faces of opportunity and adversity. It is a magnificent aid to clarifying ones goals or seeing a different viewpoint of the situation, no matter whether it is business or romance we are dealing with. It can be a simple wise guide to whether today is the right time to ask the important question, seek love, or make the business move. The response we get is often astounding, mentioning our problem as if it were known. This new interpretation in modern concepts and language opens the I Ching for everyone’s consultation.

“Your I Ching interpretation(s) are, ultimately, the best I have seen. DEEP BOW. – Sara”

How to consult the I Ching – The Book of Change

The very beginning of consulting the oracle of the I Ching is to define a question. This should be with one single issue in mind, and not be several questions in one. So it might be a question like – ‘What should I guard against in this issue?’ – ‘Which direction should I take?’ – “What sort of relationship can I expect from my new lover?’

An example of how not to frame a question by asking several questions in one would be – ‘Will the relationship with my new boyfriend work, or if not should I go back to my husband, or should I simply concentrate on my job?’

The traditional manner of consulting the I Ching was to throw a bundle of yarrow sticks. This was a very long and ritualistic process, and the modern equivalent is to use three coins. The coins are thrown six times. Each throw, through its combination of odd or even sides – head or tails – yields a particular result, called a LINE. The line can either be an unbroken horizontal line, or a horizontal line with a break in the centre.

This gives a yes or no, negative or positive response. The unbroken line representing a yes, and the broken a negative or no. But with the addition of further lines these basic receptive or active lines create a variety of possible responses.

Unbroken line =

Broken line =      

The lines build from the bottom up to form a Hexagram, which is a mixture of broken

and unbroken lines, such as this –               

There are sixty-four possible configurations of the hexagrams, and each hexagram represents a process in nature or human nature – such as growth, discharge, or ending.

Some throws (details explained later) create what is called a Moving or Changing Line. This means that although, for example, an unbroken line is indicated, the line will transform into a broken line. What happens is that although one ends with a particular hexagram made up of whatever the original lines indicated happen to be, a second or transformed hexagram can also be created in some consultations.

Therefore, if lines two and three (starting from the bottom) of the above hexagram were changing lines, the transformed hexagram would look like this:

When the hexagram has no moving lines, the response to the query is the text connected with the one hexagram. If the response to the query has a hexagram with changing lines, then the original hexagram is consulted, and added to this comes the text for the changing lines AND the transformed hexagram. The moving line comments and transformed hexagram are seen as qualifications to the original hexagram or a summing up of the situation. This can be thought of as something like the first hexagram saying ‘Yes this has excellent possibilities’ – then the moving lines and transformed hexagram might add ‘But be careful of making any big changes at the moment, as it is good only for building up what already exists.’ Richard Wilhelm who did one of the first European translations says that the transformed hexagram is the final situation portrayed by the response.


Technical Information

Three coins are thrown six times. Each throw generates one line in the hexagram starting from the bottom and working upwards.

Traditionally the coins used were the Chinese coins with a hole in the centre, marked on one side and blank on the other. The marked side is considered as ‘heads’ or positive, and the blank side as ‘tails’ or negative.

Each ‘heads’ counts as two – each ‘tails’ counts as three. The total is then added to give a score. So three coins each landing as ‘heads’ would give a score of six. Three coins landing as ‘tails’ would give a score of nine. One coin landing as ‘heads’ and the other two coins landing as ‘tails’, gives a score of eight.

Any even score, such as 6 or 8, gives a broken line. Any score that is odd such as 7 or 9, gives an unbroken line.

Lastly – any score of 6 or 9 gives what is called a changing or moving line also, as explained above.

3 heads = 6 = a broken line ( ) which changes to a firm line ( ).

3 tails = 9 = a firm line ( ) which changes to a broken line ( ).

2 heads and 1 tail = 7 a firm line ( ) that does not change.

2 tails and 1 head = 8 a broken line ( ) that does not change.

Whatever the response, one can explore the question further by shifting the framing of the question – in other words try out different approaches to the problem or situation involved in the question. Therefore the I Ching offers a system that enables you to clarify your approach to your question – whether that is about a relationship, a business venture, or even your personal growth. This is a wonderful means of defining decisions, and thinking out the finer points of any situation. For in the end, the responses from the I Ching act as a stimulus to your own thoughts and feelings. In some issues you need to consult the oracle of the I Ching a number of times to clarify what is the most rewarding direction. This is like having a conversation in which you defines an issue by asking further questions.

So, if you asked a question such as – “Can I go ahead with this project in the city of Boston?” The response might be that there would be a lot of resistance to ones business. Therefore one could ask if the business project could go well in another city, or with a different set of parameters.

One of the most astonishing features of the responses we can gain from the I Ching when it is couched in modern language such as the present interpretation, is the manner in which it so often says exactly what our situation is and what we face. This aids confidence and clear thinking in regard to the problem or situation we face. Therefore a consultation with the I Ching is more a way of defining ones action and thinking than an aspirin for worries about the future. We are helped by its use to be creators of our own future, and to find satisfaction and harmony within the world.

To get a reading go to Introduction to the I Ching


-Jason 2018-01-08 4:53:35

易經 is pronounced ‘ee ching’, with an unaspirated ‘ch’. There is no ‘y’ sound.

    -Tony Crisp 2018-01-14 12:55:24

    I know, but how do you get the Western mind to translate what is usually written as I Ching?

    Also why do Americans say Herbs (erbs) by leaving out the H which is spoken in England. And fertile is spoken as fertle in the US. It becomes common language by being used in a country.


-denise 2017-09-17 5:32:37

How can I find an expert in I Ching in NYC?

-Bill 2016-08-10 21:44:15

When I threw the coins two landed on top of each other. Do I count it as is or throw it over?

-leen 2016-05-20 10:31:18

Hi Tony,

i Tried to find out how to throw coins to get a hexagram.
Your website tells me the opposite as some other websites.
Can you explain this to me?



    -Tony Crisp 2016-05-21 7:11:17

    Leen – I checked it out and it is exactly the same. The only difference is that the instructions on the sites you mentioned are not explained as clearly.

    Other people have said the same, and I checked against the original and it is correct.


-April 2015-10-14 16:32:02

Hi Tony

Many thanks for your inspirational and illuminating website.
I just have a question for you and would appreciate your judicious advice.
Why do some people assign a even number to heads when tossing coins; some odd.
R.L.Wing and you assign 0, 2, for a thrown head and 1, 3 etc for a tails thrown.
However, lots of other websites say that a head thrown is an odd number and a tails is an even number?
Which is correct or is there no correct as long as consistancy prevails?
I prefer your and R.L Wings approach as Heads being an even value seems to make more sense.
I wonder could you clarify/explain.
Many thanks

-Matthew 2015-01-08 18:32:42

Good information here, thank you! I have been conceiving this idea of a meditation timer that includes an I ching consultation, and have been trying to figure out the user experience. Any comments towards the validation or refutation of this idea would be valued. Cheers! – Matthew

-MARIKA LOVE 2014-09-07 21:11:28

I have been mis-counting the coins (using 3 for heads and 2 for tails) when I’ve done the Ching in the past. When I first threw it today using the correct values, I was not sure I counted them correctly the first time I threw the coins. The hexagram was very strange and did not seem like the right one. So I re-threw them a second time with the same question. This hexagram was much more likely to be the right one. Can I trust that? Thanks,
Marika Love

    -Tony Crisp 2014-09-11 9:22:51

    Marika – You are dealing with the power of synchronicity, and so every shift of your thinking and feeling is causing the result of your throw. The answer in the I Ching should speak to you and be an aid to your understanding of your question. So your second throw was probably the right one.


-Ale 2014-03-27 0:54:06

Tony, i believe you have heard this many times before, but let me thank you again for your wonderful website. The I Ching readings have helped me clear up so many things that had been bothering me and had me worried… And their readings are always accurate. Thank you so much,you have helped in so many ways!

    -Tony Crisp 2014-03-27 8:59:42

    Ale – It is always a good feeling for me to receive words like yours. Thank you, it encourages me to carry on.


-InAnnA Jones 2013-09-21 13:42:48


    -Tony Crisp 2013-09-23 8:05:19

    InAnnA – Thank you for giving me the pleasure of hearing that.


-deborah gregory 2013-04-28 10:56:42

I have three Chinese coins but don’t know which side is which. One side had four characters on, the other has only two unclear marks. Which is yin and which is yang? Even Wilhelm doesn’t seem to make this clear. Can you help? If so, many thanks.

    -Tony Crisp 2013-04-28 12:31:16

    Deborah – I believe the four characters is the Yin and the other is the Yang. So use it like that.


-sebastian lockwood 2012-03-19 22:19:46

I worked with Robby Bosnack’s dream group method – Tracks in the Wilderness – delighted by your long dream & work – I started a blog using the coincidence of wild animal sightings/ life & the Iching. Thanks for the clear descrition of how to and the emphasis on the only law that never changes is the law that all things change… thanx:SL.

    -Tony Crisp 2012-03-21 11:31:22

    Sebastian – Thanks, and I loved the blog and the photos.

    I never did manage to climb Beech trees. The one near me had such wonderful long trunks with no branches low down to pull myself up. But Elm trees, there’s a different story. Pity they have all been killed now in the UK>


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