I Ching Divination - Methods - Yarrow Stalks

Yarrow Stalks

Hexagrams may be generated by the manipulation of yarrow stalks. The following directions are from the ten wings of the I Ching. Other instructions can be found here, and a calculation of probabilities here.

One takes fifty yarrow stalks, of which only forty-nine are used. These forty-nine are first divided into two heaps (at random), then a stalk from the right-hand heap is inserted between the ring finger and the little finger of the left hand. The left heap is counted through by fours, and the remainder (four or less) is inserted between the ring finger and the middle finger. The same thing is done with the right heap, and the remainder inserted between the forefinger and the middle finger. This constitutes one change.
Now one is holding in one's hand either five or nine stalks in all. The two remaining heaps are put together, and the same process is repeated twice. These second and third times, one obtains either four or eight stalks. The five stalks of the first counting and the four of each of the succeeding countings are regarded as a unit having the numerical value three; the nine stalks of the first counting and the eight of the succeeding countings have the numerical value two.
When three successive changes produce the sum 3+3+3=9, this makes the old yang, i.e., a firm line that moves. The sum 2+2+2=6 makes old yin, a yielding line that moves. Seven is the young yang, and eight the young yin; they are not taken into account as individual lines.

Note that only the remainders after counting through fours are kept and laid upon the single stalk that was removed at the start. The piles of four are re-used for each change. The number of piles of four is not used in calculation; it's the remainders that are used. The removing of all the fours is a way of calculating the remainder; those fours are then re-used for the next change, so that the total number of stalks in use remains high, to keep all remainders equally probable.

The correct probability has been used also in the marble, bean, dice and two or four coin methods below. This probability is significantly different from that of the three-coin method, because the required amount of accuracy occupies four binary bits of information, so three coins is one bit short.

In terms of chances-out-of-16, the three-coin method yields 2,2,6,6 instead of 1,3,5,7 for old-yin, old-yang, young-yang, young-yin respectively. That is,

Traditional Probability Three-Coin Probability YinYang Signification Number Symbol
p=1/16 p=2/16 old yin yin changing into yang 6 ---x---
p=3/16 p=2/16 old yang yang changing into yin 9 ---o---
p=5/16 p=6/16 young yang yang unchanging 7 --------
p=7/16 p=6/16 young yin yin unchanging 8 --- ---

Read more about this topic:  I Ching Divination, Methods

Other articles related to "yarrow, yarrow stalks":

I Ching Divination - Methods - Dice
... determine a line, with probabilities matching the yarrow-stalk method ... This method mimics Zhou court divinations in which yarrow stalks were used in a two-stage divinatory process, first casting the hexagram, then designating one line as moving (see Shaughnessey, 1996, pp ... A similar distribution to yarrow stalks is possible using two dice, 1 eight-sided (1d8), and 1 twenty-sided (1d20) ...

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