Ling Ch'i Ching
Not only do Chinese divinatory practices date back to the Shang dynasty, but the Shang’s organization, history, and culture are primarily known from inquiries preserved in the era’s oracular inscriptions. From inception, warfare and divination were thus so closely intertwined that even after Sun-tzu stressed human agency and the Wei Liao-tzu decisively rejected omens and all other forms of divination, the amount of revelatory material incorporated by subsequent military compendiums paradoxically continued to increase.
Divination and prognostication also played a vital role in ordinary life throughout Chinese history. Simple forms such as temple sticks generally sufficed for the masses, but the highly literate sought guidance and solace in more sophisticated expressions, including the arcane, highly complex I Ching. But the I Ching’s impenetrability often caused even the wisest reader to resort to other forms and traditions.
A product of the same conceptual milieu as the I Ching, though tinged with decidedly Taoist nuances, the immensely popular Ling Ch’i Ching (Spirit Board Classic or Numinous Chess Classic) was widely consulted from the T’ang through the Ch’ing and continues to be employed by street side seers in both China and Japan. Although, however inappropriately, it was often resorted to (just like the I Ching) in a quest for easy answers, the Ling Ch'i Ching's intent is prognostication rather than divination. Thus the 125 trigraphs chart the moment’s tendencies and provide insights into character and situation. Many metaphysical and cosmological correlates are provided while the judgments are introduced by verses that probably formed the core of the original work such as:
Beware of falling into a pit in the darkness,
The rivers and seas give rise to wind and waves.
Thinking back to times of happiness,
I turn again to bitter labors.
The procedure for obtaining a graph is simplicity itself. Following a moment of meditation (and as much personal ceremony as appeals to the querent), twelve discs divided into three sets of four respectively marked with the characters for “above,” “middle,” and “below” are cast together onto a hard surface, immediately determining the trigraph. The historical introduction provdes details for the procedure and outlines the main concepts underlying the work. Finding charts are also appended.