In global terms, the Chi is expressed as two structuring and polar principles (yin and yang). It does it through Heaven, Man and Earth, in beings and things, cyclicly (seasons) and causing events that, for instance, can be represented in the hexagrams of The Book of Changes. According to comments attributed to Confucio, the I Ching is the most ancient book in the world because its basic structure was developed in prehistory and was the basis for the order installed by the mythological sovereigns in ancient Chine before XXI century B.C. (the Three Augustes and the emperors Five Augustes).
Around the year 2200 B.C., in the era of Xia dynasty (the first one), fortune-telling was practised through fire impressions (piromancy), cracking turtle´s shells with red hot iron (escapulomancy). With this method, fortune-tellers emitted heat (fire) and thus cracks appeared translating Chi in everything, as a revealed. To read these cracks they used a system derived from Fu Hsi´s trigrams by associating them to pictograms but apparently there were no consensuated patterns for interpretation, and each practicioner was free to interpret in their own way, as with this shell from Shang dynasty´s era (1600 – 1046 B.C.).
Later, another method was used: 50 rods of yarrow. Lenght, straightness, durability and lightness of dried stems make them especially adequated for random handling. And, as happens in any fortune-telling, they´re used as a receptive mean to «context» irradiations, the Chi circulating in all beings and things, intentionally perceived by who´s asking (the other receptive mean).
This method with rods is about operations representing the cosmic characteristics of a year (cosmic return) with the Moon and its phases, and the interspersed time.
In a reading, stems are counted three times but we start separating one of them, putting it aside. 49 stems remain, as they´re 49 Moon phases, plus a fraction. The separated stem represents that fraction, and the remaining 49 represent the whole lunar phases.
Then, the remaining 49 stems are grouped again, dropped and separated in groups of 4, because 4 stems represent a lunation. As they´re grouped in sets of 4, rests remain. Theses rests symbolize the interspersed time, «the time out of time»: it´s fortune-telling´s time in which we go back to zero point because linearity in the topic of interest is no more. It´s a way of symbolizing that a fortune-telling is a new beginning because installs by itself a new start in the reading´s topic, letting play chance as rods are grouped again and again according to the Chi in the situation.
If you´re interested in asking with rods, read these steps:
Repeat all the previous steps 5 more times to get the other five lines forming a hexagram.
Fu Hsi, Wisdom Incarnated
He was the one who invented the calendar in Ancient Chine, brought writing and social organization, and invented the 8 trigrams while observed phenomena in Heaven and Earth.
- Yang (heat, the expansive) is represented in trigram Chien (Heaven)
- Yin (cold, the contracted) is represented in trigram Kun (Earth)
- the Chi (vital energy) is represented in Chen (Thunder)
- Metal is represented in trigram Tui (Lake)
- Earth in Ken (Mountain)
- Fire in Li (Fire)
- Wood in Sun (Wind)
- Water in K´an (Water)
After Fu Hsi, King Wen of the Chou dynasty wrote his own sequence of signs in the XII B.C. century adding descriptions for the 64 hexagrams when considered in pairs, which allowed a better representation of the rhythmic structure of an always elusive and changing present. His son Tan, the famous Duke of Chou, wrote the judgments we currently know for each line.