I Ching – Video on «The Book of Changes»


In this video Jürg Conzett, the founder of the Sunflower Foundation, acquaints you with one of mankind's most important and oldest books – the Chinese book of wisdom I Ching. It takes you into ancient China's cosmological and philosophical world of ideas and with its 64 symbolic hexagrams stimulates people to search their souls to this day. Again and again I Ching is also used as an oracle book, providing answers to such questions as "Where do I stand?" or "What shall I do?" But is that what it is really about? Jürg Conzett here says what he thinks of it and why the book fascinates him.


The I Ching is the oldest book in the world. The major part of it is attributed to Wen Wang from the 12th century B.C., a sage and founder of the Chou Dynasty.

But its origins are lost in the mythical past 6000 years ago. Undoubtedly the I Ching is one of the most important books in world literature. It contains the wisdom of the millennia, which is still valid for many today.

It is thus no wonder that the two main branches of Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism, have their common roots here.

The whole of Chinese life is deeply pervaded, right down into everyday life, by the influence of the I Ching.

It depicts the universe as a cosmic whole, in which nature and man are part of a single system. The Book of Changes is, it is true, a very profound work, but it does not present modern understanding with greater difficulties than any other book that has lived on into our day and age after a long journey from antiquity.

Is the I Ching an oracular book, as is so often maintained? Questions such as "Where do I stand? Why am I in this situation? What will it result in? What should I do?" have occupied the mind of man from time immemorial. The I Ching can be consulted as a book of divination and for understanding the future, into which the present will evolve. But in my opinion the I Ching is not an oracular book, as there is no future in the sense of a logical development. It is, rather, a window of intuition and a symbol of the rhythm of life.

The I Ching is based on 64 hexagrams. Looking at each of them, the picture answers a question in the sense of an all-embracing inspiration.

By throwing three coins six times you can find the six lines of the hexagram.

This is made up of solid and broken lines.

The solid lines stand for yang, the male cosmic principle, the broken lines for yin, the female cosmic principle.

The 64 signs of the I Ching constitute pictorial representations of deep aspects of the human psyche, today just as they did 6000 years ago. Such deep aspects are called archetypes, primal ideas, which are common to all people. Symbols have a direct and strong effect. I prefer to see the 64 I Ching hexagrams as archetypal pictures which can provide an answer to any question.

The human being, however, with his need for explanations and instructions is seldom satisfied with the symbol alone. Even the Chinese asked, "What should I do?", when he saw the sign.

And so it happened that with the passage of time and especially in our century the symbolic hexagrams of the I Ching were interpreted with words. Everything became more complicated, and ever more hair-splitting speculations surrounded the Book of Changes as if with a mysterious cloud. If you fail to understand pictures, then naturally you need explanations. But the more experienced you are in dealing with the I Ching, the more irrelevant the text becomes.

It is the aim of this presentation to return to the original picture of the I Ching and to let it take effect archetypally.

To do this, i asked Silvia Oberholzer to translate the 64 I-Ching hexagrams into drawings.

My favourite hexagrams

"The Well". The meaning of this picture is very clearly shown by following sentence: "The deeper the well, the clearer the water." That can apply to the doctor who can help his patients better the deeper his knowledge is − or to the healer who can only achieve anything with profound knowledge.

Also "Abundance" is one of my favourite pictures. In the probably most reputable German translation of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm it is said: "Inward clarity, outward movement, this results in largeness and abundance." Is there any better way of saying this? Anyone who is conscious and clear inside himself, who focuses his thoughts and knows what he wants to accomplish and is, in addition, outwardly active will acquire abundance. The "welfare state mentality" of our day is exactly the opposite: outwardly passive, inwardly gloomy. Who can be surprised that with this attitude abundance is deceptive?

Or "Inner Truth", with the commentary: "Where there is truth opposites have merged." What would the modern judge do with this idea? Today's judge believes that the truth is more likely to be found in those who are socially weaker or in the rhetorically brilliant lawyer.


  • The idea of change

The Book of Changes provides astonishing insights into the inner mechanisms of change, of the constant flow which again and again recreates and changes the world in which we live. If the archetypal picture does not provide sufficient answers to a question, you can also try changing the picture. For with the I Ching the most important thing is the idea of change.


There are three possibilities of change:

As the hexagram, i.e. the six lines, consists of two trigrams on top each other, they can be reversed. Thus the sign for conflict "Under Pressure" arises from "Inner Truth"; the latter shows stability, the former instability.


The second possibility of change consists in using lines 2, 3 and 4 for the first trigram and 3, 4 and 5 for the second. Thus the symbol of "Nourishment" arises from "Inner Truth," and this indicates that the right way of thinking is the basis for finding the truth.


The third possibility is to change one of the lines. If, for example, the fifth line of "Inner Truth" is changed, you achieve "Letting Go" and are urged to be patient.

Thus the principle of change connects all the signs with one another. This presentation is concerned with suggestions for playing, contemplating and meditating with the 64 hexagrams.


The 64 hexagrams are usually assigned to the eight basic signs heaven, earth, mountain, lake, water, fire, thunder, wind. These signs form the basis of the I Ching. They are the building blocks of every hexagram.


In one's thoughts the three trigrams can be turned or the individual lines changed. The sign "fire," above it "thunder" − the picture takes effect, and the message is clear, without having to look up the explanation: the energy of the inner fire and the force of thunder can achieve much. No wonder that the sign stands for "Abundance." If only one line is changed, intuition leads you to the next picture. Or as C. G. Jung put it: "Like a part of nature, the I Ching waits to be discovered."

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