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Taoism Symbols of the I Ching

Within the I-Ching, the primal duality of Life is represented by the terms yin and Yang. Yin energy is symbolized by a broken line, and Yang energy by a solid line. These lines fall into eight groups of three, the eight basic Trigrams. Each Trigram carries an essential identity, reflecting significant natural elements of being.

i ching Taoism Symbols

The Trigrams are multiplied together, resulting in sixty-four Hexagrams of six lines each. Each Hexagram carries a message, an intuitive insight into the truth of a moment, a situation, a transition.

i  ching hexagram
Hexagram 45,

Tui/Lake over Kun/Earth,
Moisture gathering on the Earth, people massing together, sages prepare themselves.

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Structure of the Tao Deck

The TaoDeck is comprised of 35 cards. There are 2 Information cards, 8 Trigram Key cards, 24 Oracle cards and the title card.
TaoDeck has three different methods for obtaining a reading; the 2 Line, the Quick and the Traditional methods.


  • Yin-Yang Evolution Chart - This card displays the unfolding Tao to yin and yang. The single Lines double showing their 4 possible Duogram combinations and then double again to form the 8 Trigrams. The reverse side shows the 64 Hexagrams in a grid pattern making a unique I-Ching mandala.
  • Earthly Circular Order Card - This card displays the Trigrams as they represent physical reality, manifesting from the Tao in their natural 5 Elemental Phase progression.

  • 8 Trigram 'Keycards' - Created to represent the Hexagram answer, the illustrated Keycards are designed to invite meditation and stimulate intuitive understanding of the I-Ching reading. The Keycards are useful for studying the I-Ching as a system. The negative attributes of each Trigram are for contemplation only, they are not part of the reading.
  • 24 Oracle Cards - Each Oracle card contains up to 3 groups of yin and yang lines:
  • Big single lines (all 24 cards)
    2 line duogram (12 cards)
    3 line Trigram (16 cards)

    The backs of the Oracle cards show the Heavenly, Primal or Pre-Heaven order of the Trigrams. From this sequence, the Primal pair of Earth and Sky (Kun and Chien) transforms into the Earthly Circular Order pair of Water and Fire (Kan and Li). The ideal becomes the real as the 10,000 things dance into life.
    The backs of the Oracle cards also show all 64 Hexagrams arranged according to the Trigram house they are classically associated with.

Suggested Approach to the TaoDeck
As an intuitive art, accessing the wisdom of the I-Ching through the TaoDeck is facilitated with a few simple techniques:

  • Create a time and space to use the TaoDeck
    It is important to consult the I-Ching in a peaceful environment.
  • Choose the question in stillness, allowing it to surface fully and become clear.
    Your question needs to be consice and direct, asking for advice about a particular situation.
  • Select a method (see the following section on TaoDeck methods) that is appropriate in the moment. Tune into your question as the deck is shuffled, spreading the cards face down before you.
    Select the cards intuitively, waiting for the subtle impulse or attraction that indicates the relevant card.
  • After locating the Hexagram number from the Hexagram lookup table on page 6 in the instructions booklet or from any I-Ching book, you need to look up the same number chapter in the I-Ching.
    Each Hexagram has a number and name. You will get either 1 or 2 Hexagrams as your answer.
  • If you get changing line(s), be sure to read about them in the book provided with the TaoDeck. In the book, the Changing Lines are called "Components." Component #1 is the bottom line of the Hexagram.
    Changing Lines are also known as Moving Lines.
  • As a study aid to your Hexagram(s), use the corresponding Keycard images to enhance your meditation.
    Simply pick the 2 Keycards that are the Trigram images of your Hexagram answer. Look at them for a while and try to understand the archetypal energy of the images.

    Tao Deck methods

The Quick Trigram Method
This method is recommended when a quick answer is required, for beginners, or when changing lines are not desired.

  • Select the 16 cards out of the 24 Oracle cards that have the 3 Line Trigrams on them. and set the others aside.
  • After framing your question, intuitively choose one card for the lower Trigram and one for the upper Trigram.
  • Now locate your Hexagram in the Hexagram lookup table

Two Line Method

  • Select the 12 cards out of the 24 Oracle cards that have the 2 Line Duograms on them.
  • After framing your question choose 3 cards.
    The bottom card represents the Earth level, the middle card the Human level, and the top card the Heaven/Spiritual level.
    Together the 6 Lines make a typical Hexagram comprised of 3 lower lines and 3 upper lines (Trigrams).
  • Now locate your Hexagram in the Hexagram lookup table

The Traditional Method

This method employs all 24 of the Oracle cards, using the single line in the center of each card.
There are four possible lines, with four values assigned to them:

i ching changing lines

  • 6 cards are chosen to form the Hexagram. The first 3 cards are the lower Trigram, the last 3 are the upper Trigram.
  • The first card chosen is the bottom line (#1), the next five are placed above it in order of selection.
    If all lines drawn are plain (no circles), your answer is one Hexagram.
    If a card with Changing line(s) is drawn, a second Hexagram needs to be generated.
    The Changing line(s), where indicated by a circle, become their opposite; changing yin to yang (6 to 7), or changing yang to yin (9 to 8). The second Hexagram is derived from the original plain and the newly changed line(s). CLICK HERE for illustrated example.
  • Now locate your Hexagram in the Hexagram lookup table.
    Together these two Hexagrams will offer deep insight into your I-Ching reading.

Optional: For complete mathematical accuracy in all 3 methods, each card and its value should be written down when chosen, and then shuffled into the deck before drawing another card.

Other Uses for theTaoDeck
Instead of putting a question to the I-Ching, the TaoDeck can be used to let the I-Ching reveal the moment.

  • Find stillness, be open to guidance and choose the cards intuitively.
  • Allow the resulting Trigram or Hexagram to serve as a message from the guidance of the Tao.

In the Traditional Method, after choosing the 6 cards, the nature of the individual Lines has to be determined. Reading the big center Line, notice it has four possibilities, a young yang, old yang, young yin or old yin. The circle in the middle of the Line signifies that the Line is old and therefore the Changing Line. This method is called Traditional because it is most like the typical I-Ching coin or yarrow stalk method and yields 6 Lines. It does produce more Changing Lines than the coin or stalk methods.

Changing Lines: When consulting the I-Ching and getting a Hexagram you often have a changing or moving line (in the book that comes with the TaoDeck they are called “Components”). This results in new Lines and a second Hexagram being generated. The new Hexagram is made up from the un-changed Lines and the newly changed Lines. This Hexagram is very significant and can indicate what the situation is changing into or has changed into. Whatever the topic of the question to the I-Ching is, the Tao is in process from one defined place to another.

What this means is that in the cycle of life, whereby yin and yang eternally transform into one another as they wax and wane, the individual lines in the Hexagram follow suit. Each line is either a yin or yang energy that is at the early stage of its cycle or at the end, where it changes polarity. In the natural laws that govern the flow of energy, yin and yang always are in flux, always grow and fade, transforming from one state to another.

In I-Ching language, the lines have a value of being young or old. The old yin transforms into a young yang and an old yang changes into an young yin. The Book assigns a number value to the lines. Yang numbers are odd, so that a young yang line is noted as 7 and an old yang as 9. The young yin is 8 and the old yin is 6. When consulting the I-Ching is more familiar, the Lines can be noted down as the particular numbers.

The Book of Changes gives us the wisdom of seeing how our situation is changing or has changed by showing the movement of the lines and the resultant second Hexagram. The Changing or Moving lines only show up with the Traditional method. The Quick and 2 Line methods do not allow for them, but it is possible to find them. (See Other Methods.)

The Quick Method uses the 16 cards with the 3 Line Trigrams in their lower right side. It is used for two main reasons. The first is because it brings the Trigrams and their qualities more into focus. The Trigrams are the basic archetypes of the ancient world and working with them brings that primal awareness more into consciousness. The second reason is that this method is quicker, requiring only two cards to be chosen and then easily looked up for the Hexagram answer. This Method is simpler because it doesn’t result in Changing Lines.

While playing with early prototypes of the TaoDeck, it became clear that only using Trigrams to get a reading was an important option. For serious students of the I-Ching philosophy, many situations in daily life can show up as Trigram associations. One goal of the TaoDeck is to increase understanding of the I-Ching and the base Trigrams. [For example, once while doing Tai Ji Chuan on a large hillside, a wind storm appeared quickly. It was such a clear image of Wind over Earth that the appropriate Hexagram #20 was soon studied.]

The 2 Line Method is more of an experimental and philosophical system. It comprises the12 cards with a 2 Line Duogram in the upper left part of the card. The 4 Duograms are the foundation of the 8 Trigrams and so using them is another way of understanding the cycle of yin and yang. The 4 Duograms are utilized directly as the way of generating a Hexagram. A total of three cards needs to be chosen, yielding six Lines. Hexagrams are seen as being comprised of 3 levels of 2 lines each. As in the other two Methods, the first card chosen is the bottom Line(s) of the Hexagram.

It may feel more appropriate at certain times and with certain people to use 3 cards to find a personal or group Hexagram. Another reason is that perhaps it feels better on an intuitive level to ask a question of the Tao and find-choose 3 cards as the answer instead of 2 or 6 cards. The understanding of seeing Life as 3 realms of Heaven/Spiritual, Human and Earth/Nature is very ancient and profound.

For philosophers, there may be some other meanings, values and associations that show up in using this method. Please let the I-Ching world know what you discover by sending an email to: info

I Ching Tao Deck -Other Methods

If you use the Quick or Two Line method and want to investigate your answer more fully, there is a way to get your Changing Lines. First, write down the 6 Lines of your Hexagram answer. Then shuffle the cards and do the Traditional method while keeping in mind the intention of “finding the Changing lines of my Hexagram.” The 6 cards you find-choose will not form a new Hexagram, they will be used to find out which Lines of your Hexagram are Changing. So if the 1st card is a Changing Line (the yin OR yang line with a circle in it), then the first line of your Hexagram answer is a Changing line. If the 4th card is Changing then your 4th Line is Changing, just simply transcribe over the Changing Lines. It doesn’t matter if the card you get is yin or yang, what matters is if it is Changing.

While playing with the TaoDeck another method that is more psychologically oriented showed up. Using the Key cards, spread them out face up so the Trigram images can be seen. Choose 2 of them as your current favorites and figure out which one is above the other as in making a Hexagram. Then look up that Hexagram and see what it says about the moment as if it were a daily reading for wisdom or guidance; or try to understand deeper aspects of your being as expressed in the Hexagram. It might be important to reverse the order of the Trigrams and read the other Hexagram for insight. [When doing this method it could be important to use the Key cards and another set of 8 cards so that doubled Trigrams can be generated. [IE: “What most represents this moment for me is Fire over Fire.” Therefore you need 2 Fire cards.]

Tao Deck Notes

Do not play with the TaoDeck to get Hexagram readings like its a game. You are accessing the Tao on some level when consulting the I-Ching, therefore you are bringing that more powerful energy into your life. Studying the I-Ching is one thing, consulting it continually for minor matters is another. It needs to be treated with respect. It always “tells the truth” and sometimes the truth can hurt!

If you are demonstrating the TaoDeck, have your friend choose the cards. No matter how casual the situation might be, the reading is for them, so let them find it. This advice is given from experience.

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